The peasants, artisans, tribes, ruling classes, military personnel, religious leaders, etc. fought for the protection of their interests, at times separately and at times together.
People’s resistance took in 4 forms before 1857
Major Causes of Civil Uprisings
Under the Company rule, there were rapid changes in the economy, administration and land revenue system that went against the people
Exploitation in rural society by growth of intermediary revenue collectors, tenants and moneylenders
Several zamindars and poligars who had lost control over their land and its revenues due to the colonial rule, had personal scores to settle with the new rulers
The ego of traditional zamindars and poligars washurt due to being sidelined in rank by government officials and a new class consisting of merchants and money-lender.
Ruined Indian handicraft industries due to
Promotion of British manufactured goods
Heavy duties on Indian industries
Disappearance of their traditional buyers – princes, chieftains, and zamindars.
The priestly classes instigated hatred and rebellion against alien rule, because the religious preachers, priests, pundits, maulvis, etc., had been dependent on the traditional landed and bureaucratic elite.
The fall of zamindars and feudal lords directly affected the priestly class.
The foreign character of the British rulers, who always remained alien to this land, and their contemptuous treatment of the native people hurt the pride of the latter.
Tribal movements under British rule were the most frequent, militant and violent of all movements
Land settlements of the British affected the joint ownership tradition
As agriculture was extended in a settled form by Company government, tribals lost their land
Shifting cultivation in forests was curbed and this added to the tribals’ problems
Exploitation by the police, traders and money-lenders
Some general laws were also abhorred for their intrusive nature
Movements of the tribes of the north-eastern frontier were different from the non-frontier tribal revolts in some aspects
Tribes which shared tribal and cultural links with countries across the border did not concern themselves much with the nationalist struggle
Their revolts were for political autonomy within India or complete independence
These movements were not forest-based or agrarian revolts as these tribals were generally in control of land and forest area
De-sanskritisation movements also spread among frontier tribals.
Characteristics of Tribal Revolts
Tribal identity or ethnic ties lay behind the solidarity shown by these groups
Resentment against the imposition of laws by the ‘foreign government’ that was seen as an effort at destroying the tribals’ traditional socioeconomic framework
Many uprisings were led by messiah-like figures who encouraged their people to revolt
Tribal uprisings were doomed from the beginning, given the outdated arms
Weaknesses of People’s Uprisings
These uprisings drew a large number of participants, localised and occurred at different times in different regions
They mostly arose out of local grievances
The leadership was semi-feudal in character, backward looking, traditional in outlook
Their resistance did not offer alternatives to the existing social set-up.
If many of these revolts seemed similar to one another in wanting to oust the alien rule, it was because they were protesting against conditions that were common to them.
These rebellions were centuries-old in form and ideological / cultural content
Those who were not so uncooperative or obstinate were pacified through concessions by the authorities.
Methods and arms used by fighters in these uprisings were practically obsolete compared to the weapons and strategy used by British
Peasant Movements After 1857
Colonial economic policies
Ruin of the handicrafts leading to overcrowding of land,
New land revenue system
Colonial administrative and judicial system.
The peasants suffered from high rents, illegal levies, arbitrary evictions and unpaid labour in Zamindari areas.
In Ryotwari areas, the Government itself levied heavy land revenue
Peasants emerged as the main force in agrarian movements, fighting directly for their own demands
Demands were centered almost wholly on economic issues
Movements were directed against the immediate enemies – foreign planters and indigenous zamindars and moneylenders
Struggles were directed towards specific and limited objectives
Colonialism was not the target of these movements
It was not the objective of these movements to end the system of subordination or exploitation of the peasants
Territorial reach was limited
There was no continuity of struggle or long-term organisation
Peasants developed a strong awareness of their legal rights and asserted them in and outside courts
There was a lack of an adequate understanding of colonialism
19th-century peasants did not possess a new ideology and a new social, economic and political programme
Occurred within framework of old societal order lacking a positive conception of an alternative society
Peasant movements of 20th century were deeply influenced by national freedom struggle
Discrimination in payment and promotions;
Mistreatment of the sepoys by the British officials
Refusal of the government to pay foreign service allowance while fighting in remote regions
Religious objections of the high caste Hindu sepoys to Lord Canning’s General Service Enlistment Act (1856)
Examples of Conflict
1806, replacement of the turban by a leather cockade caused a mutiny at Vellore.
1844, there was a mutinous outbreak of the Bengal army sepoys for being sent to far away Sind and Punjab.
1824 the sepoys at Barrackpore rose in revolt when they were asked to go to Burma because crossing the sea would mean loss of caste.