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First war of independence: 1857

1857: what does it mean to us?

Sabyasachi Bhattacharya

Half a century ago D. D. Kosambi — whose birth centenary merits celebration at the national level — characterised the great uprising as ‘feudal’ and yet the final verdict on its significance was positive and it was perceived as a glorious struggle. 1857 was a rare moment in the development of the common people’s political consciousness. Unsurprisingly, it has become the metaphor for the freedom struggle.

When one reflects on the various interpretations, the various meanings read in the uprising of 1857 in course of the next 150 years, one is reminded of an anecdote about Mao Zedong. A famous French journalist, during an interview with Mao, asked him: what in his opinion was the global impact of the French Revolution of 1789? Reportedly Mao smiled and said: “It is too early to say!” That was a philosophical joke on the ever-changing meaning of history and perhap s it is relevant to the changing approach to the meanings of the events of 1857.

Many layers of meaning in the history of 1857 have been exposed in the last century and a half. A monotonic representation of the great uprising is obviously untenable today. In part, this is because the uprising of 1857 meant different things to different men at that time, except that it was to all the rebellious natives a battle against the ‘feringhee.’ As historical research has progressed, it has been demonstrated that different casus belli brought in different regions to the point of participation in the uprising. Regional studies suggest that although the uprising was directed at a common enemy, different causalities were at work in mobilisation in different places in the wide swathe of the sub-continent up in arms in 1857.

In part, interpretations of 1857 have changed owing to a shift of historical research away from an exclusive focus on the narrative of the great, the political elite, towards a focus on the lesser folk. This trend began with the exploration of the economic basis of the rebellion, the grievances of that section of the north Indian peasantry who formed the recruiting base of the Bengal Army. The search has extended to the civilian population who joined the ‘disturbances.’ And now the role of marginalised social groups, particularly the tribals on the edge of the peasant community, is being thoroughly investigated. Current interest in gender issues has also brought women into the line of vision of historians of the uprising. A different narrative than what was available to us before is slowly emerging. As Leo Tolstoy observed while chronicling the Napoleonic War in War and Peace, the story of the generals and other officers is always different from that of the subalterns and both are different from what the common soldiers see, although they are all in the same battle. A totally new angle of vision opens up when we look at the experience and perceptions of the commonality in 1857, although it is no doubt extremely difficult to recover the latter’s voice in the sources commonly available.

A third source of diversity and change in the interpretation of the uprising of 1857 is perhaps a change in our perspective with the passage of time. Different generations have looked upon the historical experience of 1857 in different ways, since each generation interrogated history in terms of concerns shaped by the history of its own times.

D.D. Kosambi, whose birth centenary in 2007 merits celebration at the national level, wrote at the age of 17 at Harvard an essay on the uprising of 1857; he expanded and published it in 1939, a now forgotten article titled ‘The Road to Kanpur’ in the Fergusson and Willingdon College Magazine of Pune. He wrote admiringly of the “proletarian heroes” who shed their blood in 1857 but he did not fail to note the “fratricidal loyalty” to the British displayed by some Indian sepoys whose “sword opened the first secure path for the grimy civilisation of Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield in many an unhappy corner of the world.” Kosambi’s characterisation of the uprising of 1857 was shaped by his understanding of its class character. In 1954 he held the view that “Indian feudalism tried its strength against the British bourgeoisie for the last time in the unsuccessful rebellion of 1857” (Monthly Review, vol. VI, New York).

In the meanwhile a classic nationalist evaluation of 1857 came from Jawaharlal Nehru, incarcerated in the Ahmednagar Fort Jail, in 1944: “it was much more than a military mutiny and it spread rapidly and assumed the character of a popular rebellion and a war of independence.” (This text was later published in The Discovery of India, London, 1947). However, in some ways Nehru agreed with Kosambi on the significance of 1857 when he added: “essentially it was a feudal outburst, headed by feudal chiefs and their followers and aided by the wide-spread anti-foreign sentiments.” Perhaps a notion of the arrow of Time pointing in a certain direction, the idea of Progress through history, was inherent in both perspectives. There is a sort of family resemblance in the interpretative stance of Nehru and Kosambi, even though a Whiggish idea of progress, qualified by the nationalist thought tradition, was more in evidence in one and the Marxist influence in the other.

In the euphoria of the centenary celebrations of the uprising, Nehru’s assessment changed a little. By 1957 the focus was more on the question, how national was the rebellion? That question was central to the official history of the uprising commissioned by the Government of India as well as the research of contemporary critics of that history. Nehru claimed the uprising as a part of the nationalist heritage. So did Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the Minister of Education, in the long Introduction he wrote for the official history.

If the narrative of progress and nation formation were dominant in the 20th century, what are the changes we notice in the meanings we look for or inscribe on 1857 today? Some new questions are being raised, from the perspective of gender history, the role of Dalit and tribal communities, and the response of the oppressed peasantry to 1857. But possibly the most prominent of the issues debated now is the role of religiosity. In part, this concern has been coloured by the recent recrudescence of religious fundamentalism and the instrumentalisation of religious issues for political purposes. In part, it stems from the colonial historiographic tradition that constructed the image of Pax Britannica holding together India in spite of the disunity of communities driven by religious sentiments. From that point of view, the uprising was triggered by the offence caused by animal fat in the composition of the grease of the new Enfield rifle. An extension of this line of interpretation has been that the mutiny inspired by religious sentiments was also in a broad sense a reaction to Christian evangelical activities, that it was actually a ‘jihad,’ and that its genealogy extends backwards and forward to Shah Waliullah, Wahabism, the Deobandis, the Talibans, and even Islamic fundamentalism in our times. The evidence for this interpretative trend is rather thin.

Religious rhetoric was undoubtedly used in the proclamations, that is, the public pronouncements of the leaders of the uprising, but that is not sufficient reason to characterise the rebellion as one motivated by religious sentiments. It is also true that words like ‘jihad’ and ‘deen’ occur frequently in the rebel discourse as reflected in the leaders’ public pronouncements, in the form of ‘proclamations’. However, language experts point to the fact that ‘religious war’ was only one of several meanings of the term jihad in contemporary usage. Moreover, religious identity was one of several identities that figured in the rebel discourse — there were identities defined in terms of region and language, caste, occupation and place in the economic strata, solidarity due to traditional loyalty to ruling houses or princely families, and so forth. In this situation of a multiplicity of identities, different identities came to the surface in different conjunctures in course of mobilisation and conflict. It will be a mistake to privilege the religious identity above all others as the key to understand 1857.

There is another reason why the tendency of some recent interpretations to highlight religious identities and motivations appears questionable. If indeed it was a jihad, there would have been few takers for the idea of Hindu-Muslim unity in the uprising against the British. That unity was given a centrality by the leaders of the uprising. You see this in proclamations of Bahadur Shah, General Bakht Khan in Delhi, the Imams of Lucknow and Allahabad as much as in the proclamations of Nana Saheb or Lakshmibai Rani of Jhansi. Among the common masses, the same spirit was reflected in the declarations of the Meerut rebels on May 11, 1857 when they captured Delhi, and the actions of the sipahis who fought side by side. Muslim sipahis fought under the command of Nana Sahib or Tantiya Tope, and Hindu sipahis under General Bakht Khan in Delhi or Dilwar Khan, the lieutenant of Kunwer Singh. Kings and commoners paid no heed to communal boundaries in a common endeavour.
Half a century ago, Kosambi, and some like-minded historians, characterised the uprising of 1857 as ‘feudal’ and yet the final verdict on its significance was positive and it was perceived as a glorious struggle. Apart from the obvious fact that it was part of the struggle against imperialism, we may surmise another reason. 1857 was an unusual moment in the development of the common people’s political consciousness. Consider the significance of the Meerut rebels declaring Bahadur Shah the Emperor, and the same declaration later by numerous regional potentates. It was an act of political choice made by common people as well as the traditional political elite, who till then had conquerors and their successors for their rulers.</b> Likewise, the act of mutiny in the army or defiance of state authority by civilian population were acts of political choice. Such deliberate choices of a political kind were made by the common people in rare moments in our history. 1857 was such a moment and that is why it is memorable to our people. That may be the reason why 1857 has become the metaphor for the freedom struggle.

(This article is based on the D. D. Kosambi Birth Centenary Memorial Lecture at Pune by Professor Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research.)

