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Mainstream, VOL LV No 35 August 19, 2017

Mockery of Independence? What a Country!

Sunday 20 August 2017, by A K Biswas

Nationalist ruler’s loyal forefathers were ‘unsolicited’ British collaborators honoured with Royal Salute

I was overwhelmed on reading in The Calcutta Gazette, 1858 that the East India Company bestowed an extraordinary distinction upon an Indian feudal lord for his “unsolicited” support against the sepoys during the mutiny in Central and Berar Provinces, a fact, perhaps, scarcely known to the public. The issue, if and ever focused, is exposed to be erased from books in the face of euphoric, nationalist upsurge sweeping some sections of the people in parts of India. Under the signature of G.F. Edmonstone, Secretary to the Government of India, The Calcutta Gazette, June 26, 1858, published a unique proclamation of the East India Company for the distinction.

“The Right Hon’ble Governor General, in order to mark his appreciation of the Maharajah Scindia’s friendship, and his gratification at the re-establishment of His Highness’ authority in his ancestral dominions, is pleased to direct that a Royal Salute shall be fired at every principal station in India.”1 (Italicised by this writer)

The friendship the Maharaja of Gwalior, Jiwajirao Scindia, exhibited in brutal suppression of the Sepoy Mutiny eminently enamoured his alien masters.2 But how precisely did Jiwajirao Scindia earn so high a distinction from an infatuated Governor General (January 5, 1853-January 30, 1855), Lord Charles John Canning (1812-1862)? In a letter dated May 25, 1857, Sir Cecil Beadon, Home Secretary to the Government of India, disclosed that “The Maharajah of Scindia and other chiefs, unsolicited, have given prompt and powerful support to the Govern-ment…”3 After the Sepoy Mutiny, Beadon became the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal (1862-67). This assignment was considered the most prized position. The Lieutenant-Governorship, com-prising territories of the undivided provinces of Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, and Assam, was exceedingly important as the provinces as a whole were far larger than many European nations put together.

It may be noted that no other Indian ever earned so dazzling a decoration from the British. In every civil station of the subcontinent, from Khyber Pass to Burma (Myanmar) and Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the Maharaja of Gwalior was presented the Royal salute when 21 guns were fired. We would not be wrong to assume that the British continued to honour with unfailing consistency this protocol till August 14, 1947—the last day of their Empire.

The same Calcutta Gazette tells us how the Maharaja of Gwalior came to the notice of the British. Note the significant words, for example, “unsolicited”, “prompt and powerful support” in the Gazette for the beleaguered East India Company. The Maharaja stood by them in the Company’s critical days with unsolicited support for suppression of the Sepoy Mutiny. According to the Gazette, “The Hon’ble Governor General has the highest gratification in announcing that the Town and Fort of Gwalior were conquered by Major-General Sir Hugh Rose, on the 19th instant, after a general action, in which rebels, who had usurped the authority of Maharajah Scindia, were totally defeated. On the 20th June, the Maharajah Scindia, attended by the Governor General’s Agent for Central India, and Sir Hugh Rose and escorted by British Troops, was restored to the palace of his ancestors, and welcomed by his subjects with every mark of loyalty and attachment. It was on the 1st June that the rebels, aided by the treachery of some of Maharajah Scindia’s troops, seized the Capital of His Highness’ Kingdom and hoped to establish a new government under a pretender in His Highness’ Territory. Eighteen days had not elapsed before they were compelled to evacuate the Town and Fort of Gwalior and to relinquish the authority which they had endeavoured to usurp. The promptitude and success with which the strength of the British Government has been put forth for restoration of its faithful Ally to the capital of his territory, and the continued presence of British Troops at Gwalior to support His Highness in the re-establishment of his administration, offer to all convincing proof that the British Government has the will and the power to befriend those who, like the Maharajah Scindia, do not shrink from their obligation or hesitate to avow their loyalty.”4

THIS brief illustration should indicate the point how Indians have harmed India most. And this episode remained covered under ominous silence which is harmful. We do not know our traitors and betrayers. This lack of knowledge is a serious threat to our national integrity. Some day the same section may prove disloyal and inimical to Indian interests. Big men, we should know, inflicted the gravest harm to the country. There is no danger from the ordinary men or masses. These big men are their own country’s inveterate enemies.

