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Truth Behind 1857

Bijla Singh

Whenever India’s independence is discussed, mutiny of 1857 comes to the mind. There are numerous misconceptions related to 1857. First misconception preached by all newspapers, magazines and history books is that the battle of 1857 was the first war of independence. Second and most important misconception is that this “freedom movement” would not have failed if Sikhs had not betrayed their “country” resulting in British rule over India for 90 more years. Majority of the Indians without considering the proper facts have started to believe in these misconceptions. But their knowledge about this “freedom movement” is far from the actual truth. Only a fraction of the truth is being preached by the government.

First War of Independence?

First let’s discuss the first point. Was 1857 the year of first war of independence?

India had been under foreign rule for over 700 years. The first time anyone ever spoke out for freedom in India was only and only Guru Nanak Dev Ji. King Babur attacked India, arrested Guru Nanak Dev Ji and tortured him in many ways because He spoke for freedom. Therefore that was the beginning of the first freedom battle. Guru Arjan Dev Ji was seen as anti-Islamic by the Mughal government. He was arrested and tortured. He is the first martyr of the freedom movement in India. Guru Hargobind Ji spent many months in prison and fought four battles against Mughals. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji had no personal fights with the government but He sacrificed for freedom of religion and justice. He saved the Hindu religion. Contribution of Guru Gobind Singh Ji to the freedom movement is a unique example that is found no where else in the history of the world. He instilled self-confidence, honor, dignity, pride and warrior traits in the people of India Every Sikh fought against oppression and injustice.

Baba Banda Singh along with other Sikhs established the first Sikh rule in Punjab and fought against the Mughal government and later on sacrificed for freedom. Even after his martyrdom, numerous battles were fought, sword fought sword, bullet fought bullet, and blood of thousands of Sikhs was spilled but this freedom group never stopped. Sikhs were cut into pieces, bricked alive, sawn in half, boiled alive, burnt alive, and crushed on spinning wheels but all this for what? It was for freedom, a fight of free life and death. Nawab Kapoor Singh, Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgharia, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, Sardar Hari Singh Nalua, Akali Phoola Singh, Sardar Shaam Singh, Bhai Maharaj Singh…..the list goes on. These true warriors never let foreign rulers sleep peacefully.

Foreigners like Ahmad Shah Abdali attacked India nine times but he always faced problem in Punjab. Not a single Hindu or Muslims king could stop him. It was Sikhs who fought him and freed many Hindu slave women and children. Up to Satluj river Punjab had become part of Afghanistan. Sikhs took it back and reattached it to India. Hundreds of years of foreign attacks were put to stop forever by the Sikhs. At that time no Hindu army came forward to help Sikhs in the cause of freedom. Rather they helped Muslims in every battle. It was the Sikhs who ended the long Mughal rule in India and established their own kingdom in northern India but due to betrayal by Dogras, Sikh kingdom was annexed by the British in 1849. Bhai Maharaj Singh was the first Sikh to go to every village and city to preach for freedom and start a freedom movement against the British rule. Before he could organize the army that consisted of mostly Sikhs he was arrested. He was exiled from the country. He died in the jail a couple of years later. In 1850, more than 50 Sikh regiments protested against the British rule and tried to start another war but Charles Campier controlled the situation before hand and another mutiny died before it could start.

After that incident, Baba Raam Singh inspired hundreds of people to boycott British goods and material. This was the first peaceful freedom movement against the British. He appealed to the people, "Do not accept service from the government; do not send children to government schools; do not go to court of law but settle disputes by reference to panchayats (village council); do not use foreign goods; and do not use government postal services." No one outside of Punjab took part in this movement. Baba Raam Singh was arrested and his companions were blown up by the canons. Gandhi’s movement was not anything new. Rather it was everything that Baba Raam Singh had started more than 70 years before him.

After all these struggles how can one still call 1857 mutiny to be the “first freedom movement?” Clearly, Sikhs were the first community to start the freedom movement in India during Mughal and the British Empire.

War of Independence?

The main question still remains: was the mutiny of 1857 an actual “freedom fight” or war of independence?

The so called “freedom movement” was started by nearly 85 troops of a Bangali regiment on 9th May, 1857 in Merath. The cause of this insurgency was that Enfield rifle ammunition had to be manually loaded before firing which involved biting the end of the cartridge, which was greased in pig fat and beef tallow. This was offensive to Hindus and Muslims alike, who considered tasting beef or pork to be against their respective religious tenets. This enraged both communities. Mangal Panday shot a British officer in Merath out of anger. This news spread all over the place which caused fights between Hindus Muslims and the British. Thus began the “freedom movement”.

