Rajputs: Anti-british agrarian Revolts & Freedom movement

Indian Freedom struggle 1857

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During the British Raj in India, several Rajput kings, princes, and chieftains are known to have lent support to the nationalist movement against the colonisers. Most Rajputs exercised their prudence by contributing to the freedom movement on the one hand while maintaining diplomatic ties with the British on the other. When it comes to stories of anti-British nationalism amongst the royals, one hears of legends such as Tantia Tope, Tipu Sultan, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi to name but a few.

Thakur Kushal Singh Champawat of Auva

Auva, the village is known for the siege of the Auwa fort by British forces in 1857 when various Thakurs of the Pali region under the stewardship of Thakur Kushal Singh of Auwa confronted the British. Auwa fort was surrounded by the British army and the conflict lasted many days. The fort and village still carry the scars of that siege. Captain Mason was shot dead on the way to Auwa and his cut head was hung at the fort gate. The British destroyed the fort and the palace. Even temples and their idols were not spared. The statue of the goddess Mahakali brought to Ajmer is still kept in the Ajmer Museum. A still existent cenotaph was raised Mason where he fell in battle.

The revolt of 1857 against the British was largely fought in the plains of Uttar Pradesh, but a small non-descript village in Rajasthan has its own tale to tell. A story that has not been registered or recognised by the world. This small village by the name of Auwa in erstwhile Marwar, now in Pali, had put up a fight against the British for 12 days and the ruling family had to go in exile for 12 years. the mutineers were offered support by the Auwa chief Kushal Singh. He formed his own army and killed Captain Mason, the political agent at Jodhpur and hung his head at the gate of Auwa fort.

References:

  • Political Awakening and Indian Freedom Movement with Special Reference to Rajasthan by Gollapalli Nagabhushana Sarma, Vijay Kumar Vashishtha
  • Rajasthan’s role in the Struggle of Indian 1857 by Nathu Ram Khadgawat
  • Rajsthan district Gazzetters Pali

Veer Kunwar Singh Jagdishpur (Bihar)

In Bihar, the most formidable challenge to British authority came from VeerKunwar Singh, a Rajput chieftain of Jagdishpur, Bihar. On 23 April, he won a signal victory near Jagdishpur over forces led by Captain Le Grand. Born in November 1782, to parents Raja Sahibzada Singh and Rani Panchratan Devi, Veer Kunwar Singh belonged to the illustrious clan of Ujjainiya Rajputs, who are a subclan of Parmar Rajputs, known for giving birth to the famous king of Malwa, Raja Bhoj Parmar. He was born in the Jagdishpur province of the Shahabad [now Bhojpur] district. He inherited impulsive behaviour and raw courage from his father, who used to be at loggerheads with the East India Company. Dumraon was Ujjainiya Parmar ruled Zamindari. Ujjainiyas were in a constant struggle for almost 100 years with Sharqi Sultans of Jaunpur in the 15th century. Babu Veer Kunwar Singh who revolted against East India Company in 1857 came from Jagdishpur, the elder branch of the Dumrao family.

  • His contribution to the first war of independence is nonetheless immense.
  • The rebellion in Bihar was led by Kunwar Singh.
  • He was nearly 80 when he took charge of the sepoys who were stationed at Danapur on 25 July 1857.
  • On 27th July, Singh and his troops laid siege to the district headquarters at Arrah.
  • He held fort till 3rd August when British officer Major Vincent Eyre took Arrah back.
  • Eyre’s troops also ransacked Jagdispur.
  • Singh was a master at guerrilla warfare and was able to elude the British for almost a year.
  • Once, when he was crossing the Ganga River, he was shot at by the British. The bullet struck his wrist.
  • Then, the 80-year old leader unhesitatingly cut off his hand to avoid more damage to his health.
  • In March 1858, Kunwar Singh occupied Azamgarh (now in UP).
  • He later returned to his home and led a victorious battle near Jagdispur on 23rd July.
  • The British led by Captain le Grand were defeated in this battle although Kunwar Singh was badly injured.
  • The Indians routed the Company’s troops killing about 130 men including Captain le Grand.
  • Kunwar Singh died of injuries three days later, passing on the mantle to his successor and brother Amar Singh II.
  • He is known as Veer Kunwar Singh because of his courageous fights against the British despite many odds stacked against him.
  • In 1966, the Government of India released a stamp in his honour.