We are missing big time if we are not following this weekly series of Sri Devendra Swarup, being run by Organiser for over 6 months now.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->SPECIAL ON 150 YEARS OF 1857

Did Moscow play fraud on Marx?–XXVI
By Devendra Swarup

“B.T. Ranadive destroyed not all the old archives but also all the old literature of the Comintern, the CPI and other Left Parties, the entire Party library and Archives from the earliest days to 1950. It took seven days (in night shift) in a factory chimney to burn them.”

—P.C. Joshi in 1968

Only last week I came across the first response to this series, which was started more than six months ago on June 10, 2007, from a Marxist intellectual Anil Rajimwale in New Age (November 18-24, 2007, p. 10), the weekly organ of the Communist Party of India (CPI). I felt happy as the series was meant to open a serious academic dialogue with Marxist intellectuals who almost dominate the academic discourse in our country. I believe that Marxism had attracted in the twenties of the last century superior intellect of our society, who out of patriotism were attracted to Soviet Russia, which projected itself as an anti-imperialist power committed to provide help to anti-colonial struggles and which had laid down the foundations of a classless society, free of exploitation and inequality. Swept away by the powerful propaganda unleashed by Lenin and Stalin, the Indian Marxists put their blind faith in Soviet Russia and the Comintern. Lenin, under the cover of high sounding ‘democratic centralism’ had converted the idea of ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’, into the ‘dictatorship of the Communist party’ and in turn ‘the dictatorship of its general secretary’. Complete surrender to the communist party and its discipline became an article of faith with Indian communists. Because of this blind faith in the Party, Comintern and Soviet Russia, they were inclined to swallow anything coming from Moscow in the name of Marx.

As the very title of this series “Did Moscow play fraud on Marx?” shows that it was not meant to “attribute to the Indian communists fraudulent intentions” rather to shake them out of their blind acceptance of the intellectual frauds perpetrated by the Communist Party of Soviet Union. I must admit, I was much disappointed to read Rajimwale’s response to my well intentioned efforts.

Rajimwale should have concentrated on the central issue raised by me that “how could the authorship of unsigned articles on 1857 Indian revolt published in the New York Daily Times (NYDT) in 1857-59 either as reports or as its leading articles be attributed to Marx or Engels after the gap of almost a century in September 1952 by P.C. Joshi or in 1959 by Moscow. But his long article is full of polemical rhetorics only. He devotes much space to the exposition of Marx’s perception of India in his 1853 signed articles. That perception I had tried to analyse in two articles of this series published in the issues of Organiser dated June 24 and July 1, 2007 carrying titles “Marx’s perception of India in 1853” and “Marx welcomed British conquest of India” and quoting Marx profusely.

Rajimwale says, “There are any number of books and articles of communist leaders and authors, and by Marxist scholars, who have gone into detailed socio-economic, political and theoretical research of 1857”. Elsewhere he writes, “The Indian communists have carried on their own independent evaluation of 1857 besides, developing Marx’s analyses. Besides P.C. Joshi, leaders and authors like RPD, Dange, Hiren Mukerji, Bipin Chandra etc. and a host of Marxist historians have done seminal work.” I may differ with their ideological bias, but I do admire their intellectual contribution. In this series I have confined myself to the study of Marxian writings on 1857 Revolt. The first two articles in this series published in the issues dated June 10 and June 17, 2007, titled as “Pre-1957 Left Perspective on 1857” and “1857: Reactionary and feudal outburst” present the views of RPD written in 1928 to 1940 and M.N. Roy written in 1923 (when he was a blue eyed boy of Lenin) on 1857 Revolt which they had presented in very negative terms. Obviously, their perception of 1857 was based upon Marx’s perception of India available in his 1853 signed articles. Obviously by that time, i.e. 1940 the NYDT unsigned articles on 1857 Revolt had not been attributed to Marx and Engels.

After the attribution process started in 1952-53, all the Marxist politicians and scholars, without raising any questions about the research methodology which led to this attribution, started singing a different tune about 1857 Revolt. This perceptual change is most welcome to us. Why should we not be happy if our Marxist friends also, following the footsteps of V.D. Savarkar, accept its characterisation as the “First Indian War of Independence”, though late by fifty years. It is unfair to say that “The Organiser and Panchjanya do not seem to digest the appreciation of 1857 by the Indian communists”. The basic question is when did this ‘appreciation’ begin and why? Rajimwale does not try to answer this question. Rather, he resorts to semantics in defence of the attribution of unsigned NYDT articles to Marx by P.C. Joshi in September 1952 and by Moscow between 1953 and 1959. It is simply ridiculous to pretend that P.C. Joshi ‘did not say they were unsigned’; the introduction (also reproduced by Organiser) said they were ‘two hitherto undiscovered’ articles by Marx—undiscovered not unsigned! ...how could Devendra Swarup transform them into ‘unsigned’ articles?” Is Rajimwale really not aware that all the articles on 1857 Revolt, now attributed to Marx and Engels, were published “unsigned” in the NYDT—a fact admitted by Moscow as well? If it was not so, where was the need for P.C. Joshi to introduce them in 1952 as “hitherto undiscovered articles”? Marx’s association with the NYDT from 1841 to 1862 was recorded by every biographer and was known to every Marxist long before 1952. All the unsigned articles were also available in the NYDT files.

All the more ridiculous is the ‘proof’ that Rajimwale adduces in support of the attribution of the authorship of these unsigned articles to Marx. He says, “As far as the question of the authorship of the “unsigned” articles, attributed to Marx is concerned, let it be pointed out that they were included not only by P.C. Joshi but also by other publishers. Kindly refer to the volume called The First Indian War of Independence 1857-1859, by Marx and Engels published by Progress Publishers, Moscow in 1959” and most interestingly, quotes its note no. 25 to prove that “Karl Marx maintained a notebook for the events of 1857-59, with titles etc. So, where is the question of faking or inserting the articles?” This is exactly the “proof” which we have tried to question in the instalments no XI published on August 19 and No. XXV published on December 2. If Rajimwale is so much convinced about the authenticity of this ‘evidence’ or ‘proof’, I shall be highly grateful to him if he could produce any reference to the existence of these ‘Notebooks’ anywhere in the vast pre-1952 Marxian literature comprising of letters, articles, reminiscences, and biographies etc.

But Rajimwale seems to be a prisoner of blind faith in Moscow and Marx, which is evident from his eulogical reference to Marx, “It goes to the credit of Marx’s genius and great scientific foresight that sitting so far away in England, he and Engels could describe India of 1857-59 with almost pinpoint accuracy and insight, almost as if they were in the thick of the battles and events of the First War of Independence.” Could he have written this eulogy before the publication of FIWI by Moscow in 1959? He has only confirmed my impression that “the communist mindset was conditioned by Marx’s perception of India, that “they would not accept any interpretation of 1857 unless it was presented in words of Marx himself” and that “they would accept anything dished out by Moscow in the name of Marx as gospel truth.”

It is a well-known fact that history-writing in the Soviet Union was always the handmaid of power politics. With every change of power centre, history books were rewritten. Well researched works, such as Soviet historians in crisis 1928-1932 by John Barber (London, 1981), Politics and History in Soviet Union by Nancy Heer (Cambridge, 1970) and Rewriting History in Soviet Russia 1956-1974 by Roger D. Marwick (Palgrave, 2001) and many others throw enough light on the politicisation of history writing in Soviet Russia and other Communist states. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, the Russian archives have revealed enough evidence to prove that how documents were suppressed and fabricated to distort history writing. A historian Robert Payne in his biography of Marx (London, 1968) had lamented:

“Today nearly all the original documents connected with the life of Marx are in the Russian hands. His letters and manuscripts are to be found in the Marx-Engels Institute, Moscow, and from time to time new editions appear with suitable emendations. The author of a life of Marx must move warily among the official texts, never knowing for sure what documents have been suppressed or distorted.” (p. 13)

Following the footsteps of their Soviet mentors, the Communist movement in India has also not lagged behind in falsification of history. Every splinter communist party has chosen to publish its own set of documents on the history of the communist movement in India, forgetting that upto 1964 there was only one communist party and there could be only one set of documents for that period. P.C. Joshi, the General Secretary of the CPI from 1935 to 1948, was shocked to find in 1968, when he wanted to write a well-documented history of the communist movement in India, that “The worst tragedy is that B.T. Ranadive destroyed not all the old archives but also all the old literature of the Comintern, the CPI and other Left Parties, the entire Party library and Archives from the earliest days to 1950. It took seven days (in night shift) in a factory chimney to burn them and comrades incharge did it loyally, crying all the while, under orders and as part of Party discipline. Thus my task of collecting material was unimaginably difficult.” (Auto biographical Note dated November 7, 1968).

