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First war of independence: 1857

From a blog:

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Regime change, nation building

Was Nana Saheb proposing a United States of India? <b>In this engaging extract from The War of Independence: 1857, VD Savarkar describes how the last Peshwa made plans for the coming war, carefully building a coalition of the willing
In Brahmavarta [Bithoor, near Kanpur, seat of Nana Saheb], a programme was being prepared as to how to organise properly all the materials for the war so as to bring the War of Independence to a successful conclusion.</b> In the third chapter, we left Rango Bapuji [who led the Chhataprati of Satara's embassy to Britain] and Azimullah Khan [who led Nana Saheb's embassy to Britain] holding secret interviews with each other in some London rooms. Though history cannot record the exact conversation the Brahmin of Satara held with the Khan Sahib of Brahmavarta, still, it is as certain as anything can be that the map of the rising was being prepared by these two in London.

After leaving London, Rango Bapuji went straight to Satara, but it was not possible for Azimullah Khan to go direct to Hindusthan. The extent of the dominions and the diplomacy of those against whom the war was to be waged were not now confined to Hindusthan alone. Hence, it was necessary to attack the British Empire in as many places as possible. It was also essential that it should be ascertained from what quarters in Europe direct help or moral sympathy could be expected.
With this object, Azimullah Khan made a tour in Europe before returning to India. He went to the capital of the Sultan of Turkey, famed throughout the world as the Khalifa of all Moslems. Being informed that, in the Russo-Turkish War then going on, the English had been defeated in the important battle of Sebastopol, he stayed some time in Russia.
<b>Many English historians have a suspicion that Azimullah had gone there to ascertain whether Russia would pursue the war against England in Asia, and, if possible, to enter into an offensive and defensive treaty. When the trumpet of National War had been blown, all people openly declared that the Nana had completed a treaty with the Tsar of Russia and the Russian army was ready to fight against the Feringhis. If we bear this in mind, the above suspicion is strengthened.</b>
When Azimullah was in Russia, he had an interview with the well-known writer [William] Russell, the military correspondent of the London Times. The poor man could not have even dreamt that, immediately after the Turko-Russian War, he would have to send from Hindusthan news of the wonderful activities of his guest. As soon as Azimullah heard the news of the defeat of the English, and that the Russians had beaten back the attack of the united forces of the English and the French on June 18 [1855], he obtained admittance into the English camp. His dress was Hindusthani and rich like that of a prince.
As soon as Russell came out, Azimullah said to him, “I want to see this famous city and those great Rustoms, the Russians, who have beaten the French and the English together.” Undoubtedly, Azimullah was a past master in irony and satire. This curiosity on the part of Azimullah to see these brave Rustoms who defeated both the English and the French Russell undertook to satisfy, by inviting him to his tent. On that day, till the shades of sunset closed round them completely, “He was looking with marked interest at the fire of the Russian guns.” One cannonball of the Russian guns burst right at his feet, but he did not move.
Azimullah, before returning home in the evening, said to Russell, “I have my serious doubts whether you could ever capture this strong fortified position.” That night, Azim slept in Russell’s tent, and he left the next day, early in the morning. On the table was left this note: “Azimullah Khan presents his compliments to Russell, Esq., and begs to thank him most truly for his kind attentions.”
Planning a post-war India
It is difficult to say where Azimullah went after leaving Russia. Yet, from the mention in the Proclamation of Cawnpore later on, it would appear as certain that he was trying to put through some diplomatic scheme in Egypt also. So, Azimullah then completed his European tour and returned to Brahmavarta. As soon as Azim reached Brahmavarta, the whole political atmosphere of the palace was changed …
<b>Nana’s programme was first to fight a united fight, to make India free and, by removing internecine warfare, to establish the rule of the United States of India which would, thus, take its rightful place in the council of the free nations of the earth. He also felt that the meaning of “Hindusthan” was thereafter the united nation of the adherents of Islam as well as Hinduism.</b>
As long as the Mahomedans lived in India in the capacity of the alien rulers, so long to be willing to live with them like brothers was to acknowledge national weakness. Hence, it was up to then necessary for the Hindus to consider the Mahomedans as foreigners.<b> And moreover this rulership of the Mahomedans, Guru Govind in the Panjab, Rana Pratap in Rajputana, Chhatrasal in Bundelkhand, and the Maharattas by even sitting upon the throne at Delhi, had destroyed; and, after a struggle of centuries, Hindu sovereignty had defeated the rulership of the Mahomedans and had come to its own all over India. It was no national shame to join hands with Mahomedans then, but it would, on the contrary, be an act of generosity.</b>
<b>So, now, the original antagonism between the Hindus and the Mahomedans might be consigned to the past. Their present relation was one not of rulers and ruled, foreigner and native, but simply that of brothers with the one difference between them of religion alone. For, they were both children of the soil of Hindusthan. Their names were different, but they were all children of the same Mother; India therefore being the common mother of these two, they were brothers by blood. Nana Sahib, Bahadur Shah of Delhi, Moulvi Ahmad Shah, Khan Bahadur Khan, and other leaders of 1857 felt this relationship to some extent and, so, gathered round the flag of Swadesh leaving aside their enmity, now so unreasonable and stupid.</b>
