1857: The aftermath

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Contents

1857: Communal fallout of the 1857 uprising

(This article has plenty about Muslim social reform after 1857 but nothing about the communal fallout)

By Asghar Ali Engineer [HTTP://TIMESOFINDIA.INDIATIMES.COM/ARCHIVE.CMS THE TIMES OF INDIA]

INDIA is celebrating this year 150 years of its first war of independence which for the British was a ‘mutiny.’ Of course, there is a serious problem, too, when we call it a war of independence. Was India a nation at that point of time? Also, can we call it a struggle for independence when in fact some rajas and nawabs or feudal lords were fighting for their respective territory or landed estate? Even Marx said it was a revolt by feudal lords.

Tara Chand, a noted scholar, writes in his History of Freedom Movement in India (vol. II, pp. 42): “It has to be admitted that the war against the British was not inspired by any sentiment of nationalism, for in 1857 India was not yet politically a nation. It is a fact that the Hindus and Muslims cooperated but the leaders and the followers of the two communities were moved by personal loyalties rather than loyalty to a common motherland.”

This is one side of the story. The other side is that it was a unique struggle in which both feudal lords as well as common people fought together. There was as much anger amongst feudal lords as among the common people for their own reasons. But no one can deny hostile sentiments against the British as foreign rulers. Tara Chand also admits this when he writes: “The uprising of 1857 was a general movement of the traditional elite of the Muslims and the Hindus – princes, landlords, soldiers, scholars and theologians (Pandits and Maulvis). The Emperor of Delhi, the King of Oudh, some Nawabs and Rajas, Talukadars and Zamindars, the soldiers – Pathans (Walaytis), Mughals, Rajputs and Brahmans of northern India – and the maulavis who were members of this order, comprised the main body of rebels.” (Tarachand, op.ct. pp-43)

Though each category of rebels had its own reasons to participate in the rebellion, they together were quite a representative group. In those days the mantle of leadership could only be taken on by feudal lords as they constituted the ruling class. But what is important to note is that they had common people lined up behind them. It is true India was not a nation then but as a country it did exist and all coming together, at least from north India, made it quite a representative group.

It is also true, as Percival Spear points out “The passions of the mutineers were centred on their grievances, not on larger ideals.” Perhaps that was the reason why they did not succeed.

Another thing to be noted is that the joint struggle led to Hindu-Muslim unity and Hindus themselves chose the Moghul emperor as leader of the movement. This fact had its own symbolic value and its significance was not lost on the Britishers who, after the failure of the ‘revolt’, sensed a threat in it and systematically devised ways and means to divide Hindus and Muslims. We are paying the price for that until today though the reasons for division between Hinds and Muslims are more of our own making.

We are here concerned more with the aftermath of 1857 struggle than the struggle itself. In fact, the outcome of the consolidation of the British rule after failure of our war of independence was a mixed bag. It undoubtedly strengthened our slavery to a foreign power but also brought some benefits. We were exposed to modern education and rational and scientific ideas. Modern ideas came to be adopted by a section of Indians though there was stiff opposition to them by traditionalists. Sati came to be outlawed, thanks to the efforts of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Many Muslim reformers also came to the fore.

Many thinkers and intellectuals found themselves in the midst of tension between tradition and modernity. It was very aptly expressed by the great poet Ghalib when he said in one of his ghazals: Iman mujhe roke hai to khinche he mujhe kufr – Ka’ba mere piche hai to kalisa mere aage [iman (belief in Islam) stops me and kufr (British progress and rationalism) pulls me. Thus the holiest mosque Ka’ba is behind me and church is ahead of me.] This was an apt description of the situation confronting many thinkers and intellectuals of that period.

Some insist that while Hindus produced social and religious reformers who laid stress on modern education, Muslims continued to cling to older ways and refused to accept change. This is, at best, a very superficial approach and even biased in many respects. Muslims also produced great reformers though the impact of their work was not as widespread as those of Hindu reformers, for various reasons. We will throw light on some of these reasons.

