July 14, 2006

Quasi Mutiny of 1824 by 47 Native Infantry at Barrackpore

The mutiny of 1824 was quite significant from history perspective. It is proved from the fact that it has found special mention in many of the contemporary sources and as well been given due attention by various historians. However, it is other thing that they have not mentioned the name of Bindee Tiwari. On the other hand, there are many references in different sources that there was a Brahmin who had taken over the responsibility of leading the troops in revolt or who headed the revolt or who was remembered by the troops after he was hanged. In spite of these facts, this event has not found due place in regular history of Modern India. They are many reasons for that but here the aim is to identify that the event had taken place and it was an important event.

In case of the cause of the mutiny of 1824, there were a variety of causes which had been listed by different authorities. The causes which had been mentioned by the authorities who were directly involved in the administration of the affairs of East India Company whether sitting in London or in the field areas, were mainly related to the administrative shortcomings. They have viewed the mutiny in 1824 as a result of the shortcomings on the part of the British government or the officers of the East India. It is surprising that it had not been emphasized. The reason can be easily sought. There had been two types of history dominating the Indian history. One history was written by Cambridge school of historians who had tried to project Britain on a mission to civilize the world. The second history is by the nationalist historians of India who had tried to project that Britain was an imperialist power who was bent upon destroying the Indian culture and civilization. In between, they lost the scientific attitude of looking at the facts as they existed. As a result where the authorities had developed the feeling that it was their mismanagement and lack of concern due to pervading doctrine and policy, the Cambridge historians did not emphasized it because it weakened their thesis. The nationalist historians did not emphasize such aspects because they did not want to be identified as sympathizers of the imperialist power.

A review of the several sources on the incidence of the mutiny of 1824 will be a useful exercise to bring out the relevance of above observation.

The sources discussed here are mainly the online sources. However, this does not lower the credibility of this dissertation because those sources are such sources which are available in the archives and established libraries which are drawn upon for any serious research. The only difference is that some of the libraries and the archives have come online. The only difference is that a scholar now does not need to go to the buildings of the archives and libraries and sit in there to pursue these sources. Now, he can do the same job by watching at the screen of his monitor. However, some of the printed secondary sources have been cited and duly acknowledged while researching the details of this event from different perspectives of the historians and contemporary sources available online.

The Event of 1824:

There is need to first determine that the event occurred through various sources with special emphasis on the online contemporary sources.

According to Majumdar, the 47th Native Infantry was moved to Barrackpur in order to proceed to take part in some of the operations of the Burmese War during the early months of 1824. 1

According to Leitch Ritchie account of 1846, it was in the middle of 1824, the 47th Native were marched to Barrackpore, with a view of being sent thence to Rangoon. Leitch Ritchie had given a graphic account on the basis of the an eyewitness information that “On the 1st November a parade took place at daybreak, but the order to fall in was only partially attended to.” As per his account, when the officer at that time, General Dalzell tried for total compilation of his command, all the troops, “dashed forward in a body, drove off their officers, tore the knapsacks from the backs of the soldiers of the fifth company, established themselves on the parade fronting the line, and having piled their arms, planted a cordon of sentries round them, openly raised the standard of revolt.” 2

Majumdar had attributed the information of this event to S. C. Chaudhari. In his account, he traced the event to the date October 30, 1824. As per his account, “In the parade held on October 30, 1824, they (the soldiers of 47th Native Infantry) appeared without their knapsacks and refused to bring them even when asked to do so, on the ground that they were unfit for use. A part of the regiment then declared that they would not proceed to Rangoon or elsewhere by sea and they would not move at all unless they were to have double batta. The Commanding Officer, unable to subdue the discontent, dismissed the regiment and proceeded to Calcutta to consult the Commander-in-Chief. After his return he held a parade on November 1. At this parade the sepoys burst into acts of open violence. The same mutinous spirit also affected the other regiments which were stationed at Barrackpur, preparatory to their proceeding on service.” 3

Jyoti Singh in an article in the Tribune without referring to the sources describes the event somewhat like this. The English officers at Barrackpore ordered the 47th infantry to march to Chittagong and from there to Rangoon by sea in 1824. The sepoys opposed this ordered due to number of issues. They also opposed the order “saying that there was not mandatory clause in their contract about serving overseas. In order to check their resistance against the imperial might, the British officers not only remained adamant but also stopped extra allowance. The hardened stand lead the sepoys to desist with an equal force. They got together to oppose the British and elected a commander – Bindee Tiwari – from amongst them. 4

