Resonances volume 4, issue 1 & 2

National Archives of India to Organise Exhibition-1857

The National Archives of India is organizing an exhibition entitled 1857, based on public records, and private papers available among the record holdings. The attempt is to focus on key areas which sparked off the Uprising till it was suppressed in 1858.

National Archives of India to Organise Exhibition-1857

The National Archives of India is organizing an exhibition entitled 1857, based on public records, and private papers available among the record holdings. The attempt is to focus on key areas which sparked off the Uprising till it was suppressed in 1858.

To facilitate the comprehension of the events, the exhibits have been divided into four separate segments, each linked to the other and carrying a specific theme. The first Section entitled Spark attempts to highlight the discontent among soldiers as well as residents of Hindustan against the Company’s rule in India. Section II entitled Fire focuses on the beginning of the Uprising including reaction of the British authorities through Telegrams and letters exchanged among the Officers of the East India Company on the mutinous developments. The Third Section titled Blaze contains  documents highlighting the measures taken by the British to quell the Mutineers through various means including offer of rewards leading to the arrest of Mutineers, capture of the Fort of Jhansi, Court Martial of 85 troopers of the Bengal Light Cavalry, etc. The final Segment entitled Luminaries focuses on the heroes of the Uprising viz, Rani Lakshmi Bai, Nana Saheb, Kunwar Singh, etc.

The thematic Collection of archival records and photographs related to the developments of the Revolt are aimed at helping the researchers and students to understand in a better way, how the Revolt affected the lives of the people away from the epicenter of the rebellion in North India to the length and breadth of the country. It is hoped that historical researchers would seek new domains and enrich their understanding of the phenomenon of the Sub continent.

The Exhibition will be inaugurated by Shri Jawhar Sircar, Secretary Culture, Government of India at the India International Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi on 2 July 2010 and will remain open for public viewing till 8th July 2010.

Indian Express: Voice of Dilli

Antara Das Sun, Aug 08 2010, 23:16 hrs Mahmood Farooqui’s book shows how ordinary residents of Delhi lived out the 1857 uprising.

1857 was an unsettling time to be in Delhi. Life, as Dilliwallas lived it, was changing fast. Gambling had been made illegal, as was the sale of opium. You couldn’t play drums during Muharram and kite and pigeon flying was banned. Lead was contraband and one could be detained if caught travelling with it. These arresting vignettes and much more, are part of Besieged: Voices From Delhi 1857 (Penguin India, Rs 699), a work of compilation and translation by Mahmood Farooqui. The book is based on The Mutiny Papers, a collection of documents mainly dealing with Delhi in 1857 stored at the National Archives of India.

“The ordinary people of Delhi were going through a momentous period in history” says Farooqui. “But the troubles and ordeals they faced have been appropriated in writing a national narrative, in legitimising the state,” he says. “They might not have wanted that narrative,” he adds. Farooqui had embarked on the project of researching the papers at the insistence of writer William Dalrymple. “The papers had been accessed earlier by historians but not looked at with the respect they deserve,” he says.

A year of sifting and translating the archival documents written in shikastah (cursive) Urdu, and untold stories began to emerge from the depths of ordinary petitions, notifications and orders. So we learn that residents felt harassed as meat and vegetables got scarce, paan became too expensive and toilet cleaners stopped doing their work. A certain Mir Akbar Ali petitions the Mughal authorities, complaining against soldiers billeted in a neighbouring house who “gamble, abuse and ogle at the women”. Soldiers, too, were not always a happy lot. A petition from a particular regiment shows the troops complain that they were not getting their quota of sugar syrup (sheerini) that other regiments seem to be getting.

Women, too, enjoyed a surprising amount of freedom: a certain Bilasia is summoned by the court and asked whether she prefers her first husband or the second one she has recently married.

The archival documentation was mainly a colonial enterprise, done with the intention of gathering supporting evidence for the prosecution of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. That does not mean that one should develop a sense of gratitude, says Farooqui, for when the British wrote our history, it was “a subordinate history, a bastardised, inferior version of what was ideal”. “On June 23, 1857, Indian soldiers in Delhi were observing the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Plassey,” he says. “A sense of history is something that was not necessarily given to us by the British,” he adds.

Farooqui, credited with reviving dastangoi, the art of Urdu storytelling, is also interested in looking at the cultural repercussions of 1857. In fact, the setback that performance art suffered in particular might be the next subject he takes on. “I would like to probe where characters like the bhaand (stand-up comics), naqqal (mimics), the art of tableaux and spectacles all disappeared,” he signs off.

David Cameron’s Ancestors Helped Suppress Indian mutiny

One of David Cameron’s ancestors helped suppress the Indian Mutiny, it has emerged.
By Heidi Blake, 01 Aug 2010.

Just days after the Prime Minister won praise for his first visit to the subcontinent, it was disclosed that Mr Cameron’s great-great-grandfather was a British cavalryman who fought the Indians more than 150 years ago.

William Low left behind graphic accounts of how he slew rebels with his sabre and participated in a mass hanging of civilians during the two-year mutiny against British rule, which began in 1857.

The cavalryman also told how he came close to losing a hand and an ear in combat during the uprising, which is known in India as the first war of independence.

Mr Cameron has previously said that his ancestors were involved in “empire building” in India. Had the full story of his great-great-grandfather’s involvement in suppressing the mutiny become public before Mr Cameron’s recent trip to the subcontinent, it could have caused diplomatic embarrassment. The Prime Minister’s family tree was traced by the genealogist Nick Barratt, who worked on the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are? William Low was the grandfather of Sir William Mount, who married Elizabeth Llewellyn in 1929. The couple became Mr Cameron’s maternal grandparents.