Generally the name of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan is more known as a social reformer and educationist but he was not alone. Many more wrote extensively to advocate modernist reforms. They included Maulavi Mumtaz Ali Khan, Maulavi Chiragh Ali, Sheikh Abdullah, Justice Ameer Ali and several others.

It is not widely known that Maulvi Mumtaz Ali Khan was a great advocate of Muslim women’s rights. He wrote a remarkable book Huququn Niswan (Rights of Women). He was a contemporary of Sir Syed. He believed in complete equality of men and women and argued his case for gender equality on the basis of the Qur’an and hadith, something unthinkable in those days when women were completely domesticated and subordinated. Maulavi Saheb also began to publish a journal of women which his wife edited and after her death his daughter took its charge.

The book Huququn Niswan was so revolutionary in its approach that even Sir Syed Ahmad advised Mumtaz Ali Khan not to publish it lest it should cause more problems for him. In fact Sir Syed himself was an advocate of women’s rights as is evident from his incomplete commentary on the Holy Qur’an but he had to give up this project under pressure from orthodox ulema in return for winning their support for his another project, MAO College which he was trying to establish in Aligarh.

However, Maulavi Mumtaz Ali Khan was an ardent advocate of gender equality. Similarly, Sheikh Abdullah campaigned for women’s education and established a girls’ school in Aligarh which later became a full-fledged women’s college which today is part of Aligarh Muslim University. Maulavi Chiragh Ali also wrote for reforms in Muslim personal law so did Justice Ameer Ali whose book Spirit of Islam is a significant contribution in this respect.

Though there was some resistance to modern education among north Indian Muslims, thanks to influence of orthodox ulema, there was absolutely no such resistance in South India. In Bombay, Justice Badruddin Tyebji established Anjuman-i-Islam school for modern education, an organisation which runs several educational institutions today. This contrast is interesting as in north India the ulema had lost all their influence and their hold on offices of religious education in Mughal court or regional Muslim rulers. In Bombay and elsewhere in South India, Muslims generally benefited from modern education.

The reason why there was stiff opposition to modern education and social reforms was that there had emerged no capitalist class among Muslims -- the ultimate beneficiaries of such reforms. The ruling class among Muslims was mainly feudal and this class was more or less ruined after 1857. This class had also borne the brunt of British wrath as it was seen in the forefront of the revolt. Of course, later the British rulers tried to coopt this class into their mainstream administration to stem the rising tide of Hindu nationalism.

On the other hand there was the Muslim artisan class in urban and semi-urban areas of north India. To this class, modern education made hardly any sense. There was no idle [middle?] class aspiring for modern education and reforms. There was total absence of modern entrepreneur class among Muslims in north India, which, among Hindus, was emerging.

The British rule, as pointed out above, resulted in serious cleavage between Hindus and Muslims because of the peculiar British policy on one hand, and for indigenous reasons, on the other. Such cleavage never existed before. There was a composite ruling class, which shared power at various levels of feudal hierarchy. Now there began to emerge new consciousness of separate interests and separate identities.

The writer is an Indian social scientist and chairman of Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai.

E-mail: csss@mtnl.net.in

1857: What the British did after crushing the Rising

1857 The world turned upside down

Ronojoy Sen | [HTTP://TIMESOFINDIA.INDIATIMES.COM/ARCHIVE.CMS THE TIMES OF INDIA]

When 20 sawars from Meerut crossed the Jamuna into Delhi at around 7 am on May 11, 1857, they triggered a chain of events that would have a cataclysmic effect on the city and the northern plains. Within a day, several British were massacred, while the rest fled to safety to neighbouring towns. From June, the British who had regrouped after their initial reverses lay siege to the walled city of Shahjahanabad from their camp on the northern ridge. During the siege — described by William Dalrymple as the Raj’s Stalingrad — and well after the British recaptured Delhi, the city was thrown into a state of turmoil from which it took years to recover.

