Sunday December 17, 2017

Unsung hero of 1857 revolt: Begum Hazrat Mahal

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By Harshmeet Singh

India’s struggle for freedom was a long and painful process. While most history books term ‘India’s freedom struggle’ as an era which began after Congress came into being in 1885, the significance of the epic battle of 1857 can’t be undermined either. Several experts have given different names to the 1857 battle. While some call it ‘India’s first war for Independence’ and ‘an uprising’, some call it a ‘sepoy mutiny’ and ‘an unorganized rebellion destined to fail’. While the jury will always be out on the after effects and nature of the 1857 battle, the fact remains that it gave India its first ever war heroes, most of who have been confined to a small paragraph in school history books. One of those unsung heroes of the 1857 battle was the erstwhile begum of Awadh, Begum Hazrat Mahal.

Along with Rani of Jhansi, she remains one of the first women war heroes of India. After her husband, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Calcutta, Begum took over the realm of Awadh and exhibited her knack for leadership. Her first major achievement was taking back the control of Lucknow from the British with the help of her accomplices including Nana Saheb, Sarafad-daulah and Raja Jai Lal. In 1856, the British had taken control of the Awadh and forcefully exiled the King (Begum’s husband) to Calcutta. Seeing the demeaning treatment offered to their Nawab, the local population and the Awadh army initiated a rebellion against the British. Keeping an eye on the situation, the Begum consulted Nana Saheb and decided to attack the British, with the entire Awadh army at her command. The surprise attack forced the British to back down and accept defeat. With Lucknow under her control, she proclaimed her son, Prince Birjis Qadr as the King of Awadh.

The British, stunned by the actions of the Awadh army under the Begum, took refuge in The Residency. Built between 1780 and 1800 in the heart of Lucknow, The Residency was the residence of the British officer who lived in Awadh and represented the company’s views. The resources at Residency allowed the British to beef up their forces and attack the Awadh forces again. The Residency thus became the site of the epic ‘Siege of Lucknow’ – the battle between the British and the Awadh forces. The battle in Lucknow was perhaps the most hard fought of all regional battles in the 1857 revolt.

Although her son’s rule at the throne was short-lived as the British forces re-captured most parts of Awadh, the Begum didn’t agree to surrender. She was particularly critical of the British about their claim of allowing freedom of worship to others. In one of her proclamations about the British, she said – “To eat pigs and drink wine, to bite greased cartridges and to mix pig’s fat with sweetmeats, to destroy Hindu and Mussalman temples on pretense of making roads, to build churches, to send clergymen into the streets to preach the Christian religion, to institute English schools, and pay people a monthly stipend for learning the English sciences, while the places of worship of Hindus and Mussalmans are to this day entirely neglected; with all this, how can people believe that religion will not be interfered with?”

After the British successfully struck down the revolt, Queen Victoria issued a proclamation to the Indian people, which read –

“We hereby announce to the Native Princes of India that all treaties, engagements made with them by or under the authority of the Honorable East India Company are by us accepted, and will be scrupulously maintained, and We look for a like observance on their part. We desire no extensions of Our present territorial possessions ; and while We will permit no aggression upon Our dominions or Our Rights to be attempted with impunity, We shall sanction no encroachment on those of others, We shall respect the rights, dignity, and honor of Native Princes as Our own ; and we desire that they—as well as our own subjects—should enjoy prosperity, and that social advancement, which can only be secured by internal peace and good government. We hold ourselves bound to the Natives of Our Indian territories by the same obligations of duty, which bind us to all Our other subjects, and those obligations by the Blessing of God, we shall faithfully and conscientiously fulfil.”

In response, the Begum issued a counter proclamation in her son’s name and asked, “If the Queen has assumed the government, why does Her Majesty not restore our country to us when our people wish it?”

With the British recovering from early jolts and crushing the rebellion, Begum had to seek asylum in Nepal under the patronage of Prime Minister Jang Bahadur. Her last days were spent in Kathmandu, where she was buried at the local Jama Masjid after her death in 1879.

