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Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “The Rise of Indian National Movement (1857)” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

The Rise of Indian National Movement (1857)

Birth of Nationalism—The National Movement in India started in the second half of the nineteenth century. However, sporadic uprisings with a motive of driving British out of India had started in the country earlier. Historians have held divergent views about the nature of the outbreak of 1857, In fact the British occupation of India, which could be said to have begin with the battle of Plassy, was completed by the end of Dalhousie’s tenure in 1856. It had been by no means a smooth affairs as the shivering discontent of the people manifested in itself in many localised revolts during this period. However the mutiny of 1857, which began with a revolt of the military soldiers soon became widespread and posed a grave challenge to the British rule. Even though the British succeeded it was certainly a popular revolt in which the Indian rulers, the masses and the militia participated so enthusiastically that it came to be regarded as the First War of Independence.

The British paramountcy was established over India during the tenure of Lord Dalhousie who became the governor General of India in 1848. After annexing Punjab, he extended his control over Peshawar and Pathan tribes in the north west of India. He also annexed a large part of Burma and he extended empire in the east. The successor of Dalhousie Canning extended his control over the Persian Gulf region. But the revolt of 1857 prevented his grand design from materialising. Thus by 1856, the British conquest and its authority were firmly established.

The paramountcy of the British in India was established through a number of devices such as direct annexation as in the case of Myssore and Singh. The method of subsidiary alliance, though initially designed to help and protect the local rulers against their wars with the others, also used to create such conditions whereby it led to annexation of these territories by the British. The Doctrine of Lapse was another common device used by Dalhousie and also the later Governor Generals to take over Indian States. Under the Doctrine of Lapse, any Indian rulers who died without a male heir as a natural successor, his territory automatically passed on into the British hands. The states of Jhansi, Nagpur and Satara were annexed by the British under this Doctrine of Lapse. Nana Sahib, the adopted son of the Peshwa was denied his legitimate claim.

While British Dominion gained its height during the middle of the 19th century, the discontent of the local rulers, the peasantry, the intellectuals common masses as also of the soldiers who became unemployed due to the disbanding of armies of various states that were annexed by the British, became widespread. This soon broke out into revolt which assumed the dimensions of the 1857 mutiny.

The hundred years of British misrule preceding the great Mutiny had offended the local rulers and the ruled alike the principle of subsidiary alliance was used as an instrument to play one ruler against the other with ulterior motive of annexing the territories of both. The Doctrine of Lapse was a naked violation of all cannons of national justice to deny the legitimate rights to Indian rulers and to grab their territories. The armies of the annexed states were largely disbanded and the soldiers found themselves out of job. The brave and the learned people who devotedly worked for the India’s rulers and got their patronage were driven out of administration and their jagirs were taken over by the British. The peasants were ruined through exorbitant charges made from their lands by the new class of landlords established under Zamindari system introduced by the British. The craftsman were destroyed by the influx of the British manufactured goods. The religion and the caste system which formed the firm foundation of the tradition Indian society was endangered by the British administration. The Indian as well as people in administration could not rise in hierarchy as Europeans. Thus, there was all round discontent and disgust against the British rule, which burst out in revolt by the sepoys at Meerut whose religious sentiments were offended when they were given new cartridges greased with cow and pig fat, whose covering had to stripped out of touching with the mouth before using them in rifles. The Hindu as well as the Muslim soldiers, who refused to use such cartridges, were arrested which resulted in a revolt by their fellow soldiers on May 9, 1857.

The rebel forces marched towards Delhi and were captured it in no time. They proclaimed Bahadur Shah Zafar as the emperor of India. Soon the revolt spread into a wider area and there were uprisings in almost all parts of the country. Though at many places the revolt was only localised, it was widespread in Delhi, Awadh. Rohilkhand, Bundelkhand, Allahabad, Meerut and Western Bihar, where most ferocious bathes were fought. The rebellious forces under the commands of Kanwar Singh in Bihar and Bakht Khan at Delhi gave a stunning blow to the British. In Kanpur, Nana Sahib was proclaimed as the Peshwa and his troops were led by the brave leader Tantya Tope. Rani Lakshmi Bai was proclaimed as the ruler of Jhansi who herself led her troops in the heroic battles with the British. The Sikh regiment from Punjab joined the rebels in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Wajid Ali Shah’s son was put on the throne by the rebels who besieged Lucknow Residency. The Hindus, the Muslims, The Sikhs are all the other brave sons of India fought shoulderto shoulder to throw out the British and recognized Bahadur Shah Zafar as the legitimate emperor of India, who thus emerged as symbol of India’s unity and her past glory.