The first to feel the unsettling effects of the uprising was Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, who had reluctantly assumed the symbolic leadership of the rebels. The 83-year-old king had already been reduced to being a pensioner of the British and his writ was largely confined to the Lal Qila. When the rebels burst into the fort, the king was possibly as surprised as the British. A contemporary account by Munshi Jiwan Lal, a courtier suspected to be a British spy, says that the sepoys were not too concerned with niceties of royal etiquette. Some of them apparently casually addressed the king as “Ari, Badshah! Ari, Buddha!”, and one even had the temerity to touch his beard. The emperor was to later summon up remarkable energy to try and control the anarchy in Delhi and to quell religious tensions.

During the siege, the citizens of Delhi began to feel the pressures of hosting the rebel troops — running into several thousands — who had camped in Delhi. According to historian Seema Alavi, who has done extensive research on the sepoys, a bulk of the rebels were disgruntled ‘Purabiyas’ from Awadh and Bihar. There were also several so-called jihadis, many of whom had earlier been employed by Muslim chieftains in north India. The impact of such a large posse of troops on the city has been documented by Mahmood Farooqui, who is working on an English translation of the Mutiny papers stored in the National Archives. For instance, the June 14, 1857, edition of the Delhi Urdu Akhbar said that even lowly vegetables such as kaddu and baingan had disappeared from the bazaars. There were also several petitions seeking redress for the behaviour of the sepoys: a widow complained to the king that several horsemen had intruded into her kothi and wrecked it; somewhere else an entire mohalla complained that the Gwalior cavalry was forcibly demanding money and looting things

If the siege turned the world of Delhi residents upside down, the British recapture of the city was brutal. Several thousand rebels and citizens were massacred, while the rest scattered into the countryside. Mirza Ghalib, a witness to the events of 1857, later wrote, “Mass slaughter was rampant and streets were filled with horror.” The sack of Delhi also changed the topography of the walled city. As Nayanjyot Lahiri, who teaches archaeology in Delhi University, points out, the British were “as rapacious in their organised plunder as earlier invaders such as Nadir Shah”. The Red Fort bore the brunt of the marauding British soldiers. While several items were simply carried away, the copper gilt domes of the Diwani-i-Khas, Mussaman Burj and the Moti Masjid were auctioned off. 

Post-1857, the interior of Lal Qila was radically altered. Army barracks, which can be still be seen standing, came up within the precincts of the fort. Outside it, there were wholesale demolitions. One of the biggest casualties was the 17th century Akbarabadi mosque, which was pulled down. Some localities like the Dariba escaped after traders petitioned governor-general Canning for mercy. All the prominent mosques in the walled city were taken over. The Jama Masjid was closed for worship and handed over to the Sikh soldiers of the British army to be used as barracks. It was handed back for prayers only in 1864. The Zinat-ul-Masjid, now known as Ghata Masjid, was converted into a bakery. The Fatehpuri mosque was sealed and parts of it auctioned off to one of the richest Hindu bankers in the city.

There was, however, one happy ending to this story of indiscriminate destruction. The richlycarved panels in the Diwani-i-Am of the Red Fort were carted away by a Captain John and bought by the British government later. During one of the functions following the 1903 Coronation Durbar of King Edward VII, the gaps in the wall were noticed. Viceroy Curzon got back the panels and put them back, where they can still be seen.

None of this geography of conflict — as Lahiri puts its — is marked or documented in today’s Old Delhi. All that is there has are the memorials built by the British, and a few scattered exhibits of 1857 in the museums inside the Red Fort. Nuanced representations of the events that led to Delhi becoming in Ghalib’s words a “half-desolate, half-peopled city”, have been all but forgotten in the Indian government’s haste to appropriate the uprising.

