Revolts & Rebellions

Revolts & Rebellions

  • By opening decades of 20th Century, awakening among peasants had increased instead of fighting in revolt they started fighting through organization & movements.
  • In 1918, UP Kisan Sabha formed by Gauri Shankar Mishra and Indra Narayan Trivedi.
  • In 1920, Awadh Kisan Sabha formed by Gauri Shankar & Baba Ramachandra.
  • In 1921, Ekta movement was started by Madras Pasi.
  • In 1926, all Indian Kisan Sabha was started by Shahjanand Saraswati.

Why did Revolts & Rebellions take place?

  • The factors responsible for this Revolts & Rebellions were inherent to character of British Rule.
  • Colonial
  • Imposed through military
  • Despotic
  • Racist
  • Unethical & immoral
  • Guided by profit motive
  • Imperialistic
  • Insensible – exploitative
  • Aliening (beyond the comprehension of India).
  • Establishment of British Rule in India adversely affected every section of population.
  • Land Revenue settlement imposed by British converted Indian peasant provider into landless tenants cultivators. Extremely heavy burden of land revenue was imposed on peasantry. They were left at mercy of nature. No surplus of any kind was left with them.
  • The tribal institution & practices were destroyed by British by imposing new socio-cultural & political ideas. There rights over forest were curtailed (through forest act 1865 & 1927). Their religious custom were suppressed & their independence was taken away tribal revolted.
  • A number of Native State annexed to create British Indian Empire, other Native Ruler were subjugated by imposing instruments like subsidiary alliance.
  • All the higher offices were reserved for Europeans the charter act 1793 provided that every office having 500 pounds/month & above shall be reserved for European.
  • Discontent produced by this adverse impact of British Rule, busted out in open in recurring Revolts & Rebellions.


Nature and Character of Peasants & Tribal Revolt

  • During history of British Rule in India, 100s of revolts & rebellions were took place. Most of these revolts involved peasant & tribal groups. These revolts enjoyed place of great significance in history of modern age.
  • The peasant & tribal were a reaction to British Rule because the establishment of British Rule had adversely affected the social and economy, cultural & political life of tribal group.
  • Peasant & tribal revolt were localized in character the causes were local & geographical spread were also limited.
  • These revolts were unplanned most of these were sudden outburst of discontent prevailing among masses.
  • These Revolts & Rebellions were violent in nature.
  • Among peasant & tribal revolts as well, tribal revolt were for more violent.
  • Tribal didn’t have access to any peaceful means to retreat there. They couldn’t approach officials & file cases in court. The level of education & awakening was very low. The fear among tribal were much higher because they had living life of isolation from mainstream society.
  • Peasant & tribal revolts represented history from below. In contrast with history of above (significance act of elite class) such as king, courtier, landlord, & Nobel etc.).
  • The Subaltem approach of the study of Indian history (founder Ranjit Guha) focused upon the contribution of common masses in making of Indian history.
  • Peasant & tribal revolts were backward looking because rebels wanted to clock back to old age. They wanted to reverse changes.
  • These peasant & tribal groups didn’t have a vision of better & brighter future.
  • These peasant & tribal revolts were failure in immediate sense because all of these were brutishly superspy by British. But at a same time, it must be emphasized that efforts of peasant & tribal revolts didn’t go waste completely.
  • These revolts established tradition of opposition to foreign rule. This tradition continued to gain strength with passage of time.
  • These revolts established a tradition of making sacrifice by raising voice against exploitation & suffering.
  • Since revolt couldn’t succeed, discontent continued to accumulate among masses & intensity of revolt continued to increase with passage of time.
  • This tradition started by peasant & tribal revolt prepared for great revolt of 1857.


