Maulvi Hakeem Ahsan, brother of my Great Grandfather participated in the Anti British movement in Bihar. His name is not included in the Historical account because, the Judge has deleted his name from the list by mistake. I will cover that story in a future post. However a Historical Background of the movement is detailed below: (Copied from the web pages of Bihar Anjuman)
Local Resistance and Colonial Reprisal: Tirhut (Muzaffarpur) Muslims in the Ghadar, 1857-59
The rising of 1857 has been studied much extensively and in diverse ways. The present paper attempts to study it in a part of north Bihar, called Tirhut, where, unlike Awadh1 , the landed elites/feudal lords generally remained with the British, and they helped the colonial regime with men and money in suppressing the rebels2 . However, before 1857, i.e. in 1829 and 1845-46, the landlords of Bihar did attempt to confront with and dislodge the British and in this exercise they also tried to enlist the support of the sepoys. By 1829, the ryots of Tirhut had started their fight against the European planters in the law courts established by the colonial regime; and when the Najeebs (the low rank/ subaltern Indian sipahis in army and police) mutinied in Danapur, Sugauli and in various police chowkis, the ryots also took to arms to expel the planters. But there existed a lack of proper coordination between the najeebs and the ryots in Tirhut which revealed the weaknesses of the movement and probably because of this, it could be suppressed easily and rapidly, testifying not only a strong agrarian base of the movement of 1857 but also the vulnerabilities of the peasants vis a vis the repressive state machinery. The argument that the sepoys were basically peasants in uniform is difficult to be accepted in the case of Tirhut, where we don’t find concrete evidence of a proper coordination between the Najeebs (sepoys) and the peasants, even though both asserted against the Europeans3.‘Tirhut’ is a corrupted version of the Sanskrit words ‘Tira’ and ‘Bhukti’ which means people living on the river bank. The ancient Tirhut comprised of the tract lying between 25 degree 28’ N and 26 degree 22’ N latitude and 84 degree 56’ E and 86 degree 46’ E longitudes, comprising of Champaran, Saharsa, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, parts of Monghyr, Bhagalpur and Purnea and some parts of the Tarai (foothills) of Nepal. It is surrounded by the Himalayas on the north, river Kosi in the east, river Gandak in the west and the river Ganges in the south.Tirhut (an area north of the Ganges in Bihar, India) played an important part in the history of Indo-Nepalese relation during the colonial period. It was a stepping-stone to the conquest of Nepal. It was through Tirhut that Nepali contact with the European traders could be established4.It was probably due to this geo-strategic consideration that in 18th century, Nawab Reza Khan Muzaffar Jung founded the city of Muzaffarpur. Many years before the East India Company’s accession to Diwani (1765), he appropriated for the purpose, 75 bighas of land from 4 villages of Sikandarpur, Kanhauli, Saiyadpura and Saraiyaganj and called the town after his own name. Syed Md. Reza Khan Muzaffar Jung had arrived in Bengal from Delhi during Murshid Quli Khan and was appointed as the Chakladar of Chittagong during the reign of the Mughal Emperor, Md. Shah Rangeela (1719-48)5. He was also the raja of Chaitpur (Bengal).It is also said that the town is named after Muzaffar Khan Turbati, a general of the Mughal Emperor, Akbar, who, in 1570s had erected a cantonment here, to take care of the Afghan rebels taking shelter in the tarai (foothills) of Nepal. This cantonment led to the emergence of a market which was developed into a town in 18th century by Reza Khan Muzaffar Jang6. In 1772, Lord Clive dismissed him and in 1782, his son Dilawar Jang was given a pension of Rs 1.5 lac per annum by Warren Hastings, who seized the Jagir of Tirhut (Muzaffarpur)7, and it was made the district headquarters of Tirhut. In 1875, the word Tirhut disappeared from the terminology of the colonial administration when Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga were made two districts. In 1907, again modern Tirhut was re-created, under a separate commissionership comprising of the districts of Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga, Saran, and Champaran8 . After India’s independence, Darbhanga and Saran (Chapra) were made separate Divisions (commissionership). Presently, Tirhut is a Division/Commissionership (with headquarters in Muzaffarpur) consisting of 6 districts, viz. Muzaffarpur, Vaishali (headquarters Hajipur), Sitamarhi, Sheohar, East Champaran (Headquarters Motihari) and West Champaran (Headquarters Bettiah).