They flamboyantly call India their motherland. It cannot be their motherland. It’s their homeland. Some of them allowed infiltrators room to occupy the country stealthily. In Bengal the process began for establishing the British Empire. The man, who created the foothold for Robert Clive and drafted the blueprint for the battle of Plassey, is unknown, though a traitor. He escaped the sin of blasphemy because a lot of intellectual tapestry was thrown over him for covering his dirty face with a view to salvaging his image and restoring his reputation unsullied and stainless.

Maharaja Krishna Chandra Roy, a zamindar of Nadia in Bengal, was the principal architect of conspiracy against the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daullah, leading to his downfall for Mir Zafar Ali Khan to become the Nawab. Krishna Chandra served as the bridge between the high officials of the East India Company at Calcutta, with whom he carried on secret and detailed negotiations, outlining the objectives and purposes, and the conspirators at Murshidabad, who included Umichand, Raj Ballabh, Rai Durlabh etc. Krishna Chandra convinced and won over Mir Zafar Ali Khan, the chief of the Army of Bengal, to join the conspiracy with inducement to become the Nawab of Bengal on the downfall of Siraj. This blueprint of the conspiracy against Siraj-ud-Daullah worked perfectly. Interestingly, while Mir Zafar got the bad name, his benefactor, Krishna Chandra Roy, remained absolutely blameless.

After the battle of Plassey, Mir Zafar paid crores of rupees in bribe to Clive and the East India Company officials at Calcutta, besides George Watts, Resident of the Company at Murshidabad, etc. as the price for becoming the Nawab of Bengal. Lord Robert Clive, the architect of the foundation of the British Empire on Indian soil, on the other hand, presented to Krishna Chandra Roy 12 guns, used by them in the battle of Plassey to defeat the Nawab’s army.5 The magnitude of gratitude the British displayed towards the traitor on the battle of Plassey beggars description. But the culture of silence over or distortion of historical truth concerning this phase is alarming, if not tragic, for the image and pride of the nation. No school-going child in Bengal perhaps knows this truth. Why?

Historians and litterateurs, however, brushed aside this critical fact in academic discourses throwing a blanket of mist over the truth. They dismissed Rajib Lochan Bandyopadhyay whose biographical account (published in 1804) of Krishna Chandra Roy portraying the role the zamindar played in the overthrow of the Nawab of Bengal.6 In his seminal work, styled Hinduism, when Sir Nirad C. Chaudhuri quotes a French author, Abe Dubois, as saying “Intense selfishness is [.......] a common characteristic of a Brahmin [........] He would unhesitatingly sacrifice the public good, or his country itself, if it promoted his own welfare”, we are rudely shocked at the role of Krishna Chandra Roy. We know the meaning and significance of the observation of the French writer.7

The intellectual class, for some strange factor, has placed the traitor above the truth and ahead of the interest of the country. The intelligentsia refused to rely on Rajib Lochan Bandyopadhyay’s claim that he belonged to the dynasty of Maharaja of Nadia. The intensity of the motivated propaganda and publicity convinced people that Mir Zafar Ali Khan was the traitor for the downfall of Siraj-ud-Daullah. In the process, Krishna Chandra Roy got pitchforked out of the plot. With the pioneer and trendsetter removed from the scene, the lesser villains got the major share of the blame as traitors. While others were not innocent, the feudal lord of Krishnagar was the kingpin in the treachery. All said and done, the most devastating 12 firearms, known to the globe till then, stood as indefensible evidence of infidelity around the Maharaja’s palace at Krishnagar, Nadia ever since and created fear and scare in the heart of the visitors for at least 190 years from Plassey to Independence in 1947. They are no more on public display. Those weapons have been sweeped out of public vision in the Krishnagar Rajbari.

Did Dr Syama Prasad Mookherjee begin the campaign to cover up Krishna Chandra Roy’s treachery?

