|Mangal Pandey, one of the early freedom fighters.www.gkforexam.in|
It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity with some pride."
.............. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's opening speech on the Independence day: August 15, 1947.
India' struggle for complete freedom - freedom of a suppressed and emancipated soul of the nation was a long one. It was a saga of courage, determination, sacrifices and commitments of numerous freedom fighters for too long a time.
Mangal Pandey was an Indian soldier, sepoy (sipahi) in the 34th Bengal Native Infantry (BNI) regiment of the British East India Company. Mangal, born July 19, 1827, died: 8 April 1857 was a simple, and unassuming soldier, becoming one of the early freedom fighters in the annals of British India who set the stage for Sepoy Mutiny - worst rebellion against the British invaders in the entire British colony. His place of birth is a subject of debate, however, it is claimed that he was born either in a Bhumihar Brahmin family to Divakar Pandey of Surhupur village of Faizabad district’s Akbarpur Tehsil or in the village of Nagwa in district Ballia, Uttar Pradesh. He was the first one among the employees of the British company, to be marked as the warrior of independence struggle against the oppressive British rule under the East India Company. Unlike many freedom struggles that have some strong broad-based motivation, his attacks of senior British Military Officers were based on simple motives driven by personal patriotic ideology, involving insults to his religion - Hinduism and not based either on any animosity or grudge against the officers. Incidentally, he was not a vigilante. However, he was not happy about subjugation of Indians under British masters.
|Mangal Pandey stamp.www.historyinanhour.com|
Immediately after the incident Sergeant-Major Hewson, ordered Jemadar Ishwari Prasad, the Indian officer in command of the quarter-guard, to arrest Mangal Pandey. To this, the Jemadar stated that his NCOs had gone for help and that he could not take Managal by himself. When Baugh arrived on the scene, Officer Hewson asked him to move away from Mangal's firing line. In the mean time, Hewson tired to interfere in the fight between Mangal and Baugh. Upon direct confrontation, Hewson was knocked to the ground from severe blow from behind by Mangal Pandey's musket. When Sheikh Paltu safeguarded two British officers and sought the help of other sepoys to help him to hold Mangal, the sepoys asked him to let him go and, if not, he might be shot at. The other sepoys threatened the officers and at last, already wounded Paltu, loosened his grip on Mangal.
Commanding officer General Hearsey, upon hearing shots, arrived on the scene and asked the Jemadar of the troops, one Ishari Pande, to arrest him, the Jemadar refused, so did the rest of the company except Shaikh Paltu. In the mean time Mangal made an abortive attempt to kill himself by shooting.
Mangal Pandey after recovery faced trial that last a week and he, Israri Pandey and others became confirmed accused and court verdict was Mangal Pandy should be hanged to death on April 18. However, anticipating trouble brewing among the Indians, Mangal was executed on April 8th itself, 10 days prior to the scheduled date. The Jemadar Ishari Pandey was also executed on April 22 on grounds of disobedience. The whole regiment was dismissed "with disgrace" on 6th May, 1857. As for Sheik Paltu, who defended the British Officers during the attack by Mangal, was promoted to the post of a Havaldar (native sergeant) by General Hearsay.
What prompted Mangal Pandy to attack the British officers? A new type of bullet cartridge used in the Enfield P-53 rifle (The P-53 was officially known as the Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket) introduced in the Bengal Army that year. It has an effective range of 50 to 300 yards. The bullets lack annular grease rings like French or American minie ball bullets. The cartridge, it was believed, was greased with animal fat (primarily pig and cow fat) for effective loading. To the Muslims and Hindus, both are taboo to be consumed. Before using the cartridge, cover had to be removed by bitting and the soldiers refused to use that kind of cartridge. Further, there was some suspicion among the soldiers that they would be converted to Christianity by force. Yet another reason was take over of Indian states such as Awadh in Lucknow by the dubious policy of doctrine of Lapse by the scheming, corrupt East India company officials..
|Photo of the Enfield Rifle, the pending adoption of which caused unrest in the Bengal Army in early 1857. en.wikipedia.org|
Soon after the hanging of Indian sepoys by the tyrannical British, people across northern states became outraged and it culminated into what was later called "Sepoy Mutiny" most violent revolt against the British occupation in India. After 1857, the British Crown directly took over the administration of the Indian sub continent.