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The First War of Indian Independence (1857-1858)

In 1857, a great revolt broke out in India. It was started by the soldiers, hence it was called the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’. It spread far and wide and many people such as soldiers, peasants and artisans, took part in it. This revolt was the first step towards India’s independence.

Causes and Course of the Revolt of 1857

  1. The peaceful annexations policy introduced by British such as Doctrine of Lapse affected the ruling class. Nana Sahib, Rani of Jhansi and Bahadur Shah became staunch enemies of the British. Many soldiers working under these rulers lost their jobs.
  2. The British administration was corrupt, the English officials were not accessible to the people. The English laws and the complex judicial system were quite strange to the people. The use of English in place of Persian was much disliked by the Muslims in India.
  3. Indians were excluded from the higher posts, both in civil administration and in the army. Also, the Indians were denied of political rights.
  4. All the trade and commerce of the country went into the hands of the English and the different Indian industries began to vanish. India became very poor. The treasury of India became empty.
  5. The British showed their racial superiority and treated Indians with contempt and arrogance.
  6. The abolition of sati, legalisation of widow remarriage and introduction of western education along with introduction of railways, telegraph created suspicion in the minds of the Indians.
  7. The main motive of introducing western education of the British was to convert both the Hindus and Muslims to Christianity. This was hated by the orthodox people of India.
  8. The British interfered in the religious matters of the Indians. The Indians felt that the British are trying to pull away the youth and are creating hatred in the minds of the youth against the culture. There was unrest among the people, especially the Pandits and the Maulvis.
  9. The British ill-treated the Indian soldiers. They were meagerly paid in comparison to the English soldiers. The Indian soldiers had no promotion and they had to fight for the English in foreign lands too.
  10. Canning’s Enlistment Act created bitterness among the Indian soldiers. They were forced to fight on the foreign land.
  11. A rumour was spread that the cartridges were smeared with the grease made of fat of cows and pigs. It was a taboo for both the Hindus and Muslims, as the cow was a sacred animal whereas the pig was hated by the Muslims. When the soldiers were forced to open the cartridges, the soldiers revolted.
  12. Mangal Pandey, a sepoy of the Barrackpur Regiment, refused to use the cartridges. When a British officer forced him, he shot him. He was captured and hanged to death.
  13. The revolt spread from Barrackpur to Meerut, Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Jhansi, Bihar, and other places.

Results of the Revolt

  1. The administration of India was directly taken over by the British crown from East India Company.
  2. The Governor General of India now came to be called as the Viceroy of India.
  3. The policy of ruthless annexation was given up.
  4. The Queen’s Proclamation was passed in 1858. According to this, the Queen promised that there would be no religious interference in the lives of the Indians.
  5. The Revolt of 1857 inspired the Indian freedom movement.

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