Indian Rebellion of 1857

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The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a major, but ultimately unsuccessful, uprising in India in 1857–58 against the rule of the British East India Company, which functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown.


  • And just as there are instances of the Muslims in India resorting to Hijrat, there are instances showing that they have not hesitated to proclaim Jihad. The curious may examine the history of the Mutiny of 1857; and if he does, he will find that, in part, at any rate, it was really a Jihad proclaimed by the Muslims against the British, and that the Mutiny so far as the Muslims were concerned was a recrudescence of revolt which had been fostered by Sayyed Ahmad who preached to the Musalmans for several decades that owing to the occupation of India by the British the country had become a Dar-ul-Harb. The Mutiny was an attempt by the Muslims to reconvert India into a Dar-ul-lslam.
    • BR Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
  • The outbreak revealed the surprising degree to which the Mughal court was still regarded across northern India not as some sort of foreign Muslim imposition – as some, especially on the Hindu right wing, look upon the Mughals today – but instead as the principal source of political legitimacy, and therefore the natural centre of resistance against British colonial rule.
  • The Sikhs, the most conscious Hindus of the time, saw it for what it was: an attempt to restore the Moghul empire. ‘The Mutiny was a culmination of the Faraizi and Wahhabi jihads which Muslims had been waging earlier, and wherever Hindus were in a minority, it led to forced conversions and killings of Hindus, ostentative cow-slaughter and other classics of Islamic politics.
    • Elst K. Indigenous Indians: Agastya to Ambedkar (1993) p 216
  • Today is the 10th of May! It was on this day that, in the ever memorable year of 1857, the first campaign of the War of Independence was opened by you, Oh Martyrs, on the battlefield of India . . . all honour be to you, Oh Martyrs; for it was for the preservation of the honour of the race that you performed the fiery ordeal of a revolution . . . this day . . . we dedicate, Oh Martyrs, to your inspiring memory! It was on this day that you raised a new flag to be upheld, you uttered a mission to be fulfilled, you saw a mission to be realized . . . We take up your cry, we revere your flag, we are determined to continue that fiery mission of ‘away with the foreigner’, which you uttered, amidst the prophetic thunderings of the Revolutionary war. Revolutionary, yes, it was a Revolutionary war . . . No, a revolutionary war knows no truce, save liberty or death! Indians, these words must be fulfilled! Your blood, oh Martyrs, shall be avenged! . . . For the War of 1857 shall not cease till the revolution arrives, striking slavery into dust, elevating liberty to the throne. Whenever a people arises for its freedom, whenever that seed of liberty gets germinated in the blood of its fathers, whenever there remains at least one true son to avenge that blood of his fathers, there never can be an end to such a war as this.
    • From a speech by V.D. Savarkar, quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • The British Raj in India has treated Savarkar’s book as most dangerous for their existence here. So it has been banned. But it has been read by millions of our countrymen including my humble self. In trying to elevate the events of 1857, which interested historians and administrators had not hesitated to call for decades as an ‘Indian Mutiny’, to its right pose of Indian War of Independence, albeit a foiled attempt at that, it is not a work of patriotic alchemist turning base mutineering into noble revolutionary action. Even in these days, what would the efforts of Subhas Bose’s Azad Hind Fouj be called if Savarkar’s alchemy had not intervened? True, both the 1857 and 1943 ‘wars’ have ended in failure for our country. But the motive behind—was it mere mutineering or War of Independence? If Savarkar had not intervened between 1857 and 1943, I am sure that the recent efforts of the Indian National Army would have been again dubbed as an ignoble mutiny effectively crushed by the valiant British-cum-Congress arms and armlessness. But thanks to Savarkar’s book, Indian sense of a ‘mutiny’ has been itself revolutionized. Not even Lord Wavell, I suppose can now call Bose’s efforts as a mutiny. The chief credit for the change of values must go to Savarkar, and to him alone. But the greatest value of Savarkar’s book lies in its gift to the nation of that Torch of Freedom in whose light a humble I and a thousand other Indians have our dear daughters named after Laxmi Bai, the Rani of Jhansi. Even Netaji Bose in a fateful hour had to form an army of corps after Rani of Jhansi. But for Savarkar’s discovery of that valiant heroine, Rani of Jhansi should have been a long-forgotten ‘mutineer’ of the nineteenth-century.
