The Company’s Conquests and British Rule (1757-1849)
The East I ndia Company was extending its power in the 18th century. The rivalry between the Indian princes and their short sightedness gave a chance to the English merchants and the company to get successful in their ventures.The rule of the East India Company was looked as a blessing by many as it restored some peace and order. The others, however, viewed the dethroning of their Indian kings as a shame and regretted submitting under the outsider’s rule. Tipu sultan of Mysore lay down his life fighting the British.
India, at this point, was steeped into religious orthodoxies and superstition. Practices like untouchability, child marriages and low social status given to women were just a few mention. The Britishers, on the other side, were far sighted and industrious. They scorned the Indians for these evil practices as well as for their dishonesty. Their laws crippled the Indian industries and strengthened their rule. The English goods were imported to be sold in the Indian markets without any import duty, while, the Indian farmers were levied with heavy taxes on their produced. This burden on the Indian farmers led to famine and death of several thousand Indians.
Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833)
Ram Mohan Roy was a learned man from Bengal who valued the Indian tradition, but understood that the society was in need for reform. He understood that the essence of all religions was the same. Therefore, respect and tolerance is the key to a united social existence.
At the same time, he was attracted by the scientific and modern forms of knowledge and realised that anything that could be explained through reason should be accepted as the truth. He travelled to England and thereafter accepted the rule by British, but only if they were willing to fulfil their responsibilities towards their Indian subjects. He also started newspapers in India, but the suspicious British soon stopped them in 1823.
Oppression (1765-1835) and Dissatisfaction (1835-1856)
This phase was entirely marked by the oppressive policies of the British. they imposed Regulation III on the Indians, according to which Indians could be jailed without trials. They heavily exported their English goods to the Indian markets and made huge profits on the basis of this. They also profited through private businesses they established in India. With every passing day, the Indian industries were ruined, while the British increasingly prospered.
Deep rooted dissatisfaction had seeped among the Indians by this time. The British tried to replace the Persian and Sanskrit language with their English language. They taught English language to the Indians without any uniformity and created a new class of intellectuals who could work as clerks or middle men between the Indians and the British. These intellectuals invested a lot of faith in the English education and the English policies. the reality, however, was that British cared little about Indians. Many Indians lost their existing jobs and positions. By 1856, the British had established their rule on nearly the whole of India.
The Sparks (1855-57)
The discontent had risen to such level that it was now taking the form of a rebellion. Taxes ruined the peasants ans the new land rules had made the Santhals in Bengal desperate. They massacred Europeans and their supporters. Similar situation was to be seen within the India Company’s army. The Indian soldiers were quick to understand that their English counterparts were getting a much better salary, bungalows to live in and servants to attend them. The Indian soldiers were merely loosing their religion and age old custom by travelling to distant lands, which was considered against their customs. They also found out that the grease used on the bullets was made from the fat of cows and pigs, which a blasphemy for most Indians. They soon spread their message to their brethren in the village to be ready with support in case of an open revolt.
Revolt and the Fight for Freedom 1857
Finally, the revolt began and it got wider and wider. the sepoys marched to Delhi. The landlords also offered their support. All alike, sung praises of Bahadur Shah, their Emperor and shouted slogans like ” Death to the foreigner.” The War of Independence was initiated. people rose in rebellion in Bareilly, Kanpur and Allahabad. Many former rulers like Begum Hazrat Mahal of Lucknow, popular leaders like Maulvi Ahmedulla of Fizabad and others joined the upsurge against the foreigners. Azimulla Khan told Tatya Tope that Peshwa Nana Saheb should be chosen as the leader in the war for Independence. Kunwar Singh and various other patriots pounced and fought against the foreigner all over North India.