Consequences of the Revolt Of 1857

The Revolt of 1857 marked a turning point in the history of Modern India. It exercised a tremendous influence upon the British policy in India. The character of the Indian empire in the last decades of the nineteenth century was shaped to a large extent by the events of 1857. The considerable support, which the revolt obtained, and the threat it posed to the very existence of British rule in India during the year 1857, forced the British to examine the entire nature of their connection with India. The consequences of the Revolt of 1857 may be studied under below head, which might be construed as positive or negative depending upon our own interpretation.

India came under British Crown, Company’s Rule Ended

The transfer of power from the East India Company to the crown of England was achieved through the Act for the better Government of India, l858, Under this Act India would be governed directly by the crown acting through a Secretary of State. He was made directly responsible to the British Parliament. To assist and advise him in transacting the affairs of this country; a Council known as the India Council was created. The India Council was to consist of fifteen members of whom at least nine should have served in India for not less than ten years. The India Council was to be presided over by the Secretary of State.

In India the central administration continued to remain in the hands of the governor general who also became the viceroy of the Queen in England The governor general acquired the additional title of viceroy not due to the India Act of 1858, but due to the Royal Proclamation, which was issued on 1 November 1858.

The Queens Proclamation, 1858

Lord Canning, the Governor General of India, announced the acquisition of the Indian administration by the British crown at a Darbar, held at Allahabad on I November, 1858. When he read out the Queens Proclamation to the princes and the people of India, it reflected the generosity and religious tolerance. He pointed out that several benefits, the people of India would enjoy and they would be treated at par with the subjects of the British Crown.

The proclamation proclaimed the transfer of administration over the British territories in India from the hands of the East India Company to the British Crown. It states that they have resolved to take upon themselves the Government of the territories in India. The Queen, in her proclamation, called upon all her subjects within the British territories in India to be faithful and to bear true allegiance to the British Government. The proclamation proclaimed the appointment of Charles Canning as the first viceroy and Governor General over the British territories in India The Queen, in her proclamation, assured the following to the native princes that all treaties and engagement made by the East India Company with the native Princes would properly be maintained by the British Government and it is hoped that the same would also be observed by them. With all the above promises the Queen reserved to herself the right to interfere in native states in order to set right such serious abuses in a native government.

The Queens proclamation called upon all subjects within the British territories in India to be faithful and to owe true allegiance to the British government. The native princes were assured that the territorial integrity of their respective states would be respected. All treaties and engagements made by the East India Company with them would be maintained. They were further assured that their rights, dignity and honor would be respected and the British Government would not interfere in their internal affairs. The proclamation assured freedom of religion to the people of India.

They would be allowed to follow their own religious beliefs, practices and worship and the British officials would not interfere in such matters. Equal and impartial protection of law was promised to all Indians. Further, the Queen’s proclamation assured equal opportunities to the people of India in government services without distinction of race, creed. The proclamation assured that while framing and administering law, due respect would be shown to the ancient Indian rights, usages and customs. The British government would strive to achieve the welfare of the people of India. Finally, the proclamation announced pardon to Indians who had taken part in the Revolt of 1857 against the British.

New structure of Government of India

Under the Act for better Government of India the power of the Crown were to be exercised by the Home Government in England consisting of the secretary of state for India, assisted by the Council of India known as the Indian Council under the Act for the better Government of India, passed on August 2, 1858. The Secretary of State for India was to be a member of the British Parliament and also a Cabinet Minister of England. He was, therefore, to be responsible, for the administration of the British territories in India, to the British Parliament. His salary and the expenses of his establishment were to be paid out of the India revenues.

The secretary of states for India was to be assisted by the Council of India, consisted of fifteen members, eight of whom were to be nominated by The Crown and the remaining seven were to be elected by the Court of Directors. To make the Council of India expert body on Indians affairs, the Act provided that nine out of fifteen must be those members who served or resided in India, at least, for a period of ten years before their appointment. All future vacancies were to be filled by the Crown.

The members of the Council were to hold office during good behavior but could be removed, under the Act of 1858, upon an address presented by both the Houses of Parliament to the Crown. Each member of the Council was to be paid the yearly salary of one thousand and two hundred pounds, out of the revenues of India. Up to 1906, all the members of the Council of India were Europeans.

In 1907, two Indians were appointed to associate his Council. The Secretary of State for India, representing the Crown and the British Parliament, legally exercised supreme control over all authorities in India. He enjoyed very wide powers. He was made the President of the Council of India with the power to vote and in case of a tie he was to enjoy a casting vote as well. He had the power to divide the Council of India in to committees for the more convenient transaction of business. He enjoyed the power to override the majority decision of the Council, but he was required to record his reasons for so doing. However, the majority decision of the Council on certain matters was binding on him. He had the power to send and to receive from the Governor-General in India. Secret messages and dispatches without information the Council of India.