The Anti British ‘Plots’ Before 1857If discomfiture to the princely states could be identified as one of the causes of the upsurge of 1857, then the British policy towards the state of Awadh had some bearing on the Bihar Muslims also. Wazir Ali, the successor of the Nawab of Awadh Asafuddaula (d. 1797) was not allowed by the British to sit on the throne. They preferred Saadat Ali, the younger brother of the Nawab Asafuddaula and Wazir Ali was sent to Benaras on pension. With the enthronement of Saadat Ali the economy of the state of Awadh underwent significant decline, soldiers were not getting their salaries while the exploitation of the peasantry increased heavily9.Wazir Ali, through his agent Mulla Mohammad, developed some contacts with Zaman Shah, the ruler of Kabul. He also included Nawab Naasirul Mulk of Murshidabad in this anti British scheme. But Mulla Mohammad was caught in Sind while on way to Kabul and the plot got exposed. Mulla Mohammad was done to death and many letters were seized from him. Wazir Ali was arrested and sent to Calcutta but before he could be transported to Calcutta, on 14th January 1799, he killed several British officers stationed at Benaras and ran away. In this act he was accompanied and helped by few people from Bihar. This may be traced as the initial manifestation of the Bihar’s elite resistance against the British. Consequently, the British hunt against him and his associates started with fury, he took shelter with the raja of Jainagar who handed him over to the British and was imprisoned where he died on 15th May 1817. Meanwhile his wife Elahi Khanam, along with her son was brought to Patna in March 1807, but the apprehension remained that she may get people’s sympathy. His another wife Husaini Begum along with her son was also imprisoned at Monghyr, later on Elahi Khanam was also sent to Monghyr, from where she went to Chapra and started living there. His third wife also settled at Patna after 1817. Their presence in such a degraded position was disliked by many, and even the colonial state remained apprehensive of rebellion.As early as 1829, Rahat Ali (the zamindar of Neora, and the ancestor of Hasan Imam and Ali Imam) and Meer Abdullah had led a procession before the kutchery of Patna, protesting against imposition of tax on the Waqf lands. This had brought them under suspicion.In 1845-46 when the Anglo Sikh wars took place in the North West frontier region, some Muslim elites of Patna tried to take advantage of it to expel the British. They tried to build an anti British front consisting of Indian troops in the Danapur regiment. Khwaja Hasan Ali Khan (great grandfather of justice Khwaja Md. Noor) and Munshi Peer Bakhsh (teacher in the Danapur regiment and also an author) mobilized some influential people of Patna including Rahat Ali. The plan was worked out after a consultation with many Muslim zamindars in the tent of Khwaja Hasan Ali Khan at the Sonepur fair. This meeting was also attended by one Saif Ali Khan, who was said to have been an agent of the Mughal Emperor of Delhi. Munshi Peer Bakhsh and Saif Ali planned to win over some of the Indian sepoys in the British Indian army. In accordance with this plan, Meer Baqar, the darogha of Patna was sent to the Sugauli (Champaran) cantonment to incite the army. Here, he could win over Sada Khan, an officer at Sugauli. Meanwhile they also established contacts with Kunwar Singh, the zamindar of Jagdishpur (Arrah, Shahabad) and started raising an army of their own for the purpose. The raja of Tekari (Gaya) and his Diwan (Prime Minister) Munshi Chiragh Ali and Khwaja Hedayat Ali Khan, the Principal Sadar Amin of Tirhut (Muzaffarpur) were also signatories to this patriotic pledge. Many more Muslim and Hindu zamindars were in secret correspondence to assemble at the Sonepur fair; and plans were chalked out to raise forces with the help of the Raja of Nepal and the Emperor of Delhi. But all these plans came to the knowledge of Major Rowcroft through a Police Jamadar, named Moti Mishra. The Police hunt followed. One of the residential houses of Rahat Ali (the zamindar of Neora, Patna) was at Sabzi Bagh, Patna. This was raided by the police and Rahat Ali was arrested from here. The police could also seize some letters which revealed that Shah Kabiruddin of the Khanqah at Sasaram and Khwaja Hasan Ali Khan were also involved in it. But Khwaja Hasan Ali Khan could run away with the help of a darogha, Meer Baqar and took shelter in a village of Tirhut called Burhee. On 24th December 1845 Munshi Peer Bakhsh was arrested and was made approver (government witness) who recorded his statement in the court in such a way that Rahat Ali was acquitted. On 8th October 1846, Khwaja Hasan Ali Khan also appeared before the court and thanks to the statement of the witness Peer Bakhsh, he too was set free on 12th October 1846. Meer Baqar (the darogha of Patna), Neyaz Ali (the Qazi of Patna), Barkatullah (the government Pleader of Patna) were dismissed from their services and probably the same happened with Khwaja Hedayat Ali Khan, the Principal Sadar Amin of Tirhut. Bheekan Khan, a police Jamadar, was also court-martialled and imprisoned for 3 years, then he was sentenced for life but was subsequently relieved only to be dismissed from his services. Thus, the British could suppress the rising of 1845-46 but the people’s discontent lingered on and the grievances remained un-redressed.Nevertheless, the unity among a large number of the zamindars, cutting across religious lines, proved to be an advantage and the British government refrained from taking any harsh action against them. Rather, to allay the misgivings of the local population, they made an announcement that the British government would no longer make any interference in the religious affairs of the Indians.Yet, an uneasy calm existed throughout Bihar. Large scale conflicts of the raiyats with the European planters started taking place. A study of the Bengal Judicial Proceedings reveals that from 1830s to 1850s hundreds of cases were registered by the raiyats against the planters in north Bihar10 . People’s anger was sought to be suppressed through repressive measures and a large scale imprisonments of the raiyats into the jails, where bad food (mess system) was already adding to the woes of the peasant-prisoners. In the jails, inter-caste dining was considered as loss of religion by Hindus.
