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Class 9 History Chapter 5 The Revolt Of 1857
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ESSAY TYPE QUESTIONS
(a) Give your opinion on whether the revolt of 1857 can be termed as the first war of India’s independence.
Ans : The Mutiny of 1857 is viewed as one of the most glorious events in the annals of our history. Some call it ‘Sepoy Mutiny’. Others name it ‘A War of Indian Independence’. However, you name it and whatever you may attribute the reasons for it, it was the first major attempt on the part of the Indians to throw out the British from India.
Different views regarding the nature: Historians have held the following three views regarding the nature of the revolt of 1857.
(i) It was a Sepoy Mutiny.
(ii) It was a war of Indian Independence.
(iii) It was neither wholly a war of National Independence nor merely a Sepoy Mutiny.
A majority of the Indian historians are of the view that the Revolt of 1857 was basically a War of Indian Independence. Vir Savarkar, Ashok Mehta, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, etc. strongly supported this view. Vir Savarkar in his famous book ‘A War of Indian Independence’ strongly advocates this view. For many, it was a national war for freedom. The following arguments have been put forward in support of this view.
(i) The uprising could not have spread so fast and so rapidly had not the general public supported it.
(ii) In the revolt, both the Muslims and Hindus joined hands to oust the British.
(iii) At some places even women put on men’s attire and toon part in the fighting.
(iv) The trial of thousands of civilians involved in the revolt of 1857 shows that it was a general uprising.
However, many historians do not agree that it was a war of independence. It lacked certain basic qualities of a national movement involving the masses. It broke out without any preparation. There was no national leader who commanded national respect or fame.
There were only local leaders who organised sone kind of rebellion in their region. Even Bahadur Shah ll who was made the emperor by the Sepoys did not accept him as their leader. Many parts of India did not join the revolt. Kashmir and many parts of South India did not join the movement. The Sikhs did not support the movement. Thus, the movement lacked national character. Therefore, it is very difficult to say that the revolt of 1857 was a national war of independence.
Recently, two distinguished Indian historians, Dr. R.C. Majumdar and Dr. S.N. Sen who have made exhaustive study of all available records have come to the conclusion that the revolt of 1857 was neither wholly a national war of Independence nor merely a military revolt. According to them, in 1857-58 India was still a ‘geographical expression’ and the feeling of Indianess’ has not born yet. The leaders of the rebellion were no national leaders. Bahadur Shah ll was no national king. Even Nana Sahib, Rani of Jhansi, Konwar Singh and even the Sepoys fought to obtain some material benefits. None of them fought to make their country free and independent from the British domination. The majority of Indians remained mere spectators and some of them, even allied with the British to put down the uprising. According to them, the revolt of 1857 was neither wholly a national war of Independence nor merely a military revolt. Its national character came much later during the freedom struggle movement. This seems to be the correct view.
All that we can say is that it was an important event that shook the very foundation of the British empire in India. For the first time Indians irrespective of caste, colour and creed stood together and fought against the British. In this respect, the revolt of 1857 is an important milestone in our history and must be considered the bedrock from which the later freedom struggle movement commenced.
|Chapter 1||American War Of Independence|
|Chapter 2||French Revolution|
|Chapter 3||Industrial Revolution|
|Chapter 4||Russian Revolution|
|Chapter 5||The Revolt Of 1857|
|Chapter 6||Moanariya Rebellion|
(b) Discuss the cause of the revolt of 1857.
Ans : The great revolt of 1857 is considered to be one of the most significant events of our history. The episode had a great impact on the events that unfolded in the later years. It was the starting point of the freedom struggle movement in India. That is why, many consider it as the first war of Indian independence. However, you may name it and whatever you may attribute the reasons for it, it was the first major impact on the part of the Indians to throw the British out from India. The main causes for this great rebellion were the following.
(i) Political causes :- The policy of ruthless conquests and annexation followed by the British ever since their victory at Plassey in 1757 was one of the major causes for this uprising. The Kingdoms of Mysore, Hyderabad, Punjab, Oudh, Jhansi, Mughuls, and the Marathas who constituted the pride and glory of India disappeared as a result of the policy of annexation followed by the British.
Lord Dalhousie’s policy of ruthless annexation by way Doctrine of Lapse created uneasiness and fear among the native rulers. The suspension of the pension to Nana Saheb, the adopted son of Baji Rao ll, the ill-treatment of Bahadur Shah ll, the last Mughul emperor, the annexation of Oudh on grounds of mis-government etc. inflamed the Indian mind.
(ii) Economic causes :- The policies of the East India Company completely disrupted the whole economic fabric of India. High land taxation, non-support of agriculture, recurring famines, frequent wars which destroyed the crops, the annexation of native states which catered to the employment of thousands, dumping of the British factory-made goods to India, etc. ruined the Indian economy and made hundreds jobless and poverty-stricken. India became a milch cow to feed England while her sons were gradually pushed to starvation.
