1857: The Jihad

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by ajtr, Aug 20, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    1857: The Jihad


    Sheshrao B. More. Translated by Bhalchandrarao C. Patwardhan, Manas, 2009, 518 p, ISBN : 81-7049-337-2

    The impression fostered about events during the 1857 Uprising may well need drastic overhaul if one considers the thesis presented by Prof. Sheshrao More in his book The 1857 Jihad (Manas Publications, Delhi). It is a translation into English of the author’s original in Marathi, 1857cha Jihad.

    We are told how Hindus and Muslims came together in unprecedented camaraderie, mutual understanding and co-operation in 1857 in a joint attempt to free India from the British yoke. Mere mention of names like Bahadur Shah Zafar, Nanasahib Peshwa, Mangal Pandey, Tatya Tope or Rani Laxmibai electrify us with patriotic fervour even now, a century and a half since their passing. Indeed, they and others like them who led a series of struggles against the British at that time, had become beacons of nationalistic inspiration for freedom fighters of a later era.

    However, citing the scholarly opinion of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, as expressed in his book Pakistan (1940), Prof. More contends, with an impressive array of other impeccable references to substantiate his view, that the popularly known '1857 War of Independence' was merely an intermediate stage of a movement with the entirely different objective of converting India into a Dar-ul-Islam (land ruled according to Islamic Law) (p. 7). That movement had really commenced with the activism of Shah Waliullah after the Battle of Plassey in 1757, to be rejuvenated with the jihad undertaken by Sayyid Ahmad. The next stage was achieved when India became independent at the cost of partition and the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Both struggles were ostensibly against the British as all of us know. But the author says, ominously perhaps, that the next in the series is hardly likely to be a struggle against them (p. 12), leaving readers' logic more than imagination or emotion to ascertain by and against whom it is most likely to be waged.

    '1857' was, according to the author, essentially a jihad with the sole aim of re-establishing Islamic rule, which had seen progressive decay since Aurangzeb' s death in 1707. It was not a freedom struggle at all in the sense we normally use the term.

    He recounts in the first two chapters, details of a movement initiated by a certain Shah Waliullah (1703-62) who preached a return to pristine Islam after ridding it of the accretion of non-Islamic customs. The movement was embellished by his successors - his son Shah Abdul Azeez and Sayyid Ahmed Barelvi (1786-1831), which accomplished unprecedented churning of religious sentiment among Muslims of North India.

    No history of the 1857 uprising taught in schools even mentions these persons. But, according to evidence presented by the author, they were most responsible for the creation of an anti-British sentiment that eventually led to the Uprising.

    The author's contention is perhaps borne out by the curious fact that, barring those territories that had in the 19th century remained under Muslim control, nominal though it may have been, no other region in India witnessed anything that could justly be called an 'uprising'.

    Commonly proffered reasons for the uprising are analytically debated by the author in a separate chapter to show how only few of them might be called primary and fundamental while all the others were only secondary, subsidiary or incidental. That the revolt remained restricted to only certain areas of North India is explained by the author as a result of the primary cause - the compromising of Muslim power (p.104). The economic deprivation suffered by mainly Muslim tradesmen through the new policies of the British government is identified by him as another main cause (p. 96). Weavers, ship builders and maritime traders were predominantly Muslim and suffered the most with British takeover of their businesses. Annexation of native states or the enactment of laws prohibiting evil social customs like sati, are regarded by the author only as secondary or incidental causes. In actual fact, not a small section of Hindu society had actually welcomed those reforms! The author makes a comparison of public reaction to the dissolution of Satara, Jhansi and Avadh. While the first two were tame, individual protests made by the respective deposed rulers with no part being taken by their subjects, the third was met with massive public outrage. He claims that this marked difference strengthens his argument that loss of Muslim power had been a primary cause. The issue of fat-smeared cartridges, in fact, he dismisses as "absurd" (p.103)! He further points out (p.100) that it was "abnormal, illogical and astonishing" that Hindus had taken part in the uprising for reasons as trivial as these.

