Revolt of 1857

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The First War of Indian Independence or The Great Revolt of 1857: The Indian soldiers in the East India Company’s army rebelled against the British in 1857. The English historians have painted this revolt as a mutiny of the sepoys. But the Indian historians describe it as the First war of Indian Independence. It is also known as the Great Revolt of 1857.

Lord Canning was the Governor-General of India at that time. The causes of the Great Revolt were many. They may be classified as political, administrative, economic, social, religious, military and immediate causes.

1. Political Causes :

The annexation policy of British was one of the major causes. The terms of the Subsidiary treaties signed by Wellesley with different rulers were never honoured unless it suited the British interests. The Doctrine of Lapse introduced by Dalhousie led to the outright annexation of eight states. Nana Saheb lost his pension. Rani of Jhansi was not permitted to adopt a son. They turned against the British. They were the most able leaders of the revolt. The annexation of Oudh and deposition of its ruler Wazid Ali Shah, made Oudh the most prominent centre of the revolt. Bahadur Shah II, the Mughal Emperor and his successors were humiliated by the British. They were prohibited from using their ancestral palace, the Red Fort, in future. Besides, the Muslims were in general dissatisfied with the British. They felt that they had lost their political power.

2. Administrative Causes :

The Indians disliked and distrusted the administration of the British. For example, the replacement of Persian language by English as the court language was not liked by the people. The judicial system of the British was costly, mechanical and involved much time. The poor could draw no advantage from it. The rich disliked it because they could be brought to trial even by appeals of the common men who had been subservient to them for centuries. The police system of the British was not effective by that time. The people always felt insecure of their property, life and honour. The most affected part of British administration was the revenue system. Under the British the peasants and the landlords suffered equally. The peasants had to pay heavy revenue taxes. The landlords were devoid of their special privileges. The British excluded the Indians from all high civil and military jobs. So the educated Indians who expected to get gainful employment in the service of the company were disappointed.

3. Economic Causes :

The economic exploitation of the country, the huge drain of wealth and the disappearance of the native industries dislocated the economic life of the people in India. The British crippled Indian trade and manufacture. They imposed heavy protective duties in Britain while British goods were imported into India at a nominal duty. The machine made British goods flooded the Indian markets and ruined Indian manufacture. With the disappearance of the old aristocratic Zamindars and rulers, the Indian artisans and craftmen lost their patronage. The Indian weavers and handicraftsmen were forced to work according to the desires of the servants of the company. They in return received very little wages. Naturally they lost their interest. It destroyed the cotton textile industry of India which was the largest and most beneficial industry. Thousands of people who held administrative posts under the Indian rulers were deposed. Loss of employment affected others who were dependent on those employees for their livelihood. Lord Bentinck’s resumption of rent-free tenures reduced the landowners to poverty. The out-break of seven famines in the first half of the nineteenth century made the economic distress more acute.

4. Social Causes :

The British regarded the Indians as an inferior race. They exhibited racial arrogance. They showed contempt in their dealing with the Indians. The Indians could not travel in first class train compartments....
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