|Bahadur Shah Zafar|
|Khwaja Hasan Nizami's Book|
The Eighth Section of the Series on the Mutiny in Delhi
Agony of Delhi
Agony of Delhi
Events during the Mutiny relating to the Royal Family, The Nobility, and the Hindu and Muslim Residents of Delhi.
Khwaja Hasan Nizami
Authentic Historic Record
for the 2nd time in 1922 by Ibn Arbi
by Delhi Printing Press Works under Lanand Thakur and Sons
translated this book from
2003 and dedicate
to my dear
Miss Sarwat Qureshi of Jufelhurst High School
who introduced me to
History. Readers are free to make use of this translation in any way they like)
A Sattar Kapadia
seems like it was only yesterday when Hell broke out in Delhi, so aweful that
even the mention of it makes ones hair stand on end. On 11th May, 1858, Soldiers mutinying in Meerut travelled to
Delhi and started the general massacre of the British in Delhi. From that day
until the 14th of September, the Mutineers tortured the British so
just to recount those events requires a heart of stone.
September 14th, when the British Army regained control of Delhi and
evicted the Mutineers, the British carried out a wave of terror on the Hindu and
Muslim Residents of Delhi. They
specifically singled out the Muslims for their wrath.
September 14th, when the British Army regained control of Delhi and
evicted the Mutineers, the British carried out a wave of terror on the Hindu and
Muslim Residents of Delhi. They
specifically singled out the Muslims for their wrath.
events occurring after 14th September , 1858 have been described in this book and
it is these events which have given this book the title “The Agony of
Delhi”. All the events mentioned
in this book are historical. These
are not based on rumours and or prejudice.
For this reason, this book should be considered to be the authentic
history of those times.
events mentioned have been taken from British Historical Texts and these sources
have been referred to where relevant, The
other source has been from Munshi Zakaullah’s book Tarekh-Hindustan (History
of Hindustan). Munshi
Zakaullah was present in Delhi during those times. He was an astute and clever historian with the understanding
to get the right facts. As he was
also present in Delhi during these times, his writings about Delhi are basically
an eye-witness account of what happened.
from books I have also had the opportunity to meet and accumulate the accounts
of most of the Hindus and Muslims who were in Delhi at the time of the Mutiny.
From my childhood I have had a great interest in meeting people who were
present during those times. However,
in this book I have only included those verbal accounts from the people, which I
could authenticate from books. This
is because I have written a separate book under this series where I have
included all the accounts. In the
present book only authenticated accounts have been included.
have written a total of 7 books relating to the Mutiny.
All these books are popular in Hindustan and have been widely read.
The first book is the one referred to above and relates the verbal
accounts, the second refers to the suffering of the British which they endured
when the Mutineers took over Delhi, the
third book has letters written by the British during the earlier part of the
Mutiny. Book number four relates to
the Trial of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the fifth contains letters from and to the
Badshah during the Mutiny period. These
are the letters which the British captured from the Fort after the reoccupation
of Delhi. The sixth book contains
extracts from newspapers published in Delhi during the Mutiny, these papers were
accused of fuelling the fires of Mutiny in Delhi.
The seventh book is the diary of Mirza Ghalib, which he wrote during the
is the eighth book in the series and contains the historical facts.
These sufferings of the Delhi resident during the period of the Mutiny
were more painful than death itself.
Reasons for writing this book
The main reason for writing this book is to make the nation aware of the effects of revolt on the Capital of Hindustan. It is also to show what misery and horrors are caused by war and disturbances. This book will awaken the present day youth to the possible consequences of their warlike intentions. It will also make the youth aware that it is quite dangerous to carry out sedition against the present day British Government as the last time the efforts of the whole of Hindustan could not manage to get rid of the British Rulers.
After a lot of effort, it was possible to get a few rare pictures for this book so that the real facts of the people who were around during the Mutiny could be seen.
The first picture shows the King with his Nobles.
It is said that this is not the picture of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s Durbar
but that of his father Akbar Shah’s Durbar. As it shows the glory of the Durbar, it was considered
appropriate to include this picture as well.
The second picture shows Bahadur Shah Zafar with some of the nobles who
were especially related to the events during the Mutiny.
The picture shows Prince Jawan Bakht, Mirza Elahi Bux, Hakim Ehsanullah
Khan, Nawab Hamid Ali Khan, Mehboob Ali Khan.
The third picture is of Mirza Mughal who was the son of Bahadur Shah
Zafar. He was the Commander in
Chief of the Rebel Army.
This picture is historically very important.
Picture of the dying Badshah. This
picture’s poignancy evokes sorrow and regret.
Where were these pictures found
The first picture with the big group is easily available in the shops. The picture of the group of Nobles was taken from Mr Lala Sri Ram, M.A., writer of “Khamkhane Jawed”. This picture was part of his manuscript library. The pictures of Mirza Mughal and Bahadur Shah Zafar were obtained from the Superintendent of the Department of Antiquities. They can , therefore, be considered as quite authentic.
had to get the picture of Bahadur Shah Zafar touched up as it was not very
clear. The Hookah was in front of
the face so it had to be touched out.
will now start the main body of the book and it starts from the time when the
English began their attack for reoccupation of Delhi. The events prior and subsequent to the attack have been
covered in other books in this series, therefore, those events have not been
I begin this
4th Shaban 1340 according to the Islamic Hijra calendar, on a
Wednesday after the Namaz Zohar prayers (mid afternoon prayers) . This is in the residential
quarters of the Shrine of the beloved Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia (May Allah
give him peace), in Delhi.
Why was Delhi angry with the British
reasons for the Mutiny in India have been written both by the English and by
Hindustani’s and most of these have been covered by Munshi Zakaullah in his
historical text. Sir Syed Ahmed
Khan also wrote a distinguished article under the name of “Reasons for the
Indian Mutiny”. This article was
also acknowledged by the British Parliament.
in this book I do not wish to list all those reasons nor do I find the need to
discuss them because this book deals only with matters relating to Delhi.
However, it is important to mention some of those reasons.
By Delhi is meant the Hindu Muslim residents of Delhi, the Badshah
Bahadur Shah Zafar and members of his family.
It is these people who supported the Mutiny and afterwards became the
target of the British atrocities.
the reasons for the Mutiny, most of what is in this book relates to Bahadur Shah
Zafar and his family’s grievances against the British.
The affects of the problems faced by the
Badshah and his family were felt amongst the residents of Delhi.
Whenever the poet Badshah wrote verses relating to this they became known
amongst the residents of Delhi. Regarding
the problem of succession, the Badshah wrote:
this verse came out the residents of Delhi were quite upset and the verse was
sung in the streets of Delhi like a lament.
these matters cannot be understood fully until we look at what happened during
the times of Shah Alam Badshah.
Shah Alam Badshah and the British
1804 Lord Lake and the soldiers of Wellesley
defeated the Marathas and as a result, Shah Alam Badshah came under the
protection of the British on the basis of an agreement.
On the surface, Shah Alam gave Robert Clive the Diwani (the right to
collect taxes) and made him a Vizier, but in reality the Empire of Hindustan
was handed over to the British.
that time the East India Company’s Directors had no intention of becoming the
direct rulers of India. The East India Company considered it expedient to acquire power under the shadow
of the Badshah. Towards this end
the Governor General sent the following letter dated 13th July 1804
to the East India Company.
French had obtained ascendancy and power in the North West of Hindustan,
we managed to take Shah Alam away from the influence of the French and
the French Government has been denied this great tool in whose shadow the French
wanted to capture Hindustan. We are now responsible for the welfare and safety of the
Badshah and his family as we have released them from the captivity of the
Marathas and the French. It is necessary for us to appear in every body’s eyes
as the supporters of the Badshah.”
Suggestions to evict the
Badshah and his family from the Red Fort of Delhi
Lord Wellesley predicted that if the Badshah continued to stay in
the Red Fort and the paraphernalia of Regality was perpetuated, it was a
possibility that some successor of Bahadur Shah Zafar may be tempted to
re-acquire real power. It was also
possible that the Fort could act as a rallying point for the Muslims and be used
as the Head Quarters of a future state. It
was, therefore, suggested that the Badshah and his family should vacate the Red Fort and move to
the District of Mongar in Bihar. When
Shah Alam was informed of this he was furious.
He put his hand on the hilt of his sword and said that he was still alive and no one can bury a living person willingly into his grave.
Lord Wellesley realized the dangers of provoking the Badshah and withdrew
his suggestion. The British were at this stage still worried about the
Marathas, the Afghans and the French. For
these reasons, the plan was shelved for the time being. This suggestion and the reaction of the King could be
considered as the first major cause of unrest amongst the Royal Family and the
residents of Delhi.
the Badshah and his family should vacate the Red Fort and move to
the District of Mongar in Bihar. When
Shah Alam was informed of this he was furious.
He put his hand on the hilt of his sword and said that he was still alive and no one can bury a living person willingly into his grave.
Lord Wellesley realized the dangers of provoking the Badshah and withdrew
his suggestion. The British were at this stage still worried about the
Marathas, the Afghans and the French. For
these reasons, the plan was shelved for the time being. This suggestion and the reaction of the King could be
considered as the first major cause of unrest amongst the Royal Family and the
residents of Delhi.
The ascension of Akbar
Shah to the throne of Hindustan
Shah Alam died in 1802, and Akbar Shah ascended the throne of Hindustan. These were the times when the older British Officers respected the Mogul King and held him in great esteem. Seton was the Resident at Delhi. he used to stand in the Court of Shah Alam just as any other of Shah Alam’s Nobles. He used to show full courtesy and deference to the King . He even extended this respect to the children of the Royal Family. Charles Metcalfe was the assistant to Stein. Due to his youth and shortcomings in his personality, he hated this state of affairs. He considered it wrong to accord this level of Regal treatment to the King of Delhi and thought this would lead towards laying a thorny path in the plans of the British towards India. With this in mind he wrote the following letter to the Governor:
“I am against the policy which Mr Stein has adopted towards the Royal Family. The person appointed in Delhi by the British Government should not treat the Badshah in a way which would awaken his powers, instead it should be our intention to put to bed any such ideas. Our actions should not be such as to give the Badshah his power or position. We should refrain from giving him hopes of acquiring his Regal Powers. He can be kept well and in comfort, but no actions should be taken to make him dream of coming back to power.”
After a few years Metcalfe was made the Resident at Delhi. As soon as his appointment was confirmed he started making efforts and took action to humiliate the Badshah. As a result the King, the Royal Family, the Nobility, the Religious Leaders and the Residents of Delhi were extremely upset and started wondering about how to get rid of the British.
This was the second important reason for the British to have created animosity with the Indians and the results were the events of 1857.
The enthronement of
Bahadur Shah Zafar
Akbar Shah Badshah died in the evening on September 28, 1837. Abu Zafar Sirajuddin Mohammed Bahadur Shah Badshah Gazi ascended the throne of Delhi. Bahadur Shah was born in the Islamic Hijra Year of 1188 (1777) and at the time of his enthronement he was 60 years of age. He was a very modest, well spoken, Sufi poet. His father had tried to pass on the title to his younger brother Mirza Salim also known as Mirza Jahangir. However, Mirza Salim hated the British and called the Resident Stein by the mocking name of “Lulu”. He also shot at the resident and as a consequence was exiled to Allahabad. The British as a result were opposed to making Mirza Jahangir the Crown Prince. After that Shah Alam Badshah tried to make Mirza Nali the Crown Prince, this too failed and in the end Bahadur Shah ascended the throne.
At the time of Bahadur Shah’s crowning, Lord Auckland was the Governor General in India. Charles Metcalfe was the Lieutenant Governor. This was the same Metcalfe who had managed to upset the Royal Family in Delhi. As soon as Bahadur Shah become King he applied to the British to increase his pension as the British had already promised such an increase to his father Akbar Shah. As expected Metcalfe opposed the application. Consequent to this opposition and also due to other reasons the Governor General did not increase the pension. In reply the Governor General acknowledged that the British had agreed to increase the pension, but this would be done only if the Badshah exempted the Government from all the other obligations of the British. Bahadur Shah replied that he would do the same as his father had done and not agree to the onerous conditions. This was the third cause of discontent in the minds of the Badshah and his family against the British.
Akbar Shah Badshah had sent Raja Ram Mohan Roy a well known Brahmin Socialite to London to act on behalf of the Moghul Family and to appeal directly to the Queen and Parliament in London. He was very well received but nobody was willing to do anything about the petition. In the end his mission failed and he returned to Delhi. This failure created further apprehension in the minds of the Moghul family about their future.
Cessation of the custom of “Nazr”
In 1837 when Bahadur Shah Zafar ascended the throne of Delhi, the Commander in Chief according to old customs came to the King and gave the usual “Nazr” (presents). This was also done at the time of the two Islamic Festival Days (Eids), and on “Nauroz” (The Moghul New Year’s day according to the Iranian calendar) and on the Badshah’s Birthday. The Nazr was presented on behalf of the General and Commander in Chief by the Resident in Delhi. However, Lord Allenborough stopped this custom. This was a disappointment for the King and for the residents of Delhi. The British Officials also found different ways of insulting and humiliating the Badshah on a daily basis. The Badshah was in the habit of referring to the Resident as his son “Farzand Arjumand”. When Charles Metcalfe died, Mr Harvey was appointed the Resident. He wrote to the Badshah and said that he did not like to be referred to as “Farzand Arjumand”.
The Badshah appointed George Thomas an Englishman who was a good speaker and writer. The Badshah wanted him to be his correspondent with the British. However, all his efforts were of no use.
The Badshah’s Income
The Badshah was given a pension of Rs100,000 per month, on top of this he was getting Rs150,000 from his ownership of the area around Port Qasim and further rental income from houses owned by the Badshah in Delhi. Out of this income he was sending Rs1,000 to Lucknow each month for the upkeep of members of the Royal Family there. The rest was distributed amongst the very large number of Royal Family members living in and around the Red Fort of Delhi.
Dispute over the Crown Prince
In 1839 Dara Bakht the Crown Prince died. At this time the dispute over the appointment of the next Crown Prince arose.
Zeenat Mahal was the King’s favourite wife and she had a son by the name of Jawan Bakht. Zeenat Mahal was very keen to have her son appointed as the Crown Prince. With her hold on the King’s affections she managed to persuade him to appoint Jawan Bakht as the Crown Prince.
Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General, meanwhile had other plans. He wanted to get rid of the Monarchy completely. On 1st August, 1844 he wrote to the Resident of Delhi instructing him that on the death of the present Badshah all matters relating to the his successor should be referred to the Governor General. He also referred to the Delhi Resident’s suggestion that the successor should not hold the title of Badshah. However, he wanted to look at all the advantages and disadvantages of such a move and wanted to think about it carefully.
