By Rituparna Chakrobarty
Nestling on the banks of Ganga, Kanpur has a special place in India’s freedom movement. About 23 km from the main city, Bithoor, a small locality was home to Nana Rao Peshwa.
Peshwa was one of the eminent leaders in the revolution of 1857. He led the protests from Kanpur, a rebellion originally started by Mangal Pandey on May 10,1857 in Meerut.
Bithoor played a vital role in the first freedom revolution. It witnessed the strategies which were laid by Nana Rao and the Empress of Jhansi Lakshmi Bai.
Nana Rao Fort
In Bithoor, Nana Rao Fort, had a close encounter with the revolt of 1857. Unfortunately, the memories of this rebellion are not preserved properly. The fort is depreciating day by day and if the situation prevails for a longer period, then it might be confined to photographs only.
It has a good flag hoisting platform which was built by the revolutionary Raghav Das. The stones which were used to build the platform are a live example of the meetings held between Tatya Tope, Azimullah Khan and Nana Rao Peshwa.
After a hard defeat of the rebels, the Britishers attacked the fort with 200 soldiers and dumped the dead bodies of women and children in the well. Later this well came to be known as the ‘Memorial Well’. The remaining sites of the fort convey the brutal reign of the British. The statues of Nana Rao Peshwa, Tatya Tope, Rani Lakhshmi Bai, Azimullah Khan have been carved in the park. The lack of attention by the authorities has resulted in deteriorating statues.
In the year 1968, the fort was declared as a heritage and archaeological site but the authorities did not provide it the required status. The fort’s land is a disputed area. As claimed by Surendra Pal Singh, ex- chairman of the town, that this piece of land is a part of their ancestral property, there is nothing that has been done towards its development. However the archaeological department wants to preserve this historic building.
At present the premises of the fort has morphed into a dense forest. The fencing wires are getting rusted. Almost 10 years ago, the Uttar Pradesh State Tourism and Regional Cultures declared this area as a tourist spot to memorize the gallantry of freedom fighters. For this, Nana Rao Memorial Park was established. But the work of development had to be stopped due to the court’s stay over the disputed land. Tourists wish to have a closer look of the well and the flag hoisting platform but the poor maintenance and now-weak infrastructure prevents them from going further. The park that has its relevance in history intact, is being looked after the Kanpur Nagar Nigam but much remains to be done to preserve it.