In short, the broad features of the policy of Nana Sahib and Azimullah were that the Hindus and the Mahomedans should unite and fight shoulder to shoulder for the independence of their country and that, when freedom was gained, the United States of India should be formed under the Indian rulers and princes.
How to achieve this ideal was the one all-absorbing thought of everyone in the palace of Brahmavarta. <b>Two things were necessary for the success of this terrible war that was to be waged to win back freedom. The first thing was to create a passionate desire in Hindusthan for this ideal; the second was to make all the country rise simultaneously … These two things it was necessary to accomplish; and this in such a manner that the Company’s government should not suspect anything while the scheme was yet unripe …</b>
Nana sends out emissaries
A little before 1856, Nana began to send missionaries all over India to initiate people into this political ideal. In addition to sending missionaries to awaken the people, Nana also sent tried and able men to the different princes from Delhi to Mysore, to fill their minds with the glorious ideal of the United States of India and to induce them to join in the Revolution. These letters, which were sent into every Durbar secretly, clearly pointed out how the English were playing the game of reducing India to insignificance by annexing Swadeshi kingdoms under the pretext of “no heir”, how those states which were spared yet would soon be reduced to the same fate as the others and how, under the yoke of slavery, country and religion were both being trampled underfoot; and they concluded by exhorting the princes to work for the Revolution which was to make them free.
Direct evidence is available that messengers and letters from Nana were sent to the states of Kolhapur and Patwardhan, to the Kings in Oudh, the princes in Bundelkhand, and others. The English arrested one of such messengers at the Durbar of Mysore. The evidence given by this man is so important that we give it word for word below:
“Two or three months before Oudh was annexed, Shrimant Nana Sahib had begun sending letters. First, no one would reply, for no one hoped for any success. After Oudh was annexed, however, Nana began a regular battery of letters and, then, the opinions of Nana began to appeal to the Sirkars of Lucknow. Raja Man Singh, the leader of the Purbhayas, was also won ever. Then the Sepoys began to organise amongst themselves and the Sirkars of Lucknow began to help them. No replies to letters were received till Oudh was annexed; but as soon as that was accomplished, hundreds of people came forward boldly and replied confidentially to Nana. Next came the affair of the cartridges and, then, the disaffection was so great that letters were simply showered on Nana.“
This very agent has given a long list of the letters sent by Nana to the various Durbars.
While agents of Nana were moving from one Durbar to another from Delhi to Mysore in order to draw them into the War of Independence, it was in the Dewan-i-Khas of Delhi, more than in any other Durbar, the seeds of Revolution began to take root … At this juncture, the English were engaged in a war with Persia. Seeing that a simultaneous rising in India would be a help, the Shah of Persia began to open diplomatic correspondence with the Emperor of Delhi.
In the Declaration of the Emperor of Delhi, it had been made quite clear that a confidential agent had been sent to Persia from the Delhi Durbar. While this intrigue was going on at the Durbar of the Shah, right in the city of Delhi agitation was started to stir the public feeling to its very depths.
For this work, even public Proclamations were sometimes posted up on the walls of the town. In the beginning of 1857, a Proclamation couched in the following terms appeared boldly: “The army of Persia is going to free India from the hands of the Feringhis. So, young and old, big and small, literate and illiterate, civil and military, all Hindusthanee brothers should leap forth into the field to free themselves from the Kaffirs” …
Missionaries of revolution
After sending letters to the various Durbars from Brahmavarta, Nana exerted himself thoroughly to awaken all the latent power of the people. When Brahmavarta, Delhi, Lucknow, Satara and such other big and prominent princes figured conspicuously in the Revolutionary Organisation, how could this organisation suffer for want of money?
To preach to all those who were a power among the people, thousands of Fakirs, Pundits, and Sanyasis were sent out in an incredibly short time. It is not true to say that all these Fakirs were true Fakirs; for, some of the Fakirs and Sadhus lived with the grandeur of Amirs. Elephants were given to them for travelling. Guards armed to the teeth travelled with them, and every stage on their way was a regular camp. Provided with such paraphernalia, they could influence and impress the people better, and the Sirkar also had fewer reasons to suspect them. Influential and noble Moulvies were appointed to preach the political Jehad, and they were rewarded with thousands of rupees. Through towns and villages, these Moulvies and Pundits, these Fakirs and these Sanyasis began to travel, from one end of the country to the other, preaching secretly the war for political independence …
This work of preparing for revolutionary rising was done so cautiously and secretly that not much inkling of what was going on could reach even such cunning people as the English, until the explosion actually took place. When such a Fakir or a Sanyasi went to a village, a strange agitation and an unrest began in that village, and of this the English were sometimes cognisant. Whisperings went on in bazaars; “sahibs” were refused water by the bhishtis, ayahs left English homes without permission; baberchis purposely stood before the memsahibs half-dressed; and Indian messenger boys walked insolently and slovenly before their “masters” when sent out.

