Posted in History of Modern India

Farazi Movement (1838-1848)

updated on March 15th, 2019

Farazi Movement (1838-1848): This was the first ever no-tax campaign against the British Government led by Shariatullah Khan and Dadu Mian. Their band of volunteers fought heroically with the armed group of Indigo planters and zamindars. It brought together all the cultivators of Bengal against the tyranny and illegal extractions by the landlords.

It was against the zamindars , very instrumental in Indigo revolt .

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Indigo Rebellion (1859-1862)

updated on March 15th, 2019

  • The Indigo Rebellion (1859-1862): The British adopted many ways through which they could increase their profits
  • They also started interfering with the basic means of livelihood of the people.
  • Not only did they introduce new crops, they also brought new techniques of farming.
  • Heavy pressure was put on the zamindars and peasants to pay high taxes and grow commercial crops.
  • One such commercial crop was Indigo.
  • The cultivation of indigo was determined by the needs of the English cloth markets. The discontent of the farmers growing indigo was mainly for three reasons:
  1. They were paid very low prices for growing indigo;
  2. Indigo was not as lucrative as it was planted at the same time as food crops;
  3. And the loss of fertility of the soil because of planting indigo.

As a result, food stocks declined. The peasants suffered at the hands of the traders and the middleman on whom they depended to sell their goods, sometimes at very low prices. They supported the zamindars to maintain their dominance and deal with their problems in administering those areas.

The peasants launched a movement for non cultivation of indigo in Bengal. Hindu and Muslim peasants together went on strike and filed cases against the planters. They were supported by the press and the missionaries. The government passed orders in November 1860, notifying that it was illegal to force the raiyats to cultivate indigo. This marked the victory for the rebels.

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Faqir and Sanyasi Rebellions (1770–1820s)

updated on March 15th, 2019

This was one of the first rebellion against the British rule in India

The Faqir and Sanyasi Rebellions
  • The Faqir and Sanyasi Rebellions (1770–1820s): The establishment of
  • British control over Bengal after 1757 led to increases in land revenue and the exploitation of the peasants.
  • The Bengal famine of 1770 led peasants whose lands were confiscated, displaced zamindars, disbanded soldiers and poor to come together in a rebellion. They were joined by the Sanyasis and Fakirs.
  • The Faqirs were a group of wandering Muslim religious mendicants in Bengal.
  • Majnu Shah Malang was the leader of Faqirs
  • Two famous Hindu leaders who supported them were Bhawani Pathak and a woman, Devi Choudhurani.
  • They attacked English factories and seized their goods, cash, arms and ammunition. Maznoom Shah was one of their prominent leaders. They were finally brought under control by the British at the beginning of the 19th century.
  • The Sanyasi Uprisings took place in Bengal between the periods of 1770-1820s. The Sanyasis rose in rebellion after the great famine of 1770 in Bengal which caused acute chaos and misery.
  • However, the immediate cause of the rebellion was the restrictions imposed by the British upon pilgrims visiting holy places among both Hindus and Muslims.

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Revolt of 1857

updated on March 18th, 2019

What were the reasons of Revolt of 1857?

  • The economic decline of peasantry and artisans were reflected in 12 major and numerous minor famines from 1770 to 1857.
  • All these factors only helped to spread anti-British feeling which ultimately culminated in the revolt of 1857.
  • The British were not very sensitive to the feelings of the masses they ruled ruthlessly. Hence, reforms introduced by them to put an end to some social customs made the people believe that the Government wanted them to be converted to Christianity.
  • the English East India Company’s rule in India witnessed a large number of uprisings and rebellions. In a later lesson,( you will read about some important and popular uprisings and also analyze the nature and significance of these uprisings.)

The revolt of 1857 started on 10th May when the Company’s Indian soldiers at Meerut rebelled. Called the Sepoy Mutiny by the British, it is now recognised as the First War of Independence against the British rulers. Indian soldiers killed their European officers and marched towards Delhi. They entered the Red Fort and proclaimed the aged and powerless Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, as the Emperor of India. This rebellion was a major anti-colonial movement against the aggressive imperialist policies of the British. In fact, it was an economic, political and social struggle against the British rule. This severe outburst of anger and discontent shook the foundations of colonial rule in large parts of India. We will now study the causes of dissatisfaction among the Indian people which made them rebel against the British rule.