In 1962, Lucknow’s Victoria Park was renamed as ‘Begum Hazrat Mahal Park’, to honour her contribution towards India’s freedom struggle. But during BJP’s rule in UP in 1992, the park was renamed again as ‘Urmila Vatika’, highlighting Government’s disregard towards the valiant queen. The Indian Government, in 1984, came out with a commemorative stamp in her honour.

Begum Hazrat Mahal’s grave in Nepal is in a deplorable condition. Governments of both the countries have turned a blind eye towards the grave of the lady who proved 150 years ago that women are second to none!

 

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Lachit Borphukan : The undefeated warrior in Battle of Saraighat who resisted Mughal conquest of Northeast India

Not many of us know about the unsung hero of Battle of Saraighat, Lachit Borphukan, the military commander of Ahom Kingdom who resisted Mughal conquest in Northeast India

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Lachit Borphukan statue (SM)
  • When Mughal empire was brutally expanding under Aurangzeb, then the commander of Ahom dynasty, Lachit Borphukan made them taste their worst defeat in historic Battle of Saraighat

With mighty army of Mughals Aurangzeb was eyeing at Northeast India. But he was not aware of what fate his army will meet when they clash with Ahom dynasty of Assam under commandership of Lachit Borphukan, the man who shattered dreams of Mughal empire to conquest Northeast India. We are quite familiar with the valour of Maharana Pratap and Shivaji but somehow we were not told much about the unsung hero of Battle of Saraighat, Lachit Borphukan. Battle of Saraighat would always be remembered for the victory of a much smaller Ahom army over the mighty Mughal Army, through a combination of tactical brilliance, guerrilla warfare and intelligence gathering. It was the last attempt by the Mughals to extend their empire into Assam.

The valiant Ahoms had successfully repulsed frequent attacks on their motherland since the time of Muhammad Ghori for around seventeen invasions.

Battle of Saraighat
Lachit Borphukan, commander of Ahom dynasty (Wikimedia)

The Mughals, were comparatively very well equipped, but failed to make any advances towards the Ahom army in the first phase of the war. So they offered Lachit Borphukan a bribe of one lakh rupees to abandon Guwahati but Lachit Borphukan refused to surrender.

From the capital city of Guwahti to the depths of the forests the Ahom warriors fought and held back the tide of invasion. The proud warriors of Central Asia, Mughals and Pathans alike were retreated  by the valiant resistance of the Ahoms.

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An incident in the history of Ahom resistance radiates the spirit which animated their fight for freedom, when Lachit Borphukan, the Army General of Ahom king Chakradhwaj Singha had beheaded his maternal uncle for dereliction of duty while preparing to face the Mughals. His execution of his own uncle for not showing sufficient dedication to the war effort was not just an act of impulse but a reminder to his soldiers that in the service of one’s Dharma, it is not possible to adopt double standards of judgement. This act of selflessness and dedication further motivated the troops, who were charged with full energy and enthusiasm to the battle field. Such examples are not very uncommon in Indian history where Dharma is upheld.

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Lachit borphukan, might warrior of Ahom kingdom (zeenews)

The reason why small Ahom army under Lachit Borphukan defeated mighty army of Mughals lies in the elaborate defense organized by him along the Brahamputra river which denied the use of the waterway to a large army of Aurangzeb comprising 1800 Turkish cavalry, 30,000 infantry and 500 cannons manned by the Portuguese. In the final stages of the battle, despite being seriously ill, he rallied his soldiers and personally led an assault forcing them to retreat. It is recorded that he said:“When my countrymen are suffering from invasion, and when my army is fighting and sacrificing its life, how can I think about resting my body due to a mere illness? How can I think about going home to my wife and children when my entire country is in trouble?”

