OPINION

1857
A Brief Political and Military Analysis

Maj (Retd) AGHA HUMAYUN AMIN from WASHINGTON DC gives a brilliant analysis of the 1857 war of Independence

INTRODUCTION

The rebellion of the Bengal Army in 1857 was a traumatic event in the history of British rule in India. Even today it is difficult to describe it as a 'War of Independence', 'Revolution', 'Religious War' or a 'Mutiny'. The discussion is made more complicated because of the fact that India is a jigsaw puzzle of races and ethnic groups made further complicated and confusing by the presence of a variety of religions, castes etc. Thus Indo-Pak History has always remained a far more confusing affair than lets say French or British History. Any event in Indian History is hard to judge because of presence of various aspects like diversity of race, religion etc. The Indo-Pak Sub-Continent has the unique distinction of being invaded, colonised and ruled by a multiple number of actors motivated by racial, religious, economic or commercial reasons. Thus whenever we pick any book on Indo-Pak History we come across so many conflicting and confusing views like the Muslim view, the Hindu view, the British view etc. Behind every happening in Indo-Pak history there is some 'Conspiracy Theory', some ethnic or religious bias, some personal elements or grievances etc. One may think that this is true for all types of history. However in our case it is felt that these biases are much more pronounced because of the fact that we are still undergoing the historical processes through which many other parts of the world underwent five hundred or a thousand years ago. Perhaps all this is there because India and Pakistan even today are not cohesive integrated states with a clearheaded Intelligentsia or Leadership in the real sense. Perhaps the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent cannot be called a country or two or three countries in the real sense. One may add that Bangladesh is less trouble or confusion free being a nation state in the real sense despite its junior vintage in terms of length of years. We may state with conviction that writing anything on any aspect of Indo-Pak History is a much more arduous task than writing history of any other country. Coming precisely down to Indo-Pak History 1857 is particularly a very challenging subject to write about. The major difficulty in writing stems from the fact that little is available from the Indo-Pak side since most of the people who formed the core elements of the rebels or freedom fighters or whatever anyone may choose to call them were either hanged or blown off the mouths of guns or destroyed in the Terai Jungle by disease or tigers. All those who were left were either living in British India and thus rendered unable to state anything based on truth because of fear of life or forfeiture of liberty. Some were so overwhelmed by disgust and grief that they thought it pointless to leave anything for posterity. Some who managed to save their life by escaping were so much pressed by privation and misery that they died premature deaths and were unable to leave for the future historians anything which may have proved useful in arriving at a rational explanation of the design of events and may have enabled historians to understand whether the outbreak was based on deliberate planning or was a spontaneous outbreak.

Thus we are left with three broad categories of historical accounts i.e. the 'Original British Viewpoint', the 'Indian Viewpoint while under Subjugation' and 'Modern Indo-Pak Reinterpretations'. Things are made yet more complex by other schools of thought like the 'Religious', 'Ethnic' and the 'Class Warfare' etc. Karl Marx called it the failure of the policy of divide and rule. Muslim revivalist historians call it Jehad, Hindus have their own explanations, Modern Nationalist Historians have further made it more colourful and glorious by liberally mixing myth with reality! The British are ever keen to prove that it was a mutiny of troops. Thus anyone striving to write about history of 1857 has to struggle with various conceptual pitfalls and obstacles based on racial, religious and personal biases. The aim of this work is to interpret the events of 1857 not from the religious or racial or any other personal bias but from the pure historical point of view; so that correct conclusions can be drawn; not as a Muslim or a Hindu or a Sikh or as a North Indian or a Punjabi or as any other thing. It is important because today the countries of Indo-Pak Sub-Continent are going through a critical phase in terms of historical reinterpretation, today people are questioning various issues which were previously too sacred to be discussed; today history has again become much more crucial than it was fifty or hundred years ago. It is so because today we are less emotional and more objective than lets say in comparison with 1947 or in 1859. Today there are less pressures and less compulsions than there were when Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was writing on 1857. At that time the issue was pure survival, today the issue is not immediate survival but long-term progress. Today religious divisions are less meaningful than they were in 1947 because today we are more clear about what motivated leaders to manipulate their followers in a certain direction to achieve certain ends! Today the issue is not confrontation but reduction of armies and economic progress in the real sense.

