Indian Revolution Of 1857
There were rumors that the greased cartridges which had to be bitten before used contained beef grease which was taboo for most Indians. The Dum Dum Sepoys in Calcutta were the first to revolt against this. Two British officers were killed by an Indian sepoy at the Barrackpore cantonment when he was forced to use cartridges that were greased with beef tallow. This news spread fast which led to his arrest and hanging on January 23, 1857. The Barrackpore regiment was disbanded and news about the hanging spread to the cantonment in Meerut.
New greased cartridges were issued in Meerut to around ninety Indian soldiers on 6th May 1857. Out of them 85 refused to bite the cartridges with their teeth. Due to this they had to face court martial and were imprisoned for one decade. In the presence of the whole Indian garrison, their uniforms were stripped off them. Putting up with this humiliation was too much of a disgrace and a wave of indignation washed over large parts of India. At Meerut on 10th May 1857, the soldiers broke into open revolt. A few European soldiers were murdered and they were successful in releasing some of their companions. The kept shouting ‘Maro Firangee Ko’. On 10th May 1857, that night thousands of civilians who were able bodied and the mutineers, set off on a march to Delhi.
Delhi Events On 11th May 1857, all the mutineers and civilians reached Delhi. At Delhi, the British garrison was quite small and they could not resist them and hence within just 2 days, they fell into the hands of the mutineers. After initial vacillation, the revolutionaries were joined by Bahadur Shah II, the Mughal Emperor and he was proclaimed as India’s emperor. Prestige of the British in India located at Delhi suffered a jolt and to retrieve it, they threw in all the force at hand. John Nicholson who commanded British contingent was sent by Sir John Lawrence. A siege took place for four months and in September 1857 AD, Delhi was recovered by the British. From Humayun’s tomb, they captured Bahadur Shah II. Before his very eyes they killed his two sons and one grandson in cold blood. He was then deported to Rangoon after which in the year 1862 AD, he died.
Peshwa Baji Rao II’s adopted son, Nana Sahib Dondu Pant, led the independence struggle at Kanpur. Hugh Wheeler, a British Commander found that the odds were quite heavy against them and on June 20, 1857, he surrendered. Children, women and Englishmen fell into Nana Sahib’s hands in large numbers and he made a promise to them that they would be able to pass Allahabad safely. However the crowd got infuriated with the news about the massacre of the Indian people which took place in an inhuman way at Benares and Allahabad, at the hands of General O’Niel. With vengeance the crowd got all the Englishmen killed who were in their custody.
Later on it was learnt that in these killings, Nana Sahib had not played any role. Kanpur was captured by General Havelock after Nana Sahib was defeated in the battle on June 17, 1857 AD. Nana Sahib’s General, Tantya Tope appealed to the patriotic feelings of the Morar and Shivajinagar troops and gained success in winning them over. In November 1857 AD, Kanpur was recaptured by Tatya Tope and Nana Sahib, with the concerted strength of the Shivajinagar and Morar troops. However, Campbell, the English General reached with a large force and hence they were not able to keep Kanpur under their control. From December 1st to 6th 1857 a battle was fought against the Nana Sahib forces, a decisive victory was won by the British. While Tantya Tope decided to migrate to Kalpi, Nana Sahib fled to Nepal where he is known to have died.
In Oudh, the revolution tide reached its highest mark. Wajid Ali Shah, the Nawab who was dispossessed was helped by the common people and the Muslim and Hindu Taluqdars. At the time of the revolt the Englishmen were massacred in large numbers. With around seven hundred Indians and a thousand English soldiers, Sir Henry Lawrence, the Chief Commissioner sought refuge inside the Residency. The Residency was besieged by the revolutionaries, and O’Neil the notorious English General, Sir Henry Lawrence and many of the Englishmen were killed by them. In the end, Collin Campbell, the General who was the British force’s Commander-In-Chief set out on a march to Lucknow at the head of Gurkha and English soldiers. In March 1858 after a fierce battle, the British captured Lucknow.
Nature Of The 1857 Revolt
The 1857 revolt has been dubbed as a Sepoy Mutiny by the historians in Europe. It was considered as a revolt by soldiers in India who felt offense at the using of cartridges. The landlords incited the discontented Indian sepoys and the native princes were deposed in the revolt. In this rebellion the Indian people were not involved directly. Also it was not considered as a war of independence at a national level. The revolt was confined to just a part of India with large swathes not even aware of it. Regions like Rajputana, Sind and Punjab were not affected. This revolt was considered as India’s first war of independence by prominent nationalists like Vir Savarkar and Subhash Chandra Bose.
To get rid of domination by the foreigners, the patriotic Indians made a courageous and great effort. In Indian history the revolt has been a glorious landmark. To win over, the independence that was lost, both the Muslims and the Hindus, fought shoulder to shoulder. To fight against the aliens, swords were taken up by the Indians to fight. Refusal by the patriotic Lucknow boatmen, to ferry the British soldiers across the river is also admired. Till the very end the Indian people and sepoys put up a gallant fight against the foreigners. The spirit of the people remained un-shaken and left an indelible and lasting impression on the mind of the Indians, even if the revolt did not gain any success. A way was paved for the rising of a strong movement across the nation after the Indian Revolution of 1857.