What was Revolt of 1857? Why some people call it mutiny and others First war of independence ?

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What was Revolt of 1857? Why some people call it mutiny and others First war of independence ?Title: The Revolt of 1857: Mutiny or India’s First War of Independence?

The Revival of 1857 forms a significant period in Indian history, causing diverse perceptions among people. Also known as the Indian Mutiny, Sepoy Mutiny, and First War of Independence, this event represented a watershed moment in India’s continuing struggle for emancipation from colonial rule. Being one of the major events leading to India’s independence in 1947, a comprehensive understanding of the Revolt of 1857 becomes paramount for anyone preparing for UPSC.

The Revolt of 1857 erupted against the East India Company’s rule in India. It commenced initially in Meerut by the Indian sepoys in the British Army. The spark of this revolt was seemingly the new units of the Enfield rifle, a firearm introduced by the British where the cartridge had to be bitten off before being loaded. The cartridges were rumoured to be greased with pig and cow fat, intentionally offending both Muslim and Hindu soldiers. This was perceived as a direct assault on their religious decency and proved to be the boiling point leading to the massive rebellion.

However, the Revolt of 1857 wasn’t just the outcome of a solitary incident. Beneath the immediate aggravation laid several underlying reasons woven into the wider socio-economic and political scenarios in India under British rule. Unreasonable land revenue policies, annexation policies like the Doctrine of Lapse, disrespect towards Indian culture and traditions, economic exploitation, and suspicion of evangelical activities of Christian missionaries played substantial roles.

Now, why is this revolt termed differently as a ‘mutiny’ by some and the ‘First War of Independence’ by others?

People calling it ‘Mutiny’ usually view the event from a British standpoint. The term ‘mutiny’ is often used when subordinates resist their superiors or when soldiers refuse to obey orders from their commanding officers. As the revolt started with the sepoys (Indian soldiers in the British Army), this perspective considers the event primarily as a military rebellion by British employees, drawing attention away from its larger political and social implications.

On the contrary, when the event is called the ‘First War of Independence’, it is viewed from an Indian standpoint, giving it a wider, more respectful dimension beyond a military mutiny. This perspective recognizes the Revolt of 1857 as the first significant mass struggle against British rule, involving people from different sections of society – soldiers, civilians, rulers, peasants, each having their grievances against the colonial regime.

However, the argument that the Revolt of 1857 was the ‘First War of Independence’ also has its critics who point out its limitations. The revolt was not entirely unified or nationalistic in its essence. Some Indian rulers like the Sikhs supported the British or remained neutral. The participation was majorly confined to Northern and Central India, with South and East largely staying untouched.

In conclusion, the Revolt of 1857 is a multi-layered phenomenon, a complexity that reflects in its nomenclature – Mutiny or the First War of Independence. To comprehend it fully requires a balanced understanding of these arguments, keeping in mind its deep-rooted contexts, causes, and effects. As UPSC aspirants, incorporating such comprehensive perspectives can enrich your knowledge on the subject and enhance your ability to articulate arguments effectively.

Remember, history is not only about facts but also about perspectives and interpretations. Therefore, understanding the Revolt of 1857 in its entirety could go a long way to ace questions on it in your UPSC exams.

Prince Luthra (UPSC CSE AIR 577)

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