NCERT Class 8 History Chapter 5 - When People Rebel Notes

Chapter 5 - When People Rebel Notes

1. Political Causes
→ The power of many Indian rulers had started declining.
→ Policies like Subsidiary alliance and Doctrine of Lapse made the kings lose authority and prestige.

2. Economic Causes
→ Peasants and zamindars resented the high taxes.
→ The peasants were left miserable and suppressed and resented land revenue policies.
→ The indigenous handicraft industry suffered with the coming of the industrial revolution.
→ With the displacement of old ruling families the court poets, artisans etc. found themselves unemployed.

3. Social And Religious Causes
→ The British introduced a number of reforms in the country.
→ Laws were passed to abolish sati, to encourage widow remarriage and to promote western education.
→ These reforms were looked upon with suspicion by the orthodox sections of the society.
→ After 1830, Christian missionaries were allowed to function freely and in 1850, a law was passed to promote conversions to Christianity.
→ The British considered themselves to be superior to Indians and Indians were not allowed to hold any position in the high ranks of administration.

4. Military Causes
→ The Indian sepoys were unhappy with their pay, allowances and conditions of services.
→ They were paid less than their British counterparts and their chances of promotion were also very limited.
→ Initially, the Company had adapted its military practices in accordance with the religious beliefs of the people but slowly this began to change.
→ A law was passed requiring sepoys to travel abroad if needed.

5. Immediate Cause
→ In 1856, the Enfield rifle was introduced in the army.
→ To load the rifle, the sepoys had to bite the cartridge open.
→ It was rumoured that this cartridge was coated with cow and big fat.
→ While the Hindus considered the cow sacred, the pig was considered dirty by the Muslims who did not eat pork.
→ This news greatly alarmed and angered the Hindus and Muslims.

6. Nawabs lose their power
→ From the mid-eighteenth century, the nawabs and rajas lost their authority and power.
→ In order to protect their interests, many ruling families tried to negotiate with the Company.
→ 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. However, the Company, confident of its superiority and military powers, turned down these pleas.
→ 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.
→ Governor-General Dalhousie declared that the territory was being misgoverned and British rule was needed to ensure proper administration.
→ The Company even began to plan how to bring the Mughal dynasty to an end.
→ The name of the Mughal king was removed from the coins minted by the Company.
→ 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 - they would just be called princes.

7. The peasants and the sepoys
→ In the countryside peasants and zamindars resented the high taxes and the rigid methods of revenue collection.
→ Many 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. Some of the new rules violated their religious sensibilities and beliefs.
→ In those days many people in the country believed that if they crossed the sea they would lose their religion and caste.
→ When in 1824 the sepoys were told to go to Burma by the sea route to fight for the Company, they refused to follow the order, though they agreed to go by the land route. They were severely punished, and since the issue did not die down, 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.
→ Sepoys also reacted to what was happening in the countryside. Many of them were peasants and had families living in the villages. So the anger of the peasants quickly spread among the sepoys.

8. Responses to reforms
→ The British believed that Indian society had to be reformed. Laws were passed to stop the practice of sati and to encourage the remarriage of widows.
→ English-language education was actively promoted.
→ After 1830, the Company allowed Christian missionaries to function freely in its domain and even own land and property.
→ 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, their social customs and their traditional way of life.

9. A Mutiny Becomes a Popular Rebellion
→ A very 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.
→ This situation developed in the northern parts of India in 1857. After a hundred years of conquest and administration, the English East India Company faced a massive rebellion that started in May 1857 and threatened the Company’s very presence in India.
→ Sepoys mutinied in several places beginning from Meerut and a large number of people from different sections of society rose up in rebellion. Some regard it as the biggest armed resistance to colonialism in the nineteenth century anywhere in the world.