These Fakirs and Pundits used to walk round and about the military cantonments more particularly. From Barrackpore to Meerut, Umballa and Peshawar, they started secret societies and, more than that, practically surrounded every military cantonment. The Hindu and Moslem Sepoys in the army being very devoted to their religious teachers, the Sirkar, though they might suspect them, could hardly proceed against them. For they feared that the Sepoys would find in it another grievance against the government …
That patriot Moulvie Ahmad Shah, whose sacred name has cast a halo round Hindusthan, whose glorious achievements we shall have to describe very soon, began similarly to tour through the country preaching the Revolutionary War. At last, when he began to preach in Lucknow itself, to thousands and tens of thousands in open meetings, that there was no other way of saving the country and the religion than by killing the English, he was arrested for sedition and sentenced to be hanged …
Coalition of the willing 
The secret organisation of the Revolution, which was first started in Brahmavarta, was now growing at a tremendous rate. By this time, nuclei had been established in various places in Northern India and regular communication had been established between them. Rango Bapuji was trying hard to create nuclei of this organisation in the Deccan. The palace at Brahmavarta was the focus of the activities at Cawnpore; the same function was performed for Delhi by the Dewan-i-Khas.
The great and saintly Ahmad Shah had woven fine and cleverly the webs of Jehad – the War of Independence – through every corner of Lucknow and Agra. Kumar [Kunwar] Singh, the hero of Jagadishpur, had taken the leadership of his province and, in consultation with Nana, had been busy gathering materials for war. The seeds of the Jehad had taken such root in Patna that the whole city was a regular haunt of the Revolutionary party.
Near Calcutta, the Nabob of Oudh and his Vizier, Ali Nakkhi Khan, had seduced all the Sepoys and were ready for the occasion. The Mahomedan population of Hyderabad began to call secret meetings. The coils of the Revolution began to wind themselves round the Durbar of Kolhapur. The states of Patwardhan, and the father-in-law of Nana, at Sangli, were ready to fight – with their followers – under the banner of the united nation in the coming war.
Why, right in Madras, in the beginning of the year 1857, the following Proclamation began to appear from the walls of the city:
“Countrymen and faithful adherents of your religion, rise, rise ye, one and all, to drive out the Feringhi Kaffirs! They have trampled underfoot the very elements of justice, they have robbed us of Swaraj; determined are they to reduce to dust our country. There is only one remedy, now, to free India from the insufferable tyranny of the Kaffir Feringhis, and that remedy is to wage a bloody war. This is a Jehad for Independence! This is a religious war for justice! Those who fall in such battles will be their country’s shahids. 
Opened wide are the doors of Heaven for the shahids. But Hell is burning fierce to engulf those wretches, those cowardly traitors, who turn away from this national duty! Countrymen, of these, which would ye have? Choose now, even now!”
– This book was written on the 50th anniversary of 1857. Though archaic, spelling used by the author has been largely retained
From Telegraph, Kolkata

Different Faces of Courage


A Tale of Two Revolts: India 1857 and the American Civil War By Rajmohan Gandhi, Viking, Rs 599

A Tale of Two Revolts — India 1857 and the American Civil War, by Rajmohan Gandhi, provides an interesting perspective on these two contemporaneous events in history that occurred in widely separated parts of the world. The author says: “One links nineteenth century India with India today, the other links the India of the 1850s-60s with the America of that time”. The American Civil War and the Indian revolt were both cataclysmic events. The civil war had major consequences for society and politics in America. Although the revolt of the sepoys may have had major long-term consequences, its immediate effect on society and politics in India was somewhat limited.

What is telling about this volume is how the author binds these two events through the reportage of William Howard Russell, a correspondent with The Times in London. Known for his riveting accounts of serious issues, Russell had previously covered the Crimean War for The Times.

The first three chapters focus primarily on the Indian revolt as well as reactions to it in the American newspapers. There is mention of four significant Indians, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Jyotiba Phule, and of the Scotsman, Allan Octavian Hume who left an indelible mark in the annals of history, but whose work had little to do with the mutinous sepoys, other than the fact that they lived during that time. In fact, the Indian revolt was hardly discussed by the intelligentsia in Calcutta, which was the premier intellectual centre in the country at that time.

As mentioned earlier, the Indian revolt had aroused considerable curiosity in American newspaper circles. “In the 1840s and 50s... India’s Revolt was prominently featured and discussed... an article in a Presbyterian journal published in Philadelphia asserted that ‘the year 1857 will be henceforth known as the year of the Sepoy Revolt’.” The initial response to the Indian rebellion was that the treatment meted out to the sepoys was more ruthless than the way the slaves in America were treated. However, as massacres of English civilians came to be known, several newspapers switched sympathies, including the New York Herald.

While American newspapers were intrigued by the Indian rebellion of 1857, the author duly notes — “No public or private remark by either Lincoln... on India’s 1857 events has come to light.”[But Lincoln was elected in 1860!}[/url]

In spite of varied reactions among the British regarding the Indian rebellion, Lakshmibai, the queen of Jhansi, one of the central figures of the revolt of 1857, was noticed by the British for the “force and charm of her personality”. In fact, “her British adversaries”, even those who believed “that she had connived at Jhansi’s killings of June 1857 — acknowledged her valour which was usually described as manly”. Another important, though less prominent, figure was Nana Sahib. His repeated requests for being properly instated in Bithur were largely ignored by the British. Despite differences over titular matters, “Nana Sahib’s hospitality and his skill at billiards were also appreciated by visiting Britons who called him ‘the Maharaja’... even though Nana Sahib spoke very little English”.

Chapters Four and Five focus on the American Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s rise to presidency. The author goes on to mention that the civil war produced a towering personality in Lincoln, who is still a living presence in American public life. The Indian revolt of 1857, on the other hand, did not produce any single person of comparable stature. <img src='http://www.india-forum.com/forums/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/blink.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':blink:' /> “Lincoln, always an acute observer of real life around him, had become a successful lawyer, debater and raconteur.” These two chapters also map the successes and failures of two opposing army commanders, Ulysses S. Grant (for the Unionists) and Robert E. Lee (for the Confederates) in putting an end to the civil war in America and to slavery.