Elsewhere, referring to important Politbureau meetings and individual discussions during Rajni Palme Dutt’s (RPD) first India visit in 1946, Joshi writes, “My notes of these valuable meetings got burnt along with the rest of the Party Archives under the Ranadive leadership. I can only write from memory” (Rajni Palme Dutt, and Indian Communists in New thinking Communist Vol 12, No. 2 March, 2001, p. 14)

In such a situation, it becomes the responsibility of historians in general and Marxist historians in particular to critically apply the scientific research methodology to determine the authorship of the unsigned articles after a century of their publication. I have not come across any such attempt on the part of any Marxist or non-Marxist historian so far. True to his communist culture, Rajimwale, instead of facing facts and meeting argument with argument charges Organiser and Devendra Swarup of “Poverty of knowledge”. What a welcome to “healthy, well-researched and contructive criticism”!

(To be concluded)

This week's part of Prof. Devendra Swarup's series:

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->SPECIAL ON 150 YEARS OF 1857
Did Moscow play fraud on Marx?–XXVII
<span style='color:red'>‘Eminent’ Marxist historians and NYDT articles</span>
By Devendra Swarup

THE Marxist camp in India has got a large battery of ‘eminent’ historians, who dominate the university system and control all the apex financing as well as academic institutions in this country. They are proud of their intellectual superiority and claim to pursue an open minded, scientific methodology in historical research. But I was shocked to find that none of the Marxist historian bothered to raise any question when Moscow, after the gap of a century, in 1959 published a book entitled First Indian War of Independence (FIWI) attributing the authorship to Marx and Engels of 28 unsigned articles published in the New York Daily Tribune (NYDT) during 1857-58 either as reports or as leading articles. There was no questioning about the methodology and ‘sources’ used by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism (IML), Moscow in determining their authorship. Later three more articles were added to this list in Vol. 15 of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels (CWME), published from Moscow in 1986. No Marxist scholar bothered to inquire why IML took 27 years more to attribute the authorship of those three articles to Engels.

I have yet to come across any attempt on the part of any Indian Marxist historian to delve into the mystery of the so-called Marx’s notebooks or into the journey of Marx-Engels’ literary treasure from London to Moscow and subsequent emendations in their correspondence. I am not aware of any independent full research paper by any Indian Marxist historian, except Prof. Irfan Habib whom I shall be discussing later in this article, on the so-called Marx-Engels’ writings on 1857 Revolt. They have been simply quoting few paragraphs from here and there in the NYDT articles to project Marx and Engels as great admirers of India and the 1857 Revolt, which Moscow, echoing V.D. Savarkar, chose to term it “First Indian War of Independence”.

No comparative study of Marx’s signed articles of 1853 and the unsigned NYDT articles on India in 1857-58 was ever done, to analyse the perceptual similarity and dissimilarity found in these two sets of articles. I do not know if Rajni Palme Dutt (RPD), who in India Today (published in 1940, nineteen years before the publication of the FIWI from Moscow in 1959) had presented a very negative image of the 1857 Revolt. Obviously Marxist thinkers those days were conditioned by Marx’s 1853 articles.

The great Marxist idealogue EMS Namboodripad in his bulky book on the freedom struggle of India, which was originally written in Malayalam language in 1977 and was first serialised in CPM’s Malayalam organ Deshabhimani and its English translation saw light in 1986, devotes no less than 30 printed pages to 1857 Revolt. In the introductory chapter he mentions the FIWI (1959) but in the main chapter on 1857 Revolt he does not refer even once to the NYDT articles on 1857 attributed to Marx and Engels. Only once he quotes from the FIWI (fn no 16) but that is out of a signed article written in 1853 and not in 1857.

While discussing the character of the 1857 uprising he refers to the views of Malleson, Kaye, Charles Ball, Alaxender Duff, V.D. Savarkar, Tarachand and R.C. Majumdar and S.N. Sen, but does not feel it necessary to evaluate it in the light of the so-called Marx and Engels writings.

So far I have not come across any study of the 1857 Revolt by Prof. Bipan Chandra or Prof. Sumit Sarkar. In the book India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra and four others, the chapter on 1857 is written by Prof. K.N. Panikkar and it nowhere mentions Marx either as a theoretician or as a contemporary source. In the Volume X of the Comprehensive History of India, considered to be a Marxist venture, the chapter on 1857 was contributed by late Prof. S.B. Chaudhury who took no notice of the NYDT articles attributed to Marx and Engels.

In the ten volumes of Subaltern Studies published by the OUP the only article on 1857 Revolt, under the title “Four Rebels of Eighteen Fifty Seven” by Gautam Bhadra (included in Vol. IV, 1985), takes no cognizance of the NYDT articles and the FIWI.

Here I must take note of the attempts made by two British Marxist historians on the 1857 Revolt. One of them Prof. V.G. Kiernan, who happened to be the guru of Prakash Karat, the present General Secretary of the CPI(M), in Cambridge University, contributed a long article under the title “Marx, Engels and the Indian Mutiny” to the book Homage to Marx edited by P.C. Joshi and published by Peoples Publishing House, New Delhi in 1969. Kiernan was a committed Marxist, had stayed in the “commune of the CPI” at Bombay in the year 1944 and was a personal friend of P.C. Joshi, the then general secretary of the CPI.

Being a devout Marxist he could not question the authenticity of the attribution of the authorship to Marx and Engels of the NYDT articles compiled in the FIWI. But the contradiction between Marx’s position in 1853 signed articles and those unsigned articles on 1857 Revolt was too transparent to him to be ignored. Kiernan admits, “It is much to be deplored that as 1853 went on, Marx’s attention was jerked away from India and modern imperialism to the far less profitable conundrums of the Eastern Question, on which he wrote for the next three years nearly three times as much as he wrote altogether on India.” (P.C. Joshi (ed) Homage to Marx, ND 1969, p. 132). But did the Mutiny really bring Marx back to India?, this question Kiernan does not raise. But he is baffled to find that Marx was soon losing his interest in the Mutiny. Kiernan writes: “Marx, it would seem was giving up the problem in despair... He was turning away from it as if he felt that he had lost the clue and must go back into the past to recover it. He plunged into a study of fundamentals of economic theory, far removed from the hurly-burly at Delhi or Lucknow (ibid p. 136). Clue? Of what? And why was Marx losing that clue in the “Mutiny?”

Throwing light on Marx’s inner dilemma, Kiernan writes “...the most remarkable thing about what Marx said of the Mutiny is that... although intensely absorbed in it... he said so little. It might well baffle him and throw him into a painful dilemma...” because “on its construction side, the British mission that he (Marx) thought so indispensable to Indian progress had only just begun (ibid pp. 136). To get over his dilemma Marx, according to Kiernan, withdrew from the Indian Mutiny and devoted all his time and energy during 1857 to produce his master piece “Pre-Capitalist Economic Formation”. Kiernan says, “Here he had much to say about ‘Asiatic Society’ on the lines of the conclusions he had already been coming to about the old Indian society and its static nature, its incapacity for further evolution.” (ibid, p. 136).

In the light of this conclusion, obviously Britain had a civilising mission in India. Kiernan is clear on this point when he says, “At times, particularly about 1853, and particularly in India, he was prepared to think of a civilising mission” (ibid, p. 144). Naturally the Mutiny of 1857 was an anti thesis of this view. While Marx wanted Britain to continue her civilising mission in India, the 1857 Mutiny or Revolt or First Indian War of Independence aimed at uprooting of the British mission and at restoration of the old static Indian society. If we attribute the unsigned article published in the NYDT in 1857 to Marx, we push him in a contradictory situation, if not, there remains no contradiction. In Kiernan’s view, “Marx did not overcome contradiction in his thinking or between his thinking and his feeling as in 1857 on imperialism.” (ibid. p. 145). In my view this imaginary contradiction has been imposed on Marx by Moscow itself.

