The mutiny cannot be dismissed as an unhappy incident which ended with its supression. The sepoy mutiny, even in its failure, forced Britishers for an introspection of their imperialistic fabric and Indians a fresh look to their drive for national liberation.
There was a complete reorganization of the internal administration with the Indian states. It led to refashioning of administration, change in the British policy towards Indian states, reorganization of army, and judiciary and revenue system of the country.
The British India Act of 1858 saw the transfer of power from East India Company to that of the British Queen and her parliament. A Secretary of State for India was to take the place of board of control’s president. Governor-General came to be designated as viceroy. To assuage the sentiment of native princes, the British declared to honour all commitments made by East India Company with them. The Doctrine of Lapse was abounded and the right to adoption was recognized. The Indian princes were assured of their territorial integrity. The Office of Peshwa and the title of Mughal emperor were abolished. To restore the shaken confidence of Indian people on princes of 1st November, 1858 at a Grand Darbar held at allahabad Lord Canning as the first Viceroy of Queen Victoria read out Her Majesty’s Proclamation.
The proclomation outlined the philosophy of British India’s administration and commitment to the Indian people the people were assured of religious toleration and declared eligible for public offices, without any distinction of race and creed. It made the solemn oath of Her Majesty’s utmost commitment to material and moral progress of the people of India.
The British Historians have described the queen’s proclamation as a chapter of rights of Indian people. The sepoy mutiny led to the reorganisation of Indian army with a view to prevent the recurrence of future revolt in the army. The number of European troops was increased and to curb unity among the Indian soldiers the new army was organised on the basis of division and counterpoise. There were also structural changes in the judicial system of the country.
The English in order to establish their control over Indians, encouraged expansion of English education. The sepoy mutiny exposed the popular wrath of Indians and the Britishers after the great revolt consciously tried to trample the spirit of nationalism. The distrust of Britishers towards Indians made the policy of racial discrimination exhibitorier after 1858.
They also systematically tried to disrupt the rock-bed of Hindu-Muslim amity. With the exit of East India Company the period of political expansion came to an end and substituted by economic exploitation.
In the words of R.C. Majumdar “the extinction of East India Company’s rule brought in grave economic perils for India. India became a dumping ground of British manufacturers and an almost in exhaustible field for investment of capital for it offered unlimited scope of commercial and industrial enterprises like railways, tea and coffee plantations etc.”
The seeds of nationalism so strongly germinated during great revolt of 1857, withstood all attempts of Britishers. The revolt became a symbol of challenge to the mighty British power in India. According to Tarachand, “the memory of 1857 substantiated the later movements, infused courage into the hearts of the fighetrs, furnished a historical basis for the grim struggle and gave it a moral stimulus – (its) memory distroted but hallowed with sanctity perhaps did more damage to the cause of British rule in India the revolt itself.” The revolt of 1857 is an epoch making event in the history of India. It was a dogged attempt to save the conservative fabric of India under conventional leadership. At the same time it can be described as the first great struggle of Indian people for freedom from British imperialism.
To conclude with R.C. Majumdar, “it has been said that Julius Caesar when dead was more powerful than when he was alive. The same thing may be said about the mutiny of 1857. Whatever might have been its original character, it soon became a symbol of challenge to the mighty British power of India. It remained a shining example before the nascent nationalism in India in its struggle for freedom from the British yoke.”