NCERT Solutions For Class 12 History Chapter 11 Rebels and the Raj The Revolt of 1857 and its Representations

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Q1. Why did the mutinous sepoys in many places turn to erstwhile rulers to provide leadership to the revolt?

Answer: Following are the major reasons to explain why the rebellious soldiers turned to native rulers for leadership:

  1. East India company defeated native rulers to grab power in India. Many believed that the native Indian rulers had the legal and legitimate authority to regain power in the respective kingdoms. Therefore, it was natural that they became the leaders of the rebels and regain the lost status of rulers.
  2. The erstwhile rulers had substantial resources at their command. They had wealth and private armies too. The rebels waited to get the support of resources from them, and by declaring them the leaders it was natural outcome.
  3. Most of the erstwhile Indian rulers were popular at the local level. Their subjects often sympathised with them as they believed that the latter were unlawfully thrown out of power and even suffered humiliation. Choosing these native rulers was echoing the sentiments of the people and winning more support for the cause.

Q2.Discuss the evidence that indicates planning and coordination on the part of the rebels.

Answer:The rebellion was not abrupt and sporadic but to a great extent done with planning and care. This is brought out by the following points:

i)The rebels decided to strike when the large part of the British army was in Burma.

ii)The time chosen for the rebellion was summer that is very hostile weather condition for the British. Summer was also the season when the entire countryside would be easy to navigate.

iii)To spread the message of rebellion, the rebels used symbols bread and lotus from village to village.

iv)Efforts were made to maintain Hindu-Moslem unity. Whenever an area would fail under rebel control, cow slaughter was banned.

Q3. Discuss the extent to which religious beliefs shaped the events of 1857.
Ans: People during the company rule felt that their religious sentiments are systemically hurt by the government. For them it was an attack on their religious freedom, and an insult. The religious causes for the Revolt are as follows:

i)Immediate cause: The soldiers were given cartridge greased with cow and pig fat. This angered Moslems and Hindus alike.

ii)Reforms by Company: The Company introduced many religious and social reformers. Many Indians began to believe that it was an attempt on the part the government to deviate them from their own religion. Important of such reforms were prevention of sati system, widow remarriage, etc.

iii)Activities of Christian Missionaries: During company rule involved in spread of education. But local people looked upon them with suspicion. Thus, the people plunged in rebellion against the foreign rule.

Q4.What were the measures taken to ensure unity among the rebels?

Answer :A very important element of the revolt of 1857 was the unity shown by Hindus and Moslems in the struggle against the foreign rule. First the immediate cause of the rebellion was the use of cartridge greased with fat of cow and pig, angering Hindus and Moslems alike. After the rebels marched to Delhi, they declared the Mughal emperor Bahadurshah their all India leader. Thus, the Mughal emperor was the leader of Hindus and Muslems alike. Both Hindus and Muslims respected each others’ religious sentiments. Whenever a new area fell into the control of rebels, cow slaughter was made illegal to respect Hindu sentiments. Thus, Hindu-Muslim unity was the hallmark of the mutiny.

Q5. What steps did the British take to quell the uprising ?

Answer: In 1857 a sepoy mutiny broke out in East India that became a mass uprising in many parts of the country. The Company had faced rebellions in the past too, but not of this magnitude and extent. The British rulers realised that unless the rebellions is suppressed, their empire was destined to fizzle out.
They took swift measures to put down the flame of the rebellion, some were of military nature while others were of political nature.
The important measures taken by the British to suppress the rebellion are as follows:

  1. Imposition of Marshal Law and large scale of execution: In north India where rebels were holding ground, Marshal Law was imposed. Apart from enforcing law, military officers also had the power to dispense justice and pronounce conviction and punishment. Thus, for all practical purposes, rebels and their sympathizers could be declared guilty without fair trial. The punishment was not just swift, cruel and partisan but in most cases execution. The execution was carried out in a manner that fear grips the masses. The people were blown up by canons, still others were hanged by trees. The objective was to terrorize the people and make them subservient to the might of the British empire.
  2. Diplomacy: The British masters used diplomacy as tool to weaken and destroy the rebellions. They tried to win the support of native kingdoms who were not on the side of rebels, by promising them rewards and securing their kingdoms. The communities who were not involved in the mutiny, viz. Sikhs were recruited and sent to fight the rebels.
  3. Use of technology: The British used technology to get an upper hand in the battle fields. Apart from having superior weapons, it was the superior communication system that routed the rebels. The company used telegram to instantly communicate with others, the rebels were totally clueless about such things.
    To conclude the British strategy and technique to defeat the rebels was multi¬pronged and superior to those employed by the rebels. It was natural that the rebels crumbled in course of time

Q6.Why was the revolt particularly widespread in Awadh? What prompted peasants, taluqdars and zamindar to join the rebellion?

