Tuesday, May 08, 2007

1857 - Sepoy Mutiny or War of Independence

What began 150 years ago in the month of May in Meerut still exercises the Indian psyche. British historians dismiss it as a mere rebellion among soldiers which erupted from their being forced to bite cartridges laced with animal fat. Nationalist historians describe it as a War of Independence when large sections of people determinedly rose up to resist british oppression. Yes,an apparent cause could have been the cartridges but deeper reasons lay behind it. The changes in land revenue settlement, the displacement of many kings and nobles which led to local discontent and the subtle aim to maximise the economic returns of the East India Company at the cost of indigenous trade and commerce could be some of them.

Contemporary interpretations of those events are influenced by the need to rewrite them to suit the current context and the interests of the present ruling classes. I did come across some of them, one by the Director of the Nehru Museum and another by Mani Shanker Aiyer. In their fervour to interpret those events to suit today's political compulsions, they forget the fact that many powerful groups like the Sikhs had kept away for very valid reasons.

But even after 150 years one thing stand out: namely, these incidents led to the termination of the rule of East India Company and the take over of administration by the British government. It should also be noted that rapid change of events globally led to the departure of the British within 90 years of this event.

When all is said and done,it is only befitting that the country celebrate the heroes of 1857 and bow before their bold defiance of authority and the determination to militarily challenge a more organised and superior army.

1 comment:

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