Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Patriot Mangal Pandey, the daring soldier who started off the great rebellion of 1857 against the British

Patriot and soldier Mangal Pandey. pinterest.com
The Mangal Pandey cenotaph  at Barrackpore Cantonment, West Bengal, en.wikipedia.org
slideplayer.com
 Please refer to my earlier posts on our freedom fighters during the 1857 first major rebellion against the British colonial rule. This month on the 8th way back in 1857 Mangal Pandey and another Sepoy on 21st were sent to the gallows by the East India company for the simple reason, they disobeyed the military and protested against the unjust rule. On 8th April, India observed his 162 death anniversary; but it was a low key event as India is in the middle of General Election. Thus, Mangal Pandey  gave inspirations to the Indian native soldiers and later our  freedom fighters to get rid of the British rule. Equally inspiring  were the roles played by much earlier freedom fighters such as Veerapandya Kattabomman and Velu Nachiyar of Tamil Nadu and others.  In this  general election period, it is nice to pay our respect to those who sacrificed their lives for us to experience fresh air and democratic freedom which our country upholds despite odd political  situations, prevalence of linguistic chauvinism  and tough administrative difficulties in dealing with various regions following different culture and traditions, speaking different languages, etc. Also included here are the various tribal communities living across India. In spite of  all these odds, the Indian economy one of the 5 largest in the world with GDP showing upward mobility.

Mangal Pandey's name is etched firmly in the annals of India's 'history of freedom struggle' against the oppressive British rule. The first major rebellion against the East India company's misrule  slowly snowballed into a huge one that almost shook  the entire British empire in 1857. It was Sepoy Mangal Pandey who first registered his protest against the British military and its lousy treatment of Indian soldiers belonging to both Hindu and Muslim religions.  He belonged to the Bengal Native Infantry, a regiment of the East India Company.  His valiant protest  finally became a towering inferno called ''Indian rebellion  of 1957''  (not Sepoy Mutiny as some western historians refer to it; it is believed it is a misnomer)  that  had almost lasted almost two long years. It was Mangal Pandey (19 July 1827 - 8 April 1857) hailing from a Brahmin family  in Nagwa, a village of upper Ballia district, now in Uttar Pradesh) gave the first blow to the  repressive British rule in India. It is obvious he played no less role in the important events preceding the major outbreak of revolt against the British company that ran the proxy government for the Crown. Mangal Pandey  aged 18 wanted to join the army after watching a column of Sepoy infantry on march and, at that point of time many of the soldiers were both Hindus and Muslims. In August 1856,  the British India army introduced a greased cartridges  to be used in the newly designed Enfield rifles and the  production had begun  in Kolkata, following a British design.
Enfield Rifle, tthat caused unrest in the Bengal Army in early 1857,en.wikipedia.org
Enfield rifle and use of cartridge Connected To India
 By January 1857,  there were rumors going rounds that the new  cartridges were greased with animal fat - both cow and pig, taboo for the Hindus and the Muslims respectively. The soldier had to bite the greased cartridge before using it in the  new rifle. The high caste Hindus felt uneasy to use the cartridge and, so were the Muslims. It created the impression that the British  did not care a fig  for the religious sentiments of the Indian natives and their religions. It was a subtle destruction of   the religion of the Indian people. The British introduced fresh  cartridges  now covered with paper.
India Today
 On February 26, 1857, the 19th Bengal Native Infantry (BNI) regiment felt that  the newly  issued paper-covered  cartridges were really greased with cow and pig fat, which had to be opened by the mouth  - thus affecting their religious sensibilities. Infuriated, Pandey spear-headed a  group of Indian soldiers  who refused to use the paper-covered greased   cartridge. Further, on  March 29, 1857, 29-year-old Mangal Pandey  made a statement that he would rebel against his commanders  of the English company at Calcutta's Barrackpore parade ground.

Pandey attacked  his British sergeant, Lieutenant Baugh  and there was a struggle among Baugh, Sergent major Hewson and Pandey. Pandey fired the  first shot at Col Baugh and missed him. Immediately, he physically attacked the officer with considerable force. Sepoy
Shaikh Paltu  held  Panday  firmly to avoid bloodshed and finally he was subdued by the British officers. The other Indian solders were mere mute spectators and were  uncooperative with the British commanders. When Gen. Hearsey  wanted to catch him, Pandey  tried to commit suicide  by shooting himself to avoid punishment. It was not a fatal one and a week after his recovery, Pandey faced the trial and was sentenced to death by hanging  along with one Iswari Prasad, a Jamedar  who refused to obey the command of  his senior officer to arrest Pandey. 

 In the wake of this unexpected event caused by Sepoy Pandey, the 34th B.N.I. Regiment was disbanded "with disgrace" on 6 May, 1857  as a collective punishment. Reason: The regiment failed to perform their duty in restraining a mutinous soldier and their officer. As for Sepoy Shaikh Palt,  he was given promotion for his timely help in controlling a violent incident on 29th March.  Later, he was murdered in barrackpore cantonment before the regiment was disbanded. 

Mangal Pandey's bold action inspired countless native soldiers who revolted against the British in many parts of north India. The  contemporary British opinion denounced him as a traitor and mutineer. But, Pandey was a hero  who, with his patriotic zeal took the cudgel against the unjust British company. In modern India, he is still remembered for his patriotism and his spirited protest against the British military. He could not brook the ill treatment of Indian natives and the intimidating and arrogant  attitude of the foreign rulers.  In addition, there was raising suspicions among the soldiers  that the British were intent on converting them to Christianity. That Col. Wheeler of the 34th BNI and his wife were  distributing the Bible written in Urdu and Devanagari  among the Sepoys had caused further resentment among the native soldiers who gave due importance to their religious freedom and faith.

 Mangal Pandey’s effort didn’t go waste and the rebellion started off  from Barrackpore to Meerut, Delhi, Cawnpore and Lucknow. In the aftermath of this great rebellion initiated by Mangal Pandey,  the East India Company that had enjoyed the supremacy  up to that point of time, at last, lost that special status. The administration of the Indian subcontinent came under the direct control of the Crown after 1858. Mangal's  efforts forced the British to order the soldiers to use their own greasing over the cartridges.

In 1984, the Indian government issued a postage stamp to remember him.
  He was hanged to death on 8th April, 1857, ten days before the
scheduled  date 18th April. Jamedar Prasad was put to death on 21 April, 1857. The place where Mangal Pandey  first opened fire on the British Officers and where he was later hanged is known as ‘Shaheed Mangal Pandey Maha Udyan’ now
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangal_Pandey