The Lotah uprising, 1855In such a charged and explosive situation, the government, in 1855, decided to withdraw the brass vessels (lotahs) and introduce earthen vessels in the jails. This particular decision infuriated the prisoners of the jails of Arrah and Waris Ali, the lesser known hero of 1857 in Tirhut (Muzaffarpur)On 10th May 1857, the upsurge started from the Meerut cantonment and since then Bihar was on the verge of similar insurrection. On 12 June 1857, the Rebellion started from Rohini (Deoghar, now in Jharkhand), therefore the headquarters of the regiment was shifted from there to Bhagalpur but here also another rebellion began in August 1857. The fearful European planters had started demanding protection from the district administration. Wahabi leaders began to be arrested. It may be noted here that, in Bihar, besides the Sadiqpur family of so called Wahabis12 , two more groups were active against the British. One was called the ‘Lucknow Group’ consisting of the people like Peer Ali, Yusuf Ali, Imamuddin and Masihuzzaman and the other was called the ‘Delhi Group’, consisting of the people like Ali Karim (zamindar of Dumri, Gaya) and Waris Ali. It was this ‘Delhi Group’, which was alleged to have planned to induce the Danapur sepoys with money and other incentives to rebel against the British. The two groups combined and planned to start an uprising on Friday, 3rd July 1857. Ali Karim had to be elected as the ruler of the province. The raja of Bettiah was also suspected to have been involved in the plot. In Patna, the Commissioner, William Tayler invited some Muslim notables of Patna on dinner and then treacherously arrested them on 19th June 1857. They included Molvi Md Husain, Molvi Ahmadullah and Molvi Waizul Haq. Next day all Muslims were ordered to submit their weapons in the thanas. Merely on doubts, quite a large number of Muslims were arrested in the town of Muzaffarpur and in the villages like Singhia and Lalganj13 . On 23rd June 1857, Waris Ali, the Police Jamadar of Muzaffarpur, was arrested from Baruraj police chowki, where he was posted14 , ‘by Mr Robertson, the Assistant Magistrate and some indigo planters, with his horse saddled, his goods packed and in the act of writing to tell Ali Karim that he had resolved to join him at once’. ‘He was a man who had been for years in the district, and knew well what he was about, himself of high family, as is said, with the Royal Family of Delhi, and possessed of considerable property’. The Jamadar was sent to Major Holmes, at Sugauli, for being hanged but the latter sent him to Danapur to take his trial in the court of the Commissioner. Some accounts say, he was tried by the Commissioner, Willaim Tayler, and on 6th July 1857, he was declared guilty of possessing some letters which were considered to be treasonable correspondences with one Ali Karim (the zamindar of Dumri, Gaya) and, therefore he was sentenced to death. One of the letters seized from Waris Ali, informs William Tayler, expressed resentment against the wealth amassed by the European planters. The same day, he was hanged till death15 . William Tayler, the Commissioner, says, “The Najeeb was hanged on the evening of 23rd (July) at 6 PM. He had, during his confinement, simulated madness, but met his death, as most Mahomedans do, with calmness and fortitude”16 .The accounts of Shaad Azimabadi record that Peer Ali, the associate of Waris Ali, did mobilize people also to protect their deen and dharma, i.e. faith. In Tirhut, a famous poet and writer, Syed Murshid Hasan ‘Kaamil’ was a literary disciple of a renowned scholar of theology and Arabic, besides being a great poet of Persian and Urdu, called Fazle Haq Khairabadi (1797-1861). The later had issued a fatwa-e-jihad against the British, resigned from the post of kutchery chief, drafted the ‘first constitution’ of ‘independent India’ based on the ‘principles of democracy’ for which he was sent into the prison of Andaman17 . It is intriguing that the 19th century Urdu accounts like Reyaz-e-Tirhut (1868) and Aina-e-Tirhut (1883),18 making mention of ‘Kaamil’, his poetry and his teacher, do not mention anything about Kaamil’s attitude towards the upsurge of 1857. Did Kaamil, like his teacher Khairabadi, participated in the rebellion? We don’t find any source to answer this question. Most probably, ‘Kaamil’ remained loyal to the British. He composed a poem (qaseedah) in praise of the Leiutenant Governor, Sir Cecil Beadon, when he visited Muzaffarpur to inaugurate the industrial and agricultural exhibition in January 186519 .In Muzaffarpur, the people’s ire was particularly very high against the European planters (nilaha sahibs). The peasantry of the villages of the Tirhut district (Headquarters Muzaffarpur) had come into the exploitative grip of these planters as early as in the later half of 18th century. In 1789, at Motipur, a Dutch capitalist had established a sugar mill, which was converted into indigo factory in 1816. In 1780s, one French, named Danble, had set up his indigo factory at Saraiya. Alexander Namell had established his factories at Kanti and Motipur. Mr. Finch started his enterprise at Deoria, William Orby Hunter at Dholi and Schuman started his indigo factory at Bangra. The first Collector of Tirhut (Muzaffarpur), Francois Grand (1782-87), had brought many indigo factories under his personal possession and amassed a huge wealth by subjecting the peasantry to untold exploitation and misery so much so that even the Company state got disgusted and dismissed him from his services.The peasantry was practically converted into wretched slaves. Even miles away from the European planters’ residences, the common Indians were not allowed to wear shoes, they could not use umbrellas to protect themselves from the rains. Even as late as in the early decades of 20th century they had to pay many taxes and cesses. Some of them were: (a) Bapahi-Putahi tax, i.e. the son of a deceased father had to obtain approval of inheriting father’s property from the planters by paying this tax; (b) Tinkathia system, i.e., out of a bigha (20 kathas) the most fertile 3 kathas had to be earmarked for the cultivation of indigo, all expenses of the cultivation had to be borne by the peasant while all income from this cultivation had to go to the European planters; (c) Ghorhahi-Bhainsahi Tax, i.e. horse-buffalo tax, tax for horses of the planters; (d) Banglahi i.e. Bungalow tax- whenever the planters’ bungalow had to be constructed or repaired, a tax of one rupee was obligatory to be paid by the peasants20 . They, quite mercilessly, oppressed the peasantry, by forcing them to cultivate indigo and sugar21 . Sugar formed a leading item of export from Bihar in 1780s, because tea had become a popular item of drinking in Europe22 . In 1789, the Dutch erected a sugar factory at Motipur. This factory became an indigo concern under the Neel & Co., in 1816. The East India Company, owing to some reasons, discontinued the cultivation of sugar cane, viz. firstly, white ant invasion in 1802-03, spelled a great disaster for the crop, which used to engage field for the whole year (from November to November).Therefore causing famine, as most fertile portions of the land were forcefully earmarked for indigo and sugar cultivation, rather than the cereal crops/coarse grains to be consumed by the cultivators/ peasantry. Secondly, high duty on sugar in England came as an impediment in its export. Thirdly, as the field remained engaged for the entire year, the crop failure was a great disaster for the peasantry. The discontentment of the raiyats against the planters was first noticed (as recorded in ‘orthodox’ official documents archived) in January 1830, when the officiating Magistrate of Tirhut informed the Government of Bengal about the defiance of the raiyats against the planters. In 1839, a faujdari case was filed against the planter, Mc Lead, of Saraiya factory. In 1856, 38 cases were filed by the raiyats of Tirhut against the planters23 .The colonially induced commercialization of agriculture, without modernizing the techniques and providing the irrigation facilities etc. drove the oppressed peasantry to frequent rebellions in the region throughout the colonial period24 .These accumulated discontentment of peasantry, combined