Another aspect of 1857 outbreak's importance was its influence on future British policy about India. In this sense this was in a way negative since the British reversed the policy of rapidly modernizing India and started supporting the feudal classes who Dalhousie was bent upon destroying. A foundation was laid for the communalization of the Indian Army. The policy of Divide and Rule received great impetus since the British realized that if the Hindus and Muslims combined like they had in 1857, India may prove to be very difficult to be ruled. Thus we see that after 1857 some very paradoxical policies were adopted by the British Government. On one side it was held that the Muslims were the main culprits of 1857, whereas the majority of the troops of the Bengal Army which mutinied were Hindus. This led to reduction of the Hindustani i.e. East of Jumna troops both Hindu and Muslims while Punjab became the main area of recruitment with preference being given to Punjabi Muslims. Another effect of 1857 was that it induced Muslims to show greater loyalty to British in order to wipe out the stigma of disloyalty.

1857 remains a major landmark in the march towards Indian Independence since it convinced the Britishers that India could not be held at leisure and fear of another mutiny continued to haunt the British rulers right till 1947. On the other side another subtle effect on the freedom movement if it can be called one was the fact that Indians realized that the military option was not viable and thus Indians resorted to social reform and inner regeneration to prepare themselves for the challenges of the modern era. In this regard the main contribution of educating the Indians lies with the British.

The Great Rebellion of 1857 occupies a decisive place in the history of Indo-Pak Sub-Continent. It destroyed the English East India Company and destroyed a social order which was many centuries old. It was a highly complex event and even today many aspects of this phenomenal event defy comprehension. It influenced every class and section of the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent and acted as a primer for the complex set of events which finally led to the partition of India in 1947.

There is no dearth of works dealing with the events of 1857. These cover every aspect of this great event. However invariably all works suffer from either of the following handicaps : (1) The British writers even if they don't want to unconsciously keep on presenting it as yet another example of 'How Great the British were!' They magnify the odds which their countrymen faced and exaggerate the sepoy numerical strength. (2) The historians most of whom are civilians go into unnecessary details at the cost of the essentials. They try at times to fit inadvertently adopted British actions into subtle but essentially ridiculous theoretical frameworks. (3) The nationalist historians try to glorify it and while doing that endeavour without much success to present it as a super-human idealistic effort. The fact is that this rebellion had little in common with the Congress or League. It did not have the remotest connection with the two Nation or Greater Bharat theories! (4) The Indo-Pak historians with a narrow regional approach try to project it as success of one ethnic group while condemning other ethnic groups who, in their opinion were misguided or collaborators or opportunists! (5) There is yet another class of outwardly impressive historians who are slaves of preconceived ideas they digested without much understanding at so-called elite universities in the western world. They are always attempting to submit 1857 to the servitude of tools of conceptual analysis, they learnt while studying overseas. When one sees them one is reminded about a remark which Gibbon, the great historian made about one of the so-called great universities of the western world, that the days that Gibbon had spent in that university were the most futile and barren days of his life!