Similarly, Kiernan feels that Engels also does not appear to be in his real self in the NYDT articles, which have been attributed to him, because in Kiernan’s words, “Engels was a revolutionary, but a mutineer went against the grain with him. Moreover, the opinion he had formed of the Sepoy army before the Mutiny was not flattering” (ibid, p. 139)

The second historian Eric Stokes (ed 1981) better known for his insightful “English Utilitarians and India (Oxford, 1959) was a serious scholar who in his two later works, The Peasant and the Raj (Studies in Agrarian Society and Peasant Rebellion in Colonial India) (Oup, 1978) and The Peasant Armed: The Indian Rebellion of 1857, ed. by CA Bayley, Oxford 1986), sincerely tried to apply the Marxian theory to the understanding of the Indian society in general and 1857 rebellion in particular. He supervised nearly fifty undergraduate seminar papers for a Cambridge special subject on the Rebellion in the late 1960s and collected the material for his The Peasant Armed during the years 1963-1980. He delved deep in the original sources on the rebellion. But during this process, according to the editor Bayley, “his perception of the key issues changed considerably.” (The Peasant Armed, p. 226). Stokes discovered that “the Indian rebellion of 1857” was not one movement, be it a peasant revolt or a war of national liberation, it was many. The lineaments of the revolt differed vastly from district to district even village to village....” In the concluding article “The Nature and Roots of Peasant Violence in 1857” Stokes realised, “If we allow force to Marx’s dictum that the peasantry is incapable of leading itself and has to be led, than we have to accept some difficulty in isolating peasant action from its larger political framework” (ibid, p. 214). Significantly, Eric nowhere uses the NYDT articles as a source material for his research on 1857.

Lastly, we come to the ‘eminent’ Marxist historian Prof. Irfan Habib. It must be admitted, at the outset that of all the Indian Marxist historians, Prof. Habib alone has devoted maximum attention and space to these NYDT articles in his writings. To my knowledge, first use of these articles was done by him in his well documented research paper, entitled Marx’s Perceptions of India, which was prepared on the occasion of Marx’s first death centenary in 1983 and was published in the CPM’s journal The Marxist, Vol. I, No. 1, July-September 1983. The later part of this lengthy research paper frequently quotes from these NYDT articles as found in the FIWI, (1959), On Colonialism (Moscow, 1959) and Avineri’s Karl Marx on Colonialism and Modernisation, New York 1969) to expound what he considers Marx’s perception of India. Prof. Habib does not feel any necessity to inquire into the authorship of these unsigned articles and in tune with his reputation as CPM’s official historian, he takes it for granted that if Moscow says so they must have been written by Marx and Engels.

The next major contribution of Prof. Habib on this topic is to be found in People’s Democracy February 25, 2007. This two full pages long article under the title “Marx and Engels on the Revolt of 1857” also treats the question of the authorship of the unsigned NYDT articles as finally settled in favour of Marx and Engels. This is really puzzling. It was on the suggestion of Prof. Habib that Iqbal Hussain of the AMU had conducted intensive research on the unsigned NYDT articles attributed to Marx and Engels during his visit to USA in 1990. His research revealed that this process of attribution was started by the IML Moscow in 1953 only. He discovered that “the original drafts (sent by Marx) have disappeared” (p. XIV) and that “The Tribune archives being no longer extant, it is only the surviving papers (correspondence and notebooks) of Marx and Engels that can tell us which of the Tribune’s leading articles and reports from unnamed correspondents are from Marx’s pen (or from Engel’s in certain cases).” (p. XV).

Iqbal Hussain discovered also that the NYDT had two other correspondents on India—Beyond Taylor and a Polish born Hungarian nationalist Ference Aurelius Pulszky, both of whom were treated by Marx as his rival. (Iqbal Hussain (ed), Karl Marx on India, New Delhi, 2006.) Even the FIWI (end note 61, p. 231) admitted that in the opening sentence of the leading article in the NYDT dated October 3, 1857, the editors had referred to Pulszky as “our intelligent London Correspondent” (FIWI p 99) All these facts should have been sufficient for a seasoned intelligent researcher like Prof Habib to make independent inquiry into the methodology and sources that were used by Moscow to determine the authorship of these unsigned articles and that too after a long gap of hundred years.

I am an admirer of Prof Habib’s penetrating intellect, erudition as well as ideological commitment. But as a scholar should he not rise above narrow ideological boundaries and partisan approach? A dispassionate and critical textual examination of these articles would have convinced him that most of these articles could not have been writtern by Marx or Engels. In his article in People’s Democracy February 25, 2007, Prof Habib writes that after a point Marx ‘left the task of covering the military events entirely to Engles’. But why? The earlier reports on Delhi, attributed to Marx, are also full of graphic details of town planning, fortification military formations, and strategy, and movements. All this presupposes military expertise on the part of the writer, which Marx has somewhere claimed, was not his forte.

(To be concluded)




<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->1857: not a jihadi uprising

By Hassan Jafar Zaidi

The documentary, Clash Of The Worlds: Mutiny, telecast by BBC-1 on January 7, carried some distortions of historical facts. It suggested that the 1857 uprising against the British was motivated, organised and fought by the jihadi Muslims of India. The background of jihad was linked to 1830-31 Wahabi movement led by Syed Ahmed Brelvi who was a disciple of Mohammad Bin Abdul Wahab of Arabia (1704-92).

The documentary traced the roots of Wahabism as an anti-British movement, leading finally to an armed struggle against the British in India; establishing a jihadi camp in Peshawar “against the British” under the command of Syed Ahmed who was killed in 1831 without telling ‘who he was fighting against’ and who really killed him. Some important facts have been ignored or misrepresented because they did not fit into what the documentary was trying to impress upon i.e. the Islamic Jihad always targeted the British, irrespective of time and space in the history of mankind.

It is important to set the historical records straight. History must be viewed in its true perspective rather than an instrument of propaganda for the persecution of a religious community.

Sir W.W. Hunter, a great British annalist and an ICS officer, was assigned to prepare a report about discontentment among the Muslims of India (published as Our Indian Musalmans or The Indian Musalmans). It was considered an authentic document on Syed Ahmed’s Wahabi Jihad movement. <b>According to Hunter, Syed Ahmed, under the influence of Mohammad Bin Abdul Wahab, recruited during early 19th century, the Jihadis, the fighters of Holy War, from Bengal, Bihar, Awadh and Agra, the areas which were under the administration of East India Company.

British officers had the knowledge of this recruitment and they let it happen because the target of this recruitment was not the British but the Sikh empire of Ranjeet Singh spread over Punjab, the present day North West Frontier Province and Kashmir.</b>

<b>Hunter narrates stories of young Muslims, doing menial jobs in the East India Company, applying for long leave and the Company’s officers granting them. Syed Ahmed was successful in conquering Peshawar and its surrounding areas up to Mansehra and Balakot.</b>

Battles between the Sikh armies and the jihadis continued; the Sikhs were officered by the French generals to support Maharaja Ranjeet against the British expansion. Thus, this local war became a proxy war between the British and the French ––<b> the jihadis enjoying tacit support of the British and the French helping the Sikh armies.</b>

Syed Ahmed and many of his companions were killed at the hands of the Sikhs (and the French) in a battle at Balakot in 1831. <b>To some extent, it resembled the recent proxy war between the Soviets and the western bloc fought under the guise of jihad by Osama bin Laden and other jihadi organisations. It was only after the fall of Sikh empire in 1849 that a minor group led by Patna-based brothers Wilayat Ali and Inayat Ali, the Wahabis began to work against the British just as the Taliban, once favourite Mujadideen of the West, turned against the West after the demise of the Soviet Union.</b>

The BBC documentary does not reveal several facts about the real contending forces. The 1857 uprising, mutiny for the British and war of independence for the Indians, has been portrayed in the documentary as Jihad by Muslims/Wahabi terrorists against the British, and there is no mention of the participation of Hindus and other Indian communities in it –– a crucial omission.

There exists a general consensus among historians that 1857 war was a secular uprising. It united Muslims and Hindus against the colonialist British who, by their policies, had sowed the seeds of rebellion in all the communities for different reasons. The uprising was inevitable when the Indian section of the army was allocated cartridges greased with the fat of cows and pigs, unacceptable to both Hindus and Muslims. The vanguard of the rebellion consisted of all the communities. The mutiny lasted thirteen months: from the rising at Meerut on May, 10, 1857 to the fall of Gwaliar on June 20, 1858.

