Monday, 11 March 2019

Daring Nana Sahib and '' Bibighar Massacre'' at Cawnpore (Kanpur)


A portrait of Nana Sahib, the Peshwa Memorial atop Parvati Hill in Pune,India Wikipedia
Great freedom fighter Nana Saheb (ex-ruler) Tom Williams
 Since August 1947 India has been a democracy and and the democratic tradition is being continued even today. Next month, the Indian people will be electing a new ruling party at the center to run the Indian government for the next five years. When the British  made Indian subcontinent a free country, as it was their wont to follow the ''Divide and Rule'' policy, they created Pakistan and India, the former being a Theocracy (based on religion). As of to -day, the former still remains a breeding ground for the terrorists who kill their own people and others in the name of religion. Obviously, that country is facing un uphill task to get the government going.  With reference to freedom struggle, countless women and men lost their lives to free India from the British who had a firm grip on India. the reason being India's vast resources and their perennial source of money flowing from the Indian subcontinent. The British turned India, once a rich country into a poor one with poverty and emaciated people.  Whereas they became rich and prosperous with their treasury full up to the brim. Among the early freedom fighters Nana Sahib made a mark for him self as a dedicated patriot and warrior.

Nana Sahib (born 19 May 1824 – disappeared 1857), born as Dhondu Pant  was an Indian, Maratha aristocrat, who led the Cawnpore (now spelled Kanpur) rebellion of 1857, a historical event that gave the Indian natives of various religious groups and ethnicity to express their deep anguish and hatred for the English company that landed n India  in the 17th century to  engage in mercantile trade activities. Greedy and grasping, taking advantage of India's unorganised and non-cohesive political scenario, they pocked their nose in the affairs of Indian rulers, and in the following decades, they had not only begun to take over the Indian lands but  also treated the natives with destine and arrogance. As for  the British Crown, the EIC became its Proxy Government as the vast income from the Subcontinent began to fill in the coffers of the British government which was almost empty when they established the first trade link in India centuries ago.    

Coming back to Nana Shahib, though he was entitled to a pension from the English East India Company, being the adopted son of the exiled Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II, the company' refused to continue the pension after his father's death.  He made a vein  appeal to the English company  that refused to restore the pension on ground that he was not the natural son of his father citing the doctrine of lapse, an annexation policy  introduced by lord Dalhousie who was the Governor General of the East India Company in India between 1848 and 1856. However, it was articulated by the Court of Directors of the East India Company as early as 1834 and several smaller states were already annexed under this doctrine

The company's consistent and unjust refusal and their arrogant policies  against the Indian natives  not only angered Nana Sahib but also other Indian rulers as well who lost their throne on filthy grounds.The   princely states of Satara (1848), Jaipur and Sambalpur (1849), Baghat (1850), Nagpur (1853), and Jhansi (1854), etc fell to the British  who ingeniously used this tricky doctrine as a ruse  to gabble up rich Indian kingdoms upon which they had set their eyes a long time ago. The other policy called  doctrine of lapse was also  an annexation policy applied by the British East India Company in India until 1858. The tricky part is: According to the doctrine, any Indian princely state under the suzerainty of the British Company (the dominant imperial power in the subcontinent), as a vassal state under the British subsidiary system, would have its princely status abolished (and therefore annexed into British India) if the ruler was either "manifestly incompetent or died without a male heir". Obviously, ''The doctrine Lapse'' and ''Subsidiary Alliance'' and their impact on Indian polity  were widely regarded by many as illegitimate.  The British officials were the ones to decide whether the prospective  rulers were competent enough to run the state!! The ensuing  major rebellion of 1857 gave the frustrated Indians  a chance to  vent out  their anger and revenge against the English company who openly practiced racial discrimination and used dubious ways to steal  Indian lands.

Nana Sahib, with support from his people, revolted against the  dishonest English company. Being a highly  spirited man he  forced the British garrison in Kanpur to surrender, then executed the survivors, gaining control of Cawnpore for a few days. He later disappeared, after his forces were defeated by the  British army  that recaptured Cawnpore (Kanpur). He went to  Nepal Hills in 1859, where he is thought to have died.
Lord Dalhousie East India Co. fdrindia.org
East India Co.  The disastrous doctrine of Lapse. SlideServe
 The Siege of Cawnpore was an important historic event  in the Indian rebellion of 1857 because it made the British come to their senses to what extant they drove the gullible Indian natives to desperation. The besieged  British Company forces and civilians in Cawnpore  were caught unawares and were  unprepared for a long  siege and surrendered to rebel forces under Nana Sahib, in return for a safe passage to Allahabad. However, due to quirk of irony under  violent  circumstances, their evacuation from Cawnpore turned into a massacre, and most of the men were killed. When EIC 's rescue force from Allahabad marched into Cawnpore,  an unexpected bizarre incident took place. It was the killing of about 120 British women and children captured by the Sepoy forces and this incident came to be known as  the Bibighar Massacre in which the  remains of victims were thrown down a nearby well in order to hide the evidence. 
1857 Indian rebellion, Cawnpore, en.wikipedia.org
 Above image: Up to 1,000 British troops, their families and loyal sepoys were holed up in Gen Wheeler's entrenchment in Kanpur for three weeks in June 1857 where they were constantly bombarded by a local prince, Nana Sahib's army............................................

