13 June, 2021

The Musketeers Of Hind

1857—the time that's become a place in our minds

The Musketeers Of Hind
Nobody knows why the revolt against the Raj took place in 1857. Was it a Muslim conspiracy, as the British thought, or the dying groans of an obsolete autocracy? Was it the Indian War of Independence or little more than the spark that touched the smouldering mass of combustible material? According to Jawaharlal Nehru, "nationalism of the modern type was yet to come; India had still to go through much sorrow and travail before she learnt the lesson which would give her real freedom."

It is true that Bahadur Shah, the last of the Mughal rulers, was edged off the stage. It is also true that one could gaze down from the top of the ridge to see the rebels in disarray, humbled and defeated. But how could this capitulation take place in so short a time? The Reigning Indian Crusade, as the men of 1857 viewed their own struggle, collapsed owing to disunity, lack of leadership, inferior generalship, and poor military expertise. There was no coherent ideology or programme to channel the people’s aspirations. Peasant millenarianism could not provide a...

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