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How should the Indian Mutiny b

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How should the Indian Mutiny b


Any discussion on the reasons behind the Indian mutiny needs to be preceded by what the mutiny actually was. While mutinies and revolts were not uncommon in India at this time, they were usually largely uncoordinated. The mutiny of 1857 however, was different. Here was a major convergence of various strands of resistance, and an expansion of scale and new level of intensity . It is my purpose to discover why this was.

The Mutiny was initiated on the 10th May 1857 at Meerut by the XI native cavalry. The immediate issue was the greased cartridges of the new rifle which was being brought into use in India. Soldiers were expected to bite off the end of the cartridge to release the powder with which to prime the rifle. It had been suggested as early as 1853 by Colonel Tucker that the new grease might offend the religious sentiments of the Sepoys, but this warning had gone unheeded. This type of attitude was typical of the British who constantly underestimated the importance of Indian religion, and the failure to do so here was to have disastrous consequences.

In January 1857 a labourer at the Dum Dum arsenal near Calcutta, a low caste Hindu, taunted a high caste Sepoy who had offended him that 'You will soon lose your caste, as long as you will have to bite cartridges covered with the fat of pigs and cows' . The news of this incident spread. As it was against Muslim and Hindu religion to come into contact with these meats, it would have been a disgrace for them to have had to use these rifles. However, it was not personal pollution that the Sepoys feared but, social ostracism, they feared they would be ex communicated by their own people. Furthermore, the whole incident appeared more sinister to the Sepoys , who already suspected the British had in mind to make them outcasts and convert them to Christianity. With this skepticism still rife, Colonel Carmichael Smith ordered his regiment at Meerut to parade for firing practice on 24th April 1857. He was aware the situation was tense, but there were new instructions to open the cartridges with fingers and not teeth. However, the men refused to take practice cartridges even though they were the old type, as they feared for their reputations.

The men were court marshaled, disgraced on parade and sentenced to imprisonment. The punishment took place on the 9th May, and the following day a disturbance broke out in the bizarre, and quickly spread to infantry lines and native cavalry. Angry Sepoys freed their colleagues and went on to massacre British residents. British officers were slow to react and by the next morning fifty Europeans and Eurasians were dead, including women and children. Indian shopkeepers were attacked and looted while the mutineers were on their way to Delhi with the purpose of offering their services to the pensioned Mogul emperor, Bahadur Shah.

There were no troops in Delhi, but all Christians and Europeans were hunted out and murdered. There were small abortive outbreaks afterwards, but it wasn't until the 21st May that serious trouble broke out all over Oudh and the North West provinces. On the 15th July at Allahabad, British women and children were brutally murdered, and Colonel Neill ordered that those responsible should be executed after being made to clean the room in which the murders had taken place. The close contact they would have to make with the blood was also another serious insult to the Indians.

It was 1859 before the last remnants of the Mutiny burnt out. As a result of the mutiny anti British feeling in India was greatly intensified , and the British government took permanent control of the territory from the East India company in an attempt to try and stop such an occurrence happening again. It would be possible to describe the events of the mutiny in much more detail, but here we need to look at the deeper reasons behind it.

The mutiny has been described as the country's first war of independence, because it was the first major demonstration of national feeling and action against the British presence. Early twentieth century commentators, especially Indian have taken this view. For example, Marx portrays the mutiny as a national rising , but the circumstances under which he came to this conclusion need to be taken into consideration. Marx was writing for the New York Times , and his interpretation could be seen to be perpetuating the national sentiment of United States that colonialism was wrong. Marx was trying to win sympathy for the Indian people who he described as being economically exploited by the harshness of British rule, from which America had themselves had escaped from, thus if he had shown sympathies for the British colonists, then quite simply the American public would have not looked upon Marx in the same way. Thus his circumstances may greatly have influenced his articles.

Marx anticipated, or maybe influenced the present day Indian view of seeing it as the starting point of the independence movement, as Indian nationalists describe the mutiny as part of the national evolution and of course can be seen to be inclined to emphasise the patriotic resistance of their ancestors.. However, to view it as a war of Independence seems only possible with hindsight, or in looking at it in terms of what it achieved in years to come, as it could be that its memory helped and guided India to gain independence in 1847. E Stokes suggested that the mutiny momentarily revealed the structure of Indian rural society, and that it was not a universal decisive turning point in the history of British India .

Furthermore, the ill success of the movement provided the strongest argument for the subsequent British claim that they had not been confronted by a national war on independence at all, as if they had, then a larger percentage of the population would undoubtedly have become involved and thus the mutiny may have proved to be more successful. As it was the mutiny was limited in geographical area. 70,000 Sepoys joined the revolt, but not simultaneously , 30,000 remained loyal to Britain and 30,000 played no part at all, 'No community class or caste as such were entirely for or against the government' .

The mutiny has also been described as a nationalist uprising. Bose and Jalal describe the Mutiny as being infused was a major sense of patriotism if not nationalism , to the extent that it had the shared objective of putting an end to colonial rule. The legends of bravery and massacre were later surreptitiously introduced into Indian nationalism. While the delegates to the first ...

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Keywords: where did the indian mutiny began, how did the british respond to the indian mutiny, why did the indian mutiny fail

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