1857 Indian War of Independence: Indian Sepoys’ Mutiny

1947-particianOn May 10, 1857, eighty-five soldiers of a Bengal regiment of British East India Company, posted in Meerut, disobeyed to use the new cartridges for newly introduced Enfield rifles, allegedly encased in cow and pig grease. Harsh punishment meted out to the disobedient soldiers and that too in front of their colleagues, resulted in the mutiny of several regiments and ultimately became a general uprising of the Indian people. It was ruthlessly quelled by the British with the help of their superior technology and support of local elites. However, like any cataclysmic event, it gave birth to different social, political and economic trends which are still shaping the course of events in the post-colonial states of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries of the Subcontinent.
Several names have been given to this momentous event, depending upon from which perspective one looks at it ranging from War of Independence to Indian Mutiny, the Sepoy Mutiny, the Rebellion of 1857 and the Revolt of 1857 to name a few. To the British public, state and scholars it was just a mishandled case of Mutiny of few soldiers in a regiment of the Bengal Army of the East India Company. To the nationalist Indians, it was the first war of independence launched by the subjugated people of India to get rid of their European colonial masters. To outsiders it looks more like the Civil Rights movement by a public against the bad governance of a private firm running an Empire. Whatever name one gives, it is an important milestone of history of India’s independence and of Indian Muslims’ struggle for a separate homeland. William Dalrymple, an authority on the British Raj in India, has aptly described it as the Uprising in his masterpiece account of the last days of the Mughal Empire- the Last Mughal.
Similarly there are vast differences of opinion about the nature and scale of this uprising. A group of historians consider it truly to be a war of Indian independence because it more than just a military mutiny and it spanned more than one region and people from different strata of life. The announcement of the rebellious forces to revive the old Mughal Empire that signified a national symbol for them is another argument in this respect. The revolting Sepoys, they argue, could have easily headed home or joined services of their respective princes, if their revolt were only inspired by personal or communal grievances. Following proclamation made by using the traditional method of beating of drum in the town centre of every city or town the revolting Sepoys conquered, is a clear manifestation of their common resolve to impose a country-wide rule of the Moghuls and drive out the British from India-     “Khalq Khuda Ki, Mulk Badshah Ka, Hukm Subahdar Sipahi Bahadur Ka” – i.e., People belong to God, the country to the Emperor and executive powers to the Sepoy Commandant in the city).
However there are opposing opinions on this issue by writers who do not consider it to be a nationwide war of independence maintaining that a united India did not exist at that time in political terms and the rebellion remained confined to the ranks of the Bengal Army only and affected the population of a limited geographical area. In fact, they assert, the mutiny was put down with the help of Indian soldiers drawn from the other wings of the Indian Army particularly Madras Army, the Bombay Army and the Sikh regiments. Many princes and maharajahs of bigger princely state such as Hyderabad, Kashmir, Mysore as well as the smaller ones of Rajputana, did not join the rebellion. And those that did were joining the bandwagon for their own vested interests of reviving and reclaiming their own states, not in creating a United India;
I have just published a short ‘book capsule’ on this very important event of the history of the Subcontinent. Written primarily for the students and the general public ,it does not claim any originality regarding the facts but takes credit for reinterpretation of some of them. After briefly explaining the context of this event  an attempt has been made to enumerate the various causes of the general frustration which led to this uprising. It is followed by an account of the course of events  and the measures taken by the British to crush the rebellion. Last chapter  explains in detail the short term effects and long term impact of this momentous event, maintaining that long shadows of history are still affecting the course and content of  everyday life in all the countries of the Subcontinent .
It is available at Amazon for US$ 2.99 at the following URL
I shall be grateful if you could find time to read it and write a review. If you find any shortcomings or grammar/typing mistakes, kindly do let me know through email at shahidraja@hotmail.com

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