    The instigators, leaders and beneficiaries of the uprising who are identified in three chapters were Muslim almost to a man and subscribed to the Waliullahi philosophy. Nanasahib, Laxmibai and not least of all, Mangal Pandey who is credited as being the 'first freedom fighter', had all been enticed, coerced, beguiled or befuddled into the fray, says the author. Unknown to or ignored by most of us, Laxmibai was essentially a British loyalist and had been appointed by them to rule Jhansi on their behalf for a full ten months from July 2, 1857, even after the Uprising had broken out in that principality. They would hardly have done so if they had even a faint suspicion about her loyalty! Her ultimate undoing, says the author, was due to a conspiracy engineered by Nathhe Khan of nearby Orchha who waylaid every conciliatory or explanatory communication sent by her to the British, thus precipitating the fatal confrontation between them. (p.306) Likewise, Mangal Pandey too was the victim of machinations of his trusted friend Nakki Khan (p.174-76). Nanasahib, in fact, was threatened with death by rebel sepoys if he declined to lead them. (p.237-38)

    As further evidence in support of his view, the author presents in a subsequent chapter numerous appeals, declarations, proclamations and fatwas issued by the various players of 1857, explaining their content and intent. It includes such documents issued, among others, by Nanasahib and Laxmibai which the author shows were jihadi in essence. He claims that internal evidence of their contents establishes beyond any doubt that they were actually drafted by Muslim clerics and passed off in the names of influential persons like Nanasahib and Laxmibai, who had no choice but to sanction them.

    The last chapter narrates the innumerable grievous clashes that took place between Hindus and Muslims during the period of the uprising, completely belying an impression that communal harmony prevailed, which eulogists would have their readers to receive. The author states, "It is … a parody of truth to claim that a golden age of Hindu-Muslim amity had dawned during the Uprising", and records his amazement at the ease with which Moulana Azad, when he was Central Minister for Education, could pervert history with the observation that he had not come across a single incident of communal strife or conflict during the entire period of the uprising. (p. 439)

    The book presents a disturbingly new angle to events of the 1857 Uprising and is certain to make very interesting reading.
  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    1857: not a jihadi uprising

    By Hassan Jafar Zaidi
    Saturday, 26 Jan, 2008 | 05:33 AM PST |

    The documentary, Clash Of The Worlds: Mutiny, telecast by BBC-1 on January 7, carried some distortions of historical facts. It suggested that the 1857 uprising against the British was motivated, organised and fought by the jihadi Muslims of India. The background of jihad was linked to 1830-31 Wahabi movement led by Syed Ahmed Brelvi who was a disciple of Mohammad Bin Abdul Wahab of Arabia (1704-92).

    The documentary traced the roots of Wahabism as an anti-British movement, leading finally to an armed struggle against the British in India; establishing a jihadi camp in Peshawar “against the British” under the command of Syed Ahmed who was killed in 1831 without telling ‘who he was fighting against’ and who really killed him. Some important facts have been ignored or misrepresented because they did not fit into what the documentary was trying to impress upon i.e. the Islamic Jihad always targeted the British, irrespective of time and space in the history of mankind.

    It is important to set the historical records straight. History must be viewed in its true perspective rather than an instrument of propaganda for the persecution of a religious community.

    Sir W.W. Hunter, a great British annalist and an ICS officer, was assigned to prepare a report about discontentment among the Muslims of India (published as Our IndianMusalmans or The Indian Musalmans). It was considered an authentic document on Syed Ahmed’s Wahabi Jihad movement. According to Hunter, Syed Ahmed, under the influence of Mohammad Bin Abdul Wahab, recruited during early 19th century, the Jihadis, the fighters of Holy War, from Bengal, Bihar, Awadh and Agra, the areas which were under the administration of East India Company.

    British officers had the knowledge of this recruitment and they let it happen because the target of this recruitment was not the British but the Sikh empire of Ranjeet Singh spread over Punjab, the present day North West Frontier Province and Kashmir.

    Hunter narrates stories of young Muslims, doing menial jobs in the East India Company, applying for long leave and the Company’s officers granting them. Syed Ahmed was successful in conquering Peshawar and its surrounding areas up to Mansehra and Balakot.

