Do you believe that the uprising in 1857 was nationalist in nature?



Scholars have held divergent views about the nature of the revolt of 1857.

British scholars like Kaye, Trevelyan, and Lawrence in addition to many eye witnesses like Munshi Jiwan Lai, Durgadas Bandopadhya, Syed Ahmad Khan etc. have held that it was 'a mutiny'. Other described it as a 'racial struggle'. Still others doubt it as a clash of civilization, while the nationalists call it as the first War of Indian Independence.

Early national leaders like V.D. Savarkar in his book, the Indian War of Independence, to arouse national consciousness, described1 it as 'a planned war of national independence'. Later on national leaders further developed them to cite it as a shining example of the perfect accord and harmony between the Hindus and the Muslims.

Dr. R.C. Majumdar and Dr. S.N. Sen agree that the uprising of 1857 was not the result of a careful planning nor were there any masterminds behind it. The mere fact that Nana Saheb went to Lucknow and Ambala in March-April 1857 and the struggle started in May of the same year cannot be regarded as an evidence of planning. Even the story of the circulation of messages through echapatiesi and lotus flowers does not prove anything.

During the trial of Bahadur Shah, efforts were made to prove that he was a party to a pre-planned conspiracy. Infect the course of trial made it clear that the uprising was as much surprise to Bahadur Shah as to the British. Also, both of them agree that the Indian nationalism in the middle of the 19th century was in an embryonic stage.

India, at that time was not a nation and the leaders of the rebellion were no national leaders. Bahadur Shah was no national king. Infect self motivation and profit worked as an energizer to the rebel leaders.

Different groups participated different in the revolt because of reasons. The Taluqdars of Awadh fought for their feudal privileges. Attitudes of the leaders were mutually jealous. The condition of the masses was no better. The majority of the people remained apathetic and neutral.

In his book (the Sepoy Mutiny and the Revolt of 1857(, R.C. Majumdar argued that the uprising of 1857 was not a war of independence. He maintains that the revolt took different aspects in different region. Somewhere it was a Sepoy mutiny joined later by disgruntled elements eager to take advantage of anarchy, somewhere it was a Sepoy mutiny followed by a general revolt in which, civilians, disposed rulers, tenants and other took part.

He also contends that the Sepoys were mostly inspired by the desire of material gains than any political or even religious contradiction. However, he concedes that ultimately these all gave birth to nationalism. On the contrary, Dr. Sen believes it to be a war of independence by arguing that revolutions are mostly the work of a minority, with or without the active sympathy of the masses. He contends that when a rebellion can claim the sympathies of the substantial majority of the 1 population, it can claim a national character.

Dr. S.B. Chaudhari, in his book Civil Rebellions in the Indian Motilities 1857-1859i has confined his attention to the detailed analysis of the civil | rebellions which accompanied the military insurrection of 1857. He maintains that the revolt off 1857 can be bifurcated into mutiny and rebellion and the outburst of 1857 was the coming together of two series of disturbances.

Marxist scholars contend that the struggle was a soldier-peasant democratic combine against foreign as well as feudal bandage which failed because of feudal betrayal. There seem to have been no ideology or programme behind the revolt as argued above.

Subhash Chandra Bose also conceded that it was not merely a Sepoy mutiny but a national uprising. Eric Stokes believes that in rural areas the revolt was essentially elitist in character. The mass of the population, appear to have played little part in the fighting or at most timely followed the local leadership. According to them, it was basically an unarmed rebellion.