Thomas Lowe, a contemporary British chronicler who was in Central India during the rebellion, wrote in 1860: "The infanticide Rajput, the bigoted Brahmin, the fanatic Musalman, had joined together in the cause; cow-killer and the cow-worshipper, the pig-hater and the pig-eater… had revolted together." <b>The combatants in the uprising comprised the rebellious East India Company sepoys, several small princely states mostly ruled by Hindu rajas, and deposed rulers of big princely states of Oudh (Muslim) and Jhansi (Hindu).</b>

A closer look into the uprising reveals little presence of Wahabi extremists. There were calls for jihad by Muslim leaders like Maulana Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi and Ahmedullah Shah which were responded by Muslim artisans of Oudh. <b>In May 1857 the Battle of Shamli took place between the forces of Haji Imdadullah and the British in Thana Bhawan in Oudh. These few eruptions led by religious Muslim leaders could not and did not change the overall secular complexion of the Rebellion.</b>

The origins of Wahabi movement of late 18th and early 19th century in Arabian peninsula were not anti-British sentiments. <b>The movement targeted the Turkish Ottomans who, as believed by the Wahabis, were responsible for polluting the fundamentalist Islam of Arabia with the traditionalist rituals of Ajam (non-Arabs). Wahabism was a political movement, with religious overtones, seeking freedom for Arabs from the occupation of Ottoman Turks.</b>

<b>The British wanted to destabilise and demolish the Ottoman Empire; they facilitated and supported the Wahabis in Arabian peninsula. The rulers of Najd, the House of Saud (Al-Saud), were the disciples of Wahabism. The Indian Viceroy i.e. the representative of British Crown as Governor General, provided money and arms to Al-Saud rulers of Najd and other Gulf Sheikhdoms to brew this rebellion against Ottomans (The Kingdom: The Arabia and the House of Saud by Robert Lacy).</b>

<b>During World War1, John Philby, an Intelligence Officer of the British Foreign Service was sent in 1917 to Abdul Aziz, the Wahabi ruler of Najd, to serve as his advisor. Aziz succeeded in deposing Sherif Hussain of Makkah from Hijaz to establish Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after the collapse of Ottoman Empire. Philby served as a minister in the government of Al-Saud. He changed his name as Abdullah apparently after embracing Islam but still served the British Intelligence. He was exiled by King Saud in 1955.</b>

That is how Wahabism was supported and sponsored by the British in 19th and 20th century in the Arabian peninsula which later became the breeding ground of jihadis. After 9/11, the world changed and the allies became aliens. So, the documentary portrays the Wahabi jihadis as anti-British and anti-West militants since the inception of Wahabism till to-date.

The researchers of the documentary perhaps were ignorant of the fundamentals of Wahabism. A collogue of pages from some religious books in Urdu were presented as the literature of teachings of Wahabis. One of the pages was titled “Shab-i-Barat ki Fazeelat” (Glory of the Night of Exoneration). One may note the Wahabis don’t believe in this night, nor take part in celebrations performed on this night by the traditionalist Muslims.
The above is accurate only in parts. 1857 was a complex of too many parallel struggles of different interest groups, while none being entirely unrelated to each other.

On one hand, peasants of UP-Bihar-North Bengal rose against the century old economic suppression and tyranny of British. This of course was pretty secular in nature. On the other hand, it was a struggle for National Independence for many - the group including some of the central and northern Indian princely states like Jhansi, as well as for the peasantary-turned-soldier class of East UP, Bihar. Then you also have princely states stung with the prospects of being usurped by the British expansionism.

Then ther was obviousely Jehad. Mulla class which had recently taken heavy first hand doses of Wahabism, was much irritated and alarmed with the arrival of the new kafir power, and the discontent was only growing in early 1800s reaching pinnacle in 1840s. The following factors were greatly worrying the Islamists of India those days:

- debacle and rout of the only two remaining militarily powerful Islamic rulers in India: Bengal in east, Mysore in south, and weakening of Ruhellas in North and Afghans in West.
- growing Phirang control over the two remaining wealthy Muslim rulers: Hyderabad in South, Awadh in North
- growing marginalization of the iconic flag bearer of Islamic Rule over Hindustan: the Mugals.
- (In the eyes of the Islamists of early 1800sSmile Growing co-operation between the European powers and emerging Hindu rulers, hand in gloves in a conspiracy to overthrow the dar-ul-islamia-i-hind. They saw either British or Francs or both, collaborating with newly-powerful Hindus: Mysore and Malabar in south, a new strong Hindu state in Nepal, Hindu-Sikh state in Punjab-Kashmir, agreements with Maratha satraps, and so on. Islamists were also alarmed at this "conspiracy" already showing tremendous results against them: In Afghanistan-Baluchistan-Sindh in West, in Eastern UP and Northern Bihar, and so on.
- They also saw that the kafir Hindu rural youth was being recruited in the armies of the firang - had already won many a wars for him in far away lands, and Hindu rural youth as a result was becoming militarily trained and growingly self-assured and assertive, an empowerment that came back after long.
- Any "Dilli-Khabar" or Delhi view points of 1857 show the above contempt, full of curse and abuse for these "purabiA-s" and "tilangA-s" (purabia: freelance peasant-soldier from East-UP. tilangA: likewise recruited by Company, mostly Hindu ryot from telangana region, during the southern campaigns, but later diverted to postings in the North. Both of these peoples, tied in fate together, are counted as heros in Awadh chronicles and as villains in Dilli-Khabar-parcha-s)
- Finally, but probably very important. Mulla-s saw missionaries openly converting the faithfuls, promoted by Firang.

So Jehad angle was very much there, and always present in 1857. Jehadis saw no harm in temporarily collaborating with Hindu-s, whom they were confident of reconquering at a later stage (inshallah).

By the way, "phirang" comes from "franc" and "angrej" from "Angles". Originally Firangi was only used from French, but later came to mean the 'white man'.

I recently started reading The Last Mogal by William Dalrymple. So far it appears a well-researched and interesting account of the 1857 situation from the Bahadur Shah Zafar's view point. Though the writer has heavily relied upon Farsi-Urdu sources, and largely ignored the alternative contemporary Hindu-native-vernacular narrative on Zafar.
10 million dead in aftermath.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->A clash on the idea of progress

<i>As the massively underplayed, almost invisible 150th anniversary celebrations of 1857 wind down, one may well wonder why a movement that gave India’s erstwhile colonial masters their biggest scare ever, defined almost all their following policies, had such a long memory in oral history been so downplayed? Irrespective of the search for nomenclature defining its nature — mutiny/ revolt/ uprising/ petty bourgeois/ jacquerie — similar movements in other nations have had state-driven, passionate searches to unearth the smallest detail. What was its exact extent — geographically and in its scope? What were its socio-economic underpinnings? Who participated, who reaped the benefits by siding with the British? How many people died in the events of 1857? Why have we as a nation so bought into the British opinion that it was a mutiny? Fortunately most recent studies have debunked that it was just a soldiers’ revolt, but the knowledge has largely been confined to rarefied academic echelons. <b>Amaresh Misra, author of Lucknow: Fire of Grace and Mangal Pandey: The True Story of an Indian Revolutionary,</b> has written<b> War of Civilisations: India AD 1857,</b> a massive 3,000+-page, two-volume tome in which he has claims to make that would at least lead to further debate — 10 million dead, pan-Indian spread, longer-lasting reverberations than usually suspected. Suman Tarafdar summarises conversations with the author. Excerpts: </i>

<i><b>You do call your book a War of Civilisations? </b></i>

I want to allude to the current clash of civilisations and go beyond it. The conflict is real, and its contours need to be defined. 1857 saw the British idea of progress clashing with the Indian one.

<i><b>Did the British fail to gauge the nature of Indian capitalism? </b></i>

We need to look at 1857 from an indigenous perspective. </b>For India, the elements of capitalist progress were inside its rural infrastructure. While in the West, the city led the villages, it was the peasant-led pattadari system — by which 15-20 gotrabhais held land, in which the peasant and the artisan were integral to the system. The British failed to gauge the nature of Indian systems, and <b>by the Permanent Settlement, destroyed them by reversing the direction of Indian capitalism, converting the talukdars into landowners, making the peasant a tenant and rupturing his links withthe artisan. </b>

<i><b>How did you arrive at a figure of 10 million dead, a massive jump from previous estimates? </b></i>

Besides accessing sources not previously accessed, and relying on...
the labour and road survey reports of the time. A large reason for UP-Bihar belt remaining backward for long was that there was no labour, and the then intelligentsia was killed off. I provide the sources, it is up to others to agree or dispute them.

<i><b>And the extent is wider than the Hindi belt? </b></i>

Absolutely. The Hazara gazetteers mention the 55th BNI revolting in Nowshera and proceeding to meet Bahadurshah Zafar’s troops, while Gilgit ruler Gohar Aman was also coming to unite with them. In Gujarat areas the Mehsana and Borada gazetteers also mention vast sections of the state, especially Dahod, Godhra and central Gujarat revolting. The Okha Vaghelas revolted too, and the rare naval battles against the British are here. Then there is the Bhil-Koli uprising in the Nashik belt. Ratnagiri and Aurangabad areas are affected. Areas in north Karnataka, like Raichur and Bijapur had the Ramoshis, later dubbed ‘criminal’ castes by the British, in revolt. The Gond Rajas were Mughalised, and the tribes also sided with the Mughals. The Godavari delta saw Reddi landlords and Gurjar tribals fight together, while the 8th Madras Cavalry revolted too. The four big states that did not revolt were those of the Nizam, the Cis-Sutlej states, Kashmir and Nepal, and they were rewarded.