    Battles between the Sikh armies and the jihadis continued; the Sikhs were officered by the French generals to support Maharaja Ranjeet against the British expansion. Thus, this local war became a proxy war between the British and the French –– the jihadis enjoying tacit support of the British and the French helping the Sikh armies.

    Syed Ahmed and many of his companions were killed at the hands of the Sikhs (and the French) in a battle at Balakot in 1831. To some extent, it resembled the recent proxy war between the Soviets and the western bloc fought under the guise of jihad by Osama bin Laden and other jihadi organisations. It was only after the fall of Sikh empire in 1849 that a minor group led by Patna-based brothers Wilayat Ali and Inayat Ali, the Wahabis began to work against the British just as the Taliban, once favourite Mujadideenof the West, turned against the West after the demise of the Soviet Union.

    The BBC documentary does not reveal several facts about the real contending forces. The 1857 uprising, mutiny for the British and war of independence for the Indians, has been portrayed in the documentary as Jihad by Muslims/Wahabi terrorists against the British, and there is no mention of the participation of Hindus and other Indian communities in it –– a crucial omission.

    There exists a general consensus among historians that 1857 war was a secular uprising. It united Muslims and Hindus against the colonialist British who, by their policies, had sowed the seeds of rebellion in all the communities for different reasons. The uprising was inevitable when the Indian section of the army was allocated cartridges greased with the fat of cows and pigs, unacceptable to both Hindus and Muslims. The vanguard of the rebellion consisted of all the communities. The mutiny lasted thirteen months: from the rising at Meerut on May, 10, 1857 to the fall of Gwaliar on June 20, 1858.

    Thomas Lowe, a contemporary British chronicler who was in Central India during the rebellion, wrote in 1860: "The infanticide Rajput, the bigoted Brahmin, the fanatic Musalman, had joined together in the cause; cow-killer and the cow-worshipper, the pig-hater and the pig-eater… had revolted together." The combatants in the uprising comprised the rebellious East India Company sepoys, several small princely states mostly ruled by Hindu rajas, and deposed rulers of big princely states of Oudh (Muslim) and Jhansi (Hindu).

    A closer look into the uprising reveals little presence of Wahabi extremists. There were calls for jihad by Muslim leaders like Maulana Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi and Ahmedullah Shah which were responded by Muslim artisans of Oudh. In May 1857 the Battle of Shamli took place between the forces of Haji Imdadullah and the British in Thana Bhawan in Oudh. These few eruptions led by religious Muslim leaders could not and did not change the overall secular complexion of the Rebellion.

    The origins of Wahabi movement of late 18th and early 19th century in Arabian peninsula were not anti-British sentiments. The movement targeted the Turkish Ottomans who, as believed by the Wahabis, were responsible for polluting the fundamentalist Islam of Arabia with the traditionalist rituals of Ajam (non-Arabs). Wahabism was a political movement, with religious overtones, seeking freedom for Arabs from the occupation of Ottoman Turks.

    The British wanted to destabilise and demolish the Ottoman Empire; they facilitated and supported the Wahabis in Arabian peninsula. The rulers of Najd, the House of Saud (Al-Saud), were the disciples of Wahabism. The Indian Viceroy i.e. the representative of British Crown as Governor General, provided money and arms to Al-Saud rulers of Najd and other Gulf Sheikhdoms to brew this rebellion against Ottomans (TheKingdom: The Arabia and the House of Saud by Robert Lacy).

    During World War1, John Philby, an Intelligence Officer of the British Foreign Service was sent in 1917 to Abdul Aziz, the Wahabi ruler of Najd, to serve as his advisor. Aziz succeeded in deposing Sherif Hussain of Makkah from Hijaz to establish Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after the collapse of Ottoman Empire. Philby served as a minister in the government of Al-Saud. He changed his name as Abdullah apparently after embracing Islam but still served the British Intelligence. He was exiled by King Saud in 1955.

