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Approach:

  1. Introduction
  2. Discuss the limitations of the sepoys and that it was not a historical tragedy under separate sub-heads.
  3. Conclusion

The revolt of 1857 forms one of the most important chapters in the history of the struggle of the Indian people for liberation from the British rule. It shook the foundations of the British empire in India. What started merely as a sepoy mutiny soon engulfed the peasantry and other civilian population over wide areas in northern India.

Limitations and Weaknesses of the sepoys:

  • The revolt was narrow in character and major part of the Indian sub-continent remained unaffected. It was never all-India character but was localized, restricted and poorly organized.
  • Apart from a commonly shared hatred for alien rule, the rebels had no political perspective or a definite vision of the future. They were all prisoners of their own past, fighting primarily to regain their lost privileges.
  • The loyalty of a large number of princes also greatly helped the English. Sindhia, Holkas, Sir Dinkar Rao and Sir Salar Jung not only maintained peace within their territories but also extended valuable service to the English. The sepoys might have made a better fight if they had received their support.
  • Indian soldiers did not possess sophisticated weapons and fought with sword and spears against superior weaponry of British.
  • Almost half the Indian soldiers not only did not Revolt but fought against their own countrymen. The recapture of Delhi was affected by five columns consisting of 1700 British troops and 3200 Indians.
  • John Lawrence rightly remarked that had a single leader of ability arisen among them (the rebels) we must have been lost beyond redemption.’

The Revolt was not a historical tragedy:

  • Though the revolt of 1857 was successfully suppressed by the English yet it left far reaching impact on the course of Indian history.
  • The proclamation of 1858 guaranteed equal rights and opportunities to the Indians. The proclamation said our subjects, of whatever race or creed, be freely and impartially admitted to office in our service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability and integrity duly to discharge.
  • With a view to attain greater contact between the ruler and the ruled, it was decided to associate the native element with the Legislative Councils. It was felt that such a contact would help the rulers to acquaint themselves with the sentiments and feelings of the Indian and avoid chances of misunderstanding. This marked the beginning of the introduction of the representative institutions in India.
  • The invincibility of the British rule was shattered once for all and the stage was set for an organised and long drawn out struggle against the alien rule. John Lawrence rightly remarked that had a single leader of ability arisen among them (the rebels) we must have been lost beyond redemption.

Despite the sepoys’ limitations and weaknesses, their effort to emancipate the country from foreign rule was a patriotic act and a Progressive step. Even in failure it served a grand purpose: a source of inspiration for the national liberation movement which later achieved what the Revolt could not.

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