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Under One Flag
The Light Has Gone Out
India Wins Freedom
Apostle of Peace
The Last War of Independence
Quit India
Leave India to God… or to Anarchy
Gandhi and Ambedkar
A Pinch of Salt!
Saga of Indian Revolutionaries
Bardoli
Gandhiji Withdraws from Political Activities
The Himalayan Blunder
A People Reject Their Rulers
Jallianwala — The Aftermath
Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh
The Gentle Satyagrahi
Gandhi in Champaran
Carrot and Stick
Revolutionaries Outside India
Heroes and Martyrs
Gandhi in South Africa
From Swadeshi to Swaraj
Swadeshi Enterprise
The New Spirit of India
The Great Divide
Partition of Bengal
The Battle is Taken to the Legislature!
The Monk Who Shook The Nation
Father of Indian Unrest
An Old Man's Dream
Women : Crossing the Threshold
The Battle Lines are Drawn
The Battle For A Free Press
Pressing On !
Europeans Take To The Street!
The British Raj in Black and White
Mamool Raj
The One-Man Army
Hunger Deaths
The Delhi Durbar
Return to Swadeshi
Barbarous Britannia
‘Rani Ka Hookum’
Perishing in Peace
The Blue Mutiny
English Education
The Trial of the Last Emperor
Roll of Honour
The Empire Strikes Back
British Authority Collapses
Sepoys on the Move
Tribal Uprisings
The Empire Builders
For God and Country

1857 : Sepoys on the Move

 
THE VERY men who helped the British carve out an empire in India brought it to the verge of collapse — the sepoys!
British historians called it a mere mutiny of sepoys. Veer Savarkar hailed it as a glorious war of independence. Many Indian historians describe it as a great revolt of the people — an uprising that was more than a mutiny but less than a war of independence.
The sepoys serving the British army came from different parts of the country and from different castes. There were Brahmin sepoys who would not drink water from a lotha polluted by the touch of a khalasi; there were sepoys from the warrior class of Kshatriyas; there were Sikhs, Afghans, Rajputs, Pathans, Tamils, Bengalis and Marathas. The happenings in their home states made an impact on sepoys serving in far-off places. Thus the annexation of Avadh in the North, angered the sepoys of the 34th Native Infantry posted in Bengal as many of them were natives of Avadh. When taxes were raised in the Bombay Presidency, the Maratha sepoys serving in the North-west felt the pinch!
The sepoys had to put up with low pay, a hard life, and the contempt of their British officers. A contemporary English observer noted :
"The sepoy…is treated roughly. He is addressed as a 'suar' or pig… the younger men (officers)… treat him as an inferior animal." All these, the sepoys could take in their stride. But not the threat, real or imaginary, to their religion. And they had reason to believe that the new supply of cartridges which came with grease made of animal fat, of hog and ox, were meant to pollute them. 
The top brass of the British army was aware of the feeling of distrust among the sepoys. But they did nothing to set their minds at rest.
On 24th April 1857, in Meerut, when 85 troopers of the 3rd Cavalry refused to touch the cartridges, they were court-martialed.
On 9th May, the condemned men were led to the parade ground clad in their regimental uniforms — soldiers still. Then the sentence was read aloud — five years hard labour.
Reporting what followed, British historian, Kaye writes:

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