2 Criticism of the term
Though the Indian Rebellion of 1857 developed into more than just a mutiny, due to the manner in which it started the name Sepoy Mutiny became the standard name for events, a convention which stuck for over 100 years. Contemporary 'anti-imperialists' viewed this term as propaganda, and pushed to characterize it as more than just the actions of a few mutinous native soldiers. Karl Marx was the first Western scholar to call the 1857 revolt a "national revolt", though he used the term "Sepoy Revolt" to describe the event.
In India, the term "First War of Independence" was first popularized by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1909 book The History of the War of Indian Independence, which was originally written in Marathi.
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, insisted on using the term "First War of Independence" to refer to the event, and the terminology was adopted by the Government of India.
Criticism of the term:
Some Punjabis have opposed the use of the term "First War of Independence" by the Government to describe the 1857 revolt. They insist that the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845–46) should be called the First War of Independence instead. In May 2007, the Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal and three other MPs from Punjab protested against the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the 1857 revolt over this issue.
Some South Indian historians have also opposed the use of the term, and have unsuccessfully taken the issue to the court. These historians insist that several other anti-British uprisings in South India (such as the Vellore Mutiny) had preceded the 1857 revolt, and should be called the First War of Indian independence. In 2006, when the Indian postal department issued a postal stamp to commemorate the Vellore Mutiny of 1806, M. Karunanidhi, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, said that the move had given "due recognition" to India's "first war of independence".
Some Indian writers also insist that none of the armed uprisings against the British in India, including the 1857 uprising, should be termed as a "war of independence", since they were not national in nature, not motivated by nationalist sentiment and only involving a minority of people or soldiers.
India's First War of Independence, termed Sepoy Riots by the British was an attempt to unite India against the invading British and to restore power to the Mogul emperor Bahadur Shah. The resistance disintegrated primarily due to lack of leadership and unity on the part of Indians, as also to cruel suppression by the British Army. It was a remarkable event in Indian history and marked the end of the Mogul empire and sealed India's fate as a British colony for the next hundred years.
1. some think that the outbreak was really a rebellion of the people rather than merely a mutiny of the soldiers, and 2. others hold that it was primarily and essentially a mutiny of sepoys , though in certain areas it drifted into a revolt of the people.
Even an orthodox historian S.N.Sen, termed it as, " a revolt assumed a national dimension.".
According to R.C.Majumdar, the motive behind the participation is the very important factor in this respect. Howver, it was a mutiny of the soldiers first, and when it was clear that the administration had totally collapsed entry of the opportunist people took place. Majumdar pointed out that an exception in the outbreak at Muzaffarnagar, 0n May 14, when a civil revolt took place without any mutinee of the local troops preceding it.the mutiny of the sepoys and the subsequent uprising of the people in various parts of India was an entegral part of the whole incident. It has been rightly pointed out that the sepoys " the peasants in uniform"- were very much part of the people sharing the same sentiments and even sufferings with them.
Richard Collier wrote, in other words, "all down the valley of the Ganges, the village war-drums were pulsating in the night, bringing news of rebellion spreading so fast, it could be charted now by the uprush of flames as station after station took fire, on 20th May Azimgarh, on 21st May Bareilly, on 3rd June Fategarh, on 4th June Benaras, on 6th June allahabad, on 7th June Fyzabad, on 9th June fatepur. Thus mutiny has swept across an area a quarter of the size of Europe."
To claim it as an 'war of independence' two things must be clear. 1. identification of the foreign power, 2. replacement of the foreign power by an alternative national power. This Great Revolution of 1857-58 had surpassed both the critareas to be termed as an War of Indpendence. But there are also other claims as India's First War of Independence.