(iii) Social and religious causes :- The social and religious discontent of the time hastened the crisis further. British followed a policy of contempt towards the Indians and looked down on them in every way. Even the modern reforms such as, the Railways, telegraph, western education, female education, abolition of Sati, abolition of child-marriage etc. were looked upon with suspicion.
(iv) Military causes :- One of the primary causes for the outbreak of Sepoy Mutiny was the grievances of the Indian Sepoys. They were not allowed to wear caste, sectarian marks, beards or turbans, etc. They were poorly paid and miserably treated by the British officers. The annexation of Oudh in 1856 on grounds of mis-government infuriated a good number of Sepoys as large number of Sepoys belonged to Oudh. The Sepoys were thus discontented and were waiting for an opportunity to strike at the British.
(v) Immediate cause :- In this atmosphere of raging discontent, the greased cartridges acted like the proverbial match to the mine. In 1856, the British government ordered the use of ‘greased cartridges’ which seemed to have contained the fat of pigs and cows. The Sepoys became convinced that the introduction of greased cartridges was a deliberate move to defile their religion. The result was that the Sepoys in Meerut revolted against this order and broke out in open rebellion on 9th May, 1857. After having freed their jailed companions they set out for Delhi which was seized by them on 12th May. They then declared Bahadur Shah ll as the emperor of India. This was the signal for the outbreak of the revolt all over India. Soon Lucknow, Bareilly, Kanpur, Jhansi, Oudh, Bihar, etc. became its centres. However, the British were able to suppress the revolt with a strong hand and by July, 1858 the revolt was completely over.
(c) Discuss the role played by Begum Hajrat Mahal and Rani Laxmibai in the revolt of 1857.
Ans : Hajrat Mahal :- Hajrat Mahal was the wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the Nawab of Oudh. The annexation of Oudh on grounds of mis-government by Lord Dalhousie was a blow to her and she was determined to throw the British out from her territory. Therefore, when the Sepoys broke out in open rebellion in May, 1857, she offered her services and led the revolt in Lucknow. Hazrat Mahal declared her minor son Kadir as the new Nawab of Oudh and she began to rule on his behalf.
During the revolt of 1857,she organised a movement against the British in the region of Oudh. Hundreds of British who had been staying in different parts of the state took shelter in the British residency. She therefore, attached the residency with her force. In this venture, she was helped by Maulavi Ahmadullah of Faizabad. However, they where defeated by Sir Campbell and the British people where thus saved. Despite her defeat at several places she continued her fight against the British. But the death of her strongest supporter, Maulavi Ahmadullah in 1858, broke her courage and she fled to Nepal. One of the the notable features of the revolt of 1857 in Oudh was that it was supported by the landlords, peasants and the common people. Her courage and patriotism was unmatched and she became one of the heroines of the revolt of 1857.
Rani of Jhansi: Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi was one of the most outstanding personalities of the revolt of 1857. She was the wife of Gangadhar Rao, the king of Jhansi. After the death of Gangadhar Rao, Lord Dalhousie annexed the state of Jhansi on the grounds of the doctrine of Lapse in 1853. She was not allowed to adopt a son as per the Hindu custom. This action of Lord Dalhousie infuriated her and as soon as the revolt of 1857 broke out, she too organised a revolt in central India.
However, Sir Hugh Rose tried to prevent her from organising a major revolt. She was assisted by Tantia Tope. At Kalpi, a combined fight was waged against the British by Tantia Tope, Rao Saheb, Laxmibai. But, they were defeated. In another battle in June, 1858, she was severely wounded and died. Her death was a great blow to the revolt of 1857 and it broke the courage of the rebels. Nevertheless her courage and patriotism became a great example for other leaders and her story became an epic story. Sir Hugh Rose the British general who defeated her described her as the greatest leader of the revolt of 1857.
(d) Give a description of Maniram Dewan’s role in the revolt of 1857 in Assam.
Ans : The great revolt of 1857 had its impact on Assam as well. The revolt in Assam was organised by an Assamese leader named Maniram Dewan. He was the son of Ramdutta Dolakasari Borua of Charing. Since the beginning of the British occupation of Assam which started with the treaty of Yandaboo in 1826, he came into contact with the British and served them in various capacities. For some time he was a ‘Tahasiladar’ of Jorhat and then became ‘Sirastedar’ in the rebellions that took place in Assam against the British government in the first half of the 19th cent.
Maniram helped the British in suppressing them and thus became a friend of the British administration. As a result, he became very powerful and was able to amass a good deal of wealth and influence. Later, he became the ‘Borbhandar Barua’ of Purandar Singha when he was installed as the king of upper Assam. In 1838, Purandar Singha was removed from the throne by the British. But, Maniram Dewan continued to enjoy great privileges and remained a good friend of the British.
