Civil Uprisings before 1857 – UPSC

The Civil uprisings mainly took place against the administrative and revenue policies of the British government. The mass support for these revolts mainly came from the unemployed artisans, rack-rented peasants, and demolished soldiers. These civil rebellions were the result of local causes & grievances. In most cases, these rebellions represented common conditions, though separated in place and time. The leaders of these uprisings were traditional in outlook, and their basic objective was the restoration of earlier forms of rule and social relations.

Major Causes of Civil Uprisings

  • During colonial rule, there were rapid changes in the administration, economy, and land revenue system. These changes went against the people and became the cause of civil rebellion in India.
  • The traditional zamindars were sidelined by a new class comprising of money lenders and merchants. Due to colonial rule, several zamindars had lost control over their land and revenue.
  • The colonial policies ruined the Indian handicraft industries and impoverished millions of artisans.
  • The priestly class was directly affected by the fall of zamindars and feudal lords. The priests, pandits, maulvis, and religious preachers had been dependent upon the traditional landed elite. Therefore, these priestly classes also rebel against colonial rule.
  • The foreign character of Britishers and their contemptuous treatment of the native people also lead to civil uprisings.

Important Civil Uprisings during British rule

Sanyasi Revolt, 1763-1800

The Sanyasi Revolt took place in Bengal (Eastern India) against the administration and revenue policy of the British government. The harsh economic order of Britishers and the disastrous famine of 1770 compelled Sanyasis to fight against colonial rule. In Hinduism, Sanyasi refers to a person who has renounced the world for the sake of spiritual life and is free from all worldly desire and attachment.

Sanyasi revolt, sometimes also referred to as the Fakir Rebellion, because of equal participation of Sanyasis (Hindu) and Fakirs (Muslim). For many years, Sanyasis and Fakirs travel to Bengal to visit various pilgrim sites and shrines. As a tradition, they collect a sizeable amount of alms from the local zamindars. But, after the Battle of Plassey and Buxar, the zamindars faced problems in making these alms because of an increase in land tax and exploitation by Britishers. Further, Britishers placed several restrictions on the Sanyasis and Fakirs. This led Sanyasis and Fakirs to revolt against British rule. A Large number of small zamindars, rural poor, and disbanded soldiers also joined the rebellion.

After a prolonged action, Governor-General Warren Hasting subdues the Sanyasis, but the uprising continued till 1800. The important leaders of the Sanyasi revolt were Majnum Shah, Musa Shah, Chirag Ali, Bhawani Pathak, and Debi Chaudhurani. The participation of Debi Chaudhuarani recognizes the role of women in early resistance against the Britishers.

The famous historical novel Anandamath, written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, is based on the Sanyasi revolt. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee also wrote a Bengali novel Devi Chaudhurani, which mentions the importance of women taking part in the struggle against colonial rule.

Uprisings in Midnapore and Dhalbhum, 1766-74

The Uprisings in Midnapore took place after the Britishers took hold of Midnapore in 1760. At that time, zamindars have cordial relations with their ryots. When the British introduced the new land revenue system in 1772, the conflict started between the British revenue collecting officials and the ryots. The zamindars of Midnapore supported the ryots. However, by the 1800s, the zamindars of Dhalbhum, Raipur, Bagri, Panchet, and Karnagarh, living in the vast tract of Jungle Mahals of Midnapore, were disposed of their zamindaries. Damodar Singh and Jagannath Dhal were the important leaders of the uprisings.

Vellore Mutiny, 1806-1807

The Vellore Mutiny was the first instance of a large-scale rebellion by the Indian sepoys against colonial rule. The rebellion took place in Vellore city of South India during the tenure of Governor-General George Barlow in 1806. The sepoy revolted against the interference by the Britishers in their social and religious practices. As the Brahmin soldiers were banned from tilaks on their foreheads, they rebelled, seized the Vellore fort, and killed almost 200 British troops. The revolt was brought under control by The artillery and cavalry from Arcot. Governor of Madras Lord William Bentinck at that time and the commander in chief at Madras Sir John Cradock, both were recalled.

Velu Thampi Revolt, 1808-1809

The Vellu Thampi revolt took place in Travancore. In 1805, the State of Travancore agreed to the Subsidiary Alliance arrangement under Governor-General Wellesley. But, the East India Company imposed harsh conditions on the state of Travancore, which caused deep resentment in the region. The ruler of the state was not able to pay the subsidiary. Further, the British Resident of Travancore was interfering in the internal affairs of the state. This compelled the Diwan (or Dalawa or Prime Minister) Vellu Thampi to rebel against the East India Company, assisted by the Nair Troops. As a result, a large-scale rebellion took place in Travancore and Cochin in 1808.

However, the Maharaja of Travancore defected to the company side and did not support the rebellion. Maharaja issued an order for the Vellu Thampi’s arrest. But Vellu Thampi committed suicide to avoid his capture, and the revolt petered out.

Ramosi Revolt, 1822-29

The Ramosis were the hill tribes of Western Ghats. They revolted against the British pattern of administration and British rule. At that time, Ramosis were employed by the Maratha administration. But, after the British annexed the Maratha territories, they lost their means of livelihood. Thus, Ramosi Uprising took place in 1822 under the leadership of Chittur Singh at Satara in Maharashtra and plundered the area around Satara.

In 1825-26, under the leadership of Umaji Naik of Poona and his supporter Bapu Trimbakji Sawant, the Ramosis again rebelled against Britishers. The disturbance continued till 1829. To overcome the rebellion, the Britishers followed the pacifist policy toward the Ramosis. They even recruited some of Ramosis in the hill police.

Satara Revolt, 1840

Satara revolt was the follow-up of the Ramosi revolt in the Satara region of Maharashtra. From 1839 to 1841, the disturbance occurred again in the Satara over the deposition of Raja Partap Singh of Satara. The British government dismissed Ruler Partap Singh on non-payments of revenue. Therefore, the people of Satara revolted against the actions of the Britishers. Dhar Rao Pawar and Narsing Dattatreya Pettkar were the important leaders of the Satara revolt. However, the British overcome the rebellion.

Gadkari Revolt, 1844

Gadkaris belongs to the hereditary military class, who were garrisoned in the Maratha Forts in the Savantvadi district of Maharashtra. In 1844, after the administrative reorganization in the Kolhapur state, they were disbanded and unemployed. This compelled Gadkaris to revolt against the British administration in the Kolhapur region of Maharashtra. Daji Krishna Pandit was the important leader of this revolt. However, the Britishers brought the region under control by introducing many laws.

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