Unable to face the ire of the speoys under Tiwari’s command, the British officers had no other option but to flee. For two days Barrackpore was under the command and control of Tiwari and his men.” 5

According to the research of Kanaippada Roy, the 47th regiment of Binda Tiwari was ordered to proceed to Rangoon (The present day Yangon). Lord Amherst was the Governor General at that time. “Binda refused to go to Rangoon. Several Native colleagues joined him in the refusal and later, as the things turned nasty, Binda and his men fired at the British officers killing some of them.”6

According to the official website of the Barrackpore cantonment maintained by Ministry of Defence, Government of India, Barrackpore is the older cantonment in the sub-continent. It was the symbolic seat of military power of Britain since 1765 and remained so upto 1910. It is emphasized on the web site that the “modern history of Barrackpore revolves around three historic events.” Out of the three events, the second event was the revolt in 1824. To quote from the site, “As a result of this Mutiny, native sepoys under the leadership of Bindce Tiwary famously called as Bindi Baba, Sepoy of 47 infantry rebelled on the order of British to move to Chittagong and on to Rangoon. Barrackpore was virtually under the control of 47 Native Infantry led by Sepoy Bindce Tiwary for 2 days and thereafter the rebellion was crushed with great force by British. All the rebels were mercilessly massacred. 7

Further, continuing the narration of the history of the place, the third event is described as follows.
“The third event happens to be the most prominent and tipped to had started first was of Indian Independence in 1857, when the first shot against British was fired by Sepoy Mangal Pandey on 29 March at Barrackpore. The thread of social events running through these periods is best left to the imagination of oneself since this mutiny of 1857 has had a tranquil existence.” 8

On the web site of Barrackpore, among the heritage structures, a Hanuman Temple is included and mentioned prominently. It is called the Bindee Baba’s Hanuman Mandir. The following details has given.
“The facts which have been gathered are that in the mutiny of 1824, 47th native Infantry was abandoned by the Officer and was Commanded for two days by a Sepoy named Bindee Tiwary. He was caught and later hanged in chains and his body was left hanging as a warning to potential recalcitrant. Later offering were made by Sepoys to his remains as he was considered a martyr. Folklore made him 'Colone' Bindee and the temple stand today where his body was left hanging.” 9

According to George Francis Train, an American, “During the Burmese war in 1824 (the year before the panic) the Barrackpore regiments refused to go to Burmah.” 10

According to St. George Tucker, in his book published in 1853 posthumously and edited by John William Kaye, “The quasi mutiny at Barrackpore, in 1824, was one of the most unfortunate occurrences in our military history – one which I have always deplored. The regiment could not move without the means of conveyance for its baggage, which had not been provided; ….”11

Hence, it can be safely said that the sepoys of 47 Native Infantry mutinied in year 1824 at Barrackpore, a seat of Military power near Calcutta, the seat of the Governor General of British India. Lord Amherst was the Governor General. He was pursuing a Anglo Burmese War which is also remembered as First Anglo-Burmese War. During the course of the war, 47 Native Infantry was ordered to move to Rangoon but it mutinied.

The next question is, What were the causes of the mutiny of 1824? It will be taken up in a future posting.

Footnote 1:
(return)(R. C. Majumdar_British Paramountcy and Indian Renaissance_Part I, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan Bombay, Third Edition, 1988. pp 428.)

Footnote 2:
(return)( Leitch Ritchie, “The British World in the East – A Guide Historical, Moral, and Commercial, to India, China, Australia, South Africa, and the other Possessions or Connexions of Great Britain in Eastern and South Sea. Two Volumes. ” by Leitch Ritchie, W. H. Allen, 1846.pp 278, (Source: Books Google, accessed on June 20, 2006, link: Leithch Ritchie on Google Books

Footnote 3:
(return)R. C. Majumdar Op. Cite. pp 428.

Footnote 4:
(return)Bindee Tiwari by Joyti Singh: as accessed on July 14, 2006.

Footnote 5:
(return)Bindee Tiwari by Joyti Singh: as accessed on July 14, 2006.

Footnote 6:
(return) Who first sounded bugle of freedom – Mangal or Binda? Accessed on June 19, 2006. The same article has appeared at different portals also.

Footnote 7:
(return)History of Barrackpore Cantonment as accessed on July 14, 2006.

Footnote 8:
(return)History of Barrackpore as accessed on July 14, 2006.

Footnote 9:
(return)Heritage Sites of Barrackpore as accessed on July 14, 2006.

Footnote 10:
Geroge Francis Train, Date of Accessing: Friday, June 30, 2006

Footnote 11:
(return)St. George Tucker

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