A few years later, his relationship with the British rulers began to sour as Lt. Brodie who came to Sivasagar as the principal Assistant of Francis Jehkins, the commissioner of Assam. Maniram’s relationship with him was not smooth and this led to the loss of certain Mauzas under him which the British had given him as a reward for his service to them. He therefore, gave up his government job and joined as Dewan of Assam Tea Company. In 1844, he resigned this job and started ten independent tea gardens on his own. His attempt at cultivating tea and establishing independent tea gardens led to his conflict with the government. They took away all the mauzas or properties given to him.
Maniram was greatly agitated because he had to pay high rate of revenue to the government for possessing ten tea gardens. While the European planters enjoyed a lot of concessions and British facilities he was denied all of them. Therefore, Maniram submitted two petitions to British authorities praying for some relief. However, the local British authorities in Assam didn’t do anything about his requests. Therefore, Maniram went to Calcutta with the hope of meeting the Governor-General.
He had two goals in mind in coming to Calcutta. Firstly, he wanted to install Kandarpeswar Singha the grandson of Purandar Singha as the king of Assam and bring back the old days of Ahom Monarchy. Secondly, he wanted the Governor-General to provide him some economic relief particularly from paying high rate of tax to the government. While in Calcutta he came to know about the revolt of the Sepoys in different parts of India. Maniram took this as a golden opportunity to organise a revolt and throw out the British from Assam too. With this purpose in view, he wrote several secret letters to Kandarpeswar Singha and to some of his friends and followers in Assam asking them to get ready for an open revolt against the British. The main persons whom he contacted for this purpose were Madhuram Koch, Chitrasen Borbora, Konala Saringia Borua, Devram Dihingia Phukan, Marangi Khowa Gohain, Peoli Borua, etc. Peoli Borua who the and Mahaesh Chandra Gabharumeha Borua who were the close friends of Kandarpeswar Singha.
They were very supportive of the move. Some of the leaders contacted the soldiers stationed at Golaghat, Chaikhowa and Dibrugarh. They decided to break out in open rebellion against the British in October, 1857, on the day of Maha Ashtami of the Durga Puja festival. But unfortunately, the British came to know about the plan. Haranath Parvatia Borua, a police daroga, captured a secret letter of Maniram written to Kandandpesar Singha and submitted it to Capt. Holroyd, the principal Assistant of the Commissioner of Assam. Soon Kandarpeswar Singha and other leaders were arrested by the British. Maniram Dewan was taken into custody in Calcutta.
Maniram was brought to Assam and a formal trial by Capt. Holroyd was held in which Maniram Dewan and Peoli Borua were sentenced to death. They were hanged to death at Jorhat on 26th February, 1858. The other leaders were imprisoned for life. Some of the leaders of the revolt were sent to the notorious prison of Kalpani in the Andaman islands. However, Kandarp War was left free as he was not much involved in the revolt. Thus ended the revolt of 1857 in Assam. But it had some repercussions in the society. The noble and great example of Maniram became a great example of Assamese courage and sense of pride. Maniram became a martyr of freedom and thus immortalised himself in the pages of history.
(e) Discuss briefly the causes of the failure of the revolt of 1857.
Ans : The Revolt of 1857 was a great and courageous attempt by some Indian patriots to get rid of the foreign rule. But unfortunately the attempt failed. It failed due to the following reasons.
(i) Rebels were short of weapons :- While the British had most modern weapons the rebels fought with old types of weapons such as swords, spears, and outdated guns. They were no match for the mechanised units of the British. Secondly the British forces had better communication network such as railways, telegraph, telephone, etc. which immensely helped them to bring men and materials to the required places.
(ii) Weak leadership :- Most the leaders of the revolt fought for their own selfish interests. They had no common goal or high ideals to fight the war. Rani Laxmibai, Begum Hajrat Mahal, Konwar Singh, Nana Saheb, etc. took part in the revolt with certain personal objectives in mind. Their aim was not to expel the British from India.
(iii) The revolt did not spread all over India :- One of the main causes for the failure of the revolt was that it was confined to few areas of India. It had no impact in Rajasthan, Orissa, the whole of South India and most parts of Punjab. As a result these places remained peaceful. Hence the British authorities could bring forces from these areas to central India where the revolt was mostly concentrated.
(iv) Lack of unity :- There was no unity among the leaders during the revolt. All the leaders like Rani of Jhansi, Begum Hajrat Mahal, Konwar Singh, Nana Saheb, etc. had their personal interest to participate in the revolt. On the other hand, some of the native rulers like king of Kashmir, minister of Gwalior, minister of Hyderabad, etc. joined their hands with the British. The help rendered by Gulab Sing, the king of Kashmir, Dinakar Rao, a minister of Gwalior and Salar Jang, minister of Hyderabad made British victorious in the revolt.
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