The death of Crown Prince Dara Bakht gave an excuse to Lord Dalhousie to start scheming about the extinction of the Monarchy. Bahadur Shah had a son Mirza Fateh Al Mulk also known as Mirza Fakhroo. He was 30 years of age and was very pro British. The Governor General found this Prince suitable to his schemes. The Governor entered into a secret pact with this Prince, and one of the conditions was that after succeeding to the throne he would vacate the Red Fort. When the Badshah heard this he objected strongly to the appointment of Mirza Fakhroo. In spite of the Badshah’s objections, Mirza Fakhroo was appointed the Crown Prince.
On 10th July, 1856 Mirza Fakhroo died of cholera. The dispute over the appointment of the Crown Prince rose once more. The next day Thomas Metcalfe the Agent in Delhi appeared before the Badshah who gave him a letter demanding the appointment of Mirza Jawan Bakht as the Crown Prince. Attached to this was a declaration by the eight other sons of Bahadur Shah saying that they were all agreeable that the son of Zeenat Mahal i.e., Mirza Jawan Bakht had the necessary qualities of intellect, education and decency and he should , therefore, be appointed the Crown Prince. This document was duly signed and sealed by all the Princes. However, the very next day Mirza Kivaish wrote to the resident that the Badshah had extracted the signatures from the Princes in return of payments and promise of increased allowances. He also told the Resident that since he was the eldest son, had visited Mecca for Haj, and knew the Quran by heart it was his right to be the Crown Prince.
It is said that this letter from him was not written upon his wishes but was instigated by the British Officials. Whatever the reason, the Governor General Lord Canning found this to be a good excuse to implement the policy of his predecessor Lord Dalhousie. He wrote back to the Resident in Delhi the following letter:
“ A lot of the elements of the glory of the Badshahi have finished and it is no longer as bright as it was. Most of the rights of the Badshah have finished. It is, therefore, not difficult to think that on the death of the Badshah by just a few lines on paper the title could be abolished. The Nazr presented to the Badshah has stopped, the coins issued under his name have been abolished, reference to the Badshah in the seal of the Governor have been taken out, and the various rulers in the Indian States have been instructed to do the same. After all these actions it has been decided that there is nothing left to show that the British Rule is in any way subject to the will of the Badshah. Therefore, continuing the title is dependent entirely on the will of the British Government.”
The Governor General then instructed the Resident to confirm that Mirza Kavaish was to be the Crown Prince and the suggestion to appoint Mirza Jawan Bakht in his place was rejected. In addition Mirza Kavaish was told that the conditions of his being made Crown Prince would not include the Clauses included in the agreement with Mirza Fakhro. He would not get the title of Badshah but would instead be referred to as the Prince. He would have to vacate the Red Fort and instead of being paid Rs100,000 per month he would get only Rs15,000 per month.
The most interesting aspect of this was the instruction to relay all these conditions verbally to the Prince and not in writing. When the Badshah and the citizens of Delhi became aware of these, they were furious and the citizens of Delhi realised that just as the British were depriving their Badshah of his rights in the same manner the populace will slowly but surely lose all their rights too.
On the one hand this turmoil was created in the former Capital of India and at the same time other problems were created across the regions under the control of the British. All these have been discussed in detail by Sir Syed and others. In 1856, Mirza Kavaish became Crown Prince and in 1857 the Mutiny started. In a way the ulcer was there for a long time it just erupted on 11th May, 1857.
I am not a writer just a collector of ideas and facts. However, looking at the events of the time any person would come to the conclusion that what was happening with Bahadur Shah Zafar was a slow strangulation. In these conditions of hopelessness, although the Mutiny in Delhi started because of the pressure of the soldiers, nevertheless it cannot be disputed that the Badshah and his companions had reached the conclusion that it was better to fight and die rather than to have a slow, lingering and painful death.
The start of Mutiny in Delhi
The second, third, and fourth books in this series cover the events relating to the Mutiny. For the sake of continuity it is necessary to state here the events prior to the Mutiny. It is not necessary to state all the deep rooted and basic reasons for the Mutiny as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan has already done this in his book “Causes of the Mutiny in India”. This book can be purchased from Aligarh College Duty Shop for a sum of Eight Annas (Rs 0.50). In this book I have just stated the grievances of the Citizens of Delhi itself as Sir Syed did not cover them fully.
The situation in Delhi during the Mutiny
The Mutiny started in the Meerut Barracks. On 10th May, 1857, on a Sunday, the British were preparing to attend the local church and there were no visible signs of any major problems. The problems arising from the issuance of the new cartridges for the rifles were known to the British. Two days earlier the new cartridges had been issued and it was explained to the soldiers by Colonel Smyth that the cartridges were not coated with pig or cow fat. They were also told that if they did not want to strip the fat with their teeth, they could use their fingers to pull off the fat. They were told that these were the same cartridges which were used for the last 30 to 40 years. However, the Sepoys were not impressed with this speech and refused to take the cartridges. As a result 85 Sepoys were arrested and taken into custody. On the morning of 8th May, 1857, these 85 Sepoys were brought on to the Parade Ground and in view of all the other Sepoys their uniforms were taken off, they were put in chains and sentenced to ten years imprisonment . The other Sepoys watched, but the captives, kept shouting at their compatriots asking them to get some bangles and sit with their women folk, The captives shouted that the rest of the soldiers were not men and nor were they Hindustanis as a Hindustani would sacrifice his own life to save his compatriots.
In spite of these insults, the Sepoys maintained their calm and discipline as they were surrounded by white British Soldiers. The Sepoys though it would be unwise to take any action while they were unarmed and unprepared. However, their faces were burning with suppressed rage, some were biting their lips, others running their fingers over their moustaches , which is a symbolic gesture of anger and an indicator of future vengeful actions.
After the captives departed the Sepoy army returned to their barracks, but they were furious with the day’s events. Lord Canning in a later statement said that “To have put chains on the Sepoys when it would have taken hours to do so in the Parade Ground in front of their compatriots was an unnecessarily sharp sting on the Sepoys pride and was a stupidity beyond belief by the British Officers. This was especially bad when the Sepoys were already upset by the incidents over the cartridges and many of whom still believed the story about the cartridges”.
The Commander in Chief considered the Court Martial as appropriate but thought the idea of a chaining in front of the troops to be out of order. On the same day the Bazaars of Meerut were rife with the rumours that the British had ordered an additional 2000 chains for the rest of the Sepoys. That same day the British Officers were informed at Dinner time that the Muslims had put up posters on the walls of Meerut declaring Jihad against the British.
In spite of the incidents on May 9th, the British Officers were quite relaxed on Sunday 10th and were preparing for Sunday Service at the Church. Although things looked calm the sky looked very ominous. The servants serving the British either did not arrive or they ran off towards the Bazaars. The British on the other hand were quite arrogant about their position, and took no notice of the local population. There was a lot of unrest in the Barracks of the Sepoys and rumours were flying around that the British soldiers were armed from head to foot and they would put chains on all the native soldiers, loot the markets and murder the civilians.
After a while this led to the mounted and foot sepoys going to the Jail, some of the Sepoys were in uniform whilst others wore their native dress. They were armed with revolvers and guns. They destroyed the jail and brought the Captives to the iron-smiths who cut them out of their chains.
The British Officers meanwhile, were at prayer in the Church while the Captives were being released. At this point the Sepoys refrained from attacking the Church, had this happened then none of the British Officers and men would have escaped as they were unarmed and totally defenceless. After prayers, the British Soldiers lined up on the parade ground and the Sepoys thought that they would be attacked. The Sepoys set fire to their barracks and when the British Officers became aware of the commotion, they rushed over and tried to stop the Sepoys. They used a combination of threats and pleadings. The Sepoys took no notice of this and informed their officers that as far as the Sepoys were concerned the Rule of the Company had ended. They told them to go away as it was not the intention of the Sepoys to harm the British , but neither was it their intention to accept them as their Masters. The British Officers kept threatening the Sepoys and this resulted in the Sepoys taking out their rifles and firing at the British. The first British to die in the Mutiny was Colonel Fintis who was shot. After that there was complete mayhem with looting and murders taking place all over Meerut. Apart from Colonel Fintis, seven other British soldiers and three families of British soldiers were killed. Wherever any British men , women or children were seen they were immediately killed. Victor Hugof wrote “ The houses in Indian Cities are like Jungle Caves, whose residents resemble humans but can behave like beasts. During the Mutiny this is exactly what was seen, the beasts came out of their caves both Hindus and Muslims and behaved towards the British in a beastly manner.”
In short the entire native army was destabilised and in the evening they started towards Delhi. The British Soldiers were so confused that they could neither stop the mutiny nor could they come out in pursuit of the Rebel Army. They were not even aware of where the mutinying soldiers were headed. According to Hugof, Brigadier General Wilson in Meerut was in such shock that although he laid siege to Meerut all night, he could not stop the native soldiers from going towards Delhi. If he had stopped them at this point, there may never have been a Mutiny in Delhi.
May 11, the Revolt in Delhi
Munshi Zakaullah wrote “On May 9, on a Saturday Mr F Taylor Principal of Delhi College asked Maulvi Syed Mohammed who was the Head of Arabic Department about what was happening in the City. The Maulvi told him that there were rumours that there was an uprising in Meerut, and it was said that the days of the Raj were over. However, the Maulvi told him that this was just mad talk and the organisation of the Government was such that no such cracks were likely to occur in it. On hearing this the Principal raised his hands towards the heavens and said that the Destiny of Nations was up to Providence and was not dependent on men’s organisation.
In Meerut the British Force slept in the Parade Grounds while the Sepoys benefiting from a moon lit night continued moving towards Delhi. They stopped for nothing and by the time of early morning prayers (Fajr, which is at Dawn), they reached Delhi. The moment they reached Delhi they attacked the British there, burnt their houses and killed any British they could find. They even killed women and children.
The heartless Hindustanis and their cruelty
This book has various references to the atrocities of the British and the soldiers under their command, however, it is only fair to mention that at the initial stages of the revolt, the Indian soldiers and the Indian civilians were so cruel to the British such that no punishment would be enough for the atrocities they committed. They murdered helpless women, and did not even refrain from slaughtering pregnant women. They threw up small children and impaled them on their spears. They even stuck swords in the stomachs of pregnant women. In short there was no limit to their cruelty towards the British soldiers and their families.
Munshi Zakaullah wrote that “I witnessed, a Memsahib, a British lady surrounded by the rebel Indian soldiers. She had a baby in her arms and was trying to cover it with a towel. She also had a toddler with her. On the way the soldiers were showing them their swords and making gestures to indicate that they wanted to cut off their heads. The young boy kept clinging to his mother in fear and this continued until they reached the Red Fort.
The murder of the women and children within the Red Fort was a nasty event, no nation would murder women and children in disputes of State. Bahadur Shah Zafar was totally against the killing these British prisoners and was extremely angry at the idea. However, in spite of his opposition the soldiers carried out the evil deed. The killers of these innocents were all Indians and this murder was a blot on the sense of Hindustani kindness and justice.
The British Army’s reaction was also unreasonable in that they hung many innocents. Apart from killing the culprits, they also killed many people who had nothing to do with these events and all this was done without any proper investigations. Other than these murders, the British soldiers were also responsible for other atrocities which will be narrated further in this book. Nevertheless, my head bows down with shame when I think of the activities of the Hindustanis on May 11, 1857 and in the following months.
While travelling from Meerut to Delhi, the rebel soldiers were quite apprehensive about the British soldiers coming up behind them. But , the British soldiers stayed on at the Meerut Parade Grounds and when the rebel soldiers reached the Jumna River near Delhi, they raised the slogan “Victory to our Mother Jumna”.
Mistakes made by the Commissioner of Delhi
Mr Simon Fraser who is still known in the villages surrounding Delhi, was the Commissioner of Delhi prior to the Mutiny. It was said by the residents of Delhi that his sleep was the cause of inflaming the Mutiny. Had he not been so fond of his sleep, then Delhi would have been better organised and the mutinying soldiers would not have managed to enter Delhi.
When the mutiny started in Meerut, the British Officers paid a large sum of money to some Indians to get a message across to the Commissioner of Delhi. The message was that the mutinying soldiers may try to enter Delhi and the Commissioner should make arrangements to stop them from doing so. This letter reached the Commissioner’s House at about midnight. By that time the Commissioner had retired to sleep (it was rumoured that he was drunk). His servants woke him up and gave him the letter. He pocketed the letter and went back to sleep. The messenger told the servants that the situation in Meerut was serious and that the Commissioner should be woken up and asked to read the letter. The servants replied that the master was prone to getting angry easily and they did not dare wake him up again. In the morning when he read the letter, he started to make preparations to defend Delhi but by that time the rebel soldiers had entered Delhi.
Munshi Zakaullah said that the news of the arrival of the letter was well known, but subsequent events relating to it were not so clear. It was not possible to clarify this matter as on May 11, 1857, the Commissioner was murdered. The details relating to this matter may have been suppressed by the senders of the message in order to protect the name of the deceased and there is no reason for the Hindustanis to have spread this as an untrue rumour.
If this matter about the letter is true, the mistake of the Commissioner cost Delhi dearly. The responsibility of the murders and deaths in Delhi rests on this mistake. In Meerut the responsibility lay with the British soldiers who did not go in pursuit of the rebel army and instead stayed resting in the Parade Grounds. Had they followed the rebel soldiers the matter could have ended there.
Munshi Zakaullah has written “ I saw Mr Simon Fraser riding in a two horse carriage. He stopped his carriage near the Magazine. There some Telego Soldiers were standing guard and were in uniform. He called the Subehdar of the Telego Company and asked him if he and his soldiers were loyal to him and the British. The Subehdar replied that they were loyal to their faith. They did not even return his salute properly. He went ahead and soon his carriage was surrounded by a number of people. I then went ahead and came to the Red Diggit Street, there I saw the Magistrate of Delhi Mr Hutchinson as he came riding and behind him were two orderlies plus the Kotwal (Police Inspector) Mr Sharf Al Haq. After a little while I saw 7/8 riders riding furious looking horses and following in the same direction as the Magistrate. At this point I turned around and returned home.”
Mr Fraser had arranged to close the Calcutta Gate.
When the rebels saw this shut, they went along the river under the walls
of the Fort until they arrived at the Watch
Tower , at the
corner of the Fort. From there, they
cried out to the King saying We need the help of the King to fight for our
religion. The King did not respond
but called on Hakim Ahsanullah Khan and Ghulam Abbas Shams Uddaulah and ordered
them to go to Captain Douglas, the keeper of the Fort and inform him of the
arrival of the rebel soldiers. After
a while Ghulam Abbas came back with Captain Douglas, who immediately went to the
corridor and told the rebel soldiers who were standing under the Balcony, and
told them that this was the bedroom of the Badshah and they must not disturb him
with their complaints. If they had
to say anything they should go to the Chief Police Station and make their
complaints there, and a hearing could be held there. The riders then went off in the direction of the Ghats.