1857 has been repeatedly analyzed by historians right from the year it took place. All historians or social scientists dealing with modern Indian history cannot get anywhere unless they study 1857. But then unfortunately 1857 has mostly been misunderstood. Thus correct conclusions have mostly not been drawn. Even today with so much of knowledge there are many misconceptions, half truths and sweeping judgements pertaining to 1857. For the sake of posterity it is important to remove these prevalent misconceptions and misunderstandings. This is, thus, my aim which has compelled me to make a humble endeavour to write something about 1857. Unfortunately it is an absolutely clear fact that whenever anyone belonging to the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent reads Indo-Pak history he or she finds very little which is positive or inspiring and a lot which makes one feel disgusted and disillusioned. This region is rich not only in culture but also in contradictions and paradoxes. '1857' however is an inspiring saga whether it is the 'Rebel' or the 'British' side. We see genuine, very inspiring and titanic figures on both sides struggling against seemingly impossible odds. We see genuine patriots who defied death and destruction. We see the triumph of 'Heroes' on the British side and the triumph of opportunism on the Indian side. We are tempted to be led to the conclusion that if Mangal Pandey had instead gone to the Grays or Lincoln's Inn he would have fared much better! Or if Lance Daffader Basharat Ali of 3rd Light Cavalry instead of rebelling had fought on the British side in perhaps the Hodson's Horse, may be his grandson may have become a Field Marshal in the Indian or Pakistan Army. How foolish were the sepoys of Bengal Army who mutinied! Had they remained proper their descendants may have had big Jagirs in Sargodha and Khoshab or in Rampur, Karnal, Mahmudabad or Nanpara, and would have been today's Senators! The history of India and Pakistan after 1857 till 1947 has been called 'Freedom Struggle'. But closer examination reveals that it was more of a series of debates conducted in posh drawing rooms and magnificent conference halls. Indians and Pakistanis on both sides hardly shed any blood fighting against the British but much more blood fighting for the British in two World Wars or in cutting the throats of unarmed civilians during the transfer of power year of 1947. Thus, we see politicians spending a considerable amount of energy in downplaying the Indian National Army or the Bombay Naval Mutiny just because they did not want to be robbed of the phenomenal glory of having led a bloodless freedom movement which produced more bloodshed during partition than all combined unnatural deaths in Indian history from at least 1707 till 1947! But then all this is true in general for most parts and ages of the history of mankind. Man has always struggled in vain for utopian ideals which have mostly eluded him. Every titanic struggle only took us further away from the ideals for which we had aspired but this is how history is and so far historians have struggled in vain to arrive at an all encompassing theory of history.

Intellectual disgust with absolute distortion of history in Pakistan, in the name of religion, ideology hero worship and nationalism forced me to write this book. I have no axe to grind. I have no fervent desire to project any race or religion at the cost of history. An attempt has been made to tell the whole story without manipulating bits that support one side or the other. Naturally the picture which emerges as a result of this approach cannot be smooth and highly orderly

CHAPTER ONE
THE ENGLISH EAST INDIA COMPANY'S CONQUEST OF INDIA 1757-1849

When the Uzbeks ejected Babur, the future Mughal Emperor of India from Central Asia, they knew little, what this great man or his descendants would achieve in India. The Mughal Empire was the predecessor of the British Empire in India. In between the demise of Mughals and the foundation of British Empire there was a dark period of anarchy which started from 1707 and continued almost uninterrupted till 1849 when the English East India Company conquered Punjab.

The term 'English East India Company's conquest of India' is both misleading and incorrect. The East India Company did conquer India single handedly but with the help of Indians who constituted some three fourth of their army. These Indian mercenaries were called 'Sepoys' by the British Company. An English form of the word 'Sipahi' in Urdu language which means a 'Soldier'. These 'Sepoys' were mercenaries who joined the English Company's army for a number of reasons in which the foremost one was economic necessity. The process of engaging Indians in the English East India Company's military service started in the seventeenth century. In 1600 Queen Elizabeth I granted a charter to the 'Company and Merchants of London trading with East Indies'1. 1n 1613 Jahangir, the Mughal Emperor granted the Company permission to establish a permanent trading station at Surat2. This was the start of a Company which laid the foundations of the British rule in India. The Company established its offices and factories and enrolled Indians as 'guards' or 'chowkidars' for local protection of their business premises. These 'chowkidars' were the beginning of the East India Company's Native Army3. It was cheaper to employ Indians than Britishers and thus economic necessity was as much the necessity of the Company to enrol Indians as it was for the Indians to agree to enrol. Later on regimental espirit de corps continued to gain greater importance as the Bengal Madras and the Bombay Armies gradually evolved into full time conventional armies.