10. From Meerut to Delhi
→ On 29 March 1857, a young soldier, Mangal Pandey, was hanged to death for attacking his officers in Barrackpore.
→ Some days later, some sepoys of the regiment at Meerut refused to do the army drill using the new cartridges, which were suspected of being coated with the fat of cows and pigs.
→ 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 attacked and killed British officers. They captured guns and ammunition and set fire to the buildings and properties of the British and declared war on the firangis. The soldiers were determined to bring an end to their rule in the country. The Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, would rule the land instead.
→ The sepoys of Meerut 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.
→ Again British officers were killed, arms and ammunition seized, buildings set on fire. Triumphant soldiers gathered around the walls of the Red Fort where the Badshah lived, demanding to meet him. The emperor was not quite willing to challenge the mighty British power but the soldiers persisted. They forced their way into the palace and proclaimed Bahadur Shah Zafar as their leader.
→ The Mughal dynasty had ruled over a very large part of the country. Most smaller rulers and chieftains controlled different territories on behalf of the Mughal ruler.
→ Threatened by the expansion of British rule, many of them felt that if the Mughal emperor could rule again, they too would be able to rule their own territories once more, under Mughal authority.
→ The British had not expected this to happen. They thought the disturbance caused by the issue of the cartridges would die down.
→ After the British were routed from Delhi, there was no uprising for almost a week. It took that much time for news to travel.
→ Regiment after regiment mutinied and took off to join other troops at nodal points like Delhi, Kanpur and Lucknow. After them, the people of the towns and villages also rose up in rebellion and rallied around local leaders, zamindars and chiefs who were prepared to establish their authority and fight the British.
→ Nana Saheb, the adopted son of the late Peshwa Baji Rao who lived near Kanpur, gathered armed forces and expelled the British garrison from the city. He proclaimed himself Peshwa. He declared that he was a governor under Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar.
→ In Lucknow, Birjis Qadr, the son of the deposed Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, was proclaimed the new Nawab. He too acknowledged the suzerainty of Bahadur Shah Zafar. His mother Begum Hazrat Mahal took an active part in organising the uprising against the British.
→ 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.
→ The British were greatly outnumbered by the rebel forces. They were defeated in a number of battles.
→ A situation of widespread popular rebellion developed in the region of Awadh in particular. On 6 August 1857, a telegram was sent by Lieutenant Colonel Tytler to his Commander-in-Chief expressing the fear felt by the British that “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.”
→ Ahmadullah Shah, a maulvi from Faizabad, prophesied that the rule of the British would come to an end soon. He caught the imagination of the people and raised a huge force of supporters. He came to Lucknow to fight the British.
→ In Delhi, a large number of ghazis or religious warriors came together to wipe out the white people.
→ 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.

11. The Company Fights Back
→ The Company brought its reinforcement from England to repress the revolt, passed new laws so that the rebels could be convicted with ease, and then moved into the storm centres of the revolt.
→ Delhi was recaptured from the rebel forces in September 1857.
→ The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar was tried in court and sentenced to life imprisonment. He and his wife Begum Zinat Mahal were sent to prison in Rangoon in October 1858.
→ Bahadur Shah Zafar died in the Rangoon jail in November 1862.
→ 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.
→ Lucknow was taken in March 1858. Rani Lakshmibai was defeated and killed in June 1858.
→ Rani Avantibai 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. He was captured, tried and killed in April 1859.
→ The British also tried their best to win back the loyalty of the people.
→ They 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 if they had not killed any white people, they would remain safe and their rights and claims to land would not be denied. Nevertheless, hundreds of sepoys, rebels, nawabs and rajas were tried and hanged.

12. Aftermath
→ The British had regained control of the country by the end of 1859, but they could not carry on ruling the land with the same policies any more.
• The British Parliament passed a new Act in 1858 and transferred the powers of the East India Company to the British Crown in order to ensure a more responsible management of Indian affairs. 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, called the India Council. The Governor-General of India was given the title of Viceroy, that is, a personal representative of the Crown. Through these measures the British government accepted direct responsibility for ruling India.
• All ruling chiefs of the country were assured that their territory would never be annexed in future. They were allowed to pass on their kingdoms to their heirs, including adopted sons. However, they were made to acknowledge the British Queen as their Sovereign Paramount. Thus the Indian rulers were to hold their kingdoms as subordinates of the British Crown.
• It was decided that the proportion of Indian soldiers in the army would be reduced and the number of European soldiers would be increased. It was also decided that instead of recruiting soldiers from Awadh, Bihar, central India and south India, more soldiers would be recruited from among the Gurkhas, Sikhs and Pathans.
• The land and property of Muslims was confiscated on a large scale and they were treated with suspicion and hostility. The British believed that they were responsible for the rebellion in a big way.
• 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.

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