    That is how Wahabism was supported and sponsored by the British in 19th and 20th century in the Arabian peninsula which later became the breeding ground of jihadis. After 9/11, the world changed and the allies became aliens. So, the documentary portrays the Wahabi jihadis as anti-British and anti-West militants since the inception ofWahabism till to-date.

    The researchers of the documentary perhaps were ignorant of the fundamentals ofWahabism. A collogue of pages from some religious books in Urdu were presented as the literature of teachings of Wahabis. One of the pages was titled “Shab-i-Barat ki Fazeelat” (Glory of the Night of Exoneration). One may note theWahabis don’t believe in this night, nor take part in celebrations performed on this night by the traditionalist Muslims. n
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    The last Mughal and a clash of civilisations

    William Dalrymple
    Published 16 October 2006

    6 commentsPrint versionEmail a friendListenRSS
    East and west face each other across a divide that some call a religious war. Suicide jihadis take what they see as defensive action and innocent people are killed. But this is 1857. William Dalrymple on lessons from the Raj for the neo-cons
    At 4pm on a hazy, warm, sticky winter's day in Rangoon in November 1862, soon after the end of the monsoon, a shrouded corpse was escorted by a small group of British soldiers to an anonymous grave at the back of a walled prison enclosure. The enclosure lay overlooking the muddy brown waters of the Rangoon River, a little downhill from the great gilt spire of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Around it lay the newly built cantonment area of the port - a pilgrimage town that had been seized, burned and occupied by the British only ten years earlier.

    The bier of the State Prisoner - as the deceased was referred to - was accompanied by his two sons and an elderly mullah. The ceremony was brief. The British authorities had made sure not only that the grave was already dug, but that quantities of lime were on hand to guarantee the rapid decay of both bier and body. When the shortened funeral prayers had been recited, the earth was thrown over the lime, and the turf carefully replaced to disguise the place of burial. A week later the British Commissioner, Captain H N Davis, wrote to London to report what had passed, adding:

    Have since visited the remaining State Prisoners - the very scum of the reduced Asiatic harem; found all correct . . . The death of the ex-King may be said to have had no effect on the Mahomedan part of the populace of Rangoon, except perhaps for a few fanatics who watch and pray for the final triumph of Islam. A bamboo fence surrounds the grave, and by the time the fence is worn out, the grass will again have properly covered the spot, and no vestige will remain to distinguish where the last of the Great Moghuls rests.

    The state prisoner Davis referred to was Bahadur Shah II, known from his pen-name as Zafar (meaning, paradoxically, "victory"). Zafar was the last Mughal emperor, and a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. He was born in 1775, when the British were still a modest coastal power in India, and in his lifetime his dynasty had been reduced to insignificance, while the British transformed themselves from vulnerable traders into an aggressively expansionist military force.

    Zafar came late to the throne, succeeding his father only in his mid-sixties, when it was already impossible to reverse the political decline of the Mughals. Despite this he created around him in Delhi a court of great brilliance. He was one of the most talented, tolerant and likeable of his dynasty: a skilled calligrapher, a profound writer on Sufism and an inspired creator of gardens. He was also a serious mystical poet, and through his patronage there took place one of the greatest literary renaissances in Indian history.

    Then, on a May morning in 1857, 300 mutinous sepoys from Meerut rode into Delhi, massacred every Christian man, woman and child they could find, and declared Zafar to be their emperor. Zafar was no friend of the British; but he was not a natural insurgent, either. He suspected from the start that the uprising - a chaotic and officerless army of unpaid peasant soldiers set against the forces of the world's greatest military power - was doomed.

    The great Mughal capital, in the middle of a remarkable cultural flowering, was turned overnight into a battleground.

    The Siege of Delhi was a fight to the death between two powers, neither of whom could retreat. Finally, on 14 September 1857, the British assaulted and took the city, sacking the Mughal capital and massacring swathes of the population. "The orders went out to shoot every soul," recorded Edward Vibart, a 19-year-old British officer. "It was literally murder . . . The women were all spared but their screams, on seeing their husbands and sons butchered, were most painful . . . I feel no pity, but when some old grey bearded man is brought and shot before your very eyes, hard must be that man's heart I think who can look on with indifference . . ."