The Kashmiri Gate just after the recapture. The British assault on Delhi began from here in Sept 1857

1857: The old order was shattered

Memories Of A Mutiny

By Mubarak Ali

Dawn

Whatever you may say about the Mughal culture of the Red Fort — decadent, feudal, class oriented, and irrelevant to time — it carried values and traditions created by past generations.

Though it had lost its creativity and kept society inert, despite its weaknesses, it had refinement and sophistication, a spirit of tolerance and a sense of respect for others. In fact, it was a shared culture which nourished and flourished as a result of combined efforts of all communities irrespective of their religion and creed. This culture united all inhabitants of Dilli as one community. The ashrafiya or elite classes were quite satisfied in their cultural milieu despite the political changes. Some of them had enough income from their jagirs while others got stipends and salaries for their services from the fort. Some of them loyally served the East India Company and enjoyed a respectable status in society.

When the city was conquered by the British, there was no protest against them. People accepted the new occupation without any problem. The British were fascinated by the city and adopted its culture. They married Indian women and kept harams like the Indian nobility, learned Persian and Urdu and some of them even composed verses in these lanuages. They smoked hookahs and dressed like the locals. It was the beginning of a new Anglo-Indian culture.

When the rebel sepoyes arrived in Delhi from Meerut in the month of May, 1857, to seek help and protection of the Mughal Emperor, the inhabitants of the city did not like this disturbance. To the cultured people of the city, these sepoyes were uncivilised and uncultured barbarians. Unaware of the centuries-old Mughal culture, they violated royal protocol and traditions of the fort soon after their arrival. They neither paid proper homage to the nobles or the Emperor, nor addressed them with respect.

Within a short span of time, the rebels destroyed all the values dear to the nobility. The pure Urdu spoken in the fort and in the courtier’s homes lost its significance in the presence of a peasant army who spoke with a different dialect. It was a severe blow to the culture and tradition of the Mughal nobility, more serious than political defeat as it was the last sign of their identity and privilege. It plunged them into depression and sorrow and they felt helpless in defending their culture and its values.

After the defeat of the rebel army, when the city was finally conquered by the British, it witnessed another disaster. British soldiers indiscriminately killed people, raped women, plundered and looted the wealth of the citizens. It was the punishment of rebellion and the city suffered. Not satisfied with hanging of people and extorting money, the British authorities ordered evacuation of the city. They systematically demolished its buildings, the Red fort was converted to army headquarters which ended its social and cultural significance. The Jama Masjid became an army camp. The mosques of Delhi lost devotees, the bazaars lost their fervour, and lush gardens became barren.

Zaheer Dehalvi writes in his book Dastan-i-Ghadar that from the Gate of Kabul to the fort, from Jama Masjid to the Delhi Gate, including the lane of Bilaqi begum, Khanam ka bazaar, khass bazaar, the haveli of Khan-i- Dauran; thousands of houses were demolished and levelled to the ground. Both the inhabitants and the city paid the price for rebellion.

Those who left the city spread throughout India for refuge. Its writers, poets, calligraphers, artists, storytellers, dancers and musicians disappeared in the mist of history.

The mutiny or rebellion came to an end but those who suffered kept their deep wounds hidden and continued to preserve its memories in silence. They could not express their feelings or show their wounds as they endured the tragedy. Nobody had the courage to write or narrate their inner sadness of loss but built memorials and documented all details to remember their travail, such as the elegies of Delhi written by Hali, Dagh, Azurda, and Mir Mahdi Majroh

History tells us that after every great event such as a civil war, rebellion, or a riot, there is not only a breakdown of social and cultural values, but also peace and prosperity. Law and order comes to an end which leads to chaos. Family belongings no longer remain a matter of pride while differences between the rich and the poor are diminished. All signs of cultural refinement disappear and the weak are exploited to collect money for becoming rich and influential. But there are also people who help victims and provide them comfort. This also happened in 1857.