Technically speaking the regular English East India Company's Native Army was established in 1748. Major Stringer Lawrence enrolled natives in Madras area in order to use them in the war which had started between France and Britain. Thus, the East India Company's native army was created basically to fight against the French. It is of interest to note that the French had started using natives as soldiers from 1676 when Francois Martin, the Governor of Pondicherry enrolled 300 native soldiers. Francois's successor Dumas enlarged this force in 1740 to some 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers, mostly Muslims armed and trained in the European fashion4.

The three main ports and trading stations of the English East India Company were Madras on the south east coast, Bombay on the western coast and Calcutta on the Bengal coast. Thus, from mid-eighteenth century all these three trading ports raised their separate Indian mercenary forces which were by late 18th century known as the 'Bombay', 'Madras', and 'Bengal' armies. These three were separate and distinct forces and were employed in their respective geographic theatres though many a times they supplemented and cooperated with each other. In the early days however the Bengal army was under the Madras administration. These three forces which later on came to be known as 'Presidency Armies' had two essential components i.e. a nucleus of European officers and soldiers which formed the core of the force and secondly a majority native component. The European were of two types i.e. one was the component known as the Royal Army i.e. troops loaned on payment to the East India Company, the second were East India Company's own European soldiers and officers, these were mostly ex-officials of the Company or mercenaries, deserters, soldiers of fortune belonging to Britain and other countries of Europe. Bernadotte who became one of Napoleon's Marshals and subsequently King of Sweden was at one time a common private soldier in Madras5! The first regiment of the Regular British Army loaned to the Company was the 39th Foot which arrived in India in 1754 6.

The Development of the Armies of the English East India Company

Robert Clive, the hero of Plassey played an instrumental role in the formation of the native component of the East India Company's Army. Thus, Clive raised the first Battalion of the Bengal Army in 1757 consisting of various Indian free booters including Muslim Pathan, Rohillas, Rajputs etc. This battalion was known as 'Lal Paltan' because its troops wore the British Red Coats. Its strength/composition was as following7:-

a. One Indian Commandant (with nominal powers), one Indian adjutant, ten Indian Subedars, thirty Indian Jemadars and 820 Indian rank and file.

b. One European captain, two subalterns, one sergeant major and ten sergeants.

Subsequently this unit was known as the Ist Bengal Native Infantry or Ist Native Infantry. It took part in the Battle of Plassey in 1757 which laid the formation of British rule in India. It was in Cawnpore in 1857 and mutinied on 4th June, 1857. It is important to note that there were hardly any Bengalis in this unit. The EEIC (English East India Company) Regiments had a wide choice of applicants who wanted to enlist and they mostly consisted of Muslims from areas west of Bihar including Rohillas, Hindustanis, Pathans, Rajputs, Hindu Jats etc8. Captain Richard Knox of the Madras establishment was Lal Paltan's first commanding officer. This was the first unit of the Company's native army to be organized on a battalion basis of the British Royal Army pattern.

Robert Clive has been described as treacherous, greedy and selfish. I consider him far superior to most of Indo-Pak leaders of even today namely for one reason. He was a brave man and served his country 'Britain' well, and laid the foundation of British Empire in India just like Mohammad Bin Qasim or Ghauri laid the foundation of Muslim rule in India! In direct contrast to Clive most of the ruling classes of India and Pakistan are descendants are those who did not play significant role in Indo-Pak freedom movement during the period 1857-1942.

Thus this was the beginning of the Bengal Army which mutinied in 1857. Following the Battle of Plassey, Clive raised another sepoy battalion. Similarly he raised six battalions in Madras in 1759. In Bombay, also the same trend took strength and units composed of Muslim Arabs, African Abbysinians, Hindustani Mussulmans and Hindu Mahrattas were raised as independent companies in 1760 and as battalions in 1767 9. Thus the sepoys played an important role in establishing East India Company as a significant power in India in a direct manner and Britain as a world power by virtue of annexation of Bengal in an indirect manner! Eminent military thinkers like J.F.C Fuller placed 'Plassey' in the list of decisive battles of the western world. At this point in time, our supposedly north of Chenab martial races had not entered the stage.