    Delhi was left an empty ruin. Those city-dwellers who survived were driven out into the countryside to fend for themselves. Though the royal family had surrendered peacefully, most of the emperor's 16 sons were tried and hanged, while three were shot in cold blood, having first freely given up their arms, then been told to strip naked. "In 24 hours I disposed of the principal members of the house of Timur the Tartar," Captain William Hodson wrote to his sister the following day. "I am not cruel, but I confess I did enjoy the opportunity of ridding the earth of these wretches."

    A fascinating relationship

    In 2002, researching in the National Archive in Delhi for a book on the life of Zafar, I found a remarkable collection of 20,000 previously untranslated Urdu and Persian documents that enabled me to resurrect in some detail the life of the city before and during the siege. Cumulatively, the stories contained in these Mutiny papers allowed the great uprising of 1857 to be seen not in terms of nationalism, imperialism, orientalism or other such abstractions, but as a tragic human event for ordinary individuals whose fate it was to be caught up accidentally in one of the great upheavals of history. Public, political and national disasters, after all, consist of a multitude of private, domestic and individual tragedies.

    The Last Mughal, published this month, continues the story I began in White Mughals - the story of the fast-changing relationship between the British and the Indians, and especially Muslim Indians - in the late 18th and the mid-19th century.

    During the 18th century it was almost as common for westerners to take on the customs, and even the religions, of India, as the reverse. These white Mughals had responded to their travels in India by shedding their Britishness like an unwanted skin, adopting Indian dress, studying Indian philo sophy, taking harems and copying the ways of the Mughal governing class they came to replace - what Salman Rushdie, talking of modern multiculturalism, has called "chutnification". By the end of the 18th century one-third of the British men in India were leaving their possessions to Indian wives.

    In Delhi, the period was symbolised by Sir David Ochterlony, the British Resident, who arrived in the city in 1803: every evening, all 13 of his Indian wives went around Delhi in a procession behind their husband, each on the back of her own elephant. For all the humour of this image, in such mixed households, Islamic customs and sensitivities were clearly understood and respected. One letter, for example, recorded that "Lady Ochterlony has applied for leave to make the Hadge to Mecca". Indeed, Ochterlony strongly considered bringing up his children as Muslims, and when his children by his chief wife, Mubarak Begum, had grown up, he adopted a child from one of the leading Delhi Muslim families.

    This was not an era when notions of clashing civilisations would have made sense. The world that Ochterlony inhabited was more hybrid, and had far less clearly defined ethnic, national and religious borders, than we have been conditioned to expect. It is certainly unfamiliar to anyone who accepts the usual caricature of the Englishman in India, presented repeatedly in films and television dramas, of the narrow-minded sahib dressing for dinner in the jungle.

    Some 200 years before Zadie Smith, Monica Ali and Hari Kunzru all made it into the bestseller lists, and multiculturalism became a buzzword capable of waking Norman Tebbit and the Tory undead from their coffins at party conferences, the India of the East India Company was an infinitely more culturally, racially and religiously chutnified place than the most mixed areas of London today.

    Imperial arrogance

    Why did the relatively easy interracial and inter-religious relationships so evident during the time of Ochterlony give way to the hatred and racism of the 19th-century Raj? How did the close clasp of two civilisations turn into a bitter clash?

    Two things put paid to the easy coexistence. One was the rise of British power: in a few years the British had defeated not only the French, but all their other Indian rivals; and, in a manner not unlike the Americans after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the changed balance of power quickly led to undisguised imperial arrogance. No longer was the west prepared to study and learn from the subcontinent; instead, Thomas Macaulay came to speak for a whole generation of Englishmen when he declared that "a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia".

    The other factor was the ascendancy of evangelical Christianity, and the profound change in social, sexual and racial attitudes that this brought about. The wills written by dying East India Company servants show that the practice of cohabiting with Indian bibis quickly declined: they turn up in one in three wills between 1780 and 1785, but are present in only one in four between 1805 and 1810. By the middle of the century, they have all but disappeared. In half a century, a vibrantly multicultural world refracted back into its component parts; children of mixed race were corralled into what became in effect a new Indian caste - the Anglo-Indians - who were left to run the railways, posts and mines.

