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Last Updated: Monday, 7 May 2007, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
India marks uprising anniversary
Last days of the Raj: Viceroy Mountbatten in Delhi, 1947
The uprising marked the beginning of the end of British rule
Thousands of Indians have started a march to commemorate the 150th anniversary of a revolt against British colonial rulers.

The rally was seen off by Indian Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar in the northern garrison town of Meerut, about 80km (50 miles) from Delhi.

Participants will retrace the steps of Indian soldiers who marched from Meerut to capture Delhi.

Grand celebrations are planned at the city's historic 17th Century Red Fort.

The uprising - known as the first Indian War of Independence - was eventually crushed by the British.

'Freedom fighters'

Singing patriotic songs, thousands of Indians marked the anniversary by taking part in a colourful procession.

Red Fort
The march will finish at the Red Fort later this month

Around 10,000 people retraced the march 150 years ago by dozens of mutinous Indian soldiers from Meerut in a bid to capture Delhi.

Monday's marchers dressed like Indian soldiers and British officers and staged mock fights with swords and muskets on top of colourful floats.

They carried huge banners and posters with messages referring to the revolt, which left hundreds of British and Indians dead.

'Unclean bullets'

"The march has the same spirit as that of the freedom fighters of 1857 but Gandhi's message of truth and non-violence should not be forgotten," said Mr Aiyar, before flagging off the procession.

The marchers will reach Delhi on 11 May, exactly 150 years after the mutinous Indian soldiers stormed the walled city and attacked British officers and their families.

The Indian soldiers refused to use rifle bullets reputed to be greased with beef and pork fat - considered unclean by Hindus and Muslims.

Although their uprising was crushed, historians say it laid the seeds of a popular revolt against British occupation which culminated in full independence.

After suppressing the revolt, the British captured Delhi and exiled the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, to Rangoon in Burma.

He died in captivity five years later.

The revolt ended the British East India Company's rule in India, making way for direct rule by the British government until 1947, when the country gained independence.

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