DMPQ- “During 1857 revolt Bahadur shah zafar was the symbolic head of the revolutionaries.” Elucidate.

During the revolt in Delhi, the local infantry killed their own European officers including Simon Fraser, the political agent, and seized the city. Lieutenant Willoughby, the officer-in- charge of the magazine at Delhi, offered some resistance, but was overcome. The aged and powerless Bahadur Shah Zafar was proclaimed the Emperor of India.

Delhi was soon to become the centre of the Great Revolt and Bahadur Shah, its symbol. This spontaneous raising of the last Mughal king to the leadership of the country was a recognition of the fact that the long reign of Mughal dynasty had become the traditional symbol of India’s political unity. With this single act, the sepoys had transformed a mutiny of soldiers into a revolutionary war, while all Indian chiefs who took part in the revolt hastened to proclaim their loyalty to the Mughal emperor. It also signified that the rebels were politically motivated. Though religion was a factor, the broad outlook of the rebels was not influenced by religious identity but by the perception of the British as the common enemy.

Bahadur Shah, after initial vacillation, wrote letters to all the chiefs and rulers of India urging them to organise a confederacy of Indian states to fight and replace the British regime. The entire Bengal Army soon rose in revolt which spread quickly. Awadh, Rohilkhand, the Doab, Bundelkhand, central India, large parts of Bihar and East Punjab shook off British authority.

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