The secretary of State-in- Council had to lay down certain rules and regulation for the guidance of the Government of India in all its dealings with the Home Government and the Crown. He had the power to frame rules and regulations for the requirement to the Indian civil services. The secretary of state was required to lay before both the Houses of Parliament an annual Budget of India and also an annual report on the moral and material progress of India for the consideration of the houses.

Finally, the Secretary of state-in-Council was constituted into a corporate body that could sue and be sued in England and in India. The Council of India was a body of permanent Civil servants who had expert knowledge on the Indians conditions and administration. It was an advisory body. Its meetings were to be held every week. The meetings were to be presided over by the Secretary of state for India. Although, the Secretary of State could override the majority decision of the Council by recording reasons for so doing in several matters, however, its majority decision was binding on him on many matters, such as, grant or appropriation of any part of the Indian revenues, division and distribution of patronage, making contracts, sales and purchases for and on behalf of the Indian Government and all matters related to property of Government of India.

The Council of India had the power to make appointments to the Council of the Governors and also to exercise control over the civil and military servants of the Crown. Finally the Council of India could not take any decision during the absence of the Secretary of State without his approval in writing.

The Queen’s proclamation of 1858 was a great landmark in the constitutional history of India. It proclaimed the end of an era of the East India Company’s rule and the beginning of a new era of direct rule over the British India. Its noble sentiments and glittering ideals, expressed in rich and dignified language, went a long way in pacifying the people of India, and in creating good atmosphere for the proper functioning of the British Government in India. It laid the foundation of a new British policy in India for a period of about sixty years.

Reconstruction of the Indian Army

British attitude towards the Indian army underwent drastic change. It was no longer possible for the British to assume that the Indian people would stand by the government in its hour of need. The British element in the Indian army was strengthened in order to ensure loyalty and efficiency. Thus, the number of Indian soldiers was drastically reduced from 238,000 in 1857 to 140,000 by 1863. The number of European Soldiers was increased from 45,000 to 65,000.

The proportion of Europeans to Indians was fixed at fifty-fifty in the Bengal army and one to two elsewhere. New recruits were drawn largely from those martial races of the Punjab, Nepal and the Northwestern Frontier Province who had proved their loyalty during the hours of urgency.

In keeping with the old Roman policy of divide and Rule, the new recruits were often formed into separate units on the basis of caste, community or region. According to Jawaharlal Nehru, the policy of balance and counterpoise was deliberately furthered in the Indian army. Various groups were so arranged so as to prevent any sentiment of national unity growing amongst them~ and tribal and communal loyalties and slogans were encouraged. Every effort was made to isolate the army from the civilian population. All the key positions were kept in the hands of the Englishmen, and no Indian could hold the King’s Commission.

The more effective weapons of warfare were not given to the Indian forces they were reserved for the British troops in India. These British troops were always kept with the Indian regiments in all the vital centers of India as an internal security and for the suppression of disorder among the Indian soldiers and people as well. The result of all these measures was that a high sense of loyalty and discipline developed in the Indian army.

The Policy of Annexation was Given Up

The British authorities realized the importance of The Princely States and wanted their support to the British rule in the country. Besides, even after the end of the Crimean War the British government remained apprehensive of a Russian invasion of India Under these circumstances, it was felt that the princely states would be of great help in case of any danger from abroad. Hence, the policy of the British dominion annexing the princely state was given up

Increase in Racial Animosity between the British and the Indians

British considered themselves as an occupying power garrisoning a hostile land. On the other hand Indians tried to seek self-respect and honor within the bounds of their traditional culture. The British had formed a separate community in India. During the Revolt of 1857, stunned and shocked the British saw the obedient sepoys suddenly transformed into a disobedient Hence, the British felt that safety could be found only among their own countrymen. On the other hand, the manner in which the Revolt of 1857 was crushed by the British and the ruthlessness in which the sepoys were treated left a deep sense of hatred among the Indians against the British. The British also massacred thousands of civilian population every where in the country.

Setback to Reforms

The Revolt of 1857 convinced the British the futility of interfering in the traditional socio-religious customs of India. The strong opposition to the social legislation especially coming from the orthodox elements in both the Hindu and the Muslim community put the British on the defensive. The self-confidence of the British and their plans for the rapid westernization of India through social reforms were shattered. The British, after the Revolt of 1857, decided to concentrate in providing a sound and efficient administration rather than introducing western ideas and reform in a traditional Asian society.

The Policy of Divide and Rule Begins

After the Revolt of 1857, the British had patronaged and applied the most unscrupulous policy to divide the Indians in different castes and classes. The British used one class or caste against the other. The Muslims were made to fight with the Hindus and the high caste Hindus were excited against the low caste Hindus. Thus, There was a deterioration in the whole country.

Economic Loot Accelerated

With the failure of the Great rebellion, the era of British territorial conquest came to an end and a new era of systematic economic loot and plunder by the British was inaugurated. The English people ruthlessly exploited Indian economy without any fear.