In 1764 a predominantly Sepoy army defeated the Nawab of Oudh and the Mughal Emperor in the decisive battle of Buxar which brought Oudh state i.e. half of northern India under the vassalage of the English East India Company. In this battle just about one thousand Europeans, eight battalions of sepoys i.e. about 8,000 men and about one thousand Mughal mercenary cavalry decisively defeated an opposing Oudh Army with a sizeable Durrani contingent totalling some 50,000 men10. The battle was a convincing proof that discipline, superior training and superior leadership can offset numerical superiority in battle. The East India Company's force in this battle was commanded by Major Hector Munro. It is of interest to note that this same Munro was decisively defeated by Haider Ali in September, 1780. Sir John Fortescue, the official historian of the British Army called Munro's failure in 1780 as the 'greatest calamity that had ever befallen the British arms' 11 .

1764 was a very significant year for the Bengal Army. The first major sepoy mutiny took place in this year at Manji on 8th September, 1764 when Lal Paltan mutinied and imprisoned its officers. The mutiny was, however, quickly suppressed by the British using 6th Bengal Native Infantry. Munro tried the mutineers by court martial and had 20 of them tied to the artillery guns and blown off. This was probably a Mughal punishment which the British borrowed for punishing native mutineers. The effect of this scene was such that even the European soldiers watching the punishment had tears in their eyes12. In the end 20 were executed and four were sent to another station.

Many mutinies took place in the European units during this period but these were suppressed more easily since the Europeans were afraid that native troops may be employed against them. As a matter of fact one of the European officer mutineers a certain 'Fletcher' who Lord Clive wanted to have shot in 1766 subsequently became a member of British Parliament. Later on, Fletcher again came to India as Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army 13.

The three separate armies i.e. the Bengal, Madras and Bombay continued till 1895, however the overall Commander-in-Chief , India was the Commander-in-Chief of the Bengal Army14. By 1765, the sepoy battalions were organized as Brigades by Lord Clive15. In 1779 the English East India Company employed its three forces to defeat an almost all India alliance of Indian rulers against it16. In the year 1796 the first major reorganization of the English. East India Company's armies was undertaken. At this time following was the strength of the English East India Company's Army17 :-

a. Europeans - 13,000
b. Natives - 57,000
1) Bengal Army - 24,000
2) Madras Army - 24,000
3) Bombay Army - 9,000

In the Bengal these troops were organized as :-18

a. European Artillery :- Three Battalions of five companies each.
b. European Infantry :- Three Regiments of ten companies each.
c. Native Cavalry:- Four Cavalry Regiments of six Troops each.
d. Native Infantry:-Twelve Regiments of two battalions each.

By 1805 the English East India Company had used the three armies to subjugate whole of India except Sikh Punjab and Sindh and Baluchistan. Following was the strength of the East India Company's armies in 1805 19 :-

  BRITISH / EUROPEAN NATIVE TOTAL
BENGAL 7,000 57,000 64,000
MADRAS 11,000 53,000 64,000
BOMBAY 6,500 20,000 26,500
TOTAL 24,500 130,000 154,500

During this period certain changes took place in the recruitment pattern in the Bengal Army20:

a) Till 1764 most men of Bengal Army were Muslims who travelled all the way from Oudh, Rajputana and even Punjab to join the Company's service.

b) After the battle of Buxar the Company started recruiting from the Oudh Brahman and Hindu Rajputs. Muslims were recruited but they were from 20% to 25%. The reason for recruiting more Hindus was simple. The Hindus formed the vast majority of the population of the Bengal presidency area and after 1764 the army was considerably expanded.

c) In 1774-75 the English East India Company annexed the Benares area of Oudh state. This brought more Oudh Hindu Brahman and Rajputs into the Bengal Army.

d) In 1801 the English East India Company annexed the bulk of Ganges Jamna Doab, Rohailkhand and Eastern districts of Gorakhpur belonging to the Oudh state. This region as even now contained the bulk of India's population. This annexation further increased the number of Oudh Hindu Rajputs and Brahmans.

