A Mutiny Becomes a Popular Rebellion

When People Rebel of Class 8

A Mutiny Becomes a Popular Rebellion

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 sections of society rose up in rebellion.

a mutiny becomes a popular rebellion

From Meerut to Delhi

  1. On 29 March 1857, a young soldier, Mangal Pandey, was hanged to death for attacking his officers in Barrackpore. Some sepoys of the regiment at Meerut refused to do the army drill using the new cartridges. Eighty-five sepoys were dismissed from service and sentenced to ten years in jail for disobeying their officers. This happened on 9 May 1857.
  2. On 10 May, the soldiers marched to the jail in Meerut and released the imprisoned sepoys. They attacked and killed British officers. The soldiers were determined to bring an end to their rule in the country. 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: Triumphant soldiers gathered around the walls of the Red Fort where the Badshah lived, demanding to meet him. They forced their way into the palace and proclaimed Bahadur Shah Zafar as their leader. Again British officers were killed arms and ammunition seized, buildings set on fire.
  3. The ageing emperor wrote letters to all the chiefs and rulers of the country to come forward and organise a confederacy of Indian states to fight the British. This step taken by Bahadur Shah had great implications. Threatened by the expansion of British rule, many of the small rulers and chieftains felt that if the Mughal emperor could rule again, they too would be able to rule their own territories once more, under Mughal authority.
  4. Bahadur Shah Zafar's decision to bless the rebellion changed the entire situation dramatically. Often when people see an alternative possibility they feel inspired and enthused. It gives them the courage, hope and confidence to act.

The Rebellion Spreads

rebellion spreads

  • After the British were routed from Delhi, there was no uprising for almost a week. Then, a spurt of mutinies began. Regiment after regiment mutinied and took off to join other troops at nodal points like Delhi, Kanpur and Lucknow. 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 authority and fight the British.
  • Nana Saheb gathered armed forces and expelled the British garrison from the city of Kanpur. In Lucknow, Birjis Qadr, the son of the deposed Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, was proclaimed the new Nawab. His mother Begum Hajrat 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.
  • The British were greatly outnumbered by the rebel forces. They were defeated in a number of battles. This convinced the people that the rule of the British had collapsed for good and gave them the confidence to take the plunge and join the rebellion. A situation of widespread popular rebellion developed in the region of Awadh in particular.
  • Many new leaders came up, for example, Ahmadullah Shah, a maulvi from Faizabad, prophesied that the rule of the British would come to an end soon. He 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 took charge of a large force of fighters who came to Delhi. He became a key military leader of the rebellion. In Bihar, Kunwar Singh, joined the rebel sepoys and battled with the British for many months. Leaders and fighters from across the land joined the fight.
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