- ‘A House for Mr. Biswas’, a novel by V S Naipaul, first ed. 1961 by Andre Deutch, Penguin edition 1992 with an introduction by Ian Buruma, pages 590, price of Indian edition Rs. 250/
This novel is considered as one of the most important novel of Naipaul. The long narrative is divided into two parts with 6 and 7 chapters in each part. Partly it is autobiographical novel and perhaps story of his father. The novel focuses upon Indian migrants life here and particularly in the transitory phase of their settling down in Trinidad & Tobago. Indian migration to Trinidad started in May 1845, this novel narrates life of first half of twentieth century, when Indians were trying to find feet in Trinidad society by becoming part of its prosperity and themselves in the process becoming prosperous. This novel also throws light on the transition from Hindi to English. It is very interesting to see that two generations passing through this transition, one Hindi speaking, but shifting to English in rather clumsy manner, the other the younger, even though Hindi was still practised in some communication at homes, becoming completely switched over to English and ditching Hindi completely. The inner culture of Indian homes was also getting transformed, from crudity to acquisition of education by younger generation and finding way to sophistication.
This is story of Mr. Mohan Biswas, as he has been described throughout the novel, a strange way of naming in English style, but this is just for Naipaul’s technique of novel, to make his novel attractive for the readers. Novel starts with Prologue and ends with Epilogue, both describing same event-death of Mr. Mohan Biswas, a Trinidad Sentinel journalist of Sikkim Street in Port of Spain. He died at the age of 46 years, leaving behind widow Shama and four children-three daughters and a son- Anand and a debt on house, which was purchased few years ago by taking loan from his uncle Ajodha. Novel moves on in its first chapter of part one from the birth of Mohan Biswas at Raghu and Bipti’s house. His parents were always quarrelling. Bipat’s father had come from India and he died in bad conditions. Mohan was born six fingered, considered an ill omen, Pundit prophessed he would eat his own father and mother. Bipti’s mother Bissoondaye thought his birth to be at inauspicious hour-at midnight. Mohan had brothers Pratap and Prasad and sister Dehuti. Throught the novel, from his birth, Mohan , named after birth is referred as ‘Mr Mohan Biswas’ or ‘Mr Biswas’, even in kid age , he is not spoken as Mohan. By some accident, trying to look for Mohan in village pond, his father Raghu dies, thus strengthening Pundit’s prophecy. Though his mother lives a long life and does not die in a way, which could be called as getting ‘eaten up’, by his ill omen born son! Pretty long narrative has been woven for 46 years life of Mr Biswas, when he dies, but this narrative brings to focus the Indian life as lived in Trinidad, a century or so ago. From a labourer family, Biswas by a chance of writing love letter to daughter of his employer gets married to Shama, employer family’s daughter to save dowry being paid. It is long story of Biswas getting though many trials and tribulations and finally becoming a journalist with ‘Trinidad Sentinel’. For few months, he becomes even Govt. Social welfare officer, but due to closure of department, he had to shift back to sentinel and few days after getting sack from there, he dies. He is always searching for house for himself or family and wants to get rid of in laws-hanuman House, which was controlled by Uncle Seth of his wife Shama. He has many sister in laws and two brother in laws. There are narration and sub narrations. On the whole it is a good novel and sociologically important to know Trinidad Indian Hindu family life. I wonder how till now this novel has not been translated in Hindi.
If one looks at the biographical details of Sir V S Naipaul, one is just stunned. Apart from being Noble Laureate, Booker prize winner, holding knighthood, how many awards he has won, how many honorary degrees he has received from Universities all over, this all can make one feel so overwhelmed that one is likely to loose one‘s habit of critical reading of the text and one may just start focusing on all the literary achievements of the author.
Despite being overwhelmed by the literary achievements of Naipaul, one needs to look at the author’s search for Indian roots, which he tried in his many trips to India between 1960 to 1990 and came out with a trilogy of travel writing –’An Area of Darkness’!1964), ‘India: A Wounded Civilization’(1977) and ‘India: A Million Mutinies Now’(1990)
V S Naipaul has by now 34 books to his credit, out of which 16 are fiction writing and 18 are in the nonfiction category. Author’s search for Indian roots is reflected in many of his fiction works as well, particularly in ‘A House for Mr. Biswas’, first published in 1961, his fourth fictional work, which brought him much fame and still one of his major work or a masterpiece. Naipaul’s travel trilogy about India was probably inspired by this novel.