The Badshah had by now come out into the open courtyard of the Diwan Khas
(The Chamber of Special Hearing), and met Captain Douglas who told him not to
worry and that all this disturbance will soon be stopped.
The rebel soldiers rode
towards the gate near the Ghats but Captain Douglas had already ordered these
gates to be shut. However, as soon
as the rebels approached the doors, they were opened. There were strange rumours about the opening of these gates.
Some said that a rider clad in Green descended from the skies and opened
the gates, others said that the Guards on Duty opened it.
Whatever the reasons, the Rebel Soldiers on finding the gates open,
entered the City of Delhi and started murdering the British.
They were shouting “Deen, Deen”, (meaning “religion, religion”).
When these shouts were heard by the residents, crowds of Muslims gathered
around them and started bringing sweet drinks for the soldiers to drink.
The Commissioner, Captain
Douglas, Sir Thomas Metcalfe, Hutchinson and other British Officials had all
collected at the Chief Police Station.
The rebel soldiers and the citizens of
Delhi had surrounded them. At this
point, Fraser shot a soldier who was approaching him, the soldier turned around
and fell dead. His compatriots
stepped back but the crowd of citizens in total disregard of the guns started
raising slogans and attacked. The British started running towards their homes but before
they could reach them , Mr Fraser, Mr
Douglas, and Mr Hutchinson were killed.
The loyalty of a Hindustani
Munshi Zakaullah said that he was informed by Judge Roy Shankar Das of the Sessions Court that on hearing of the disturbances, Session Judge Smith dismissed the Court, got on his horse and went riding towards the disturbances. An old tailor who used to work for him previously, stopped his horse and getting hold of the reins turned the horse around saying to the judge “Sahib why are you going towards your death” and thus stopped him from going any further.
There were two young women in the house of Captain Douglas. Both of them were killed by the rebels. Delhi Bank was looted and its European Manager was killed. The Christian employees of Delhi Gazette were killed, basically on the surface the British and their Government was wiped out from Delhi. The rest of the events have been narrated in my Book No 2 called the “Story of the British”, and in Book No. 4 called the “Trial of Bahadur Shah Zafar”, therefore, there is no need to repeat these matters here. The main point is that wherever in Hindustan the revolt started, the soldiers headed towards Delhi and Delhi became the centre of the Revolt. Bahadur Shah’s two sons Mirza Mughal and Mirza Kazr Sultan and some of his other sons accepted the leadership of the Revolt.
The British in spite of the difficult circumstances managed to collect the Sikhs from Punjab, the Gurkhas from Nepal and other Muslims from the Punjab. With this force, they occupied the ridge around Delhi. Conquering Delhi became their main aim as the course of future events could only be determined by what happened at Delhi.
The Rebels in Delhi and the British Forces faced each other for the final battle across the walls of Delhi, and this went on for several months.
Preparations for the attack on Delhi
In September 1857, the British had agreed that whatever
it took, it was necessary to take Delhi back.
Towards this end their engineers, soldiers and labourers were working
hard at the preparations. First
they prepared a defence at the Canning House and fixed six cannons on it, so
that they could contain the attacks coming from the Lahori Gates and to stop the
smoke emitting cannon fire coming from the Bastion of
the Mori Gate. The other plan was to
give the indication that the main attack would come from the front and while the
attention of the defenders was shifted there to attack at another front.
On September 6 all the soldiers who could come for the siege had already arrived. The force consisted of 2500 foot soldiers, 1000 cavalry and 600 Gunners. In this force there were only 3317 white soldiers, the rest of the force was made up of Sikhs, Gurkhas and Punjabi Muslims. They had a lot of Coolies too. To fill up the trenches, the Engineers had collected 10,000 bundles of wood and 100,000 bags of sand. They also got together a lot of baskets and ladders.
On September 7 after dusk when it started getting dark, they loaded all this on camels and with the help of the coolies they started moving the material forward towards the walls of the city. The idea was to move it all forward before the morning. Unfortunately for the British, the moon came out and the rebel soldiers were able to see the material being moved. The guns at the Mori Gate and blasted the Coolies and the Camels away. However, the losses were not too great as the guns stopped firing as soon as the front of the column had been destroyed, as the Gunners thought that they had destroyed the lot. This gave the British some time to breath and re-group..
Next morning the British Forces started firing their cannons and the bombardment was so furious that by the afternoon the defences at the Mori Gate were destroyed and the City Walls developed a lot of cracks. The Rebel Soldiers opened up with their guns and the British sustained heavy losses. The Major’s defences opposite the Kashmiri Gate from where they were firing cannon, sustained direct hits and caught fire which was put out with great difficulty. Opposite the Kashmiri Gate was the Ludlow Castle at a distance of about 500 yards. Until then the Kashmiri Gate had been used by the Rebel Soldiers to make sorties against the British. On September 8, the British took Ludlow Castle, militarily this was quite a strategic position. On December 10, the British prepared a position in Qudsia Bagh and on the same day Captain Taylor prepared another position opposite the Water Bastion at a distance of about 150 yards. This position was at the Customs House and proved to be a very successful position. It is strange that the Rebels did not think of defending it previously. However, while the British were preparing it , the rebels kept them under cannon and gun fire which caused considerable damage. On 11th September, both sides used their cannons and a furious cannon battle took place. The guns at the Kashmiri Gate were put out of action, but the Rebels made holes in the walls and mounted their cannons in such a manner that for every British Gun the Defenders had one firing back. They fired their shells so furiously and accurately that it caused considerable damage to the British. There were no sections of the British Force which were untouched. The attacking British Force lost 337 men and there were numerous injured.
On the night of September 13, Mr Medley and Mr Lang who were both Army Engineers were asked to check out the Bastion of the Kashmiri Gate and the Water Gate to see if the walls had been sufficiently damaged to make an assault. Both the Engineers entered the moat near these gates and were trying to get to the top of the holes in the wall when they heard voices overhead and the sound of guns being loaded. At this they lay down on the grass and stayed there for several hours. They noted that the breaches in the wall were quite wide, but when they tried to get out they were spotted by the Sepoys who started firing at them. Fortunately for them , their luck held and in spite of the bullets whistling past them they managed to return to their positions. They reported that the breaches in the walls were quite large and with this news, Mr Home and Mr Grant gave the instructions to carry out an all out assault on September 14.
The attacking force was formed into 5 columns. The first column was commanded by General Nicholson. These columns added up to 5000 strong soldiers. The sick and the injured were left to defend the camp. Major Hudson was the Intelligence Chief who was getting information from spies within the city. Even some members of the Royal Family were sending him news. The Head of the spies was Munshi Rajab Ali who was relied upon by the British for their information. Inside the Fort, Mirza Ilahi Bux who was the father in law of the King was sending the news to the British through Munshi Rajab Ali.
Defeat of Delhi on September 14
The British had decided to attack Delhi early in the morning, but their soldiers had spent the night on piquet duty all along the camp and they were therefore late. First the 60th Rifles came forward shouting and advancing rapidly. At the same time General Nicholson attacked from the Qudsia Bagh and started moving towards the breaches in the city walls. The Rebels showered the advancing forces with cannon and rifle fire and as a result the attackers suffered heavy losses, but soon they came up with ladders and the soldiers nearest to the wall started laying the ladders against them. The first person to climb the wall was General Nicholson together with some other British soldiers and some native troops. All of them were killed or had to retreat. The space below the walls was soon filled with dead bodies.
The force that attacked from the direction of the Permit House also suffered heavy casualties but managed to enter the City. Near the Kashmiri Gate,, the British blew up a window and entered through the breach. When they got through, they realised that there was just one cannon together with the bodies of a few Telugu Soldiers. The force entering from the Water Bastion, and the force coming from the Kashmiri Gate joined up in the Church grounds and there they established themselves instead of going forward.
The fourth column moved from the Sabzi Mandi towards KusharGanj and attacked at PaharGanj, but right at the beginning Mr Reed who was commanding this column was mortally wounded and many of the Officers were either killed or wounded. After heavy losses, this column retreated towards the compound of Hindu Rao, there they joined up with the Kashmiri contingent which had suffered heavy losses and lost 4 of their cannon to the Rebels.
On the instructions of Mr. Nicholson, one part of the
army moved towards the Ajmer Gate and the other section moved from the Kabuli
Gate towards the Jama Masjid. The
British Flag was planted on the Kabuli Gate but the rebels fought back so
ferociously that the British near the Ajmeri Gate had to retreat towards the
The Burn Bastion was
retaken by the Rebels. Seeing this Mr Nicholson made a concerted attack on the Burn
as soon as they advanced, Major Jacob was shot and a number of other Officers
were also killed. When the soldiers
saw their Officers dying, they started retreating, but Mr Nicholson ran forward
and asked them to follow him, however, he was also shot in the chest and the
soldiers ran off towards the Kabuli Gate.
The Fight at the Jama Masjid
One part of the army was under Sir Thomas Metcalfe. He knew Delhi very well as he had been working there previously as a Collector and as a Magistrate. He guided the force under him through the back alleyways, well away from the line of fire of the Rebels. His force managed to reach the Jama Masjid and waited there for reinforcements. This is where the Lady Dufferin Hospital now stands. He thought that the forces from the Ajmeri Gate, the Kabuli Gate and the Sabzi Mandi will join up. He waited for half an hour but the forces did not arrive. At this time there were thousands of Muslims praying their Juma Prayers at the Jama Masjid. They realised that the British were attempting to blow up the Mosque with gunpowder. They were armed only with swords and did not have any guns or cannon. One of them got up on the Mimbar and told his fellow men “The time for your test has arrived. Those who want to fight should go to the North Gate, and those who want to escape should go to the South Gate as there is no enemy there”. Not a single person went to the South Gate. All of them came out shouting Allah O Akbar and drew their swords, they cut off the scabbards and threw them away in a symbolic gesture of not willing to return their swords to their scabbards. They attacked Metcalfe’s forces, but he was ready with guns and the moment they came out his forces fired and about 200 of the attackers died on the steps of the Jama Masjid, however, the rest of them kept attacking and sword fights broke out between the two forces. The attackers fought with such valour that Metcalfe and his forces had to retreat towards the Church grounds at the Kashmiri Gate. The Muslims followed them but in view of the large number of troops there they did not go any further.
The General in Panic
Mr Campbell who was injured in the fighting said that if reinforcements had arrived in time and had he the bags of gunpowder available he would have blown up the Jama Masjid on that day.
Lord Roberts in his book Forty Years in India said:
“ We joined the General at Ludlow Castle and watched the progress of the fighting from its roof. When he was satisfied that his attack had proved successful, he rode through the Kashmir Gate to the Church, where he remained for the rest of the day.
He was ill and tired out, and as the day wore on and he received discouraging reports, he became more and more anxious and depressed. He heard of Reid's failure, and of Reid himself having been severely wounded; then came the disastrous news that Nicholson had fallen, and a report (happily false) that Hope Grant and Tombs were both killed. All this greatly agitated and distressed the General, until at last he began seriously to consider the advisability of leaving the city and falling back on the Ridge.
I was ordered to go and find out the truth of these reports, and to ascertain exactly what had happened to No. 4 column and the Cavalry on our right.
Just after starting on my errand, while riding through the Kashmir gate, I observed by the side of the road a palanquin (doolie) , without bearers , and with evidently a wounded man inside. I dismounted to see if I could be of any use to the occupant, when I found, to my grief and consternation, that it was John Nicholson, with death written on his face. He told me that the bearers had put the doolie down and gone off to plunder; that he was in great pain, and wished to be taken to the hospital. He was lying on his back, no wound was visible, and but for the pallor of his face, almost colourless, there was no sign of the agony he must have been enduring. On my expressing a hope that he was not seriously wounded, he said: "I am dying; there is no chance for me." The sight of that great man lying helpless and on the point of death was almost more than I could bear. Other men had died around me, friends and comrades had been killed beside me, but I never felt as I felt then—to lose Nicholson seemed to me at that moment to lose everything.
I searched about for the doolie-bearers, who, with other camp-followers, were busy ransacking the houses and shops in the neighbourhood, and carrying off everything of the slightest value they could lay their hands on. Having with difficulty collected four men, I put them in charge of a sergeant of the 61st Foot. Taking down his name, I told him who the wounded officer was, and ordered him to go directly to the field hospital.
That was the last I saw of Nicholson. I found time to ride several times to the hospital to inquire after him, but I was never allowed to see him again.
Continuing my ride, I soon found both Hope Grant and Tombs . It seemed so important to acquaint the General without delay that Hope Grant and Tombs were both alive, that the Cavalry had been relieved from their exposed position, and that there was no need for further anxiety about Reid's column, that I galloped back to the church as quickly as possible.
The news I was able to give for the moment somewhat cheered the General, but did not altogether dispel his gloomy forebodings; and the failure of Campbell's column. (which just at that juncture returned to the church), the hopelessness of Nicholson's condition, and, above all, the heavy list of casualties he received later, appeared to crush all spirit and energy out of him. His dejection increased, and he became more than ever convinced that his wisest course was to withdraw from the city. He would, I think, have carried out this fatal measure, notwithstanding that every officer on his staff was utterly opposed to any retrograde movement, had it not been his good fortune to have beside him a man sufficiently bold and resolute to stimulate his flagging energies. Baird-Smith's indomitable courage and determined perseverance were never more conspicuous than at that critical moment, when, though suffering intense pain from his wound, and weakened by a wasting disease, he refused to be put upon the sick-list; and on Wilson appealing to him for advice as to whether he should or should not hold on to the position we had gained, the short but decisive answer, "We must hold on," was given in such a determined and uncompromising tone that it put an end to all discussion.
Neville Chamberlain gave similar advice. Although still suffering from his wound, and only able to move about with difficulty, he had taken up his position at Hindu Rao's house, from which he exercised, as far as his physical condition would allow, a general supervision and control over the events that took place on the right of the Ridge. He was accompanied by Daly and a very distinguished Native officer of the Guides, named Khan Sing Rosa, both of whom, like Chamberlain, were incapacitated by wounds from active duty. From the top of Hindu Rao's house Chamberlain observed the first successes of the columns, and their subsequent checks and retirements, and it was while he was there that he received two notes from General Wilson. In the first, written after the failure of the attacks on the Jama Masjid and the Lahore gate, the General asked for the return of the Baluch battalion, which, at Chamberlain's request, had been sent to reinforce Reid's column, and in it he expressed the hope that "we shall be able to hold what we have got." In the second note, written at four o'clock in the afternoon, the General asked whether Chamberlain "could do anything from Hindu Rao's house to assist," adding, "our numbers are frightfully reduced, and we have lost so many senior officers that the men are not under proper control; indeed, I doubt if they could be got to do anything dashing. I want your advice. If the Hindu Rao's piquet cannot be moved, I do not think we shall be strong enough to take the city." Chamberlain understood General Wilson's second note to imply that he contemplated withdrawing the troops from the city, and he framed his reply accordingly. In it he urged the necessity for holding on to the last; he pointed out the advantages already gained, and the demoralization thereby inflicted upon the enemy. The dying Nicholson advocated the same course with almost his latest breath. So angry and excited was he when he was told of the General's suggestion to retire, that he exclaimed, "Thank God I have strength yet to shoot him, if necessary." There was no resisting such a consensus of responsible and reliable opinion, and Wilson gave up all idea of retreating.”
