Nature and Character of the Revolt:
There is a lot of controversy among the scholars regarding the Character of the Revolt of 1857. Some historians described it as a well planned national Struggle and First War of Indian Independence, the others described it a religious War against Christians, a racial struggle between black and white for supremacy, a Hindu-Muslim conspiracy to over throw the British rule.
The English historians have described it as a mutiny of the army which did not command any support of the people in general. It shall be desirable to analysis their views, in some details to determine the Character of the Revolt.
Both Vir Savarkar in his book “The War of Indian Independence” and Ashoka Mehta in his book “1857 the great rebellion” have tried to prove that the Great Mutiny of 1857 was an Indian National War of Independence.
Both of them admit that the Sepoys were mainstay of the rebellion. They bore the brunt of breaking chains that imprisoned India. They gave their backbone to the resistance and became its shield and spear. So it would be wrong to describe the rising as essentially a Sepoy Mutiny.
The civil population was fully associated with this rising is borne number of civilians killed during the mutiny and the attitude of non-cooperation displayed by them. It is well-known that General Havelock wanted to ferry his soldiers across the river the boatmen refused to oblige them.
The speed with which the Mutiny spread to various parts of the country further confirms the Mass Character of the rising. The Hindu-Muslim unity displayed during the Mutiny is another pointer to the same direction.
In support of his stand Mr. Mehta also refers to the letter written by Bahadur Shah to the princess of Rajputana which said I have no desired left of ruling over India………. I am willing to resign my imperial power and authority in the hands of any confederacy of native princess who were chosen to exercise it.
On the basis of the above evidence Mr. Mehta tries to assert the national character of the Mutiny. Even Disreali, the leader of the Conservative party in England termed it as the “National War of Independence” when he said the Revolution witnessed by an imperialism did not take place as a result of minor cause like that of greased catridges.
Such type of rebellions is due to the combination of the higher factors. It was due to the National Character of the Great Revolt or Indian War of Independence that the Indians Celebrated the Centenary of 1857 with a great pumps and shows.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in his introduction to Dr. Sen’s book entitled ‘Eighteen-fifty seven’ says “In the light of the available evidence, we are therefore forced to the conclusion that the uprising of 1857 was not the result of careful planning nor were there any master mind behind it.
This was due not to the conspiracy of a few individuals or groups but to the growing discontent of large number of people……. Patriotism had to the reinforced by an appeal to religious passion before the people rose”.
Dr. Sen is of the opinion that what began as a fight for religion ended as war of Independence; for there is not the slightest doubt that the rebels wanted to get rid of the alien Government and restore the old order of which the Kind of Delhi was the rightful representative.
It is difficult to agree that LER Rees that the revolt was a war of fanatic religionists against Christians. During the heat of the rebellion the ethical Principles underlying the various religious had little influence on the combatants.
Both sides quoted there religious scriptures to cover their excess over the party. The Christians ultimately won but not Christianity.
The Hindus and Muslims were defeated but not their respective religions. The Christian missionaries had no astounding success in the War of Missionary Propaganda.
T.R. Homes is of the opinion that Revolt of 1857 was a conflict between civilization and barbarism. The explanation smacks of narrow racialism. During the rebellion both the European and Indians were guilty of excess.
If the India were guilty of the murder of Europeans Women and in some cases children in Delhi, Kanpur and Lucknow, the record of the British was equally tarnished by the dark deeds which were no less heinous and barbaric than those of the Indians.
James Outram advocates the view that the out-break was the result of a Hindu-Muslim Conspiracy. The Muslim made capital out of Hindu grievances. However, this view cannot be fully substantiated and hence does not find favour with the recent scholars.
The English Scholars are not willing to consider the revolt as any thing more than a sepoy Mutiny. For example, Sir John Lawrence says it was essentially a sepoy prising. It broke out as a result of the catridge incident, but was made use by the other elements which being disgusted with the British in India, were in search of some such opportunity to re-assert their position.
