The British controlled much of India for hundreds of years, but their cultural insensitivity never really let up. Look no farther than the alleged root cause of the "Sepoy" Rebellion of 1857, which united the Hindus and Muslims of India against their occupiers.
Using a variety of tactics to undermine the native rulers of the subcontinent, the Brits began to push the Indians out of their own positions and lands. They also recruited Indians in service of private soldiers, or "sepoys," of trading groups like the British East India Company. In 1857, all hell broke loose amongst one group of sepoys, thanks to the new rifles they were issued.
A map of the Sepoy Rebellion in 1857. Image via Regents Prep.
This weapon was called the Enfield rifle; in order to load it, soldiers had to bite of the end of a lubricated cartridge. Allegedly, manufacturers greased the cartridges with either pig or cow fat; the Muslim fighters were religiously prohibited from consuming the former, while their Hindu counterparts held the cow as sacred and could not eat its byproduct. So the Brits deeply offended both groups of fighters who worked for their company, fanning already flaming tensions.
In March, a soldier attacked the British and was executed; in April, the soldiers refused to chew off the cartridges and were put in jail. In May, the sepoys rose up and marched to Delhi, where they nominally restored the deposed Mughal emperor. Before the problems ended a year later, many were killed on both sides.
Feature image via Nutty History.