The Delhi which had been lost by the British on May 11, 1857 was recaptured by them on September 14, 1857. In the fighting the British casualties were 66 Officers and 1104 soldiers. The City had been captured but was not fully under the control of the British. Armed men were present in the City and they were also in possession of Cannon. However, the British had managed to capture strong positions and fighting continued on 15,16,17 and 18 September. However, the Rebels were suffering defeats and were slowly retreating from their positions. On September 19, 2003 the whole City came under the control of the British
The Capture of Bahadur Shah Zafar and the Speech of Lord Governor Bakht Khan
On the night of September 19, the British consolidated their hold on Delhi. Bahadur Shah Zafar at that point decided to leave the fort. At this time the Rebels were under their famous Commander Muhammad Bakht Khan, he was originally from Bareilly. He was such a competent military commander and managed the affairs so ably that he was acknowledged by all the nobles, the army and the other Rebel Officers. As a result he had so much influence over Bahadur Shah Zafar that the Badshah refused to take any action without consulting him. He was also given the title of Lord Governor. He told the Badshah: "Although the British have taken the City, militarily it is not a big blow to the Rebel Army as the whole of Hindustan is up in arms against the British and everyone is looking up to you for guidance. Travel with me to the mountains from where the fight can be continued in such a way that the British would not be able to break through. He explained to the Badshah that Delhi was the Capital not a fortress. For war a place like Delhi was not suitable, and that the few months that the Rebels have managed to defend it was in itself no mean achievement. The British were on a Hill and even an untrained Army would have succeeded from such a favourable position. The appointment of your son Mirza Mughal as the Commander in Chief had created problems. Mirza Mughal was not trained as an army commander and was , therefore, continuously getting in the way. He also did not know how to control the unruly Rebel Soldiers. Had all the people cooperated and not been suspicious of each other’s motives, it would not have been impossible to defeat the well trained and disciplined British Forces facing them on the Hills. Unfortunately our lack of cooperation and distrust resulted in our defeat, as instead of fighting the enemy we were continuously spending our resources in fighting and distrusting each other.
Even now not everything was lost and in fact nothing was lost. All the Indian States were watching things carefully to see which side starts winning the war. The Indian States are all fed up with the British and realise that they only want to swallow them one after another based on any excuses they can come up with. The moment we start showing some success the Indian States will move to our side and start sending reinforcements. The Rulers of all the Indian States love their religion, they can see that the British want to force the yolk of Christian Religion round all our necks and thus make us their slaves. If you could move to a safe place and fight the British from there, the whole country will support us. All that was needed were fighting men, food for them, money and arms. As India has so much of these that if the British were to bring everyone of their countrymen including their children we could still fight them for Centuries. Even now the people helping them are our own countrymen who have been misled into supporting the British. They have been bought with promises of Loot and Prizes. Tomorrow when we get stronger, we can make them similar promises and I am sure they will come over to our side.
Telling you the following is like showing the Sun a candle, in that your ancestors faced bigger defeats and setbacks then this and yet fought on. ShahanShah Babar was at times so surrounded by his enemies that he had to make his escape alone, ShahanShah Humayun escaped to Iran in a state of utter helplessness, yet his steadfastness overcame all difficulties and his descendants ruled over this land for many years afterwards. You too are a candle of that Universal Light and you even have the support of the whole nation including every child in it. The whole of Hindustan is ready to collect under your banner to die and to fight for their country. If you come with me I will in a few days sort out all the problems and will keep you safe from all problems and discomfort."
The Badshah was quite impressed with the speech of Bakht Khan. He told him that he wished to proceed to the Shrine of Humayun and that Bakht Khan should meet him there the next morning when the Badshah will decide on the future course of action.
The Speech of Mirza Ilahi Bux
On this side all this was going on , and on the other hand Mirza Ilahi Bux was in league with the British to make sure that under no circumstances would the Badshah leave with the Rebel Army. Munshi Rajab Ali who was also in league with the British and was one of their main spies was constantly in touch with Mirza Ilahi Bux and was telling him that if he could persuade Bahadur Shah Zafar to stay where he was and not to go with the Rebels, the British would make sure that Mirza Ilahi Bux was well rewarded. Not only that but for the rest of his and his children’s life they would look after him and reward him (actually the British did fulfil their promise and the children of Mirza Ilahi Bux got a pension of Rs1200 for life).
After the departure of Bakht Khan from the presence of Bahadur Shah Zafar, Mirza Ilahi Bux approached him and said :
“I agree with every word that Lord Governor Bakht Khan said, however, I would ask the question whether this fight is between you and the British or is it between the British and the rebel army. It is obvious that the army was disillusioned with the way they were being treated, they came to you and you were helpless. You did not have the forces to stop them. The British are well aware of your problems. They also know that the actions taken and the orders issued by the rebels under your name had nothing to do with you. Therefore, there is no need for you to worry about any of these matters. However, if you do go with the Rebels the British will question your intentions and they will get an excuse to declare you guilty.
I am sure that there is no place where the Rebels will stop and put up a fight against the British. What Bakht Khan told me, I agree with you word by word, and it is quite true that the States in India and in the hearts of the Hindus and Muslims of Hindustan you are beloved, but I cannot see that the Rebel forces will remain under either your control or that of Bakht Khan. The forces which could not be controlled by the British who had wisdom, technology and money cannot be expected to be controlled by Bakht Khan.
The weather is hot, the rainy season is going to start, in your old and feeble age how will you put up with all the problems faced outside your own home. During times of war, problems are even worse. How will you go around with all the young Princes, Princesses and Veiled Queens. My suggestion is that you do not go with the Rebels. I will meet the British and arrange with them to give safe conduct for your life and that of your family against any harm. Whatever happens to the country at least your welfare will be looked after.”
After listening to this speech from Mirza Ilahi Bux, the Badshah went quiet. However, one of his Eunuchs said “ Your Highness , Mirza Ilahi Bux has joined up with the British, you should not listen to him. Please listen to the request of Bakht Khan and do not go with what these others are saying, Death and suffering is linked to everybody”, to this the Badshah said “I will listen to both sides and give my response tomorrow”.
The next day the Badshah with his Queens arrived at the Tomb of Humayun. He sent the Queens and children to the Tomb but he himself went off to the Shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia, he paid his respects and came back to the Tomb of Humayun. Meanwhile Mirza Ilahi Bux reported everything to Hudson through Munshi Rajab Ali and told him that he had stopped the Badshah from going with Bakht Khan and the rebels. He also said that the next day he will meet the King again at the Tomb of Humayun. He requested that Hudson should come to the Western Gate of the Tomb with some soldiers as Bakht Khan was going to come from the Eastern Gate as his army was waiting in the sand at the River side. He suggested that as soon as Bakht Khan had departed, Hudson should enter the Tomb and capture the Badshah.
Hudson informed General Wilson and ordered Munshi Rajab Ali to ask Mirza Ilahi Bux to as far as possible prevent the Badshah from leaving with Bakht Khan. He told him that after Bakht Khan has left, Mirza Ilahi Bakht should try and keep the Badshah at the tomb for the next 24 hours after which the arrangements for his arrest will be made. When Bakht Khan came to take the King with him, arguments started. Bakht Khan wanted the Badshah to go with him, the Badshah wanted to go but Mirza Ilahi Bux kept stopping the Badshah. Arguments broke out and there was some exchange of hard words between Mirza Ilahi Bux and Bakht Khan. Mirza Ilahi Bux told Bakht Khan.
"Lord Governor Sahib, yesterday you said that you want to protect His Highness from all troubles, does this mean that under his name you want to rule Hindustan. Why are you taking His Highness out in this severe weather so that you get to rule Hindustan and thereby take revenge from the Mughals for snatching Hindustan from the Pathans. I know that you are a Pathan and Pathans keep grievances for scores of years”.
When Bakht Khan heard this from Mirza Ilahi Bux he got so angry that he was going to attack and kill him, but the Badshah stopped him and said
“Brave, I believe every word you say and I respect all your opinions from my heart, but now my body has no strength, therefore, I have decided to let fate decide things for me. Leave me to my fate, take the name of Allah and go from here and do something . If it is not me, if it is not my family, you or some other Hindustani should keep up our honour, do not worry about me, just go and do your duty”.
When Bakht Khan heard this he was disheartened, and biting his lip he left from the Eastern Gate. He then went down to the river and together with his forces departed to some place so remote and unknown that nobody found out where he had gone. Bakht Khan was an intelligent men and his forces were completely devoted to him. From the time he arrived in Delhi, until its defeat he managed his forces so well that they suffered hardly any losses. He managed to command the rest of the Rebel Army so well that they managed to defend Delhi, without him they were so disorganised that they would not have been able to fight even for a couple of days.
After leaving Bahadur Shah, Bakht Khan aided by his superior intellect and disappeared in such a manner that neither he nor his soldiers were touched by the vengeance of the British. He was the main instrument in sustaining the rebellion and its leader. Luck did not side with him otherwise he could have ruled Hindustan and would have not only succeeded in expelling the British from Hindustan but would have removed the weak Mughals from the centre and would have been history’s next Sher Shah.
Major Hudson found out through Mirza Ilahi Bux that the rebels had been unable to take the Badshah with him and that the Badshah was now in the tomb without the help of any of his supporters. He then asked General Wilson’s permission to go and capture the Badshah from the tomb. General Wilson gave his permission but at that point discussions started about whether to bring the Badshah out alive or dead. It was General Wilson’s opinion that the Badshah should be murdered, but the other officers were opposed to it. In the end it was agreed not to murder the Badshah as at that point only Delhi had been captured and the rest of Hindustan was still under the flames of rebellion and it would be tactful to capture the Badshah alive.
Major Hudson took 50 mounted solders and moved towards the West Gate of the Tomb of Humayun, he stood outside and sent a message to the Badshah that he had arrived to arrest the Badshah and asked him to come to the gate so that he could be taken away.
Hudson was a hard hearted and cruel person, one British historian has written about him that : “
The battlefield was his dance hall, other than warlike pursuits he had no interest in song or music, he had no consideration for human suffering, the injuring of any person made no effect on him and killing a person was like breaking a twig to him. Attacking escaping and unarmed men and looting their goods gave him heartfelt pleasure. The cruelty inflicted on the inhabitants of Delhi could be traced directly to his character and was not a reflection of British attitudes.”
In spite of this cruel streak, he was decent enough to stay outside the Tomb and did not enter it. However, this reluctance to go in could also be due to his suspicion that Bakht Khan’s men could be hidden inside the Tomb and he had no intention to risk his life entering it.
Anyway, when the message of Hudson reached the Badshah he glared at Mirza Ilahi Bux and said “You stopped me from going with Bakht Khan, if the British have nothing to do with me as you had suggested, why is it that they have now come to arrest me?” Mirza Ilahi Bux stood there saying nothing with his head hanging down looking at the floor. The Badshah then decided to send for Bakht Khan , but the people who were in sympathy with the British had already prepared Zeenat Mahal Begum , who said “There is no time left to call Bakht Khan, and there is no surety of finding him. It would be better to get Major Hudson to promise that no harm will come to you, me and Mirza Jawan Bakht before you agree to surrender, and unless you get this promise you should not go to him”.
Following this suggestion, a message was sent to Major Hudson that the British promise that no harm would come to the Badshah, his Queens and his children, and upon this promise the Badshah would surrender.
Hudson agreed to this and after two hours of these negotiations the Badshah came out of the Tomb. Zeenat Mahal Begum and Jawan Bakht were both in palkins and the Badshah went on foot escorted by his Eunuchs.
Major Hudson had posted his riders behind the ruins and grave stones and with two or three white soldiers he stood alone near the entrance. When the Badshah came out he saw Hudson and the two glared at each other. The Badshah who was used to dealing only with the Governor and the senior most of British Officers now had to deal with a lowly British soldier. The Badshah said to Hudson “Are you Hudson”, and Hudson said “Yes my name is Hudson”, to this the Badshah said “ If you are Hudson then I want to hear from you the promise you made via your message to me in the Tomb, that is that you will be responsible for my and wife Zeenat Mahal’s and my son Jawan Bakht’s safety”.
In spite of his haughty nature, Hudson said to the Badshah “Be assured there is no danger to your life or to that of Zeenat Mahal and Jawan Bakht”.
After that a palkin was brought over and the Badshah got into it and they started with the escort of the riders.
In Lord Curzon’s Delhi Durbar there was placed a hand painted picture of this event and after looking at it I wrote an article about it. This was published in the first of this series of books and it would be useful to copy it here so that the reader can get an idea of what happened at that time. The article is as follows:
Picture of Mutiny
Allah, Allah , the rise and fall of times throws up such scenes. This Delhi throw which so many hopeful souls have passed one day saw its conquest by Babar who with the force of his sword conquered it and in front of the relatives of Ibrahim Lodhi he spilled his blood to irrigate the soil of Delhi, and today it is his descendents who through their own actions have reduced themselves to this state of helplessness.
As soon as you entered the Delhi Durbar there was the picture of the descendents of the Timurs, Abu Zafar Bahadur Shah being captured at the gates of the Tomb of Humayun. In the background is the Tomb of Humayun all draped in sadness. Bahadur Shah is wearing a cloak, in his hands is a staff, he looks old and forlorn, Major Hudson in a red uniform is holding on to him and behind Hudson are two of his soldiers. Looking at this affront to the dignity of the Badshah one of the old servants of the Badshah drew his sword and armed just with this weapon and a shield to protect him he charged, but before he could reach Hudson he was shot by one of the soldiers thus ending the valiant attempt to protect the honour of his master.
The pathetic thing is that even at the sad end of worldly matters, people still have a desire for what it offers. Just as I was going out I saw an open page of the Diwan of Hafiz and the first verse of it was::
Persian is not good enough to translate the above)
The picture showing Hudson holding the cloak of Bahadur Shah and the attack by his attendant, is purely fiction and is a result of the artist’s imagination. However, the coincidence of seeing Hafiz’s Diwan and the page being opened on this very verse is quite moving. No doubt at that moment Bahadur Shah was a great catch for the British and a matter of abject sorrow for Hindustan.
