Today with the release of Aamir Khan's much awaited film based on Mangal Pandey-India's First Martyr in the war Of Independence, time has come to examine that period of Indian history.Was it India's First war of Independence?. What we had learned about it in our History Books is very different than what is taught today. It was called Sepoy mutiny.It was analysed then in more detail. Today It is our first war of Independence and detail as well as reason for its failure are given Nationalist spin.
Basically it was not war in which common people participated as in French Revolution or American War of Independence.Rather they were the victims and suffered atrocities unparalleled in British History. Protagonist were Indian Sepoys in Army of East India Company and Armies of Maharajas and Nawabs of Princly states which were taken over by East India Company-aptly called campany sarkar.The war did not spread south of Vindyas -todays Northern Maharastra and many Princly states-especially those who had cosy, profitable relations with British- did not join the rebellion, rather they joined forces with British. British counterattacked Delhi with Sikh and Gorkha forces.The area affected was Delhi and what is todays U.P.Most of the Sepoys were high caste Hindus and were fighting for more pay , perks and resentment against greased Cartridges.While Princes wanted to be allowed to rule their states. There was nothing for the Aam Adami.He was passive onlooker and participated in loot,rape and atrocities against British for which they were punished by British army when they gained control again.Punishments to Villagers and captured sepoys were most cruel in British Army's history. British had Well trained proffessional standing army part of which had rebelled( mutinied).Indian army of Princes had not seen action for very long time.So the Mutiny was spearheaded by rebellious section of British Indian Army and it's fate was foregone conclusion.
To compound the matter Mangal Pandey, did not wait for the appointed date to start the rebellion-6th May-but jumped the gun and attacked his supirior officer,then tried to commit suicide by shooting himself, was captured,court martialled and hanged on 8 April. The company to which he belonged was disarmed and dismissed.This incident forwarned British and they tried to find out the conspiracy hence rebellion started from Meerut(Merath) earlier than appointed date and led to confused, disorganised attacks against British which had better army and heavy guns,mortars.No wonder rebellion failed.Had it succeeded thanAam Adami would have gained nothing. Instead of British rulers, we would have had Indian rulers who were partners with British in exploiting Indians.The First War of Independence is as fictional as Aamir Khan's Mangal Pandey.