Sunday 26 May 2013

The little known mutiny of Bangalore

There are many episodes, incidents and events in British India which have been either successfully swept under the carpet or buried under mounds of  irrelevant facts.
The British and later Indians have time and again underplayed several seminal and memorable events and some of them pertain to the straightforward challenge that the East India Company first and  
The British faced when they ruled over the Indian sub-continent.
Several uprisings and rebellions by the Indians, both common men and native soldiers, were suppressed ruthlessly and all records pertaining to such events either destroyed or the events were underplayed.
Unfortunately, even today many of these events find no mention in history books as even we Indians are still wary of changing the history books written by the British and Western scholars and authors.
One such event is the Bangalore Mutiny of 1832. No history book today speaks of this mutiny and there are also very few records available about the event. The mutiny shook the British so hard that they had several sepoys shot dead and others banished beyond the seas.
The mutiny took place barely 33 years after the British killed Tipu Sultan in Srirangapatna. The British had established a Cantonment in Bangalore in 1806 and they had moved many British regiments there from Srirangapatna, while stationing a token force in Mysore, the capital of the Wodeyar Kingdom.
While some of the British troops were stationed in the fort in Bangalore, many Europeans, including British and French nationals had made Bangalore their home. The 62nd Regiment of Foot and 13th Light Dragoons were the main British regiments that were stationed in Bangalore. The Foot regiment (Wiltshire) had arrived in India in 1830 and it arrived in Bangalore in September 1830.
The 13th Light Dragoons-a cavalry unit, later Hussars, were made famous by Lord Alfred Tennyson, the English poet who wrote about their deeds in the Battle of Waterloo in the poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”  
Coming back to the Bangalore mutiny, a handful of Indian soldiers had decided to take on the British. The mutiny was so meticulously planned that every aspect was taken care of and had it succeeded, the history of Bangalore would perhaps have been transformed.
The plot was discovered just a day before the mutiny was slated to take place. The plot was to kill the British soldiers stationed in Bangalore and the two regiments had been targeted for this purpose.   
Muslim civilians from Mysore and native Indian soldiers from Bangalore had come together to execute this operation. Their main aim was to completely eradicate British military from Bangalore.
Unfortunately, Jemadar Emaun Khan, an officer of the 48th  Regiment, revealed the existence of a plot to mutiny and murder all Europeans.
The mutiny had been timed to break out at midnight on October 28 October. The British Army at Bangalore took immediate measures to quell the mutiny. All the soldiers named by Khan were arrested including the ringleader, Hyder Ali Khan (a self-styled Nawab) and his associate Syfut Ali Shah (a fakir and member of a sect of religious mendicants).
Syfut had promised those who joined the conspiracy rewards in this world and the next.
The Commander-in-Chief of the British troops ordered a court of inquiry which was held from October 30th to November 4. The inquiry revealed that Hyder Ali Khan was well financed and that he had managed to enlist the support of as many Sepoys and Native Officers as he could by entertaining them at his house.
What shocked the British was that Hyder also managed to enlist the support of a number of disbanded troopers and discharged Sepoys formerly in the service of the Rajah of Mysore or the Wodeyar.
The mutiny was supposed to assume dangerous proportions as several hundred Pindaris were prepared to join Hyder and his band. Hyder was buoyed by the fact that the Ambassador of  the Raja of Coorg had promised to send 12,000 mounted and 7,000 foot soldiers once he received news that the mutiny had taken place.
On their part, the mutineers had laid out their plans meticulously. They had managed to ensure that a havildar sympathetic to their cause was stationed at the Mysore gate of the fort.
His job on midnight of October 28 was to admit the mutineers into the fort. Hyder and others soldiers planned to raid and capture the armoury, seize the weapons and kill all the British soldiers in their barracks.
They also targeted Major-General Hawker whom they wanted to be shot dead. Once this was accomplished, they had decided to fire a gun from the ramparts and simultaneously hoist a green flag.
The gun shot and the hoisting of the flag would be the signal for other mutineers to join the action.
The Native Horse Artillery was tasked with the job of butchering the European gunners first and then train the guns on the barracks of the 62nd Foot and 13th Light Dragoons. The ropes tethering the dragoon's horses would be cut and the Pindarees would take the horses whilst the guns were fired on the barracks.
The mutineers had calculated that if enough grapeshot was fired into the barracks there would be little chance of those inside escaping.
Hyder had then planned to install himself as a King of Bangalore and a prominent soldier, Seyd Tippoo, was to be his Prime Minister.
When we look the plans of the mutineers today, we can see that it was excellently drawn up and it would have succeeded but for its betrayal. Even if the mutiny had been suppressed, it would have led to bloodshed on both sides.
Jemadar Emaun Khan, who was told about the plot, was shocked. He straightaway went and informed Major Inglis who in turn communicated it to his higher-ups. The reaction was swift as it was immediate.
All the mutineers were arrested and imprisoned. The whole fort was sanitized and the watch and ward staff strengthened and reinforced. Additional troops were kept on the alert.
A court martial was ordered and proceedings began in Bangalore on November 26 by virtue of a warrant issued by R W O’ Callaghan, Commander in Chief of the Army.
The troops accused of mutiny were Syde Tipoo, havildar and drill havildar, 9th NI: Budderodeen, private: Shaik Ismail, havildar: Mahomad Yacoob, private 48th: Kullunder Beg, private: Shaikh Ahmed, private, horse artillery: Yacoob Khan, private, horse artillery: Sheikh Jaffer private: Hoonur Khan, private: Sheikh Homed, private.
The court martial report said that Syde Tipoo and others met on Oct. 25, 1832 and decided to seize the fort of Bangalore, murder European officers and to subvert the Government. The court martial cites four other similar meetings, all held by Syde Taipoo, in Bangalore.
All the five meetings were proved and the participants found guilty. The court martial handed over death sentence to Tipoo, Budderodeen, Shaikh Ismail and Kullunder Beg. They were sentenced to death by being blown away from a gun
The death sentences against  Mahomed Yacoob, Sheikh Ahmeed, Yacoob Khanm, Sheikh Jaffer, Honoor Khan and Shaikh Homed were commuted to transportation beyond the seas for the terms of their natural life.
The court also sentenced to be shot to death Cawder Khan, camp colour man, horse artillery, Budderodeen, private, Chand Khan, private and Ahmed Beg, private. The sentences against Budderodeen and Ahmed Beg were commuted to transportation beyond the seas,
The Commander in Chief of the Britsh Army praised the role of Naigue Nagpah, private Nutter Cawn of 48th regiment and private Mutra Prasad of horse artillery who gave intelligence of the plot. The former two were promoted as Jamedar and the later to the rank of  Havildar with a donation of Rs. 500.
When the mutiny broke out, the company had 3500 men. Of them two havildars and twelve privates took part in the mutiny.
Though the British dealt with the mutiny harshly, they tried their best to keep it under warps lest other Indians rise against them. Even today, our books on history and city history do not contain any mention of these people and their sacrifice. We seemed to have forgotten their contribution even as we go about remembering others who had contributed much less to the nation and to society.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting article. Though I was aware of the disturbances in and around Bangalore in 1832, this is the first time that I am reading a comprehensive narrative of events that transpired there.