War of Idependence

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Mutiny or War of Independence?
Determining the True Nature of the
Uprising of 1857
Dr. Javed Iqbal
Abstract
Many of the landmark events in the history of Indo-Pakistan
Subcontinent during the British rule have remained subject to grave disagreements and dissents. The Uprising of 1857 is among the biggest of these landmarks marred by a number of
controversies. There have been many differences among historians and analysts regarding its true nature and character. It has been mentioned as the ‘War of Independence’ by most of the indigenous historians and scholars, while at the same time branded as

‘mutiny’ by almost all British and European writers with a very few exceptions.
This paper is an attempt to find answers to all these questions and controversies regarding the nature and character of the
Uprising of 1857 in the light of information available about its events and the different players and forces who shaped and
influenced this epoch making landmark in the history of Indian Subcontinent.
Introduction
The Uprising of 1857 is perhaps the most written about topic in Indian history but most of the writings on it are of descriptive nature, which are of little interest as literature or history. There has always been a need of interpretive writing on this topic to analyze 

Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Peshawar.

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Pakistan Journal of History and Culture, Vol.XXXI, No.1, 2010

the real causes and the true nature of this mega event in the Indian history.
Because of the controversial nature of the British rule in IndoPakistan Subcontinent, different epics and events that shaped the destiny of Indian Subcontinent during the period are as
controversial as the British rule itself. One of these episodes in Indian history was the Uprising of 1857 which has been mentioned as the War of Independence by most of the indigenous historians and scholars and branded as Mutiny by almost all British and European writers with a very few exceptions.

To determine the true nature and character of this event, one has to analyze all the different aspects and controversies regarding this epoch making event. Was it a mutiny or War of Independence? Was it just a sepoy revolt against their higher ranks or a general popular uprising against the foreign rulers of the Subcontinent? Was it pre-planned and an organized movement or just a

spontaneous reaction of the sepoys to the ill-advised and unwise policies of the military leadership of the East India Company? Was there a foreign hand involved in the uprising or it was purely indigenous? These are the questions to which the researcher would try to find answers in this paper.

The Uprising and the Controversy
During the 19th century, 1857 was perhaps the most eventful
year in the history of Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, marked by the controversial beginning of the country’s struggle for independence from alien rule. After experiencing a century of enslavement by an alien race, India witnessed an open expression of deep rooted discontent and resentment against its foreign rulers in the shape of a half popular half militant rising. The Uprising of 1857,

irrespective of its true nature and character, was so intense that it appeared for a time that the Company’s Raj would disappear from India.1
The controversies surrounding the uprising have made it the
most misunderstood and debatable chapter of Indian history. The misunderstandings about the nature of this event does not arise so 1

E. D. Thompson, Rise and Fulfillment of British Rule in India (Allahabad: Central Book Depot., n.d.), p.440.

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Mutiny or War of Independence?

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