with those of the Indian soldiers of the British East India Company, resulted into the upsurge of 1857.After the ‘Mutiny’ started in May 1857, the rack rented peasantry also mustered the courage to rise against the European planters. Afraid of the violent attacks, the European planters, by June 1857, started running away to the town of Muzaffarpur. They pleaded desperately for state protection. On 14th June 1857, the Magistrate of Muzaffarpur had ordered all indigo planters and other Europeans to assemble in the town of Muzaffarpur for mutual protection25 . In all, about 80 Europeans had gathered in the town. There was panic in Muzaffarpur. The very fact that the planters were most panic stricken and were the worst target of the people, is a testimony of their exploitative exercises perpetrated against the peasantry. The extent of the exploitation may be imagined by the fact that even in the post mutiny period, when anti colonial assertion grew stronger by the turn of the 20th century, the European planters of Champaran, continued with their unparalleled villainy against the peasantry. It could be fought under the lesser known leadership of the people like Peer Md Munis (1882-1949), Hafiz Deen Md Ansari (1883-1961), Shaikh Gulab (1857-?), Batakh Miyan (1867-1957), Hafiz Md Saani (1888-1951), Shaikh Adalat Husain (1858-1943) and many more leaders26. The Company’s officers (in Muzaffarpur) adopted ‘strong measures’ for the apprehension of the ‘mutineers (najibs)’, enforced strict censorships on the press, prohibited ‘any subject of a Foreign state (Nepal) frompenetrating into the interiors’ and arranged for the fortification of a house at the western end (Sikandarpur) of the town.By early July, steps were taken by the Company’s government to seize the mutineers and deserters who were to be found in Tirhut. On 3rd July 1857, Richardson, the Magistrate of Muzaffarpur informed the Patna Commissioner, William Taylor, that in order to effectively arrest the rebels; the security arrangements at the major river ghats were increased. Nilaha sahibs were also expected to help the colonial state; incentives were announced for those who could provide clues about the rebels; all eight zamindari ghats on the Gandak and the Ganges were to be properly guarded and the landholders were instructed to give information about the mutineers and they had to be detained on their estates. The police posts at Lalganj and Hajipur were provided with large number of security personnel. In the town of Muzaffarpur also, larger number of policemen were deputed.It was on 25th July 1857, that the mutiny in army took place simultaneously at Sugauli (in Champaran) and Danapur (near Patna). Four soldiers killed Major Holmes and his wife. The Danapur ‘mutineers’ entered Arrah, plundered the treasury, and released the prisoners and the upsurge got greater fervour after Kunwar Singh arrived on the scene. On 29th July, Mr. Forbes, the Judge of Muzaffarpur, wrote to Tayler about the dangers prevailing inMuzaffarpur. On 30th July 1857, the Magistrate, E.F. Lantaur, implemented martial rule in Muzaffarpur and other towns. But in the face of strong rising, on 31st July 1857, the collector and other officers left the town and the government treasury was subjected to loot by the rebels and marched towards Siwan. Soon Lantaur came back to the town and the planters were sent back to the villages and more policemen were called to Muzaffarpur. By 14th August 1857, Lantaur observed that the district of Tirhut had come to peace and normalcy and the planters returned to their factories after leaving their families at Danapur. The planters and loyal zamindars like those of Dumra, Pupri, Kamtaul, Pandaul, Deoria, Jitwarpur were given the powers of a magistrate, to check any mutineer entering into Tirhut from the borders of Nepal. The king of Nepal, Jang Bahadur, the zamindars of Bettiah, Hathwa, Sursand, Pandaul, and the Mehtas and others assisted the British to suppress the movement. The zamindar of Sursand offered a reward of Rs. 30/- for each deserter seized. On 5th September 1857, HL Dampier succeeded Lantaur, who initiated the cases of murder and robbery against the Indians with as much of ruthlessness as his predecessor. In one of the cases the charge was that the accused had cried out that “the Supremacy of the English and the Company was at an end and that it was Kunwar Singh’s reign”. Confiscation of properties, execution of leaders, and transportation, and long term imprisonments, exaction of collective fines from the villagers, chastisement of the common people in rural areas, burning and destruction of houses were some of the sufferings of the people of Tirhut, as a result of the state reprisal that followed the ‘mutiny’. This once again led to people’s anger, and apprehension developed that the rebels might stage a comeback coming from Azamgarh-Gorakhpur via Rewa ghat. Some notables of the town had to send their families again to the interiors.The house of the Darbhanga Maharaj on the southern bank of a lake at Sikandarpur in Muzaffarpur was chosen to be developed like a fort to provide shelter for the European planters of the district. Several minor zamindars (like that of Bakhra, near Rewa Ghat) helped the British near Gandak, when a party of men in revolt was approaching Tirhut from that side. Military alert was maintained at Motipur, Deoria, Saraiya etc. because from Nepal via Champaran, the mutineers might stage comeback By December 1857, the Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry, consisting of 300 troopers, under Richardson, was sent to be stationed at Pusa (which was strategically located at a point from where the three important towns viz. Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Hajipur could be accessed easily) for Tirhut’s protection; and all the roads and ghats (between Hajipur- Pusa, Pusa-Muzaffarpur and Pusa-Darbhanga) had to be put into thorough repair27 . This arrangement was done also because of the fact that Rebellion had started in Dhaka (East Bengal) on 18th November 1857. To gather intelligence inputs, new lines of telegraphic communications were planned to be developed between Purnea and Muzaffarpur via Bhagalpur -Kishanganj- Supaul. Their hunt against the Najeebs (the rebel soldiers) continued, who were moving in Nepal and by April 1858, once again apprehensions developed about their attack on Tirhut by crossing the river Gandak.
HL Dampier, in his correspondence with the Commissioner of Patna during June-August 185828 , expressed his thanks to the European planters of these areas like Saraiya and Deoria. He also thanked ‘the Bakhra Babu and indeed all maliks in the neighbourhood who had responded creditably to the Magistartes’ call in suppressing the mutineers’. These zamindars and the police officers were assured favours and promotions to reciprocate their loyal services. One such loyal officer was Dewan Maula Bakhsh29 . William Tayler admired him as a man who from the commencement of the troublous times had exhibited the greatest zeal, and on whom he placed implicit reliance, ‘through whose zealous cooperation, unremitting zeal, and unimpeachable integrity’ capture and conviction of the mutineers and the discovery of the plans/correspondences could be done successfully. He recommended that his loyal services should be rewarded30 .