The massacre came to light upon the recapture of Cawnpore and the   massacre became an excuse for the British to dispense vigilante justice - eye for eye and nose for the nose. In the aftermath, inspired by the 'War Cry'  ''Remember Cawnpore '' came the widespread retaliation on the part of the EIC  against captured rebel soldiers and local civilians.This resulted in large scale killing of native Indians and the soldiers that ran into tens of thousands. But the British media played down this and never gave a true picture.  The British did not even spare the innocent Pundits - priests.
1857 rebellion, massacre of British Army, Cawnpore. en.wikipedia.org
Above image:  The British boats were stuck on mud banks preventing departure and, amid much confusion, the soldiers were subsequently captured or massacred by Nana Sahib's rebel army...............................

Nana Sahib won the trust  of Charles Hillersdon, the Collector of Kanpur, and the understanding was that  Nana Sahib would assemble a force of 1,500 soldiers  who were ready to help the British, in case the rebellion spread to Cawnpore.  On 6 June 1857, at the time when the  Indian  rebellion  was in full bloom,  the East India Company's contingent forces at  Cawnpore, took refuge at an entrenchment in the northern part of the town. In the midst of a chaotic situation  opening up at  Cawnpore, Nana Sahib and his army  got into  the British magazine and the soldiers of the 53rd Native Infantry stationed there under the EIC thought  that Nana  and his Army had arrived there to guard the magazine at the request the Company. 

However,  no sooner had Nana entered the  magazine, than he announced that he and his army were part of the rebellion against the Company, and  were part of  a vassal of Bahadur Shah II. He took possession of the Company treasury and expressed his desire  to restore the Maratha confederacy under the Peshwa tradition, and decided to capture Cawnpore. He asked the soldiers  no to proceed to Delhi and instead get back to Cawnpore  to  help him defeat the British. The soldiers being hesitating initially later agreed to  join Nana when he promised to double their pay and reward them with gold, if they were to destroy the British entrenchment.

Nana Sahib sent a letter on 5 June 1857 to General Wheeler informed him of his proposal to attack the company' entrenchment  on the morning at 10 am of 6 June. The British evacuated town and took shelter in a hastily constructed entrenchment on the outskirts. The Company forces were ill-prepared for this attack . Nana Sahib got additional rebel forces to attack the entrenchment adequately prepared for the attack but managed to defend themselves as the attacking forces were reluctant to enter the entrenchment. In the first phase Nana's soldiers lacked interest though by 10 June there were as many as  twelve thousand to fifteen thousand Indian soldiers
However, the entrenchment was steadily losing its soldiers and civilians  due to successive bombardments, sniper fire, and assaults from the  rebels and further, the situation turned very bad as the British army ran low on water supply, food and medicine.  The sniper fire and the bombardment continued until 23 June 1857, but, Nana's forces  were unable to gain an entry into the entrenchment by the end of the day. General Wheeler's personal morale had been low,  when his son Lieutenant Gordon Wheeler was decapitated in an assault on the barracks At last Nana sahib made a deal with the Army under  Gen. Wheeler for the safe passage  of Europeans to Allahabad provided they would surrender to him unconditionally.  

Finally, after having no other choice, Wheeler decided to surrender, in return for a safe passage to Allahabad. After a day of preparation and burying of the  dead, the Europeans decided to leave for Allahabad on the morning of 27 June 1857. A spirited Indian ruler who lost his land and princely life rattled the tough British officers  to register Indian people's hatred for the dishonest wheeling and dealing of the English company.

When the British reigned the control over Cawnpore, on 19 July, General Havelock resumed operations at Bithoor. Major Stevenson led a group of Madras Fusiliers & Sikh soldiers to Bithoor and occupied Nana Sahib's palace without any resistance.  The British troops seized guns, elephants & camels, and set Nana Sahib's palace on fire. As for Nana Sahib who fled to Nepal, his whereabouts became a bone of contention. 
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Cawnpore