Changes in Character of Peasants & Tribal Revolts

  • Till 1858, peasant & tribal revolt mostly represented sudden outburst of people against immediate instrument of exploitation.
  • Target wasn’t British Rule, the money lenders/landlords who were exploiting the peasants & tribal were attacked.
  • The outsiders were targeted because their entries in tribal areas had resulted in the sufferings of people.
  • Violent act were most common form of protests.
  • After 1858, a significance change was witnessed in nature & character of peasants & tribal revolt.
  • Many peasant groups revolted with slogan that they want to become citizen of Queen. These groups were under the impression that direct British Rule would eliminate their sufferings.
  • Bumming of records maintained by landlords & money lenders was common form of protests.
  • The peasant leaders organized peaceful sitting against their suffering.
  • Landlords & money lenders were dragged to court.
  • Applications were filed with officials to get justice.
  • During opening decades of 20th century, the peasants started participating in mainstream National Movement.
  • Peasant organization like UP & Awadh Kisan Sabha, Ekta movement, AIKS emerged.
  • Peasant group came under influence of socialism & they started demanding complete over holing of existing social economic structure.



Revolt of 1857






Nature and Character of Revolt of 1857

  • The revolt of 1857 was one of the greatest & most significant developments in history of 19th
  • This revolt had shaken the foundation of British Rule. It spreaded like wild fire & had engulfed almost all of North India.
  • But in spite of being an event of such great significance, scholars had put forward opinion about nature and character of revolt of 1857.


Different views about Character of Revolt

  • According to Sir John Lawrence, it was revolt of selfish army.
  • According to L.E. Rees, it was war of religious fanatics against Christians.
  • According to James Outram & W. Taylor, it was Hindu-Muslim conspiracy.
  • According to T.R. Holmes, it was war between civilization & barbarism.
  • According to Benzmin Raeli, the leader of opposition in British parliament at time of revolt, it was a national revolt.
  • According to V.D. Savarkar, it was 1st war of Indian independence.
  • According to R.C. Majumdar, it was neither 1st nor national nor war of independence.


Real Character of Revolt of 1857

Rani Laxmibai fought for Jhansi

  • Different views put forward by scholar about character of this great revolt reflect their personal brasses & understanding. The real character of revolt only comprehended only by having looked at aims, object, methods, spread of revolt & its success/failure.
  • The revolt of 1857 was not result of any sudden development but in reality its causes were inherent in very constitution of British Rule.
  • Revolt was unplanned in nature.
  • Some historians tried to prove that the message of revolt was propagated through lotus flower & chapattis. But even Britain had failed to prove that revolt was planned one.
  • At time it was emphasized that revolt was planned by Maulvi Ahmadullah & Rangoji Bapu in London. But there is no truth in such contents. The outbreak of revolt came as great surprise to everybody.
  • Britain made every effort to prove that Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Jafar was part of planning so that he couldn’t be hanged but they themselves could not find any evidence of planning of revolt.
  • Rebels wanted to turn clock to pre-British period to which Bahadur Shah Jafar was the right full representative.
  • The revolt was anti-British because every British institution was attacked their buildings were burnt & whites were killed.
  • Revolt was violent in nature, extent excess was coming from both sides.
  • The revolt of 1857 was not 1st revolt against British Rule because tradition of Revolts & Rebellions against British Rule was going on since 1763 itself.
  • But at the same time it must be emphasized that this revolt was 1st of this kind in terms of scale of mass participation.
  • In term of modern understanding of nationalism, the revolt was not nationalist. The rebels were motivated by their personal interest not by any common national cause. Rani Laxmibai fought for Jhansi, Begum Hazrat Mahal – Awadh.
  • Though it’s difficult to accept national character of revolt in modern sense but it can’t be denied that rebels were nationalist in local sense.
  • Nationalist understanding in time specific because idea of nation varied from period to period. At that time Jhansi was nation for Laxmibai & Awadh was nation for Begum Hazrat Mahal.
  • Revolt was not war of Indian independence because concept of India as one unit was absent but this revolt was definitely war of independence.
  • What begin for fight for religion in March 1857 very soon transformed into war of independence because there was not slightest doubt that rebels wanted to get rid over alien government & restore old order of which kind of Delhi the rightful representative.
  • It was a mass revolt because at many place like Awadh region, Jagdispur & parts of Central India, the mutiny of sappy followed by popular uprising. It commented that what being as sappy mutiny ended up as mass revolt.
  • In immediate sense, revolt was a fight to safeguard religion but it was triggered by issue of grease cartridges.
  • Revolt failed in over throwing British Rule. The rebels were suppressed by British but at the same time it must be emphasized that this revolt was not complete failure. This revolt shocked foundation of British Rule & forced British government to imitate a number of changes in the politico-admin military, economic & cultural activities.
  • Through government India Act 1858, rule of East India Company brought to an end & direct British Rule commenced in India.
  • The Queen’s proclamation read by Governor General Lord Canning at Allahabad at 1st November 1858 marked as fundamental shift in character of British Rule because it emphasized-
  • No territorial expansion would be carried out in India.
  • No discrimination was carried out in appointment of state.
  • No interference would make in personal life people.
  • Indian admin will be carried out by keeping in mind the largest interest of Indian.
  • Number changes in military strength of-
  • Indian soldiers reduced from 2.38 lacs to 1.48 lacs.
  • European soldier were 45k – 65k.
  • Ratio of 1:2 was fixed between European & Indian soldiers in Bengal, 1:2 for Madras & Bombay presidency.
  • Indians were divided into marshal & non marshal group. Groups that participated in revolt were termed unfit for military services. The group helped in revolt suppression marshal.
  • Battalion raised along caste & regional line so that one could be used against other in emergency.
  • A very cautious & conservative approach adopted by British in India in 1858 liberal & program reference were abounded conservative element like Radhakant Dev.
  • Policy of direct plunder of Indian resources was dropped. Here after Indian exploited discretely by using instrument of Euro financial capital & home charges.
  • Outlook of Native system was also changed because native ruler played important role in suppression of revolt. The policy of subordination isolation got replaced by policy of subordinate union after 1858. British had realized that native rulers were not their enemies & their support would be crucial in continuation of British Rule in India.


