Key Question 4: What were the causes and consequences of the War of Independence 1857 - 58?
War of Independence 1857 - 1858
• During the 1850s, the British became confident about their hold on the sub-continent.
• The British did not realize but many issues and dismays of the Indians were building up anger in them including the behavior of British towards them and unbiased policies.
• The Events of 1857 worked as a final nail and made the Indians highly dissatisfied and threatened by the British rule.
• As a result, the British were challenged by an uprising in 1857.
• The uprising didn’t succeed due to a number of reasons, but it became a driving motivation for many generations to come.
• Many changes happened as a consequence of the uprising; the life of Muslims became hell as the British considered them as the main source of the uprising to restore the Mughal Empire.
• However, it also brought out some good policy changes in favor of the Indians.
Long-Term Causes of the Uprising
Destruction of the Textile Industry:
• The British destroyed the textile industry to promote gain profit from the textile manufacturing in England.
• This made the Indians live in poor conditions because British’s mass-produced products fill the market.
• Western missionaries started criticizing Hinduism and Islam to promote Christianity.
• Satti (Hindu tradition) was banned as it was considered inhumane and window marriage allowed.
• Christian missionaries set up schools and started teaching Christianity.
• Pardha (Hijab) was ridiculed by them.
• Doctrine Lapse was introduced i.e. the British can confiscate any land without a male heir.
• High taxes were made compulsory by the British rulers to be paid by all Indians.
• The British introduced new ways of life including telegraph, railways, and roads. This threatened the Indians regarding their culture's security.
• Persian and Arabic were removed as the official language and replaced by English.
• This was considered as the cultural intervention and increased the unemployment rate for Indians.
• The Mughal Emperor was moved from the Red Fort of Delhi to obscure Qutub Sahib. The Indians considered it an insult.
• The British officer treated their local sepoys with inferiority.
• The sepoys were paid very low.
• The British officers used English in front of the sepoys and disposed of the men’s local language that could understand.
• British’s trials were done in special courts and the judgments given by British Judge was cruel for Indians as compared to the British.
The Annexation of Awad:
• The British evoke resentment and outrage by capturing Awad (Oudh).
• Most of the sepoys in the British army were from Awad.
Immediate Causes & Events of 1857 - 1858
• The British announced the introduction of new rifles whose cartridge has to be ripped open using teeth to load it.
• A rumor spread that the cartridge of the new rifles was greased using the fat of pig and cow.
• It enraged both Muslims and Hindus as the Hindus considered cows sacred and the pig was forbidden in Islam.
• Mangal Pandey openly resisted his British officer and got executed.
• In Meerut, the sepoys refused to touch the new rifles and were court-martialed and imprisoned.
• The imprisoned sepoys were rescued by their fellows and marched to Delhi and captured it.
• At that time, Bahadur Shah II became a uniting force between Hindu and Muslims.
• Bahadur Shah II received support from both Muslims and Hindus for the uprising.
• War spread and the British lost their control over Allahabad, Lucknow, Jhansi, and Kanpur.
• The British proved to be powerful and immediately regained their control over Lucknow and Delhi.
• Bahadur Shah II was forced to surrender.
• As a lesson, the British killed Bahadur Shah II’s sons brutally.
• Lakshmibhai, Rani of Jhansi was killed in battle.
• Tatya Topee, Indian general was caught and executed.
• August 1858:
• The War was declared over officially.
Reasons of the Failure
• The rebels did not have a common purpose and lacked unity.
• Many refused to fight unless they are harmed directly.
• Nana Sahib only wanted the Doctrine Lapse to be reversed and was ready to come to terms with British if it is done.
• Many state rulers supported British to avoid losing their power.
• The ruler of Kashmir presented his 2000 army men to help the British.
• The British Governor-General, Lord Canning presented a conciliatory policy that if any rebel gave up, he will be forgiven.
• Following the announcement of the conciliatory policy, few of the leader left the rebellion and joined hands with the British.
• The rebels harmed and destroyed public and private properties that made the locals displeased. As a result, they supported the British who stood to regain law and order.
• The British were much more powerful than the rebellious group.
• Since they have conquered Punjab and Sindh already, the rebellion did not receive any support from Sindhis and Punjabis in the war of 1857.
• Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah II, who was leading the rebellion showed incompetence during the war.
• The British weaponry was much more advanced and superior giving them an edge over the rebellion group.
• The British Leaders, Edwards and Neil were much more confident and experienced than the rebel leaders and fought with complete loyalty towards the Queen.
Consequences of the Failure
The End of Mughal Empire:
• In 1858, after the war of independence, India came under the British Crown directly.
• It ended the Mughal Empire’s reign completely from the political scene.
• The Muslims were shaken by the removal of Muslim authority.
• The rebels due to their incompetence failed to get freedom from the British rule.
• The Indians ended as slaves and a period of tyrannical rule started as the British acquired complete autonomy.
Hatred Towards Muslims:
• The British considered Muslims as the main cause behind the uprising and hatred towards them started.
• The British became cautious and rigid in their behavior.
• The number of British soldiers in the army increased.
• Many of the Indians became jobless.
• The forces that took part in the rebellion were executed with cruel punishment such as blown by canon alive.
• The supply of the greased cartridge rifles was stopped completely.
Cancellation of Doctrine Lapse:
• The doctrine lapse was reversed allowing the inheritance of ancestral lands to Indians.
• The policy was annexation was also changed with the Queen’s decision to stay with their current territorial possession.
End of East India Company:
• The British Government blamed East India Company behind the uprising and took over it and removed it from the scene.
Removal of Centralization:
• 1833 Act, the policy of centralization was changed, and new reforms were taken for decentralizations.
• A Secretary of State was introduced with 15 council members and Indians were allowed to be elected in the provisional councils.
• Bombay and Madras governments’ legislative power was restored by 1861 Act.
• In many provinces including Bengal and Punjab, new legislative councils were established.
• The political involvement of Indians improved.