References:-
Kalikinkar Datta, Biography of Kunwar Singh and Amar Singh.

Lal Pratap Singh Bisen of Kalakankar

Rajkumar Lal Pratap Singh was a member of the Visen Rajput dynasty of Kalakankar. He was a prominent leader in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He was killed during the 1858 Battle of Chanda. The Government of India issued a postage stamp on 17 December 2009 to commemorate him during the turbulent period of 1857 Wajid Ali Shah, ruler of Awadh, was ousted by the East India Company and exiled to Calcutta. Begum Hazrat Mahal took over the regency of the state for her twelve-year-old son, Raja Hanumant Pratap Singh (father of Lal Pratap Singh) was the Talukdar of Kalakankar.

The East India Company had enforced a system of taxation called “Mahalwari”, which involved constantly increasing revenue demands with consequences disastrous to the landlords and farmers. Their increasing indebtedness led to dissatisfaction and the Talukdars sided with the Begum to reinstate the Nawab and overthrow the British. Their trained armies stood ready to assist Awadh at short notice.

Hanumant Singh raised a battalion of 1000 soldiers under the command of his eldest son Lal Pratap Singh. This battalion, called “Pratap Jang” rose to action in February 1858 when the British under Colin Campbell, 1st Baron Clyde and Commander-in-Chief, India attempted the Capture of Lucknow.

Lord Campbell was aided by a Gurkha battalion and two Company battalions. The three forces summoned by the Begum, including the one from Kalakankar camped at chande in Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh awaiting the signal for battle. On 19 February 1858, as the ‘Pratap Jang’ contingent sat down to breakfast, the army of East India Company attacked them. The soldiers of the ‘Pratap Jang’ picked up whatever weapon came to hand and pitched into the battle until ammunition ran out. Reinforcements were cut off by the Company troops and scattered remnants of other forces of the Talukdars had been forced to retreat.

His son Raja Rampal Singh was a Congress sympathizer. He was one of the founding members of the Indian National Congress Party. In consequence, Mahatma Gandhi and other Congress leaders used to visit him quite frequently. Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya had very intimate relations with Raja of Kalakankar. The Raja Saheb of Kalakankar had started a Hindi weekly, Hindusthan, in 1883 to spread the message of freedom.

References:

  • District Gazetteers of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh,
  • Indian Reaction to British Policies, 1898-1911 –
  • Congress and Classes: Nationalism, Workers, and Peasants
  • Berkeley Working Papers on South and Southeast Asia

Thakur Jodha Singh Ataiya

Rasulpur, Distt. Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh

Son of Thakur Bhawani Singh; Landowner; Took a prominent part in the rebellion against British rule in 1857 as a close associate of Thakur Daryao Singh, the rebel leader of the district. Participated in the battles against the British forces at Bilanda and Fatehpur in June and July 1857. Led the rebel guerrillas in harassing attacks on British troops in the district. Betrayed by his servant and captured by the British at Khajuha (Bindki). Executed by hanging from a tamarind tree on April 28, 1858. On the same day, 51 of his comrades were also executed by hanging from the tree. The bodies were kept hanging from the tree for weeks before his associates were able to remove them for cremation. His entire landed property was confiscated.

Bawan Imli where revolutionary Jodha Singh was hanged in this tree along with 51 of his companions .

References :-

  1. Phatehapura ke svatantrata senani by Dipanarayaṇa Siṃha
  2. WHO’S WHO OF INDIAN MARTYRS Vol 3 By Publications Division
  3. District Gazetteer Fatehpur

Rao Gopal Singh Kharwa

The principality of Kharwa was granted to Thakur Rao Sakat Singhji in Jodhpur for his loyalty to the Marwar court in the year 1594. From thereon, his descendants have reigned over it as the custodians of their land and people. The generous dynasty of Rathore rulers at Kharwa were to produce an extraordinary fifteenth descendant in the form of Rao Gopal Singhji, who would leave his mark as a devout patriot, fierce nationalist and relentless freedom fighter. Born in 1872 to the then ruler of Kharwa, Rao Madho Singhji, Rao Gopal Singhji would live an illustrious life of rebellion and sacrifice, wherein he would carry his undying duty towards his motherland unto his dying breath. Tales of his heroic bravery are commemorated up to this day, when, every spring Kharwa welcomes his death anniversary with a procession and local fair, singing songs and hymns of praise for their beloved king in collective nostalgia.

