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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
India marks uprising anniversary
Mutiny Monument in Delhi
Some historians say the rebellion was the first war of independence
Celebrations are being held in India to mark the 150th anniversary of the landmark revolt against the British.

A concert was held in parliament where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid tribute to the "inspired revolutionaries" of the revolt.

Thousands of people who have been retracing the steps of Indian soldiers who marched from Meerut town to Delhi 150 years ago are now in the capital.

A day of celebrations will also he held at the Red Fort in Delhi on Friday.

'Unclean bullets'

Speaking in Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged India to honour the memory of the rebels.

"As a nation inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's message of non-violence, India has consciously abjured violence as an instrument of social and political change," Mr Singh said.

"Yet we cannot forget those inspired revolutionaries - many of them anonymous to history - who sacrificed their lives in 1857 to free the country from foreign yoke," he said.

Some historians say the 1857 rebellion was the first war of India's independence.

Red Fort
A day of grand celebrations has been planned at the Red Fort

But others prefer to describe it as a mutiny - they say it was too localised and disorganised to be anything more.

The uprising began when native Hindu and Muslim soldiers, known as sepoys, revolted against the British East India Company over fears that new gun cartridges were greased with animal fat forbidden by their religions.

The rebellion was eventually crushed by the British.

Mock fights

On Monday, thousands of people began marching towards the capital on a colourful procession.

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

Many of the marchers were 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 many British and Indians dead.

Although the 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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