Easy Containment of New Areas of Conflict In the Revolt of 1857, a
major driving force had been popular resistance to the system of rule imposed
on India by the British. Once British power had been destroyed in northern
India by the army revolt, many popular grievances coalesced with explosive
power. The defeat of the revolt left most of these grievances unresolved. As
the imperial power consolidated its hold during the course of the next half a
century, new areas of conflict emerged. These conflicts were, however, more
easily contained by the state. Improvements in communications, the
development of the machine gun and the expansion of the police and military,
all these made it easier to crush popular insurgency before it could spread
beyond a fairly local area. Conflicts therefore, tended to remain localised and
confined to particular grievances.
Disjointed Collection of Histories of Agrarian Struggles The history of
popular resistance to the British rule is essentially a disjointed collection of
histories of local agrarian relationships and struggles, each of which had its
own timetable of revolt. Only with the development of new forms of
leadership at the national level after 1918 with Gandhi, and with the Congress
championing peasant and worker demands more militantly did popular
resistance begin to link up once more across the subcontinent, to pose a
formidable challenge to the colonial state, becoming, once again, something
more than a collection of isolated struggles. Although popular resistance did
not thus pose a direct threat to British rule except in 1857, it was a force
which continually worried colonial officials.
Colonial Officials and Historians British administrators, as well as
colonial historians, frequently sought in their reports and writings to deny the
rationality of such resistance. Revolts were labelled as being ‘backward-
looking’ and ‘unprogressive’, the blind hitting out of a people enslaved by a
‘primordial’ or ‘superstitious’ consciousness. Colonial officials believed that
they knew what was in the best interests of the Indians, and that they had, for
their own good, to be forced to accept the system imposed on them by the
Repetition of Colonial Terminology by Indian Historians This attitude
has continued to be expressed by many Indian historians even after Indian
independence, with popular movements being treated largely in terms of how
they related to British policy in