Modern Education and the UpsurgeSome degree of suspicion and distrust was created by the introduction of modern education and missionary activities of the Christians. Even before the implementation of Lord Bentinck’s Resolution of 7th March 1835, the Resumption Laws had been implemented with the result that a large number of great landholders, who were the real patrons of the indigenous learning, were reduced to paupers. The government had, thus indirectly caused the ruination of a large number of indigenous educational institutions. After the adoption of the Resolution (of 1835), there began a period of reaction. Stipends and scholarships which had hitherto been awarded to poor and meritorious students of classical learning were stopped. In 1837, Persian was abolished as the language of the court, throwing a large number of educated people out of employment. People felt that the government was promoting English and suppressing the native languages which added to their discontentment31.This is, however, not to say that all Muslims (or all Indians) were suspicious about education. Some Muslims like Syed Imdad Ali (d. August 1886), Syed Md Taqi, Shaikh Maula Bakhsh did take interest in spreading modern education and introduction, belated even though, of Arabic and Persian teaching in the Anglo Vernacular schools of the government did help allaying misgivings to an extent. William Tayler, the Commissioner, Patna Division, was able to smell the people’s misgivings. He, therefore, always insisted on having provision of teaching Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian in the Govt. Anglo Vernacular schools.Syed Imdad Ali, Principal Sadar Amin (of Patna, then of Arrah, Tirhut and then of Gaya from where he retired in 1875; he had entered into government services in 1829) had been taking interest in modern education, since January, 1840, or even earlier. He used to take great interest in education and the spread of knowledge32. When he was serving on the same position at Arrah in 1856, he was appointed Vice President of an educational committee formed by the Commissioner William Tayler. (The President was the Maharaja of Dumraon). Kunwar Singh also provided donations to its school. After the rising of 1857, the enrolment of Muslim students in the Arrah School had plummeted down, but ‘the efforts of the Sadar Amin Imdad Ali and those of Molvi Wahiduddin, the Principal Sadar Amin were of great help in enhancing the Muslim enrolment in 1859’.In February 1845, an Anglo Vernacular School was established in Muzaffarpur (Now called the Zilla School) with the initiatives of local European officers like E.V. Irwin and A.R. Young. The local authorities felt that the introduction of teaching Persian and Arabic might make the institution more popular among the inhabitants, they induced the local zamindars to organise funds for the purpose. In 1852, Syed Md Taqi, a respectable zamindar of Tirhut, came forward with a gift of the entire village of Jogiara which was valued at Rs 20,000/-, with an annual rental of Rs. 2,000/-, “for the purpose of maintaining an Arabic and Persian teacher in the govt. School at Muzaffarpur and for such other educational purposes in connection with that school, as its managing committee and the council of Education may determine”. In fact paucity of grants from the government was about to close down the school in 1855-56, it was the Jogiara endowment which could save it. At Lalganj, Shaikh Maula Bakhsh (the rais of Rasulpur, Muzaffarpur and the deputy magistrate) gave 14 biswas of land to be held rent free for ever, and also allowed temporary use of unoccupied building for the immediate start of the school. ‘The fever of seeking employment as soon as they had acquired a little knowledge of English was greater in Muzaffarpur than in other districts. There were more temptations in this district, where many of the European planters engaged writers (clerks) and accountants’. Most such aspirants, however, were Bengalis, who were pressing more for teaching Bengali than for Urdu/Hindi, in the Government Anglo Vernacular schools. In 1859, the schools at Bakhra, Sitamarhi and Lalganj were in flourishing condition. It may also be noted here that when Imdad Ali came to Muzaffarpur as its Principal Sadar Amin, he, with the help of Syed Md Taqi, established Bihar Scientific Society in May 1868 and opened many schools in the villages of Muzaffarpur like Paroo, Jaintpur, Hardi, Narhan etc. The school at Muzaffarpur was called ‘Society School’, which was later on named after Chapman33 . He also founded the Collegiate School on 7th November 1871, foundation stone laid by G. Campbell, the Lt Governor, and the College (now named after Langat Singh) was also founded by the Bihar Scientific Society. He had also established a library and had close relations with Syed Ahmad (1817-98) of Aligarh, who was the Life Honorary Secretary of the Bihar Scientific Society, Muzaffarpur.In the town of Muzaffarpur there were three schools supported and conducted by some German missionaries, one of which was, started as early as 1840.In April 1855, R.B. Chapman, was the Inspector of Schools in Bihar, and had to commence operations for implementing the Woods’ Despatch (1854) of Education. By this time, great resentment of the common people had started surfacing against the British, particularly on the lotah issue. The inspecting officers, says, Jata Shankar Jha, who went round the villages on their circuit to enlighten the people with the new scheme of education were often greeted with such remarks as, “udhar Magistrate sahib khilate khilate, aur idhar tumlog parhate parhate”. (i.e. the Magistrates in the jails make us take our food with different castes leading to loss of religion, and now the school inspectors are asking our children to go to schools where Christian missionaries would convert us). The people were afraid of losing their religion. Another event which proved no less disastrous to the cause of education and adding to resentment against the Raj was the publication and wide circulation of a missionary pamphlet exhorting Indians to embrace Christianity. This caused universal alarm among the Hindus and Muslims. Education was found to be one of the causes of the anti British plot of 1845-46 in Bihar34 . An anonymous petition to the Lt Governor in 1855 had expressed grievances against the educational system and had said, “Hundreds of people have been deprived of their bread by the establishment of schools…”35 Thus, we find that there were mixed feelings about modern education in Tirhut and in Bihar as well; while a small section was inclined towards obtaining modern education and employment in the colonial administration, majority was suspicious and distrustful towards it, and their resentment found expression in the rising of 1857.
