|James Scurry, captive in mysore kingdom en.Wikipedia.org|
This narrative covers the reign of both Hyder Ali ( (c. 1720 -
|Underground Prison at Srirangapatna fort . www.kamat.com|
|Map of south India marxist|
Born in Devonshire, England, James Scurry's father served in the British Army and participated actively at the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill early in the American Revolutionary War.
Unfortunately, he died in the Greenwich mental asylum where he had been an inmate for sometime, leaving behind his wife, son James and his sister. James started out his early life at sea and his worst ordeal unexpectedly began in 1780 when Scurry, then 14 years old, set on a voyage from Plymouth Sound on the Hannibal. He and the 15 member crew were captured by the French Army at St. Helena. The French had a military alliance with the ruler of Mysore Kingdom Hyder Ali and Tipu against the British operations in India. The prisoners were handed over to Hyder Ali by French admiral Suffren. Deported to his Srirangapatna fort in South India, Hyder Ali had James Scurry and other British soldiers enlisted in his army after forceful circumcision and conversion to Islam; as part of religious conversion, each was given a Muslim name and James became Shamsher Khan.
As a prisoner, he had to wear heavy leg-irons and kept in a strong prison.any escape would be futile ans sicidal. Later he and his men were taken to a place called Burrampour, a three-day march from Bangalore. They had to survive on a poor diet of cooked rice and later Ragi flour during the march under the hot tropical sun. In the treaty of 1784 between the British and Tipu Saib, covering the release of POW, his name was overlooked along with 100 other English prisoners for unknown reason and were taken to Chitradurg town. Here James really feared for his life and death was at his door step because he was shifted to a suspicious place where some of his colleagues Captain Rumney, and Lieutenants Fraser and Sampson had their throats cut by the Tipu's army.
|Hyder Ali, Mysore kingdom. Pinterest|
|Wellesley defeated Tipu 1799. en.wikipedia.org/|
|Tipu Sultan, son of Hyder Ali. Spiritual World|
In his gripping, but poignant narrative he mentioned that his ten year ordeal left a deep psychological swathe in his mind and he could see drastic change in his personality. He lost his British persona, his English having become broken and stilted and forgotten how to use the knife and fork. In addition, his skin was over tanned because of tropical, sweltering heat in a tight prison and poor diet. In a sense, he completely lost his Brutishness and self-confidence.
After his war duties James Scurry left for England by an English ship called Dutton. Back in England, he was converted back to Christianity. In 1800, he married once more and had 8 children, but only one son and one daughter survived. As for his livelihood, he had a chequered carrier and at last became a superintendent in a coal company and it was his last job. He developed severe cold and lung infection because of extreme cold weather and breathed his last in 1822 at the age of 57. He was buried in Exeter on December 14, 1822.
James narrative is replete with details of unbearable conditions prevailing during his captivity. How he and his colleagues were in the grip of fear psychosis and how they went through worst trials and tribulations during their incarceration. His gory details border on barbarity and incivility. Given below are a few examples (vide Wikipedia...) mentioned by him:
Initiation of prisoners of war including James into Mohameddan religion:
“ He addressed us in the most endearing, though hypocritical, language, and gave us to understand, that we were to be circumcised, and made Mohammedans of, by the express order of Hyder”.
Method of killing people who refused to convert or try to escape from prison:
“But his most common mode of punishment was, that of drawing to death by the elephant's feet; the manner of which was as follows: the poor wretches (for several were drawn at one time) first had their arms tied behind them, above the elbows, and then a rope put about the small of their legs, which was fastened to the elephant's foot. This being done, the criminals stood with their backs towards the elephant's posteriors, waiting sometimes an hour for an order for their execution. The distance they stood from the beast was about six yards, and the first step the elephant took would throw the poor unfortunates on their faces; thus they would be dragged over rough and smooth ground till dead, and with no faces left ”.
Common use of cutting hands, ears and noses as punishment:
“ About this period, in the year 1785, he seemed more bent on barbarities, than at any other time that I was in his country. It was not infrequently that two or three hundred noses and ears would be exhibited in the public market, but to whom theybelonged we could not learn. We must, however, leave these tragic scenes awhile, and turn to something less horrible".
As for the British army and their prisons in India, for example Kala Pani in the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, they were much worse than the Indian rulers when giving harsh punishments to the prisoners. Scores Indian freedom fighters were subjected to rigorous imprisonment and many were hanged to death on filmy grounds. There were many massacres commuted by the British army. They never showed any mercy whatsoever towards Indian women. Many Indian leaders were reduced to poverty and they faced death with no money left for the families to conduct obsequies. Late PM Winston Churchill of Conservative Party, a famous India baiter artificially created famine in Bengal in 1943 that resulted in the death and emancipation of a million plus people. Churchill, on purpose, diverted the ships carrying food grains to Bengal to other places of war where the British were fighting. The British were more tyrannical towards Indian prisoners than their Indian counter parts.