Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Uda Devi, a forgotten daring woman warrior and patriot - Sepoy mutiny

Uda Devi, Woman warrior, 1857. Wikipedia

 Invariably, students who read about Indian History with special reference to Sepoy Mutiny, would have come across names of daring women like Rani lakshmi Bai, Begum Hazrat Mahal, et al. How many of us have come to know about daring women like Uda Devi who defended Awadh in 1857 along with Hazrat Mahal?  Before dying on the battlefield on November 16, 1857, Uda Devi killed as many as 32 British soldiers and officers.

Uda Devi, born in the village of Ujriaon in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh was a great warrior in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and  fought  bravely against the British East India Company's forces despite odds. Hailing from the Dalit Pasi community Uda Devi, with unalloyed patriotism and love for her country, she could not brook the sight of her fellow country  men and women being misruled by the British who did not belong to this soil. 

It is true that there were many reports on the rebels of upper caste people in the forefront during the mutiny. However, the battles for independence from British colonial rule  was equally dominated by people from communities like  Dalit, Adivasi, etc. 


1857 Begum Hazrat Mahal revolted against the British. Alchetron

Bahujan rebels  like Uda Dev, Phulo Murmu, Jhano Murmu, and Jhalkaribai[ played a major role along with others. People have not forgotten the daring sacrifices made by Uda Devi and her other Dalit sisters and they are being revered  even today as the warriors or “Dalit Veeranganas” of the 1857 Indian Rebellion against the British East India Company.

No sooner had she seen the sufferings and the pain of her people during the British reign, than 
in November 1857 Uda Devi  joined the forces of Begum Hazrat Mahal who was equally perterbed by the British administration that cheated her husband.  A  women’s battalion was under her command and when the British attacked Awadh, both Uda Devi and her husband Makka Pasi  were part of the armed resistance. Upon  her  husband's death in the battle, she fought the war with her full force.
 

When the British raided Sikandar Bagh in Lucknow under Colin Campbell, they were confronted by an army of highly motivated dalit women on whose courage and sacrifices many poems were composed. .
 

During the battle in Sikandar Bagh, in November 1857, she  went  up a banyan  tree, picked up a vantage place and began shooting like a sniper or sharp-shooter at advancing British soldiers. A British officer observed bullet wounds on the soldiers with  steep, downward trajectory, suggesting that  the shooter was hiding at a higher level. Suspecting a hidden sniper, the officer asked his men to shoot at the trees and, at last, they hit the snipper; Uda Devi fell to the ground dead. 

William Forbes-Mitchell, a military officer remembers the Sepoy Mutiny and comments on Uda Devi: "She was armed with a pair of heavy old-pattern cavalry pistols, .......... while from her perch in the tree, which had been carefully prepared before the attack, she had killed more than half-a-dozen men."

Today people in Uttar Pradesh still remember her and the Dalits consider her a model of Dalit womanhood. Every year her anniversary is held
on November 16 by the  Pasis of Pilibhit, Neither caste nor creed nor color is the impediment, only courage and firm commitments will alone count and mark the peo[ple apart.

Tit-Bits;

01. That her name is not in the Indian History Text book is deplorable. Does her caste - Dalit stand in the way?

02. Uda Devi's husband Makka Pasi was a soldier in the army of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. of Awadh.

03. Colin Campbell, who led the  British troops at the time of the 1857 rebellionm could not believe  that a woman disguised as a man had caused such a large number of fatalities among his men.

 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bareilly/Dalit-group-recalls-its-1857-martyr-Uda-Devi/articleshow/49807760.cms

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uda_Devi