The intention of Hudson
At this point it would be a historically correct to say that like General Wilson Major Hudson too wanted to murder Bahadur Shah. However, due to the insistence of other British Officers quite reluctantly he had agreed to promise the safety of Bahadur Shah’s life. It was his personal intention to murder Bahadur Shah and Hudson wrote in his personal diary “I would have liked to bring back Bahadur Shah back to Delhi dead rather than alive”.
The irony is that in the same text he has written that “Bahadur Shah did not take any active part in the revolt”.
In short Hudson took the Badshah, Zeenat Mahal and Jawan Bakht towards the Lahore Gate of Delhi, and went through the market in Chandni Chowk to the Red Fort and there he took them to the Palace of Zeenat Mahal.
The reason for going through the Lahore Gate and walking through Chandni Chowk was to make sure that the whole city was aware of the arrest of Bahadur Shah.
After reaching the Fort, Bahadur Shah asked to see General Wilson who replied that “ There is no need for him to see me now and I have no wish to see him”, after that General Wilson sent his Aide De Camp Lieutenant Turnel to the Badshah and he put a guard of British soldiers around the house of the Badshah.
Imagine the conditions
Although Bahadur Shah and his father Akbar Shah and his grandfather Shah Alam were all in a way the prisoners of the British Government, imagine the feelings of Bahadur Shah when he realised he was a prisoner in his own Fort. Think of the feelings of his lovely wife Zeenat Begum and the condition of Prince Jawan Bakht.
There is no way of realising what went on except to imagine their condition and their feelings. In spite of the assurances given by Hudson they could not have been sure about their personal safety. They would be feeling the passing away of their life of peace, quite and luxury and the Badshah would have been worried sick about the welfare of his subjects and about the safety of his other children.
The murder of the Badshah’s sons
Munshi Zakaullah has stated that “On the second day of the capture of the Badshah, Munshi Rajab Ali and Mirza Ilahi Bux reported that Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khazr Sultan the two sons of the Badshah and his nephew Mirza AbuBakar were also in the Tomb of Humayun and these were the very men who were responsible for the murder of the British women and children in the Fort. Major Hudson was furious at this news and after taking permission from General Wilson he departed on his mission to murder the Princes. Mr MacDonald also accompanied Major Hudson. Taking 100 instead of 50 riders with him, he went to the Tomb and at that time he was accompanied by the spies Munshi Rajab Ali and Mirza Ilahi Bux.
All three Princes were inside the Tomb, but in spite of his large force, Major Hudson was again reluctant to enter the Tomb as the Princes were surrounded by a group of their fierce supporters.
Just like their father, the Princes refused to surrender until they were given guarantees of safe conduct and a promise that they would not be harmed. Major Hudson replied that he had no authority to give any such guarantees to them as he was under the command of General Wilson. He told them that in the case of Bahadur Shah he had instructions from General Wilson to give him such a guarantee. He asked them to surrender unconditionally and that the matter will be settled when they got to General Wilson.
On getting this response the Princes turned to their supporters for advice and they said to them “Members of the Timur family do not give themselves up in this way, we will take our swords and fight after that it is up to fate. When Aurangzeb tried to get Dara Sikoh murdered when he was in the Jail, he picked up a kitchen knife and fought for a while against his opponents. We should do the brave thing, we can defeat Hudson and his riders in a short time. We have to die today or tomorrow, why not meet death bravely”.
The Princes liked this suggestion, but Mirza Ilahi Bux intervened . He opened up with his advice and raised so many objections to this suggestion that the Princes were moved to change their minds in view of the sympathetic attitude and suggestions of Mirza Ilahi Bux. They said their farewells to their sympathisers and came out of the Tomb.
When the Princes came in front of Hudson, he glared at them but kept quiet. He ordered them to get into four wheeled carriages, they were then surrounded by Hudson's men and started moving towards Delhi. When they were one mile outside Delhi, Hudson ordered them out of the carriages and remove their clothes. The Princes looked at each other but at that point they were not aware that their lives were in danger. They had been given reassurance that Hudson had no powers to take their lives. It would be up to General Wilson who was most likely to guarantee their safety just as he had done for the Badshah. The Princes were, therefore, quite surprised at the order to get off the carriages and to disrobe.
They got off the carriages and took off their upper garments, and then looked at Hudson to see what he was going to do next. They thought that possibly he was going to ask them to walk on foot from there onwards.
When Hudson saw them standing there, he went completely mad, took a loaded carbine from a rider and shot the Princes one after the other, they fell on the ground and after going through death throes and thrashing about on the ground they died.
Hudson drank the blood of the Princes,
Young sons heads were cut off and presented to their father
The above account of the deaths of the Princes was as stated by Munshi Zakaullah in his historical account. However, there is another account of the deaths which was well known in Delhi at that time. This was corroborated by a friend of Mirza Ilahi Bux who was present on the occasion, and who stated this to my father. Apart from him I have heard this account repeated by many people and all their statements are similar.
Munshi Zakaullah has also mentioned this account on page 650 in his book, but he has added his comment to it saying that it is an incorrect account.
Mughal who was the commander in chief of the rebel
forces, and was murdered by Major Hudson.
This account says that Mirza Mughal, Mirza Khazr Sultan, and Mirza Abu Bakr were also captured at the same time as Bahadur Shah Zafar. When the captives reached close to where the present day Jail exists, Hudson asked for the palankins of the Badshah, Zeenat Mahal and Jawan Bakht to be parked on one side. He asked Mirza Mughal, Mirza Khazr Sultan, Mirza Abu Bakr and Mirza Abdullah to get off their carriages. He then murdered them with his own hands. After killing them he took a sip from their blood and said that if he did not taste their blood he would go mad as these were the Princes responsible for the murder of helpless women and children from his country.
After their murder he got their heads cut off and presented them to the Badshah saying that “This is your (Nazr - gift), which had closed and to renew it you had taken part in the rebellion.” The Badshah looked on at his sons heads and with surprising composure said ”Thanks to Allah, the descendents of Timur always come in front of their fathers in this brave way”. After that the bodies were hung out in front of the Police Station and the heads were hung on the Khuni Darwaza (Bloody Gate).
This was the same gate on which the head of Dara Sikoh was hung and the heads of the sons of Abdul Rahim Khan Khan Khanan were hung. That is the reason the residents of Delhi still call it the Bloody Gate. The walls of this gate are made of a type of mortar which has traces of iron in it. When it rains the rust from this iron leeches out of the stone and the walls run red. When people look at it they say that this is the sign of the blood of the Princes and Khuda (God) has made it such that these blood stains will stay there until the Day of Judgement.
Lord Roberts who later on became the Commander in Chief in India , and who later on died in Europe, was present during the Mutiny. Commenting on the actions of Major Hudson he wrote “By this act Hudson ruined his reputation and killed the Princes to no purpose”.
The account that Hudson drank the blood of the Princes is only available in verbal accounts, there has been no historical corroboration of this deed. However, it does feel that most likely Mirza Mughal and the others would or should have been captured at the same time as the Badshah as they were all together at the Tomb. It seems strange that the Hudson would capture the Badshah and allow the people he thought responsible for murdering the British in Delhi and of leading the rebellion to go free with the possibility that if they went off with the Rebel Army they would create problems for the British for a long time. It, therefore, seems quite definite that the Princes were captured at the same time as the Badshah.
It is, however, possible that the Princes were captured a little while after the Badshah as the Princes were not assured of their lives and they may have been thinking of defending themselves. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that some of the Princes were responsible for the murder of the British women and children in the Fort.
The reign of four months and four days
There is a saying in Urdu “Moonlight for 4 days and darkness for the rest”, this saying fits Bahadur Shah well. On 11th May , 1857, the British lost control over Delhi and came under the rule of Bahadur Shah and 4 months and 4 days later on 14th September, 1857 Bahadur Shah lost it to the British.
This reign of four months and four days was just in name as the Rebel Army used to shout out quite rudely that we can make anyone King by putting a pair of slippers on their head. For the sake of show, orders were broadcast by Town Criers in the name of the Badshah , but in reality nobody was obeying the orders of the Badshah and the city was in general chaos and the people in a state of panic.
Bakht Khan and Mirza Mughal’s authority was acknowledged, similarly the authority of Mirza Khazr Sultan and other Princes was acknowledged, but the rule of law and order was not there even in name, although, it was acknowledged that the Badshah was now in power. After the 4 months and 4 days period the name of the Badshah and his family was completely wiped out. Now in 1922, the descendents of the Badshah can be seen begging in the streets of Delhi.
The sick and the injured were murdered
Munshi Zakaullah on page 642 of his history says that: “When the Jama Masjid was captured the news spread that the Rebel camp was completely empty. Lieutenant Hudson took some riders and took possession of the camp. The rebels had left in such haste that they had left behind some of their clothes which were drying out on the washing lines.
All the sick and the injured found in the camp were murdered by Hudson and his men and a large quantity of clothes, bullets and ammunition was taken from the camp”.
On the same page he wrote “On the request of Mr Brad, General Wilson sent a column of troops from the Magazine towards the Fort. Mr Home blew up the gate of the Ford with gunpowder and the troops poured into the Fort raising slogans. The roof of the Fort was being used as a hospital for the rebel soldiers who were unable due to their sickness or injuries to depart with their companies, the British shot all the sick and the injured”.
There are numerous other incidents where the sick and injured were murdered by the British forces and it is said that no matter what the Rebels did, the British forces which were supposed to be disciplined and civilised entered into this barbaric behaviour.
The murder of the sick and injured is as great a crime as the murder of women and children. Nobody refrains from condemning the acts of the rebels against the women and children, but at the same time the British forces should also be condemned for their barbarity towards the sick and injured. The excuse by General Wilson that the British Forces were out of control and they were thinking about the murders of their women and children cannot be accepted as a valid argument. Any General who losses control over his troops can be considered quite weak especially if he cannot even stop them from carrying out atrocities. Obviously General Wilson and his British soldiers in their excitement and their feeling of revenge had forgotten that killing the sick and wounded was an act of utter barbarity, otherwise they may not have taken this course of action.
For the residents of Delhi the British Bombardment was like a firework display
The residents of Delhi have always been known at times of joy and in times of hardship never to lose their sense of joy and leisure. When the British started shelling Delhi, the residents instead of feeling terrified or afraid looked at the spectacle as a show of fireworks. When the firing started they would climb on their roofs to see the shells coming they would then shout and point them out to each other and then wait to see where the shells were falling. Wherever the shells fell there would be a crowd of people to see what was going on. The shells were quite ineffective. Thousands of them were fired but only 10 or 20 houses were damaged, and about 50 to 100 women, children and old people were killed or injured. The strange thing was that if four people were killed 400 would collect to see the spectacle. I heard from my father that when the firing started coming from the ridge, we were standing on the roof of Humayun’s Tomb and watching the shells being fired from the cannon.
One red firebrand
First the shell would emerge from the gun and would fly out followed by the boom of the cannon, which indicated that the shell left the cannon followed by the sound.
The Tomb of Humayun was about 2 miles from the Ridge, at night due to the shell being bright it could be seen coming out of the canon, followed by the sound as the speed of sound is much slower than the speed of light.
The feeling of fun and leisure amongst the residents of
Delhi was not limited to this spectacle, even after the capture of Delhi when
people were being killed and murdered everywhere, the residents of Delhi were
not cowered. Famous nobles from
Delhi were captured, were tried and condemned to death but the night before they
were to be hanged, they would pass their time playing chess, and other games
such as Kunjafa, and Chaucer.
From this one can see the
strange ways of the residents of Delhi. On
the one hand it is possible that due to the weight of suffering they were
hardened to suffering, on the other hand maybe Allah gave them very hard hearts.
Spectacle of death
This is a matter of shocking sorrow, on September 14 the British entered Delhi and on the same day the residents were ordered out of Delhi. The British entered Delhi from the Kashmiri, Kabuli and Mori Gates. As a result the residents of those areas moved towards the Farash Khana, Turkman Gate and Ajmeri Gates. When these areas were also captured the populace moved out towards the jungles and the rural areas around Delhi. There the Gujars and the Mewatis started looting them.
In spite of this general flight of people, there were thousands of households in the city which were still intact. In the famous Hindu area of Nil Ka Katra, nobody left. This was because this was also the residence of Mahasari Parsad who was the informant to the British, and in return he had obtained reassurance from the British Officers that the residents and the property in his area would not be touched. In the area of Billi Maron was the house of Hakim Mahmood Khan, because of his relationship with the Maharajah of Patiala his house and the area was secure as the Maharajah had agreed with the British that this area would not be touched. The guards of the Nawab of Patiala were on guard in that area. The house of Vizier Diwan Nihal Chand was also in that area. There were other houses in this area belonging to Hindus and Muslims and these were also safe in view of the safe conduct given by the government. The house of Sheikh Turab Ali was in the area of Mir Ashiq and the house of Rai Asad Sukh Lal was near the Turkman Gate, these houses were also safe. These people had obtained certificates to stay in the City but this did not protect them from the illiterate Indian Sepoys who were keen on loot and pillage.
Mirza Ghalib and Mir Bidruddin Moharkan were arrested and brought before Colonel Burn who was the Chief of the City. When they showed the official documents and proved their lack of contact with the happenings during the mutiny they were allowed to stay in the City. In the same way Professor Ramchander of Delhi college also received amnesty.
Colonel Burn was made the Military Governor of the City. He took residence in Chandni Chowk in the house of Kutubuddin Sowdager (trader). He formed a company of troops to find the people still resident in Delhi and to bring them over together with their possessions. This company of troops used this order to make unlawful gains for themselves. They used to arrest the families force the men to walk in front with their possessions on their heads, and the women and children were all forced to walk behind. Some women were carrying children with others holding on to their hands or their shawls. In this manner they were made to walk. Some of the women were not used to this type of hardship, others had never come out without their veils, they were stumbling all over the place but the soldiers just pushed them along and forced them to march on.
When these people were presented in front of Colonel Burn, they were ordered to surrender any valuables they carried with them and the items which had no value were returned to them. After this they were taken under guard to the Lahori Gate, there they were pushed out of the gates and thus thrown out of the City. All these things have been stated in the history written by Munshi Zakaullah.
It is worth thinking about how these poor people managed with their children and families, being in a state of utter destitution.
In short there were thousands of families with no cover, nothing on their feet and nothing to eat lying outside the gates of Delhi. They had no place to sit and no shelter from the Sun, and no water to drink. Some kindly souls started feeding them with boiled pulses, but it was not possible to feed such a large number of people. Hundreds of children perished of starvation in the laps of their mothers and scores of women committed suicide to get away from their sorrowful state.
