Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 14th, 2013

“In the City of Gold and Silver (Lucknow, India)” by Keneze Mourad

Between 1756 and 1856, the British had annexed two-third of the States in India and three-forth of the population.

During the Mogul Emperor Akbar in the 16th century. the representatives of the various Moslem, Hindu, Buddhists and Christian sects debated at length in order to agree on common denominator principles for a universal syncretic religion combining the beliefs of all these religious teaching and called the Din-i-Ilahi, the religion of the Divine

In 1848, the British contemplated the annexation of the richest northern State of Awadh (currently the Uttra Pradesh province), half the size of France, with Capital Lucknow. This decision was 20 years late to put into execution because the British Empire was not at war anywhere to require massive infusion of stolen wealth from India. The British kept amassing a file of charges against the Awadh State that went against the treaty. Most of these charges were fabrications and the British government knew that the reports were falcification of the facts.

Charles Grant, one of the early Governor of the British Company in India wrote: “Converting the Indians (to Protestantism) will raise their morality, but more importantly, will expand our commerce, which is our initial project…”

The annexation of Awadh was officially pronounced by the British General Governor in Calcutta , Lord Dalhousie, on Feb. 7, 1856.

England was having great difficulty in the Crimea war against Russia and the capture of Sevastopol. And the British Empire wanted all the wealth it could put its hands on in India. The richest State in north India and the land of the bounty was targeted to be annexed and directly “administered”.

The lands of the rajahs, taluqdars, and nawabs were confiscated, high taxes imposed on the peasants and who were cornered to famine and flocked to Lucknow.

Wajid Ali Shah was the king of Awadh who once said: “All the miseries are mainly caused by ignorance. Only knowledge of the culture of the other communities can we learn to respect and appreciate the values of the different cultures…

Wajid Shah was to stay master on his royal palace and his harem and receive 150,000 rupees per year…

On June 1856, the British Resident of Awadh, Henry Lawrence, “confiscated the royal treasury confined in the Palace of Kaisarbagh, on the ground of robbing the insurgents from financial facilities. Captain Birch wrote: “The jewels are impressive. The pearls and emerald were as big as eggs…”

All the royal palaces were evicted and stolen…

Wajid Shah decided to pay a visit to the Governor in Calcutta to negotiate a fairer deal with the intention of traveling to London to meet Queen Victoria. Instead, Wajid was made prisoner in Calcutta and his mother was permitted to sail to England. The mother queen lingered two years in England and was unable to meet Victoria even once. Mother queen sailed to Paris where she died two months later.

Henry Lawrence decided to fight the rebels converging to the city of Nawabgani. He was encircled in the town of Chinhut and barely was able to retreat after loosing half his troops. Henry fortified the residence and managed to repel two massive attacks and waited 6 months before General Campbell came to the rescue.

Ironically, the residence was now overflowing with more soldiers and civilians to feet and shelter and in a worse state than before. Begum Hazrat Mahal, the fourth wife of Wajid, and original name Mohammadiyeh, was acclaimed the regent and her 11 year-old son Birjis Qadar the new king.

The Mahal is attached to the name of the royal wife who gives birth to a male son

Hazrat Mahal allowed the British to retreat safely from Lucknow. The .State of Awadh was liberated for a time from any British soldier

The British sent many troops who managed to re-enter cities, such as Delhi, Kanpour, Jhansi, Gwallor… only to retreat again.

This wide and mass insurrection lasted two years, until England amassed more than 30,000 soldiers and strong with their allies of Sikhs and Gurkas from Nepal.

After the fall of Lucknow, Hazrat Mahal was forced to retreat further north to cities of Bithauli, Baundi, Butwal and resumed the insurrection by supporting more revolts in central India.

Hazrat Mahal and her troops had to cross to the Terai land in Nepal, land of swamps and dense forests, and refused to surrender to the British.

General Jang Bahadour of Nepal had deposed and killed the king and was a staunch allies to the British. He refused political asylum to the troops of Hazrat Mahal and delivered them to the British who hanged their leaders. Bahadour did dare send his army to fight the troops of Hazat because she was already a symbol for freedom to the people.

At the decision of annexing Awadh on ground of defaulting on a few clauses of the treaty, Colonel Simpson had said:

“I lived in India for 25 years and collaborated with Major Bird and the Resident Colonel Richmond during the first two years of the reign of Wajid. The king tried vigorously to reform the army, the administration, the justice system as demanded by the British Governor. Richmond vetoed all these reforms. We may say that the Company did everything in its power to block and railroad every contemplated reform in Awadh.