After the defeat, when the Mughal princes and their family left the fort, they found themselves helpless and miserable. In the fort they led a protected life but without any experience of the practicalities of real life. After 1857, belonging to the Mughal family became a stigma. Khawaja Hassan Nizami, who was born in 1879, after passing 22 years of the uprising, collected material from those who were still alive and narrated stories of some of the Mughal princesses and princes who lived incognito for the rest of their lives. In the writings of Hassan Nizami, there is a human tragedy and also an elegy on the death of a culture. The uprising of 1857 ended not only characteristics of a city but also of its culture.

1857: The relevance of

The relevance of 1857

By Mubarak Ali

Dawn

ON the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the uprising of 1857 against the British Raj in India, we organised three conferences — in Lahore, Karachi and Gujrat. The idea was to recall and analyse the events of that historic year.

Some friends raised questions about its relevance to the times in which we are living. We realised how people can misunderstand history and take it as an obsolete discipline.

True, all historical events are not relevant to the present. But very often those events which are forgotten surface again in a pattern that sheds light on the happenings of today and inspire us to learn lessons from the past. The commemoration of 1857 not only serves to revive the past and to help us remember the sacrifices of those who fought against foreign rule, it also helps us understand the people’s response to such rule. Thus we can grasp its consequences.

The revolt of 1857 was a widespread popular reaction against British rule and its injustices. But the paradox was that there were also a number of native groups and individuals who supported and collaborated with the British. That raises the question: why did they collaborate with a foreign power against their own people?

There were actually three groups which had supported British rule.

First, there were those who were in the service of the East India Company and, following the tradition of loyalty, defended the Company’s interests.To them the Company Bahadur was personified as their patron whose servants they were and to support it in case of trouble was their moral duty as they had eaten salt with them — (namak halali). Being low-ranking office-holders, they were overawed and impressed by the Company’s organisation and its military power.

Second, there were the princes and feudal lords whose interest it was not to get involved in any conflict which could endanger their own property and privileges. They realised that the rebel forces could not successfully fight against the well-disciplined and well-organised British army. They were not interested in supporting a losing cause and paying heavily in the end. Only those princes and jagirdars sided with the rebels who had already lost their positions as a result of political structural changes.

The third group consisted of those who sincerely believed that British rule would modernise India. To them, foreign intervention offered the only option to pull India out of its backwardness. How far were these expectations proven correct? This is a question that needs to be analysed in order to understand the colonial period. As a matter of fact, British rule in India was beneficial to only those sections of society which were already at a certain level of civilisation and culture. Such was the case with the Brahmins and the Muslim bourgeosie.

The rest of the Indian population was backward, illiterate and extremely poor. The benefit of political reforms and technological advancement did not reach the majority. Here is an example for those who believe that relinquishing our national sovereignty and accepting foreign intervention is the only solution to our problems. The fact, as history tells us, is that nations cannot be reformed by alien and foreign powers. Only their own leaders can change them.

When the rebellion of 1857 was over, the British started to analyse its causes. The revolt had been too unexpected for them and they failed to understand why there was such a strong reaction against their policies. Some British bureaucrats reached the conclusion that the revolt was masterminded by the Muslims and the Hindus were just trapped in it. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, for one, was very much concerned with the hostile attitude of the British towards the Muslims. He had already written The Causes of the Indian Mutiny and Tarikh-Sarkashi-i-Bijnor (The History of the Mutiny of Bijnor). To respond to this allegation and to prove the innocence of the Muslims, he started to write a series of articles known as ‘The Loyal Mohammedans’.

He collected material from those Muslims who had supported the British during the rebellion and had protected their lives and properties, in some cases at the cost of their own lives. In his articles, Sir Syed mentioned the certificates which were given to the loyal servants of the Company by British officers acknowledging their support and loyalty. He also mentioned the awards of the British government to these people in the shape of landed properties and robes of honour in appreciation of their loyalty. He convinced the British that all Muslims were not against their government. On the other hand, they had respect for Christians as ‘people of the Book’ and remained loyal to their cause.

