IQTIDAR ALAM KHAN*
The Gwalior Contingent in 1857-58: A Study of the Organisation and Ideology of the Sepoy Rebels
Dilating on Disraeli' s view (put forward in his speech in the House of Commons on 27 July 1857) that the violent events triggered all over North India by the "sepoy mutiny" at Meerut were nothing short of a "national revolt", Marx had suggested in his article published in the New York Daily Tribune of 14 August 1857 that the, rebelling sepoys were in reality acting as the "instruments" of Indian people' s upsurge against the British colonial rule.1 According to him, by creating the 200,000 strong native army British rule had brought into existence "the first general centre of"2 resistance which the Indian people ever possessed. In 1857, it was this centre comprising the peasants and artisans in uniform that was apparently seeking to act, with all its ideological and organizational failures, as the vanguard of the spontaneous people' s uprising.
Marx' s own subsequent information as well as the detailed researches of the later writers have fully upheld the early insights into the character of the 1857 Revolt: That all the sections of the native army, including some of the exclusively Sikh corps were affected by the rebellious sentiments;3 that in many places the sepoy revolts were followed by stirring into action of the artisans and other poor sections of the urban populace,4 that in the northern subdivisions of the Muzaffarnagar districts the rival khaps of the Jats peasantry had come together for defying the English authority under the leadership of a Mewati Muslim, that the Jat peasantry of the same Muzaffarnagar district had also aligned itself with "the petty,Muslim gentry elements" then fighting last ditch battles against the advancing English troops;5 that the zamindars and other landowning groups in Awadh as well as in
Formerly Professor of History, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
Social Scientist, Vol. 26, Nos. 1 - 4, Jan. - Apr. 1998