The 1857 great War of Indian Independence was a continuation of the one thousand years of Hindu resistance against foreign rule, this time against the British.
Not A Sepoy Mutiny But A War of Independence
The British derided this war as an ordinary and localised ‘Sepoy mutiny’ and an attempt to protect kingdoms and feudal states, so that the ordinary masses would not get any inspiration from it. Unfortunately, a section of our countrymen joined this chorus and started describing it as merely a ‘Sepoy mutiny’. Even our history textbooks too present it in the same manner.
Contrary to this, this was a nationwide struggle and continued till down-south as well.
This war was fought all over the country on the issues of Swarajya, Swadharma, Swadeshi and Goraksha. Kamal (lotus)—the symbol of Hindu Dharma—and roti (bread)—the symbol of the basic needs of common man—were used as war symbols and people participated in large numbers from urban, rural, forest and hill areas. Precisely for this reason, the then British government had perpetrated heinous atrocities on common people along with freedom fighters.
Inspiration from the 1857 War of Independence :
The inspiration of Jhansi Lakshmibai, Nana Saheb, Tantia Tope, Mangal Pandey and many others spurred the next 90 years of freedom struggle. The post-1857 history is a standing testimony to the fact that on one hand the revolutionaries and other freedom fighters drew inspiration from the narratives of sacrifices and valour of this great war until the time of Independence, while on the other hand, it provided a major source of inspiration in the struggle for the liberation of Goa and Puducherry (Pondicherry) after Independence.
Swatantryaveer Savarkar authored a well-researched treatise on this War of Independence and threw light on its popular and countrywide character and its impact on the freedom struggle that followed. It played a very important role during the Independence Movement despite the British imposing a ban even before its publication. Many freedom fighters including Netaji Subash and Bhagat Singh derived inspiration from this book.
Key Hindu Concerns Accepted by Muslim Leadership During The War:
The participation of the Muslims in the 1857 war was based on positive grounds rather than on religion-based separatist mindset and appeasement. Honouring the Hindu sentiments, the then Muslim leadership agreed on matters like ban on cow-slaughter, death penalty to the slaughterers of cows, handing over the Ramjanmabhoomi in Ayodhya to Hindus etc. This dimension of Hindu-Muslim co-operation of 1857 should always be kept in mind.
Unfortunately, this positive attitude was abandoned due to the appeasement politics of the later political leaders that ultimately lead to the partition of the country.
Reasons for losing the war:
The resistance disintegrated primarily due to lack of cohesive leadership and unity on the part of Indians, as also due to the cruel suppression by the British Army.
Outcome of the War:
The war was fought for nearly two years.
a. Though it failed in eliminating the British from India, the East India Trade Co. no longer ran India, the British Crown had taken over. To ensure no more blood shed the British crown agreed not to further pursue the expansion of India and agreed not to enslave the Indian people any more than they had.
b. Christian missionary activities which were actively pursued before 1857, were discouraged by the British crown.
c. Many British soldiers before 1857 wanted to come to India and enjoy here, but a fear engulfed the Britishers due to the war, which ultimately resulted in Indians slowly entering into active administration and later taking over.
Martyrs memorial at Kothi, Hyderabad : Sacred memories of the freedom struggle and its martyrs are ever-inspiring. We had heroes who fought in the movement from Hyderabad as well. The Kothi memorial is remembrance of the Martyrs of 1857.
We call upon the countrymen to keep the memory of this glorious history alive through various programmes so that the spirit of supreme sacrifice for the sake of the country remains ever lasting.
By Ayush Nadimpalli