Rawlison also refuses to consider the revolt as national war of Independence and argues ”It would be inaccurate to describe the Mutiny as national revolution for nationalism was not as yet a factor in Indian politics”. According to Seely the Mutiny was a “Wholly unpatriotic and selfish sepoy mutiny with no native leadership and no popular support.”
According to Prof. Roberts who shares the view with Seely and Lawrence “The rising was mainly military in Origin, but….occurred at a time when, for various reasons, there was much social and political discontent and the mutineers were promptly joined by the interested adventures, who tried to give it a particulars direction to suit their own schemes.”
Fortunately for the British dominion in India there was no single national cause to which the agitators could appeal. The fabric of the British power was built over the ashes of warring factions and race enemrties.
According to Thompson and Garret it is poor complement to Indian courage and ability to treat the revolt as an organised national movement, because it was suppressed with the help of a handful of soldiers. He says, “The Mutiny may be considered either as a military revolt, or as a bid for recovery of their property and privileges by the dispossessed princes and landlords or as an attempt to restore the Mughal Empire, or as a Peasant’s War.
From every aspect it was localized, restricted and un-organised. Only one of the three Provincial armies rebelled, and it is doubtful if a quarter of the Sepoy were in arms against the Governments. No important prince threw in his lot with rebels, and many like Patiala actively helped the Government.”
R.C. Majumdar in his book entitled the Sepoy Mutiny and the revolt of 1857 gave his analysis of the revolt of 1857. He gives facts and figures to prove that the leaders of the mutiny had their own axes to grind and were not inspired by any feeling of Indian nationalism as such. There was no cordiality between the Hindus and Muslims.
Bahadur Shah did not heartly co-operate with the mutineers. Rani of Jhansi did not side with the mutineers at the beginning and joined them only when she was faced with a trial by the British Government.
The Nawabs did not treat their Hindu subjects properly even during the days of mutiny. There was absolutely no concerned action among the people of India. On the basis of the various facts Dr. Majumdar comes to the conclusion that, “there is nothing in the conduct of the behaviour of the Sepoy which would justify as in the belief or even assumption that they were inspired by Love for the country or fought against the British with the definite idea of freeing their mother-land.”
Another Important question concerning the revolt is whether it was a national war of Independence or not. Dr. Majumdar says that it cannot be accepted as a national War becouse the revolt remained limited to a part of India.
Only the territory consisting of Modern U.P. and its neighbouring areas were the centre of revolt. Bengal, Assam, Orissa, Bihar, Rajasthan, large part of Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and the territory South of River Narmada remained unaffected by the revolt. Some rulers like Patialas, Jind, Mabha, and Bhopal gave active support to the Britist.
Except Bengal army, most of the native soldiers loyal to the English while Sikhs and Gurkhas provided positive support to them. The educated Indians were not a party to the revolt and therefore were the object of hatred of Mutineers.
The English Historian Kayee praised the Indians for supporting the English during the period of revolt. The London-times, in July 1857 also reported “The general population has exhibited rather good will then hostility towards us and in many cases effectual protection has been afforded to fugitives”.
Similarly relation between the Hindus and Muslims did not remain cordial during the period of Revolt. Of course, both fought together against the British. Yet, there was no such feeling among them which could be recognised as national feeling in the contrary both the communities had serious doubts against each others intention.
The Indian thus were divided on the basis of religious difference. These differences were so acute that Muslim of Hyderabad hated the Marathas because of the same reason the Rajputs and Marathas were averse to the establishment of Mughal rule in India. Therefore Dr. Majumdar contends that it was not national revolt.
He further argues that every struggle or fighting of the Indian against the English cannot be accept as a war of Independence. The only criterian of accepting a struggle of the natives against the foreigners as war of Independence is that it should be motivated simply by the desire of turning out the foreigners from India. The revolt of 1857 was not fought on these criteria.
Even at the central places of the revolt, many people were not in favour of mutineers. The Hindus and Muslims were not inspired to fight against the foreigners but to protect their respective religions. The events during the period of revolt, in no way, prove that the aim of the mutineers was to turn out foreigners to gain Independences.