This was all due to religious reasons. No one had even a single bit of thought about India’s independence. All Rajputs were divided and fighting each other. There was lack of organization, and planning. There was no leader chosen by all communities. India was divided into many pieces of land among Hindus and Muslims.

The most important fact Hindu scholars ignore is that the lard was supplied by a Hindu Brahmin. According to Mr. Sain in “Eighteen Fifty Seven”, “The lard was supplied by a Hindu Brahmin from Bengal. The government instructed to use lard of a goat or sheep but to save some money he used cow and pig instead.”  Another fact that must be considered is that if the mutiny was in the protest of the cartridges then why did the Hindu and Muslim troops use the same weapons to fight their war?

According to many historians, 1857 was nothing but a senseless rebellion against the government.

Sir Jadoo Naath says, “The Sepoy Mutiny was not a fight for freedom.”

Dr. R. C. Maujumdar, “It was neither first nor national, nor a war of independence.”

Dr. Ganda Singh, “Because of the lard cartridges many Hindu and Muslim troops became rebellious and killed many innocent people.”

The “freedom fighters” shouted the slogans of “Long Live Bahadur Shah” in Delhi because they had chosen him as their leader. According to Dr. R. C. Maujumdar, “They appointed Bahadur Shah as their leader because he was upset about the fact that British had seized his kingdom. He was against British but not in favor of kicking them out of India. He betrayed the rebellions and gave away all the secret information to lieutenant of Agra. The rebellions insulted him for this action and appointed Prince Abu Bakar as their new leader.” Dr. R. C. Maujumdar further writes, “Bahadur Shah tried to sign a peace treaty with the British on the condition that British would protect him physically and financially. He also promised to help the British if his son was appointed as the king of his seized kingdom.”

According to Dr. Ganda Singh, “Army troops of Bahadur Shah refused to fight for him until their salaries were well paid.”

Now, what kind of freedom movement was this? On one hand they wanted freedom and on the other hand they wanted to get paid for their fight. Fight for freedom is not fought on monthly salaries. In fact, 1857 incident was nothing more than fight for personal gains.

According to Dr. R. C. Maujumdar, “All the circumstances leave no doubt that Bahadur Shah and his family not only betrayed rebellions but the whole nation.”

There are many well known figures that played their part in this so-called mutiny. Nana Sahib of Maratha kingdom joined this mutiny for personal gains. He seized the British entrenchment in Kanpur and killed innocent women and children. The last king of Maratha, Bajee Rao, was given annual pension of 8 million. He had no child. After his death British refused to pay anyone else. When the mutiny was at the highest peak, Nana Sahib requested to help British if they agreed to pay the pension but British refused. Nana Sahib had no choice but to join the mutiny. The British was unsuccessful to capture him for 17 years. In 1874 Maharaja Sindhiya turned in Nana Sahib and Tantiya Tope to the British.

In this mutiny, name of Rani Jhansi (Queen of Jhansi) is always discussed. Ignorant scholars give her credits for something she never did. There is not a single proof in existence that shows whether the Queen fought for freedom of the country or joined the mutiny on purpose. Lakhshami Bayee, or Rani Jhansee, had no child of her own. Her husband was a characterless type person who was responsible for his own death. Lakhshami Bayee wanted her adopted child, Damodar Rao, to become the next king but the British were not happy from their misdeeds and refused to recognize her adopted child as the heir to the throne. Then she wrote a letter to the British asking for a payment of one million rupee per year for her kingdom but the British did not agree. Then she asked for two hundred thousand but again the British refused. The only choice left for her was to fight and die. Her struggle was only for her own kingdom.  According to Dr. R. C. Maujumdar, “After her unsuccessful efforts to appoint her adopted son as the next king she started living her life as a Hindu widower wearing white clothes and spent much of her time in worship. All British scholars agree that neither had she planned anything for the freedom fight nor did she have any intentions of joining the mutiny in the first place.”

The rebellions surrounded the Queen’s palace. The queen informed the British that she had been insulted and mistreated by the rebellions and asked for help. Instead of helping her, the British blamed her for helping the rebellions. Still, she remained loyal to the British.

