War of Independence

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By 1845, the British Empire had expanded from Bengal to Sindh, and all that remained free was Punjab. The Sikhs were ruling over Punjab and after the Second Sikh War in 1848, the British gained control over the Indus. The Koh-i-Noor diamond that Ranjit Singh had worn in his headdress now became a part of the crown jewels at Westminster.

The War of Independence broke out in January and March 1857. The British army had recruited local Indians in their forces. These soldiers were issued cartridges greased with fat from tabooed animals. The soldiers refused to use these cartridges. In 1857, starting with an uprising in Meerut, soldiers in the British Army in Bengal launched a full-scale mutiny against the British. This mutiny spread swiftly across the Sub-continent. Initially, the Indian soldiers were able to push back the British forces. The British army was driven out of Delhi and the Indian soldiers took control of the city. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal King, was compelled to lead the freedom fighters. In Bahadur Shah Zafar, the rebels found a symbol of freedom, but a mere symbol was all he was. Wanting to spend his days writing poetry, the man was in no way even a remnant of the glory of his forefathers. He proclaimed himself the Emperor of the whole of India. The civilians, citizens and other dignitaries took oath of allegiance to the Emperor. The Emperor issued his own coin and appointed his sons to key posts.

The initial success of the freedom fighters gave a boost to the War of Independence. The Indian army captured the important towns of Haryana, Bihar and Mahdya Pardesh. However, the British forces at Meerut and Ambala put up a resolute resistance to the royal army and held them back for several months. The British proved to be a formidable foe with their superior weapons and better

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