Therefore, Dr. Majumdar refuses to accept the revolt of 1857 as the War of Independence. He concludes that “It is difficult to avoid neither the conclusion that the so called first National War of Independence of 1857 is neither first, nor national nor a war of Independence”.
The Mutiny of 1857:
The policy of imperial expansion followed by the East India Company created Political earthquake in India and it ignited the Indian people to raise their sword against the British rulers. The Dalhousie’s annexation and Doctrine of Lapse had creates Spirit of uneasiness and suspicious throughout India.
The Hindu Rajas were debarred from adopting any son, for the purpose of religious ceremonies after their death. This was considered as a direct encroachment by the British upon their religious practices.
The Punjab, Pegu and Sikkim were annexed by the Policy of conquest. Satara, Jeypur, Sambalpur, Bhagat, Udayapur, Jhansi and Nagpur were annexed to the British dominion by means of application of the Doctrine of lapse; Oudh was annexed under the pretext of the betterment of the people. Nana Saheb the adopted son of Baji Rao II was deprived of the pension that originally was granted to Peshwa Baji Rao II.
It created a cloud of suspicious among the native state. Thus in the eyes of Indian all the ruling princes were in danger and the annexation of all the states in India was considered only a question of some time to the question of insecurity among the Princes created war Hysteria against the East India Company.
The Muslim population of India also alienated because of hostile police of the British. From the very beginning the Muslim had developed an antagonistic attitude towards the British had usurped the power of the Mughal Empire.
Further Daihousie and Canning’s Policy of annihilating the successors of the Mughal Royal Family further alienated the Muslim population. Bahadur Shah the Mughal Emperor had became old and was likely to die at any movement. Daihousie was not infavour of the creation of an ‘imperium in Inperio’.
He was accepted Fakir-Ud-Din as the successor of the Mughal Emperor. He was died in 1856. But Lord Canning proclaimed that the next successors of Fakir-Ud-Din would be deprived of even their titular dignities and that they would not be allowed even to sit in the royal places in Delhi.
This means titular sovereignty of the Mughals was also came to an end. This proclamation on the part of Canning struck a great blow to be ambitions of the Indian Muslims. So the entire Muslim population in India, having been disgusted with the attitude of Daihousie and Canning towards the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah decided to take steps against the company and they decided to entire into alliance with the rebels.
Further, the annexation of Indian states created bitterness among the higher strata of Indian Society. Because by annexation means replacement of the Kings and other ministers but restricted the scope of the Indians to get high administrative post. Bentinck’s resumption of rent free lands brought a lot of money to the Government.
But reduced to poverty many landowners, whose title-deads had been lost or who had held land by long prescriptive right after the mutiny the famous Inam Commission in Bombay confiscated about 20,000 estates.
After the annexation of Oudh, Jackson examined the titles of the Talukdars or hereditary revenue Collectors and most of them were left with no means of subsistence.
The native army was disbanded and about 60,000 men lost their livelihood. These discontended soldiers and Talukdars joined the Mutineers to get rid of their grievances.
The Thugs, the Pindaries and the irregulars of the Indian Army who as a matter of fact dependent upon only loot and plunder as the only means of subsistence either crushed and defeated by the East India Company. When they deprived of their only means of livelihood they began to sweel in to antisocial activities. So when the Mutiny came up they joined in large number to redress their grievances.
The Primary motive of the Political domination of India by the British was her economic exploitation. The Political changes prior to the advent of the British, the rise and fall of the Empires in Delhi, had little or no effect upon the Economic structure and life of the people.
The reason for this was that the wealth of the country remained in the country, and whatever power ruled over the country. With the advent of the British, the Indian wealth began to flow out of the country. Indian Economy began to be fashioned to meet the needs of Industrial England.
The Industrial Revolution further stimulated the commercial ambition of England. Now England was transformed into manufacturers of the world. Raw materials for her factories and markets for her finished goods became England’s Prime needs; British policy in India was developed to meet those needs.