Thousands of women drowned
Thousands of women refused to leave their houses and as they observed strict ‘purdah’, they decided to take their lives by jumping into wells. So many women tried to take their lives in this manner that the wells started getting full of bodies and those who jumped in later just landed on the dead bodies. One soldier stated that “We took scores of women out of these wells whose lives had been saved by falling on top of other bodies. When we tried to take them out, they were terrified and begged to be shot, saying they were respectable women and would prefer to die then to be touched by outsiders, some of them were shivering with fear and anger and others fainted”.
From one well they took out the body of a women and clinging to her were her two children, one was six months old and the other 2 years old. At the time of jumping into the well she must have held them tightly to herself as even after death she was still holding them.
In a well near Farash Khana, two women were found inside a well. One was a young women who was blind and the other one was an old women. The old women said that when the soldiers came into their house they killed her young son and then tried to rape his blind sister. She new her way around the house , found the well and jumped into it. Her old mother followed and the two of them stayed in the well almost drowning when someone came and took them out.
One Muslim men was captured, he said that when he saw that the situation was bad, he himself killed his wife, his young daughter and his daughter in law to save them from dishonour, after that he picked up his gun and came out to fight. He was captured and when the Governor heard his story he ordered that he should be hanged.
Muslims were selected to be killed
Regardless of who was responsible for starting the Mutiny, the Muslims due to their King, and for taking an active part in supporting him and the revolt were considered to be the main culprits. After the British took Delhi they singled out Muslims to kill. The Muslims were in a difficult situation, on the one hand the British were against them and on the other the Sikh Soldiers who were supporting the British, took revenge on the Muslims for the killing of their Guru Teg Bahadur by a Muslim King, therefore, wherever the Sikh soldiers found a young good looking Muslim they killed him in revenge. According to Munshi Zakaullah, the Sikhs murdered most of the young Muslims in Delhi and did so in front of their fathers so as to make them suffer.
At first when the British Forces entered Delhi they killed whoever they met in Delhi, but afterwards they became selective and murdered only the Muslims. (Page 705, History of India by Zakaullah).
The catastrophy at Kocha Cheelan
Compared to all the areas in Delhi the area of Koche Cheelan suffered the most. It was here that famous scholars and notable people resided. The families of Maulana Shah Waliullah and Shah Abdul Aziz Mohadis Dehlavi lived here. The house of Sir Syed Khan was also located here. Maulana Shahbani was living here , in short many notable people lived in this place. Munshi Zakaullah was also a resident of this place and even now his sons live there. However, at the time of the Mutiny Munshi Zakaullah had left Delhi and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had also left with all the members of his family.
Munshi Zakaullah has written that ”The main cause of the crisis was that Nawab Shamsher Jang Khan’s son and Hakim Fateh Allah Khan had injured a British soldier who had tried to enter the female area of their house with evil intentions. When the Commanding Officer heard this he ordered that all the men from this area should be either killed or captured.
This order was carried out in a brutal way. The soldiers either entered the houses and murdered the men on the spot or they captured them and took them in front of their Commanding Officer. He ordered that these men should all be taken to the banks of the river and shot dead. This was done straight away.
These people were tied with ropes and made to stand in a line on the banks of the river. Then the British opened fire and killed them all with the exception of two who were not hit by the bullets. When the soldiers left they got up and ran away. These two were Mirza Mustafa Beg and the other was Maulana Shahbai’s son in law and nephew called Waziruddin. Mirza Mustafa Beg later on took up a job in the Magazine and Waziruddin became an officer in the Kanpur Court.
Amongst the dead were the Stars of Hindustan
Amongst the dead there were two who were very important
individuals. One of them was the famous Persian Scholar Maulana Shahbai.
There was no better scholar of Persian in the whole of Hindustan.
In the writings of Mirza Ghalib he has lamented about the loss of Maulana
Shahbai. Ghalib was a great admirer
of Shahbai and when Mufti Azam Mufti Sadruddin told him of the murder of Shahbai
he was very upset and wrote a poem about it.
The other famous person
to have lost his life was Syed Mohammed AmerArf Mir Panjakasti.
He was famous for his calligraphy, so much so that his works were sold by
being weighed against Gold or Silver. He
would write a single word and give it to a beggar who could then use it as cash.
Sadly even this men was lost in the sand on the riverbank.
There is no count of the innocent residents of Kocha Cheelan who lost their lives on the river bank. What is know that from the family of Maulana Shahbai alone, 21 men were killed. From this it can be guessed that if with one noble 21 people died there must be many more who died with the others.
Only Muslims were considered to be Rebels
Thee was a British Doctor who is mentioned in the History of Hindustan by Munshi Zakaullah, but his name has not been mentioned. Whenever he met any Hindustani, he would ask him are you Hindu or Muslim. If they said they were Muslims he would kill them if they said they were Muslims he would let them go. One of his friends pointed out to him that both Muslims and Hindus had taken part in the Mutiny, after which he stopped the murder of Muslims.
How many people were shot dead?
The British Historians have stated that the people shot dead were about 1600, but during those times of confusion and terror it would not have been possible to take a true count of the dead. It is not imaginable that during those times it would have been possible to carry out a correct body count. To count how many died is neither possible nor would it serve any purpose.
Lord Roberts in his book Forty Years in India has
stated his eye witness account of just one day and one place.
This is quite terrifying and to think that this went on for days and at
various places too. Lord Roberts said:
"That march through
Delhi in the early morning light was a gruesome proceeding. Our way from the Lahore Gate by the Chandni Chauk led through
a veritable city of the dead: not a
sound was to be heard but the falling of our own footsteps ;
not a living creature was to be seen.
Dead bodies were strewn about in all directions, in every stage of
decomposition. We marched in
silence, or involuntarily spoke in whispers, as though fearing to disturb these
ghastly remains of humanity. The sights we encountered were horrible and sickening to the
last degree. Here a dog gnawed at
an uncovered limb: there a vulture,
disturbed by our approach from its loathsome meal, but too completely gorged to
fly, fluttered away to a safer distance. In
many instances the positions of the bodies were appallingly life-like.
Some lay with their arms uplifted as if beckoning, and, indeed, the whole
scene was weird and terrible beyond description.
Our horses seemed to feel the horror of it as much as we did, for they
shook and snorted in evident terror. The
atmosphere was unimaginably disgusting, laden as it was with the most noxious
and sickening odours.”
In the same way another merciful British has commented on the state of Delhi in this simple but effective manner:
“Delhi’s residents were not all guilty of crimes, yet they are lying around Delhi in jungles and villages dying of hardship”.
Lord Roberts was a warrior but his reporting of the state of Delhi in this sad but poetic manner shows the true state of affairs, it indicates that the Bazaars of Delhi were full of a large number of dead bodies. Comparing this description to the statement by British Historians that only 1600 people were shot dead does not appear to be believable.
Whatever happened, out of the number of people who perished in Delhi at least half were women who were mostly innocent of any wrong doing. It was the action of the Mutinying soldiers whose badly conceived plans led to this catastrophe.
Hanging of the sick, even after death the signs of sickness could be seen
It was not entirely the fault of the British, some Hindustanis told them lies in order to make them wreck cruelty on their fellow Hindustanis. Bahadur Shah had a brother Mirza Babar, his son Mirza Kale became one of the British informants. He was the cause of terrifying cruelty towards his family members. He told lies and used tricks to trap members of the Royal family who then suffered at the hands of the British. He would go to ordinary members of the Royal Family and ask them to go to the Officers saying that they were closely related to the Badshah, and that this would get them favourable treatment from the British. He would then go to the British Officers and say that with great difficulty he has managed to capture some important Princes who were very close to the Badshah and that they took an active part against the British. When the Princes then appeared before the Officers they would be summarily hanged.
Amongst these Princes there was a Prince Mirza Qaiser. He was one of the sons of Shah Alam. He was quite senile due to his old age, looking at him nobody would say that he could have taken any part in the Mutiny. However, he was reported to the British with such lies being told about him that the British got furious and hanged him.
In the same way there was another Prince who was sick at the time, he was a grandson of Akbar Shah and had been for a long time suffering from arthritis. During the time of the Mutiny he was lying helpless in his home and due to his illness he was doubled up and his hands and legs were twisted. The informant went to the British and told stories about him as well, with the result that he was also hanged. Even after death the signs of his affliction could be seen and the onlookers could only feel sorry for him and cry for his suffering.
Not all the British were heartless
In this City where these atrocities were being committed there were some British who were trying to help the innocent, supporting the helpless by appealing to the authorities on their behalf, feeding the hungry and generally trying to make sure that no injustice was done to anybody. Unfortunately their efforts were not always successful and the reason for this was that the British who were in charge were those whose women and children had been murdered by the Rebels, and whose houses were looted. They were continuously reminded of these misdeeds and as a result they were keen on revenge. Their judgement was shrouded and their sense of right and wrong was impaired. To make matters worse the Hindustani informants were making up stories in order to gain favour with the British and to get material gains. Some of these informants had been involved in the rebellion but now in order to create a cover for what they had done and to make money they were making up stories about others.
Gami Khan was an informant, he had been with the rebels, then joined up with the British as an informant and he was responsible for the deaths of many people and for destroying various families. Gami was feared even more than Metcalfe, people used to shiver just by hearing his name. However, in the end he was found out and the Authorities hanged him for his misdeeds.
Apart from Mirza Kale, there was another informant by the name of Ghulam Fakhruddin and he was also quite active in getting people hanged and in causing problems for the residents of Delhi.
Basically the British were not cruel with the exception of a few individuals amongst whom Metcalfe and Hudson were quite prominent for their cruelty. Most of the British were not in favour of excesses.
There could not be enough praises for Sir John Lawrence, at these times of difficulty, he constantly supported the rights of the Citizens in his despatches to the Authorities. However, the Officers who were in charge did not take much notice of his instructions and said that at times like these it was important to be firm.
Death of Princes in the Jail
The Princes who were given sentences of hard labour suffered even more than those who were killed. First of all they were not used to physical labour and on top of that they were forced to work beyond what their bodies could take. They were forced to grind corn and when they could not grind enough they were whipped, with the result that within a few days they died of these hardships.
The previous life of the Princes was one of total leisure so much so that they were unable even to get a glass of water for themselves without the aid of their female and male servants. Suddenly these Princes were faced with these huge hardships, just turning the wheels of the grinder for a few times was enough to give them blisters in their hands. Most jailers everywhere are considered to be the keepers from hell, and the ones in Delhi gave the Princess a particularly hard time. They whipped the Princes until they fell unconscious, and in this way within a short time a number of them died.
The revolt was started by the British Soldiers and the punishment was meted out to the Princes and the residents of Delhi. Some of these people were guilty of wrongdoing but not all, however, the punishment was given to all of them.
Hanging of the Princes from the Princely States
Within the Delhi Agency there were 7 Princely States. These were Jhajar, Pataudi, Dojana, Loharo, BulbGarh, FarrukhNagar and BahadurGarhDadri.
The Nawab of Jhajar Abdul Rehman Khan was accused of not giving refuge to Sir Theophalus Metcalfe when he went to him after escaping the Rebels. He was also accused of corresponding with Bahadur Shah Zafar. On 20th October, 1858, British forces went to Jhajar and brought him back as a prisoner. He was held captive in the Diwan Aam in the Fort, he was tried and hanged. His State was forfeited by the British.
The Rajah of BulbGarh, Rajah Nahir Singh was accused of not saving the life of Mr Mandero who was the resident judge, and who was murdered by the Rebels. Rajah nahir Singh was also in correspondence with the Badshah. He was hanged and his State was forfeited by the British.
The Nawab of FarrukNagar was hanged and his State was taken by the British.
The Chief of Loharo, Nawab Aminuddin Khan and Nawab Ziauddin Khan were arrested, they had to stand trial for a number of days, but due to the efforts of Sir John Lawrence, they were released and they were allowed to keep their State.
Pataudi and Dojana had no cases to answer. The Chief of BahadurGarhDadri, Nawab Bahadur Jang escaped with his life but he was deprived of his State and was ordered to stay in Lahore with a pension of between Rs500-1,000.
The scene of Hangings
When the Chiefs of Jhajar, BulbGarh and FarrukhNagar were hanged, at that time the City Gates were closed, the army would come playing martial tunes and station itself in front of the gallows. The victims would be taken out of the Fort in a cart with their hands tied behind their backs. The British spectators would come around the Police Station to view the hanging. When the hanging took place the spectators would laugh with joy, and the body of the victim was thrown on the cart head down for burial outside the city.
There were different categories of people being hanged. There were the people who were related to the Badshah or who were the servants of the Badshah and who had taken part in the murder of the British women and children in the Fort. The others were those who had taken part in the Mutiny and could not escape due to being ill and injured and had taken refuge in Mosques. There were those who were involved in blowing up the Magazine, then there were the Rebel soldiers who were found hiding and were caught. There were the Muslim cobblers from the area of the Ajmeri Gate, these cobblers had launched an attack with bamboos on Metcalfe when he was trying to run from the rebels and go out of the city through the Ajmeri Gate and last of all were the Mewati’s and Gojars who were involved in open looting all around Delhi and its surrounding areas.
Opposite the Chandni Chowk Police Station there used to be a pond, this has now gone. On three sides of it the British had erected gallows for hanging people.
A very inappropriate act
At the time of the hangings, the arrangements were quite dreadful. The people who were to be hanged were made to stand in a line. Half of them were hanged and the other half were made to watch the fate that awaited them. Civilised nations do not act in this manner and consider this type of behaviour obnoxious.
Some of the notables in Delhi left and went to Aloor, they though they would be safe there, but the spy Ghulam Fakhruddin Khan like an angel of death followed them there and got them captured. Some of them were hanged on wayside trees under orders of the Magistrate of GarhGanoh, others were brought to Delhi and were hanged in Delhi.
Aging mothers came to witness the death of their sons
In the History of Hindustan there is reference to the capture of prisoners in Aloor, and when these prisoners were ordered to be hanged and at the time of the hangings, there were four mothers present. Their young and handsome sons were all dressed in beautiful clothes, their heads were covered with silk scarves, shiny new shoes and tight vests on their broad shoulders. They were handsome men of fair complexion.
When Halal Khor the hangman made them stand on the board for hanging, their mothers were distraught with grief. They were screaming, and rolling on the floor and their sons just watched them in silence until the board was pulled from under them and they were left hanging to die.
That day Halal Khor was a rich men as he collected a pile of the rich clothes and beautiful shoes of the victims.
In Delhi there was a nobleman Nawab Mohammed Hassan Khan., he had given refuge to a British lady. However, he had illicit relationship with this women resulting in her getting pregnant. He was hanged for this crime. However, the British lady did the kindness of protecting his wife and her belongings from being looted. She also gave her own money to ensure that the wife had enough to survive.
In Sir John Lawrence’s life, he has written that near the gallows was a shop, and the shopkeeper obtained some chairs which he would rent out to the British sightseers who would smoke cigars and enjoy the spectacle. If any British Lady passed nearby and could not stand the sight of these hangings she would cover her face with her hat.