Indian Council Act 1909

Morley-Minto Reforms

  • The Indian Council Act 1909 was a response & reaction to political environment prevailing in India.
  • By this time, level of nationalist awakening had reached great height. Extent was dominating the nationalist activities.
  • Then younger generation of Indian nationalist had lost faith in British sense of justice & farness. They knew that British Rule was essentially colonial. The demand of Swaraj had replaced the goal of Indian Council Act.
  • To counter this growing radicalization of nation struggle, British felt the need of conciliating moderates.
  • This act was also enacted to attack Hindu-Muslim unity. The partition of Bengal had failed to produce desire result.


Provision of 1909 Act

  • The strength of legislative council was extended.
  • The number of additional members in legislative council was fixed at minimum 16 & maximum 60.
  • System of indirect election introduction in 1892 was continued.
  • Members of legislative council were elected by members of district board & municipality.
  • The members of legislative council were allowed to ask question & supplementary question.
  • The power discuss budget was also given.
  • Members were also given power to request additional grants for local self-governing bodies.
  • Separate electorates were granted to landlords and Muslims.


Reaction of Congress to 1909 Reforms

  • The provision of this act was no close to Indian aspiration even moderate failed dishearten. They lost faith in moderate politics and started pursuing extremist politics.
  • The Indian nationalist were demanding Swaraj but there was no trace of Swaraj in provision of this act.
  • The real power was still in hand of Governor General & Governor because they were enjoying veto power.
  • Indian nationalist demanding adult suffrage but this act continued the voting rights only for males based on property qualification women were not given.
  • Indian nationalist demanding control over budget but members of legislature was not even allowed to vote.
  • Strongest criticism of congress was aimed at separate electorate. It was clearly an attempt to divide Indian along religious lines.


