Sunday 2 December 2012

This Cenotaph was officially vandalised

There are innumerable instances of monuments being brought down and history erased in the world. Such instances, either accidental or deliberate have continued down the ages and almost all countries have been a party to it.
The Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afganisthan were bombed out by the Taliban a few years ago. This is perhaps the prime example of vandalism of an invaluable piece of history.
If you think such acts take place only in areas controlled or ruled by the extremist you are mistaken. A similar incident occurred in Bangalore several decades ago and it took place under the umbrella of then City Corporation. It was given an official stamp by the authorities.
Kannada activists and others made vociferous demands for pulling out a Cenotaph located just opposite the corporation office (Hudson Circle).
The Cenotaph was built by the British to commemorate the sacrifice of British soldiers who had given their lives to conquer Bangalore in 1791.
The Cenotaph was a tomb like monument built in memory of Lt.Col. Moorhouse, Capt. Delany and about 50 soldiers who died in the Siege of Bangalore in 1791 and in other wars with Tipu Sultan.
The road near Corporation Circle, where the monument was located, was called Cenotaph Road. Now its is renamed as Nruputunga Road.
The Cenotaph was demolished on October 28,1964 by the Bangalore City Corporation and the road too was renamed as Nrupathunga Road.
Even the engraved stones were thrown away and today not a single stone of the Cenotaph remains. The only remnant is a small piece of the Cenotaph which is placed as a Bench in the Corporation office.
As early as 1949, the Corporation had decided to demolish the a cenotaph. It felt that the demolition would erase the humiliation that Indians had suffered at the hands of the British.
However, nothing came of it until several decades later. The growing Kannada movement and the repeated threats of Kannada Chaluvali leader Vatal Nagaraj and others to demolish the Cenotaph spurred the corporation to take action on its own.
On October 28, 1964, the corporation passed a resolution to officially demolish the Cenotaph. In a speech on the occasion of  unveiling of the statue of Kempe Gowda in place of the Cenotaph, Kannada activist  G Narayana said, “In the 1791 battle fought by Col. Moorhouse, 600 were killed and killed cruelly. More cruel than Jallianwala Bagh. So this monument is an insult to all Indians, and especially all Kannadigas. Gone is the time when the citizens of Bangalore hung their heads in shame before a cenotaph to British victory in the city centre; in its place is the statue of Kempe Gowda, an achievement which has brought pride and joy.”
Today, the statue of Kempe Gowda stands at the very place where the Cenotaph once stood. The siege of Bangalore now remain only in books on history and the military history of Britain.
Well, what was the siege that drew large scale outrage from Bangaloreans during the 1960s. Here goes the story. 
The siege of  Bangalore and its fortifications was part of the third Anglo-Mysore War in which the East India Company was pitted against Tipu Sultan.
Bangalore then had a massive fort with 26 bastions. The fort was surrounded by a huge and deep ditch. The fort was oval in shape and it was an important military point. The original fort of mud built by Kempe Gowda had been rebuilt in stone buy Hyder and Tipu.
Lord Cornwallis had sensed the importance of the Bangalore Fort and decided to attack it. He came to Bangalore on February 5, 1791 and immediately began directing the troops which also contained a large number of Europeans to take their station. The command of the siege was led by the Mysore Garrison.
Tipu followed the army of Lord Cornwallis towards the petas which were located outside the fort and began harassing the troops. It was with great difficulty that Lord Cornwallis managed to escape the pincer attack by Tipu. On the night of March 21, 1791, Lord Cornwallis secretly attacked Bangalore fort.
Meanwhile, two companies of Madras Pioneers had dug several parallel ditches leading to the fort from where they could fire at the fort and also escape enemy fire. One of the trenches led straight upto the fort. The British troops swiftly placed ladders against the fort walls and jumped into the fort and the gates of the fort were thrown open.
The British troops opened heavy fire and managed to breach the fort at one place. The Madras Pioneers, led by Lt Col Mackenzie, crossed the ditch with scaling ladders, mounted the breach and entered the fort even while the artillery engaged the men at the fort with blank ammunition.