The newly appointed General Governor Dalhousie would not adhere to the reforms, claiming that any reform should be applied immediately to all the State od Awadh…”

The Times of London wrote: “The begum of Awadh (Hazrat Mahal) proved to have more strategic sense and courage than all her generals combined…”

The Scottish General Grant confirmed that over 150,000 Indians were killed during these mass insurrections, and over 120,000 were mainly peasants who joined the fighting against the “infidel” occupiers.

Lieutenant Majendie wrote:

“The civilization of the 19th century is no way close to appreciate humanity: The British soldiers and the Sikhs watched Indians being roasted alive, in spectators. Indians were on purpose blown to pieces by canon balls. Why? They didn’t fear death on account of an after life, but being blown denied them that their soul will remain intact…”

William Russell wrote in The Times of London in March 1858:

“I looked at the city of Lucknow from a hill before the British army invaded the city. This city was far more splendid than Paris, Rome and Constantinople. Thousands of palaces, Mosques, Temples, green parks…

After the British occupied it, Lucknow was a ghost and a dead city. The soldiers cared for gold and silver. Everything else was smashed, burned, destroyed: Jades, mirrors of Venice, crystal candelabras, furniture encrusted with ivory, musical instruments,  ancient manuscripts, all the fine master works… The soil was littered with debris of glasses and precious work of arts…

The British considered this uprising not as an insurrection against occupiers, but one of the revolts of the lower races, the black people who should be spilling their blood to serve their white masters

All the magnificence of Lucknow…How could such a civilization be blamed as corrupt and inept to govern itself.

General Havelock delivered false report on the the manner the British prisoners in Bibighar prison were assassinated in the city of Kanpour.  The prisoners, mostly female and children, were not raped or disemboweled… The British spilled blood on the walls of the prison and wrote abject sentences in order to incite the British soldiers into utter rage and the ultimate barbarity in revenge against Indian civilians…”

Rajmat Hazrat Mahal died in April 7, 1879 at the age of 48 in Kathmandu (Nepal). The British tried on many occasions to lure Hazrat to return to India, but she knew better of the hatred and revenge of the British who killed, hanged and assassinated every leader of the mass insurrection. Only Prince Feyrouz managed to escape to Kandahar (Afghanistan) and died miserably in Mecca.

The military chief Jai Lal was hanged after a mock trial that lasted two years.

Tantia Tope (military chief of another State), maulvi Ahmadullah Shah (an extremist Shiaa cleric), Rana Beni Madho, rajah Mahmoudabad, begum Lakshmi Bai, rajah of Gonda… all assassinated.

King Wajid Ali Shah died poisoned in 1887 at the age of 65 in Calcutta.

Birjis Qadar, son of Hazrat Mahal, died poisoned in Lucknow, one year after his returned from his 32 years  spent in exile.

In 1957, at the occasion of the centennial of the mass insurrection, Nehru changed the name of “Queen Victoria Park” in Lucknow to “Begum Hazrat Mahal Park” and erected a memorial in honor of the “Soul of the Revolt

Note 1: In the 19th century, north India and many States in the center were mostly Moslem Shiaa who veneered the 5 pillars: Prophet Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, Ali the husband of Fatima and the cousin of Muhammad, Hassan and Hussein, the sons of Ali and Fatima.

Even now, India has over 250 million Moslem Shiaa, more than four time the combined Shiaa in Iran, Iraq, Morocco and anywhere else.

Note 2: William Dalrymple wrote: “The British discovered in the 1857 insurrection what the US are about  to learn (in the Arab and Moslem world): Nothing can radicalize a people or frustrate moderate Moslems than direct aggressive intrusion, occupying land and forcing people to adopt alternative ideas under arms duress…”

Note 3: The “purdah” or the separation of genders in houses and public spaces were applied by both Moslems and Hindus. This culture of gender separation in the Moslem world was inherited from northern India. Mind you that commerce and trade of goods, culture, organization, art, and learning… by the early Arab Moslem Empires and later the Ottoman Empire were mainly done with India.

Europe was backward and these empires were frequently expanding into Europe.

Note 4Keneze Mourad, born in Paris 1939 is the daughter of a Turkish princess and an Indian rajah.

She was at journalist at the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur till 1970, and a reporter of the Middle-East and of the sub-Indian continent. She covered the agitations in the Iranian Islamic republic, Ethiopia upheavals, and the civil war in Lebanon.

Mourad published in French “From the part of the dead princess, 1987″, the “Garden of Badalpour, 2003″, and “The perfume of our land

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