This blog explores the contemporary political and cultural trends from a distinct perspective
The Past still lives
Published on October 5, 2007 By Bahu Virupaksha In History
In 1857, exactly 150 years ago, soldiers of the then Bengal Army rose in rebellion against the English rukers of India. Historians have been debating the outbreak of 1857 ever since. However on the occasion of the 150 anniversary of the Mutiny several tourists from England, particularly the great great grand son of General Havelock and other members of the familires of the descendents of the Engish officers who faught against the Indian troops, wanted to pay homage to their ancesors at their graves strewn all over the Northern part of the country, especilly near Lucknow, Azamhgar, Kanpur and Delhi. We can expect that after 150 years the embers from the past would not create a blinding flame of resentmernt.

However the British tourists have been prevented from paying homage at the Mutiny graves on the ground that any floral tibute to the fallen British soldiers will be an insult to the Sepoys who faught and died in the Movement. I find this line of reasoning extremely disconcerting. The descendents of the fallen English soldiers have the right to connect with their past. And by honoring the memory of those who died in the 1857 War in not an insult to the Sepoys wh were killed.

The reason why this divergence in perception is because India has not ever bothered to memoralise the Sepoys who were killed in 1857. What was done on the ocassion of the Centenary celebration in 1957 was merely the appropriation of memorials already constructed by the English by the placement of a plaque stating that Indians were also killed inm the event. By denying an appropriate "site of memory" for the Indians who faught and died in the Uprising of 1857,the country has not got a closure of the terrible events of 1857.

For example, the march of General James Neill from Allahabad to Lucknow in June of 1857 was accompanied by the deliberate large scale killing of civillian on a scale that is still remembered with horror till this day. Contemporary observers stated that the British soldiers like Neill amd Havelock were early pioneers in the dubious art of "shock and awe". Entire villages were wiped out with grape shot and lunch mobs of English Indigo planteers ans Irish soldiers relentlessly killed innocent civillians in the name of counter insurgency. Such horrors need to be remembered and because India has neglected to memoralise such terrible deeds there is resort to the crude device of blocking access to the Mutiny era graves.

One hopes that on the ocassion of the 150 anniversary the victims of 1857 will also be remembered.

No one has commented on this article. Be the first!