One of the factors in punishing the Muslims was whether the bearing of the person was like that of a soldier. If they did not look as if they could be soldiers they were let off. In the History of Hindustan, it has been stated that on one occasion twelve Muslims were arrested. It was not possible to prove anything against them but they were hanged anyway as they looked as if they could have been soldiers and , therefore, they must have taken a part in the Mutiny.
Prior to the Mutiny most Muslims including the scholars and the religious leaders kept a martial bearing. Maulana Fakhruddin Fakhr all his life kept a martial bearing but after the Mutiny a martial bearing was considered to be the sign of a criminal.
Nobles and Notables in Custody
Nawab Hamid Aly Khan, Hakim Ahsanullah Khan, Nawab Ahmed Quli Khan, Syed Sardar Mirza, Mufti Sadruddin and other nobles were kept in custody for a considerable period of time. Amongst these people there were some who were so carefree that even in custody they spent their time playing chess, and other games in spite of the fact that everyday one or two of them were taken off and hanged, but these nobles remained unperturbed.
Metcalfe one day got the news that a number of mutineers were hiding in the house of Hakim Mahmoud Khan. He went there with his soldiers and brought them all back to the Police Station in ropes. Hakim Mahmoud Khan went with them out of sympathy. The rumour arose that Hakim Mahmoud Khan was arrested, however, he had gone there voluntarily, stayed there all night and on his entreating with the authority all the people taken into custody from his house were released.
Many people had taken refuge near the city in Dargah Kadam Shair and Arab Sarai, and Metcalfe used to go out with his soldiers arrest these people and bring them back. These daily raids caused terror amongst the people. They were fined and if they could not pay the fines they had to stay in Jail. Most of the Muslims were unable to pay the fines and thus ended in Jail.
The Statement of Prince Amir Ul Mulk
While writing this book I met Prince Amir Ul Mulk also known as Mirza Bulaki and asked him about the historical facts relating to those times. He was present during the Mutiny and at present he lives in the area of Chandni Mahal.
He said that the events surrounding Mirza Qaiser’s hanging do not appear to be right as he was alive much after the Mutiny and died of natural causes. However, Munshi Zakaullah has written about this hanging and it is possible that Mirza Bulaki may not be aware of the facts.
Mirza Bulaki said that “ People were in great fear of the informant Ghami Khan. When I was with my mother at the Dargah of Hazrat SultanJi, a servant came and told my mother Ghami Khan was saying that this boy (Mirza Bulaki) used to learn calligraphy from Bahadur Shah and I know about him. The moment my mother heard this she was frightened. When she heard that Ghami Khan had arrived at the Dargah she made me lie on the bed and placed the covers in such a way that it appeared that there were only bed covers there. She then took off her golden earrings and gave them to the servant to give to Ghami Khan and requested him not to give reports on me.” Mirza Bulaki continued “I stayed in this state until evening.”
He added that “ We had come to the Dargah Sultan before the Badshah came and when the news came that the Badshah had arrived at the Tomb of Humayun my mother asked me to go there and I went there with my servant. The Badshah was sitting resting with a cushion against the grave of Humayun. When he saw me he seemed a bit upset and said here take this money as a present and go away from here immediately, if we live we will meet again”.
I used to get my food from the Badshah, he now gave me Rupees five for my food and parted with me.
The search for Mirza Kuvaish
Mirza Bulaki also said that “When the state of terror increased in Delhi she got everybody into a cart and went off towards the direction of Qutub Sahib. On the way we heard the clatter of horses hoofs. Soon our cart was surrounded by riders. When one person looked into the inside of the cart my mother asked him who he was and why was he peeping inside a women’s cart.” The answer came “I am Mirza Elahi Bux - is Mirza Kuvaish inside the cart by any chance.” My mother said come to your senses, why would Mirza Kuvaish be in this cart , only my children are with me.” After that Hudson who was on the other side of the card, used his horse whip to raise the side of the curtain and looked inside it. He pointed the whip at me and I started to shiver, but when he realised that Mirza Kuvaish was not in the cart they went off galloping towards the Qutb Sahib.
Amongst the riders there was Hudson, Mirza Ilahi Bux, and two of Mirza Ilahi Bux’s orderlies, one of them being Naju Khan.
When the riders moved on our cart followed and after a little while we saw on the Western side of the road towards the trees Mirza Kuvaish on his horse. He had no cap on his head and his face was covered with dust, he also seemed quite agitated. The horse he was riding was an ordinary mount. When he saw the cart and recognised me, he came towards us and my mother told him “For Gods sake Mirza get away from here as quickly as possible as Hudson and Mirza Ilahi Bux have just gone in the direction of the Qutb Sahib looking for you. They will be returning this way so do not follow this road.”
When Mirza Kuvaish heard this he got even more worried greeted us and entered the Jungle at that point. No one ever heard from or about him after that.”
This was the end of Mirza Bulaki’s statement.
Looting for three days
After the capture of Delhi the soldiers were allowed to loot Delhi for three days, and they did this thoroughly. Amongst these soldiers there were some who belonged to castes and tribes who were basically professional looters and thieves. Due to this they were well aware of where valuables would be hidden. They would knock on the walls to find which places sounded hollow, as they knew that many people used the walls to hide their jewellery and money. On hearing a hollow sound they would immediately dig into the wall to extract the valuables. They also knew that people would hide their valuables under the floors, they would, therefore, spill water around the floors and where the water sank into the ground they would dig knowing that there was a hollow space there containing valuables.
The Prize Agency was established as a Department to collect the looted goods from the three days looting spree at a central place , auction the goods and distribute the money to the soldiers.
On the establishment of the Prize Agency, the general looting stopped, but it was not entirely controlled. The doors of the City were closed to stop the soldiers taking the looted goods out of the City, but some of the soldiers climbed over the walls and their compatriots lowered the looted goods to them on long ropes.
The White Soldiers did not take part in the looting
According to Munshi Zakaullah, the only races involved in this looting were the Punjabis, the Sikhs and those from the Frontier Provinces. White and other Indian soldiers did not even touch the looted goods.
The function of the Prize Agency was that it had appointed different officials. There were some who were responsible to collect books, others to collect beds, some for grinding wheels, and others were responsible for buried treasure. To find the buried treasures, they hired day labourers and as an incentive they were given a Commission for finding the treasures. This was a shrewd move as these labourers were in the first place used by the citizens to dig holes for their treasures. They , therefore , knew exactly where the treasures were located. The British were therefore able to locate the buried treasures quite easily.
All these goods were collected at different points. These goods were kept in godowns in the city. At the palace of Mansur Khan the British had collected all the copper and bronze vessels found in the city and the house of Professor Ramchander was used to collect the books.
The digging went on all over the city and was so thorough that even ancient treasures came to light and a lot of olden days Rupees and gold coins were found. At the house of Nawab Mir Khan they found a treasure trove of Rs 60,000 which was not known even by the residents of the property.
Apart from these methods the Prize Agency found another way of collecting goods. They would offer safety of life certificates to the notables in return for them paying large sums to the Prize Agency. It is said that Nawab Hamid Aly Khan, Mufti Sadruddin Khan, and Mukand Lal Misr saved their lives by paying large amounts of money. One Officer took Jawan Bakht the son of Bahadur Shah on elephant back to the Palace of Jawan Bakht’s mother Queen Zeenat Mahal, this Palace was near the Red Well. From there they took all the wealth of Zeenat Mahal. It is not known who this person was and whether he took the wealth for himself or surrendered it to the Prize Agency. Some people were so desperate to get some money for food and survival that they themselves disclosed the location of their goods so that they could use the Commission to fulfil their daily requirements. Some sons betrayed their parents and some people reported on their relatives just to get the Commission. There was one person who was going around digging up the doors of large houses and setting fire to them. The next day he would arrange for the iron and brass from the doors to be collected.
Honest Muslim soldiers
Some honest Muslim soldiers considered it to be a sin to loot Muslim homes. When they entered Muslim homes they would look for the Korans and whenever they found them they would handle them with respect, kiss the books and take them away for safety.
One Muslim Officer was billeted with the other soldiers in the Jama Masjid. He collected all the sacred objects from the mosque and put them in the silver box which was used to keep them. This box was worth about Rs1000 to Rs1200. It was taken from the basement of the Dargah Sharif and handed over to the attendants of the Dargah and this box and its contents are still there.
Fine over the Hindus
When the money coming from the activities of the Prize Agency stopped, the British started a campaign to get money from the Hindus. In return for a fine, they started allowing the Hindus to return to their houses. The amounts collected must have been substantial as just from the residents of Nil Ke Kothe the British collected Rs50,000 although the residents of that area had taken no part in the fighting. However, only the Hindus were allowed to return to their houses on payment of war reparations, the Muslims were not allowed to live in the City until March 1858.
Permission for the Muslims to return to Delhi
In March 1858 the god fearing and decent Sir Lawrence arrived in Delhi and he allowed the Muslims to return to Delhi. Munshi DewNandan the Keeper of Deeds Clerk came with the Deeds Register. In this register were listed the names of the house owners. Muslims were given certificates and allowed to claim back their properties based on this register. At the same time they were allowed to purchase two beds and a grinding wheel for Rs1.50. In this manner the Prize Agency was able to dispose of the numerous beds and grinding wheels which they had collected.
When the Muslims returned to their houses, they had no belongings and no doors as these had been taken and burnt as firewood. There was no limit to the calamity that had fallen on the Muslims. A year after the Mutiny when a census was taken of the Muslim residents it was found that only 25% of the Muslims resident in Delhi prior to the Mutiny were still there.
Until 1859 the main properties of the Muslims remained in the hands of the British and the Muslim residents were unable to move freely in the City without a special pass from a British Officer.
The Jama Masjid in Delhi
When Delhi was captured by the British army, the Muslim soldiers entered the Hindu Temples and desecrated them, and the Hindu soldiers went into Mosques and damaged them. The big Jama Masjid in Delhi was converted into barracks for the Sikh soldiers, their toilets and urinals were inside the mosque, food was cooked under the minarets, they would slaughter pigs and cook them in the Mosque and the dogs accompanying the white British soldiers were allowed to roam freely inside the Mosque.
Zeenat Al Masajid was converted by the white soldiers to be their Musket house, the famous mosque of Sheeon which was known as the Nawab Hamid Aly Khan Mosque was used as a stable for donkeys.
Under the Fort there was a magnificent mosque known as AkbarAbadi Mosque, this was demolished and in the same manner many other smaller mosques were destroyed. Near the Police Station there was a mosque next to the Sikh Gurdwara. Maharajah Jeend applied to the authorities to take this mosque and make it part of the Gurdwara. This was allowed and until this day this Mosque remains a part of the Gurdwara. All these matters are stated on pages 715 to 717 of the Tarikh-i-Hind which was published in 1904 by Shams Al Mutala Delhi.
How did the Hindus in Delhi become rich
Although Muslims considered the taking of Interest to be sinful, some of them thought that Promissory Notes were allowed in Islam. The Muslims held about Rs500,000-700,000 worth of Promissory notes. When the Mutiny started the Muslims sold these Promissory Notes to Hindus at a discount price of 45% of the face value, as in their view the British rule was over and these Promissory Notes were no longer valuable. The Hindus purchased these Notes and on restoration of British Power, they were able to make a good profit.
The Hindus were also able to purchase at knock down prices from auctions the goods confiscated from the Muslims by the Prize Agency. The Hindus set up shops to dispose of these goods at a profit.
In the same way the houses taken from the Muslims who had fought against the British were auctioned and all of them were purchased by the Hindus at very low prices. These are now worth 50 times the price paid for them. Amongst these houses were magnificent properties like the Haveli of Mirza Khajta Bux, the house of JhajarWalas, Shish Mahal, the Palace of Nawab Mansur Khan, all these were purchased by the Hindus.
In the localities where prior to the Mutiny not a single Hindu home could be found were now owned entirely by the Hindus. The Muslims due to their needs sold at very low prices whatever buried, hidden or saved jewellery they had. They sold their silver at 12 annas per tola and their gold at Rs.14/15. In short the Mutiny which came as an angel of destruction for the Muslims became a Goddess of Wealth for its Hindu residents.
Prizes to the well wishers of the British Government
There were British whose properties were looted by the Mutineers, and there were those Hindustanis who had lost their properties due to being associated with the British. After the Mutiny these people were compensated quite handsomely. Mirza Ilalhi Bux got over Rs100,000, Nawab Aminullah Khan also known as Munshi UmuJan who remained faithful to the British in the State of Alwar was given Rs5,000, in the same way many other people were rewarded.
The Misery of the Muslim Women in Delhi
When thousands of Muslims were killed , their helpless wives, unmarried daughters , sisters and mothers were left with no means of support. Many of them married the Muslim soldiers in the British army, others became prostitutes. Bahadur Shah’s daughter Rabeya Begum to ward off hunger married the famous cook Hussaini. Bahadur Shah’s other daughter Fatima Sultan joined a girls convent school as a teacher. Hundreds of women afflicted with hair lice got their hair shaved off, thousands of respectable women were reduced to begging. If any person decided to give alms in the shape of Rotis, pulse or coins crowds of these women would collect to take what they could, and these were the same women who in prior years were responsible for distributing thousands of Rupees in charity.
The Mufti of Delhi, Mufti Sadruddin Khan Arzadah has described in a poem the state of Delhi in the following way:
In the same manner Mirza Mirza Dig Dehlavi has written:
Nawab Mohammed Mustafa Khan Shefta was the father of deceased Nawab Mohammed Ishaq Khan wrote:
Delhi is now a dead city what dead
The ones who were the soul of Delhi are dead
A sad affair
In a book relating to the life of Sir John Lawrence, the writer has written about the sad state of affairs at the Fort of Delhi.
“The last Badshah who was from a magnificent family of the rulers of India was lying there with sadness in his eyes for all to see. The armed guards who were in the pay of the British surrounded him, this poor Badshah who had become the puppet of the Mutineers was now banished from his Palace and lay in a small room. Around him were going on the discussions about hanging him and he had to endure the insults and the swearing of the British Officers and guards surrounding him. The Shahanshah Begum was behind him trying to hide from the eyes of the cruel outsiders.”
In the book relating to the life of Sir John Lawrence it is written that the white soldiers made an effigy of Bahadur Shah and for fun they hanged the effigy opposite the Lahori Gate.
The writer of the life of Sir John Lawrence wrote that one person gave him the following eye witness account of Delhi:
“For long distances apart from a starving cat and a
women collecting horse dung, nobody was visible.
The College Building was used to house the cannon and the famous
Hindustani Jama Masjid had become the barracks for the Sikh troops, there was
Martial Law imposed on the city.
