June 18, 2006

Bindee Tiwari

An article titled ‘A Salute to Bindee Tiwari’ by Jyoti Singh has appeared in the Spectrum section The Tribune dated June 18, 2006.

The article of Jyoti Singh has really humbled me. I believed that I had read a lot about 1857 and the First War of Independence. I have in my record a good amount of details about the year 1857 derived from secondary sources. I have gone through different books and even well researched article written by my friend Prof. Rajneesh Khanna which I have modified also by adding some details. I remember that I have mentioned about the first revolt of the Indian soldiers against the British colonial authorities in the eighteenth century in that article. I have made a note of the revolt of the Indian infantry in 1824 while borrowing from R. C. Majumdar and S. L. Sikri. There is reference to the revolt of the Indian soldiers in 1824 in my notes, but no where, I have mentioned the name of Bindee Baba, as he was popularly known and even today, that is the term used for the temple in his name at Barrackpore.

Coming back to the article of Jyoti Singh, it is suffice to say that it is a fine article. It was written for a newspaper. Therefore, there are no mention of the references and the ideology which went behind in forming the body of the article. The article definitely conveys the meaning and message which went behind it while writing. The spirit behind the article becomes clear in the lines which Jyoti Singh wrote and I quote;

"Their masters (The high caste soldiers who constituted the army of the British East India Company) let them observe their religious customs, etc. and the common man read it as their generosity. They were too gullible to discern that the picture of brotherhood that the British maintained was simply a subterfuge to extend their imperial designs. Everything was fine between them until English officers at Barrackpore ordered an expedition of the 47th Native infantry to Chittagong and then to Rangoon by sea, in 1824."

I do not know what made the author write these lines. The author may have in her possession a book by some historian or may have access to some sources from where she gathered actual picture of the episode. But those who know the history of India, they can well appreciate that by 1824, the directors of the company were more concerned with what was left with them after the charter of 1813. Secondly, by 1818, they have ended the power of Marathas, the only force which they feared at that time. The company and its officers were now coming out in their true colours.

Continuing with the narration of the episode, the author of the article brought out very nicely the working of the mechanism which provoked the Indians to raise the standard of revolt in Barrakpore. I quote;

"The sepoys felt offended by this order ( the order of voyage to Rangoon through sea), as this also meant that they would be unable to perform their ritual – cooking food, taking a dip, and doing puja – during the voyage."

Further, the author emphasized that the soldiers objected because there was no clause in their contract about serving overseas. The British reacted by stopping their allowances. There is need to consider the aspect of stopping of allowance in 1824, and if it is backed by primary proofs, then it is the most important aspect of the article. The scholars and even the contemporary officials who evaluated the causes of the uprising of 1857 had been emphasizing that the event of 1857 was mainly a result of the grouse against the reduction of the allowances and bhattas in 1850s. It means, it was merely taken as an excuse. The imperial ruler had been going back from their commitments in the contracts while recruiting the soldiers. They had breached the contract again and again. This was the actual story. They were doing it with everyone.

Another fact that is referred to in the article is also very important. It is written that "the sepoys got together to oppose the British and elected a commander – Bindee Tiwari – from amongst them" This is something which if supported by proofs, is highly important feature. It destroys thesis of the moderates of 1880s who had been giving the thesis of "nation-in-making".

The rest of the detail is the story, a part of which is also available on the web site of Barrackpore Cantonment. The event of the revolt took place on November 1, 1824. No doubt, there is more details in the article. Finally Bindee Tiwari was captured probably by November 4 or 5 and soon afterwards hanged. No body was allowed to claim his corpse. His body remained hanged from a pipal tree where now a temple stands.

I did not know about this fact of history in detail as it is given in the article. I made google and yahoo search. I did not find anything on yahoo search but google search took me to the site of Barrackpore Cantonment. Now that was another surprise. The web site of Barrackpore provides some original documents from 1870. Secondly, it also provides you with the references. Now this something opposite to what I had been ruing about concerning Indian history sources online. However, this is one example where original sources on Indian history available online.

On the web site of the Barrackpore Cantonment, the list of the references and old records are available in the Bibliography of the Cantonment and Vintage Documents links.

Finally, it is now again repeated that there is need to rewrite the history of India. There is need to define the concept of nation from the point of Indian history. India was not a nation in making in 1880 which was nurtured by educated middle class. One should remember, the awareness of western thinkers and thoughts did not dawn upon India after 1857. Before 1824 itself, the Hindu College had already established its credentials. The Derozio episode had taken place by that time. Even Sultan Tipu was fully aware of the designs of the British imperialistic activities. The recent movie, Range Dai Basanti has already shown that there was one other face of the national consciousness that pervaded and is still alive. No doubt, the movie is work of fiction but it suggests that a peculiar consciousness of history has meaning for the present also and that is true nation and history. The main requirement is to define it rightly and not to distort it through half baked history – the history as it is found and also that one which post Ramjanambhoomi agenda wants to write. There is need to bring out the revolutionary and virile features of Indian character. India is definitely a country of non-violence but a country of Jains and Buddha non-violence is a force because it is virile also. There is a history of this country which is existing in the minds of the people through their Indian way of life which is required to be written.

If I am not able to make myself in the preceding paragraph, then let me put in other words. There is need to give the right place to works of the armed revolutionaries in Indian history. Do not feel shy in telling that Ajatshatru killed his father Brihadrath to acquire the throne.

Note: The link on the above article is not available on the site of The Tribune online. I have written an email to them. Let us see if they respond.
An Update: The link to article ‘A Salute to Bindee Tiwari’ mentioned above is now active. The link is place above at the appropriate place. The note stands withdrawn.
Editing Notes:
Edited for changing the structure of a sentence on June 19, 2006.

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