Q.1: What are the causes and consequences of “Sepoy Mutiny”. Discuss

The Sepoy Mutiny was a widespread and ultimately ineffective uprising against British imperial rule in India led by members of the Bengal army. It started in Meerut on 10 May 1857, then the rebellion spread throughout north and central India to such cities as Delhi, Agra, Arra, Faizabad, Bareilly, Kanpur, Gwalior, Jhansi and Lucknow etc. The revolt of 1857 was the conscious beginning of the Independence struggle against the colonial tyranny of the British.

Causes of Revolt of 1857:

Religious & Social Causes – racism or racial discrimination was believed to be a major reason for the revolt of 1857 wherein Indians were exploited and were kept away from mixing with Europeans. The whites also started interfering in the religious and cultural affairs of Indians and tortured them as well.

Political Causes –The introduction of unfair policies like the policy of Trade and Commerce, the policy of indirect subordination (subsidiary alliance), the policy of war and annexation, the policy of direct subordination (doctrine of lapse), the policy of misgovernance (through which Awadh was annexed) greatly hampered the interests of the rulers of the native states, and they one by one became victims of British expansionism. Therefore, those rulers, who lost their states to the British, were naturally against the British and took sides against them during the revolt.

Economic Factors -There were various reforms in the taxation and revenue system that affected the peasants’ heavily. British Government had imposed and introduced various administrative policies to expand their territory.

Administrative factors: Corruption and absentee sovereign-ship of British rule exploited the peasants, artisans and sepoys in many ways.

Influence from outside war against British: The story of Anglo-Afghan war and Crimean war inspired the sepoy for revolt.

Impacts of various Acts and Regulation: Post office Acts, General Service Enlistments Acts curtailed normal service and rights of sepoys. Finally, the introduction of Enfield Rifle in place of Brown bass sparked the fire among sepoys in Meerut. Thus, Sepoy Revolt started from 10th May 1857.

Consequences:

Sepoy Mutiny Failed: The revolt was suppressed by British successfully. The sepoy mutiny was ultimately not successful against the British East India Company rule which functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown.

EIC Abolition: The revolt exposed the exploitative nature of the company’s rule in India. The British Government couldn’t afford to lose India at any cost, so, therefore, the British Government decided to abolish the rule of the East India Company, and direct Government was installed under Government of India Act, 1858 through guidance of the British Parliament.

Impetus for national struggle: The revolt was very much symbolic in nature and gave impetus to national struggle for independence. So V.D. Savarkar named it as first war of independence. The leaders of the revolt were presented as heroic figures leading the country into battle, rousing the people to righteous indignation against oppressive imperial rule.

First Viceroy of India: The supreme executive and legislative authority in India henceforth came to be known as the Governor-General and the Viceroy Lord Canning so far known as the Governor General of India also became the first Viceroy of India.

No Territorial Expansion: The British assured the people of India that there will be no more territorial expansion. They also assured the people of India that religious and social practices would be respected and not be interfered.

Army Rationalisation: The proportion of Indian soldiers in the army was reduced and the number of European soldiers in the army was increased. So that the future possible mutiny can be easily tackled by British.

Reassurance to Native Rulers: The ruling chiefs of the country were assured that their territories would never be annexed by the British. The Doctrine of Lapse was also abolished hereby allowing rulers to pass on their kingdoms to adopted sons.

Protection to landlords and zamindars: Policies were made to protect landlords and zamindars and give them security of rights over their lands.

Punish to Muslim: Muslims were considered to be responsible for the rebellion in a big way. Hence their land and property were confiscated on large scale.

Revenue Fixation: A new agrarian policy was introduced to guarantee security of tenure and to fix rent for lands. This policy freed the cultivators from tedious settlements and excessive demands of the state. The financial system was also decentralized by entrusting some items of taxation to local governments.

Although the mutiny was heavily suppressed by the British but it sowed the seed of nationalism and quest for freedom from alien rule. So, V.D. Savarkar termed this mutiny as “first war of Independence”.

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