The Mughal Commander-in-Chief, acknowledging his defeat by the Ahom soldiers and their Commander-in-Chief Lachit Barphukan, wrote, “Glory to the king! Glory to the counselors! Glory to the commanders! Glory to the country! One single individual leads all the forces! Even I, Ram Singh, being personally on the spot, have not been able to find any loophole and an opportunity!”

Lachit died soon after his victory at The Battle of Saraighat due to illness. It is sad that Lachit Borphukan is an unsung hero, let us give him the recognition he deserves, we must tell his tale of valour to coming generations and derive inspiration, he is an example that no matter how strong opponents and barbaric forces were, someone, somewhere resisted and fought against them for protection of motherland.

 

– by SHAURYA RITWIK, Shaurya is Sub-Editor at NewsGram and writes on Geo-politcs, Culture, Indology and Business. Twitter Handle – @shauryaritwik

One response to “Lachit Borphukan : The undefeated warrior in Battle of Saraighat who resisted Mughal conquest of Northeast India”

  1. THE FIRST EVER MUSLIM INVASION OF WESTERN ASSAM(THE NAME ASSAM DID NOT EXIST AT THAT TIME AND WAS KNOWN AS KAMRUPA OR KAMATAPUR) WAS IN THE YEAR 1206 BY THE DESTROYER OF NALANDA AND VIKRAMSHILA UNIVERSITY,THE GREAT TURKIC GENERAL AND RULER OF BENGAL BAKHTIAR KHILJI( FROM THE KHIJI TRIBE OF AFGHANISTAN).HE ATTACKED KAMARUPA WITH THE INTENSION OF CAPTURING TIBET.IN KAMRUPA HE HAD TO FACE GREAT RESISTANCE FROM THE KOCH KING PRITHU AND RETURN BACK EMPTYHANDED AFTER A CRUSHING DEFEAT.THE SECOND ATTACK HAPPENED IN 1227 AGAIN DURING PRITHU’S RULE BY BENGAL RULER GHIYASUDDIN IWAJ.THE THIRD ATTACK HAPPENED IN 1228 BY BENGAL GOVERNOR NASIRUDDIN AND THIS TIME PRITHU WAS KILLED.AFTER THAT SEVEN MORE ATTACKS FOLLOWED ON KAMARUPA OR KAMATAPUR.THE FIRST MUSLIM INVASION OF EASTERN ASSAM( ASOM OR AHOM) WAS ONLY IN 1516 OR 1527 BY THE GREAT WAZIRS DURING REIGN OF AHOM KING SUHUNGMUNG .THE AHOMS CAME TO UPPER ASSAM(INHABITED AND RULED BY GROUPS OF KACHARI PEOPLE NAMELY THE MORANS ,BORAHIS AND THE GREAT CHUTIAS) FROM THE BORDER REGIONS OF MYANMAR AND CHINA ONLY DURING THIRTEENTH CENTURY. AT THAT ASSAM WAS DIVIDED INTO THREE PARTS – CHUTIA KINGDOM(UPPER ASSAM).KACHARI KINGDOM(CENTRAL ASSAM) AND KAMATAPUR RULED BY THE KOCHES(WESTERN ASSAM).THE WORD ASOM OR AHOM EXISTED ONLY FROM THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY AFTER THE AHOMS SUBJUGATED THE CHUTIAS AND THE KACHARIS AND BROUGHT THE WHOLE OF UPPER AND CENTRAL ASSAM UNDER THEIR CONTROL.PEOPLE OF KAMATAPUR OR WESTERN ASSAM THEN CALLED THE EASTERN REGION AS THE ASOM OR AHOM KINGDOM.THE BATTLE OF SARAIGHAT WAS THE 17TH AND FINAL ATTACK BY MUSLIMS.IT HAPPENED IN THE YEAR 1671.IT WOULD BE VERY WRONG TO SAY THAT ONLY THE AHOMS DEFEATED MUGHALS ALONE AS THERE WERE THOUSANDS OF KOCH SOLDIERS OF KOCH HAJO.THERE WERE ALSO DAFLA SOLDIERS FROM ARUNACHAL,GARO SOLDIERS FROM MEGHALAYA,MUSLIM SOLDIERS WHO WERE PRISONERS OF WAR . IT WOULD BE BETTER TO SAY THAT THE BATTLE AGAINST THE MUGHALS WAS WON WITH THE UNIFIED SOLDIERS OF VARIOUS TRIBES UNDER GENERAL LACHIT BORPHUKAN.SIMILARLY THE MUGHAL ARMY ALSO CONSISTED OF THOUSANDS OF KOCH SOLDIERS FROM KOCH BEHAR AND RAJPUT SOLDIERS.