Thus as the Company expanded westwards its recruitment pattern changed. The size of the Bengal Army also increased because after 1803 since the principal threat to the East India Company was in the north; in the shape of the Sikhs and the Afghans. Thus after 1805 the Bengal Army started becoming bigger than the Madras and the Bombay armies.

The Role of the Bengal Army in the British Conquest of India

The British employed the Bengal Army in various campaigns starting from the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The major campaigns were as follows 20a:-

a) Plassey 1757.

b) Campaign against the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam from 1758-1761.

c) Campaign against Mir Qasim from 1763-1764.

d) Campaign against Nawab of Oudh 1764-1765.

e) The First Mahratta War 1778-1782.

f) The Rohilla War 1774.

g) The Second Mysore War 1782, Third & Fourth Mysore Wars.

h) The Second Mahratta War 1803-1805.

i) The Anglo Nepalese War 1814-1816.

j) The First Burma War 1824-1826

k) The First Afghan War 1839-1842.

l) The Conquest of Sindh 1843.

m) The First Sikh War 1845-1846.

n) The Second Sikh War 1848–1849

o) The Second Burma War 1852

p) Various expeditions against the Trans Indus Frontier Tribes 1849-57.

In addition the Bengal Army also went on following overseas expeditions21:-

a) Expedition to Malaca (Malaysia) 1791

b) First Egyptian Expedition 1801

c) Expedition to Macao 1808

d) Capture of Mauritins 1810

e) Expedition to Java 1811-13

Thus the Bengal Army bore the brunt of the British wars in India from 1757 to 1857 and proved their mettle against a wide variety of races ranging from the Afghan, Sikh, Gurkha, Mahratta to the Sindhi Baluchi and Frontier tribesmen. The rationale behind listing all these campaigns is to illustrate that the post-1857 British theory that the Bengal Sepoy of the pre-1857 army were no good has no basis. The Oudh sepoy fought well without a cause whether it was Kabul or Nepal or Punjab or in the Kohat hills. Statistically more Bengal Sepoys were in British service till 1857 than Bombay or Madras Sepoys, yet after 1857 it became fashionable to brand them as poor soldiers and non-martial. Philip Mason described this state of the mind in the following words:-

'From now on, it was even more common for officers to divide the people of India sharply into two classes, good and bad, and in the good classes fell the people of the north who had come to their help during the mutiny. What had first been a tendency hardened into a doctrine. These were the martial classes, and only they would make a soldier 22.'

The illogical myths in Pakistan that Hindus are less martial or east of Jamna races are less martial are similarly baseless. But for this we do not have to go as far as 1849 since we have the example of the 1965 war!

Purely Military Mutinies in the Native Units before 1857

Mutiny has been a very normal feature in armies all over the world. Mutiny can be based on many factors, however broadly speaking a mutiny may take place due to the following broad reasons (1)Racial/religious factors like in 1857. (2) War weariness combined with class warfare as in the Russian Army in 1905 and in 1917 or in the German Navy in 1918. (3) As a protest against the behaviour of an individual commander with his troops. (4) As a protest against payment of arrears of pay or over allowances as in Bengal Army in 1841-42, or in Ahmad Shah Abdali's army after Panipat22 a . Various mutinies had been taking place in the native army ever since the Lal Paltan was raised in 1757 as we have seen in the preceding pages. There were many purely British mutinies like in 1765-66. Sir Robert Fletcher later the C-in-C Madras Army was described by Foretescue the official historian of the British Army as one 'always on side of mutiny' 23 In 1806 a mutiny took place at Vellore in the Madras Army area. This mutiny was, however, swiftly suppressed by virtue of decisiveness and resolution on part of a British officer Gillespie 24. The Vellore mutineers had planned to capture Vellore Fort where Tipu Sultan's sons were lodged. They rose at Vellore where they were on duty on 10th July 1806 and over powered the 370 Europeans. The Indians were 1500 in number. Europeans survivors took the news of this disaster to Arcot 16 miles away. Colonel Rollo Gillespie the Commanding Officer of 19th Dragoons at Arcot was a man of action. Gillespie rushed to Vellore with his troops. The rebellion was crushed after some 350 Indians were killed25. Subsequently many were court martialled and executed or awarded life imprisonment etc. The significance of this mutiny was two fold (a) The Indians were overawed due to the swiftness and decisiveness of Gillespies's measures. A proof that it is the man on the spot who matters during crisis situations and the outcome depends on the conduct of each man. It may vary from resounding success to total failure.(b) Serious reforms were instituted in the Madras Army in order to ensure that the Sepoys are not provoked into a situation where they decide that the only course open is mutiny. The Dress Regulations which had contributed to the mutiny were declared null and void. On 24th September 1806 a general order was published which prohibited any orders which lead to interference with the natives religious or social norms. The Commander-in-Chief, Madras Army was recalled 26.