Soon India became a land of exporting raw material and importing finished goods. English capital flowed into the country and it carried away both interest and profits, the results were ruinous. India became a milch cow to feed England while her own sons were gradually pushed to the starvation.
The British land Revenue Policy further strangulated the Indian people. The unscrupulous reassumption of land and rent free tenures and the destruction of landed aristocracy, the Zamindars and Talukdars had far reaching economic and social effects.
The people saw with wrath and horror the once-rich houses reduced to beggary. The Zamindars and landed aristocrates had major voice in the contemporary Society. Their agony and grievances compelled them to raise arms and became leader of the revolt.
In the wake of every annexation of states followed the collapse of the Socio-economic structure. Upon the extinction of Indian States write Johan Sullian, a member of the Madras Council in his plea for the princes of India. ”
As Englishman takes the place of the sovereign under the name of commissioner, three or four of his associates displace as many as a dozen of the native official, aristocracy while some hundreds of our troops take the place of the many thousand that native chief supports.
The little court disappears trade languishes, the capital decays, the people are impoverished, Englishman flourishes and acts like a sponge, drawing of riches from the Bank of the Ganges and squeezing them down upon the Banks of the Thames”. The process adversely affected both the pockets and pride of the people and filled them with deep seated discontent against the Englishman.
The racial bitterness between the English and the Indians was getting wider day by day. The British Officer living in India were considering themselves as next to God and had developed a sort of hatred for the Indians.
They considered the Indians their Social inferiors and behaved towards them in an autocratic and insolent way. Even some of the British Officers like Bird and Thompson were hurling disgrace after disgrace upon the Indians.
While advocating cause of the Indian for their recruitment in the Indian administration Sir Thomas Munroe had remarked “The Foreign conquerors had definitely treated the Indian very cruelly, but never was such a humiliating treatment meted out to them as we have done unto them.
Never have they been charged that their whole nation was dishonest and was not worthy of confidence and they would never get any job in the administration unless there was no way out for the British East Indian Company”.
The Charter Act of 1833 had provided for the absorption of Indians in the administration. But non-implementation of this charter created a very bad feeling in the minds of the Indians and consequently contributed for the Mutiny.
The defective judicial system irritated the Indians. The Principles of Civil equality was not applied to the Europeans and Indians uniformly. The Indians thought that it was delebrate attempt on the part of the English to reduce the Indians to poverty and humiliation.
On the other hand the court had become tyranny and oppression in the hands of the clever and rich people because the latter could manage to produce false evidence to prove false cases. Hence it resulted in a lot of discontent against the Britishers and as such formed another cause of the Mutiny.
Social and Religious Causes:
One of the Primary objectives of the English people in India seems to have been to convert Indians to Christianity. Both the Army and Civil population were under fear that the Government intended to make every Indian a Christian.
Spread of Christian ideology and Missionary activities was extended by the Englishmen to all parts of the Country. Mr. Mangles, the Chairman of Court of Directors of East India Company made following statements in the House of Commons: “Providence has entrusted the extensive empire of Hindustan to England in order that the banner of Christ should wave triumphant from one end of the India to the other.
Every one must expert in all his strength that there may be no dilatoriness on any account in continuing in the country, the grand work of making all Indians Christians”. Vir Savarkar has expressed the view that, the
Military and Civil Officers of the East India Company used to abuse Ram and Mohammad and used to put pressure on the Indian citizen to embrace Christianity. Sepoys were promised promotions, if they accepted the true faith.
The Missionary were given ample facilities and American Missionary Society at Agra had set up and extensive printing press. Thus English attempt at Conversion of the people to Christianity were as systematic and sustained as their Policy of territorial aggression.
The hatred of European officer towards Indian soldiers was also reflected in their social behaviour. The rulers followed a policy of contempt towards the Indian and described the Hindus as barbarians with hardly any trace of culture and civilization and the Muslims were dubbed as bigots, cruel and faithless.
The Indian was spoken as nigger and addressed as a Suar or Pig. Which was resented by the Muslims? European Officer and European soldiers on their hunting sprees were often guilty of indiscriminate criminal assault on Indians. In these cases the European juries, which alone can try such cases, acquitted European criminals with or no punishment.