Dr. Surinder Naath writes, “Captain Gorden wrote to the queen asking for help.” In reply the queen wrote, “What can I do? I am surrounded by the rebellions. I have sent some guns and my army men for your help.”

According to Dr. G. W. Forrest, “Queen Lakhashmee Bai secretly sent 50-60 guns, and 50 army men along with other weaponry.”

Dr. J. K. Kirapalani sums it up very well by saying, “It was nothing but an attempt by the old order to get back their kingdoms.”

The above mentioned examples and quotes of famous scholars clearly prove that the mutiny of 1857 was not a war of independence but a fight for personal gains. In summary, 1857 was not a war of independence because of some of the following reasons.

  1. A united India did not exist at that time.
  2. The rebellion remained confined to the ranks of the Bengal Army and in North-Central India.
  3. The mutiny was put down with the help of other Indian soldiers drawn from the Madras Army, the Bombay Army and the Sikh regiments.
  4. Many princes and maharajas did not participate in the rebellion. Those that did were basically interested in reviving and reclaiming their own kingdoms, not creating a United India.
  5. The Army and the Princes, who were the principal instigators of the rebellion of 1857, played no part in the Nationalist movement as it emerged in the 1880s.

Sikhs and 1857

Sikhs being a tiny fraction of the Indian population have sacrificed more than any other community and yet they are being called traitors. The facts presented above make it clear that 1857 was neither a beginning of the freedom movement nor was it the first battle of freedom. It was not even any organized movement.

It has always been Sikhs who fought for freedom. They are not traitors. Rather Hindus are the real traitors. When Sikhs were fighting the Mughals, Hindus worked as spies for the government and Hindu kings sent their armies to help the Mughal government. It was a Hindu who tortured Guru Arjan Dev Ji, a Hindu who had Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s youngest sons arrested, and a Hindu who convinced the minister of Sarhind to execute them. It was a Hindu who was directly responsible for first Sikh holocaust and a hindu who appointed Massa Ranghar to be in charge of Darbar Sahib whose misdeeds and anti-Sikh activities are well known among the Sikhs.

It was Hindus who let the British enter India through sea without any opposition. Only Sikh kingdom was without the rule of British which was later attacked and annexed by the British forced with the help of Indian armies. Sikhs were betrayed by Hindus internally and externally. Soon after the death of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, all Indian armies joined the British to attack Punjab. During the battles, Hindu Dogras betrayed the Sikh armies by joining the British army and cutting off the food and weapons supply to the Sikh army. Victory of Sikhs was turned into a defeat by the Dogras. Was this not betrayal? The most powerful empire (British) and all Indian armies stood together to fight and kill Sikhs. Even then Sikhs fought so bravely that it will be remembered until eternity. Poet Mohammad Shah wrote:

ਜੰਗ ਹਿੰਦ ਪੰਜਾਬ ਦਾ ਹੋਣ ਲੱਗਾ, ਦੋਵੇਂ ਪਾਤਸ਼ਾਹੀ ਫੌਜਾਂ ਭਾਰੀਆਂ ਨੇ ।

ਨਾਲ ਗੋਲਿਆਂ ਦੇ ਬੰਦੇ ਜਾਣ ਉੱਡਦੇ, ਹਾਥੀ ਉਡਦੇ ਸਣੇ ਅੰਬਾਰੀਆਂ ਨੇ ।

ਅੱਜ ਹੋਵੇ ਸਰਕਾਰ ਤਾਂ ਮੁੱਲ ਪਾਵੇ, ਜਿਹੜੀਆਂ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਨੇ ਤੇਗਾਂ ਮਾਰੀਆਂ ਨੇ ।

ਸ਼ਾਹ ਮੁਹੰਮਦਾ ਇਕ ਸਰਕਾਰ ਬਾਝੋਂ ਫੌਜਾਂ ਜਿਤ ਕੇ ਅੰਤ ਨੂੰ ਹਾਰੀਆਂ ਨੇ ।

(ਜੰਗ ਨਾਮਾ ਸ਼ਾਹ ਮੁਹੰਮਦ)

