What were the main causes of Revolt of 1857?
The successive Governor generals appointed by the crown and based at Calcutta expanded the domains of British India over the period of time up the time of Lord Dalhousie, whose conquests against Punjab and Burma pushed the frontiers of the British India against Afghanistan and Burma.
By this time, the East India Company had evolved from a commercial organization to a Civil and Military administration mammoth handling much parts of the Indian Subcontinent.
By this time, the positive things happened to the Indian society were the general peace, rule of law, better roads, introduction of telegraph and an early stage of Railways, but all of them were actually planned and implemented for the better coordination in the British governance.
The unwelcome attitudes and institutions also entered the society which made the British resented and loathed.
Pathetic Socioeconomic Condition
Not a shilling was spent from the British treasury on the defense of the India. The sever famines which devoured millions of people remained issues, that were never addressed.
The tenure of Dalhousie was pathetic as far as concerns of the Indian natives are concerned. The feelings of the unrest that was growing among the Indians finally got manifested in the form of revolt of 1857.
The Indian public which does not like sudden changes was applied with the new laws and customs which were anathema to the Indian society. Some of them were allowing the widows to remarry, abolishing practice of Sati (which was considered revered at that time) , establishing the land revenue systems which never existed before.
Widows Remarriage Act was introduced by Lord Dalhousie, but it was approved by Lord Canning in 1856. The Hindus saw it as a sequel to the Abolition of Sati (Regulation XVII) and took it as a threat to Hinduism.
Problems of Land Revenue
The Ryotwari and Mahalwari system demanded the revenue which was exorbitant and methods of collecting the revenue were cruel. In 1852, the Inam commission was established which recommended the takeover of the Jagirs on which the revenue was not paid. The result was that twenty thousand Jagirs had been confiscated.
Destruction of Economy
The Economic drain also destroyed the Indian Industry, disintegrating the traditional fabric of the country. The Industrial revolution of England made the machines devourers of Indian Raw material and destroyed the Foreign Trade of the country. India was reduced to a mere exporter of the raw materials.
Low position of Indians in Administration
Indians were debarred from the important and high posts in their own country. The notorious signboards ‘Dogs and Indians not allowed’ were common in the British places of activities in India.
Doctrine of Lapse
The annexation of Satara, Nagpur, Jhansi, Sambhalpur, Karauli, Udaipur, Baghat etc. by the notorious Doctrine of Lapse caused the general hateful sentiments among the Indian public. In Nagpur, there was an open auction of the Royal belongings.
Ill-treatment with Bahadur Shah Zafar
The name of Bahadur Shah Zafar was removed from the coins during the times of Lord Ellenborough. He was ordered by Lord Dalhousie to vacate the Red Fort and shift to the Mahrauli area outside Delhi. By this time the people of India had become nostalgic about the Mughal rule and wanted to see Bahadur Shah Emperor of India. Lord Canning announced that after Bahadur Shah, the Mughal successors would not be called emperor and their status would be reduced to Prince.
Annexation of Oudh
The annexation of the so far loyal state of Oudh created general panic and disaffection contrary to the British belief that it was done for removing the “misrule and administration irregularities”.
Biased Police and Judiciary
The Judiciary was biased. The British officers were hated and considered aliens in the land of Hindus and Muslims. The people were loathful of the oppressive loot of the officers, including British appointed Indian Daroghas.
The increased activities of the Christian missionaries were seen with suspicion and mistrust. The tried their best to convert as many people they could and indulged in the false propaganda against the faiths and religions of Hindus and Muslims. The Padris were appointed in the army to “teach” the sepoys about Christianity.
The education policy was not taken positively in Indian public. They thought that the new schools opened by the British and where the “English” is taught will convert their sons to “Christians”.
Discrimination with Sepoys
The Indian sepoys were victims of discrimination. They were paid low wages and faced constant verbal and physical abuses from their bosses. The annexation of Oudh in 1856 created discontent in the Bengal army. The Indian sepoys were chaffed of the new customs which forbade them putting caste marks on their foreheads, keeping beards and wearing turbans.