(a) Political Causes: The nature of colonial expansion through annexation became a major source of discontent among the Indian rulers. British wanted to acquire land and collect as much wealth for England as they could. Their policy of annexation called Doctrine of Lapse and Subsidiary Alliance led to a number of independent kingdoms being annexed to the British Empire. These were states that were enjoying British protection but their rulers had died without leaving a natural heir to the throne. As a result their adopted sons could now no longer legally inherit the property or receive the pension which was granted to them by the British. In this way Lord Dalhousie annexed the Maratha States of Satara, Nagpur , Jhansi and several other minor kingdoms. On the death of Baji Rao II, the pension granted to him was abolished and the claim of his adopted son, Nana Saheb, to receive this pension was denied to him. This interference by the East India Company was disliked by many Indian rulers. Before the policy of Doctrine of Lapse, the Indian ruler had a right to adopt an heir to his throne even if he was childless, but now they had to take prior consent from the British.

The policy of annexation affected not only the rulers but affected all those who were dependent upon them namely, soldiers, crafts people and even the nobles.

Even the traditional scholarly and priestly classes lost the patronage which they weregetting from these rulers. Thousands of zamindars, nobles and poligars lost control over their land and its revenues. The annexation of Awadh on grounds of misgovernment was also resented by the Nawab who was loyal to the British. No alternative jobs were provided to the people who lost their jobs when the British took over Awadh. Even the peasants had to pay higher taxes and additional land revenue.

The continuous interference of the British in the basic way of living, traditional beliefs, values and norms was seen by the masses as a threat to their religion. The British administrators gradually became arrogant and gulf between them and the people widened.

(b) Economic Causes: Another important cause of the Revolt was the disruption of the traditional Indian economy and its subordination to the British economy. The British had come to trade with India but soon decided to exploit and impoverish the country. They tried to take away as much wealth and raw material from here as they could. The Britishers kept high posts and salaries for themselves. They used political control to increase their trade as well as export and import of foreign goods. All means were used to drain India of her wealth. Indian economy now suffered under the Britishpolicies. Since they worked against the interests of Indian trade and industry, Indian handicrafts completely collapsed. The craftsmen who received royal patronage were impoverished when the states were annexed. They could not compete with the British factory made products where machines were used. It made India into an excellent consumer of British goods and a rich supplier of raw materials for the industries in England. The British sold cheap, machine made clothes in India which destroyed the Indian cottage industry. It also left millions of craftsmen unemployed. The British also sent raw materials to England for the factories there. This left little for the Indian weavers. The Britishers also imposed heavy duties on Indian made goods. Now they could reap huge profits as there was no competition for their goods. Thus, the British drained India of her wealth and her natural resources.

What other measures did the British take to exploit India? To buy raw materials and sell their finished goods they introduced steamships and railways. The railways opened a vast market to the British and facilitated export of Indian raw materials abroad. The railways connected the raw material producing areas with the exporting ports. As a result British goods flooded the Indian market. But do you know that the railways played an important role in the national awakening of the country too? They let people and ideas come closer together, something that the British had never anticipated. In 1853, Dalhousie opened the first telegraphic line from Calcutta to Agra. They also introduced the postal service to India.

Since land was the major source of revenue for them, the British thought of various means to get revenue from land. The colonial policy of intensifying land revenue demand led to a large number of peasants losing their land to revenue farmers, traders and moneylenders. This was done through the Ryotwari and Mahalwari systems. Permanent Settlement of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa did not recognise the hereditary rights of the peasants on land. On the other hand, if they failed to pay 10/11th of the entire produce, their property could be sold off. To prevent this situation the peasants often borrowed money from the moneylenders at a high rate of interest. Sometimes they even sold their property to the moneylenders. Even the officials harassed the peasants who dared not seek justice at the courts for fear of further harassment. The new class of zamindars that were created by the British became their political allies. They supported them in times of need and acted as buffers between the British and the people. Some of them even supported the British against the freedom movement. The economic decline of peasantry and artisans was reflected in 12 major and numerous minor famines from 1770 to 1857. All these factors helped to spread an anti-British feeling which ultimately culminated in the revolt of 1857.

(c) Social and Religious Causes: The British were not very sensitive to the feelings of the vast mass of Indian people. Social reforms against sati, female infanticide, widow re-marriage and education of woman, made many people unhappy. With an objective to convert people the Christian missionaries opened schools and college. They also needed a population which was educated and modern enough to buy their goods, but not enough to prove detrimental to British interests. It made the people believe that the Government was in collusion with the missionaries to eradicate their religion and convert them to Christianity. The passing of Act XXI of 1850 enabled converts to Christianity inherit ancestral property. The new law was naturally interpreted as a concession to Christian converts which further created anxiety and fear among the people.

