Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reference: The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857

What we know today as "India" is a British invention and historians who ignore this detail and try to trace the history of India beyond its creation risk reading too much into isolated and unconnected events as Indian history. Such is the case with the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. It started as a labor dispute. Indians serving as armed soldiers for the East India Company resorted to violence when they were denied certain pension and promotion benefits that they had demanded and things came to a head when the initial mutineers were dealt with very harshly and when a rumor was spread that the Enfield rifle bullets that the soldiers were required to bite into contained objectionable substances. In the melee that ensued, outsiders such as the heads of princely states and the senile and irrelevant heir to the Moghul empire tried to use the mutiny for their own selfish advantage. All of this came to nought precisely because there was no single coordinated war against British rule but a cacophony of selfhish and localized actions within the context of British rule. Much too much has been made of these events. It was not India's first war of independence and it did not lead to partition in 1947 nor to the rise of Isamlic extremism, the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda.

Cha-am Jamal

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