Suppression of Revolt of 1857

The revolt of 1857, which erupted at Meerut in the form of sepoy mutiny, spread like wildfire across north India and left the British puzzled and clueless for a while. However, soon the British were able to regain control by pacifying the rebel as one by one.

They gave concessions to the less fiery rebel chiefs and Zamindars in the form of reinstatement, restoration of their restates and reduction of revenue assessments so long as they agreed to live peacefully under alien authority. The more recalcitrant ones were physically wiped out.

The suppression of these civil rebellions is a major reason why the revolt of 1857 did not spread to south India and most of Eastern and Western India.

The Suppression of the Revolt of 1857

The Mutiny of 1857 lasted for almost one year. By 1859, the British rule was once again established in India. However, the British did not have an easy time in putting down the rebellion.

Martial Law

Before sending out troops to reconquer North India, the British passed a series of laws to help them quell the insurgency. By a number of Acts, passed in May and June 1857, not only was the whole of North India put under martial law but military officers and even ordinary Britons were given the power to try and punish Indians suspected of rebellion.

In other words, the ordinary processes of law and trial were suspended and it was put out that rebellion would have only one punishment death.

Armed with these newly enacted special laws and the reinforcements brought in from Britain, the British began the task of suppressing the revolt.

Divide and conquer

The British used military power on a gigantic scale. But this was not the only instrument they used. In large parts of present-day Uttar Pradesh, where big landholders and peasants had offered united resistance, the British tried to break up the unity by promising to give back to the big landholders their estates. Rebel landholders were dispossessed and the loyal rewarded. Many landholders died fighting the British or they escaped into Nepal where they died of illness or starvation

Capture of Delhi

They, like the rebels, recognised the symbolic value of Delhi. The British thus mounted a two-pronged attack. One force moved from Calcutta into North India and the other from Punjab which was largely peaceful to reconquer Delhi.

British attempts to recover Delhi began in earnest in early June 1857 but it was only in late September that the city was finally captured. The fighting and losses on both sides were heavy. One reason for this was the fact that rebels from all over North India had come to Delhi to defend the capital.

Bahadur Shah Zafar was taken the prisoner and royal princes were captured and shot dead in public. The great house of Mughals was completely extinguished. Rebels were executed. Vengeance and retribution were wreaked on the civilian population who supported the rebellion.

Fall of other centres of rebellion and end of the revolt

The fall of Delhi struck a heavy blow to the rebels. It now became clear why the British concentrated with so much attention on retaining Delhi at all cost and for this, they suffered heavily both in men and material.

One by one, all the great leaders of the revolt fell. Nana Sahib was defeated at Kanpur after which the escaped to Nepal early in 1859.

Tatya Tope escaped into the jungles of central India where he carried on bitter guerrilla warfare until April 1859 when he was betrayed by a Zamindar friend and captured while asleep. He was hurriedly tried and put to death on 15th April 1859.

The Rani of Jhansi died on the field of battle on 17th June 1858. By 1859, Kunwar Singh, Bakht Khan, Khan Bahadur Khan of Bareilly, Maulavi Ahmadullah were all dead, while the Begum of Awadh escaped to Nepal. By the end of 1859, the British authority over India was reestablished, fully and firmly.

Conclusion

The revolt of 1857 also known today as India s first war of independence lasted for almost a year. By the end of 1859, the rebellion was completely crushed and British authority over India was firmly re-established. The rebels fought valiantly with utmost courage but due to various factor the revolt failed and indiscriminate vengeance and retribution were wrecked upon not only the rebels but also the civilian population, by the British.

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