|Brig.Gen. James George Smith Neill, Butcher of Allahabad. Wikipedia|
|Mount road, Chennai in 1908. wikivisually.com |
A Scottish by birth, he was assigned to put down the brewing rebellion in the northern states that became violent and hell-bent against the British regime that openly encouraged racial discrimination, blasphemy and filthy treatment of Indian soldiers in the army, not to mention grabbing several kingdoms and insulting Indian Maharajahs and Nawabs.
Brig Gen Neill, at Benares and later at Allahabad and Lucknow went berserk and resorted to committing massacres of mutineers to quell the rebellion. Why did he go berserk? Because the high-strung Indians, in a rage, killed numerous whites, including women and children. What the Indians, who were known to have the highest tolerance, did was not all right. But, what justification did Neil have whose action resulted in the death of thousands of Indians to revenge the killing of roughly 50 English people?
|Statue of Brigadier-General James Neill (1810-57), Chennai, Royal Collection Trust|
|The statue of James Neill in Wellington Square, Ayr, Ayrshire, circa 1895|
“He (Neil) killed one lakh Indians just for uttering the word ‘Independence’, and how can we forget that?” fumes Mr. Kalathi, Educational Officer at the Madras Museum. (vide http://www.deccanherald.com/content/99637/butcher-allahabad-lies-museum-attic.html)
The statue of the Army officer should be exhibited in the center of the museum so that the young people will understand how hard the Indians had fought to get the freedom from the British and what kind of repressive measures they took to put down the freedom movements.
Col. James Neil with “ruthless and horrible” methods quelled the mutineers, ordering “entire villages to be burnt down and inhabitants hanged” as he marched towards Cawnpore (Kanpur).
Neil was killed in combat at Lucknow in September 1857. The British rulers honored him by erecting a statue of him on Mount Road in Madras in 1860. The inscriptions on the pedestal of Neil’s statue read: “Universally acknowledged as the first who stemmed the torrent of rebellion in Bengal.” Thus records the ‘Madras Hand Book 1871’, a rare testimony to the horrific side of India’s 1857 uprising that saw Hindus and Muslims united in their struggle against the colonial power.
In the early part of 1900s like-minded freedom fighters, belonging to the ‘Tamil Nadu Volunteer Corps’ wanted the statue removed and held agitations. Mahatma Gandhi on his visit to Chennai in September 1927 gave support to the agitation and wanted the people to follow the principles of ‘Satyagraha. MLC passed several resolutions in this regard, but they proved to be futile. When the Rajaji-led Congress Ministry came to power after the election in 1937 (as per newly-constituted Provincial Legislative Assemblies under the ‘Government of India Act, 1935.), the then Madras Corporation through a resolution ordered the removal of Neil’s statue and shifted it to the Madras Museum.
To the Indians, Army officer, James Neill is a butcher in a mutton shop. As for the British, he is a hero who saved the honor and dignity of the British community during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 by committing massacre of Indian natives. What a paradox?