Ans. The reasons for the confidence of the British rulers about their position in India before May 1857 were:
i. Nawabs and rajas had lost their authority and honour. Residents had been stationed in many courts, the freedom of the rulers reduced, their armed forces disbanded, and their revenues and territories taken away by stages.
ii. Awadh was one of the last territories to be annexed. In 1801, a subsidiary alliance was imposed on Awadh, and in 1856 it was taken over.
iii. In 1856, Governor-General Canning decided that Bahadur Shah Zafar would be the last Mughal king and after his death none of his descendants would be recognized as kings – they would just be called princes.
Ans. British introduced the following reforms in the Indian society.
i. Laws were passed to stop the practice of sati and to encourage the remarriage of widows.
ii. English-language education was actively promoted.
iii. After 1830, the Company allowed Christian missionaries to function freely in its domain and even own land and property.
iv. In 1850, a new law was passed to make conversion to Christianity easier.
Many Indians began to feel that the British were destroying their religion, their social customs and their traditional way of life.
Ans. Bahadur Shah Zafar’s support to the rebellion boosted the morale of the people and the ruling families.
i. The people of the towns and villages also rose up in rebellion and rallied around local leaders, zamindars and chiefs who were prepared to establish their authority and fight the British.
ii. Nana Saheb, the adopted son of the late Peshwa Baji Rao, gathered armed forces and expelled the British garrison from the city.
iii. In Lucknow, Birjis Qadr, the son of the deposed Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, was proclaimed the new Nawab. He too acknowledged the suzerainty of Bahadur Shah Zafar.
iv. In Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibai joined the rebel sepoys and fought the British along with Tantia Tope, the general of Nana Saheb.
Ans. Following are the important changes that were introduced by the British.
i. The British Parliament passed a new Act in 1858 and transferred the powers of the East India Company to the British Crown in order to ensure a more responsible management of Indian affairs.
ii. All ruling chiefs of the country were assured that their territory would never be annexed in future. They were allowed to pass on their kingdoms to their heirs, including adopted sons. However, they were made to acknowledge the British Queen as their Sovereign Paramount.
iii. It was decided that the proportion of Indian soldiers in the army would be reduced and the number of European soldiers would be increased. It was also decided that instead of recruiting soldiers from Awadh, Bihar, central India and south India, more soldiers would be recruited from among the Gurkhas, Sikhs and Pathans.
iv. The land and property of Muslims was confiscated on a large scale and they were treated with suspicion and hostility. The British believed that they were responsible for the rebellion in a big way.
v. The British decided to respect the customary religious and social practices of the people in India.
vi. Policies were made to protect landlords and zamindars and give them security of rights over their lands.
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