Lincoln’s superb oratorical skills coupled with his political astuteness earned him a second term as president. But not all were pleased with the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation — one in particular — John Wilkes Booth. The Emancipation Proclamation consisted of two executive orders issued by Lincoln. The first, on September 22, 1862, stated that all slaves from the Confederacy who did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863, would be granted freedom. The second order, issued on January 1, 1863, named ten states where the order would apply. The Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 and the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 gave national citizenship rights to former slaves and black men the right to vote. Though Lincoln had died, “America had become committed to the goal of equal rights for all.”

The concluding chapter gives a brief account of the aforementioned four notable Indians and their deaths and Hume, ending finally with the demise of Russell at the age of 86. The book is written in clear and attractive prose, and it holds the attention of the reader throughout.


But what is its point of view?
1857 doesnt go away!

Book Review Besieged:Voices from Delhi 1857 in Telegraph, Kplkata, 15 Oct., 2010.


Bahadur Shah Zafar

Besieged: Voices from Delhi 1857

Compiled by Mahmood Farooqui, Penguin, Rs 699

This has been a much-awaited book ever since the publication of William Dalrymple’s The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857, on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Mutiny, livened up what would have otherwise been a monotonous sarkari exercise. A substantial part of Dalrymple’s book was based on the Mutiny Papers, which had been found lying unnoticed in the National Archives.

Two factors — the difficulty of reading the shikastah or cursive Urdu in which they were written and the fact that they seemingly formed an “unwieldy mountain” of pleas, petitions, orders, letters and so on — seem to have discouraged the use of the material (even by subaltern historians, as Dalrymple had once lamented). But by the time The Last Mughal was published in late 2006, a major part of the translation must have been over. Dalrymple culled the meat from the Mutiny Papers to produce his scintillating study of Bahadur Shah Zafar and a city under a crisis that was not of their own making. Many of the voices from 1857 Delhi that Mahmood Farooqui reproduces in Besieged, therefore, seem to have been heard before. Many, in fact, have featured in The Last Mughal.

The voices, however, have sounded different to Dalrymple and Farooqui in turn. The latter conjures up a picture of Delhi under siege that varies fundamentally from that drawn up by Dalrymple. In The Last Mughal, Zafar is a tragic figure, captive to the ambitions of the royal household and that of the soldiers, and the city of Delhi is a picture of unmitigated disaster given the inescapable realities the rebellion imposes on it. But Farooqui takes a contrary view. To him, the Mughal king is not a man completely without agency. Zafar, he says, need not have given in to the soldiers and assumed leadership of the movement. But by doing all that he did, Zafar showed his “partisanship with the rebel cause as well as he could”.

The story of Delhi in those crucial months was, again, not one of a steady progression to its eventual fall in September 1857. Farooqui says that what merits attention is not the defeat of the city, but how it held on in the face of tremendous odds. In saying so, he echoes Ranajit Guha’s emphasis on looking at not why the rebels did what they did, but on how they did it.

The usual story about 1857 is about lack —of leadership, military strategy, unity, command and so on. Farooqui wants us to look away from this “settled truth” and instead look at the less-recognized facets of the ghadr (turbulence) — the organization that was set up to meet the needs of the city in times of war. Through selective adoption of both pre-modern and colonial administrative techniques, the mutineers had set up an administrative structure that worked reasonably well till the day the city fell. What is most remarkable is that this structure was not a throwback to the pre-colonial monarchy, but a constitutional monarchy of sorts.

Farooqui fleshes out the details of the mutineers’ ingenuity by bunching together correspondence between various authorities that show how this structure worked. The petitions, complaints, commands, queries also bring into view how the ghadr touched the lives of the people of the city — the plight of the shepherd who finds himself robbed by soldiers, of potters who find themselves conscripted as coolies without pay, of shopkeepers who cannot open shops because soldiers demand free provisions, of the moneyed who are forced to pay for the battle which they know will be lost, and of householders who find soldiers gaping at the women of the house.

Farooqui says that despite the hardship, no one in Delhi is without agency. Even the city poor can turn to an authority to lodge their complaints. That might have been true. But the existence of an administrative infrastructure does not necessarily mean it delivered the goods. Farooqui seems to deliberately obfuscate this fact by following no definite chronology while putting together the correspondence. The lack of chronology makes it difficult to assess the efficiency of governance.

Farooqui, however, posits the image of order with that of disorder and shows how the ghadr encompassed both. The dateline shows that while the city’s walls were crumbling on September 11, three days before the final assault on September 14, Khair, a widow, was being released from jail by the authorities after being cleared of allegations levelled against her by her brother-in-law. In other words, even at the height of trouble, the law courts functioned “normally”.

The most undeniable sign of disorder or abnormality was the city’s problems with its women, many of whom eloped with their lovers or refused to abide by their husbands’ diktats. Prostitutes and female entertainers, meanwhile, had a field day and often took the help of soldiers to settle old scores, much to the discomfiture of ordinary denizens.

{Shades of Umrao Jaan!}

Farooqui casts a keen eye on the emotional turmoil within the city, whose citizens were being egged on to fight the war in the name of their deen and dharma despite their reluctance to accept the plundering soldiers in their midst. On the other hand were the soldiers, many of whom had left behind everything they had to take up a public cause which suddenly seemed to have no public support. And there, of course, was the king himself, who could never reconcile the interests of his subjects with those of the ones who had come to fight in his name.