<i><b>You see a conscious divide post 1857? </b></i>

Instead of policies of modernisation followed by the likes of Bentinck, <b>the British went on a conscious mode of orientalising — bringing back old faultlines, </b>which by mid-18th century had vanished. <b>Henry Lawrence gave a Hindu-Muslim-divide speech on May 12, the logic of which is still followed. The process was complex. They created new landlords, consuming classes and castes. </b>They couldn’t do to India what they had done in the Americas, Africa and Australia, wiping out memory. More than a political war, bitter and racially contested, it was also a war to preserve memory....<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->critique of amaresh mishra:

by Devendra Swarup

War of Civilisations: India AD 1857, Vol. I, (The Road to Delhi) and The Long Revolution Vol. II by Amaresh Misra, Published by Rupa & Co, 7/16, Ansari Road, Darya Ganj, New Delhi-110 007, Price Rs. 2,500/-

If bulky size and hefty price could be the criteria for judging the quality of a book, then Amaresh Misra's War of Civilisations: India AD 1857, Vol. I & II , deserves to be placed at the top of the huge mount of innumerable books published during the last 150 years on the 1857 Great Revolt. More than 2,000 pages—to be exact 2108, bound in two volumes, elegantly produced by a reputed publisher carry a price of rupees 2,500/- only. Presenting a very impressive look the book claims to be "The true story of India's first war of Independence," implying, thereby that whatever we had read so far was, perhaps, not true.

Its Mumbai based author, Amresh Misra is a freelance journalist, a political commentator, a columnist, a script writer for films and also a historian. More than that he is a political, civil right activist and leader and an anti-communal fighter. His ideological inclination is evident in his "Acknowledgments", wherein he honours "Akhilendra Pratap Singh, ex-president of the Allahabad University Students Union (AUSU), Politbureau member of the CPI-ML (liberation) as his friend, philosopher and guide" and admits that 'several ideas hatched in the book were formulated along with him way back in the 1990s in rugged, reflective, dusty rooms and streets of Allahabad, Lucknow, Benares and other UP-Bihar districts." Misra's other friend Salim Khan Durrani happens to be the anti-communal, anti-fascist resistance hero of Mumbai."

For Misra, history writing is not a detached academic exercise, rather it is part of ideological commitment and activism. He, frankly acknowledges that “during numerous street battles with the police and anti-Muslim, anti-Dalit-fascist lumpen hordes in the late 1980s and 1990s,” he learnt that "true data lies in the non-academic, mainstream reading of real action."

With this background of ideological inclination and political affiliation it is quite natural that Amresh Misra should see the continuity of the "Line of 1857" in the present day armed struggles initiated by Charu Majumdar and Vinod Misra, and commonly known as Naxalite movement, which have "rejected Gandhian non-violence and Indian modernity based on the philistine values of the "Bengal Renaissance." (Preface xxxv)

Therefore he tries to present the 'true story of 1857' in a subaltern mould rooted in an economic interpretation with overemphasis on Hindu-Muslim unity. His 20 pages long preface bears testimony of this subaltern economic approach. For Misra, ideological message is primary and facts of history are secondary. Starting from the establishment of the Moghul rule in 1526, the preface presents only economic factors which led to the uprising of 1857. A few specimens—"The Moghul state came close to establishing a mercantile industrial capitalism.... Moghuls practiced a form of moral, territorial, economic nationalism, (p xix). The Moghul state—operating from 1526—dealt directly with the peasants. Money economy was introduced in the villages." (xix). In Misra's subaltern looking glass, "Shivaji and Guru Gobind Singh also were no peasant leaders fighting against a feudal state order. They were all village level entrepreneurs expanding their dynastic peasant aristocracies and kingdoms." (p. xxi) According to Misra, "Big and small, successor Moghul states actually were a product of an alliance of the town with the impulse from below (p. xxii).

Being an enthusiastic 'anti-communal' crusader, Misra finds that "Aurangzeb did not allow religious matters to interfere in state policy... reimposition of Jazia tax also had logic; far from being a weapon of conversion or discrimination, it was actually meant to provide ideological cohesion to a breath taking, shuddering, heterogeneous Empire" (p. xxx) Misra gives you the "true story" of the construction of Gyanvapi masjid at Benares. In Misra's own words, "The Muslim Kotwal of Varanasi had his eye on a Brahmin's beautiful daughter. Emperor Aurangzeb came to know of this. He went in disguise to Varanasi and catching the Kotwal red handed slew him then and there. The Brahmin had land near the Vishwanath Shiv temple; to show his gratitude he persuaded the Emperor to sanction the building of a mosque on his land. This is how a mosque came to stand near a temple—interestingly Indian, generally pro-British fascist organisations tried making a communal issue out of this in the 1990s." (p. xxx) Poor J.N. Sarkar must be turning in his grave over his ignorance of the "true story"?

See the image of Shah Waliullah, who mobilised all the Muslim forces against the Maratha Kafirs in the Third battle of Panipat (1761), through Misra's prism. Negating all the published original sources and studies on Shah Walliullah, which present him a fanatic Muslim reformer and strong Hindu hater, Misra wants us to believe that "Shah Waliullah... spoke of the Empire's revival based on peasant/aristocratic capitalism from below. Shah Waliullah spoke of Indian revolution... He reinterpreted Jihad as Inquilab (revolution)..." (p. xxxi)

Further, he says, "Shah Waliullah's movement, dubbed Wahabi by the British... was a quintessentially Indian movement of liberation...." (p xxxii) In fact 1857 itself "was a realisation of Shah Waliullah's dream of reviving the Moghul Empire and India's glory on a new basis, to restore Asiatic State power in a revolutionary way." (p. xxxiv)

Misra is so much enamoured of Waliullah that he loves to call the movement, started by Syed Ahmed Barelvi in 1822 and which is named Wahabi by all the contemporary and later writers as Waliullahite.

According to Misra, “Barelvi, following Shah Waliullah's line, combined peasant movement with nationalist anti-British appeals” (p. 192) Suppressing totally the fact that Syed Ahmed Barelvi carried a long struggle against Raja Ranjit Singh's conquest of Peshawar and adjoining Afghan areas and that in 1831 he died fighting against Ranjit Singh's forces, Misra writes that "Syed Ahmed Barelvi achieved martyrdom in 1831 after defeating British forces in two encounters near Balakot" (p. 192). He assigns key role to a Multani Kharral leader Ahmad Kharral, who was in touch with the Swat Waliullahite forces, in planning and organising the 1857 rebellion. According to Misra Ahmad Kharral during Azimullah's exploratory visit to Ambala in April 1857 was his main guide. He writes, “Ahmad Kharral came upto Ludhiana along with Azimullah to meet a young Swami later known as Swami Dayananda. Azimullah asked him (swami) to station himself at Meerut as the "Nomadic crowd there is most desirous of revolution.”

The vast biographical literature on Swami Dayanand nowhere mentions his presence at Ludhiana in 1857. But, Amresh Misra has two exclusive unpublished Hindi sources in his possession. One, Baghawat in Kahani by some Maheshwar Misra of Kanpur and the other Soormaye Hind by Thakur Rameshwar Prasad Singh of Basti. Interestingly, these two very original and exclusive sources do not find place in the 20 pages long annotated bibliography given at the end of the second volume. So, except knowing their titles you have no other information about their whereabouts as well as their own sources.

The first two chapters "A Pathan in London" and "Courtesan of Kanpur" (pp 1-101) really resonate with smells and sounds of an Indian, caravanserai (inn) and chandukhana (opium house). Both these chapters are full of sex scandals of British ladies in London, love stories and erotic dances of Azizanbai in Kanpur and Lucknow. The author uses the unpublished Baghawat ki kahani and a pamphlet titled Kissa Azeezan bai ka. Both chapters give the pleasure of reading a novel, and not serious history.