According to Hindu Law of Property was changed with a view to facilitate the conversion of Hindus to. Christians. A convert from Hindu was not allowed to inherit his ancestral property. But in 1856 the religious disability Act was passed to facilitate the conversion of Hindus to Christians.
By this act they declared that even on the conversions of Hindu to Christianity, he could still inherit the property of his father. This created a cloud of suspicious in the mind of Hindus. That was further emboldened by the other administrative measures.
The introduction of railway, telegraph and Postal System was regarded by the Indian as an attempt to europeanise them. The introduction of the teaching of the Bible also was considered by the Indian as an attempt by the Christians to convert them to Christianity.
The activity of the Christian Missionary and introduction of female education among the Indians by the Daihousie convinced them that under the pretext of introducing western system of Education in India, the English were really trying to put and end to the Indian Civilizations and Culture.
It is a strange thing that the Indian Sepoys who were mainly responsible for the company to conqueror whole of India, suddenly led a violent revolution against it. This fact itself reveals pent up grievances of the Indian Sepoys which reached a flash point by the year 1857.
The Military discipline of the British Army had degenerated since the British disaster in the first Afgan War. Daihousie had written clearly to the authority in England that “the military discipline right from the top to bottom and from officers to soldiers was weakest and full of shame.” The army service in Bangal Army was hereditary.
The Bengal army mostly consisted of recruits take from Oudh and North-Western province. Many of them belong to the High Class Brahmins and Rajput families. These high caste Indian recruits did not like that Military discipline of the British authority in India which treated them as equals to the recruits of the inferior castes be imposed upon them.
It was on account of this Charles Napier had said “I have no faith in these high caste recruits and mercenary soldiers”. It should however be noted here that the sentiments of the Bengal Army were the same as those of the citizens of the Oudh.
According to Maulana Azad” After the annexation of the Oudh, in the whole of the Indian Army and specially the Oudh army, and attitude of insubordination and rebellion had gained ground because of the great blow that they sustained at the hands of the British of the East India Company.”
They suddenly felt that the power of the East India Company had obtained in India through the sacrifice of the Indians, who was being utilised against the Mughal Emperor. Because Oudh was home of sepoys and when it was annexed in 1856 about 60,000- sepoys rendered Idle on account of disbanding of the State Army.
The Canning Government in 1856 passed General Service Enlistment Act. According to this it was decided that no Sepoys who was enlisted under the act could refuse to fight across the seas. Even if this was not applicable to old Sepoys it created a lot of discontent among them against the British people.
With the extension of British dominion, the condition laid down on the new recruitments in their services in the army department exercised so tight and irritating a control over the soldiers that they could not further tolerate the high handedness to which they were subjected by the British Officers.
The self respects of the Sepoys were trampled upon at every step. Further Service in the army was no more promising. The Highest pay attainable by a Sepoy as Subedar of the infantry was less than the minimum pay of raw European recruits.
The Sepoys were disallowed Batta which they used to get while away from their homes on active duties. Moreover, the Soldiers who had gone to Afghanistan to take part in the first Afghan War where excommunicated from their society.
The soldiers who were considered disqualified for service abroad, were not pensioned off to go their homes, rather they were to perform their duties in the British cantonments. Similarly, with the passing of Post Office Act of 1854, the old privileges of sending letters to their relatives freely were taken away.
Promotion was given to those Indian soldiers who became Christians. In 1824, the Sepoys at Barrack-pore refused to go across the sea to fight in Burma. Similarly in 1844 the four Bengali regiments did not yield to the pressure of the British Governor to go to War towards Sindh for fighting purpose till the request for the additional grant of Batta was allowed.
The Indians got inspired by the disparity between the Indians and British troops. In 1856 as against 2, 33,000 native soldiers there were only 45,322 British Soldiers. The disparity was further reduced following the employment of large number of Army Officers in administrative posts in the newly annexed territories by Daihousie. Some of the British soldiers were also sent to Crimea to fight against the Russians in Parsia. This naturally encourage the Indians soldiers to take advantage of their poor numerical strength.