ConclusionThe above recounting of the facts pertaining to the rising of 1857 in Tirhut (Muzaffarpur) leads us to an understanding that agrarian discontent, economic deprivations and threat to religious sensibilities (which might have got magnified due to exclusion from the political/administrative power), were the main causes of the violent rising of 1857. Regardless of the fact that the rising was started, initially, by the low rank armed soldiers, but the popular resistance was always present before, during and after the Ghadar. In the works of the apologists of British colonialism (William Dalrymple’s The Last Mughal:The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi, 1857, Penguin, Delhi, 2006, is the latest exposition of that historiography), religious frenzy is said to be the most formidable cause and motivating factor for the upsurge. The findings of this essay, in the context of Tirhut, find it difficult to agree with such conclusions drawn by the apologists of colonialism. Moreover, it is important to note that the conflict of the peasants with the Congress during the heydays of the anti colonial struggle and the peasant-state conflict in the post colonial Bihar are also needed to be seen in a historical continuity36 .It also comes out that among loyalists/traitors as well as the patriotic rebels/ revolutionaries, both the Hindus and Muslims were present.C.A. Bayly, the famous Cambridge historian, has argued that the Eastern India’s politics of 18th -19th centuries was ‘characterized by the consolidation of Hindu states of Rajputs and Bhumihars’, and ‘had strong clan organizations’. Resting upon this clan, the revenue contractors of Awadh emerged as the estates of Banaras, Hathwa, Bettiah etc., who asserted against (Muslim) Awadh37 . It is, nevertheless, important to note that the rising of 1857, was marked by remarkable display of Hindu-Muslim unity in Muzaffarpur as elsewhere in India.It may also be inferred that, unlike several other places, the leadership of the ‘rebels’ was not as strong in Tirhut so as to completely replace the British administration with Indian administration, even for a brief period, when the district officials had run away on 31st July 1857 from Muzaffarpur. The movement in Tirhut ‘had its roots in the lower economic group of the society’38 , which may partly explain the weakness of the leadership. As said in the beginning, unlike Awadh, peasants of Tirhut were not led by the landlords, nor was there any strong link or coordination between the sepoys (najeebs) and the peasants. Conversely speaking, in Awadh, the taluqdars and sepoys were having coordination among themselves to rebel against the British, whereas, in Tirhut, the zamindars and the European planters together sided with the colonial state to suppress the rebel sepoys (najeebs) and ryots. Till April 1859, the apprehension of ‘coming back’ of the mutineers (najeebs) persisted, hence the colonial decision to enhance policing on all ghats. (Now, a policy decision was taken by the colonial state that Muslims and upper caste Hindus had not to be recruited in police. Rather, Dusadhs, Chamars, Musahars etc. were to be preferred)39. Probably because of this apprehension, the construction of roads and rail, (like that of Lalganj- Vaishali-Kesaria-Sugauli) and of bridges on the ghats (like that of Rewa Ghat connecting Muzaffarpur with Chapra through much shorter distance), remained neglected by the colonial administration. It, however, looks ironical (or may be outrageous) that even the independent India’s governments persisted with such conscious negligence and it took almost 150 years after 1857, and about six decades after the independence that the necessities of such communications could be realized by the powers that be. Such constructions for infrastructural developments are yet to be undertaken /completed. This area is yet to be put on the rail map, despite the fact that several leaders of North Bihar have enjoyed the portfolio of Railways.
Footnotes: 1 More recent studies like that of Rudrangshu Mukherji have explored that in Awadh, the talukdars provided the leadership and the peasants formed the general support, see his Awadh in Revolt, 1857-58: A Study of Popular Resistance, OUP, Delhi, 1984. 2 S.N. Sen, Eighteen Fifty Seven, Publications Division, Delhi, 1957, pp. 265-66.3 Sabyasachi Dasgupta, ‘The Rebel Army in 1857: At The Vanguard of the War of Independence or a Tyranny of Arms’, Economic and Political Weekly, vol. XLII, No. 19, May 12-18, 2007, pp. 1729-1733.4 The first recorded British penetration in Nepal was made in 1715. In response to a request at Bettiah by Raja Dhrub Singh, a missionary came from Rome. In 1739, Raja Dhrub Singh of Bettiah enlisted Father Joseph Mary’s service as doctor, who nursed his ailing wife in 1740. The Rani was cured and the Raja wanted the Father to stay back in Bettiah and to preach Roman Catholic faith. In 1766, with the help of the authorities at Rome, an important Roman Catholic Centre was opened in Bettiah. Before him, Boughton, an English surgeon, had impressed Shah Shuja, the then Mughal governor of Bengal (1639-60) by curing his ailing wife and thus Shuja had to show his generosity to the British and issued a Nishan to the British East India Company, in the year 1652, against a meager amount of Rs. 3000 a year as custom dues, to carry out trade from Singhia, near Lalganj (now in Vaishali district) in Tirhut. Saltpetre was the chief item of export from North Bihar and its chief centre was Singhiya. Ibrahim Khan (1668-73), Aurangzeb’s governor of Bihar, earned the hostility of the British, as he tried to drive out Mr Peacock, the responsible officer of the factory at Singhiya and interfered with the saltpeter trade of the British, carried from their factory at Singhiya (Lalganj). The trade in the chief product of (item of export) of the locality being monopolized by the British, combined with the famine in May 1669, had ruined the economic condition of the people resulting into the decline of the Hajipur town and migration of the people from there to Jahangirnagar (Dhaka). See Radha Krishna Chaudhry, A History of Muslim Rule in