Our History Series 11

With this Eleventh Episode of Our History Series, we are planning to exit. However, it will be prudent to remember, these are rather emotive issues and have never been told before by historians. So, let’s proceed:

The first picture is of a now forgotten Gurkha Regiment. In 1850, a battalion of Native Infantry of British Indian Army had mutinied and seized the Fort of Govindgarh. Finally an unarmed Gurkha Officer accompanied only by his water carrier entered the Fort and negotiated surrender. The regiment was disbanded but the Gurkhas took their Colours, which of course was flaming red and adopted it as their tunic. They wore the tunic seen here with great elan until 1911 when King George V came to Delhi to be crowned Emperor of Hindostan.

The map of India as drawn by Imperial Gazetteers in 1805 comes next. Look at the map of Nepal and though some areas are not accurately drawn, it is more or less authentic. When the time came for the Brits to leave their empire, they left it divided between the two warring factions of Bharat and Pakistan. In all fairness, the Brits should have restored to Nepal the areas they had arrogantly seized from while calling themselves their friend.

Third and the fourth pictures are of Bahadur Shah Zafar, upon the ashes of whose empire the Brits built their own. The first shows the Emperor in his royal attire while the next shows him in a dilapidated British prison in Rangoon, Myanmar. These two pictures are placed here to show how the Brits treated the hapless King not now, but to the contemporary citizens it was a warning what the British Power meant. Zafar was denied even the simplest of amenities, he was not provided with paper and pen, so that upon his death, a poem was found written by the Emperor on the walls of the prison cell with charcoal. This poem contains not even a hint of acrimony but his phiklosophy of his life which has been set to music by his followers. Today, yes even today, if you happen to attend any Hindustani Mussalman’s mushaira, you will invariably hear one of them sing this song, with so much feeling that makes you realize they have not ceased to be hurting in all these years.

The last Viceroy of India was Lord Mountbatten who has become more of an enigma with each passing day. He had accepted the post of Viceroy of India under a very strict condition he had set himself; that he would preside over partitioning of British India into Bharat and Pakistan within one year and not a single day more. He would return to UK as First Sea Lord on the 366th day. So, everything had to be hurriedly decided when Bharat and Pakistan were separated without much concern to facts on ground. But, after the Independence Act was promulgated, Lord Mountbatten stayed on for another year as Governor General of Bharat, the vacant post of First Sea Lord notwithstanding. It is believed, Lord Mountbatten believed deep in his heart that Bharat and Pakistan were not compatible and the Brits would be obliged to return to re-establish law and order. This is the reason why he demanded the Gurkhas should continue to serve under the Crown outside Bharat and Pakistan, whom he considered would remain loyal in the event of British return to power. He has however left no record behind of the proceedings and if he has, it has not surfaced yet.

To conclude, as the Brits themselves say, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” and that is the moral of the British Indian Empire.

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