Finally the introduction of greased catridges which the soldiers were required to bite with their mouth provided the immediate cause for the Sepoy Mutiny. In January, 1857 a story got currency that the greased catridges contained the fat of the pig and cow and were deliberately introduced to defile the religion of the Hindu as well as Muslims.
The Military Officers without proper investigation issued immediate denials regarding use of fat of cow or pig. But subsequent enquiries proved that, the fat of Cow or Pig had really been used in catridges.
An effort of British to pacify the Indians Sepoys failed and they rose against them from Sutlej to Narbada. Hence, it can be said that, “‘That great rising of 1857 was not result of a chance cause only. The greased catridges merely precipitated the crisis”.
The Course of Mutiny:
“The refusal of the Sepoys to use the greased catridges was treated by the English as an act of the insubordination and severely punished. On 29th March, 1857 a Sepoys named Mangal Panday at Barrackpore not only refused to use the greased catridge, but also killed the adjuntant.
The English retaliated and disbanded the regiment (34 N.I.) and punished the guilt Sepoys. In May, 1857, 85 Sepoys at Meerut refused to use the greased catridge. All of them were Court Martialled and punished with long term imprisonment.
This was greatly resented by the other Sepoys and on May 10, 1857 they not only shot dead their officers, but also released their fellow Sepoys, Thereafter, they marched towards Delhi..The European forces under the command of General Hewitt, who were present in Meerut failed to deal with the situation.
On May 12, 1857 the revolts reached Delhi and captured the same after encountering some resistance from Lieutenant Willoughgy, the Officer In-charge. At Delhi, the Sepoy shot dead a number of Europeans inhabitants. They also proclaimed Bahadur Shah 11, the Mughal Emperor, as the Emperor of India.
The capture of Delhi by the rebels gave a serious set back to the prestige of English. Soon the Mutiny spread to cities like Lucknow, Bareilly, Kanpur, Agra, Jhansi, Central India and many other places.
In almost all other places, the Sepoys put a large number of European to death and released the Indian Prisoners. Some of the important Indian leaders who led the Mutineers included Nana Saheb, Rani Laxmi Bai, Tantia Tope, Kunwar Singh, Aimullah Khan and Ahamad Shah etc.
During the initial period of Mutiny, the English were on the defensive. But subsequently they made adequate arrangement to deal with the situation effectively. In addition to recruiting about 3, 10,000 they requisitioned 1, 12,000 soldiers in India. Luckily, for the English, the Mutiny did not spread beyond Narbada.
The Sikhs in Punjab and Salarjang in Hyderabad rendered great service to the English in suppressing the revolt. With the help of the Sikh soldiers from Punjab, the English captured Delhi from rebels in September, 1857. The Emperor was arrested and large number of inhabitants was put to death. In this way, the Englishmen succeeded to suppress the revolt.
Causes of Failure of the Mutiny:
Though the revolt was popular and spread to different parts of the country it ultimately failed due to many factors.
1. The revolt was narrow in character and major part of the Indian Sub-Continent remained unaffected. It was never all India Character but was localized restricted and poorly organised.
The area effected were the Punjab, United provinces, Rohilakhand, Oudh, the terrirtory between Narmada and Chambal and the western parts of Bengal and Bihar on the North East. Rajaputana was loyal, Afghanistan was friendly under Dost Ahamad and Sindh was quiet.
The area where the revolt was most sporadic was western Bihar, Oudh, Rohilkhand, Delhi and territory between the Chambal and Narmada. India south of the River Narmada made no movement of important.
The Bombay and Madras army remained loyal. Central and eastern Bengal was undisturbed and Nepal rendered the British valuable assistance in putting down the revolt.
2. The unrivalled superiority of British imperialism played a major part in suppressing the revolt. Fortunately for them, the Crimean war came to an end by 1856. So they were able to raise their forces from Crimea and other parts of the world. It is estimated that they brought 1, 12,000 soldiers to India.