Tirhut, Chowkhamba Sanskrit Publication, Varanasi, 1970.5 W.W. Hunter, A Statistical Account of Bengal, vol.13, Trubner &Co., London, 1877, pp. 51-52. Qurratul Ain Haider, in her short story (Urdu), “Dareen Gard Sawar-e- Baashad” published in the Urdu quarterly Alfaz (January-April 1981), Aligarh, gives the details of Muzaffar Jung’s descendents. She also refers to Karam Ali’s Muzaffarnama. Karam Ali was an employee of Muzaffar Jung, who had escaped to Bihar to save himself from the wrath of Sirajud Daulah. He wrote Muzaffarnama; after the Nawab Muzaffar Jung was sent on pension and that he wrote it to console the Nawab. Sir Jadu Nath Sarkar has translated a portion of Muzaffarnama into English. Qurratul Ain Haider also refers to an account of an ICS officer named John Beames who says that the Battle of Plassey (1757) was not merely a victory of a European merchant company over a province of India; rather, it was a collective victory of the native Hindu merchants and British financial classes over the foreign Mohammedan power.Karl Marx has also said that India’s colonization by the British was victory of merchant capital over the feudal system. In the short story, it is also commented that Nawab Reza Khan Muzaffar Jung does not deserve sympathy also because he did not have science, technology, and the values like rationalism with which Clive and Hastings were laced.The story is reproduced in her collection of stories, Raushni ki Raftaar, Educational Publishing House (EPH), Delhi, 1992 and also in Jugnuon Ki Duniya, ATU, Delhi, 2001, pp.151-176.6 Surprisingly, one of the most comprehensive biographies of the nawab (Abdul Majed Khan, Transition in Bengal, 1765-75: A Study of Saiyid Md. Reza Khan, Cambridge, 1969) Reza Khan Muzaffar Jung does not mention his role in developing the urban centre of Muzaffarpur.7 Qurratul Ain Haidar, Kaar e Jahaan Daraaz Hai, vol. I, p. 180, EPH, Delhi, 2003.8 Jai Narain Thakur, “Demographic Features of Tirhut”, in Journal of Bihar Research Society (JBRS), Vol. 55, 1969, pp. 133-143.9 K.K. Datta, Anti British Plots and Movements Before 1857, Meenakshi Publications, Meerut, 1957, pp. 21-23. Also see, P.C. Raychaudhry, Inside Bihar, Bookland Pvt. Ltd. Patna, 1962.11 Shaad Azimabadi, Peer Ali: Ek Novel, compiled by Naqi Ahmad Irshad, KBL, Patna, 1993. This novel has been produced by taking contents from those two books.12 Cited by Ashfaq Arfi, op.cit, p. 204. The membership increased to 500 in 1872, (Garcien de Tassey, op.cit, p. 168). For details see Qeyamuddin Ahmad, Wahabi Movement in India, OUP, Delhi, 1994 (Reprint). In Tirhut, the Wahabis remained active till 1860s (1865-71) under the leadership of Haji Mubarak Ali, see Taqi Raheem, Tehreek-e-Azadi Mein Bihar ke Musalmanon Ka Hissa, KBL, Patna, 1998, p. 72..13 Besides Patna, Tirhut was another major centre of the ‘Wahabis’. After large scale suppression of the ‘Wahabi’ leaders of Patna like Wilayat Ali and Enayat Ali, the leadership shifted to one Haji Mubarak Ali of Tirhut during 1865-71. See Taqi Raheem, Tehreek-e-Azadi Mein Bihar Ke musalmanon Ka Hissa, KBL, Patna, 1998, p. 72.14 Vijay Kumar Thakur, “Movement of 1857-58 in Tirhut and the Rebels”, in JBRS, Vol. 61, 1975, pp. 105 -122. Thakur makes use of Muzaffarpur Collectorate Records (Vide Annual report of the Regional Records Survey Committee, Bihar 1952-53)15 Waris Ali was hanged after some delay, in anticipation that some more clues about the mutineers could be obtained from him, Shaad Azimabadi, op cit. Footnotes:16 William Tayler, Our Crisis or Three Months at Patna during the Insurrection of 1857, London, 1858, 1882, Khudabakhsh Library, Patna, 2007(Reprint). Besides Waris Ali, there were more such rebels in Tirhut, like Wazir Ali, Town Police Sawar, who was arrested‘with a gun and a sword’ and was ‘transported for life with forfeiture of property of every description’; Shaikh Qurban Ali, who was sentenced for 3 years imprisonment ‘for using language to create persons to commit act of sedition’; Ghazi Khan, a Town Police Sawar ofMuzaffarpur, who was transported for life with forfeiture of property of every description; Khairati Khan was arrested with a sword and was sentenced the same punishment as Ghazi Khan; Mir Hidayat Ali, Najeeb, Bihar Station Guard was also given the same punishment;Kullar Khan, the Town Police Sawar also got the same punishment. Besides these Muslims, and a good number of bhumihars, rajputs andBrahmins, there were many Gwalas, Koeris and Kurmis who participated in the movement and suffered punishments at the hands of the colonial state. All of them belonged to low economic group. Vijay Kumar Thakur, op cit.17 Jamal Malik, “Letters, Prison Sketches and Autobiographical Literature: Fadl-e-Haqq Khairabadi in the Andaman Penal Colony” inIndian Economic and Social History Review (IESHR), vol. XLIII, No.1, January-March 2006, pp.77-100.18 Ayodhya Prasad Bahaar, Reyaz e Tirhut, Chashma e Noor, Muzaffarpur, 1868 and Bihari Lal ‘Fitrat’, Aina-e-Tirhut, Bahar-e-Kashmir, Lucknow, 1883. Both these books have been reprinted and edited by Hetukar Jha, published by the Kalyani Foundation, Darbhanga, in 1997 and 2001 respectively.19 This exhibition was organised with a view to promote an improved system of agriculture and more especially to enlist the interests of the zamindars in it. C.E. Buckland, Bengal Under the Lieutenant Governors, Vol. 1, S.K. Lahiri & Co., Calcutta, 1901, pp. 293-295.20 For details see Ashraf Qadri, Tehreek-e-Azadi-e-Hind Mein Muslim Mujahedin-e-Champaran Ka Muqaam, Bettiah, 1992, p.38. Also see PK Shukla, “Indigo Peasant Protest in North Bihar, 1867-1916”, in K. K. Sharma, P.P. Singh, Ranjan Kumar (eds.), Peasant Struggles in Bihar, 1831-1992: Spontaneity to Organization, Janki Prakashan, Patna, 1994, pp. 48-64. Footnotes:21 The profit extracted by the British through the indigo plantations can be guessed from the fact that, in 1782, when Tirhut was made a district (including Darbhanga) with Muzaffarpur being the headquarters, Francois Grand came as the first collector of Muzaffarpur. He established a number of indigo factories belonging personally to him and amassed a great wealth for himself. Having earned