Several historians such as Hooja (2006) point out that the anti-colonial fervour had a slower infiltration into the state of Rajputana as compared to the Central Provinces, United Provinces and Bengal. Most of Rao Gopal Singhji’s contemporaries in Rajputana acted either as apologists in favour of or mild critics towards the British overlords. His stance to the unwanted presence of British colonialists in India would be highly violent and defiant in nature and, which would lead him to usher the movement’s currents into western Rajasthan like a strong gust of desert wind. Rao Gopal Singhji forged allies with freedom fighters within Rajasthan as well as beyond it and even managed to invite heroes such as Ras Bihari Bose to personally invite non-literate villages in Rajasthan to join the freedom struggle.

While attending some of the Delhi Durbars around the Swadeshi movement, Rao Gopal Singhji conspired with Jorawar Singhji and Keshvar Singhji of Kota to jointly assassinate the then Viceroy, Lord Hardinge during the Delhi Durbar. The trio was successful in detonating a bomb at the Chandni Chowk intersection, however, their assassination attempt was unsuccessful with Lord Hardinge sustaining minor injuries. Several members of his retinue, however, lost their lives. Among other prominent newspapers, the New York Times has duly reported this incident in their issue dated the 12th of December, 1912.

Thereafter, Rao Gopal Singhji and his co-conspirers immediately fled to seek refuge in Ajmer which, by that time had become a hotbed of anti-Raj sentiments and activities. Famous freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh are said to have taken up temporary refuges in Ajmer as well. For the next few years, Rao Gopal Singhji was to conduct his anti-nationalist operations out of Ajmer and planned another armed attack on the British for the following year, a conspiracy that was caught in time due to being intercepted by the British intelligence. Rao Gopal Singhji and his co-conspirers were thus imprisoned at the neighbouring Todagarh Jail, from which Rao Gopal Singhji is said to have made several daring escapes until his eventual release in 1920.

Upon being released from prison, the die-hard freedom fighter wasted no time in resuming his revolutionary activities in Ajmer. His popularity as not just a regional, but a national freedom fighter had caught on to an extent that made the British realise the futility in his imprisonment or execution, as that would only make him a martyr in public sentiments and thus, add further impetus to anti-Raj activities. Hence, they released an ultimatum against Rao Gopal Singhji to abdicate his throne in favour of his son, failing which, they would annex Kharwa upon his death and deny his son his regal prerogative. His fear of compromising his ancestral land made Rao Gopal Singhji follow the colonial directives and abdicate his throne to his son and successor, Rao Ganpat Singh. Even after retiring from the active governance of Kharwa, many are convinced of his continued revolutionary activities, although highly clandestine in nature.

Interestingly, Belli notes that, unlike other cult freedom fighters who martyred themselves for the nationalist cause, Rao Gopal Singhji shares this cult status despite being fated sixty-seven years of life and natural death. He is also worshipped by the village folk of Kharwa for possessing divine powers and sacrosanct access to the local deity, Chaturbhuj Ji during his lifetime. This posthumous reverence of an exalted stature could be traced back to Rao Gopal Singhji’s dynamic and selfless contribution to the nationalist movement despite surrounding trends that were more diplomatic and conformist in nature. He surely made for a bright spark in the explosive revolution that drove India to her freedom and despite the supersession of the less violent ideologies of Gandhiji, no patriot can negate the crucial role played by India’s militant children, when she needed them their bravery and sacrifice the most.

References:

  • Agrarian Movement in Rajasthan 1913-1947AD by Premram
  • The Political Movements and Awakening in Rajasthan, 1857 to 1947 by K.S. Saxena
  • Jodhpur District Gazetteer

Bundela Rebellion of 1842: British Revolt in Sagar and Narmada territories

An important element in the more explicit patriotism of 1842 was the notables rejection of foreign law. It was the Bundelas who refused to obey such laws, and who shortly after began armed opposition to British rule, hence the epithet ’ Bundela ’ applied to the revolt.