Significance of Separate Electorates

  • Grant of separate electorate to Muslim created a cardinal problem for Indian political system because as & when the task of reviving/reforming Indian electorate system more & more community used to demand the same privileges for themselves.
  • This demand continue with expand of passage of time.
  • In 1919, separate electorate granted for Sikhs, Indian, and Christians & Anglo Indian.
  • In 1982, separate electorate extended to depressed classes.
  • In 1935, separate electorate extended to women and working class.
  • The grant of separate electorate to Muslim paved the way for growth of separate outlook among members of Muslim community.
  • In words of Jawahar Lal Nehru, the grants for separate electorate for Muslim institutionalized the division of Muslim from other Indian because interest of Muslim considered different from other Indian communities.
  • Separatist forces were greatly strengthened by grant of separate electorate because this provision allowed spreading their influence among Muslim masses.
  • Grant for Muslim greatly strengthened communal masses.
  • Congress opposed grant of separate electorate to Muslim, it was interpreted as Hindu rule to Muslim progress. This helped in spreading popularity Muslims league among common Muslims.
  • Hindu orthodox electorate also strongly condemned separate electorate for Muslim.
  • Intensification of Congress & strengthening of separate force resulted in large number of communal riots in various parts of Indian & ultimately it resulted in partition of nation in 1947. This proved the professed of Lord Morley, because at time of introduction of separate electorate he had commented ‘please remember by granting separate electorate we are sowing dragon’s teeth & harvest will be bitter’.


The Government of India Act 1919 (Montague–Chelmsford reforms)

Montague–Chelmsford reforms


  • It provided that minimum 3 out of 8 members of Governor General’s executive council shall be Indian.
  • It established a bi-cameral legislature at center of comprising Central Legislative Assembly (CLA) & council of state.
  • Subject of admin were divided into central list & provincial list.
  • Office of Indian high commissioner created to represent government of India in London.
  • Till 1919, the secretary for state of India was representing Government of India in London.
  • Act provided that expenditure of India house (office of secretary of state of India) shall be charged on British exchanger till time tears paid from Indian revolution.
  • Provided for establishment of public service commissioner.
  • Ordinance making power given to Governor General.
  • System of direct election was introduced.



  • Diarchy was introduced at provincial level.
  • All subjugate of provincial administrative were divided into two categories i.e. reserved category & transferred category.
  • Subjugate comparatively greater admin significance such as law & order, police, revenue, budget, prison, irrigation & education of Anglo Indians were placed in reserved category.
  1. Subjugate of company lesser admin significance such as local self-governance, healthy sanitation, agriculture & education of Indians was placed in transferred category.
  • Subjugate of reserved category were to be administered by Government with the help of council of minister. Ministers were to be appointed Government from among the elected members of provincial legislative council.


  • Diarchy was a major step forward in direction of greater association of Indians with affairs of administration. This was definitely significance step towards grant to dominion status to India.
  • Number of administrator matter of immediate local significance was put under control of Indian ministers. This provision gave opportunity to ministers to formulate policies & measure for betterment of people.
  • The system of responsible government came into India for 1st time because minister was accountable to legislative.
  • For the 1st time, the ministerial system introduction in India. It was early stage of parliamentary form of government.
  • In system of diarchy, elections were held along party line. This paved way for emergence of modern political parties in India.
  • The system of diarchy imparted crucial expansion to Indian legislation in fun of parliamentary form of government. This expansion enabled Indian legislation to handle more serious challenge in future successfully.
  • Diarchy paved way for introduction to provincial autonomy in future (1935).


  • The structure of diarchy was faulty, because division of subjugate was unscientific & irrational.
  • Irrigation placed in reserve category where agriculture subjugates was of transferred category.
  • Education of Anglo-Indian was in reserved category & education of Indian was in transferred category.
  • Subjugate like irrigation & agriculture required co-ordination which was impossible in this scheme of diarchy.
  • All the imparted subjugate were placed in reserved category & only less imparted subjugate were placed in transferred category.
  • All the income generating subjugate were in reserved category proper finance was not provided for admin of subjugate of transferred category.
  • The bureaucracy was placed under executive council & because of this officials didn’t take instruction of ministers seriously.
  • The system of collective responsibility was absent. Any minister could be removed individually.
  • Position of ministers was too weak to be effective because they were individually accountable to legislature as well as governor. Governor could dismiss any minister any time without giving any cause.
  • Governor still enjoying veto power any resolution of Indian ministers could be mollified by governor easily.


Congress & Diarchy
  • Congress refused to welcome diarchy far below the Indian expectation. Diarchy was like a train with all breaks no engine.
  • The election system was still based on very narrow franchise because the voting rights were given on basis of property qualification.
  • Congress strongly condemned the continuation of veto power of Governor.
  • The diarchy was just shame because all real power was still in British hand.
  • Announcement of diarchy created a suspicious on rank of India because liberal welcomed it but followers of Gandhiji strongly rejected it.
  • When Swarajist decided to participated in diarchy they were looked upon by other by suspicion.


