Monday, 9 April 2018

Assassin Sher Ali Afridi - his victim was Viceroy Lord Mayo.

Sher Ali Afridi Murder of Lord May History of Pashtu
Murder on the Island 1872. Sikkim Express
The spill-over effect of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 was very much there ever after the transfer of Indian  government under the British Crown. The bottom line is racial discrimination and repressive rule showed its ugly head here and there, despite the suppressed rebellion of 1857 that began with poor treatment of the Hindus and Muslims in the Army. This impacted the psyche of Indian population across the country and the level of tolerance toward the British Raj was going downhill. Numerous patriots were pushed to one side  with no choice except to take to violence as a way to show their anger against the British.  They failed to realize that among the lousy British officials, there were many who approached the problems of the natives with an open and fair mind. For those people who use violence as a means to solve the various problems, the difference between good and bad officials will be pushe to the back seat. Because of this misguided approach, some efficient and honest officers became victims of unjustified violence. The death of Lord Mayo, Viceroy of India was an unfortunate one. Earlier, an officiating Chief Justice of the High Court, Calcutta the Honorable John Paxton Norman on 20th Sept. 1871 was stabbed to death on the steps of the Town Hall on his way to Court to do his official duty. His assassin was one Abdulla from Punjab province. Less than six months after this incident, one Sher Ali Afridi  assassinated Lord Mayo, Viceroy of India on 8 February 1872 at Hope town, Port Blair. He was a prisoner at Andaman and Nicobar Islands at that time. These two murders of higher British officials by the Indian natives had sent shock waves across the Empire and it created the impression that everything was not well in the Indian subcontinent.
Cellular jail,Port blair,Andaman island JourneyMart.com
Above image: The prison  complex was used by the British especially to exile political prisoners to the remote archipelago. Today, the complex serves as a national memorial monument. Built between 1896 and 1906, this jail had been in use since the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Lord Mayo was assassinated at Port Blair ......................

Richard Bourke, the 6th Earl of Mayo, in his capacity as the highest British India officer was on a personal visit  to the  Andaman Islands - a British penal colony for convicts from India, criminals and political prisoners alike.  The notorious convict settlement on the Andaman island surrounded by the Bay of Bengal was a sort of maximum security prison and the chances of convicts  escaping from the prison were remote. Little is known about this infamous prison complex by the present generation and in the 19th century till 1930, countless Indian convicts and freedom fighters were sent to this prison. They were subject to harsh punishments and mercy is a word never used there. Many were killed without any trace, according to some reports. 

The purpose of Lord Mayo's visit was to see for himself the prison conditions and how the convicts were being treated there by the stone-heated jailers. Lord Mayo was an efficient administrator and introduced many reforms for the benefits of the Indian natives. Mayo also wrote certain prison regulations for this penal colony.  Fate had it that it was his last trip to the island never to be returned to the main land.
Sher Ali, a former cavalryman in the British India army,  worked in many places and got a name for his dedication and sense of duty. A Pathan by birth, Sher Ali was originally from Khybar Agency (North West Frontier Province, now in Pakistan), true to his Afghan  tribal community's legacy, was courageous and duty-bound. One day fate had a role in this young man's life. In  Peshawar town, during the broad light, he picked up a quarrel with his relative. His rage went beyond the limit and, in a jiff, he murdered his relative. 

Though he pleaded  his innocence the Judicial court, with solid evidence,   found him guilty and handed down death sentence by hanging.  He was sent to  Andaman prison (often referred to as "Kalapani")  where he was to be hanged to death. He  felt that the court did injustice to him and his reason for killing his relative was not given any attention by the judiciary. The burning rage in him turned him into a vigilante.  In his opinion, what he did was not amounted to a criminal act!!  His perverted and agitated mind wanted to revenge the higher British official for his legitimate conviction by the British court. 

The visit of Lord Mayo  Viceroy of India on 8 February 1872, gave him a chance to let off his pent up rage by  way of committing murder of a powerful official who had nothing to do with his conviction by the court.  After his inspection duty, when Lord Mayo approached his boat around 7 pm where his wife was waiting, Sher Ali emerged from the dark and stabbed him hard  on the back with a kitchen knife and Lord Mayo soon bled to death. Immediately Sher Ali was captured by the security personnel. It is said he waited for the whole day and at last got a chance in the late evening darkness. It was an impromptu stop for Lord Mayo  who wanted to enjoy the surrounding there with his wife.

The British, considering the unstable political situation in the sub continent, downplayed this untoward incident in the prison camp, not withstanding the fact the victim happened to the highest British official. Particularly, the local media 
and freedom fighters would take advantage of the assassination of British official and create an impression that the British India Government under the Crown was continuing the oppressive rule of the East India Company. Further the Indian leaders would make a martyr out of Sher Ali.

Sher Ali Stabbing Lord Mayo. Andaman Isles. Alamy
Weighing the pros and cons of going to public, the British authorities conducted a brief enquiry and condemned  him to death  by hanging. He was hanged on the gallows of Viper Island prison on 11 March 1873  without any show.  Since he used the word  "Jihadi" several times, the officials thought he had some link with the Wahabi Jihadi group of NWFP who preached violence against the colonists. Finally they confirmed that he acted alone and had no accomplice. 
Lord Mayao issent136.rssing.com

London Times dated 15 April 1873 quoted the final hours of Sher Ali as reported by an Indian news paper:  ..................   "There was no unusual preparation for the affair, and the convicts were at work as usual. Indeed, it was not generally known that it was to be. There were from 30 to 40 Europeans present, no natives except the police and sepoys, and no European soldiers. About a quarter to 8 the fellow was led out. He was smiling and quite collected. The police officer who came down to investigate the affair, as he ascended the steps leading up to the scaffold, asked him a question. He shook his head with a smile, as he said 'nahin sahib'. As soon as he got up he asked the hangman to turn his face towards Mecca, and then began to pray very loudly and quickly. He said two prayers, and kept on repeating the Mussulman’s creed. The drop fell at seven minutes to 8 o’clock exactly. The knot slipped round to the back of his neck, and although he had nearly seven feet of a drop, his neck was not broken, so he died very hard. He was hanging about ten minutes before he ceased to struggle. As he was scantily clothed, and his legs and most of his body naked, his struggles were distinctly visible....... His face was not distorted in the least, but wore an expression of pain".

http://www.executedtoday.com/2013/03/11/1872-sher-ali-afridi-assassin-of-the-viceroy/