The kindness of Sir John Lawrence
On the one side there were these horrific scenes and on the other side there was the kindness of an English Gentlement which must be mentioned at this place. The extent of his kindness can be judged from the following extracts of his letters. In relation to the Princes he wrote:
“Make proper inquiries about them, if they were responsible for the murder of the British or that of their women and children then condemn them to death, but do not treat any of the Princes in the manner that Hudson adopted towards them”
In this letter, the last line is quite important and is worthy of consideration as to how Hudson treated his captives. There is no mention in historical records as to the rumours that Hudson drank their blood and presented their heads to their father the Badshah. From the statement of Sir Lawrence it is possible that he may be referring to these incidents.
With regards to Nawab Jhajr and Raja Balab Garh he wrote:
“Impress them with your martial qualities devoid of blood letting and be just with them”.
These instructions from Sir Lawrence were not followed. He had forbidden blood shed , but in spite of these instructions they were hanged.
Again on 26th September he wrote to General Wilson:
“ I do not believe that if the citizens are allowed to return to their homes you would have anything to fear that there would be an attack on Delhi as over the last 50 years of our rule they have never opposed us. If our forces had not mutinied they would have stayed quiet for the next 50 years. If you were just to hang a few heads on the Kashmiri Gate as an example there should be no further trouble”.
Ten days after capturing Delhi on 30th September, 1858 Sir Lawrence sent the following to Mr Burn the Military Governor of Delhi:
“In regards to the citizens, it is my view that after the Fort has been secured properly, the citizens should be allowed to return to Delhi gradually. In order to keep the citizens cowered, it would be sufficient to install cannon on the gates opposite the Chandni Chowk. The responsible rebels should be hanged but there should be clemency towards the others. 90% of the citizens had nothing to do with this rebellion, had it been possible they would have assisted us. Due to our own stupidity and weakness we were unable to protect them otherwise they would not have been forced into this rebellion”.
He sent a letter on 6th October to Charles Sanderson the Commissioner of Delhi in which he wrote:
“Under suitable conditions all the residents of Delhi should be called back to the City, these helpless residents are suffering the most”.
He wrote the following on 8th October to Neville Chamberlain:
“I do not advise that under any circumstances the Princes or other captives should be killed without a proper inquiry. Investigations should be given a chance, if the old Badshah had run away it would have been appropriate to shoot him, but because he did not run away I would not recommend shooting him. It is my opinion that the Badshah’s actions were dictated by circumstances”.
Destroy the Jama Masjid or convert it into a Church
Most of the British in Delhi wanted to destroy the Jama Masjid or to convert it into a Church. They also wanted the names of the fallen British soldiers to be carved on its marble pillars. It was their opinion that the Jama Masjid was the religious heart of the Indian Muslims and destroying it or converting it into a Church would be an appropriate act of revenge and would send a clear signal to the rest of the Muslims in India about the supremacy of the British. Towards this end Sir John Lawrence received numerous petitions from the British in Delhi. In reply to Mr Burns, Sir Lawrence wrote:
“In relation to this topic there is no way that I would agree, we should refrain from damaging religious buildings. This deed is neither appropriate for the happiness of friends nor is it right for punishing the enemies”.
Many of the British in Delhi and the Punjab wanted to dismember Delhi brick by brick and as far as the Jama Masjid was concerned, they were quite insistent that it should be either demolished or converted into a church and its minarets should be adored with crosses. They were of the opinion that the British who wanted to return the Mosque to the Muslims had gone mad. The insistence of these British went beyond all limits and a delegation went to Sir John Lawrence to force him to accept their wishes. He tried to reason with them in a polite manner but when they continued insisting he became quite angry and rising from his seat, told them:
“I will never agree on this matter, there are many things over which you can argue, but as far as the Jama Masjid is concerned you should not argue with me. It would be better that as far as this matter is concerned you do not bother me any more”.
At the time the Prize Agency was active, Sir John Lawrence wrote to Lord Canning:
“If you want to retain Delhi as a city , it would be appropriate to stop the activities of the Prize Agency. Unless the life and property of the Hindustani citizens is protected, it will not be possible to restore peace and quiet. The looting that is going on at present will result in increasing the present feelings of hatred between us and the Hindustanis and make this hatred permanent”.
During the same period he wrote to Lord Elphinstone:
“If Martial Law and the Prize Agency were removed from Delhi this would result in law and order being restored”.
At the same time he wrote quite forcefully to General Penny:
“If we cannot do anything outstanding, even then as a matter of normal policy it is bound on us to stop our countrymen from cruelty and excesses. In meeting out punishments, if we fail to distinguish between friend and foe then the whole of Hindustan will go against us, and fights could break out in every corner of the country, and if Hindustan gets this hot it would be impossible for us to stay here any longer”.
This letter had a good effect and just a week later Sir Lawrence wrote to General Penny:
“I am quite grateful to you that you took swift action to stop the looting. I was pained to hear that our countrymen are killing Hindustanis indiscriminately, although they have no right to do so and they do not discriminate between the innocent and the guilty”.
When Sir Lawrence found that his letters were not having any effect on the British Officers in Delhi he came to Delhi on 24th February 1858 and the first thing he did was to call all the main British Officials over to a meeting, amongst whom were Charles Sanderson, Phillip Egerton, Neville Chamberlain and others. He addressed them in a very polite manner told them:
“I acknowledge that under certain circumstances in order to stop the fighting it was allowed to take certain actions, but now it is no longer necessary to take these extreme measures. Now it is necessary to establish peace and quiet amongst the Hindustanis and to establish their faith in us”.
After this speech he sent a telegram to Lord Canning in which he said:
“The Officers who were given the authority to release or hang the captives, have abused their powers, I should , therefore, be given the powers to withdraw these rights from them, so that nobody should be hanged without the consent of the Government”.
Richard Temple who was quite close to Sir Lawrence had arrived in Delhi as a Secretary, he reviewed the situation and presented the following report to him:
“The city is completely peaceful, and there is no reason to fear but looting and murders are still going on. The Hindustanis are terrified as they are still being arrested in large numbers and many of them are still being hanged or made prisoners”.
Sir Lawrence departed from Delhi in the third week of March and gave his permission to Muslims to return to Delhi. He left strict instructions with his General to safeguard the lives of the Muslims. The Jama Masjid escaped destruction, the citizens did not get exiled, and the wish of some of the British Officers to plough over the historical sights of Delhi was not fulfilled. A British Officer wrote:
"Just as the Emperors of Rome destroyed Carthage and Corinth and as a consequence carried the garland of shame round their necks, in the same manner the garland of shame was avoided by the British through the efforts of Sir Lawrence. When the people around him insisted on extreme actions, he would say to them “Do you expect me to kill all the Hindustanis, and do you expect me to destroy a town which equals Ninevah in its glory”
Another British writer said:
“In the British Nation and in all ruling classes there is a group of people who look human but possess brutal instincts. Their intentions are to terrify the subject population , had Sir John Lawrence not been around, the Jama Masjid of Delhi would have been a pile of rubble with nothing but animal warrens and nests in it”.
On 25th November, Lord Elphinstone the Governor of Bombay wrote the following to Sir Lawrence:
“After the capture of Delhi, no difference was made between friend and foe, the looting that took place in Delhi was greater than that at the time of the attack by Nadir Shah”.
The report sent by Sir Lawrence to the Government of India has the following sentence which sums up his god fearing nature:
“We and the rebels both have above us a just ruler and it is with his blessing that this curse has passed, so when God has been kind to us then it is right for us to be kind to his beings”.
The fate of Bahadur Shah
The following are the words of Hasan Nizami Written May 1923:
Badshah in Rangoon breathing his last. He
has nobody with him, and he will be dead in a few moments. “
“O Hindustan I am leaving this world and leaving you to the care of God who has today cast the curtain of death over the Timor Dynasty”.
In short due to the efforts of Sir John Lawrence, Bahadur Shah was not killed. After a short trial he was exiled to Rangoon. Zeenat Mahal Begum, Taj Mahal Begum and Jawan Bakht were sent with him. From 11th May 1857 to 14th September 1857 was the period of his rule. The first law he promulgated was to forbid the slaughter of cows, and the punishment for anybody slaughtering a cow would be to be blown to bits at the mouth of a cannon. After that the rule came that even at the time of the Eid Festival for Muslims nobody would slaughter cows.
For four months, the cow butchers stayed hidden in their houses, any of them venturing outside their houses were caught and killed by the mutinying soldiers, who would say to them that the way you slaughter our holy cows we will slaughter you.
After that they made the Badshah issue the rule that the refuse of the city which was loaded on to bulls and taken out of the city to be used as fertilisers, would in future be transported by donkeys.. It was considered an insult to the Hindu religion to treat cows and bulls in this manner. This rule was obeyed and the bulls were sold and replaced with donkeys. The Muslims got annoyed with this and Maulvi Mohammed Said placed a flag in the Jama Masjid to assemble the Muslims for actions saying this was not a Muslim Government and that the Hindus were dictating terms to the Badshah. When Bahadur Shah heard this he called Maulvi Said over and told him that since the British were no longer the rulers what was the reason for declaring this war. He explained to the Maulvi that it was important for Muslims and Hindus to stay united against the British. The flag was then removed.
The state of the City’s affairs was such that most days the markets would remain closed. Khari Bavli, Chandni Chowk, Dariba, Chawri had their shops looted during daylight and when the complaint was made to the Badshah that the shops were kept closed and that it was not possible to get things for the daily requirements of the people he took action. He got on his elephant and roamed the markets. The royal canopy was on display, the royal fish symbols, camel mounted cannon, , black soldiers, and a number of Telanga soldiers shouting long live the Badshah, long live our religion preceded the Kings procession. The Royal Criers were shouting the Badshah’s orders to open the shops. The procession was followed by Turk Soldiers who were shouting Allah o Akbar. The result of this actions was that the shops were reopened.
Before the Mutiny the way the Criers used to announce news and rules was to say : Gods beings, the King’s country and by the order of the Company Bahadur”. After the Mutiny the words relating to the Company Bahadur were removed.
Atrocities of the Talanga’s
The rebel soldiers found different reasons to murder the people of Delhi. Some were murdered because they were Christians, others because they were considered to be British spies. Seth Badri Chand, Deputy Inspector of Delhi Schools was killed as he was considered to be a Christian on account of his wearing a coat and trousers like the British. A Kashmiri Pundit Mohan Lal had converted to Islam and had changed his name to Aga Hasan Jan, but he used to wear a coat and trousers. The rebel soldiers wanted to kill him but by chance Nizam Uddin Chishti Nizami was there and he managed to save him.
Some people due to their personal feuds would go and tell lies to the rebel soldiers that certain people had given shelter to the British. The rebel soldiers would attack the house and loot it. Quazi Panu was an employee of the State of Alwar, his nephews had enmity with him and they went to the rebel soldiers and told them about British being in his house, he was killed and his house was looted. On 12th May the rebel soldiers quite insolently went to the house of Nawab Hamid Aly Khan and arrested him on the accusation of him having given refuge to the British. He was brought before the Badshah who asked Mirza Abu Baker to go to his house and check it out and said that if British were found there he would be found guilty otherwise he should be released. No British were found at his house and he was released. On 13th May it was reported that Narayan Das Naharwala had given refuge to the British. The rebel soldiers went there and found two British there, they were killed and the house was looted. In the same way there was a tailor, it was found that he had hidden three British in his house, the rebel soldiers killed the British and looted the house. In this manner two or three people suffered everyday.
The rebels Intelligence Department
In spite of being basically ignorant, the rebels Intelligence was of a very high level. They were very aware of what was going on in the city, how many and who were the people in league with the British, who was acting as British informants and sending supplies to the British forces. In this respect the rebels captured many people, some were killed and others were released on the recommendation of the Badshah. In this way Man Singh and Turab Aly who really were informants for the British were captured but released on the recommendation of the Princes. It was suspected that the Badshah’s Vizier Mehboob Aly Khan, Hakim Ahsanullah Khan and Queen Zeenat Mahal were all sympathetic to the British, therefore, Mehboob Aly Khan and Hakim Ahsanullah Khan were arrested but the Badshah managed to get them released with great difficulty. Rajah Ajit Singh the uncle of the Maharajah of Patiala used to live in the City he was arrested twice on the accusation that he was sending news to the British and the Nawab of Patiala, but on the recommendation of the Badshah he was also released. Bal Dev Singh who used to live near Korya Pul was shot for being a spy and his body was hung upside down opposite the Police Station. Professor Pyare Lal was killed by being blowing to bits with a cannon for being an informant. The houses of Rae Ram Saran Das were looted on the accusation that he was a spy. Kanhila Lal Hyderabadi and Mir Hasan Aly the Lawyer from Patiala were arrested for being informants.
The bakers near the Kashmiri Gate and Mori Gate were killed for supplying bread to the British on the Ridge. On a daily basis Nawab Mehboob Aly Khan and Hakim Ahsanullah Khan were accused of different crimes such as they had blown up the Magazine, that they were supplying ammunition to the British, or they had arranged for sand to be put in the cannon at SalimGarh or that they had spiked the cannons. However, due to them taking an oath and due to the intervention of the Badshah their lives were saved. Actually they were very unlucky. During the Mutiny they were suspected by the Mutineers and after the Mutiny the British jailed them on suspicion of being with the Mutineers.
Looting by the Telanga’s (mutinying soldiers)
Gami Khan Punjabi was a well known criminal in the city. He got the British to kill and hurt many people, however, during the Mutiny he was well in with the Mutineers and used them to torture the citizens. He managed to get the shops of his fellow countrymen looted by the soldiers. The shops of Vali Mohammed, Hussain Buksh and Qutubuddin were looted by the soldiers on his instigation. These three were the most important businessmen from Punjab in the city of Delhi at that time.
Thus during the 4 months and 4 days of the rule of the Badshah, Delhi and its residents had no peace and its destruction started not after its conquest by the British but on 11th May , 1857 when the rebel soldiers entered Delhi.
The end result
Looking at all these events in a sensible and far sighted manner it can be concluded that peace is a great blessing and upheavals like these bring great suffering. Today the people who dream of throwing the British out prematurely should in a quiet mood sit down and read this book. They will then realise that taking hasty and emotional actions brings untold miseries to the innocent people.
I am amongst those people who wants disarmament and peace and goodwill not only in Hindustan but all over the world. Therefore, this book is not against any people or nation, but the only aim of this book is that by reading the harrowing accounts which are brought about by wars , people will be discouraged from actions which ruin the peace.
This book was started on 2nd April 1922 after the afternoon prayers and today on Sunday the 16th of April, at 10:15 am by the Grace of Allah the book has been completed .
Signed Hasan Nizami
This book was first published in 1922 and just 6
months later this second edition was issued which is an indication of its
Hasan Nizami (20th
Hasan Nizami (20th