They also raised 3, 10,000 soldiers were supplied with guns and musket. On the other hand the Indian soldiers did not posses sophisticated weapons and fought with Sword and spears. The introduction of Electric telegraphic also helped the English a great deal in planning the strategy. Usually they received full information about the moment of Indian troops in advance through electric telegraph.
The loyality of a large number of princesses also greatly helped the English. The rulers of Nabha Patiala, Jind, and Kapurthala rendered every possible help to suppress the rising. Sindhia, Holkar, Sir Dinkar Rao and Sir Salar Jang not only maintained peace within their territories but also extended valuable service to the English.
4. The revolt of 1857 was poorly organised. The leaders of the revolt were not lacking in bravery but were poor in experience organising ability and concerted operations. Surprise attacks and guerilla tactics could not win their lost independence. They had no positive and comprehensive plane to defeat the British. The trial of Bahadur Shah II rather proved that the rebellion was as much as surprised to him as to the British.
5. The mutineers were handicapped because they did not possess sufficient number of good General. The leaders of the revolts like Rani Laxmi Bai, Tantia Tope were brave but lacked rich experience. On the other hand the English possessed Nicholson, Havelock Edwards and Campbells, vastly experienced military officials. In this respect they had an eduge over the rebels.
6. The lack of any common ideals before the mutineers also proved a big drawback and hampered a concerted action. While the Muslims were mainly fighting for the restoration of the Mughal Emperor. The Hindus were primarily concerned with the restoration of Nana Sahib and Rani Laxmi Bai.
The personal jealousies of the Indian leader’s always stood in the way of collective action under one Supreme leader. As Maulana Abul Kalam Azad writes “As I read about the events of 1857, 1 am forced to the conclusion that Indian National character had sunk very low. The leaders of the revolt could not agree. They were mutually jealous and continuously intriguing against each other. In fact, these personal jealousies were largely responsible for the Indian defeat.”
As against this, the English had advantage of one Supreme leadership, not less heroic and undaunted then the rebel leaders. Thus the mutual jealousies amongst the native leaders were another cause which seriously undermined their solidarity and ultimately led to their defeat.
Effects of the Mutiny:
Though the revolt of 1857 was successfully suppressed by the English yet it left a far reaching impact on the course of Indian history.
First and the most important result of the revolt was the end of the East India Company’s rule and direct administration of the Indian territories by the Crown the Act of 1858 which effected this change declared “India shall be governed by and in the name of the Queen.”
According to Cunningham this change was ‘Fermal’ rather than Substantial’. He says that all real power had already passed from the Court of Directors to the Board of Control. The Charter Act of 1853 had deprived the Directors of all power of patronage by throwing open the Civil service to competition.
It also reduced the number of Directors from 24 to 18 out of which six were the nominees of the Crown. The Act of 1858 merely completed the process begin by the Charter Act of 1853. In place of the President of the Board of Control it provided for a secretary of state.
The secretary of state was to be assisted by a council of fifteen members eight of whom were to be appointed by the Crown and seven by the court of directors.
All future vacancies in the council were to be filled by the council itself. Rawlinosn considers this change as a great significance. He says “The one great result will be change of name, which may enable us to condone the past…. the immediate past and to set out from a fresh starting point into a fresh career of empire.”
The Governor-General of India was to hear two separate titles. Which dealing with the administration of territories directly under his control he was to be known as Governor-General of India while dealing with Indian princes he was to be known as Viceroy of India. Company with the rulers of the Indian states would be honoured by it and there was no need to renew them.
Change in Policy towards Indian States:
There was also a change in policy towards the Indian states. The policy of Subordinate isolation followed by the East India Company was substituted by the policy of subordinate Union. In her proclamation of 1 November, 1858 the Queen assured the Indian princes that their territories would not be annexed.
The British Government disclaimed all desire for extension of territory and promised to respect the dignity and honour of the native princes. The Indian princes were given the right of adoption and succession.
They were issued Sanad and certificates in recognition of their rights. Though the native princes were guaranteed existence their right were greatly restricted and clearly put in black and white. Henceforth the princes were not to have any relations with the foreign powers or with one another except through the British Government.