The assault on the Pettah Gate which Moorhouse led proved successful and the enemy was routed. The assault on the fort was ensured a ferocious hand to hand fight in which more than a thousand of Tipu’s men were killed. Several Britishers and troops loyal to them were also killed.
Lord Cornwallis thus captured the fort and this led to Tipu agreeing to humiliating terms of surrender with the British.
Among the British officials killed were Joseph Moorhouse who was commissioned from the ranks and  joined the Madras Artillery in 1768. He was 47 when he was killed, leading an assault on the Pettah Gate. Another British killed was Captain Delaney.
The British constructed the Cenotaph in memory of theose killed in the battles with Tipu.
The battle of Bangalore and the siege of Bangalore is beautifully sketched by a British artist Robert Hume. There is a beautiful  sketch of this scene of Morrhouse lying on the battle field. He is supported by Captain Douglas of the 74th (Highland) Regiment. Others include the second-in-command, Major-General William Medows, riding a brown horse  and Captains Wight, Wynch and Burn.
Robert Home arrived in India in January 1791 and in March he was permitted to accompany Lord Cornwallis, Governor-General of India, on his expedition against Tipu. During the campaign Home produced several sketches which were later published.
After the fall of Bangalore, Tipu retreated to Srirangapatna. Lord Cornwallis went upto Srirangapatna but were unable to press the advantage. Several factors forced both Tipu and British to agree to a uneasy truce which lasted till 1799.
There is an account of the storming of Bangalore in Fortescue's History of the British Army. Some of the details are contained in
ARMY, Vol. III. (pp. 566-570)
It says, “Cornwallis now proceeded with the very difficult task appointed to him, namely, the capture of a strong fortress in the presence of a superior force without the aid of a covering army.
He had encamped, as has been told, on the north-eastern side of the place, and there he remained, for he had not nearly troops enough to invest it completely. Bangalore consisted, as was usual in India, of a fort proper and a pettah, or fortified town, adjoining to it. The fort proper was of oval form, with a total perimeter of about a mile. It was solidly built of stout masonry, with twenty-six round towers at equal intervals from each other, and was surrounded by a ditch; and it possessed two gates, the Mysore or southern and the Delhi or northern gate.
Immediately to the north of it lay the town, some three miles in circumference, which was enclosed first by an indifferent rampart with redoubts and flechee , then by a belt of impenetrable thorn about a hundred yards in width, and finally by a ditch, these barriers being intermitted only in the space that lay immediately opposite to the fort.
Tippoo had thrown eight thousand men into the fort, nine thousand more (of which three-fourths were irregular troops) into the town, and then had retired with the remainder of his force to a position some six miles to westward.
Cornwallis decided that the town should first be carried, in the hope that its position and the supplies hoarded within it would facilitate the regular operations of the siege
Accordingly at dawn of the 7th March, the Thirty-sixth Foot and a battalion of Bengal Sepoys moved off with their battalion-guns to the attack of a gateway on the northern face of the town, four heavy guns following them in support.
A fl├Ęche which covered the gate was speedily carried with the bayonet, and the storming party then pushed on by a winding way, hardly wide enough to admit half a company abreast, across the ditch and through the belt of thorn to the inner gate. Here the advance was checked, for the gateway had been built up with masonry upon which field-guns could make no impression; and the party perforce remained halted for some time under a galling fire until the heavy guns could be brought forward. By their shot a small opening was at length made; and Lieutenant Ayre, a small and slender subaltern, being hoisted up by the grenadiers, contrived to creep through it.
General Medows, who was always most facetious when the fire was hottest, watched the gallant fellow disappear through the gap, and then turned to the grenadiers of the Thirty-sixth with the words, "Well done. Now, whiskers ! Support the little gentleman." A few more men managed to crawl after Ayre, and opened a sally-port for the entry of the rest. The garrison was then quickly beaten back under the guns of the fort, and within two hours two-thirds of the town were in possession of the British.
Large stores of forage, valuable beyond estimation to Cornwallis, thus fell into his hands. Meanwhile, Tippoo, frantic with rage at the audacity of the attack, set his whole army in motion as if to turn Cornwallis's left, at the same detaching six thousand men to reinforce the garrison, which had rallied under the cannon of the fort, and with them to re-take the town.