Similarly to give a subaltern look he jumbles together all the detailed information about different castes and tribes, available in the district gazetteers prepared by the British officers (see chapter 3). He uses titles like "Rajputs, Bhumihars, Ahirs, Kurmis, Maithils, Maghis, Pandeys (Chapter 19). Misra is conscious that his great work is "Moving between solid research and the story telling format, using oral and written sources" (p. xxxvi)

Following the British historian Eric stakes 'The Peasants Armed' he uses terms like "peasant sepoy", "peasant armies", "peasant-military revolution", but Chapter 4 titled, "North India Poorabias, Pashchamiyas, Red Storm: episode I (p. 142-225), which is based upon solid research contradicts fully his subaltern theory of economic grievances. Nowhere in this long chapter one finds any mention of any economic grievance rather every sepoy of every regiment of the Bengal Native Army is worried about the loss of his caste and religion by the use of the greased catridges; his conversion to Christianity through fraudulent means. The book is full of such internal contradictory, flawed and distorted historical facts. It calls for a minute examination and detailed criticism, which due to paucity of space is not possible here.

However, the author has earned our gratitude for painstakingly bringing together all the data scattered in so many published sources at one place. His lucid and juicy style of expression giving taste of a mix of fiction and history, also deserves praise. Few proof mistakes here and there could have been avoided by a little more careful reading. But the index at the end calls for a thorough revision and updating. This reviewer discovered that in the entry Walliullahites (p. 2071) page nos. 136, 148, 192, 193, 194, 200, 203, 205, 206, 207, 208, 266 are missing while they give vital information about Syed Ahmed Barelvi, Faraize leaders of Bengal and Maulvi Ahmadullah of Faizabad. Without an exhaustive index the readers will find it very cumbursome to use such a bulky book.

(The reviewer is a renowned historian and former editor of Panchjanya and can be contacted at 178, Sahyog Apts, Mayur Vihar-I, New Delhi-100 091 e-mail: devendra_swarup@hotmail.com)<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

“I found an interesting document in a general post office go-down in Lucknow where a British officer wrote to his colleague saying he had 20 lakh unopened envelopes addressed to people belonging to Awadh. These people could not be found.”<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
NYT blamed Russians for Mutiny.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The New York Times reports on events in India, 1857-1907

Reflecting on the incidents of revolt even 35 years after the mutiny was suppressed, the paper, in its edition of August 3, 1891, traces the root cause. Yes, the bloody Russians.

<i>It is evident that the (revolt) has been inspired from without and not from within… Great Britain has now a powerful and skilful rival in the East- a rival who avowedly aims at the control of Asia upto the borders of British India, a may fairly be suspected of designs upon British India itself, The great advantage of Russia in this struggle is the superior faculty the Russians have shown for getting on with the natives. The British, who find aliment for the national vanity in almost everything, attribute this to the fact that Russian civilisation is lower, and therefore, more akin to Asiatic civilisation…. There can be little doubt that the new spirit the natives of India are showing and their new contempt for the British power are the result of skilful and persistent machination on the part of the agents of Russia.</i><!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
By pure chance found a book in local library called Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire. by historian Alex Von Tunzelmann (never heard of her before). And the book's pretty good.
In the book, during 1857 war, Alex refers to one police constable fleeing Delhi toward Kashmir. His escape's aided by the fact that his daughter who was along with him had pretty fair skin and blue eyes - Kashmiri who could have easily been mistaken for a British memsahib.

Name of the police constable: Gangadhar Nehru.
Name of his daughter: Indrani (who in another couple years gives birth to Motilal Nehru)

BTW, the begining of the book pretty much sets the tone:
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>In the beginning, there were two nations. One was a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified, which dominated a massive swath of the earth. The other was an undeveloped, semifeudal realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased and stinking masses. The first nation was India. The second was England. The year was 1577. . . .</b><!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
It was exactly 150 years ago from today, that it all started at a place called Barrakpore in Bengal, with aparently a small but not insignificant begining. It was in the afternoon hours of March 29th 1857, that only Twenty-Six year old but already 7 years veteran, a brahmin sepoy in 34th Regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry named Mangal Pandey opened the Great Revolt of 1857 from the Parade Grounds of Barrakpore. I visited the Barrakpore Cantonment today to pay my tributes.

On Sunday March 29th 1857, little past 3 in the afternoon, Mangal Pandey came out on the parade grounds wearing dhoti and asking the bugle to be sounded for his men to assemble.

Subsequently, with his charged gun he took shots at three British officers fatally injuring them. When one adjutant Lt. Baugh rushed with his sword, Mangal Pandey too welcomed him with his drawn sword and he seriously injured Baugh who had to make a quick retreat before the fatal blow could fall.

In the meanwhile, only one single native man came to confront Pandey - sepoy Sheikh Pultoo. Sheikh grabbed Mangal Pandey from behind and called on the Jemadar Ishwari Pandey to help him bring Pandey down. The Jemadar never moved an inch; Mangal Pandey wrestled himself free and seriousely wounded Sheikh Pultoo as well. What a shame, the rest of the men of Barrackpore stood and watched as the first struggle of the mutiny was played out before them.

Finally seeing that he was surrounded and outpowered and no other comrades were displaying the same courage that he did, Mangal Pandey sank to his knees, and put his musket barrel to his chest and pulled the trigger with his toe. The shot did not take his life but managed to wound him and he was immediately taken into custody. Also taken into custody was Jemadar Ishwari Pandey.

In the entire court martial that lasted for 3 days, these are the only words attributed to Mangal Pandey in the british records: “I did not know who I wounded and who I did not; what more shall I say? I have nothing more to say. I have no evidence.”

On the Tenth day - on April 8 at 5:30 pm, Mangal Pandey was hanged from a tree in the nearby forest on the banks of Ganga river, in full attendence of his fellow men of the regiment.

Such was the end of Mangal Pandey but beginning of the courage in his fellow men and the spark of the revolt, which spread all over North-West, Bihar, Awadh etc. and lasted until November of 1859.


Th exact place at the parade ground where that above first event of 1857 revolt was played out by that Hero - no one could tell me where it is today. Entire area today hosts the Police Training College. The cantonment has undergone lots of changes in the last 150 years, and no one seems to have bothered to preserve the place where that event of immense significance for the modern Indian history took place. Of course brits would have left no stone unturnred to obliterate all remaining signs of the event, but even the subsequent governments of 'free' India have not cared to find out?

Anyways, it was disappointing that I could not find any help with locating that place. In all possibilities, the ground is now back to being a part of the forest like the rest of the area. what a shame!

However those trees by the bank of Ganga from one of which Mangal Pandey must have been hanged exist. There is a small statue of Pandey located in a small garden.

Sad though it was - no one seemed to be aware of the important date on the calendar today.

My humble tributes to that brave man.

some snaps that I captured:

The statue of Mangal Pandey at the site: http://travel.webshots.com/photo/292164811...nE?vhost=travel

One of these trees where Mangal Pandey was executed: http://travel.webshots.com/photo/299153661...gt?vhost=travel

This is the bank of Ganga where the execution took place: http://travel.webshots.com/photo/290453565...IY?vhost=travel

Transcript of the Trial of Mangal Pandey
Bodhiji, Great pics and write up. Please keep it coming.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Sad though it was - no one seemed to be aware of the important date on the calendar today.
We need a 'This day in Indian History' Calendar. Any takers? We can start it of as a thread.
naman 1857 (video promo) - a call for a moment of silence on May 10, 2008 at 18:57 hrs IST.
I am doing some resaearch on the Great uprising of 1857. Furthermore, I have invited (and she has consented ) Heather Streets Salter to speak at the conference. she has doen good work on uncovering little kown facts about 1857. do a google on Heather streets (her maiden name). to see her work. she appeared quite enthusiastic aboutparticpating in the conference.
<!--QuoteBegin-Viren+Mar 29 2008, 12:55 PM-->QUOTE(Viren @ Mar 29 2008, 12:55 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Bodhiji, Great pics and write up. Please keep it coming.

<!--QuoteBegin--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Sad though it was - no one seemed to be aware of the important date on the calendar today.
We need a 'This day in Indian History' Calendar. Any takers? We can start it of as a thread.

