May 10th, 1857 War of Independence began in Meeruth.
This war was fought all over the country on the issues of Swarajya, Swadharma, Swadeshi and Goraksha. Kamal (lotus)—the symbol of Hindu Dharma—and roti (bread)—the symbol of the basic needs of common man—were used as war symbols and people participated in large numbers from urban, rural, forest and hill areas. Precisely for this reason, the then British government had perpetrated heinous atrocities on common people along with freedom fighters.
The British derided this war as an ordinary and localised ‘Sepoy mutiny’ and an attempt to protect kingdoms and feudal states, so that the ordinary masses would not get any inspiration from it. Unfortunately, a section of our countrymen joined this chorus and started describing it as merely a ‘Sepoy mutiny’. Even our history textbooks too present it in the same manner. In spite of all this, the scintillating image of this war as a glorious War of Independence remained intact in the hearts of the people.
Swatantryaveer Savarkar authored a well-researched treatise on this War of Independence and threw light on its popular and countrywide character and its impact on the freedom struggle that followed. It played a very important role during the Independence Movement despite the British imposing a ban even before its publication. The post-1857 history is a standing testimony to the fact that on one hand the revolutionaries and other freedom fighters drew inspiration from the narratives of sacrifices and valour of this great war until the time of Independence, while on the other hand, it provided a major source of inspiration in the struggle for the liberation of Goa and Puducherry (Pondicherry) after Independence.
Some people interpret this war as a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. While there is nothing objectionable about it, it cannot be kept in the category of the efforts for Hindu-Muslim unity based on mindless appeasement that took place in the latter part of our freedom struggle. It should be kept in mind that all these efforts had culminated in the tragic Partition of our country in 1947. The participation of the Muslims in the 1857 war was based on positive grounds rather than on religion-based separatist mindset. Honouring the Hindu sentiments, the then Muslim leadership agreed on matters like ban on cow-slaughter, death penalty to the slaughterers of cows, handing over the Ramjanmabhoomi in Ayodhya to Hindus etc. This dimension of Hindu-Muslim co-operation of 1857 should always be kept in mind.
Sacred memories of the freedom struggle and its martyrs are ever-inspiring.
- From RSS ABPS 2007