    • Subbarao about the book by V.D. Savarkar, quoted in Vikram Sampath - Savarkar, Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883–1924 (2019)
  • The 1857 Mutiny, regarded as the most spectacular event in 19th-century India, also illustrated the most spectacular illustration of Muslim militancy, couched in terms of jihad, against the British... the British were aware of the great debate that was raging within the Indian Muslim community as to the status of India. The question of whether British-held India was to be considered Dar-ul-Harb, now that Islamic rule had van- ished, and the ensuing duty of Muslims to revolt, became the con- cern not only of Muslim Indian doctors of law, but was referred to scholars as far away as Mecca itself."
    • Raphael Israeli, Muslims in China, 1980. p. 108. also in quoted in Elst K Indigenous Indians: Agastya to Ambedkar (1993) 215 Raphael Israeli: Muslims in China (Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies Monograph Series, no. 29, Malmé 1980), p.108.
  • The mutiny has been analyzed in a masterly fashion by Geoffrey Moorhouse, an author quoted favorably on another issue by Edward Said. Moorhouse concluded, "What the whole episode never remotely resembled was a national struggle for independence."" Here is what really happened. First, "it was restricted to a comparatively small area of the sub-continent. There were uprisings in Bombay, Hyderabad, and Indore, all swiftly put down by military force before they got out of hand. Otherwise the country outside northern India never made a move, and even there the rebellion was localized. Neither the Sikhs nor the Gurkhas, the Rajputs nor the Marathas raised a hand against the British. Few of the native princes allowed themselves to become involved, and some put their resources at the Government's disposal. Thousands of Indian troops remained loyal to their officers while others were butchering anyone associated with the white regime."
    • quoted in Ibn, W. (2009). Defending the West: A critique of Edward Said's Orientalism. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books.
  • [Muslim militants who] “almost universally were regarded as the fomentors of the revolt and its chief beneficiaries. The first sparks of disaffection, it was generally agreed, were kindled among the Hindu sepoys who feared an attack on their caste. But the Muslims then fanned the flames of discontent, and placed themselves at the head of the movement, for they saw in these religious grievances the stepping-stone to political power. In the British view it was Muslim intrigue and Muslim leadership, that converted the sepoy mutiny into a political conspiracy aimed at the extinction of the British Raj. The British were also concerned that the Muslim community, though few in numbers, was far more hostile throughout the uprising.
    • Thomas Metcalf, Aftermath of the revolt, p 298, also in quoted in Elst K Indigenous Indians: Agastya to Ambedkar (1993) 215ff
  • It is also surprising that people should aid and put into power those very Mussulmans who, on invading India, destroyed all our Hindoo temples, forcibly converted the natives to Mahomedanism, massacred whole cities, seized upon Hindoo females and made them concubines, prevented Brahmins from saying prayers, burnt their religious books, and levied taxes upon every Hindoo. They are those very Mussulmans who prided themselves on calling us infidels, and in subjecting us to all sorts of humiliation. If any person will reflect on their former deeds, it will make his hair stand on end, cause such disgust that the very sight even of a Mahomedan will be abhorrent. What is more surprising .still, is that the people should consider it a religious deed to kill and destroy those very persons who permitted the re-establishment of the. decayed religion, and allowed all temples and places of worship to be rebuilt, and all religious ceremonies to be performed without any hindrance whatever. We should consider how much we suffered in the time of the Mahomedan kings in Oude. A short time ago, Moulvie Gholain Hoosein and Ameer Aly did their best to destroy the Hunnooman Gurhee, but it was owing to General Outram that they did not succeed ; otherwise all of us would either have lost our lives or our religion, from the oppression of tyrants. The people are forgetting those days, and now not only strive to destroy those who saved our religion, but make their destruction out to he a religious act.
    • Raja Man Singh quoted in Innes, "Lucknow And Oude In The Mutiny" [1] also in Jain, M. (2010). Parallel pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim relations, 1707-1857.