Answer :The Mutiny of 1857 which was rebellions of the sepoys of the Company, turned into mass uprising in certain areas of the country. The most prominent was the area that was erstwhile part of the kingdom of Oudh. One report of the government says that 75 percent of men in Oudh were involved in the rebellion. Following are the main reasons why it took a mass uprising in that area:

  1. Unceremonious removal of the Nawab: The nawab of Oudh Wazid Ali Shah was removed by Dalhosies on the pretext of poor governance. The removal was looked upon by the people as high handed and insult to them. The local people sympathized with the nawab. Thus, the public sentiment was against the British government that got a vent out during the revolt.
  2. The ruling elite of Oudh: The ruling elite of Oudh during the rule of Nawab was dislodged from the position of power and prestige. The ruling elite that was employed in the Court of nawab and other senior position was rendered unemployed. They began to feel hardships and it had a cascading impact, the people dependent on them also slipped in depravity. For all such people British rule was the culprit.
  3. The agrarian unrest: There was strong anti-British sentiment in Oudh from the level of Talukdars to peasants. Talukdars were rich landlords collecting taxes and enforcing law and order. They enjoyed a lot of autonomy as long as they paid revenue to nawab. The talukdars faced the heavy hands of the British masters. Their autonomy ceased to exist. Their foot soldiers were disarmed and disbanded. The peasants were oppressed more as hardships engulfed the Talukdars. Peasants were over assessed and forced to pay higher taxes than in past.
  4. Muslim Anger: The Muslems in North India looked upon British as snatcher of their empire. The Moslems thought themselves as natural rulers of India who were displaced from this position by the British. The Oudha which has the substantial Moslem population burst out against the Company’s rule when it got an opportunity viz. the mutiny of 1857. In fact the then government of East India Company described the mass uprising of Oudh as Moslem conspiracy.

Q7. What did the rebels want? To what extent did the vision of different social group differ?

Answer: The rebels wanted to uproot the British rule. It was to be replaced by the rule of Indian, but what would be the nature of that governance is something the rebels were not sure of. They were definitely not fighting to establish a democratic government. The salient points of the vision of the rebels were as follows:

  1. Hindu-Muslim Unity: The rebels were not clear about the idea of Hindu-Muslim Unity. But they were definitely cherished the ideals of Hindu-Muslim unity. The religious sentiments of both the parties were respected so much so whenever a new territory fell to rebels, cow slanghter was banned.
  2. Preserving Indian Culture: Many believed that the company was pushing European culture and Christianity on the Indians. The rebels wanted to reverse this process. Some of the measures by the company to reform our society were also seen with the same vein.

The vision of the different social groups:
Zamindars: Many of them did not like the provision of auction of their estate by the company to recover losses. They considered themselves as rulers who could not be dispossessed of their estate. Hence, many of them wanted to give governance that suited their interest.
Merchants: They were a mixed lot. They liked the rule of company as it maintained peace and law across vast areas of India. However, they also looked upon the company rule as partisan that promoted British trade interest at the cost of that of Indian’s, for the end of Company rule could translate into a favourable environment.
Artisans: Most artisans were struggling to survive as they suffered due to policies of Company that pumped manufactured goods of England.

Q8.What do visual representations tell us about the revolt of 1857 ? How do historians analyse these representations ?

Answer:(a) The visual representations give us the following information :

i)Information about saviours: Paintings such as “Relief of Lucknow” depicts British heroes – Colin Campbell, Outram and Havelock who saved the British and repressed the rebels in Lucknow.

ii)Painting showing helpless and innocent women in fear of dishonour, violence and death. “In Memoriam’ is a painting that shows the condition of British women dming mutiny and what the mutineers were doing with them.

iii)Women’s struggle to save their honour and their life. The sketch showing Miss Wheeler as defending herself against sepoys in Kanpur shows that the women too tried to save themselves. It has, however, a deeper religious connotation. It was a battle to save the honour of Christianity.

iv)Vengeance and retribution : The visual representations such as Justice — an allegorical female figure in an aggressive posture depicts that there was great demand for a repressive policy and violent reprisal.

v)The performance of terror: The “British Lion’s Vengeance on the Bengal Tiger” and “Execution of Mutineers in Peshawar” proves that the British followed a repressive policy to create terror among the Indians.

vi)No time for clemency: ‘The Clemency of Canning’ is a cartoon that shows that there was no time for leniency against the Indians.

vii)Nationalist imageries : The nationalist considered it a First War of Independence. Rani Lakshmi Bai and others were depicted as heroic figures. Usually, Rani was portrayed in battle armour that symbolised her determination to resist injustice and alient rule.

Thus, the paintings and other visual representation tell us about the feeling of the people in India and Britain.

(b) The historians consider these pictorial images produced by the British as well as by the Indians an important source of information about the feelings and reaction of the people at that time. These images reflect the public opinion which influenced the policies of the British government. On the other hand, the national imageries depict the national feelings of the Indians.

Q9. Examine any two sources presented in the chapter, choosing one visual and one text,
and discuss how these represent the point of view of the victor and vanquished.

Answer: Ordinary people join the mutiny of 1857. Lucknow was one of the main centres. The sepoys of Awadh were joined by peasants, zamindars, traders and talukdars.

Source Sisten and the tahsildar: In the context of the communication of the message of revolt and mutiny, the experience of Francois Sisten, a native Christian police inspector in Sitapur, is telling.
He had gone to Saharanpur to pay his respects to the magistrate. Sisten was dressed in Indian clothes and sitting cross-legged. A Muslim tahsildar from Bijnor entered the room; upon learning that Sisten was from Awadh, he enquired, “What news from Awadh? How does the work progress, brother?” Playing safe, Sisten replied, “If we have work in Awadh, your highness will know it.” The tahsildar said, “Depend upon it, we will succeed this time. The direction of the business is in able hands.” The tahsildar was later identified as the principal rebel leader of Bijnor. This source indicate that the effect of the rebellions had spread even among those officers who had earlier supported the British. The English men worried about their lives, property, owner of women and children. The geographical extent of the revolt was much greater. The magistrate used to get news and daily development day to day through their governmental representatives but they were suspicious as later on magistrate of Sitapur came to know that the Sisten who came to him was a great sympathiser of the rebellions.


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