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Chapter 11: Rebels And The Raj (Revolt 1857 And Its Representations)
The sepoys began their action with a signal: in many places, it was the firing of the evening gun or the sounding of the bugle.
They first seized the bell of arms and plundered the treasury. They then attacked government buildings – the jail, treasury, telegraph office, record room, bungalows – burning all records.
Everything and everybody connected with the white man became a target. Proclamations
in Hindi, Urdu, and Persian were put up in the cities calling upon the population, both Hindus and
Muslims, to unite, rise and exterminate the firangis.
When ordinary people began joining the revolt, the targets of attack widened.
In major towns like Lucknow, Kanpur, and Bareilly, moneylenders and the rich also became the objects of rebel wrath.
Peasants not only saw them as oppressors but also as allies of the British. In most places their houses were looted and destroyed.
The mutiny in the sepoy ranks quickly became a rebellion. There was general defiance of all kinds of authority and hierarchy.
In the months of May and June, the British had no answer to the actions of the rebels. Individual Britons tried to save their own lives and the lives of their families. British rule, as one British officer noted, “collapsed like a house made of cards’’.
The reason for the similarity in the pattern of the revolt in different places lay partly in its planning and coordination. It is clear that there was communication between the sepoy lines of various cantonments.
After the 7th Awadh Irregular Cavalry had refused to accept the new cartridges in early May, they wrote to the 48th Native Infantry that “they had acted for the faith and awaited the 48th’s orders”.
Sepoys or their emissaries moved from one station to another. People were thus planning and talking about the rebellion.
The pattern of the mutinies and the pieces of evidence that suggest some sort of planning and
coordination raise certain crucial questions.
How were the plans made? Who were the planners? It is difficult on the basis of the available documents to provide direct answers to such questions.
But one incident provides clues as to how the mutinies came to be so organized. Captain Hearsey of the Awadh Military Police had been given protection by his Indian subordinates during the mutiny.
The 41st Native Infantry, which was stationed in the same place, insisted that since they had killed all their white officers, the Military Police should also kill Hearsey or deliver him as a prisoner to the 41st.
The Military Police refused to do either, and it was decided that the matter would be settled by a
panchayat composed of native officers drawn from each regiment.
Charles Ball, who wrote one of the earliest histories of the uprising, noted that panchayats were a nightly occurrence in the Kanpur sepoy lines.
What this suggests is that some of the decisions were taken collectively.
Given the fact that the sepoys lived in lines and shared a common lifestyle and that many of them came from the same caste, it is not difficult to imagine them sitting together to decide their own future. The sepoys were the makers of their own rebellion.
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NCERT Solutions Class 12 History Chapter 11 Rebels And The Raj – Revolt 1857 And Its Representations
1. Why did the mutinous sepoys in many places turn to erstwhile rulers to provide leadership to the revolt?
Ans: Following are the major reasons to explain why the rebellious soldiers turned to native rulers for leadership:
1. East India company defeated native rulers to grab power in India. Many believed that the native Indian rulers had the legal and legitimate authority to regain power in the respective kingdoms. Therefore, it was natural that they became the leaders of the rebels and regain the lost status of rulers.
2. The erstwhile rulers had substantial resources at their command. They had wealth and private armies too. The rebels waited to get the support of resources from them and declaring them the leaders it was a natural outcome.
3. Most of the erstwhile Indian rulers were popular at the local level. Their subjects often sympathized with them as they believed that the latter was unlawfully thrown out of power and even suffered humiliation. Choosing these native rulers was echoing the sentiments of the people and winning more support for the cause.
2. Discuss the evidence that indicates planning and coordination on the part of the rebels.
Ans: The evidence that indicates planning and coordination on the part of the rebels is as given below :
- Lines of communication :
- There was communication between the sepoy lines of various cantonments. For example, after the 7th Awadh Irregular Cavalry had refused to use new cartridges, they wrote to the 48th Native Infantry that “they had acted for the faith and awaited the 48th’s orders.”
- Sepoys or their emissaries moved from one station to another.
- Mutinies were organized is evident from the incident relating to the protection given to captain Hearsey by his Indian subordinates during the mutiny. In this case, it was decided that the matter would be decided by a panchayat composed of native officers drawn from each regiment. It proves that the mutinies were well organized. Charles Ball has also noted that panchayats were a nightly occurrence in the Kanpur sepoy lines.
3. Discuss the extent to which religious beliefs shaped the events of 1857.
Ans: People during the company rule felt that their religious sentiments are systemically hurt by the government. For them, it was an attack on their religious freedom, and an insult. The religious causes for the Revolt are as follows:
- Immediate cause: The soldiers were given cartridges greased with cow and pig fat. This angered Moslems and Hindus alike.
- Reforms by Company: The Company introduced many religious and social reformers. Many Indians began to believe that it was an attempt on the part of the government to deviate them from their own religion. Important such reforms were the prevention of sati system, widow remarriage, etc.
- Activities of Christian Missionaries: During company rule involved in the spread of education. But local people looked upon them with suspicion. Thus, the people plunged into rebellion against the foreign rule.
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NCERT Class 12 History Textbook Chapter 11 With Answer PDF Free Download