The 1857 Uprising was the culmination of the recurrent big and small local rebellions that had occurred in the preceding hundred years of British rule. Elucidate. (10 Marks)

After the battle of Plassey in 1757, the political control of the East India Company increased and by the end of the eighteenth century, the British emerged as the main power in India. These changes led to dislocation in the socio-cultural, economic and political life of the people. The subsequent turmoil led to an outbreak of rebellion in different parts of the country. Rebellions were not confined to the later period of the British Empire but were a constant feature of it from its very beginning, culminating in the revolt of 1857. The revolt was not a sudden occurrence but it was the culmination of a century-long tradition of fierce popular resistance to British domination.

Important rebellions that had occurred in the preceding hundred years: 

Political-religious Movements

  • Sanyasi Uprising: The immediate cause of the rebellion was the restrictions imposed on the pilgrims visiting the holy places. The Sanyasis raided the English factories and collected contributions from the towns, leading to a series of conflicts.
  • Pagal Panthis: Leaders such as Tipu motivated by both religious and political motives and took up the cause of the tenants against the oppression of the Zamindars.
  • Wahabi Movement: Movement was a revivalist movement which tried to purify Islam by eliminating all the un-Islamic practices which had crept into Muslim society through the ages. It offered the most serious and well-planned challenge to British supremacy in India.
  • Faraizi Revolt: This movement supported the cause of the tenants against the landlords and the British government.
  • Kuka Revolt: They started out as a group for religious purification in Sikhism but under Ram Singh, the movement acquired a political overtone with the established aim of restoring Sikh rule in Punjab and ousting the foreign powers.

Tribal Movements/ Tribal Uprisings:

  • Santhal Rebellion: With the introduction of permanent settlement in Bengal in 1793, heavy taxes, oppression by money lenders, landlords, revenue officials were the main reason for the rising of the rebellion. Under Sidhu and kanhu rose against the oppressors and declared themselves independent in 1854.
  • Khond Uprising: Their uprisings from 1837 to 1856 were directed against the British due to an attempt by the government to suppress human sacrifice (Mariah), the introduction of new taxes by the British and the influx of Zamindars and money-lenders into their areas which was causing the tribals untold misery.
  • Early Munda Uprising: In the period of 1789-1832, the Munda rose up in rebellion seven times against the landlords, dikhus, money-lenders and the British, who instead of protesting them sided with the oppressors.

Main frontier uprisings before 1857 were: 

  • Khasi Uprising: Conscriptions of labourers for road construction linking the Brahmaputra valley with Sylhet passing through the entire length of the Khasi dominated the Khasis to revolt under the leadership of Tirut Singh. The long and harassing warfare with Khasis continued for four years and was finally suppressed in early 1833.
  • Ahom Revolt: The British had pledged to withdraw after the first Burma war(1824-26) from Assam but in contrast, the British attempted to incorporate the Ahoms territories in the company’s dominion after the war. This sparked off a rebellion in 1828 under the leadership of Gomdhar Konwar.
  • Singhphos rebellion: While the British were engaged in harassing warfare with the Khasis, the Singhphos broke into open rebellion in early 1830, which was suppressed after 3 months. But the Singhphos remained in a mood of sullen discontent and again rose in rebellion in 1839, when they killed the British political agent. 

Thus it is evident that the colonial rule even during the days of the East India Company

witnessed numerous uprising and disturbances. These varied grievances reached their climax in the revolt of 1857, which in spite of targeting certain groups of Indians remains the prominent uprising against the British before the beginning of the Indian Freedom Movement.

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