Discuss the nature of the revolt of 1857. Was it a war of independence?

The British historians have treated the great uprising of 1857 as a sepoy mutiny. On the other hand, the staunch patriotic and nationalist Indian writers & historians regard the Revolt of 1857 as the First War of Indian Independence.

It was the result of the century-old British rule in India. In comparison to the previous uprisings of the Indians, the Great Revolt of 1857 was of a greater dimension and it assumed almost an all-India character with participation of people from different sections of the society. This Revolt was initiated by the sepoys of the company. So it has been commonly termed as `Sepoy Mutiny‘. But it was not simply a revolt of the sepoys.

When the sepoys of Meerut reached Delhi there was huge upsurge. They declared old Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah as the Badshah of India. He was accepted as the symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. With the outbreak of mutiny among Sepoys common men joined the revolt. Farmers and artisans put further force behind the mutiny. The second reason for this mass revolt was the unity among the Hindus and Muslims. On observing this historians thought that, up to this period there was no communal feelings among the masses.

Karl Marx in his several essays described this revolt as nationalist fight for independence. Marxist writers looked at this event as uprising of peasants against feudal system of exploitation. V.D. Savarkar, the great revolutionary, described this revolt as the first struggle for independence. M.N. Roy said that it was the reaction of the feudal against capitalism.

On the centenary of the great revolt Dr. Ramesh Chandra Majumder wrote and published a book entitled ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ and ‘Revolt of Eighteen Fifty Seven’. Dr. Majumder thought that this was nothing but a revolt of the sepoy. He also said that in some places few non-military persons came out in support of the sepoys but they were local landlords, talukdars and feudal leaders. In his opinion it was nothing better than feudalistic reaction of the revolt.

But many historians are of opinion that the Great movement of 1857 A.D. cannot be termed as narrow, isolated and reactionary. The sepoys established a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity by electing Bahadur Shah as the Emperor of India. In the Ajamgarh declaration a call was given to people of all classes of mass to unite against the British rule. It may be righty that they had no idea about national government, but nationalism was there. So it can be called a national movement.

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