By Prof. P.S. Bhandari, New Age Islam
22 May, 2015
“Dumdamey Mein Dum Nahin, Ab Khair Mango Jaan ki,
Bus Zafar Ab Ho Chuki, Talwar Hindustan Ki.”(Bahadur Shah Zafar)
India remembers the heroes of the First War of Independence 1857 every year. It celebrated the 150th Anniversary of this War in 2007 at a very large scale. The celebrations continued till May 2008. .
Ten thousand volunteers from different Parts of India gathered on May 8 at Meerut Cant the starting place of this War. They marched to Delhi to reach there on May 11 like the Sepoys of that War.
They have been raising slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ even though this slogan was first raised and made popular by Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh 72 years after this war when he threw Bomb in the Assembly on April 8, 1929. (The slogan was coined by Maulana Hasrat Mohani in 1921) The *Slogan of the Sepoys of this War of 1857 was a different one.
Ghazaljit Jagjit Singh sang in the Parliament of India the Ghazal of the Last Emperor of India and one of the Leaders of this War Bahadur Shah Zafar: Lagta Nahin Hai Dil Mera Ujarey Dyar Mein. Gulzar paid a befitting tribute in his poetry like prose to the heroes of this War in the Parliament.
Sir Winston Churchill and some Indian scholars have a different view about the 1857 war.
Which is the First War of Independence? There are four wars which have the claim to be the First War of Independence of India. Let us test them at the touchstone of 1857 War.
1. The First Anglo Sikh War 1845. Few M.Ps. and some scholars argue that the First Anglo Sikh War of 1845 was the First War of Independence. If we accept this version then every War with the ‘Company Bahadur’ before 1857 will become the War of Independence. These wars may be called the Wars to retain the Independence as was the case of Tipu Sultan. But not to regain the lost Independence
2. The Second Anglo Sikh War 1849 (Theory of The Writer): The Rebellion was started by Diwan Mool Raj at Multan. SardarAjit Singh and SardarSher Singhrebelled at Haripur Hazara to overthrow the English Rule in 1849. They appealed to every one for support. No one from India came forward to side with them
However, The Shah of Afghanistan sent 3000 Pathan Army to support them. Ajit Singh and Sher Singh defeated the English Army at Chillianwala. The English not only lost five colours but also lost their prestige in the whole world. (Afterward the English won the War at the Battle of Gujarat.)
Sir Winston Churchill is of the opinion that this defeat of the English Army at Chillianwala encouraged the Sepoys of Meerut to rebel against the English Army. He justifies his claim that the rebellions of Meerut raised the Slogan-“Remember Chillianwala”.
How wonderful it would have been to raise the Slogan “Remember Chillianwala” instead of ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ at the 150th Anniversary of the March to Delhi to give it a historical touch.
If the rebellion of the Military to overthrow the British rule is the criteria then this Second Anglo Sikh War has a better claim to be named as the First War of Independence. Moreover, it was supported by another country Afghanistan. The rebellious Sepoys of Meerut took the Slogan ‘Remember Chillianwala’ from this War where the English forces were defeated. Finally, Sir Winston Churchill the Prime Minister of England thinks in that direction.
3. The 1857 Rebellion by the Military of Meerut Cant (Mostly Accepted)
4. Mahatma Gandhi and the First Battle of Freedom1922: Mahatma Ji has another opinion. The Sikhs have been struggling for the management of their Shrines. The Government handed over the keys to Baba Kharg Singh on Jan 1, 1922. Mahatma ji sent a Telegram to Baba Kharag Singh Ji:
“The First decisive Battle of India’s Freedom won. Congratulations.”
These are the four wars which have been named as the First War of Independence of India by different scholars. Readers can judge and make their own decision by themselves regarding the First War of Independence.
Let us remember another couplet by Zafar the last Emperor of India and one of the leaders of this 1857 War:
Ghazion mein boo rahegi jab talak eeman ki.
Zafar Landan tak chalegi tegh Hindustan ki.