Cornwallis, divining his intention, manoeuvred to foil the turning movement, but lost no time in strengthening his force within the walls. The attack of the Mysoreans upon the town was delivered with unusual spirit and resolution; but after a short exchange of volleys the Thirty-sixth and Seventy-sixth, with two Sepoy battalions, cut matters short by clearing the streets with the bayonet. Gathering impetus from success, they then drove the enemy from quarter to quarter, until they fairly swept them out of the town, with a loss of over two thousand killed and wounded. The casualties on the British side amounted to one hundred and thirty, of which no fewer than one hundred occurred among the Europeans. Among the fallen was Lieutenant-Colonel Moorhouse, who was killed while bringing up the heavy guns to the first attack on the gate; his ardour being such that, though wounded in two places, he never relaxed his exertions until two more bullets laid him dead.
Colonel Wilks has sketched the character and career of Moorhouse in words which should not be forgotten. "He had risen from the ranks, but Nature herself had made him a gentleman; uneducated, he had made himself a man of science; a career of universal distinction had commanded universal respect, and his amiable character universal attachment."
There are few soldiers who might not envy the death and the epitaph of this humble taker of the King's shilling.
The forage captured in the town was very welcome to the army, for the draught-bullocks were already dying by hundreds, and even the cavalry dared not move outside the circle of their piquets in the face of the swarms of Mysorean horse.
The singular nature. of the operations became more and more unpleasantly manifest. Batteries were indeed thrown up to breach the defences of the fort ; but the besiegers, as at Delhi two generations later, were themselves in a fashion besieged, for the garrison opposed to them was constantly relieved, while the whole of the enemy's field-force lay in constant menace before them. From sunset to sunrise every man of Cornwallis's troops was accoutred and every horse saddled; and on every day Tippoo's manoeuvres became more threatening and more dangerous. At length, on the 21st, though the breach was still very imperfect, Cornwallis resolved to assault without further delay, trusting to a narrow causeway to carry his stormers across the ditch. At eleven o'clock in bright moonlight, the Grenadiers of his European regiments advanced with scaling-ladders in perfect silence, made their way over a trench that had been cut across the causeway, and gained not only the breach but the ramparts on its flank before they encountered serious resistance.
The supporting battalions then swarmed after them, the companies turning right and left alternately to clear the ramparts; and after an hour of deadly work with the bayonet all opposition was overcome, and the fort was in possession of Cornwallis.
Tippoo, who, in spite of his adversary's secrecy, was fully aware of his plans, had given timely warning to the garrison to expect the attack, and had himself advanced to within a mile of the walls during the assault. But he came too late to avert the disaster, and after standing in silent stupor for a while, he returned to his camp. Over one thousand bodies of the enemy were actually buried after the storm, but the casualties of the British during the whole operations of the siege were less than five hundred.
The Orders issued by Lord Cornwallis on the day after the fall of the fortress are preserved in the records of the 36th Foot, and are as follows:

"LORD CORNWALLIS feels the most sensible gratification in congratulating, the officers and soldiers of the army on the honour able issue of the fatigues and dangers they have undergone during the late arduous siege. Their alacrity and firmness in the execution of their various duties, has, perhaps, never been exceeded, and he shall not only think it incumbent on him to represent their "meritorious conduct in the strongest colours, but he shall ever remember it with the sincerest esteem and admiration."
"The conduct of all the regiments which happened, in their tour, to be on duty that evening, did credit in every respect to their spirit and discipline; but his Lordship desires to offer the tribute of his particular and warmest praise to the European grenadiers and light infantry of the army, and to the THIRTY-SIXTH, Seventy-second, and Seventy-sixth regiments, who led the attack and carried the fortress, and who, by their behaviour on that occasion, furnished a conspicuous proof, that discipline and valour in soldiers, when directed by zeal and capacity in officers, are irresistible."

No comments:

Post a Comment