Many of the path-breaking recent studies on the revolt have concentrated on looking at it from the rural perspective — the motivations of the peasant army, their methods of mobilization and so on. Farooqui relocates attention to an urban centre, where the equations played out very differently between the rebels — mostly outsiders — and the indifferent, and even resentful, city population which supposedly consisted of their backers. The remapping of the dimensions of the conflict will require sustained work on the vignettes of information that Farooqui has painstakingly unearthed in his translations.

Review in Pioneer

[url="http://www.dailypioneer.com/291688/1857-wasn%E2%80%99t-just-about-India.html"]1857 wasn’t just about India[/url]

The book, without being judgemental, shows how the Mughal emperor was not in command of the uprising, and the mutineers killed the innocent people of Delhi, writes Rajesh Singh
See the difference in the two reviews!

The Pioneer one is against the uprising.
Quote:Discussion on Operation Red Lotus held in JNU by INACS

Written by Publisher Sysadmin

Indian National Academy of Civilizational Studies (INACS) organized a discussion on the book "Tatya Tope's Operation Red Lotus" in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India on 8th May 2010. The book has been written by Tatya Tope's fourth generation descendant Parag Tope and published by Rupa Publications. In this book Parag Topé and the Topé family have presented the story of Tatya and the Anglo-Indian War of 1857 after spending more than two years in and out of various archives and libraries, poring over volumes of source material, translating original letters, picking-up the threads of a scattered Tatya Topé family and piecing together a complex puzzle of 1857. The students of JNU show their interest in the book by participating in the discussion held in SIS Committee room.

Initiating the discussion Parag Tope said that the important words "Azadi to chand dino ki baat hai" were pronounced by Sardar Vallabhai Patel on 20 February 1946, two days after the events that forced England to withdraw from India. In the months to follow the English were removed from India and India secured political freedom. These forgotten events are recalled in Operation Red Lotus and provide a backdrop for a similar call made exactly 89 years and 5 months before this day.

He further said that our ancestors and leaders had made a call for a complete triad of freedom. This call, a proclamation of freedom, was made by the grandnephew of Bahadur Shah Zafar, in a five point proclamation that asked the people of India support for economic, personal and political freedom for the Indian nation. The Anglo-Indian war of 1857, was also the first time that the Marathas under Peshwa Nana Saheb and Tatya Tope, and the Mughals under Bahadur Shah Zafar and Begum Hazrat Mahal and several other leaders, came together to oust a foreign power that had threatened the very roots of the Indic way of life.

Describing the focus of the book Parag Tope said that "Tatya Tope's Operation Red Lotus" takes it very inspiration from this zest for the Indic way of life. It traces the valiant history of the people of Tatya's ‘janmabhoomi' at Yeola, in Maharashtra to his ‘karmabhoomi' all over Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan. The book also investigates the elaborate planning that went into sustaining this war for about two years. The book also solves the puzzle of the ‘mysterious chapattis' and the ‘red lotuses' that were widely reported all over Northern India in late 1856 and early 1857.

He further elaborated that Brahmavarta or Bithur was not just home to the young Nana Saheb, Rani Laxmibai and Tatya, but the centre of all the planning. Troop movements, logistics and financial control were initially planned from here. Over a hundred Urdu letters, written to Tatya Tope, were translated for this book. These letters demonstrate that Tatya and Nana Saheb created an independent government with financial, judicial, military, and several other administrative functions. They engaged the English in battles in several regions and maintained control over a significant area and exerted India's independence. These letters have never been translated or used before in any book on 1857.

"Operation Red Lotus" describes the troop movements before and after the battles in great detail, with illustrated maps that detail armies on both sides. It was not just Tatya, the book also acknowledges the commitment of several regional leaders such as the Nawab of Banda, the Raja of Banpur, the Bundeli people as well as the Bhil and others in western Malwa and Gujarat. These maps expose English misrepresentations and visually demonstrate that Tatya had won scores of battles that the English claimed to have won. The events in Kanpur in November and December 1857, demonstrates Tatya's chess like moves, which provided Begum Hazrat Mahal and Nana Saheb at Lucknow for a much needed relief and sustenance. The maps provide the reader a ringside experience of the battles and highlight the military genius of Tatya Tope and his valiant troops.

He also emphasized that the book also offers a new explanation to Rani Laxmibai's so called ‘escape' from the Jhansi fort (on horseback with her son tied to her back) which was under siege by English troops. It also presents the events at Gwalior, and shows that, contrary to what is narrated, Baija Bai Shinde (or Scindia) was in fact a Pragmatic Patriot, and influenced Jiyaji Rao to carefully manage the events to fully support Tatya Tope. Their support gave a new life to the War against the English. Tatya Tope's resurgent campaign in September and October of 1858 forced the English to make an important concession. This concession allowed the survival of the Indian nation; and although India lost the "battle" it won the "war."

Finally, "Operation Red Lotus" absolves the descendants of Man Singh. A family that that has incorrectly carried the guilt on their patriotic shoulders for more than 150 years. Contrary to the English claims as well as the stories in the family, Operation Red Lotus provides an eye witness account of Tatya Tope's death in the battle fields of Chhipa Barod on January 1, 1859 at 6:30AM, he said.

