Remembering Mangal Pandey

News Excerpt:

Mangal Pandey was hanged to death by the East India Company (EIC) on this day, April 8, 167 years ago.

Mangal Pandey and the discontent of Awadh:

  • Mangal Pandey belonged to the kingdom of Awadh, which had been wrongly annexed by the British in 1856, despite a prior understanding.
  • Mangal Pandey and all other sepoys represented the discontent that the misery of British rule had brought upon peasant families.

The mutiny and hanging of Mangal Pandey:

  • Mangal Pandey was born on July 19, 1827 in Nagwa village in Batia district in a Bhumihar Brahmin family. 
    • He joined the East India Company’s army at the age of 22 as a soldier in the 6th company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry. 
    • He refused to use the newly introduced Enfield rifles, as the cartridges had a covering that was believed to be made of animal fat (beef and pork), and which had to be bit open before the cartridges could be used.
  • This was viewed by the soldiers as a direct assault on their religious beliefs by the British who intended to bring an end to their religion and propagate Christianity.
  • On March 29, 1857, Pandey mutinied and fired at his Senior Sergeant Major
    • He was overpowered and hanged on April 8, 1857
    • His regiment was disbanded, like the 19th infantry at Berhampore, for showing resentment.
    • This triggered a great event in the history of Modern India, the Revolt of 1857, or the First War of Indian Independence.

Fighting heroically against all odds=

  • The interchange of identities between the soldier and the peasant, and the groundswell of collective discontent against British rule allowed the revolt to assume the proportions it did. 
    • It spread to a greater part of India, and the population felt free for some time from the fear of the state and the control of the administration.
    • Their accumulated grievances found immediate expression.
  • For more than a year, the rebels carried on their struggle against difficult odds. 
    • They had no source of arms and ammunition
    • They were often forced to fight with swords and pikes against an enemy equipped with the most modern weapons. 
    • They had no quick system of communication at their command, and hence no coordination.
  • Beyond a shared hatred of alien rule, 
    • The rebels had no political perspective or a definite vision of the future
    • They showed exemplary courage, dedication, and commitment. 
  • But heroism alone could not stem the onslaught of the superior British forces. Thus came to an end the most formidable challenge the British had to face in India.
  • To commemorate Mangal Pandey’s heroic action, 
    • A park has been named after him in Barrackpore on the banks of the Hooghly. It has a small bust of Pandey and a brief history of his sacrifice

Legacy of the Revolt of 1857:

  • Pandey’s action had far-reaching consequences, including a change like British rule in India. 
  • The mutiny shocked the British; they had never imagined that Indians, whom they believed to be inferior, were capable of rising against their rule
  • After the revolt, they realized the need for the adoption of a strategy to hold India for the long term.
    • The British parliament passed an act on August 2, 1858, transferring all powers of the Company to the Crown. 
    • Queen Victoria was declared the Sovereign of British India. 
    • The Queen’s Proclamation made by Lord Canning on November 1, 1858, to the Princes, Chiefs, and people of India, unveiled a new policy of perpetual support for the native Princes, and non-intervention in matters of religious beliefs in India.
    • The governance of India by and in the name of the Monarch through a Secretary of State was aimed at improving the administrative machinery of supervision and control over the Indian government.
    • It was decided to grant the same status to the “Natives of India” as other subjects of the British Empire. 
      • It was assured that the Crown would create equality for all people in the eyes of the law.

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