Their military forces were also greatly limited. Though the princes were given full control over the internal affairs at their States. Yet, The British Government enjoyed the right to temporarily take over the administration of the State if the native Government was not able to manage those things properly and internal disturbances threatened the peace of the area.
Equal Opportunities for Indians:
The proclamation of 1858 guaranteed equal right and opportunities to the Indians. The Proclamation said. “Our subjects, of whatever race or creed, are freely and impartially admitted to office in our service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability and integrity duly to discharge.
In order to give concrete shape to this assurance the Indian Civil Service Act was passed in 1861. Under this Act an annual competition was to be held at London for recruitment to the covenanted Civil Services and was open to all the Subjects. However, in actual practice the Indians could not enter the higher services and the same continued to be the preserve of the Englishmen.
As the Indian army was mainly responsible for the revolt of 1857, a number of military reforms were introduced.
Releasing that the low proportion of the European forces in India had been one of the cause of mutiny, it was decided to increase the strength of the European troops. Their number was increased from 40,000 to 65,000 on the other hand the strength of the Indian troops was reduced from 215,000 to 140,000.
All important military posts were reserved for the Europeans. For the next fifty years no Indian was given any important position. The appointment of European military officers naturally led to increase in expenditure and army because they were paid four to five times the salary paid to the Indians.
The British also introduced the policy of counterpoising of natives against natives. This policy was explained by the Punjab committee on Army organisation in its report of 1858 thus “To preserve that distinctiveness which is valuable, and which while it lasts makes the Mohammedan of one country fear and dislike the Mohammedan of another, Corps should in future be provincial, and adhere to the geographical limits within which differences and rivalries are strongly marked”.
Additional of Local Element in Legislative Councils:
With a view to attain greater contact between the ruler and the ruled, it was decided to associate the native element with the legislative councils. It was felt that such a contact would help the rulers to acquaint themselves with the sentiments and feelings of the Indian and avoid chances of misunderstanding. This marked the beginning of the introduction of the representative institutions in India.
In the Social sphere the impact of the mutiny was rather unfortunate. On the one hand it greatly widened the gulf between the Europeans and the two started suspecting each other. On the other hand it also created some sort of misunderstanding between the Hindus and the Muslims.
As the Muslims had taken more active part in the mutiny, the English dealt with them sternly. This naturally caused some resentment in the minds of the Muslims towards the Hindus and gave a set-back to the Hindu-Muslim unity:
The Mutiny left a deep financial impact on the Indian economy. The mutiny not only caused large-scale destruction of the crops and property, but also resulted in neglect of agriculture because a large number of cultivators left their homes to save their lives.
As a result the production greatly dropped and the cultivators were not able to pay their revenue. The things were made further worse by the famine in the Agra province, and the decision of the Government to shift the entire financial cost of the mutiny on the shoulder of Indians. As a result the Indian debt increased to over 40 million sterlings.
With a view to tide over the situation the Government appointed a committee under James Wilson (who had added as Finance secretary to the Treasury as well as Vice-President of the Board of Trade).
This committee recommended imposition of certain new taxes, and reduction of expenditure on Civil and Military Administration. The committee recommended imposition of income-tax at the rate of 5 per cent on income of Rs. 500 or more per annum, Licence Tax on different trades and profession, and a tax on tobacco grown in India equal to the custom duty charged on the import of tobacco in the country.
For reduction of expenditure in civil and military administration, the policy of retrenchment was recommended. Although the Government could not fully implement the recommendations of Wilson committee these came to form the basis of the future financial policy.
The mutiny also led to certain judicial changes. New Civil and Criminal Procedure Codes were passed by Canning. The judiciary was reorganised under the Indian High Courts Act to 1861, Chartered High Courts were established at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in place of the Sadar courts and Crown’s Supreme Courts, which existed before the mutiny.
The exclusive jurisdiction of any court over the British subjects was done away with. However under the criminal procedure code due provision was made for their protection.