The religious sentiments of the sepoys were hurt in 1806 in the Madras presidency. The Hindus were asked to remove their caste marks from their foreheads and the Muslims were asked to trim their beards. Though the sepoy uprising was put down, it was evident that the British neither understood nor cared for the Indian soldiers. The loyalty of the sepoys was further undermined by certain military reforms which required them to serve overseas. This outraged their religious feelings. They had an aversion to overseas services, as travel across oceans meant loss of caste for them.

(d) Discontent in the Army: The soldiers in the East India Company’s army came from peasant families which were deeply affected by the governments’ policies. Indian soldiers were not given posts above that of subedars. Some sepoys wanted special bhatta/allowance if sent on oversea duty. Sometimes they were paid, but most of the time they were not. They, therefore, started distrustintheir officers. These instances contributed in their own way to the revolt of 1857. The soldiers had other grievances too. They were paid salaries less than their English counterparts. As a result, the morale of the Indian sepoy was very low. On the other hand, when the soldiers refused to cross the ‘black water’ that is oceans and seas because their religion forbade it, the British were ruthless on them.

(e) Immediate Cause: Strong resentment was rising among the Indians and they were waiting only for an occasion to revolt. The stage was all set. Only a spark was needed to set it on fire. Introduction of the greased cartridge in 1856 provided that fire. The government decided to replace the old-fashioned musket, ‘Brown Bags’ by the ‘Enfield rifle’. The loading process of the Enfield rifle involved bringing the cartridge to the mouth and biting off the top. There was a rumour among the Sepoys in January 1857 that the greased cartridge contained the fat of cow and pig. The cow is sacred to the Hindus and the pig is forbidden to the Muslims. The sepoys were now convinced that the introduction of greased cartridges was a deliberate attempt to defile Hindu and Muslim religion and their religious feelings. This sparked off the revolt of sepoys on 29th March 1857.


What were the outcome of Revolt of 1857?

  • For the first time, it unified and brought together people having a different ethnic, religious and class background against British rule.
  • The revolt brought an end to East India Company’s rule, along with changes in the British policy towards the Indian States.
  • One of the most important outcomes of the revolt was that it gave rise to nationalism. Indian people became more aware of their heroes, who sacrificed their lives for the country so that others might live in free India in times to come.
  • The revolt however scarred the relationship between Hindus and Muslims with the Divide and Rule Policy which was adopted by the British. They felt that if they wanted to continue their rule in India, it was important to divide the Hindus and Muslims.
  • I

What were the causes of Failure of Revolt of 1857 ?

Although the revolt was a big event in the history of India, it had very little chance of success against an organised and powerful enemy. It was suppressed within a year of its outbreak. Various causes led to the failure of the Revolt of 1857. There was no unity of purpose among the rebels. The sepoys of Bengal wanted to revive the ancient glories of the Mughals while Nana Saheb and Tantya Tope tried to reestablish the Maratha power. Rani Lakshmi Bai fought to regain Jhansi, which she had lost as a result of British policy of Doctrine of lapse. Secondly, this rising was not widespread it remained confined to North and Central India. Even in the north, Kashmir, Punjab, Sind and Rajputana kept away from the rebels. The British managed to get the loyalty of the Madras and Bombay regiments and the Sikh states. Afghans and Gurkhas also supported the British. Many Indian rulers refused to help the rebels. Some were openly hostile to them and helped the British in suppressing the revolt. The middle and upper classes and the modern educated Indians also did not support the revolt. Thirdly the leadership of the movement was weak. Indian leaders lacked organisation and planning. The rebel leaders were no match to the British soldiers. Most of its leaders thought only of their own interest. They were motivated by narrow personal gains. They fought to liberate only their own territories. No national leader emerged to coordinate the movement and give it purpose and direction. Lakshmi Bai, Tantya Tope and Nana Saheb were courageous but were not good military generals. With the escape of Nana Sahib and the death of Bahadur Shah Zafar came the end of Peshwaship and the Mughal rule.

The rebels were short of weapons and finances. Whatever few weapons existed were old and outdated. They were no match to the sophisticated and modern weapons of the British. The rebels were also poorly organized. The uprisings in different parts of the country were uncoordinated. Often the sepoys behaved in an uncontrolled manner. On the other hand, the telegraphic system and postal communication helped the British to speed up their operation. The English mastery of the sea enabled them to get timely help from England and crush the revolt ruthlessly.

What was the impact of Revolt of 1857 ?

The Revolt of 1857 is unique in a sense that cut across caste, community and class barriers. Indian people for the first time put up a unified challenge to British rule.