But the revolt, though popular and widespread, was controlled by the mighty British empire within one year. The city of Delhi was first to be regained by the Britishers on September 21, 1857. When the head was cut off, it was not difficult to butcher off the other limb of the body. Three months later Kanpur was occupied in December 1857. In March 1858, the British troops regained the control over Lucknow. Rani Lakshmi Bai was driven out of Jhansi and was killed in the battle field in June 1858. Kanwar Singh died in April 1858, having sustained severe wounds in the battle. Nana Sahib escaped in Nepal, while Tantya Tope was captured and hanged after having kept the British troops engaged for two years. Thus by the end of 1858, the revolt was crushed and Bahadur Shah Zafar was taken as a prisoner and sent to exile in Rangoon, where he died in 1862.

The Queens proclamation and the British paramountcy—Consequent to the failure of Revolt of 1857, many important changes took place in the British Governments policy towards India which sought to strengthen the British rule through winning over the Indian princes, the chiefs, and the landlords. Queen Victoria’s proclamations of November 1, 1858 declared that thereafter India would be governed by and in the name of British Monarch through a secretary of State. The Governor General was given the title of Viceroy which meant the representative of the Monarch. The proclamation also made it clear that (i) the treaties entered into between the native princes and the East India Company would be respected and scrupulously maintained (ii) the British Government would not embark upon any further conquest or aggrandisement over the territories of the native princes, (iii) the native of India would obtain the same treatment as is enjoyed by other subjects of the queen, (iv) there would be no discrimination for the natives on the basis of race or creed in appointment to the public services under the Queen and (vi) The British Government would in no way interfere with their various modes of religious worship. The Queens proclamations of 1858, thus constituted, an important landmark in India’s history. It assured the princes the territorial integrity of their states and secured to the common people of India their full rights as the subjects of the British empire. It also secured to them the right to appointment in public services and the right to freedom of worship without any hindrance or interference from the state.

Apart from these concessions the Mutiny also brought the native discontent to the immediate attention of the British Government. The Indian Councils Act 1861 added one more ordinary member to the executive council which earlier consisted of the Governor General, four ordinary members and the commander in chief of the army as on extraordinary members. Legislative council, which was set up in 1853 and comprised members in addition to the members of the executive council was also expanded by another six to twelve members, half of which were to be non officials. In 1892 the number of additional members in the legislative council was increased from 12 to 16, but the official members continued to be in majority. Local government in the form of municipalities and district boards were also set up. Bureaucracy was strengthened and army was recognized. Queen Victoria assumed the title of Empress of India and this gave the British government unlimited powers to intervene in the internal affairs of the Indian states.

Consequently the dependence of the princely states upon the British government further increased and each successor to the throne in these states had to be approved by the British Monarch or the viceroy of India. In case of mismanagement, the British could depose any ruler and appoint a successor. In brief, the British paramountcy over India, including the Indian states, was firmly established. The British gave their support to the loyal princes, zamindars and local chiefs but neglected the local people and the common masses. They also promoted the other interests. They also promoted the interest like those of the British merchants, industrialists, planters and civil servants. The people of India, as such, did not have any say in running the government or formulation of its polices. Consequently people’s disgust with the British rule kept on mounting which gave rise to the birth of Indian National Movement.

Great Social Reformers of the 19th-20th centuries : The spread of western education and civilization in India as a sequel to the establishment of the British rule created a new awakening in the minds of the people especially the educated classes. They weighed the old social and religious practices such as caste system, sati, child marriage idol worship etc. upon the scales of nationalisation and modernization ushered in by western education and found most of these ridiculous. One of the most prominent social reformer was Dr. Raja Ram Mohan Ray.


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