Thus in 1857 not a single unit of the Madras Army mutinied. Here it is worth-examining the broad reasons which led to mutiny/rebellion in the Sepoy units- (1) Perception that religious customs or beliefs are being prejudiced or outraged. (2) For increase in pay and allowances or as a protest against decrease in pay and allowances.

Thus we see two major factors i.e. one that was connected with religion or caste and the second which had a material basis. While in Madras Army a precedent was established at Vellore which discouraged rebellion in future, in the Bengal Army a different trend was being set. In 1824 General Edward Paget, a British Regular Army Officer who was then commanding the Bengal Army laid the foundation of a chain of events which contributed a significant deal to Sepoy distrust of the British as far as the Bengal Army was concerned. Paget had taken over as Commander-in-Chief Bengal Army with no prior experience of India or the Sepoy Army. He mishandled the 47th Native Infantry over a minor administrative matter and without any visible provocation on 47th Native Infantry's part used force against them while trying to disarm them. In the process he ordered European artillery to open fire on them without prior warning resulting in killing of between 60 to 100 Sepoys. The next day he instituted a court martial which sentenced 41 Sepoys to death. All this happened just because 47th Native Infantry had genuinely complained about their knapsacks being old and torn while under orders to march to Burma. Paget's conduct was severely criticized in Britain 27. The mishandling of 47th Native Infantry was a symbolic event for the Sepoys of the Bengal Army. It increased their distrust of the British rule and definitely contributed in a way towards all that happened in 1857.

After the first Burma war, various economy measures were introduced by the Governor General Lord Bentinck. These economy measures further affected the general discipline of the Bengal Army. Several financial privileges and allowances were discontinued. Thus during the First Afghan war, the 64th Bengal Native Infantry refused to accept its pay and to advance into Afghanistan as ordered until its allowances were increased and warm clothing was issued.

After considerable persuasion however the 64th accepted its pay and obeyed the orders given to it. In February, 1844 the 34th Bengal Native Infantry and 7th Bengal Light Cavalry disobeyed orders to proceed to Sindh unless they were paid additional allowances. The British were thus forced to disband the 34th Native Infantry at Meerut28. The 4th and 69th Native Infantry also subsequently became mutinous and many of their soldiers were forcibly discharged. The 64th Native Infantry also again mutinied in 1844. The British dealt severely with this mutiny and various soldiers were executed or imprisoned. It is significant to note that the 64th had at this time just returned after having fought in the First Afghan war and was now under orders to proceed to Sindh to take part in the Sindh campaign. In 1850 the 66th Bengal Native Infantry mutinied at Govindgarh near Amritsar and was disbanded29. In 1855 Brigadier General Mackenzie, the Commander of the Hyderabad contingent was attacked and severely injured by Shia Oudh Muslims of 3rd Light Cavalry when he tried to interfere with the Tazia procession which was crossing in front of his house. Lord Dalhousie declared Mackenzie's conduct as 'indiscreet'. All these were pointers towards a general mutiny, which finally came in 1857 30 . The economic factor was well explained by a retired British Officer in his paper titled 'Mutiny in the Bengal Army' published in 1857; 'The entire army of India amounts to 315,520 men costing 9,802,235 pounds. Out of this sum no less than 5,668,110 pounds are expended on 51,316 European officers and soldiers. Moreover the European corps takes no share in the rough ordinary duties of the service. They are lodged, fed and paid in a manner unknown to other soldiers'31. The important factor which distinguished the Bengal Army from both the Madras and Bombay armies was a large percentage of Hindu Brahmans and Rajputs who had the highest status in Hindu society and who were fussy about their daily rituals and caste prejudices.

