(Last Updated on : 23/06/2010)
The Sepoy Mutiny
was not a mere movement that took shape in just a day. Various causes summed up to its happening. The country during that time, was going through a tumultuous phase, with disillusionment being the order of the day for the evolving youth. The English, however, were still not permeated with the idea to capture the subcontinent with the policy of 'divide and rule'. Yet, some of the prominent causes can be laid down as follows:
: British East India Company gained its control over India in a span of 150 years from 1751 to 1856. The policy of expansion pursued by the British created discontent among the princes. A number of independent kingdoms were annexed to the British Empire. In 1843, Sind was attacked and annexed. Lord Dalhousie
annexed indian kingdoms whenever an occasion arose. Under his policy 'Doctrine of Lapse' the princes were denied the right of adoption; in this way Dalhousie annexed the Maratha States of Satara
, Nagpur and Jhansi and several minor kingdoms. On the death of the ex-Peshwa, Baji Rao II, the pension granted to him was abolished and the claims of his adopted son, Nana Saheb, were disregarded.
The result of his policy was that no Indian prince felt secure, and there was widespread resentment. The policy of annexation created panic and feeling of insecurity among the rulers of other states also. Corruption and inefficiency in the administration further created political unrest and the Indians wanted to get rid of the British.
: The continuous interference of English in basic way of living, traditional beliefs, values and norms was seen by masses as threat to religion. The English administrators gradually became arrogant and there was a wide gulf between them and the people. They could hardly know the feelings of the vast multitude, which providence had placed under their rule. Some of the social reforms introduced to put an end to evil customs like sati, female infanticide, etc. and to ameliorate the condition of the people made people unhappy.
The activities of the Christian missionaries, whose avowed objects was to convert people to their faith led to people's believe that the Government was in collusion with them to eradicate their caste and convert them to Christianity
. The passing of Act XXI of 1850, which enabled converts to inherit ancestral property, confirmed this belief; the new law was naturally interpreted as a concession to Christian converts.
: The general discontentment grew rapidly and strongly among the Indian soldiers. Most of the soldiers in the East India Company's army came from peasant families which were deeply affected by their impoverished status .Lot of partiality was done against Indians like not giving them post above subehdars and salary being less than their English counterparts.
The adverse effects of the Industrial Revolution on the Indian economy were also being felt because of British economic policies in India. The British Economic Policy worked against the interests of Indian trade and industry. Indian handicrafts completely collapsed and the craftsmen were impoverished. Thus, the British drained India of her wealth and all her natural resources.
: The introduction of telegraph, railways and the spread of western education, caused suspicion and fear in the people's minds. They were convinced that the English were conspiring to convert them to Christianity. Superior civil and military officers abused the name of Ram and Muhammad. Idolatry was denounced. Hindu gods and goddesses ridiculed. The Religious Disabilities Act modified Hindu customs. This act enabled a convert to Christianity, to inherit his ancestral property. All this created resentment among the people.
: The Sepoys of the Bengal Army were belonged to high castes of Oudh and the North-Western Province. Although the Sepoys had fought and won many wars for the Company with determined devotion in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances they did not get a fair deal. Their emoluments were very low in comparison with those of the British soldiers and their chances of promotion negligible. The loyalty of the Sepoys was further undermined by certain military reforms which outraged their religious feelings. They had an aversion to overseas service, as travel across the seas meant loss of caste for them.
: Discontentment was rampant among the Indians and they were waiting only for an occasion to revolt. The introduction of Greased cartridge in 1856 sparked the fire. The government decided to replace the old-fashioned musket, 'Brown Begs' by the 'Enfield rifle'. The loading process of the Enfield rifle involved bringing the cartridge to the mouth and biting of the top paper. There was a rumour among the Sepoys in January 1857 that the greased cartridge contained the fat of cow and pig, the former sacred to Hindus and latter forbidden to Muslims. The sepoys were now convinced that the introduction of greased cartridges was a deliberate attempt to defile Hindu and Muslim religion. This sparked off the Mutiny on 29th March 1857.