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‘Don’t mask ‘masala’ as history’ says Mewar Royal on Padmavati

The upcoming movie Padmavati is surrounded by controversies. This time its Mewar Royal commenting on the movie's theme.

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Padmavati movie shot. Instagram

New Delhi: The drama and debates over Sanjay Leela Bhansali‘s Padmavati — the story of Rajput queen Padmini — has upset a direct descendant of the Mewar royal family. Baijiraj Trivikrama Kumari Jamwal, daughter of Mahendra Singh Mewar — the 76th Maharana of the Mewar dynasty and a former Lok Sabha member — is otherwise quietly going about her life as an English teacher at a school here.

But amidst heightened protests against Padmavati, which she has tagged an “inauthentic venture”, Trivikrama says it’s unfair that her family’s name is being dragged into generating “free publicity” for the film. “The sad part is that the film is getting free pre-release publicity and that a commercial and inauthentic venture like this is using my family’s name.

“It’s not just a question of incorrect portrayal, which is established from the trailer and the ‘Ghoomar’ song itself, but also the fact that you’re using my family’s name for the commercial pre-release publicity of your film, free of cost… And the national media is talking about it. That’s my problem,” Trivikrama told IANS in an interview here.

Bhansali’s Padmavati has been mired in controversy. The conjecture that it distorts history has led organizations like Shri Rajput Karni Sena and Sarv Brahmin Mahasabha to go up in arms against the release of the movie, while BJP leaders have been making statements and appeal to stop its release on December 1.

“That’s why I am so upset. People have political and commercial agendas. There’s nothing wrong with commercial enterprises and politics, but misusing and exploiting somebody’s pride, honor and dignity for such shallow purposes, that is where I step in and say, ‘Sorry, not acceptable’,” Trivikrama said.

The makers have maintained there is no dream romance sequence shown between the Rajput queen and invader Alauddin Khilji, as had been alleged by some. But a few political leaders and Jaipur’s former princess Diya Kumari have suggested Bhansali must show the movie to some historians prior to its release.

Trivikrama questions: “It depends on who the historians are because history is also colored. It has to be a well-represented congress of historians. He (Bhansali) should approach the most authentic voice, which is the family itself. That he hasn’t done.”

Her mother, Maharani Nirupama Kumari commented: “He has already made the film. What’s the point of showing it to historians now?”

To many, the story of Rani Padmini remains a mystery. What is the story Trivikrama has grown up with?

“If you go as a tourist to Chittorgarh Fort, you’re taken to Padmini’s Palace, and you’re shown a couple of mirrors. The tourist guide tells you about it and he points out a little pond and says she stood over there and Alauddin Khilji saw her face.

“But that is just packaging culture to sell to ignorant tourists,” she said.

Trivikrama said Rani Padmini finds a mention in “Veer Vinod”, a record book on Mewar’s history.

“It’s a historical record that shows yes she was there, she was the wife of Rawal Ratan Singh and she was only an excuse that Alauddin Khilji used to invade Chittor. The real reason was a very calculated military decision to invade,” she said.

“Padmini was not in the picture at all, except now what has been made into a tale, which is a figment of the imagination, I believe. It’s not there in history,” she said, pointing out that their family is one of the oldest families with an unbroken succession.