  • It is absurd to call this a military rebellion — that it could not have occurred had the Sepoys remained faithful, is of course indisputable. But the revolt itself is the fruit of Mussulman intrigue, in the hopes of gaining empire at the expiration of the century during which it had been held by the conquerors from the west. With this object they persuaded the wretched Sepoys, the most credulous and childish class of the credulous and childish race of Hindus, that we were about to ruin their caste prior to the forcible introduction of the Christian faith.
  • In the course of this address, I have dwelt, long and frequently, upon those circumstances which appear to demonstrate that to Mussulman intrigue and Mahomrnedan conspiracy we may mainly attribute the dreadful calamities of the year 1857. I have endeavoured to point out how inti¬ mately the prisoner, as the head of the Mahomrnedan faith in India, has been connected with the organisation of that conspiracy either as its leader or its unscrupulous accomplice. I have alluded to the part taken by the native press and Mahommedans, in general, as preparing the Hindus for insurrection, and the native army, in particular, for revoli; and perhaps, in further corroboration of such facts, it may be as well to advert to the share that may be assigned to the Mahomrnedan in getting the cartridges refused on the parade ground of the 3d Light Cavalry. Out of these 85 troopers the far larger majority was Mahomrnedan, These men had no caste, and to them it could not possibly have mattered whether pig’s and cow’s fat was smeared on the cartridges or noi^^. Captain Mariineau tells us that at the Ambala depot, as far as the cartridge question was concerned the Mahomrnedan sepoys laughed at it, and we thus perceive that these men initiated open mutiny without one pretext for so doing, or the shadow of an excuse. They had not even the extenuation of a pretended grievance; yet they, at once leagued themselves in rebellion against us, and induced the Hindus to join them, by speciously exciting them on that most vulnerable of points, the fear of being forcibly deprived of their caste. I say, induced the Hindus to join them, for such is the evidence before us, and this too on a pretext in which the Mahommedans could have had no possible sympathy with them. Nor indeed were the Hindus long in discovering this, for as a witness, who has been frequently quoted, informs us : “Immediately after the battle of the Hindan, they spoke with much regret of the turn that affairs had taken, reproached the Mahommedans for hav¬ ing an intention of interfering with their caste. Great numbers of the Hindu sepoys at this time declared that, if they could be sure their lives would be spared, they would gladly go back to the service of Government; but the Mahommedans, on the contrary, used to assert that the King’s service was much better than that of the English; that the Nawabs and Rajahs would supply the King with large forces, and that they must even¬ tually conquer.” If we now take a retrospective view of the various circumstances which we have been able to elicit during our extended inquiries, we shall perceive how exclusi¬ vely Mahommedan are all the prominent points that attach to it. A Mahommedan priest, with pretended visions, and assumed miraculous powers—a Mahommedan King, his dupe and his accomplice—a Mahommedan clandestine embassy to the Mahommedan powers of Persia and Turkey resulting— Mahommedan prophecies as to the downfall of our power— Mahommedan rule as the successor of our own—the most cold blooded murders by Mahommedan assasins—a religious war for Mahommedan ascendancy—a Mahommedan press unscru¬ pulously abetting—and Mahommedan sepoys initiating the mutiny. Hinduism, I may say, is nowhere either reflected or represented; if it be brought forward at all, it is only in subservience to its ever-aggressive neighbour.
    • F.J. Hariott, quoted in "DELHI IN 1857 VOL. 1" Yadav also in Jain, M. (2010). Parallel pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim relations, 1707-1857.
  • For, in any discussion of the question whether the revolt of 1857 was the first national war of independence or not, the real character of> the outbreaks of the civil population must be the decisive factor. A detailed statement of actual, facts, based on authentic sources, is calculated to give a more accurate and definite idea on the subject than any amount of abstract theory or argument. The officially Sponsored Centenary Volume of the Mutiny doe9 not contain sufficient details of this nature, and hence I thought it necessary to add them to counteract the current view that the outbreak of 1857 was the first national war of independence. I have tried, to show, with the help of the details given, that it was neither 'first', nor 'national,' nor 'a war of independence. (xvii)
    • R.C. Majumdar History Of The Freedom Movement In India, vol I.

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