The strife with the East India Company was not merely political, but also cultural and religious. After their political success in 1760 AD, their main objective was to make Bharat a Christian State. The clergy advised that it was essential for the British Empire, its trade and domination that Bharateeyas be converted to Christianity. The highest officials of the East India Company also shamelessly came forward to meet this objective.
Hence, this was the beginning of the rule of East India Company in Bharat. By now, the company had also become politically powerful. During this time the Third Battle of Panipat which was fought between Ahmadshah Abdali and the Marathas proved to be critical in Bharateeya History because it was this battle that proved that Marathas, and not the Mughals were the actual enemies of the British and with their loss, it became easier for the British to take on Bharat. To prove their dominance over the land, there were three major battles that were fought between the Maratha and the British in Bharat. These were in 1775-1782, 1800-1803 and 1817-1818, respectively. These took place during the regimes of Warren Hastings, Lord Wellesley and Lord Hastings respectively. This marked the end of the Peshwaai. The major reason of the defeat were cited as lack of national sentiments and effort.
Similarly, the second major encounter of the Company was with Punjab under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Like Shivaji, his rise was also not sudden. It was the result of 300 years of religious and political upheaval. He not only united whole of Punjab but also extended the borders of his state till Khaibar Pass. Veer Savarkar, the famous revolutionist has referred to Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s empire as the ‘last Hindu State of Punjab’. Hence, even after the Company’s dominance of Bengal in 1760 AD, political struggles continued.
The strife with the East India Company was also not merely political, but also cultural and religious. After their political success in 1760 AD, their main objective was to make Bharat a Christian State. Till the middle of the 19th century, there were several individual as well collective efforts for the same. Initially Christian clergymen were secretly brought to Bharat through its waterways and this was highly encouraged by British officials. The clergy advised that it was essential for the British Empire, its trade and domination that Bharateeyas be converted to Christianity. The highest officials of the East India Company also shamelessly came forward to meet this objective. Not only the Company officials but also Queen Victoria and the Prime Minister of England supported the ‘cause’. Max Mueller had expressed his desire for success in Bharat’s conversion to Christianity in one of his letters to the Queen. The British rulers devised laws supporting Christianity and there were attempts to convert Bharateeya army into Christianity.
It was this collective effort of conversion that resulted in the first nationwide protest against the British. Bharateeyas were neither ready to accept this prejudice of the British and nor were they prepared to accept this cultural slavery thrust upon them. It was a national struggle. Everyone participated in this fight irrespective of caste or creed or state. This was a religious battle and its main objective was safeguarding their religious interests and sentiments. The main proponents of this were the revolutionists: the adopted son of Bajirao II, Nana Saheb, Rani Lakshmi Bai, Tatiya Tope, Kunwar Singh.
As a result of the great struggle of 1857, the British abolished their own East India Company and established direct British rule in Bharat. They ruled in Bharat for the rest 90 years (1858-1947) but in a way it was their biggest cultural loss. They neither were able to convert India into a Christian State, nor were able to make Bharat as a permanent abode for the British.
Dr Satish Chandra Mittal (The writer is Professor ( Retd. ), History Department, Kurukshetra University,Kurukshetra) (To be concluded )