The book was received well by the audience who were enlightened with several hitherto unknown aspect of the war of 1857. Sandip Kalia thanked Parag Tope on behalf of INACS for sparing his valuable time to present the contents of the book before JNU students. The discussion was conducted by Saket, a JNU research scholar, on behalf of JNU student fraternity.

INACS is committed to engage scholars, intellectuals, academicians, researchers, professionals, activists and other interested individuals in heralding a culture of academic evaluation and scrutiny of the existing paradigms in Indic civilizational context. It also aims at encouraging the process of defining relevant and mutually compatible parameters. It also seeks to engage students and scholars by organizing programmes like discussions, seminars and conferences.


Book website: http://tatyatope.com/
Quote:For a triad of freedoms

in Books by Jayakrishnan Nair — February 4, 2011 at 5:38 pm | 2 comments

How a war was planned, executed, fought, lost and won.

In late 1856, some strange practices began to surface in parts of north India. Red lotus flowers were circulated in garrisons which housed the Native Infantry. The subedar would line up the troops and then hand a flower to the first soldier, who would hold it and pass it down the line. The last one would leave the station with the flower. Elsewhere, a runner took a bundle of chapatis to a village and handed it to the chief or sentry, with instructions to send the chapatis on to the next village under English rule. In the midst of these lotus and chapati incidents, the soldiers’ slogan would change from “everything will become red” to “everything has become red.” Other unusual events included the announcement of an important yagya in Mathura (which never took place), and the habit begun by many women of offering their rolling pins to the river Ganga.

These signs were noticed by the British—Benjamin Disraeli even raised the question of the travelling chapatis in Parliament—but were dismissed as Indian superstitions.

These abnormal occurrences, ignored by almost every historical narrative on the 1857 uprising, assume significance when seen in the light of an important question: How did the Indian troops travel over a million miles, in the early months of the war, without a supply line? In a regular war, there were three camp followers for each soldier, but once the soldiers mutinied in 1857, who fed them? Case in point: How did the 17th Native Infantry march 140km from Azamgarh to Faizabad in just five days?

The answer may seem straightforward: The villagers fed the soldiers. However, there was an intricate strategy underlying the initiative. To feed thousands of soldiers, each village (comprising of a few hundred people) needed an approximate count. The count was provided by the lotus flowers, while the chapatis and the rolling pins were the means used to confirm the commitment of the villagers. The Mathura yagya was a ruse to facilitate the travel of priests who doubled as spies.

Thus, the Anglo-Indian War of 1857 was initiated by leaders who planned the war, conducted internal and external reconnaissance, and recruited soldiers—with the help of civilians.

Parag Tope’s Operation Red Lotus—through the analysis of instances such as the use of red lotuses and chapatis—fills the gaps and corrects the myths about the events of 1857. Relying on eyewitness accounts written in Marathi and letters in Urdu and Bundeli, Mr Tope, a fourth-generation descendent of Tatya Tope, sheds new light on the momentous event. Add to it his analysis of troop movements, supply lines, and logistics—and the tale of the 1857 Anglo-Indian War comes to life in hitherto untold, dramatic fashion.

The triad of freedoms

The leaders who spearheaded the 1857 operation included Nana Saheb, his Diwan, Tatya Tope, Begum Hazrat Mahal, and the Nawab of Banda. In 1858, Sitaram Baba, a priest in Nana Saheb’s court was arrested by the British. Baba confessed that the conspiracy had been initiated by Baija Bai Shinde two decades earlier, and that the real planning had started three years before. He also revealed information about the runners who had gone to each regiment, and the connection between the lotuses and chapatis. Letters, translated for the first time in this book, reveal that Tatya Tope was aware of military movements, logistics and provisions.

“It is important to note that the rising was neither planned nor stimulated by any patriotic move”, wrote Gregory Fremont-Barnes in Indian Mutiny 1857-58 (2007). What Fremont-Barnes and many other Indian historians often fail to mention is that the leaders of the 1857 revolt had a clear vision for the future. After the uprising’s initial success, Bahadur Shah Zafar made a proclamation, read by his grandson in Azamgarh. The proclamation promised a triad of invaluable freedoms: Political, personal and economic.

The crony-capitalist state run by the British East India Company had destroyed the free market system in India. Heavy taxation was the norm, while prices were enforced with the threat of punishment. Manufacturing capabilities were crippled, and the agricultural sector lost the ability to shield the country from the threat of famines. Due to India’s asymmetrical role in the global network, even as the country’s share in the world’s GDP fell from 25 percent to 12, Britain’s share doubled.

On the social front, William Bentinck’s educational policy, based on Macaulay’s Minute, destroyed the private education system that had previously created a society more literate than that of Britain. In a letter to his father, Macaulay claimed that if the new education policy was implemented, there would not be a single idolater left in Bengal.

Even the legal framework was skewed—Indians wanted freedom from missionaries who were working with the Government, and laws which favoured Christians.

By promising the triad of freedoms, the leaders were not advocating a novel or revolutionary idea. They were reverting to the foundations of the Indian polity, which not only guaranteed political, social and economic freedom, but kept them separate as well. In other words, the ruler did not act as a trader, but created an environment suitable for trade.

Fractional freedom

Mr Tope argues that although the initial uprising was brilliantly planned and co-ordinated, the war was lost due to two reasons. Firstly, the British used their women and children as human shields, which resulted in gory incidents such as the Siege of Cawnpore. Secondly, they resorted to the use of extreme brutality—leaving aside their usual pretences to civilised behaviour—citing the case of Cawnpore (Kanpur).