If you help me compile 365 days worth of iinformation, I will edit it together in time fo the conference, jan 9. we can self publish it in Lulu.
Hi Kaushal, I'll be posting some dates in the This day in history thread. Will send whatever I have to you via email.
The list is not more than 40 to 50 dates. I'm looking for help from other forum members to build on this list to about 365/366. Part of the problem is most of the dates relevant to our history are in Hindu/Indian calendar and can't be translated to English without some knowledge or effort.
<!--QuoteBegin-Viren+Apr 22 2008, 11:06 AM-->QUOTE(Viren @ Apr 22 2008, 11:06 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Hi Kaushal, I'll be posting some dates in the This day in history thread. Will send whatever I have to you via email.
The list is not more than 40 to 50 dates. I'm looking for help from other forum members to build on this list to about 365/366. Part of the problem is most of the dates relevant to our history are in Hindu/Indian calendar and can't be translated to English without some knowledge or effort.
I may have software that will do the computation

Why The 1857 War For Indian Independence Was Lost?
Written by Kaleem Kawaja · May 05, 2008 · 308 views
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British Soldiers Looting Qaisar BaghHistory shows us that ordinary Muslim and Hindu masses of North India were the prime movers and basic engine of this revolution. It is they who surged into Mughal Delhi from adjoining towns and even as far as Telangana in South India, on May 10, 1857, to make the revolution possible. Indeed most of them were the jawans, sawars, sepoys of the British East India Company army. A very large number of Hindu peasents and sepoys joined fellow Muslim sepoys to ignite the revolution and beseeched the reluctant Mughal king Bahadur Shah Zafar to accept their leadership . A large number of Muslim clerics used their organizations to fight the British army to liberate India from the firangis. After the revolution failed they and their families suffered horrendous death and destruction.

While it is true that the Sikh, Maratha and some other Hindu princely states supported the British army in this revolution, it is also true that some princely states eg Rampur, Tonk, Jhajjar, Loharu, Hyderabad, Patiala etal also actively supported the British army.

More than anything it was the gross betrayal by a large number of Delhi’s elite who collaborated with and spied for the British and helped them in every possible way in the May-September 1857 occupation of Delhi by the mutinying sepoys, that resulted in the defeat of the sepoy army.

When the British-Sikh-Gurkha-Pathan army attacked Delhi in September 1857, the sepoy army had an upper hand in beating back the British attack in the first month. At that time General Arcdale Wilson, the leader of the British army was seriously planning to withdraw from Delhi.

At that instance when about 70,000 Delhi citizens assembled outside the Red Fort to join the sepoy army, on the urging of the sepoy army Zafar did mount an elephant and started to come out of the gate of Red Fort to address the Delhi citizens. But at that time his prime minister Hakim Ahsanullah Khan persuaded Zafar to return to his palace inside the Red Fort telling him that it was too risky to go outside. Zafar made the excuse that prayer time was approaching and refused to leave the Red Fort and address the mixed Muslim-Hindu Delhi citizenry. He also sent a letter to the British General Wilson telling him that he was protecting many British families in his palace and was telling the sepoys to go away.

Bahadur Shah Zafar’s own prime minister Hakim Ahsanullah Khan, Zafar’s youngest and chief queen Zeenat Mahal Begum and her son Prince Jawan Bakht collobotated actively with the British and constantly spied for them. Similarly Delhi’s top Hindu elite also collaborated with the British army. In September 1857 as the British army finally got the upper hand, several Mughal princes including Zafar’s sons eg Jawan Bakht and his queen Zeenat Mahal showed the British army where the treasure and jewelry of the other queens and princes were kept.

Zeenat Mahal Begum and Prince Jawan Bakht’s primary goal in this revolution was to collaborate with the British fully in order to get Jawan Bakht appointed as the successor to Zafar. Indeed this is how earlier Zafar himself had become the king of Delhi. Even though his kingdom did not stretch outside the Red Fort.

When the sepoy army became angry with Hakim Ahsanullah Khan for his treachery and collaboration and set fire to his opulent mansion, no less a person than Zafar’s Poet Laurate Ghalib lamented that fact in a letter to one of his friends. Indeed after the British occupation of Delhi when the British dragged Ghalib out of his house and presented him to a British army officer, he begged for his life saying: ” I am sorry I did not present myself to you earlier. I do pray for your success and have done so all along from my house.” Ghalib reminded the Firangi officer that in earlier years he had written Qasidas and Masnavis in praise of Queen Victoria praying for her long life and long rule in India.

It is not out of place to point out that in the Delhi of that era personal immorality and lack of character among Delhi’s elite had sunk to an all time low. Many Mughal princes had multiple affairs with many women including concubines from Zafar’s own haram. Drinking liquor regularly, gambling heavily, indulgence in kite flying (patangbazi), pigeon fighting (kabootarbazi), cockfighting (murghabazi), spending evenings in the parlours of courtesans (tawaif parasti), and taking large loans from the Baniyas were the accepted way of life

Many a Urdu poets of the first half of the 19th century (1800 -1857) appreciated such practices in the garb of liberalism. For instance renowned poet Mirza Sauda wrote:

“Aya hoon taaza din ba haram shaikhona mujhay

Puja namaaz say bhi muqaddam bahut hay yaan.

Kaaba agarchay tuta to kya jaae- gham hay shaikh

kuch qasr-e-dil nahin kay banaya na jaa-e-gaa.”

Another renowned Urdu poet of the era, Qaaim Chandpuri wrote:

“Jis musallay pur chirakyay naa sharaab

Apne aain main woh pak nahin.”

Ofcourse such fringe-liberalism drew strength from the practices of a few deviant Sufis from the earlier eras of emperors Shahjahan and Jahangir. For instance in that era there was a well known Hindu mystic in Banaras by the name Jadrup to whom several deviant Sufis and Muslim courtiers used to do sajda. When enquired, they justified it by saying that doing sajda to someone who is a source of much knowledge is permissible in Islam.

Even as the revolution was fading and the British were gaining the upper hand many Mughal princes and noblemen, most notably Prince Jawan Bakht, pleaded with the British army officers for British liquor and cheroots (British cigarettes), and traded many secrets of the Mughal household and the Indian sepoy army for these indulgences.

The British Lieutenant Edward Omanney wrote the following telling words in his letters about Zafar’s chief queen Zeenat Mahal Begum and her son Prince Jawan Bakht, ” What an instance of the state of morals and domestic affairs of the Royalty ! Mother and son at enemity, the son trying to form a connection with his father’s concubine, and setting at nought the precepts of his religion, buying from and drinking the liquor of an infidel.”

Photo: Wikipedia
The British lie quietly in Meerut
There's a (paid?) chowkidar to guard the cemetery of Brits who lost their lives in 1857.
Why Madras did not join Bengal in 1857?

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->I read Veer Savarkar’s book on 1857 - in Tamil translation - when I was about 10. It was titled Erimalai (”Volcano”) and its Tamil rendition was indeed fiery. One thing that struck me was the fact that I could hardly find a Tamil name in the book. The men had strange, unfamiliar names. The lone heroine’s name, Lakshmi, was somewhat Tamil sounding, but the suffix “Bai” betrayed its alien origin. 
I was moved by their bravery, but theirs was decidedly not Tamil bravery. Our heroes were Kattabomman and the Marudu brothers.

A letter written in 1858 from Nagpur, talking of the Madras sepoys stationed at Kampti, says: “The sympathies of the Madras sepoys were entirely with the insurrectionary movement, and if they had got a tempting opportunity they would have joined it. They only want a beginning to be made, and a rallying point of some sort … We must never … suppose that the Madras men are of a different clay from those of Bengal.”
One of the reasons why not even a single of the many fuses of the rebellion was lit in the south is given in the above letter. There was no rallying point. They felt no loyalty towards the tottering emperor in Delhi. 

but then he goes to bring caste in. (North Indian sepoys were predominantly high caste mostly brahmins, whereas Madras sepoys the 'low caste' - for whom British service must have been preferable than the native rule!)

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->What was the caste composition of the Madras Army’s infantry?
This is what an 1845 book - Travels in India, by Leopold von Orlich - says: “The Hindoo sepoy of the Madras Army is still more alien to the great body of the Hindoo people than the sepoys of Bengal; he is generally of a low caste, born and brought up in the field.”
The operative words are “born and brought up in the field”. This statement brings to the fore the horrendous realities of rural Tamil Nadu in the 19th century. These are explained succinctly by another author, Henry Mead, in his book The Sepoy Revolt: Its Causes and Consequences (1857): “In the Southern Presidency the families of the men always accompany them, a custom which, however inconvenient in general … affords an almost certain guarantee for the fidelity of men. Their sons, when they grow up, hang about the lines and officer’s quarters, pick up a modicum of English … and by the time they arrive at manhood, or the age at which they are permitted to be taken on the strength of the corps, they have been thoroughly identified with it.”
The book does not speak of the women of the families. But it is clear that only men who had absolutely nothing to hold on to at the place where their ancestors once lived would even contemplate allowing their women and children to follow them wherever they went. They must have been abysmally poor, without land, without hope. The Madras Army provided succour to them. They had no reason to revolt.

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