Government of India Act, 1935

Formation of Federation of India
  • With appointment of Simon Commission in November 1927, the procedure of enactment of Government of India Act 1935 commenced.
  • The Simon Commission visited India twice, its report was discussed at Round Table conference, after the end of Round Table conference, and a white paper was introduced in British parliament. A joint community of both the houses of parliament was formed chairmanship of Lord Linlithgo. The report of joint community prepared basis for enactment act of 1935.

Provisions of Act

  • Provincial autonomy.
  • Diarchy introduction at center.
  • Provided for the establishment of federal court.
  • Instrument of instruction which contained direction to Governor General & Governor to use their authority in larger interest of people.
  • Divided the subjugated of admin intro 3 list – Central, provincial and concurrent list.
  • Explained the inter relation between executive & legislative power of center & state. Contained provision for emergency time i.e. situation caused by failure of constitution M/C.

Indian’s Reaction


  • The provision of Act 1935, were nowhere close to India aspiration because congress demanding complete independence at that time but there was no trace of independence in provision of this act.
  • Concept of provincial autonomy was forced because real powers were still in British hands.
  • Governor General & Governor enjoyed veto powers.
  • The congress strongly opposed introduction of diarchy at center because it failed at provincial level.
  • Congress wanted all native states must compulsory join Indian federation but the act gave freedom to native sate to decide where they wanted to be part of federation or not.
  • Congress wanted representative of native state in proposed federation should be elected by people but act proposed their nomination by native ruler.
  • The congress was against the system of separate electorate.


  • Act of 1935 carried the procedure of constitutional advancement in India till the point to return because once diarchy introduced to the center, the next logical step was grant of autonomy to India. This indicated that attainment of dominion status was not far away.
  • This act retained preamble of act 1919, in which it was repeatedly exposed. Constitution advancement of India was an integral part of British Empire. But in light of provision of act, it was nothing more than of Cheshire category.
  • Act 1935 was nothing less than complete constitution scheme, it contained provision to bureaucracy executive legislative & join both center & state.
  • It defined relation between Calcutta & provincial government.
  • It was based on idea of federation.
  • Provision about public service communication.
  • Provision emergency situation in fun of constitution scheme.
  • The instrument of instruction was chapter of great significance. It was adopted as DBP as Indian Constitution.
  • Office of Governor was explained elaborately. This provision of 1935 made the task of drafting an Indian Constitution much easier because 75% parts of Indian Constitution came from Government of India of 1935.



Development of Press

Role of Press in Indian struggle against British Rule



  • As a result of efforts made by Indian intellectual like Raja Ram Mohan Rai, E.C. Vidya Sagar & Motilal Ghosh, National press emerged in India in 19th Raja Rammohan Rai was claimed as father of Indian Nation Press because he was 1st person to start raising nationalist issue through newspaper.
  • Som Prakash” of E.C. Vidya Sagar & Amrit Bozar, Patrika of Motilal Ghosh carried nation press in India to new height.
  • Most of the early nation newspapers were in vernacular language their circulation was quite limited but their impact was path breaking.
  • Emergence of vernacular press resulted in intellectual event. Event taking planning in one part of India started generating reaction in other parts. India could remain in touch to developed taking place throughout country.
  • Vernacular newspaper published news from European papers as a result, India were deeply influenced by nation information going on in Europe in 19th
  • The vernacular press wasn’t just example of newspaper, this press represented view paper as well.
  • The nation ideas were propagated among masses through press. As a result of which, level of nation awakening continued to increase. This growth of Indian Nation had forced Britain to leave India.
  • Newspaper & journals were used to mobilized masses to fight against BR. Tilak used his papers Maratha & Keshav during home rule movement Mrs. Besant used his newspaper New India & common weal (welfare). This role of press was very critical in informing native state into true mass movements.