    Like our 19th-century forebears, today we have sometimes assumed that liberalism and progress are unstoppable forces in society, and that the longer the nations and religions of the world all live together, the more prejudices will cease to exist and we shall come instead to respect each other's faiths and ways of living. The world since 11 September 2001 has shaken our confidence in this, and led to a reassessment (at least in some quarters) of assumptions about the melting pot of British multiculturalism. Likewise, Company India moved from a huge measure of racial intermixing in the late 18th century to a position of complete racial apartheid by the 1850s.

    Pre-emptive action

    Just like it is today, this process of pulling apart - of failing to talk, listen or trust each other - took place against the background of an increasingly aggressive and self-righteous west, facing ever stiffer Islamic resistance to western interference. For, as anyone who has ever studied the story of the rise of the British in India will know well, there is nothing new about the neo-cons. The old game of regime change - of installing puppet regimes, propped up by the west for its own political and economic ends - is one that the British had well mastered by the late 18th century.

    By the 1850s, the British had progressed from aggressively removing independent-minded Muslim rulers, such as Tipu Sultan, who refused to bow before the will of the hyperpower, to destabilising and then annexing even the most pliant Muslim states. In February 1856, the British unilaterally annexed the prosperous kingdom of Avadh (or Oudh), using the excuse that the nawab, Wajid Ali Shah, a far-from-belligerent dancer and epicure, was "debauched".

    By this time, other British officials who believed in a "forward" policy of pre-emptive action were nursing plans to abolish Zafar's Mughal court in Delhi, and to impose not just British laws and technology on India, but also British values, in the form of Christianity. The missionaries reinforced Muslim fears, increasing opposition to British rule and creating a constituency for the rapidly multiplying jihadis. And, in turn, "Wahhabi conspiracies" strengthened the conviction of the evangelical Christians that a "strong attack" was needed to take on the "Muslim fanatics".

    The eventual result of this clash of rival fundamentalisms came in 1857 with the cataclysm of the Great Mutiny. Of the 139,000 sepoys of the Bengal army, all but 7,796 turned against their British masters, and the great majority headed straight to Zafar's court in Delhi, the centre of the storm. Although it had many causes and reflected many deeply held political and economic grievances - particularly the feeling that the heathen foreigners were interfering in the most intimate way with a part of the world to which they were entirely alien - the uprising was articulated as a war of religion, and especially as a defensive action against the rapid inroads that missionaries, Christian schools and Christian ideas were making in India, combined with a more generalised fight for freedom from occupation and western interference.

    Although the great majority of the sepoys were Hindus, in Delhi a flag of jihad was raised in the principal mosque, and many of the insurgents described themselves as mujahedin or jihadis. Indeed, by the end of the siege, after a significant proportion of the sepoys had melted away, hungry and dis pirited, the proportion of jihadis in Delhi grew to be about half of the total rebel force, and included a regiment of "suicide ghazis" from Gwalior who had vowed never to eat again and to fight until they met death at the hands of the kafirs, "for those who have come to die have no need for food".

    One of the causes of unrest, according to a Delhi source, was that "the British had closed the madrasas". These words had no resonance to the Marxist historians of the 1960s who looked for secular and economic grievances to explain the uprising. Now, in the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001 and 7 July 2005, they are phrases we understand all too well. Words such as jihad scream out of the dusty pages of the Urdu manuscripts, demanding attention.

    There is a direct link between the jihadis of 1857 and those we face today. The reaction of the educated Delhi Muslims after 1857 was to reject both the west and the gentle Sufi traditions of the late Mughal emperors, whom they tended to regard as semi-apostate puppets of the British; instead, they attempted to return to what they regarded as pure Islamic roots.

    With this in mind, disillusioned refugees from Delhi founded a mad rasa in the Wahhabi style at Deoband, in Delhi, that went back to Koranic basics and rigorously stripped out anything European from the curriculum. One hundred and forty years later, it was out of Deobandi madrasas in Pakistan that the Taliban emerged to create the most retrograde Islamic regime in modern history, a regime that in turn provided the crucible from which emerged al-Qaeda, and the most radical Islamist counter-attack the modern west has yet had to face.