In letters unearthed in the British Library by the Sunday Times, Low described how he mercilessly “cut down” the Indian rebels. In one clash, his hand was cut to the bone and his ear was sliced open. After another battle, the cavalryman wrote to his father, General Sir John Low: “The rebel infantry stood, but almost all their cavalry bolted. The result was that they were thoroughly beaten and dispersed, that upwards of 100 dead bodies were left on the field, while we lost but nine killed and wounded, two horses killed and seven wounded. “Completely dispirited, the rebels then took themselves to their city, but the infantry were now well up and the place was, after considerable resistance, carried at the point of the bayonet, and the cavalry outside cutting up numbers of who endeavoured to escape. All the great men were captured and hung [sic].” Downing Street declined to comment on Mr Cameron’s ancestry.

Soon, a website on A to Z of 1857 revolt

Indian Express Pranav Kulkarni Sat Jul 31 2010, Pune : The revolt of 1857, a perfect and the only display of a strong unity among Hindus and Muslims, Marathas and North Indians, will now grab exclusive space on the web world. City-based historians Ninad Bedekar, Dhananjay Kulkarni and Nitin Shastri have come together to launch the first-ever indigenous website dedicated entirely to history, documentation and after effects of the revolt of 1857.

“Such was the impact of the revolt, that even till the second world war or as recent as India’s freedom in 1947, the British never forgot its implications. Their military strategies, ruling tactics were focused on avoiding eruption of such a movement again. To prevent Indians from deriving inspiration from it, the British rulers in India and England kept on presenting their interpretation of the revolt which was biased towards the British and far from reality,” said historian Ninad Bedekar.

Sawarkar’s book 1857 Che Swatantrya Samar , meaning the freedom fight of 1857, was banned from being published by the then government. “Today, a Google search on 1857 yields two lakh web pages which are interpretations of how western historians and rulers view the revolt. There are evidences that villagers from north, eastern and western India were involved in the fight against the brutality of the rulers. This website is reality without bias,” said Dhananjay Kulkarni of Pune Academy for Advanced Studies (PAAS), the organisation that also created a 40-minute documentary on the revolt in 2007, the 150th anniversary year of the revolt. Scheduled to be functional within six months, the work for the website has been going on for last two years. The website is expected to cross 7,000 pages. “Sixty per cent work is over. We want to reach out to youngsters,” added Shastri.

The Unsung Freedom Fighters

Faizan Ahmad, TNN, Aug 15, 2010, TOI PATNA: Ask anybody who Bhagat Singh was or, for that matter, Ashfaqullah Khan. The reply will be that they were freedom fighters who fought the British and were hanged for their rebellion. But nobody can say who was Ghasita Khalifa or Nandu Lal.

They were also freedom fighters who fought the British and were hanged. But there is absolutely no mention of them in history books. These unsung freedom fighters receive no recognition though they sacrificed their lives for the Independence of their motherland.

Now quite a few people know who Peer Ali Khan was. This martyr is now known a little more thanks to the state government’s decision to develop a children’s park opposite the residence of the Patna DM and name it after Khan who had been hanged at the same place in 1857. But several other freedom fighters, who had been hanged or sent for rigorous imprisonment to Kala Pani, Andamans, still remain unknown. For, history books do not include their names and the historians never made an attempt to dig out their sacrifices.

On July 7, 1857 as many as 30 rebels, including Peer Ali Khan, had been summarily tried in presence of then Patna commissioner William Tayler and 14 of them were handed out capital punishment. Apart from Khan, others who were hanged to death were Ghasita Khalifa, Ghulam Abbas, Nandu Lal alias Sipahi, Jumman, Maduwa, Kajil Khan, Ramzani, Peer Bakhsh, Peer Ali, Wahid Ali, Ghulam Ali, Mahmood Akbar and Asrar Ali Khan. Hardly anyone has ever heard these names.

As many as 13 others were awarded rigorous imprisonment with stakes and chains at that trial. They were Habibullah, Faiyaz Ali, Mirza Agha Mughal, Rajab Ali, Asghar Ali Beg, Deen Mahmood, Shiv Dayal, Bhanju, Jagdhar Singh, Sadat Ali, Bandhu, Munnu and Bihari. Nathu Chokar was ordered to be flogged and Peer Bakhsh Dafali and Sheikh Fakir were given life term.

The second trial was held on July 13, 1857 when Ghasita Doman, Kallu Khan and Paigambar Bakhsh were hanged and Ashraf Ali sentenced to 14 years of jail. At third trail on August 8, 1857 two more: Ausaf Husain and Chhedi Gwala were hanged and Sheikha Nabi Bakhsh, Rahmat Ali and Dilawar were awarded life imprisonment while Khwaja Amir Jan got 14 years jail term.

The list of these freedom fighters have been printed in a book recently published by the state archives department. “It’s really very sad that these and many other people, who took active part in the freedom struggle and even sacrificed their lives, were forgotten,” said historian and Khuda Bakhsh Library director Imtiaz Ahmad. “There are numerous evidence to show that in the decades before the Upsurge of 1857, some eminent persons from Patna were active in mobilizing opinion and organizing support against the British,” he said.

Ahmadullah (1808-1881) was one such person who belonged to the family of the Ulema (clerics) of Sadiqpur in Patna. He was arrested by Tayler on charges of conspiracy to wage war against the Empire and was ferried to Andaman Islands and his properties were confiscated.

Historian Qeyamuddin Ahmad wrote that all properties of Ahmadullah and others who were convicted or proclaimed as rebels were confiscated and their residential houses demolished. “The confiscated properties were sold at throwaway prices and out of the sale proceeds, totalling Rs 1,21,948, a Wahabi Fund was formed. Part of it was spent on the construction of a municipal market and on the expansion of the Patna College building,” the historian wrote.

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