Rise of Indian Nationalism










  • The emergence of Indian nationalism during 1860 added a glorious chapter to the history of India, because for the 1st time in entire Indian history, a strong collective consciousness developed among the citizens (Indians).
  • Nationalism is a cultural concept; it is an ideology that believes in common identity. It emphasizes that all the citizens inhabiting a land are part of one large family.
  • The spirit of Nationalism manifested itself when the citizens started sharing the pleasure & pain of each other, the events taking place in one part of country started generating reactions in other parts.
  • Such development became visible during 1860.
  • The rise of Indian Nationalism was the outcome of combined effect of large number of factors. Among these factors the role of British rules contribution of Indian social reformers of 19th century. The impact of contemporary international development & the sense of pride inculcated by new historical researchers were most important.


Role of Positive Impact of British Rule


  • The changes witnessed in India after the establishment of British rule played an important role in creating the circumstances responsible for the emergence of Indian Nationalism.
  • The British carried out the Political Unification of India by annexing a number of neighboring states of subjugating others.
  • Uniform admin system was introduced by British in India.
  • A new judicial system based on the concept of rule of law was introduced by British that replaced the traditional caste & religion based judicial system.
  • The positive initiatives undertaken by British rule paved the way for one common political identity which gradually got transformed into common cultural consciousness.
  • The British introduced modern means of communications in the form of Railways, Telegraph & a better postal system.
  • These new communications system greatly reduced the geographical distance prevailing among the citizens living in various parts of India as a result of which the people started realizing that all of them were part of one larger entity known as India.
  • The modern press played a very important role in the rise of Indian Nationalism because it brought about a strong intellectual unity.
  • The Indians living in different geographical regions could come to know about the events taking place in other territories.
  • The Indian Vernacular Press was not only a newspaper but it was an example of views paper as well. The Indian leaders propagated their nationalist thinking among the masses with the help of news papers as a result of which a strong nationalist consciousness begin to manifest in India by 1860.
  • The western education introduced by British resulted in the spread of scientific & rational thinking.
  • The liberal & progressive ideas of enlightenment entered India along with western education. Nationalism was also a part of these western ideas because the nationalist thinking had emerged in Europe during end of 18th century ie.1790.
  • The hold of traditional ideas over Indian psyche was greatly weakened by the modern western ideas brought by western education.

Critical Examination of the Role of British Rule

  • The positive impact of British Raj had contributed immensely to the emergence of Indian nationalism & because of this the British scholars like Richard Copland emphasized that ‘Indian nationalism was the child of British raj.
  • Once Indian Nationalism immersed on the scene of the British could not succeed in suppressing it they started taking credit of its emergence so that the Anti-British attitude among the Indian nationalist could be reduced.
  • Though it cannot be denied that, the role of British Raj was quiet significant in the creation of circumstances leading to the same time it must be emphasized under British Raj was aimed at the progress or the awaking of Indians.
  • Political unification of India was carried out so that an extensive colonial empire could be established.
  • Uniform admin was introduced so that India could be rules effectively.
  • Railways were developed in India to connect the parts with the markets & fields so that maximum possible amount of British marketing goods could be imported of maximum possible amount of raw material could be exported from India.
  • Telegraph & modern postal system were also introduced for the convenience of colonial rule.
  • The modern western education was introduced to create a class in India that would be Indian in blood & color but European in taste.
  • Since the fundamental objective behind the positive changes introduced by British Raj was the benefit for British colonial empire; the British can never take the credit for the emergence of Indian Nationalism.
  • The nationalist thinking emerged among Indians as result of unintended consequences of their initiatives.


Role of Negative Impact of British Rule

  • The British Raj in India was colonial in character; it was despotic, anti people, racist, unethical, alien, insensible & exploitative.
  • The British Raj was guided by the British interest, which was to exploit Indian resources to the maximum possible extent.
  • To achieve these colonial objectives, the British carried out a number of changes in civil, judicial, revenue admin. The millions of Indian Peasants were deprived of their right over land. Indian wealth was systemically drained out & Indian handicrafts were destroyed deliberately.
  • These positive developments witnessed under British Raj resulted in the emergence of strong anti-British colonial rule was one expression of Indian Nationalism.