Meanwhile, the first eruption, caused by the political, social, and economic unsettlement that had taken place among the dispossessed landlords and chieftains of Saugor –Nerbudda Territories, known as the Bundela Rising occurred in 1842.

Madhukar Shah Bundela Cenopath Sagar Jail (MP)

It started with two Bundela Thakurs in the north of Sagar. Jawahar Singh Bundela of Chandrapur, and Madhukar Shah Bundela and Ganeshju Bundela of Narhut, who were served with decrees of the civil court of Sagar early in 1842.

The causes of this violent outbreak are not far to seek. The owners of land in Sagar were mainly Bundela Rajputs, Gonds & Lodhis.

The Malgujar Jawahar Singh of Chandrapur in the north of the Sagar district and Madhukar Shah Bundela, the Zamindar of Narhat, had considerable influence in their respective areas. A huge amount was demanded by the British from both these zamindars in the form of tax. This amount was really so big that both of them couldn’t repay it.

Their answer to it was to defy the order and attack the police, some of whom were killed. They were joined by a large number of discontented landlords such as in the region north of the Narmada. They raided the police outposts and plundered towns of Khimlasa, Khurai, Nariaoli, Dhamom and Sagar. The Thakurs of Narhat pressed their patriotism further by urging malguzars in these areas not to cultivate their land or pay revenue to the government.

Madhukar Shah Bundela was 22 years old when he was hanged in Sagar Jail and his younger brother Ganeshju was 19 years old when he was captured by the British forces from his sister’s house. Madhukar Shah was hanged in Sagar while Ganeshju was sentenced to Kalapani.

References

  • Bundelkhand Ka Sankshipt Itihas by Gorelal Tiwari
  • Madhyapradesh District Gazzetters Sagar
  • Jang-e-ajadi men Jabalapur by Pratapbhanu Ray
  • Indian Freedom Movement in Princely States of Vindhya Pradesh by A.U. Siddiqui
  • Aspects of Indian History: Professor Ram Mohan Sinha Commemoration Volume by Jaiprakash Mishra, Ram Manohar
  • McEldowney, P. (1994). Colonialism in an Indian Hinterland: The Central Provinces, 1820–1920. By D. E. U. Baker. Delhi: Oxford University Press1993.

Independence Revolutionary

Thakur Mahavir Singh Rathore(1908-1933)

A statue was erected in front of the Cellular Jail in Mahavir Singh honour.

Mahavir Singh Rathore was born in Etah District of Uttar Pradesh on 16 Sept 1904. “Knowing that you are fighting for the country proves that we have not accepted slavery from our hearts. Now that you are on the path to freedom, don’t look back and never betray your associates.” These were the words of Mr Devi Singh, father of the freedom fighter Mahavir Singh, who died for his country in the Cellular Jail of the Andaman Nicobar Islands. Born in Etah, UP, he was first drawn to the freedom struggle in class 6th. Mahavir Singh was a member of Naujawan Bharat Sabha. He was the one who helped in the escape of Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dutt and Durga Devi from Mauzang House in Lahore. He was arrested as part of the Second Lahore Conspiracy Case and took part in the Hunger Strike of 1933 to protest the treatment of prisoners. He died during the hunger strike in Cellular Jail.

References

Andaman and Nicobar Islands: A Saga of Freedom Struggle by Murthy, R. V. R.

Shaheed Bhagat Singh: Unique Martyr in Freedom Movement by Omesh Saigal

https://m.tribuneindia.com/2005/20051031/jal.htm

Ram Prasad Singh Tomar (Bismil) {1897-1927}

Bismil, the Indian revolutionary who participated in the Mainpuri Conspiracy of 1918, and the Kakori conspiracy of 1925, both against the British Empire, is remembered even today for his contribution to the Indian Independence movement. He was sentenced to death along with Ashfaqulla Khan for the Kakori train robbery. Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan were 30 years and 27 years of age, respectively.

