Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rare report discovered in a Google Book.............

A Times of India news item today claims that “rare 1857 reports on Bengal” have been unearthed recently. “Unlike what is commonly believed” it says, “the 1857 sepoy mutiny was not confined to cantonments in Barrackpore and Behrampore. Similar uprising started all over Bengal after these two were snuffed out in April, proof of which has just been found in the Bengal State Archives.”

It adds “Historians have found police/intelligence records that indicate that uprising also happened in Chittagong, Dhaka, Jalpaiguri and Tripura. Care was taken to suppress these records and so, no mention of these was found in text books”.

Atis Dasgupta, Director of the state archives and historian Barun De have been credited with this discovery.

While these poor historians had to spend days in murky, messy Govt offices, wading deep into smelly files that were more than a century old, we have the luxury of doing the same investigation on Google Books. Five minutes of such research produced this evidence that shows that the incidents at Chittagong and Dacca were no state secrets and certainly did not require to be ‘discovered’ afresh.

Colburn’s United Service Magazine and Naval and Military Journal published in the year 1868 contains a lengthy article pertaining to “An Incident of the Indian Mutiny” (pages 52-61). It provides exhaustive details of the mutiny at Chittagong and Dacca, written from a British viewpoint, of course.

"Late on Saturday night, the 21st of November, a letter forwarded by express, was received at Dacca, announcing the fact that the Sepoys at Chittagong had mutinied; and that, after burning their lines and destroying a great deal of property, they had marched off, apparently to join the 73rd Native Infantry and Artillery, who had engaged so much of our attention during the last seven months.

The Sepoys who thus commenced the bold game of rebellion, were the only men left of the 34th Regiment N.I., the headquarters of which had been ignominiously disbanded at Barrackpore on the 2nd of May, for the Mungul Pandy outrage, when the first blood of the mutiny was shed. As soon as the three companies at Chittagong heard of the disgraceful conduct of their comrades, they addressed to the Government a memorial, in which they declared that they would remain " faithful for ever." Even if at the time they meant what they said, no one believed or trusted them. They were individually as corrupt, in a military and loyal sense, as Mungul Pandy himself, the type of all mutineers, who after his cognomen, were nicknamed Pandies. " Shaky," as they were, however, few imagined they would be mad enough to rebel when the game was fairly up, and the tide of fortune had for some time been setting in strongly against their cause.

The time had evidintly arrived when it was necessary to act promptly and energetically. The Sepoys at Dacca were known to be in league with the 34lh N.I. at Chittagong, and the news of the latter having mutinied would be received by them through the post the next day—if indeed, it was not known already, for it is highly probable that they acted in concert with one another. "

After describing the turn of events and the manner in which the rebellion was quelled, the report concludes thus:

This was the last of the mutiny at Dacca. For seven long months the European inhabitants had been sleeping with revolvers under their pillows, and with their guns loaded by their bedsides, ready for immediate use. All care and anxiety were now removed. No one had any pity to spare for the wretched Sepoys. It was felt that they fully deserved their fate; and that the fortune of war alone had prevented them from inflicting upon the Europeans indescribable cruelties, compared with which hanging would be a mercy.

Should anyone feel inclined to condemn any of the actions which have been here described, it is hoped that before doing so he will count the odds which Englishmen had at that time to contend against in the East; that he will do his best impartially to realize all the dangers of the position which they maintained for so many months, and the feelings by which they could not but have been influenced ; and if this be done, his verdict can hardly he an unfavourable one.


Maddy said...

The references you have given are very secondary and holds no "real authenticity"..I am a professional scientific researcher and in our profession we never cite these kinds of references or take them very seriously..
What Mt.Dasupta found in the state archives is original documents..These are not one page document but lots of paper works..It takes a lot of painful effort to mine useful data from these archives as it is HUGE. They also give supplementary info on the socio-economic conditions of the people..
There may be some more materials in the personal archives with the Maharajahs of those regions..Those may shed more light..But,it is always very difficult to get access to it..

Raj said...

Maddy, I do understand and appreciate the rigour that goes into research work. In this case, a claim has been made to the effect ( at least that's what I discerned) that this was the first time that anyone has come to know that the mutiny had also happened at Dhaka, etc. This is not correct.It is certainly not 'breaking news" as the Google archives show. It was in the public domain always.The researchers can, of course, claim that they have unearthed new or original evidence that sheds more light or authenticity on these events.

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