- New genetic proof links 246 Indian soldiers killed in Punjab’s Ajnala during the 1857 uprising to Gangetic plains.
- Archaeologists have called the site the largest possessing skeletal remains linked to any single event during the 1857 Indian rebellion.
- With the mass killing being a highly sensitive issue with the potential to trigger socio-political tensions in 1857, the concerned British officers decided to immediately dispose of their bodies by dumping them in the well at Ajnala.
About 1857 Uprising
- Violent and very bloody uprising: The Sepoy Mutiny was a violent and very bloody uprising against British rule in India in 1857.
- It is also known by other names: the Indian Mutiny, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, or the Indian Revolt of 1857.
- The events of 1857 have been considered the first outbreak of an independence movement against British rule.
- By the 1850s the East India Company controlled much of India. A private company which first entered India to trade in the 1600s, the East India Company had eventually transformed into a diplomatic and military operation.
- Large numbers of native soldiers, known as sepoys, were employed by the company to maintain order and defend trading centres. The sepoys were generally under the command of British officers.
- A number of Indians began to suspect that the British intended to convert the Indian population to Christianity. Increasing numbers of Christian missionaries began arriving in India, and their presence gave credence to rumours of impending conversions.
- Under a British policy called the “doctrine of lapse,” the East India Company would take control of Indian states in which a local ruler had died without an heir.
- The system was subject to abuse, and the company used it to annex territories in a questionable manner.
- The traditional story of the Sepoy Mutiny is that the introduction of a new cartridge for the Enfield rifle provoked much of the trouble.
- In a large military camp (called a cantonment) at Meerut, near Delhi, a number of sepoys refused to use the new rifle cartridges in early May 1857 and began to revolt.
- Exploitation of the Peasantry:
- Although the trade monopoly enriched the East India Company considerably, its main source of income was now derived from the land.
- To extract as much money as possible it devised new systems of land settlements Permanent, Ryotwari and Mahalwari each more oppressive than the other.
- Alienation of the Middle and Upper Strata of Indians:
- It was not merely the peasantry that got alienated from British rule, the middle and upper strata Indians also felt oppressed.
- The disappearance of these Indian states and their replacement by the British administration deprived the Indians of higher posts which were now taken mainly by the British.
- The religious men like Pandits and Maulvis also lost all their former power and prestige
- Annexation of Princely States:
- The East India Company did not spare even its former allies.
- The native state of Awadh was annexed by Dalhousie in 1856 on the pretext that Nawab Wazid Ali Shah was mismanaging the state.
- Even before this he had annexed Satara in 1848 and Nagpur and Jhansi in 1854 on the pretext that the rulers of these states had no natural heir to succeed them after their death.
- Impact on the Sepoys:
- They were frequently abused and humiliated.
- The Indian Sepoy, despite his valour and great fighting capacity could never rise above the rank of a Subedar while a fresh recruit from England was as often appointed his superior overnight.
- Threat to Religion:
- An impression was created among them that their religion was being attacked by the British.
- At several places conversions to Christianity were reported to be made.
- In Delhi Bahadur Shah was the leader.
- Bakht Khan had led the revolt of the soldiers at Bareilly
- At Kanpur the revolt was led by Nana Saheb
- At Lucknow the Begum of Awadh provided the leadership
- Rani Lakshmi Bai led the revolt from Jhansi
Causes of Failure
- Lack of a Unified Programme and Ideology:
- The rebellion swept off the British system of government and administration in India.
- But the rebels did not know what to create in its place! They had no forward-looking plan in mind.
- Lack of Unity Among Indians:
- While sepoys of the Bengal army were revolting, some soldiers in Punjab and south India fought on the side of the British to crush these rebellions.
- Lack of Support from the Educated Indians:
- The modern educated Indians also did not support the revolt because, in their view, that revolt was backward-looking.
- Disunity Among the Leaders:
- The main problem however, was lack of unity in the ranks of rebels themselves. Their leaders were suspicious and jealous of each other and often indulged in petty quarrels.
- Military Superiority of the British:
- Another major factor for the defeat of the rebels was the British superiority in arms.
- British imperialism, at the height of its power the world over and supported by most of the Indian princes and chiefs, proved militarily too strong for the rebels.