After annexation of Punjab, Indians oppressed and killed Sikhs. No pen or book can completely explain the mistreatment of Sikh civilians by the Indian armies. Men and children were killed, houses and property was burnt, and women were dishonored. This oppression by Hindus was not forgotten by Sikhs in 1857. How could Sikhs forget the way their free country was taken over in 1849 by the British with the help of Hindu kings? After so many sufferings Sikhs were still recovering that the unorganized religious riots broke out in 1857 which is being called a “freedom movement”. One thing must be noted that not a single Hindu leader contacted Sikhs. Sikhs were never asked to join this “freedom movement”. A characterless person Bhadur Shah Jaffar from the family of Muslims was chosen as a king to sit on the throne. It was the same Mughal Empire which oppressed and killed people for many centuries. Sikhs fought Mughals for a long time then how could Sikhs help the same government come forward and take over? Had Hindu armies helped Sikhs in 1849 instead, the outcomes would’ve been very different. India would’ve become independent 8 years before 1857.

Sikhs did not fight for personal gains or religious reasons. They fought for freedom and opposed the foreign rule. Hindus who fought for personal gains, helped British take over India and Punjab by betraying Sikhs and killing their children are being called “patriots”. After all the sacrifices Sikhs have made for freedom, gave their lives, and inspired others to fight for freedom they are being called “traitors”. Is this justice? Is this the prize we are being given in India? What a shameless act. It was Sikhs who started the first peaceful movement against the British. It has always been Hindus who have opposed the Sikhs more than any other community. Sikhs were the first one to start a war of independence and the first community to come forward to fight for freedom whether the enemy was Afghans, Iranians or British. Freedom of India is the result of the sacrifices made by Sikhs and the blood spilled by them. The Indian government has always deprived Sikhs of their basic human rights by saying “Where were you when we needed you in 1857”? Although it has been proven beyond the doubt that the mutiny of 1857 was neither a war of independence nor was it a struggle to unite India, however, before we answer their question they should answer ours first:

  1. When Guru Hargobind Ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji fought their wars with the Mughal government, where were the Hindu armies?
  2. When Baba Banda Singh Ji established the first Sikh kingdom and fought numerous battles with the Mughals why didn’t the Hindu armies come forward to help Sikhs?
  3. While Sikhs were fighting Afghans, Iranis, Turkish and Mughal forces where were Hindus and their armies?
  4. When Darbar Sahib was being destroyed where were Hindus?
  5. When prices were put on the heads of the Sikhs, where were the Hindu armies?
  6. When invaders like Ahmad Shah Abdali were taking thousands of Hindu women back to Afghanistan as slaves it was Sikhs who fought him and freed those women. Why didn’t the Maratha and other Hindu armies join the Sikhs? After all it was their women Sikhs were fighting for.
  7. Where were Hindus, the so-called “patriots” when Sikhs were fighting the British during numerous protests such as Gurdwara Nanakana Sahib, Jaito, and Bajbaj Ghaat?

The list goes on but the simple fact is that by not helping the Sikh community that had been fighting for freedom for 200 years prior to 1857, Hindus became the real traitors of India. The actual numbers of sacrifices made by the Sikhs can never be counted; however, the following table shows how many Sikhs have spilled their blood compared to the other communities for the freedom of India during British Empire.

Sacrifices of Sikhs for India’s Freedom during British Empire:

Type

Sikhs

Non-Sikhs

Percentage of Sikhs

Prison One Year

1,550

575

73%

Hanged

93

28

77%

Jalianwala Bagh

799

501

61%

Bajj Bajj Ghaat

67

46

59%

Kooka Movement

91

0

100%

Akali Movement

500

0

100%

Deported

2,147

499

81%

Death sentence

92

35

72%

Indian National Army

12,000

8000

60%

It is clear that Sikhs made more sacrifices than all other communities and are the true heroes. It is a known fact that those who rule write the history. Since Sikhs are being labeled as “traitors” it leaves no doubt that today’s leadership is not only ignoring the facts but also misrepresenting and maligning the true identity of the Sikhs by not writing the history in its true form. It is time for us (Sikhs) to realize that no matter how much we sacrifice and spill our blood for the freedom, without their our country the history will always be against and unfair to us. We need to rise up to the tyrant Indian government that labels us as “terrorists” and establish our own country so that we can live as Sikhs, true patriots and freedom fighters. It is time for us to expose the true faces of the traitors. Otherwise, it will be a grave unjust not only to the history but to the Sikh martyrs who for our tomorrow gave their today. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Sources:

“Did Sikhs betray in 1857” by Inder Singh

“Was the Indian slavery due to Sikh Betrayal” by Dr. Sukhpreet Singh Udokay