    Today, west and east again face each other uneasily across a divide that many see as a religious war. Suicide jihadis fight what they see as a defensive action against their Christian enemies, and again innocent civilians are slaughtered. As before, western evangelical Christian politicians are apt to cast their opponents and enemies in the role of "incarnate fiends" and simplistically conflate any armed resistance to invasion and occupation with "pure evil". Again, western countries, blind to the effect their foreign policies have on the wider world, feel aggrieved and surprised to be attacked, as they see it, by mindless fanatics.

    And yet, as we have seen in our own time, nothing so easily radicalises a people against us, or undermines the moderate aspect of Islam, as aggressive western intrusion in the east: the histories of Islamic fundamentalism and western imperialism have often been closely, and dangerously, intertwined. In a curious but very concrete way, the extremists and fundamentalists of both faiths have needed each other to reinforce each other's prejudices and hatreds. The venom of one provides the lifeblood of the other.

    There are clear lessons here. For, in the celebrated words of Edmund Burke - himself a fierce critic of British aggression in India - those who fail to learn from history are destined for ever to repeat it.

    William Dalrymple is the India correspondent of the New Statesman. His book "The Last Mughal: the fall of a dynasty (Delhi 1857)" is published by Bloomsbury (£25)
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  5. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

    Oct 8, 2009
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    Hyderabad and Sydney
    To understand history, you have to look at the perspective of the people who were recording it at that time. IF there was any doubt of the vast uniting factor of the secular uprising (secular meaning the involvement of all religious faiths but mainly Hindus and Muslims), then the comments of the British officer at that time is enough:
    The prejudice that Thomas had for the local Muslims and Hindus is still there but the fear that an uprising cutting along caste, religious and regional lines was so overwhelming that the core of the divide and rule policy was put into place just after that.

    Thereafter, you had the first census by the British classifying of muslim populations and Hindu populations. The history book "History as told by its Historians" was brought out afterward to with the their explicit stated intention to show how "brutal" muslims have been and how "good" the British are to the Hindu population and why they should support them. The policies continued in various incarnations until finally we had the partition.

    Some terms also are a misnomer, what does suicide Jihadis mean in this context? None of them were strapping bombs to themselves and blowing themselves. But they were fighting till the bitter end but not literally killing themselves. That is how a soldier is suppose to fight. The massacre of Delhi residents when the British took over was something even British historians feel ashamed of.

    But one thing that is being missed is its not the 1857 uprising that is resulting in today's politcal Islamic or politco-religious ideology, but the foundations put down by Maududi and Syed Qutb. One thing that William does get right is that the neo-cons (or politco-Christianists) and the politcal-Islamists feed of one another as would any other politico-religous ideology that shows the clash as a clash of civilisations.

    To learn more about the common historical origins of politcal-Islamists and the neo-con counterparts. Check out he BBC documentary in full here. Highly recommended
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2010
  6. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Thats the only reason I posted three different views on 1857.Its for sure that no history is neutral.only thing i would have added my comments in 1st post anyway you did the same to highlight it.
  7. samarsingh

    samarsingh Regular Member

    Jun 18, 2010
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    to suggest that 1857 was solely a jihadi movement would be a grave error on our part. the brits would have loved to play mughals against sikhs, sikhs against marathas (just like they got sikhs to fight afghans and gurkhas to shoot sikhs in amritsar later ). The fact that the "natives" could somehow unite came as a complete shock to the brits. The only thing is that 1857 was not really organised nationwide and the freedom fighters may have been fighting for personal reasons. Bahadur Shah's days were numbered (even if 1857 had suceeded). I think many princes, jagirdars (both hindu and muslim) accepted him merely as a "symbolic" head (in those days there was no concept of democracy, sovereignity etc, hence one needed a figure to unite the massses, the last mughal emperor was that figure). I do not think that Marathas or anyone else would have accepted Bahadur Shah after 1857.

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