WE do not know precisely when the campaign for camouflage or cover-up or suppression of the sin and treachery of Krishna Chandra Roy against the country actually began. But there was an organised attempt to shield and protect the traitor against the shame for his dark role in the foundation of British rule. An intellectual initiative was launched in Bengal by a distinguished academician, Syama Prasad Mookherjee. At the age of 33, he became the youngest Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta in 1934, and held the office till 1938, comprising two terms.8 One can read an untenable statement in his Diary recorded in the colonial era as follows: “Umichand, a synonym for a betrayer; he was a financier of Nawab Siraj-ud-Daullah of Bengal; he, with Mir Zafar and others, conspired against the Nawab and joined hands with Lord Clive.”9

This is not the truth, though the financier was a conspirator. But he got the major share of the blame while Maharaja Krishna Chandra received the present of guns! Why did Clive go to Krishnagar with twelve firearms used in the battle of Plassey and presented them to Krishna Chandra Roy?

The campaigns to safeguard and camouflage began with the former Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, Syama Prasad Mookhejree, as the pioneer. Truth notwithstanding, who would dare to go against the current and survive in colonial Bengal against the views nursed, recorded and propagated by a formidable authority as high and important as the Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University? Certainly he did not jump to such a conclusion all of a sudden. The plague of prevarication, distortion and obliteration of historical truth and facts had become endemic by the time India won independence. To please the mighty authorities, lies and fabrication of truth are highly rewarding and gainful. Speaking unmixed and unchallengeable truth involves catastrophic risks.

Rani Lakshimibai fought the British alongside the sepoys in the mutiny against the colonial rulers and laid down her life. Maharaja Scindia, lo and behold! was received with guards of honour during his visits, say, to Calcutta, Patna, Lucknow, Cuttack, Karachi, Lahore, Nagpore, Poona, Madras etc. with 21 gun-salutes presented by the Army.

Rajasthan is an epitome of anarchy, misrule and lawlessness, besides a heaven for Dalit persecution and oppression, murder, rape with no hope for justice to victims. A scion of the dynasty of the Maharaja of Gwalior is its ruler. Can India’s masses expect justice and dignity from such rulers whose ancestors were faithful collaborators and lackeys of the British? Her party preaches nationalism in thunderous voices to the Indians. Nationalism implies that the poorest, the marginalised, and the most deprived of the society receive highest priority in her government. Rajasthan belies that hope and expectation.

FOOTNOTES

1. The Calcutta Gazette, June 26, 1858, No. 51, p. 1819.
2. Biswas, A K, article, ‘On 150th Anniversary of 1857 Revolt: Sepoy Mutiny and Indian Patriotism’, Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 1, Tuesday December 25, 2007.
3. A Hindu, The Mutinies and the People, 1859, Calcutta, p.110. This was a work under pseudonym. Researchers, however, are of the view that it was compiled by Shambhu Chandra Mookerjee, who was an editor of a journal too, quoted by Biswas, A K, Mainstream, in the article ‘On 150th Anniversary of 1857 Revolt: Sepoy Mutiny and Indian Patriotism’, Mainstream, Vol XLVI, no 1, Tuesday, December 25, 2007.
4. The Calcutta Gazette, June 26, 1858.
5. Biswas, A. K., ‘Thoughts for Indians on Independence Day: Is Indian Democracy drifting towards peril?’, Mainstream, Vol. LIII no 34, August 15, 2015. http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article5882.html
6. Rajib Lochan Bandyopadhyay claimed to belong the dynasty of Maharaja Krishna Chandra Bandyopadhyay alias Krishna Chandra Roy but historians dismissed his contention altogether.
7. Chaudhuri, Nirad C., Hinduism, A Religion to Live By, New York, Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 170.
8. Gandhi, Gopal (2007), A Frank Friendship: Gandhi and Bengal: A Descriptive Chronology, Seagull Publications, p. 328.
9. Mookherjee, Syama Prasad, Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 126.

A retired IAS officer and former Vice-Chancellor of the B.R. Ambedkar University Muzaffarpur (Bihar), Dr A.K. Biswas can be reached at biswasatulk [at]gmail.com

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62