The interpretation of 1857 changed with the emergence of nationalism and the ‘mutiny’ was interpreted as a ‘national war of independence’. The heroes of the British became the villains of the people. However, the families of those ‘loyal Mohammedans’ who were awarded landed properties and cash remained as powerful and influential as before, especially in parts which later became Pakistan. For lack of historical knowledge and perception they are never brought to justice. The result is that there is no anti-colonial approach in our historical narrative. On the contrary, there is great admiration for British rule.

What is the lesson of history? History tells us that imperialism cannot succeed in occupying another country without local collaboration. Today, we are facing the same situation in Iraq and Afghanistan on the one hand and Palestine on the other. We are hearing the same arguments that with the help of foreign powers and intervention, religious extremism and terror will be wiped out. Again, history tells us that it is not correct. We cannot rely on others to fight our wars.

We learn from 1857 that the defeat of a resistance movement is not the end of the struggle, as those involved in it always learn a lot as a result of defeat and correct their approach for the next engagement. The events that followed 1857 were a mix of violence and non-violence. It was not the constitutional approach alone but also resistance which consequently led to our independence.

1857 Delhi’s living links with the uprising

1857 City’s living links with the uprising


[HTTP://TIMESOFINDIA.INDIATIMES.COM/ARCHIVE.CMS THE TIMES OF INDIA]

The taking of Delhi by rebels on May 11 stoked revolt across north India. The tide turned with the British recapturing the city

Amit Bhattacharya | [HTTP://TIMESOFINDIA.INDIATIMES.COM/ARCHIVE.CMS THE TIMES OF INDIA]


Naved Yar Khan vividly remembers the arched niche in the wall that marked the 'forbidden corner' of his house. This was the spot in his ancestral haveli at Old Delhi's Ballimaran locality, where as a boy he was not supposed to play or even speak loudly. "My grandmother would burn incense sticks in the 'taakh' (niche). She had told my mother not to let the children play around in that corner of the house," he says.

Naved, now 53, realises why his family held that spot in reverence. “That is probably where one of my ancestors is buried.” Graves inside houses – that's one physical link binding Old Delhi with the cataclysmic days of 1857 (and later with the traumatic events of 1947). "You find traces of old graves in kuchas and mohallas. Such was the British terror after Delhi’s recapture that for months no able-bodied Muslim dared step out of his house. Many of the dead were buried inside the house,” says Naved, who runs a guesthouse in a part of his ancestral property.

The blue-blooded Khan – he draws his lineage from Nawab Hafizullah Khan Haft Hazari, Aurangzeb's minister of religious affairs – belongs to one of the few families left in the old city who can claim a link with the rebellion. These ‘living links’ provide interesting ‘native’ insights on the uprising.

Naved's great grandfather and great grand uncle were said to have been hanged by the British from the infamous peepal tree in front of the kotwali (where Gurudwara Sisganj stands today). “My great grandfather Nawab Safdar Yar Khan and his brother Asghar Yar, residents of Farashkhana, were charged with killing an English soldier. Family lore has it that the soldier, who was beating up a man, was hit on his temple with a key ring. The ring had the family name inscribed on it, which led to the arrests."

Naved's family has noted the gradual changes that took place as Moghul rule ended in the aftermath of the rebellion. “The angrakha (robe) and turban associated with the Moghuls gave way to sherwanis and topis as the preferred dress for Muslims.”

Deep inside the labyrinth of the old city – at Pahari Imli near Churiwalan – lives another link to those times. Nasim Mirza Changezi is 97 years old and a walking repository of the past. He traces his lineage to the rulers of Sindh. "My ancestors moved to the court of Akbar in Agra and then came to Delhi with Shah Jahan. My great grandfather, Nawab Mirza Shahbaz Beg Khan, was deputy collector of Hissar when the mutiny broke. He rushed back to Delhi to join the rebels and was made commander of a unit," says he.

