The adverse impact of the British rule on the political, economic and social spheres resulted in sharp reaction of the Indian people against the foreigners. This led to a series of the anti-British movements throughout the country. Peasants and tribes rebelled against exploitative rulers.
During the British rule, the number of famines recorded in India was unprecedented. During the first half of the 19th century, 7 big famines were recorded which led to the death of 15 lakh people. Similarly, in the latter half of the 19th century there were 24 famines causing over 200 lakh deaths. The most devastating was the Bengal Famine of 1943 which killed 3 to 4 million Indians.
Peasants burdened with taxation, eviction from land and survivors from the Bengal famine joined the rebel groups of Sanyasis and Fakirs. In 1783, rebels stopped paying revenues to company agents. However, rebels were finally forced to surrender.
Similarly, Poligars of Tamil Nadu, Malabar and Coastal Andhra, Mappilas of Malabar revolted against the colonial rule. In North India, the Jats of western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana revolted in 1824. In Maharastra and Gujarat, the Kolis revolted.
Tribes in different parts of country also rebelled as colonial government extended their authority to tribal lands. The tribes were subjected to various extortions. Tribal leaders such as Bhils of Khandesh and Kolis of Singhbhum revolted against British rule. However, British suppressed them ruthlessly. Oppressed Santhals on the border of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa also revolted against Britishers as they were being evicted from their lands. They even set up their own government but British suppressed their revolt.
Though these rebels did not succeed, they exposed the unpopular character of colonial rule.
Revolt of 1857
The economic decline of peasantry and artisans were reflected in 12 major and numerous minor famines from 1770 to 1857. All these factors helped to spread anti-British feeling which ultimately culminated in the revolt of 1857.
The British were not very sensitive to the feelings of the masses they ruled ruthlessly. Hence, reforms introduced by them to put an end to some social customs made the people believe that the Government wanted them to be converted to Christianity. As a result, the English East India Company’s rule in India witnessed a large number of uprisings and rebellions.
The revolt brought an end to East India Company’s rule, along with changes in the British policy towards Indian States. One of the most important outcomes of the revolt was that it gave rise to nationalism. Indian people became more aware of their heroes, who sacrificed their lives for the country so that others might live in free India in times to come.
The revolt however scarred the relationship between Hindus and Muslims with the Divide and Rule Policy which was adopted by the British. They felt that if they wanted to continue their rule in India, it was important to divide the Hindus and Muslims.