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Causes of Failure of the Revolt of 1857

  • Last Updated : 03 Nov, 2021

In 1857, a major but abortive outbreak happened in India, the revolt of 1857, in opposition to the administration of the British East India Company, which worked as an independent power on the behalf of the British crown. The event was known as many names the Sepoy Mutiny, the Indian Mutiny, the Great Rebellion, the Revolt of 1857, the Indian Resurrection, and India’s First War Of Independence. It was suppressed a year after it erupted. There had been many reasons that led to the collapse of this powerful rebellion like there was no common leader, no unity, didn’t getting support from all rulers and classes of India. Another one of the main reasons behind the collapse of the revolt was that it was poorly organized.

Causes Of Failure

Lack Of Spirit of Nationalism

The rebellions of the revolt lacked the spirit of nationalism. They supported the sepoys just only because of hatred towards ‘Firangi’ East India Company. Modern nationalism was yet unknown in India. Patriotism meant the love of one’s small locality or region or at most one’s state.  All-India interests and the awareness were yet to come that bound all Indians together.

Lack of Pan-India Participation

The revolt which was started from Meerut in 1857 was highly localized and restricted to the northern part of the country like Kanpur, Banaras, Lucknow, Jhansi, and others. Even in the north, the revolt was not supported by Kashmir, Punjab, Sind, and Rajputana. Regions beyond the river Narmada, eastern and southern India remained largely undisturbed. Also, the regiments of Madras and Bombay and the Sikh states showed their loyalty to the British. In other regions, the uprising was brutally suppressed by East India Company in the early stages of the revolt.

Lack of Unity

There was a lack of unity among rebels, while sepoys of Bengal were revolting against East India Company whereas the soldiers of Punjab and Bombay supported the Company against the sepoys. Sepoys and leaders like Tantia Tope battled for the Mughal rule while Sikhs of Punjab did not want to go back under the Muslim ruler. Thus, such problems, however, turned into loss of team spirit withinside the ranks of rebels themselves. 

Lack of All Class Participation

All classes did not join the revolt and worked against the revolt. Big zamindars acted as “break-waters to storm“, as they were creations of the British. Moneylenders and merchants saw their class interests better protected under British patronage because they faced the wrath of rebellions badly. In the view of the modern educated class, the revolt was backward-looking thus didn’t support the revolt. Educated Indians hoped that the British would usher in an era of modernization. Indeed, not more than one-tenth of the population was affected. 

No support from the ruling class

The ruling classes of that time were favored by the British policy so they didn’t support the revolt in reality they supported the British. Most of the Indian rulers who refused to join the revolt and provided active support to the British were Sir Dinkar Rae, the minister of Gwalior, Sir Salar Jang, the minister of Hyderabad, the Sang Bahadur of Nepal, the ruler of Afghanistan, the rulers of Patiala, Sindh, and Kashmir, and some Sikh chieftains. 

Poor Arms And Equipment

The revolt was started because of fats used in the grease of Enfield rifle and rejection to use it by the sepoys. The rebellions were battling generally with swords, spears, lances, and very limited guns and muskets. On the different side, the East India Company was equipped with rearmost munitions of war like the Enfield rifle. In reality, the modern Enfield rifle and other firearms were manufactured by the Europeans and the Indians had no idea of how to make it. The sepoys were working under the East India Company and guns which were used by them were provided by the Company. Once the ammunitions reached their limit, sepoy and other rebellions shifted to former firearms like swords and spears.

Poorly Organized

The main rebellions Nana Saheb, Tantia Tope, Kunwar Singh, Laxmibai were not good military generals and no match to the British men of exceptional abilities like John Nicholson, James Outram, Henry Havelock, etc who were experienced military commanders and planned their strategy very handsomely. There was a lack of coordination on the Indian sides, even, the sepoys who started the revolt were unorganized and behaved in an uncontrolled manner. Each leader of the revolt fought in their own territory and lacked connections with others. The Englishmen, who were alien to the subcontinent, were the master of the sea and got timely help from Britain to crush the revolt.

No Common Goal

The revolt saw no common idea or goal behind it. After taking control of many regions leaders and rebels had no forward-looking plan for India. Every rebellion joined it because of their own interest, rulers joined because they were losing power in the region, Sepoy had their reason of inferiority and wanted to revive to the glory of Mughals, civilians because of religious interference, peasants wanted to remove zamindars and moneylenders, etc. This made it an easy task for the Britishers to suppress the revolt. 

No Alternative

The leaders of the revolt were joined together by a common feeling of hatred for the alien rule but by nothing else. Once they threw overthrew British power or institutions to create in its place. Every leader wanted to come in power all fought for their own territory not a centralized power for the whole country. The rebellions lacked an alternative option to the East India Company.

British Advantage

The industrial revolution and modernization of society led to the invention and use of the Telegraph and postal communication on a broad scale in England. Also, the Britishers had highly skilled and experienced generals who played a significant role in suppressing the revolt. The English were masters of the sea route and had a very large navy across the world through which they managed to move their soldiers from England to India quickly. Englishmen proved themselves superior by using electric Telegram and postal communication to keep in update and maintain coordination between soldiers and commander.

Conclusion

The revolt was actually a product of the character and policies of colonial rule, the peoples’ accumulated resentments against the administration of society, and their aversion to the foreign regime. However, the revolt was suppressed by the British, but the revolt of 1857 played an important role in uniting the Indian people and giving them an awareness of belonging to one country.

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