money, he became arrogant, divorced his wife and went for the second marriage. The divorced wife went to France where she married a leader of French Revolution and close associate of Napolean named Talleyrand. Lord Cornwallis came to know of his indulgence in corruption, instituted an enquiry against him, sacked him from the services and seized his entire property. This made him so wretched that he had to go back to his first wife in France, spent his rest of the life there and died.22 For details see N.P. Singh, “Growth of Sugar Cultivation in Bihar (1793-1913)”, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress (PIHC), 1984.23 P.K. Shukla, “Indigo Peasant Protest in North Bihar, 1867-1916” in K.K. Sharma, P.P. Singh, Ranjan Kumar (eds.), Peasant Struggles in Bihar, 1831-1992: Spontaneity to Organization, Janki Prakashan, Patna, 1994, pp. 48-64.24 Except the Indigo Riots of 1859, not much has been written on those rebellions against the colonial state. For the indigo riots of 1859-61, see A.R. Desai (ed.) Labour Movement in India. Even the ‘Wahabi’ movement enjoyed its wider support more among the peasantry. For this, see Qeyamuddin Ahmad, Wahabi Movement in India, OUP, Delhi, 1994 (Reprint), and also see Binay Bhushan Chaudhry, “Movement for Rents in Eastern India 1793-1930” in Indian Historical Review (IHR), Vol. III, January 1977.25 Charles Ball, History of the Indian Mutiny, Vol. I, p. 449.cf. Vijay Kumar Thakur, “Movement of 1857-58 in Tirhut and the Rebels”, in JBRS, vol. 61, 1975, p. 105.26 For details see Ashraf Qadri, op cit. Apart from the profiles of the patriotic leaders, the author also counts the various kinds of taxes and cesses that were exacted from the ravaged peasantry by the European planters supported by the big zamindars like the Bettiah raj. Also see Razi Ahmad, Indian Peasant Movement and Mahatma Gandhi, Shabd Prakashan, Delhi, 1987. Also see Girish Mishra, Agrarian Problems of Permanent Settlement in Champaran, People’s Publishing House, Delhi, 1978.27 Pusa is a village in the district of Samastipur (a town founded by Haji Shamsuddin Ilyas, 1342-57, the governor of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq; it was called Shamsuddinpur, which subsequently got corrupted as Samastipur; alongwith it he also founded the town of Hajipur). This deployment of the cavalry at Pusa, led to its emergence as a famous centre for horse breeding, and eventually a college for agricultural sciences (now Rajendra Agricultural University) was started here. In the earthquake of 1934, this institute got severely damaged, so its laboratories etc. were shifted to New Delhi where the road is named as Pusa Road.28 Cited extensively by S. Narain, ‘The Role of Tirhoot in the Movement of 1857-59’, in Journal of Bihar Research Society (JBRS), March, 1954, pp.55-73.29 Dewan Maula Bakhsh (the Deputy Magistrate and the rais of Rasulpur, Muzaffarpur) was a follower of Shuttari sufi, Shaikh Qazin (d. 1495 AD) of Basarh, Vaishali. He died at Gwalior while coming back from Makka after performing Haj, in 1283 AH. His younger son Md Hasan Khan donated land of Lal Bagh, Patna for the Engineering College. His grandsons (Hadi Hasan Khan Naayaab and Mehdi Hasan Khan Shadab) and his great grandsons Aijaz Hasan Khan, Reyaz Hasan Khan Khayal and Abul Hasan Khan made some mark as great poets of Muzaffarpur. Abul Hasan Khan’s son Ahmad Hasan Khan served as the Professor Emeritus in the RDS College, Muzaffarpur. The Dewan Road, Kalyani, Muzaffarpur, is named after this Dewan Maula Bakhsh. Aijaz Hasan Khan and Reyaz Hasan Khan Khayal were the hosts of Shibli Nomani (1857-1914), when he visited Muzaffarpur in January 1907, to campaign for his Nadwatul Ulema.30 Iqbal Husain, in his Urdu autobiography, Daastaan Meri (Patna, 1989), testifies that he was really rewarded with inaamaat wa ikraamaat for having been loyal to British during Ghadar.31 Jata Shankar Jha, Education in Bihar, KP Jaiswal Research Institute (KPJRI), Patna, 1979.32 For the details of his life history, see my essay in Tehzeebul Akhlaq, Urdu monthly, Aligarh, February, 2006 and for its abridged English rendering, see Milli Gazette, Delhi, 1-15 February, 2007. Also see, A Brief History and Genealogical Tree or Pedigree of Moulvi Syed Imdad Ali Khan Bahadur and his Descendents, Calcutta, 1916.3 Naseem-e-Shemaal, Urdu Monthly, Muzaffarpur, January, 1946 (Only one issue available in the Khuda Bakhsh Library, Patna).34 Jata Shankar Jha, Education in Bihar, KPJRI, Patna, 1979, p. 300, p.318.35 Ibid.36 For meticulously detailed and nuanced analysis of peasant struggles in Bihar, see, Arvind N. Das, Agrarian Unrest and Socio-Economic Change in Bihar, 1900 -1980, Manohar, Delhi, 1983. Das gives evidences that in 1920s -30s, the Swami Sahajanand Saraswati (d. 1950) led peasant movements found strong support base among the peasantry of Tirhut. At Dukhan Saraiya (Paroo), Goraul and many more villages of Tirhut, the annual sessions of the Bihar Kisan Sabha were held, and resolutions for abolition of zamindari were passed. In 1960s-70s, a part of Tirhut like Mushahri in Muzaffarpur witnessed armed revolution of peasants, in the wake of Naxalbari.Also see, G. Mc. Donald, “Unity on Trial: Congress in Bihar, 1929-39”, in D.A. Low (ed.), Congress and the Raj: Facets of the Indian Struggle, 1917-47, OUP, Delhi, 2004 (Reprint). See Francine Frankel, “Caste, Land and Dominance in Bihar: Breakdown of the Brahmanical Social Order” in Frankel and Rao (eds.) Dominance and State Power in Modern India: Decline of a Social Order, vol. I, OUP, Delhi, 1989.37. CA Bayly, Rulers, Townsmen and Bazars: North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770-1870, Cambridge, 1983, pp. 17-18.38. Vijay Kumar Thakur, op cit, p.122. It however needs to be probed as to why did the landed elites of Bihar generally remained with the British in 1857, whereas a large number of them had fought against the British in 1829 and in 1845-46.39. S. Narain, op cit. For more instances of the colonial reprisal in Bihar in post 1857, see Qeyamuddin Ahmad, “The Unique Trial of ArrahTown for Rebellion Against Government During 1857-59” in JBRS, vol. 46, 1960, pp. 155-162.