Recognising the supply lines for the soldiers, British officials attacked those villages through which the chapatis were passed. A law was passed to allow the hanging of even those whose guilt was doubtful. British troops under Havelock and Neill did a death march, killing women, children, infants and the elderly. Sepoys were ritually stripped of their caste by having pork and beef stuffed down their throats before execution.

In books such as The Great Indian Mutiny (1964) by Richard Collier, or The Last Mughal (2008) by William Dalrymple, the British officials’ use of violence is regarded as a reaction to the carnage that took place in Kanpur. However, Mr Tope points out that the government’s brutality was unleashed even before that. British historians recorded that “guilty” villages were “cleared” so that India could be saved from anarchy.

In 1857, the strategy of violent repression was used by the British to secure time to redeploy troops from other countries to India. It was during this time that Tatya’s tenacity became evident. After establishing a command centre in Kalpi, he set up factories for producing ammunition, guns and cannons.

Despite the prospect of imminent defeat, Tatya worked to raise an army, and inspire civilians. When the British took over Delhi, the battle ground was moved to central India. When Rani Laxmibai, who grew up with Tatya, was held under siege, he created a diversion to help the Rani escape. Following the Jhansi massacre, the Indian chieftains who supported Tatya backed down, but he came up with a new strategy—to raise rebellions in regions where the spirit of freedom was strong.

The battles are explained with numerous maps, painstakingly plotted with English and Indian troop movements—a useful tool to interpret the events, and grasp the thinking behind the strategy. The maps, coupled with the detailed narrative and critical analysis, provide a valuable resource to better appreciate the holistic nature of the 1857 uprising.

Upon realising that the 1857 war had ignited the desire for total freedom, Queen Victoria dissolved the East India Company and transferred all powers to the Crown. In her proclamation, she did not give India political or economic freedom, but made an important concession: The English would no longer interfere with the native religions. Even Fremont-Barnes’ apologia acknowledges that successive viceroys took greater heed of India’s religious sensitivities. It was an important victory, writes Mr Tope, for it prevented large scale British settlement in India, and stemmed the destruction of Indian traditions.

The fight continues

Nevertheless, the signature elements of the 1857 uprising—secret messages, planning, and mass murders—were repeated again. In 1932, freedom fighters were warned of danger by Hindu women, who blew on conch shells when they spotted a policeman—the sound was relayed for miles by a network of women.

Madhusree Mukerjee records instances of the same nature in her Churchill’s Secret War (2010). During World War II, when the Japanese army reached Indian borders, Leopold Amery, secretary of state for India, wondered if it was necessary to revive ruthless punishments of 1857 to prevent a possible uprising. Winston Churchill’s policies, argues Ms Mukerjee, resulted in a famine in which three million Indians perished. Mr Tope describes the events of February 19, 1946, when 78 ships, going from Karachi to Chittagong, changed their name from HMIS (His Majesty’s Indian Ships) to INNS (Indian National Naval Ships) in a co-ordinated move.

Coming back to 1857: Why is it that Baija Bai Shinde’s 20-year conspiracy, Nana Saheb’s planning or Tatya’s Tope’s contribution do not feature prominently in our history books? This probably has to do with the historiography of the event. In the official version written a century later by Surendra Nath Sen, the 1857 War was seen as a spontaneous uprising by “conspirators”. Historian R C Majumdar questioned if it could even be called a “war” since India was not a nation, while Marxist historians connected the revolt to peasant uprisings in Bengal.

This reluctance to deviate from the colonial narrative 150 years after the war and 60 years after obtaining political freedom is a telling sign about the state of historical study in India.

India’s proclamation of independence six decades ago has to be contrasted with the triad of freedoms promised in the Azamgarh proclamation. To the leaders of the newly independent polity, Indian traditions of the past did not guide the future. Their socialist mindset led to state control over education and restricted economic freedom, with the state itself becoming a trader—all of which had disastrous consequences.

Looking back, we know what our leaders tried to build and failed, but as well, what they knocked down.

Jayakrishnan Nair is a resident commentator on the Indian National Interest and blogs at Varnam

Pioneer Book Review:

The War that shook the Raj

Quote:AGENDA | Sunday, April 24, 2011 | Email | Print | | Back

War that shook raj

April 26, 2011 12:13:41 AM

Vishnu Bhatt’s narrative of the 1857 rebellion is part autobiography and part history, say Prafull Goradia and KR Phanda

1857: The Real Story of the Great Uprising

Author: Vishnu Bhatt (English translation by Mrinal Pande)

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Price: Rs 250

The book, 1857: The Real Story of the Great Uprising, by Vishnu Bhatt was written in Marathi and published in 1907. Later, it was independently translated into Hindi by Amritlal Nagar, a well-known Hindi writer, and Madhukar Upadhyaya, a journalist. Mrinal Pande now gives us an elegantly translated version of this volume in English.

A large number of books and articles have already been published on the 1857 uprising. Both British and Indians — Hindus and Muslims — have written about the causes that led to this revolt and shook the British Empire to its roots. While British authors regard the upheaval as the “Great Mutiny”, Indian historians call it the “Great War of Independence”. In fact, it was neither. It was a revolt.