Bismil’s father was an employee of the municipality board of Shahjahanpur, where his earnings were not sufficient to run the expenses. So, due to scarcity of adequate funds, Ram Prasad Bismil had to leave his studies after the eighth standard

Ram Prasad Bismil became a member of the Hindustan Republican Association at a very young age. It was only through this revolutionary organisation that Ram Prasad Bismil came to know other freedom fighters like Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Ashfaqula Khan, Rajguru, Govind Prasad, Premkishan Khanna, Bhagawati Charan, Thakur Roshan Singh and Rai Ram Sajan Narain

The Kakori Conspiracy of August 9, 1925, was the mastermind of Ram Prasad Bismil and his colleague, Ashfaqullah Khan

Bismil wrote several Hindi poems, most of which were patriotic. His love for India and his revolutionary spirit that always wanted the freedom of India from the colonial rulers, even at the cost of his own life, were his chief inspirations while penning patriotic poems. The poem ‘Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna’ is the most well-known poem attributed to Ram Prasad Bismil

Bismil remained inconspicuous from 1919 to 1920; he moved around various villages in Uttar Pradesh and produced several books

The British government ruled out that Ram Prasad Bismil will be hanged until death after naming him guilty in the Kakori Conspiracy

He was kept behind the bars at Gorakhpur and then hanged to death on December 19, 1927, at the age of 30. His death robbed the country of one of the chief revolutionaries of the Indian freedom struggle

Ram Singh Pathania

Indian freedom Fighter Pathania was born on 10 April 1824 at the residence of Shyam Singh, a minister of the state of Nurpur. His father was the minister of Raja Veer Singh in the state of Nurpur. Due to the British-Sikh Convention in 1846, most of the princely states of Himachal Pradesh were under the British Empire. At the same time, King Veer Singh died. At that time his son Javsant Singh was the successor of the throne. The British took all the rights of Jaswant Singh in five thousand Rupees and declared his union to be included in the principality, which was not approved by Veer Singh Pathania.

He joined forces with the Katoch Rajputs and made a call against the British. The British parted with this aggression and Ram Singh waved his flag. Being happy with this, Jaswant Singh appointed Ram Singh as his minister while appointing himself a king. After this, he planned to uproot all the British from Himachal and got the victory.

The British also knew that they could not arrest or kill Ram Singh easily. In this way, he made a conspiracy and when Ram Singh was reciting the worship, he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to Kalapani. After that, they were sent to Rangoon and they were tortured very badly. Veergati was received on November 11, 1849, at the age of 24 only.

Rana Beni Madhav Singh Shankarpur Estate, Baiswara

Rana Beni Madhav Singh Revolted against the British in 1857. Later his estate was Confiscated. He was getting jama of Rs 1,45,007 in 1858.

Under Rana Benimadho, Rae Bareli remained free for 18 months in 1857-58 and his soldiers played a special role in the independence of Lucknow. Begum Hazrat Hammad was so impressed by his bravery that he had given Azamgarh a subdivision by honouring him with a “DilerJang” title. When Begum took the actual reins of the rule of Awadh on July 7, 1857, Rana and his guerrilla group played an important role. The Jankranti of Rae Bareli began on 10th June 1857 under the leadership of Rana Beni Madhav.

On 30 May 1857, before Rae Bareli’s campaign, Rana had arrived with Lucknow’s 15,000 jawans for the release of six sixes of the English army. In this battle, he became “Dilerjang”

600 Bisen Rajputs of Paina Village

600 Bisen Rajputs Of Paina Village not only Fought against Britishers but they had a Daily Routine of killing Britishers by Drowning them in the River. They were attacked by EIC on two Front via Land and River. When Rajputs have become Martyr, their women in order to protect Honor Jumped in water and did “Jauhar” too. That “Jauhar” Refreshed the memory Of “Chittorgarh” among the Public.

Such was the Glory Of That Bloody Battle. Rajputs fought in such a way that it could be the Last day of Britishers until they sought Help from Gorkhas. Although few sources also claim that the village achieved freedom for 2 Months.

A Shaheed Smarak was constructed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh at the southwestern part of the village, in the memory of martyrs who took part in India’s first war of freedom. It is situated at the bank of river Sarayu(Ghaghra) and the place locally known as “Satihara”.