1 Page-332- Concise Oxford History of India- Edited by Percival Spear-First Published 1919-Revised Edition Oxford University Press-New Delhi-June 1957
2 Page-333-Ibid.
3 Page-326-The Imperial Gazetteer of India-Volume Four-Administrative-New Edition-Published under the Authority of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council.Oxford –Clarendon Press-1907-The Essay on the Evolution of the Indian Army in Chapter Eleven of this volume was written based on material supplied by Lieutenant General Sir Edward Collen.
4 Ibid.
5 Page-47- Sketch of the Services of the Bengal Native Army to the Year 1895 –Lieutenant F.G Cardew—Office of the Superintendent of the Government Printing-India-Calcutta-1903.Bernadotte was then a sergeant in the French East India Company's Army !
6 Page-327-Ibid.
7 Page-10- Fidelity and Honour- Lieutenant General S.L Menezes-Viking-New Delhi-1990.
8 Page-328-Imperial Gazetteer-Op Cit.
9 Pages-326, 327 & 328-Ibid.
10 Page-99-J.W Fortescue-Op Cit.
11 Page-448- History of the British Army-Volume Three-1763-1793 –Hon J.W Fortescue.Macmillan and Company London- 1911.
12 Page-195- The Decisive Battles of India-Colonel G.B Malleson-Oxford-1885.
13 Page-34-F.G Cardew-Op Cit .Pages 169, 170 & 171- Lord Clive –Sir Alexander John Arbuthnot-T.Fisher Unwin- Paternoster Square-London-1899 and Page-91 –Lieut General S.L Menezes-Op Cit.
14 Initially the Bengal Establishment was under Madras Presidency ( Page-327-Imperial Gazetteer-Op Cit).However later on the C in C of Bengal Army was also the overall British C in C in India.
15 Page-30-Lieut F.G Cardew-Op Cit.
16 Page-329-Imperial Gazetteer-Op Cit.
17 Page-333-Imperial Gazetteer-Op Cit.
18 Ibid.
19 Page-335-Ibid.
20 Page-329-Imperial Gazetteer-Op Cit. And Page-5- Lieut F.G Cardew –Op Cit.
20 a Pages-1 to12, 36 to 48, 70 to 89, 117 to 144, 145 to 198, 205 to 218, 244 to 268, 305 to 388, 412 to 499-Lieut F.G Cardew-Op Cit.
21 Ibid.
22 Page-314- A Matter of Honour- Philip Mason-Jonathan Cape -London-1974.
22 a 426- The Cambridge History of India-Volume Four-The Mughal Period –Edited by Richard Burn-Reprinted by S.Chand and Company-New Delhi-1987.
23 Page-430-J.W Fortescue-Op Cit.
24 Page-240 & 241-Philip Mason-Op Cit.
25 Ibid.Gillespie an extremely bold and dashing officer was killed in the Anglo-Nepalese or Gurkha War of 1814-16 and was buried at Meerut.
26 Political and Secret Department-L/P & S/3/3 OF 18 May 1807.-British Library-Oriental and India Office Collection.
27 Page-108 & 109-Lieut Gen S.L Menezes-Op Cit.
28 Page-113 to 118-Ibid.
29 Page117 to 122-Ibid.
30 Page 120 & 121-Ibid and
31 Page-6-Mutiny in the Bengal Army- by a Retired Officer-London-1857

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