JAC Board Class 8th Social Science Notes History Chapter 5 When People Rebel 1857 and After
→ Policies and the People Nawabs lose their power
- Since the mid-eighteenth century, nawabs and rajas had seen their power erode. They had gradually lost their authority and honour.
- Many ruling families tried to negotiate with the Company to protect their interests. For example, Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi wanted the Company to recognise her adopted son as the heir to the kingdom after the death of her husband. Nana Saheb, the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao II, pleaded that he be given his father’s pension when the latter died.
- Awadh was one of the last territories to be annexed. In 1801, a subsidiary alliance was imposed on Awadh and in 1856 it was taken over.
- In 1849, Governor-General Dalhousie announced that after the death of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the family of the king would be shifted out of the Red Fort and given another place in Delhi to reside in.
- In 1856, Governor-General Canning decided that Bahadur Shah Zafar would be the last Mughal king and after his death none of his descendants would be recognised as kings and they would just be called princes.
→ The peasants and the sepoys
- Many peasants and zamindars failed to pay back their loans to the moneylenders and gradually lost the lands they had tilled for generations.
- The Indian sepoys in the employ of the Company also had reasons for discontent. They were unhappy about their pay, allowances and conditions of service.
- In 1824, the sepoys were told to go to Burma by the sea route to fight for the Company but they refused to follow the order, though they agreed to go by the land route. They were severely punished.
- In 1856, the Company passed a new law which stated that every new person who took up employment in the Company’s army had to agree to serve overseas if required.
→ Responses to reforms
- Laws were passed to stop the practice of sati and to encourage the remarriage of widows. English-language education was actively promoted.
- In 1850, a new law was passed to make conversion to Christianity easier. This law allowed an Indian who had converted to Christianity to inherit the property of his ancestors.
- Many Indians began to feel that the British were destroying their religion and their traditional way of life. There were of course other Indians who wanted to change existing social practices.
→ Through the Eyes of the People
Many common people wrote about their experiences about their life.
→ A Mutiny Becomes a Popular Rebellion
- A large number of people begin to believe that they have a common enemy and rise up against the enemy at the same time. For such a situation to develop people have to organise, communicate, take initiative and display the confidence to turn the situation around.
- In May 1857, the English East India Company faced a massive rebellion that started and threatened the Company’s very presence in India.
- From Meerut, sepoys mutinied in several places and a large number of people from different sections of society rose up in rebellion.
→ From Meerut to Delhi
- A young soldier, Mangal Pandey was hanged to death for attacking his officers in Barrackpore on 29 March 1857.
- On 9 May 1857, eighty-five sepoys were dismissed from service and sentenced to ten years in jail for disobeying their officers.
- On 10 May, the soldiers marched to the jail in Meerut and released the imprisoned sepoys.
- They captured guns and ammunition and set fire to the buildings and properties of the British and declared war on the firangis.
- The Meerut sepoys rode all night of 10 May to reach Delhi in the early hours next morning. As news of their arrival spread, the regiments stationed in Delhi also rose up in rebellion.
- The emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was not quite willing to challenge the mighty
British power but the soldiers persisted. They forced their way into the palace and proclaimed the emperor as their leader.
- Bahadur Shah’s major step taken to write a letters to all the chiefs and rulers of the country to come forward and organise a confederacy of Indian states to fight the British had great implications.
- The British had not expected this to happen. But Bahadur Shah Zafar’s decision to bless the rebellion changed the entire situation dramatically.
→ The rebellion spreads
- Regiment after regiment mutinied and took off to join other troops at nodal points like Delhi, Kanpur and Lucknow.
- The adopted son of the late Peshwa Baji Rao – Nana Saheb who lived near Kanpur gathered armed forces and expelled the British garrison from the city. He proclaimed himself Peshwa.
- In Lucknow, Birjis Qadr, the son of the deposed Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was proclaimed the new Nawab.
- Both of them declared that they were the governor under Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar.
- In Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibai joined the rebel sepoys and fought the British along with Tantia Tope, the general of Nana Saheb.
- In the Mandla region of Madhya Pradesh, Rani Avantibai Lodhi of Ramgarh raised and led an army of four thousand against the British who had taken over the administration of her state.
- A situation of widespread popular rebellion developed in the region of Awadh.
- On 6 August 1857, a telegram sent by Lieutenant Colonel Tytler to his Commander-in-Chief expressing the fear felt by the British: “Our men are cowed by the numbers opposed to them and the endless fighting. Every village is held against us, the zamindars have risen to oppose us.”
- Many new leaders came up. One of them was Ahmadullah Shah, a maulvi from Faizabad, prophesied that the rule of the British would come to an end soon.
- Bakht Khan, a soldier from Bareilly took charge of a large force of fighters who came to Delhi. He became a key military leader of the rebellion.
- In Bihar, an old zamindar Kunwar Singh joined the rebel sepoys and battled with the British for many months.
→ The Company Fights Back
- The Company reinforcements from England, passed new laws so that the rebels could be convicted with ease and then moved into the storm centres of the revolt.
- In September 1857, Delhi was recaptured from the rebel forces.
- Bahadur Shah Zafar and his wife Begum Zinat Mahal were sent to prison in Rangoon in October 1858. In November 1862, he died in the Rangoon jail.
- The recapture of Delhi, however, did not mean that the rebellion died down after that. People continued to resist and battle the British. The British had to fight for two years to suppress the massive forces of popular rebellion.
- In March 1858, Lucknow was taken. In June 1858, Rani Lakshmi bai was defeated and killed.
- Rani Avantibai who after initial victory in Kheri chose to embrace death when surrounded by the British on all sides.
- Tantia Tope escaped to the jungles of central India and continued to fight a guerrilla war with the support of many tribal and peasant leaders. In April 1859, he was captured and killed.
- British announced rewards for loyal landholders would be allowed to continue to enjoy traditional rights over their lands.
- Those who had rebelled were told that if they submitted to the British and not killed any white people, they would remain safe and their rights and claims to land would not be denied.
- • By the end of 1859, the British had regained control of the country but they could not carry on ruling the land with the same policies any more.
- The important changes that were introduced by the British were:
- The British Parliament passed a new Act in 1858 and transferred the powers of the East India Company to the British Crown.
- A member of the British Cabinet was appointed Secretary of State for India and made responsible for all matters related to the governance of India. He was given a council to advise him known as the India Council. The Governor-General of India was given the title of Viceroy.
- All ruling chiefs of the country were assured that their territory would never be annexed in future and were allowed to pass on their kingdoms to their heirs including adopted sons. But, they were made to acknowledge the British Queen as their Sovereign Paramount.
- It was decided that the ratio of Indian soldiers in the army would be reduced and the number of European soldiers would be increased. It was also decided that more soldiers would be recruited from among the Gurkhas, Sikhs and Pathans instead of recruiting soldiers from Awadh, Bihar, central India and south India.
- The land and property of Muslims was sized with authority on a large scale and they were treated with suspicion and hostility.
- The British decided to respect the customary religious and social practices of the people in India.
- Policies were made to protect landlords and zamindars and give them security of rights over their lands.