Friday, February 25, 2011

The Revolt of 1857

[Disclaimer: All characters, places, institutes, organizations and incidents appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to any real persons (living or dead), places (not even India, Tunisia and Egypt), institutes, organizations and incidents is purely coincidental. ]

Flitter and Chasebook, two information sharing tools, were developed in the early 1850 in the USA. In no time they had become immensely popular throughout the world. By 1852, almost 3% of the Indian subcontinent had access to Flitter or Chasebook.

In 1854 Royal Small Arms Factory started producing a new, long rifle which would help the British Army in a bayonet fight. The rifle was extensively used in the Crimean war and was later introduced in the British colonies. Mangal, a soldier in the Bengal Native Infantry heard that the cartridges used in these rifles were greased with pork or beef fat. He started fleeting (messages updated through ‘Flitter’ are called ‘fleets’ and the act is called ‘fleeting’) against the East India Company on Flitter and created a page on Chasebook to protest against the introduction of such rifle. His messages were read by his fellow soldiers in Bengal and started getting agitated. His family and friends back home in Uttar Pradesh also joined the Chasebook page. Soon, the soldiers of all the regiments under the East India Company became aware of the insensitivity of the East India Company towards the Indian sensibilities. The soldiers in all the regiments started protesting against the use of the Enfield Rifles. Bakht Khan developed a training routine and videos for the sepoys in Meerut and shared it through Chasebook with the other regiments. The Madras Army and the Bombay army were also facing racism as the soldiers were not given higher ranks despite their qualifications.

In the civil society, Fleets and Chasebook feeds had been floating around about the Company’s attempt to convert the population of India which was then predominantly Hindu and Muslim into Christian. In fact, the few progressive measures taken by the Company – like abolishing Sati system and widow-remarriage – were looked upon with suspicion by the people.

The Company, in the name of ‘taxes’ started looting India of its gold, jewels, silk, cotton, etc. A Zamindari system was introduced which burdened the farmers with unprecedented taxes. A lot of them were forced to switch to farming commercial crops like indigo, jute, coffee and tea. This reduced the supply of food crops and hence there was a scarcity of food which led to price rise of the food crop. The poor could no longer afford food. Thousands of workers lost job when the handlooms closed down due to competition from the cheap factory made goods. Essentially, everyone in India was directly impacted by the oppression of the Company.

Let’s come back to the rebelling sepoys. Mangal was preparing to revolt against the Company and tried teaching a couple of Europeans a lesson. He was however arrested and sentence to death. Sohan in Kolkata got the fleet about Mangal’s death and re-fleeted it. Soon the incident became viral on the social media. Laxmi, the queen of Jhansi, who was ousted by the Company also created mass awareness through her Chasebook notes. Nana Sahib, Tantia Tope, Jwala Pershad organized protests in Cawnpore.

People in all parts of the country – in Lahore, in Madras, in Dhaka, in Oudh, in Jodhpur - took to the street. Hridayanath, a resident of Shyambazar, Bengal Presidency, created a Chasebook event to assemble at the Chandni Chauk to protest against the Company. All his friends and their friends and their friend’s friends joined the cause. Several other ‘squares’ were identified in the country where people would assemble for their ‘liberation’. There was a mass uprising. Ajmal, from Faridkot, took a rifle and open fired at the Company officials until he was arrested. Baanya, who stayed in Mizoram had his Chasebook wall flooded with updates form friends who were “showing off” by sharing the news of their heroic deeds in chasing the Company out. ‘Fleets’ of the news of Lakshmi’s, Tantia and others success started becoming viral and a Baanya, a Raghunathan, and an Ajmal started drawing motivation from them and joined the protest against the Company.

By the time the Company realized the intensity of the protest and blocked Chasebook and Flitter, the uprising had moved out of the hand and had spiral out. Mass protests in every nook and corner of the country eventually led to an end of Company’s close to 100 years of exploitation. India became one of the first few countries in the world to be free.

Getting live updates about the development in India, people from Sri Lanka, Hongkong and a host of other colonies started their protest movements. The freedom movement by India had a domino effect and by 1867, 10 years after Mangal's first ‘fleeted’ about the Enfield Rifles, all the colonies directly or indirectly under the Great Britain got freedom

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