Causes of the Great Revolt Of 1857
The discontent and disaffection manifested in the form of revolts against the British Government were not confined to the ruling chiefs and royal families alone. On the contrary, the British rule was disliked by the people at large in any region when it was newly introduced. Anti-British feelings were particularly strong in those regions like Burma, Assam, Coorg, Sind, and the Punjab which were unjustly annexed to the British Empire. The Doctrine of Lapse, particularly its practical application by Lord Dalhousie, produced grave discontent and alarm among the native princes, who were directly affected.
The huge drain of wealth, the destruction of its industry and increasing land revenue had become the common features of the latter half of the eighteenth century. The East India Company, after attaining political power, used it to fund the growth of British trade and commerce at the cost of Indians. The British damaged the Indian trade and manufacture by imposing a high tariff in Britain against Indian goods, and by encouraging all means the import of British goods to India. In England the ruin of the old handloom weavers was accompanied by the growth of the machine industry. But in India the ruin of the millions of artisans and craftsmen was not accompanied by any alternative growth of new industrial forms.
A new plantation system introduced in the year 1833 resulted in incalculable misery for the Indian peasants. This was the result of
permitting Englishmen to acquire land plantations in India. The hard hit were the peasants on the indigo plantations in Bengal and Bihar.
The Englishmen showed an arrogant attitude towards the Indians. Indiscriminate assaults on Indians by Englishmen became quite common. Also, a general alarm was raised among the Hindus and Muslims by the activities of the Christian missionaries. The educational institutions established by the missionaries inculcated western education and culture in the place of oriental learning. The native population felt that were losing their social identity.
Discontent against the British Raj was widely prevalent among the Indian soldiers in the British army. The Indian sepoys in the British Indian army nursed a sense of strong resentment at their low salary and poor prospects of promotion. The British military officers at times showed least respect to the social values and religious sentiments of Indian sepoys in the army. Thus, although generally faithful to their masters, the sepoys were provoked to revolt. The Vellore mutiny of 1806, a precursor to the 1857 Great Revolt, was the outcome of such tendencies on the part of the military authorities.
Another important cause of the sepoys' dissatisfaction was the order that abolished the foreign allowance or batta when they served in foreign territories. Thus the discontent was widespread and there was an undercurrent before the volcanic situation of 1857. All that needed was only a spark to set it a fire.
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