Counterattack: The Company decided to suppress the revolt with all its might. Reinforcements were brought in from England. New laws were passed to make it easy to convict the rebels. The Company then moved forces into the storm centres of revolt. Delhi was recaptured from the rebel forces in September 1857.
Arrest of The Last Mughal Emperor: Bahadur Shah Zafar was arrested. He was tried in a court and sentenced to life imprisonment. His sons were shot dead before his eyes. He was sent to prison in Rangoon; along with his wife Begum Zinat Mahal; in October 1858. The last Mughal Emperor died in the Rangoon jail in November 1862.
It took almost two years completely control the situation. Lucknow was recaptured in March 1858. Rani Lakshmibai was killed in a battle in June 1858. Tantia Tope escaped to the jungles of central India. He continued to wage a guerilla war with the support of many tribal and peasant leaders. Tantia Tope was captured, tried and killed in April 1859.
Shifting Loyalties: The defeat of the rebel forces encouraged desertions from the ranks of the rebel forces. The British also tried to win back people’s loyalty. Rewards were announced for loyal landholders. The loyal landlords were allowed to enjoy their traditional rights over the land. The rebels were told that if they submitted to the British, they would remain safe and their claims and rights would not be denied. But there was a condition that they had not killed any white people. Hundreds of sepoys, rebels, nawabs and rajas were tried and hanged.
The British could regain the control of the country by the end of 1859. But the situation had changed to such an extent that they were not in a position to rule the country with their earlier policies. Many changes were introduced by the British. Some of the important changes are as follows:
A new Act was passed in 1858 by the British Parliament. The new Act transferred the powers of the East India Company to the British Crown. This was done to ensure a more responsible management of Indian affairs. A member of the British Cabinet was appointed as the Secretary of State for India. He was given the responsibility of all matters related to the governance of India. A council; called the India Council; was given to him. The title of the Governor General of India was changed to the title of Viceroy of India. The Viceroy was a personal representative of the British Crown. Thus, the British government accepted the direct responsibility of ruling over India.
All ruling chiefs of the country were assured that their territory would never be annexed in future. They could not pass on their kingdoms to their heirs; including adopted sons. But they had to acknowledge the British Queen as their Sovereign Paramount. The Indian rulers were to hold their kingdoms as subordinates of the British Crown.
A decision was taken to reduce the proportion of Indian soldiers in the army and to increase the proportion of European soldiers. A decision was also taken not to recruit soldiers from Awadh, Bihar, central India and south India. The decision to recruit more soldiers from among the Gurkhas, Sikhs and Pathans was taken.
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