Though the efforts of the rebels failed, the British government was pressurised to change their policy towards India. In August 1858, by the Act for the Better Government of India, both the Board of Control and the Board of Directors were abolished. And the office of the Secretary of State for India was created with an Indian Council of 15 members to assist the Viceroy of India, designation earlier known as Governor Generalin India. In August 1858 the British crown assumed control of India from the East India Company and in 1877 Queen Victoria was crowned empress of India. This brought to an end the rule of East India Company. In the proclamation of 1st November 1858 the Queen announced a continuation of the Company’s policies. India became a colony of the British Empire. The Indian rulers were assured of their rights to succession after adoption. The crown promised to honor all the treaties and the agreements made by the company with the rulers of Indian State.

By now the British had become distrustful of the Hindu Muslim unity. They decided to follow the policy of divide and rule the country. They kept a tight control over key positions both in the civil and military administration. To give expression to this pledge the Indian Civil Service Act of 1861 was passed, which provided for an annual competitive examination to be held in London for recruitment to the coveted Civil Service.

The revolt played a pivotal role in Anglo- Indian history. The British became cautious and defensive about their empire, while many Indians remained bitter and would never trust their rulers again. It was not until the emergence of Indian National Congress in 1885 and Mahatma Gandhi that Indians re-gathered their momentum for home rule. One group which kept away from trouble and opposition to the British was the English-educated Indians. This group owed its rise to the conditions of the new rule. Some of its members were descendants of the new Bengali zamindars, a class created by the Permanent Settlement in Bengal. It is curious to note that some members of this elite group would turn against the British some thirty or forty years after the 1857 Revolt.

The Army had been mainly responsible for the crisis of 1857. Hence, radical changes were introduced in the army. The strength of European troops in India was increased and the number of Indian troops reduced from the pre- 1857 figure. All Indian artillery units with the exception of a few mountain batteries were disbanded, even the artillery was kept with the British soldiers. On the other hand, there were attempts to play native against natives on the basis of caste, religion, and region. All the big posts in the army and the artillery departments were reserved for the Europeans. There were mutual distrust and fear between the Indians and the British.

It was increasingly realised that one basic cause for the Revolt of 1857 was the lack of contact between the ruler and the ruled. Thus, a humble beginning towards the development of representative institutions in India was made by the Indian Councils Act of 1861. The emotional after effects of the Revolt were perhaps the most unfortunate. Racial bitterness was perhaps the worst legacy of the struggle.

The Revolt of 1857 and its Consequences

Causes On May 10, 1857 sepoys stationed at Meerut, led by Mangal Pande mutinied and straightaway marched to Delhi and proclaimed the 80-year-old Mughal Emperor. Bahadur Shah Zafar as the Emperor of India. This mutiny set off the popular Revolt of 1857 which engulfed northern and central India and nearly swept away British Rile.

This Revolt was caused by widespread discontent that had been accumulating as a result of British policies in India.

The policy of conquest pursued by the British had created unrest among many Indian rulers and chiefs. The vigorous application of the Doctrine of Lapse was responsible for the participation of theRani of Jhansi andNanaSahib, the adopted son of the last Peshwa in the Revolt.

The gradual disappearance of the Indian states destroyed the means of livelihood for many.

The new land revenue system ruined many peasants proprietors who lost their lands to traders and moneylenders. Artisans were ruined because of the influx of British manufactured goods into India.

  • Jagdishpur Kunwar Singh near Arrah
  • Fai/.abad Maulavi Ahmadullah

Nana Sahib was defiant to the very end He refused to surrender and escaped to Nepal early in 1859, never to be heard of again. Tantia Tope escaped into the jungles of Central India where he carried on brilliant guerrilla warfare until April 1859, when he was betrayed by a Zamindar friend and captured while asleep He was put to death after a hurried trial on 15 April, 159.

Rani of Jhansi died on the battlefield on April 15, 1859. By 1859, Kunwar Singh. Bakht Khan, Khan Bahadur Khan of Bareilly, Rao Sahib, brother of Nana Sahib were all dead , while the Begum of Awadh was compelled to hide in Nepal.

In spite of the widespread nature of the revolt and intensity, it was suppressed within a little over a year.

Reasons for Failure The revolt failed for many reasons. There was hardly any coordination among the forces fighting in different regions. Most of the Indian princes and chiefs who had been allowed to continue by the British sided with the British during the revolt. Except for the discontented and the dispossessed zamindars. the middle and the upper classes were mostly critical of the revolt. Even those (big zamindars) who had rebelled, abandoned the Revolts, once the Government gave them an assurance that their estates would be returned The modern educated Indians did not support the Revolt as they believed that only British rule could reform Indian society’ and modernize it. The Indian revolutionaries were short of modern weapons and other materials of war.

The Revolt of 1857 marked the end of an era in Indian history’. The Indian political order of the 18th century was destroyed finally. The Revolt paved the way for the rise of the modem national movement.

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