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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tributes to a great freedom fighter - Mangal Pandey

Dear (s) ....

Today ‘19th July’ is a very special day in the annals of the Indian history – a day to remember for all those who love the Nation.

Love and devotion to motherland is the basic quality all individuals need to possess.  Life is born, sustained upon and from the land on which we live. We were brought into life by birth and keep on going by the land on which we live. If we are living a comfortable life today, it is all due to the tireless, selfless efforts of thousands of martyrs who sacrificed everything in their life for us.

All along, the British & the historians preferred to call it the ‘Revolt of 1857’ – which to us is the First war of Independence Today marks the death anniversary of the man eulogized as the man who who single-handedly started the 1857 uprising.  Perhaps sons of cow belt soil would remember the movie  - Mangal Pandey - The Rising (The Rising - Ballad Of Mangal Pandey)  and the hero of the movie Alas the real hero is not so well known. 

Mangal Pandey was a Bengali soldier of the 34th Native Infantry.  He was arrested, sentenced to jail and a military court sentenced him to death.  They set the execution date to April 18th but they killed Mangal Pandey on April 8 because the Britishers didn’t want to wait too long.  Mangal Pandey was thus the first freedom fighter and martyr of the 1 st War of Independence. The Doctrine of Lapse, issue of cartridges greased with animal fat to Indian soldiers – most of whom were vegetarians (cartridge wicks had to be plucked out with the teeth before hurling them), introduction of British system of education and a number of social reforms had infuriated a wide section of the Indian population who rose in revolt all over the country.

Mangal Pandey was born in  village of Nagwa in district Ballia Uttar Pradesh on 19th July 1827 and sacrificed himself for the Nation when he was not even 30.   The village in which young Mangal opened his eyes was Surhurpur—a small sleepy hamlet, which still retains the dusty rustic look, that speck of golden grime, the wont of Awadh, distinguishing the region from the more greener pastures of east UP. Divakar Pandey, Mangal’s father actually belonged to another village — Dugvaan-Rahimpur in Faizabad Tehsil.  Mangal Pandey entered the east India Company Bengal army in 1849. He was 22, a tall lad, lean and well built. Village anecdotes paint him as a man 9 feet tall—this excusable exaggeration however conceals the truth. The peasants recruited by the Company as Sepoys were mostly unusually tall—so much so that during the 1857 wars Scot Highlanders were brought over especially from Britain to match Sepoy strength and height. Local perceptions played a great part in victory or defeat—the natives considered Sepoys invincible.

Earlier there was another uprising at Vellore and bloodthirsty force was used to quell that  mutiny—then Barrackpore, the scene of Mangal Pandey’s defiance faced a serious crisis in 1824-25. Sepoys in their hundreds shot in the air, killed a section of their officers and deserted en masse.  They were quelled with iron fists.  Then in 1857  struggle erupted.  Mangal’s act of defiance did not enthuse the other sepoys instantaneously. Pandey injured two British officers before a sepoy, Sheikh Paltu, held him from behind.  Mangal Pandey then tried to shoot himself but only superficially injured the bulging muscles of his chest. He was disarmed by Major-General Hearsey, tried and executed on April 8.  It was only a month later that the Mutiny broke out at Meerut on May 10. The next day the rebel sepoys marched to Delhi and entered the city through the Rajghat Gate. Until September, the sepoys held control of Delhi after an orgy of bloodshed.

Though Mangal Pandey did not have any connection with Delhi as such, he was nevertheless hailed as a hero in the city and in Meerut, where a temple commemorates him. Every sepoy who had rebelled in Delhi and elsewhere was dubbed "Pande" by the British troops and their retaliation was termed "Pande-bashing", just as even Indians in Britain these days are among the victims of "Paki-bashing". A temple on the Ridge was nicknamed the "Pande Quarter" after it was taken over by British troops.

The general Order of the Commander in Chief (virtually a judgment) read "armed with sword using words tending to incite men of his regiment to turn our and join in resistance of lawful authority - striking and wounding lieutenant"  .... " Court orders to suffer death by being hanged by neck until he died"

Surprisingly enough, Mangal Pandey was a forgotten entity until 1957, when the centenary of the Great Uprising was observed. Fifteen years after that a temple was dedicated to him in Meerut.  The fact of the matter is that India knows very little about her first hero. Documents are scarce and mention only the outlines; the Indian literary world, and books on 1857, have ignored him; there is a major dispute about his place of birth and origin; and it is only now that a film has been made.


With great regards - S Sampathkumar.

PS :  Circulated to my group of friends through e-mail  on 19th July 2008 and published on my blog now. 

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