An attempt is going to be made to produce an account of the participation of Bengalees in the Great Revolution,1857 against the British rule in India.
The discontent and dissatisfaction among all classes of people and sporadic disturbances in all parts of india culminated in an outburst into a violent revolt called by many names by historians and social scientists as the Sepoy Rebellion, the great mutiny, the revolt of 1857. But Karl Marx and many others termed it as the India's first war of Independence.
The immediate cause of the revolution was a blunder caused by the British authorities in attempting to use a cartridge for the pattern 1853 Enfield rifle that were allegedly greased with animal fat, which was offensive to the religious beliefs of Muslim and Hindu Sepots. The idea gained ground as a deliberate moveon the part of the Govt. to convert them en masse to Chsitianity..On 26, Feb, 1857, the 19th Native Infantry (NI), stationed at Berhampur, about 120 miles from Calcutta, refused to receive their percussion capsfor the paradeon the following mornin, and there was a great deal of emotion among them.
The contagion spread and on 29 March Mangal Pande, a sepoy of the 34th NI at Barrackpur (near Calcutta), openly mutinied and called upon his comrade to join him. although they kept aloof, Mangal Pandey struck a blow at the adjutant, and when other european officersrushed at him he was still taunting his comrades for not joining the fight for religion. He was overpowered and vainly tried to kill himself, and was executed after trial along with the jemadar of the sepoys who stood by unconcerened. The 34th and 19th NI were both disbanded.
It was soon evident that disconttent and mutinous spirit had affected the sepoys of the whole Bengal army located in remote parts of India, and trouble arose as far as Ambala and Lakhnau. Within three months the romour about the greased cartridges " had become an article of faith with nine-tenth of the sepoys of northern India." About the same time, it appeared that the mysterious chapati(uneavened breadmade of flour)which was widely distributedover a large area causing a vague sense of alarm.
The matter came to a head at Mirat (Meerat) on pril 24,1857,when 85 troopers out of 90,of the third cavalry, refused to touch the cartridge on the parade ground.They were tried by court Matial and sentenced to ten years (five years in case of 11) imprisonmentwith hard labour.
Dr. Ramesh Chandra Majumdar in his book History of Freedom movement mentioned that Bengal was practically unaffected by he mutiny with the exception of two sporadic outbursts at Dacca and chittagong. On
nov.18, the 34th NI at Chittagong mutinied and followed the usual procedure.They found no sympathy among the people and, being defeated by the loyal native regiment, marched northwards through sylet and Cachar.But they could not enter manipur, whose ruler,at the request of the British, sent his troops and captured a number of them. These were handed over to the British and the rest betook themselves to the neighbouringhills and jungles. On Nov. 22, the troops at Dacca refused to be disarmed and mutinied , but being defeated fled towards Jalpaiguri. there were some desolutory outbreaks in the bhagalpur Division, and two cavalrydetachments at Madariganj and Jalpaiguri mutinied. But these as well as the mutineers from Dacca were easily dispersedand forced to seek refuge in Nepal.