Shaheed Mangal Pandey

(July 19, 1827- 8 April 1857),
Mangal Pandey was a soldier in the 34th Regiment
of the Bengal Native Infantry (BNI) of the British East India Company.

Mangal Pandey ji was born in the village of Nagwa in district Ballia, Uttar Pradesh. There is some dispute over his exact place of birth. One account (Misra, 2005, see below) claims that Mangal Pandey was born in a brahmin family to Divakar Pandey of Surhupur village of Faizabad district’s Akbarpur Tehsil. He joined the British East India Company forces in 1849 at the age of 22, as per this account. Mangal Pandey was part of 5th Company of the 34th British East India regiment. He is primarily known for attacking his British officers in an incident that sparked what is known to the British as the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 or Indian Mutiny and to Indians as the First War of Indian Independence.

Since the attack was not a result of personal grudges but rather driven by ideological (religious/patriotic) motives, in India Mangal Pandey is widely considered to be the First Warrior in India's long struggle for independence from the British rule. Some contemporary accounts suggest that Pande was under the influence of bhang (cannabis) at the time of this incidence. This claim however should be treated with a certain degree of reservation as it is not based on independent accounts. Moreover, this claim, even if true, does not rule out the possibility that Mangal Pandey could have been harboring a general grudge against the British rule in India that came to fore while under the influence of a drug. A further proof of his non-personal motives is delivered by accounts of British officers present at the scene. They recorded in numerous books that Pande used four-letter words for the British in general and incited his comrades to rise against the company rule. At Barrackpore (now Barrackpur), near Calcutta on March 29, 1857, Mangal Pandey attacked and injured his British sergeant on the parade ground, and wounded an adjutant with a sword after shooting at him, but instead hitting the adjutant's horse. He was however attacked by a native soldier called Shaikh Paltu who prevented him from killing the adjutant and later the sergant-major.

When General Joyce Hearsay ordered the Jemadar of the troops, a man called Ishari Pande, to arrest him, the Jemadar refused, as did the rest of the company except Shaikh Paltu. Mangal then turned the gun against himself, and used his foot to try to pull the trigger to shoot himself.

He failed, was captured and sentenced to death along with the Jemadar. Mangal Pandey was hanged on April 8. His execution was scheduled for April 18, but he was summarily executed 10 days prior to the date, fearing the possibility of a larger-scale revolt. The Jemadar Ishari Pandey was executed on April 22. The whole regiment was dismissed "with disgrace" on 6th May as a collective punishment, because it was felt that they harboured ill-feelings against their superiors. Other sepoys of the Bengal Army thought this was a harsh punishment. Shaikh Paltu was promoted on the spot to the post of a Havaldar (native sergant) by General Hearsay .The primary motivation behind Mangal's behavior is attributed to a new type of bullet cartridge used in the Enfield P-53 rifle introduced in the Bengal Army that year.

The cartridge was rumored to be greased with animal fat (primarily pig and cow fat, which are not consumed by either Hindus or Muslims, the primary religions in the Bengal Army) [1]. The cartidges had to be bitten to remove the cover, and that was abhorrent to the soldiers [2]. The general feeling was that this was intentional on the part of the British, to defile their religions.

Commandant Wheler of the 34th BNI was known as a zealous Christian preacher, and this may also have impacted the Company's behaviour. The husband of Captain Wilma Halliday of 56th BNI had the Bible printed in Urdu and Nagri and distributed among the sepoys, thus convincing them that the British were intent on converting them to Christianity [3].

Also, the 19th and 34th Bengal Native Infantry were stationed at Lucknow during the time of annexation of Awadh (anglicised to Oudh) under the Doctrine of Lapse on February 7, 1856.

The annexation had another implication for sepoys in the Bengal Army (a significant portion of whom came from that princely state). Before the annexation these sepoys had the right to petition the British Resident at the Awadh in Lucknow for justice - a significant privilege in the context of native courts. As a result of the annexation they lost that right, since that state no longer existed. Moreover, this action was seen by the residents of Awadh as an upfront by the British, as the annexation was done in violation of an existing treaty.

Thus, it was quite natural that sepoys were affected by the general discontent which was aroused with the annexation. In February 1857, both these regiments were situated in Barrakpur.

The 19th Regiment is important because it was the regiment charged with testing the new cartridges on February 26, 1857. The sepoys in that regiment refused, when ordered to fire [4]. The whole regiment was dismissed with dishonour from service in order to post an exemplary punishment.

 The Enfield Rifle & Cartridge

 The P-53 was officially known as the Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifle Musket. Introduced in the British Army by the War Department during 1854 in the Crimean War, they proved very effective at a range of 50 to 300 yards. It was introduced in the Bengal Army by the East India Company in early-1857.

The rifle used a Metford-Pritchitt cartridge that required the use of a heavy paper tube containing 2 1/2 drams (68 grains) of musket powder and a 530-grain, pure lead bullet. As the bullet incorporated no annular grease rings like the French and American minié ball bullets introduced in 1847, it was wrapped with a strip of greased paper to facilitate loading. The cartridge itself was covered with a thin mixture of beeswax and mutton tallow for waterproofing.

To load his rifle, the sepoy had to first bite off the rear of the cartridge to pour the powder down the barrel. he then inverted the tube (the projectile was placed in the cartridge base up), pushed the end-portion into the muzzle to the approximate depth of the bullet and tore off the remaining paper. The bullet could then be easily rammed on top of the charge.

Since Hindus consider cows as holy and Muslims regard pigs as dirty, native sepoys could be expected to have reservations in its usage. The company therefore kept this fact a secret. Thus, when it came out as a rumor, it had an even more damaging effect, as all kinds of rumors started spreading. For instance, it was thought that the British planned to make their sepoys outcaste in the society in order to force them to convert to Christianity. Another rumor said the British had manipulated the wheat flour distributed to the sepoy with bones of cows. The matters could have been worsened by the fact that an overwhleming number of sepoy in the Bengal Native Infantry was made of Brahmin sepoys from Awadh. As Brahmins are generally vegetarians and are not supposed to eat or touch meat, the resistance was even stronger.

The Commander-in-Chief, General George Anson reacted to this crisis by saying, "I'll never give in to their beastly prejudices," and despite the pleas of his junior officers, he did not compromise.

Later, the British contemplated reducing the discontent by allowing the sepoys to use their own grease made of Ghee (clarified butter). Lord Canning sanctioned a proposal of Major-General Hearsey to this effect. However, the proposal was shot down by the Meerut-based Adjutant-General of the Army Colonel C. Chester, who felt it would be tantamount to an admission of guilt and could therefore worsen the matter.[5] He falsely claimed that the sepoys had been using cartridges greased with mutton fat for years and that there was therefore no reason to give in now. This claim was however not correct as native sepoys had till then only used 'Brown Bess' Muskets for which unsmeared paper cartridges were employed. The Government, even while having every reason to know the truth, let itself be convinced and rescinded the order allowing the usage of Ghee. In fact, some historians, including contemporary observers such as Malleson ('The Indian Mutiny of 1857', edition 2005, pp. 15-31) regard an all-too-obvious contempt for the sensitivities of the Indians, displayed by some officers of the British-Indian Government, as one of the primary reasons that augmented, if not caused, the spread of the mutiny. Malleson, a British military officer stationed in 1857 in Calcutta, recounts many incidences in his analysis of the mutiny where British actions displayed a complete disregard for innocuous local norms and thus contributed to wide-spread discontentment. The Roti Rebellion', with its strong emotional elements, portrayed the spirit of the First War of Independence.

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