Civil Rebellion-The 1857 manifestation
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- Pratibha Verma
- August 22, 2012
The revolt of 1857 was an endeavour that showed that people in India were no longer ready to condone the tyranny of British rulers, although the revolt did not succeed due to many reasons as described in the revolt of 1857.The establishment of British power was a perpetuated process which procreated envy, antagonism and dissension at every stage. This popular contention took three broad forms: civil rebellion, tribal uprising and peasant movements.
Here we will discuss about the civil rebellion in particular. Due to the unbearable British policy and exploitation of Indians in different forms, civil rebellion took places in various part of India.
The civil rebellion began as British rule was established in Bengal and Bihar and they occurred one after the other in different areas as the foreign rule started extending its reach. There was hardly an year without armed opposition or a decade without a major armed rebellion in one part of the country or other. From 1763 to 1856 , there were more than forty major rebellions ,apart from minor ones.
The major cause of all these civil rebellions , taken as a whole, was the expeditious change in British policy, economy, administration and land revenue system. The avidity to collect land revenue and reap as large amount as possible produced a catastrophe in Indian village. The umbrage and unhappiness of the farmers was due to their exploitation . Though land revenue was collected by them ,but not even a part of that was spent on the development of agriculture or the welfare of cultivators. The New court and legal system gave a further fillip to the dispossessors of land and encouraged the rich to oppress the poor.
The thwack, torture, and jailing of cultivators for not giving land revenue, rent, interest or debt were quite common. The ordinary people had also suffered a lot by the preponderance of corruption at the lower levels of police, judiciary and general administration. The people had started losing faith in judiciary as the police looted, oppressed and tortured the common people at will. Thousands of zamindars and poligars lost control over their land because of the inability to meet the preposterous land revenue demand made by the Britishers. On the other side, increase in land revenue pressurised large number of peasants into growing indebtness or into selling of their lands. The Indian handicraft industries ruined as a result of the decree of free trade in India and levy of discriminatory traffic rules against Indian goods in Britain .The coming of British had ruined the traditional landlords and bureaucracy thus generating abhorrence in the scholarly and priestly classes, as their patrons were no longer in a position to entertain them.
The Indian people too felt disgrace to be under foreign rule. This feeling sparked efforts to expel the foreigner from their lands. The persistence of civil rebellions, often led by deposed rajas and nawabs or their kins, uprooted and impoverished zamindars, landlords and poligars and ex-retainers and official of the conquered India state.
Displaced peasants and demobilized soldier of Bengal led by religious monks and dispossessed zamindars were the first to rise up in the Sanyasi rebellion that lasted from 1763 to 1800.
Chaur uprising in Bengal and Bihar was other major rebellion. In eastern India ,rebellions of Rangpur and Dinajpur, 1783 ,Orissa Zamindars (1804-17) and Sambalpur,1827-40 are noteworthy. In South India, the Raja of Vizianagram revolted in 1794, the poligars of Tamil Nadu during the 1790’s, etc .In western India, the chiefs of Saurashtra rebelled repeatedly from 1816 to 1832. The kohlis of Gujarat did the same during 1824-28, 1839 and 1849. The British succeeded in ameliorating the rebel area one by one. The British also gave concession and restoration of their estates and reduction in land revenue assessment as long as the Zamindars and rebels chief accept their authority and agreed to live peacefully.
The suppression of civil rebellions was major cause as to why the revolt of 1857 did not spread in south India and most of eastern and western India. The historical significance of these civil uprising lies in that they established strong and valuable local traditions of resistance to British rule. The Indian people were to draw inspiration from traditions in the later nationalist struggle for freedom.