Changezi gives detailed accounts of battles fought by his great grandfather –part of the family lore passed on by his father. “Shahbaz Khan was involved in the battle at Nahr Firozeshahi (the Hindon river) in Ghaziabad where the rebels checked the advancing British forces coming from Meerut . Graves of sipahis can still be found next to the bridge along the river bank.

“It was an intense battle. Our soldiers dug their cannons on a mound by the river. As the two sides engaged, English soldiers entered the river. Shahbaz Khan and his unit broke away to attack the enemy from the rear. Ek-do furlang tak nahr ka pani khoon se lal ho gaya (the water turned red from the blood of the English)," he says. Contemporary accounts however show the rebels had to beat a retreat at the Hindon battle.

As one probes deeper into the 1857 connections, another fantastic link emerges – the ‘great grandson’ of the king himself. Shah Mohammad Shuaib Khan lives in Aligarh and claims that one of the princes, Shahzada Mirza Shah Abbas Bahadur, exiled with Bahadur Shah Zafar to Rangoon, secretly returned to India and settled in Aligarh. “Shah Abbas was 16 when he was sent away to Rangoon. He eventually married and had a daughter late in life – as late as 1912-13. The daughter, Shameem Akhtar, was my mother. She bore me at the age of 52,” he says. Shuaib Khan calls himself the royal caretaker (muttawali) engaged in “upholding the responsibility of my ancestors” and has many claims pending in courts.

While many of the sepoy rebels were Hindus, the Hindus residents of Delhi, especially the traders, were largely passive. Historian Shama Mitra Chenoy explains why. “With no forewarning, the British lost control of the city in a single day. The traders were taken by surprise,” she says. Chenoy comes from a khatri family which settled in Shahjahanbad in 1666, during Aurangzeb's reign. Her paternal ancestors lived in Katra Neel, the enclave of khatris in the city. The area remained remarkably free from the loot and plunder that marked the rebel takeover of the city as well as the British return.

“Seth Chunna Mal (one of the richest city residents of the time whose haveli still stands at the edge of Katra Neel) wielded enough clout and wealth to buy peace for the neighbourhood. One end of Katra Neel opens into Chandni Chowk and the other at Bagh Diwar. The gates at both ends were closed and the area remained free of violence throughout,” she says.

But, Chenoy emphasises, khatris elsewhere in the city weren't spared. “My great grandmother’s haveli at Kucha Ghasi Ram was completely destroyed. Her grandfather, Jahangir Chand Sehgal, who was a banker, was physically dragged through the streets and brought before a British officer on charges of spying for the mutineers.”

A century-and-a-half may seem like an awfully long time. But clearly, the city still remembers.

Urban legend?

The name of Mohd Bakht Khan, the barrel-chested soldier with 40 years' experience in British army, has often been taken as one of the Indian heroes of the Delhi rebellion. Nasim Mirza Changezi, whose forefather fought the British in Delhi, talks about another little-known hero. “Kale Khan Golandaz was the ace gunner in the rebel ranks. Such was his skill in using the cannon that he could at times neutralise enemy cannon balls in the air. He was made Mir Aatish (artillery chief) by General Bakht Khan and constantly harassed the British forces on the Ridge from his position at the Mori Gate." English accounts also talk of the persistence and accuracy of enemy fire. English soldiers were surprised that sepoys had mastered the technically demanding skill.

“Kale Khan was captured and killed after the British took the city,” Chagenzi adds. — AB


Naved Yar Khan points to the spot where his forefathers were hanged


The Sharif Manzil at Ballimaran, whose owner was the hakim of Patiala’s ruler. This saved the neighbourhood from being plundered by Sikh soldiers


Changezi

See also

1857: The events

1857: The causes

1857: A jihadi revolt?

1857: The geographical spread

1857: Heroes and heroines

1857: The aftermath

1857: Contemporary reportage

1857: Books and folksongs about

1857: Little known but important facts

Dawn 2007

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