Queen’s Proclamation

Result of Revolt of 1857

The revolt of 1857 was the first great and direct threat to British rule in India. The result of the revolt was the leaders and soldiers paid with their lives. Their liberty and their property were forfeited as the penalty of failure. The victorious English troops committed inhuman atrocities upon the Indian people. Thousands of rebels were hanged publically after a mock trail. The rebel villages were destroyed. Indians were more alienated than ever from their British rulers.

The revolt of 1857 changed the character of the British administration.

1) The queen’s proclamation was the most significant development. The proclamation was read out by Lord Canning at a durbar held on November 1, 1858 at Allahabad. The proclamation put an end the rule of East India Company and the government of India came directly under the Crown. According to the proclamation Lord Canning became the first viceroy and governor general of India.

2) The proclamation put an end to the era of further expansion of the British Empire in India. It also promised non- interference in the religious affairs of the people, grant of equal protection of law and respect for ancient rights and customs of the people.

3) The Act for the Better Government of India, 1858 was passed, which terminated the process if the Pitts India act, 1784. The act of 1858 ended the dualism in the control of Indian affairs and made the crown directly responsible for the management of Indian affairs. Following this fundamental changes in the administrative set up were made in the executive, legislative, and judicial administration of India by passing the Indian Council an Act of 1861, the Indian High Court of 1861 and the Indian Civil Service of 1861.

4)  The Indian Council an Act of 1861, made an humble beginning, that Indians were associated with legislative matters and administration.

5) The British army was reorganized increasing for proportion of the European in the army. The field and other artillery was to be operated entirely by the Europeans. For the policy of “divide and rule”, regiments were created on the basis caste, community and regions to prevent the emergence of nationalist feelings among soldiers.

6) The policy of “divide and rule “was also pursued towards the Indian people. Appeasement of Muslims was introduced with disastrous consequences for Indian nationalism.

7) The policy towards the princely states also changed, as the states were considered as barrier against empire’s future annexation policy hence it was now completely given of and the rulers of princely states were allowed to adopt heirs. But the status of these rulers was reduced to privileged subordinates and dependents.

8) The reactionary and backward looking elements like the princes, zamindars, landlord and merchants were patronised to promote interests of the British.

9) The revolt ended the era of territorial expansion and started the era of economic exploitation,  it opened India to the British merchants and capitalist class for Indian’s further economic exploitation.

10) The revolt left terrible financial scars on the Indian soil. Villages along the line of march of the British army were burnt to ashes and cultivators fled to save their lives. A severe famine broke out in Agra in 1861. Kanpur and Luck now were gutted and Delhi was virtually depopulated. The entire burden of the outbreak and suppression of the revolt was thrown on the Indian people.  The public debt of India increased by about 98 million sterling adding thereby to the annual interest charges by 2 million sterling

11) The revolt left a legacy of racial bitterness. ”The entire Indian people were dubbed as unworthy of trust and subjected to insults, humiliation, and contemptuous treatment”.

12) It has been said that Julius Caesar dead was more powerful than Julius Caesar alive. The same may be said about the revolt of 1857. Whatever might have been its original character, it soon became a symbol of challenge to the mighty British Empire in India and remained a shining star for the rise and growth of the India national movement. The leaders of the revolt of 1857, such as Rani Lakshmibai, Bahadhur Shah, Nana Sahib, etc., became national heroes and champions of national freedom, and stories of their heroic struggle animated the fighters for freedom more than half a century later.

S  Chittal