Bhatt’s narrative is unique in more ways than one. One, it is part autobiography and part history. Two, the write up is based on what he saw and heard from those who had either participated in the event, or been witness to the actual happenings on the ground. Three, it provides details about the atrocities committed by the British on even those who didn’t participate in the uprising. Four, it tells us how fellow princely states collaborated with the British against native rulers who had challenged the authority of the East India Company. Such details are rarely available in the history books prescribed for school/college students. Pande has done an excellent job in providing the English translation of the uprising that changed the future of India. It was this event that forced the British to end the rule of the company. Henceforth, India became a colony of the British crown.

Born in 1827, Bhatt belonged to a poor Brahmin family. He decided to leave his village in Alibagh district of the then Bombay province to earn some money and repay the huge debt that his family had incurred in the course of the marriage of his brother and sisters. Bhatt commenced his journey in 1858. He was told that the dowager queen of Gwalior had decided to conduct a yagna in Mathura for which she had earmarked a substantial amount of `7-8 lakh. Learned Brahmins in Nagpur and Poona had received invitations to participate. Bhatt also decided to go to Hindustan — this is how the country was then called beyond the Vindhyas. Little did he realise that he would unwittingly become a witness to the upheaval that struck the country. During the course of his travel, which lasted for three years, he stayed in Gwalior, Kanpur, Lucknow, Jhansi, Bundelkhand, Kalpi, etc.

Near the Mhow military camp in Indore, Bhatt heard about the impending mutiny. He was told that the British had rejected the pleas of the Indian sepoys not to force them to load the new Enfield rifle with the new cartridges greased with cow fat and lard of the pigs. Instead, the Governor General invoked a conclave of the rulers of princely states and asked them to follow a set of 84 new and inviolable rules. These, among others, stipulated that if one brother became a Christian, he would not be denied share in the family property; he would also be free to reside in his ancestral house; a Hindu widow would be free to remarry; she and her children would not be denied share in ancestral property, etc.

The rulers returned to their respective capitals, unhappy. The sepoys, on their part, resolved that Hindus and Muslims would never convert to another religion. “Letters have been surreptitiously circulated to the effect that, on the 10th of June, when the commanders summon us, starting with the camp at Meerut, all the soldier brothers will say thrice to their commanding officers: ‘We won’t accept the cartridges, we won’t, we won’t’. And if the White men do not relent, they shall be thrown out bodily and all their ammunition, guns and monies will be confiscated by the native soldiers and their army camps will then be set on fire,” Bhatt was told by an Indian soldier.

While Bhatt was at Gwalior, he heard several stories about the spread of mutiny. There were speculations about which side the Maratha sardars would be on.

Lord Dalhousie, who was Governor General between 1848 and 1856, had pursued policies that aimed at turning India into Asian Britain. With this objective in mind, he introduced railways, uniform postage and electric telegraph. These measures, according to Dalhousie, were the three engines of social improvement. This is what had made the Western nations what they were. However, the methods Dalhousie used for acquiring further territories for the British went against the country’s traditions. He also violated the treaties entered into with the native rulers by his predecessor, Lord Wellesley. According to the Doctrine of Lapse, enunciated by Dalhousie, any princely state or territory under the direct influence of the East India Company would be annexed if the ruler was either “manifestly incompetent or died without a direct heir”. This was first applied in 1848 to Satara and thereafter to six more states, including Nagpur and Jhansi. Also, he applied the excuse of “misrule” for the annexation of Oudh in 1856. Even Nana Sahib was dispossessed of his pension.

KM Panikkar, a well-known historian, administrator and diplomat, observes in his book, A Survey of Indian History (1947): “In spite of the oppression, misrule and obvious degeneration, Oudh represented to the Mussalmans of north India the greatness of Islamic rule. With its annexation by the British, the last vestiges of Muslim authority had vanished and from Delhi to Murshidabad Muslims felt that their sun had indeed set. As for the Marathas, the great Houses of Scindia and Holkar still held vast tracts of north India in sovereignty. It was the annexation of Satara, Nagpur and Jhansi that they felt irretrievable blows to their prestige. The two great peoples (Hindus and Muslims), who had lost the empire of India, were in a sullen mood and the disaffection soon manifested itself in an open rebellion... Within 48 hours, Delhi had been occupied and Bahadur Shah proclaimed the Emperor of India. The whole of north India (except Punjab), especially the Gangetic valley, threw off the British yoke.”

The rulers of the states who had suffered at the hands of the British took part in the revolt. Bhatt tells us how the Rani of Jhansi died fighting the British. The fate of other rulers, big and small, was no different. They were either killed in battle or hanged, if caught alive. The British, however, didn’t only took their revenge on the rulers; they also reduced entire cities to vast cremation grounds, observes Bhatt.

Bhatt’s narrative gives details of more than half-a-dozen places where the British had let loose a reign of terror during 1857-58. Any such incident in Europe would have turned the entire area into a centre of pilgrimage. Not so in India. The new Indian leadership, ruling the country since its independence in 1947, has done nothing more than paying a lip service to those who had sacrificed their lives in 1857. The only explanation that can justify this behaviour is that Hindu leaders mostly suffer from slavish mentality or what Austrian psycho-analyst Chevalier Leopold von Sacher-Masoch calls “Masochism”.
we all indian must feel the proud at Rani Laxmi Bai who brought the revolution in India... she was great

Here is a picture of Rani Laxmibai.


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