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Saturday, 12 August 2017 11:59

From Pages of History: First Battle against British Was Fought Jointly by Hindus and Muslims - Yusra Husain

TO the of ‘Bajrang Bali, Ya Ali’ and ‘Ek pita ki dui santaan, ek Hindu ek Musalman’ (Two children of a father, one Hindu, the other Muslim), the Mohammadi and Mahaveer (Hanuman) flags were first raised in Awadh at the Battle of Chinhat in which Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Taluqdaars and farmers came together to fight the British. At a time the country’s environment is rife with communal flare-ups, June 30 marks the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Chinhat which is said to be the first organised battle the British lost to a united Indian population after their fall in Kremlin, Russia.

Historians believe the cries resonating Ismailganj—on the border of Chinhat—brought to the fore the true secular character of the country’s populace and the event needs only to be re-visited but also never forgotten. “A lot of things around the Chinhat battle were not documented by the British since they were the losers but oral history preserves several indigenous slogans coined at that time, such as the Mangal Pandey Aalah (folk song of Bundelkhand) recounts events after his martyrdom and speaks about the battlecry of ‘Ya Ali, Bajrang Bali’ that was used then,” said historian Amresh Mishra. He has also mentioned it in his book ‘War of Civilisations: India AD 1857’. “There were other slogans too such as ‘Allah o Akbar’, ‘Har Har Mahadev’ and the one that goes ‘Deen, deen, deen, Hindu aur Musalman ka ek hee deen’ referring to the righteous call of duty towards the nation being the same,” added Mishra. Several other slogans of unity filled the air 160 years ago in Lucknow. “Mohammadi and Mahaveer flags symbolising Hanuman are well documented to have been part of the battle and so was the slogan of deen,” said SZH Jafri, a history professor of Delhi University, who specialises on topics related to the uprising of 1857.

On June 30, 1857, the British tasted defeat at the hands of a band of men comprising not just the protesting soldiers but also peasants, farmers, Taluqdaars and clerics. “Nawab Ali, the Mahmudabad Taluqdaar was first to commit his forces to the uprising and with the sepoy revolt and civil unrest, the movement turned into an organised battle,” said Mishra.

What happened next baffled the British who had underestimated the Indian strength. When Henry Lawrence, then chief commissioner of Awadh, crossed over the Kukrail bridge towards Chinhat, he was met by some fighters at Ismailganj who lured the British army towards Chinhat, only to reveal a large number of natives hiding in mango groves. An organised battle was then fought and the British suffered heavy casualty, while those who survived retreated to the Residency.

Yusra Husain, TNN, June 30

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