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Modern History / Movements and Revolts

Sepoy Mutiny Causes and Effects

Even though lot of people participated in the Revolt, we call it Sepoy Mutiny because it was initiated by the Sepoys. Many people took part in it due to personal grievances. With this Revolt, there was change in the structure as well as change in the colonial policy by the British government in India.

Causes of Sepoy Mutiny

  • Several kings have joined the Mutiny because of imperialistic nature of the British (like Dalhousie). For example, Hazrat Mahal, window of Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh, took weapon to get back Awadh.

  • Zamindars have joined because their lands were being confiscated by the British.

  • Peasants and Artisans have joined the revolt because of British de-industrialization policy.

  • Conservative Hindus joined because of social policies of the British.

  • Sepoys joined because of racial discrimination (different salaries, etc.) and forced conversion by Christian Missionaries in the cantonment area.

  • But the immediate reason was Cartridges of Enfield Rifles. Every cartridge has to be bitten for removing the cap before loading into Rifles. The cap was made of fat of pork and beef.

  • Course of the Revolt -

    • Trouble started from Barrackpore where 34th Native Infantry regiment was located. A Sepoy named Mangal Pandey resisted to use Enfield Rifles. He opened fire and wounded two superiors. He was hanged.

    • On 10th May, 1857, at Meerut, Sepoys assembled and decided the course of action to end British Rule and revive Mughal Rule.

    • On 11th May, they reached Red Fort and Bahadur Shah II was declared as their leader.

Centres of Revolt of 1857 and their Leaders

  • Delhi - The leader was General Bakht Khan (Sepoy), who was declared as Mir Bakshi of Bahadur Shah II. The movement was suppressed by Hudson.

  • Kanpur - The leader was Nana Saheb, who was assisted by Tantia Tope. It was suppressed by Major General Campbell. Nana Saheb escaped and went to Nepal.

    Tantia Tope then joined Jhansi Laxmi Bai. Tantia Tope disappeared in the hills of Chambal. He carried on the guerrilla warfare till 1859. In 1859 he was hanged. Man Singh, a local ruler of Chambal, by treachery handed over Tantia Tope to the British.

  • Awadh (capital Lucknow) - The leader was Hazrat Mahal, widow of Wajid Ali Shah. It was suppressed by Campbell. Hazrat Mahal ran away to Nepal.

  • Jhansi - The leader was Laxmi Bai, widow of Gangadhar Rao. It was suppressed by Sir Hugh Rose. She was killed in the battlefield. Scindias of Gwalior killed Jhansi Laxmi Bai.

  • Jagadishpur (in Arrah district of Bihar) - The leader was Zamindar, Kunwar Singh (who was called Lion of Bihar). It has been suppressed by William Taylor and Vincent Eyre. Kunwar Singh was killed in the battle.

  • Hyderabad - The leader was Turrebaz Khan. He attacked the British Residency at Hyderabad. The Resident was Colonel Davidson. Nizam (Afzal-ud-Daulah) protected the Resident. Nizam and his Prime Minister Salar Jung I suppressed the movement.

  • In this regard, Lord Canning says "Indian Princes acted as break waters to the storm". That is where they realized the need of the Princely States.

Impact of the Revolt of 1857

  • On 1st November, 1858, Queen Victoria made a declaration known as Victoria's Proclamation, which was read by Governor General Lord Canning at Allahabad.

    • The administration of English East India Company in India came to an end. It was taken on by the British Government. Governor General was called Governor General and Viceroy (Representative of the Queen). Lord Canning has been appointed as the first Viceroy.

    • Court of Directors and Board of Control in London, were abolished. The office of the Secretary of State for india was created.

      The Secretary of State was a cabinet minister, looking after Indian administration. Charles Wood was appointed as the first Secretary of State.

    • Overhauling of administration took place. In 1861, Judiciary, Executive and Legislature were thoroughly reformed. In 1861, Indian Councils Act, Indian Civil Services Act, National Police Act, Indian High Courts Act, etc. were passed.

    • Military reforms were also taken. The ratio of Indian to British troops was changed to 3:1 in Madras and Bombay and to 2:1 in Bengal. Earlier it was kept at 5:1.

    • Regarding Policy changes, there was End of Annexation and End of Social Policies. Because of these changes in policies, British administration got strengthened.

  • View on the Revolt of 1857 -

    • British historians described it as Mutiny which was confined to Military.

    • V.D. Savarkar, father of Hindutva ideology, described it as the first National War of Independence.