[Solved] The 1857 Uprising was the culmination of the recurrent big and small local rebellions that had occurred in the preceding hundred years of British rule. Elucidate (UPSC GS -1 mains 2019)

Though many people consider 1857 Uprising as the first major resentment against the British rule, however, there were many incidents before 1857 revolt that indicated a building resentment against the rule of Britishers.

The Revolt of 1857 was the result of imperialist and capitalistic nature of the EIC rule. The

high rate of land revenues, subjugation of the grievances of the locals, involvement in the

cultural traditions, impact of Christian missionaries and mistreatment of the tribals by

outsiders.

Types of revolts occurred in the 100 years before 1857 In the last hundred years (1757-1857), many revolts occurred that eventually led to uprising of 1857 revolt, which can be divided into 4 major parts:

Civil revolts: These were the first group of people who revolted against Britishers to secure their traditional and customary rights. For instance, sanyasi revolts (1763-1800), revolts in Midnapore and Dhalbhum during 1766-74, revolts of Moamarias in Ahom state 1769, revolt of Raja of Vijayanagaram 1794, and civil rebellion in Awadh 1799, Kuka 1840, Surat salt agitation of 1840s were some major civilian revolts with common causes of resentment, that were illegal tax demands and oppression by police, judiciary and revenue department.

Tribal revolts: Tribal movements under British rule were the most frequent, militant and violent of all movements. Some of them were Chuar uprising of Midnapore, Bengal of 1770s, Kol of Chhotanagpur during 1830s led by Buddho Bhagat, Khond uprising of Orissa 1835 to 1856 led by Chakra Bisnoi, Santhal uprising led by Siddhu and Kanu just before 1857 revolt, Bhil and Ramoshi uprising in western India. The resentment of tribals against Britishers were mainly due to imposition of forest rights Act, forceful conversion of tribals by Christian missionaries, oppression by money-lenders and zamindars after extension of permanent settlement in tribal areas.

Sepoy mutinies

The opposition to British rule from the sepoys was quite evident through the previous protests that occured before 1857. The mutinies such as Vellore mutiny in 1806, Bengal mutiny in 1764 etc showed that anger was brewing inside the armed sepoys. The anger came out blazing when events like Royal Enfield rifles controversy occured.

Tribal rebellions

The tribals opposing British intervention in their lands rose up in form of uprisings such as Santhal rebellion, Munda Rebellion, Kol Mutiny, etc. The short term success gained by tribals coaxed them to fight against the British.

Civil rebellions

Many princely states were against British policies such as Doctrine of Lapse, which led them to support the groups that fought against British. Many land owning sections opposed British for their revenue policies, such as Poligars.

Ex: State of Awadh, Mughal emperor etc.

Religious opposition

Many orthodox sections believed that British were interfering in their religious faith. This made them to support the rebellion of 1857. The religious groups were both Hindu and Islamic.

Ex: The Sanyasi revolt.

 Peasant revolts: Peasant uprisings were protests against evictions, increase in rents of land, and money- lenders’ greedy ways and their demands was occupancy rights for peasants. Some major and minor peasants revolts were, for instance : pagal panthis of Bengal led by Karamshah during 1825-35, Faraizi revolt in eastern Bengal led by Hazi Shariatullah and his son Dadu Mian, Mopillah uprising in Malabar during 1834 to 1854 and Paika revolt of Khurda, Odisha led by B Jagbandhu. The common provoking cause of resentment of these peasants were exorbitant demand of land revenue, oppression of officials and frequent occurrence of drought and famine, etc.

  Princely states revolts: With the expansion of Britishers in India some princely states were annexed on excuse of maladministration and use of diplomacy of Subsidiary Alliance and Doctrine of Lapse. For instance, Mysore, in 1831 by William Bantick, Jhansi in 1852, Awadh in 1856. They also revolted against Britishers.

Tribal Movements/ Tribal Uprisings

  • Santhal Rebellion: With the introduction of permanent settlement in Bengal in 1793, heavy taxes, oppression by money lenders, landlords, revenue officials were the main reason for the rising of the rebellion. Under Sidhu and kanhu rose against the oppressors and declared themselves independent in 1854.
  • Khond Uprising: Their uprisings from 1837 to 1856 were directed against the British due to an attempt by the government to suppress human sacrifice (Mariah), the introduction of new taxes by the British and the influx of Zamindars and money-lenders into their areas which was causing the tribals untold misery.
  • Early Munda Uprising: In the period of 1789-1832, the Munda rose up in rebellion seven times against the landlords, dikhus, money-lenders and the British, who instead of protesting them sided with the oppressors.

Other Uprisings

Peasant Uprisings

  • The Faqir and Sanyasi Rebellions, Bengal & Bihar (1770-1820s): These were widely recurrent confrontations with almost 50,000 participants involved at the height of insurgency.
  • The Revolt of Raja Chait Singh, Awadh (1778-81): Primary goal was to restore the existing agrarian relations and it kept recurring till 1830s.
  • Polygar Rebellions, Andhra Pradesh (1799-1805): Polygars (feudal lords appointed as military chiefs) were joined by peasants against Company’s tactics and the rebellion reached a big scale before it was oppressed.
  • Paika Rebellion, Odisha (1817): An armed rebellion under the leadership of Bakshi Jagabandhu against the Company’s rule. 
  • Fairazi Movement, Eastern Bengal (1838-1848): First ever no-tax campaign led by Shariatullah Khan and Dadu Mian. It was local in nature and kept on recurring till 1870s.

Tribal Uprisings

  • Bhil Uprisings, Khandesh (present day Maharashtra & Gujarat), (1818-31): Bhils rebelled against the British occupation of Khandesh but were crushed in 1819 but the situation remained unsettled till 1831.
  • Kol Uprising, Chhota Nagpur & Singhbhum region, Bihar & Orissa (1831-32): Plunder and arson were the chief mode with negligible killings but had a major impact in the region.
  • Santhal Uprising, Eastern India (1855-56): The most effective tribal movement which spread rapidly covering areas of Bihar, Orissa and Bengal against British infiltrating policies.
  • Khasi Uprising: Conscriptions of labourers for road construction linking the Brahmaputra valley with Sylhet passing through the entire length of the Khasi dominated the Khasis to revolt under the leadership of Tirut Singh. The long and harassing warfare with Khasis continued for four years and was finally suppressed in early 1833.
  • Ahom Revolt: The British had pledged to withdraw after the first Burma war(1824-26) from Assam but in contrast, the British attempted to incorporate the Ahoms territories in the company’s dominion after the war. This sparked off a rebellion in 1828 under the leadership of Gomdhar Konwar.
  • Singhphos rebellion: While the British were engaged in harassing warfare with the Khasis, the Singhphos broke into open rebellion in early 1830, which was suppressed after 3 months. But the Singhphos remained in a mood of sullen discontent and again rose in rebellion in 1839, when they killed the British political agent. 

1857 Uprising :Military revolts

• Vellore Mutiny 1806

• Sepoys protested against interference by the British in their social and religious practices

Other important Sepoy mutinies were:

• The mutiny of the sepoys in Bengal in 1764

• The mutiny of the sepoys of the 47th Native Infantry Unit in 1824

All the localized movements, inspired by local grievances gave way for a major ‘National

impulse’, in 1857, which is called as the ‘First War of Independence’, that shook the foundation

of British rule in India

Conclusion: Thus, it can be said that these rebellions, which were localised in nature, lacking of efficient leadership and influenced by backward looking ideology were suppressed by Britishers with use of force but still they established a culture of resistance among natives and eventually prepared the way for 1857 revolt.

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