She estimated that there were over 30 generations between now and the first Jauhar — self-immolation led by Rani Padmini in 1303 during the siege of Chittor

What about the epic Awadhi poem Padmavati?

“Apparently, it’s a self-confessed piece of fiction. I’m ready to accept that you (Bhansali) have made a piece of fiction. But then don’t drag my family’s name into it and claim you’re the custodian of my family’s history,” asserted Trivikrama, a Ph.D. in English literature.

She said filmmakers are doing a lot in the garb of artistic license.

“Sure you have that, but then along with the artistic license, there should be artistic integrity and sensitivity,” she said, pointing out how the representation of Rani Padmini is “wrong” even in terms of dance and clothes.

“Instead of making it clear that it is Bollywood masala, you’re saying it is history and misleading and ‘miseducating’ the future generations.”(IANS)

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Catalonia Independence : Spanish PM plans to remove Catalonia’s leaders to take control

Many Catalans who want to remain in Spain will approve of this strident action. But those who want independence for their region are likely to see this as a provocation rather than a solution

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The Spanish Prime Minister said one of his aims is to restore peaceful co-existence to Catalonia by removing its leaders. VOA

Madrid, October 22, 2017 : Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has outlined plans to remove Catalonia’s leaders and take control of the separatist region.

Speaking after an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday, Rajoy stopped short of dissolving the region’s parliament but put forward plans for elections, BBC reported.

The measures must now be approved by Spain’s Senate in the next few days.

Large crowds have gathered in Barcelona to protest against direct rule from Madrid. It comes almost three weeks after Catalonia held a disputed independence referendum.

Spain’s Supreme Court had declared the vote illegal and said it violated the constitution, which describes the country as indivisible.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has ignored pleas from the national government to abandon moves towards independence.

Rajoy said the the Catalan government’s actions were “contrary to the law and seeking confrontation”. He said it was “not our wish, it was not our intention” to impose direct rule.

This will be via Article 155 of Spain’s constitution, which allows it to impose direct rule in a crisis on any of the country’s semi-autonomous regions.

Spanish law dictates that elections must be held within six months of Article 155 being triggered, but Rajoy said it was imperative that the vote be held much sooner.

Reports say that Spain’s interior ministry is preparing take control of Catalonia’s Mossos police force and remove its commander Josep Lluís Trapero, who is already facing sedition charges.

The government is also considering taking control of Catalonia’s public broadcaster TV3, El País newspaper reported.

Catalan Vice-President Oriol Junqueras said Rajoy and his allies had “not just suspended autonomy. They have suspended democracy”.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau said it was a “serious attack on the rights and freedoms of all, both here and elsewhere” and called for demonstrations.

The president of Barcelona football club, Josep Maria Bartomeu, said the club gave its “absolute support for the democratic institutions of Catalonia chosen by its people”.

But he called for any reaction to be “civil and peaceful” and said dialogue was the only way to a solution.

Eduard Rivas Mateo, spokesman for the Catalan Socialist party — which supports the Spanish government’s stance but also wants constitutional reform — said he could not accept a “harsh application” of Article 155.

ALSO READ Catalonia Protesters Demand Release of Separatist Leaders

But Ines Arrimadas, head of the centrist Ciudadanos party in Catalonia, which is against independence, said holding fresh elections would “restore goodwill and democracy” in the region.

Rajoy’s use of Article 155 had been widely anticipated, but his announcement when it came still had a huge impact. The article has never been invoked before, so there was a certain amount of mystery surrounding its potential reach and meaning.

Although Rajoy insisted that Catalonia’s self-government is not being suspended, many will disagree. The removal from office of Carles Puigdemont and all the members of his cabinet, to allow ministers in Madrid to take on their duties, amounts to a major reining in of Catalonia’s devolved powers.

The Spanish Prime Minister said one of his aims is to restore peaceful co-existence to Catalonia with these measures.

Many Catalans who want to remain in Spain will approve of this strident action. But those who want independence for their region are likely to see this as a provocation rather than a solution. (IANS)