Exploitation of natural and human resources by British led to rise of Popular Resistance Movements mainly by Peasants, Tribals and Sainiks. The most important Popular Resistance to the British rule during the 19th century was the revolt of 1857. There was a sense of self confidence that gave an impact to National Awakening.

Though these revolts were not aimed at uprooting the British rule from India, they created awareness among the Indians. They now felt a need to organize and fight against exploitation and oppression.

Causes of Popular Resistance Movements

Policies under the British rule had undermined the rights, status and economic position of Indians. There were a series of civil rebellions which were led by rulers who were deposed by the Britishers, ex-officials of the conquered Indian states, impoverished zamindars and poligars who wanted to regain their land and estates.

The tribal groups rebelled because they did not want the traders and moneylenders to interfere in their life style. Interference in religious practices was another cause of these popular rebellions. Often these revolts were anti-Christian.

Peasant Revolts

  • Faquir and Sanyasi Rebellion in Bengal in 1770
  • Indigo Rebellion 1859-1862 (Bihar and Bengal)
  • Farazi Movement 1838-1848
  • Bengal Wahabi Movement 1830-1860 (Bengal)

Tribal Revolts

  • Santhal Rebellion (1855-57)
  • Munda Rebellion (1899-1900)
  • Jaintia and Garo Rebellion (1860-1870)
  • Uprising of Bhils (1818-1831)
  • Kol uprising (1831-1832)
  • Mapplie uprising (1836-1854)

Revolt of 1857

A sepoy called Mangal Pandey was the first soldier who openly disobeyed orders. At Meerut where 85 sepoys of the cavalry regiment were sentenced to 2-10 years imprisonment for refusing to use greased cartridges.

The very next day, on 10th May 1857, three regiments broke into open mutiny. They declared the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah as the emperor of India. From Delhi the revolt spread to other places like Kanpur, Lucknow, Jhansi.

Failure of the Revolt

Various causes led to the failure of the Revolt of 1857. There was no unity of purpose among the rebels. The middle and upper classes as well as the modern educated Indians did not support the revolt. The leadership of the movement was weak. Indian leaders lacked organisation and planning.

No national leader emerged to coordinate the movement and give it a purpose and direction. The revolt was confined to Bengal Presidency while Madras and Bombay Presidencies were unaffected.

Legacy of the Revolt

Though the efforts of the rebels failed, the British government was pressurised to change their policy towards India. In August 1858 the British crown assumed control of India from the East India Company and Queen Victoria was crowned empress of India.

This brought to an end the rule of East India Company. Radical changes were introduced in the army. The strength of European troops in India was increased and the number of Indian troops reduced from the pre-1857 figure.