A House for Mr. Biswas
This is the book, which Naipaul has himself acknowledged as ‘breakthrough’ in an interview to Patrick Marnham, published in April, 2011 issue of ‘Literary Review’. This novel is interesting apart from other things, about Trinidadian Indians transition from their mother tongues Hindi/others to colonial language English, which was forced not by colonial regime, but by the Indian parents themselves under the terrible cultural hegemony of the regime and in ignorance about the children’s capacity for language acquisition, that they could be as much competent in English, even in more languages, without ditching their mother tongues-Hindi, African or others!
After the success of ‘A House for Mr. Biswas’ in , a long narrative depicting the transitory life of Indians, who stayed back in Trinidad and were struggling to become part of Trinidad society, Naipaul decided to visit India, which he did in 1962 through sea route and spent few months in journey. Naipaul was 30 at that time, but he got established as a writer in 1957, at the age of only 25 years, with the publication of his first book, a novel-’The Mystic Masseur’.
An Area of Darkness
The very title of Naipaul’s first trip to India shows how much he felt disappointed about India. Naipaul’s perception of India was based upon some of his reading of books about India and some from listening family tales about India in Trinidad and he was curious to know and feel India, which made him take this long trip. He spent a pretty long time in different places in India, which included visit to his ancestral village near Nepal border in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.)
Wherever Naipaul went to India, he felt a sense of annoyance and irritation and his irritation makes him give graphic details of ugliness, he observed-’Indians defecate everywhere. They defecate, mostly, beside the railway tracks. But they also defecate on the beaches; they defecate on the hills; they defecate on river banks; they defecate on the streets; they never look for a cover’1.
No place in India makes Naipaul cheerful. His whole year is a journey through ‘darkness’, even visit to his ancestral village, called Dube’s village in Eastern U.P., near Nepal border, is full of irritation. This village, almost wholly of Brahmins-Tiwaris and Dubes, seems to be near Kushinagar, a Buddhist historic site near Nepal border. Naipaul’s grandfather seemed to a Dube, but Naipaul has become irreligious, he has no interest in 19 acre land of his ancestors.
India: A Wounded Civilization
After 1962 visit to ‘Dark’ area called India, Naipaul returns in 1975-76, to look the land as ‘A Wounded Civilization’. In 1962 visit, he saw the atmosphere of Indo-China war and related emergency. This time he saw Indira Gandhi’s 1975 emergency. He starts with a description of ‘Hindu’ kingdom of Vijayanagar, found in 1336 in South India, and destroyed in 1565. He moves on to Jai Prakash Narayan’s resistance to Indira Gandhi regime. He travels through Rajsthan and refers to R.K. Narayan’s novel and film ‘Mr. Sampath’ and quotes him-’India will go on’. Naipaul refers to Jaipur Maharani Gayatri Devi’s imprisonment during emergency. Second part of trilogy has better narration of Bombay’s skyscrapers and chawls and rise of Hindu fascist Shiv Sena, but Naipaul describes Shiv Sena as a ‘positive’ movement. This time he travels to Calcutta and gives details of ‘Naxalite’ movement also.
Naipaul declares many times that ‘Naxalite’ movement is ‘now dead’, yet he returns to greater details of the movement in third and last part of his trilogy. In second part of trilogy, Naipaul refers to many important literary texts of India of different Indian languages. He refers to Vijay Tendulkars Marathi play ‘Sakharam Binder’ and ‘Vultures’, U. R. Ananthamurthi’s Kannada novel ‘Samskara’, he even takes recourse to Sudhir Kakad’s psychoanalysis.
In last part of ‘Wounded Civilization’ Naipaul focuses upon Gandhi and quotes Gandhi’s mentor Tolstoy, who said in 1910, while Gandhi was in South Africa yet-’His Hindu Nationalism spoils everything’2. Naipaul’s is little appreciative of Gandhi, but about Vinoba Bhave, disciple of Gandhi, he has this bite-’ Vinoba Bhave, Gandhi’s successor, is more a mascot than a Mahatma’3.
After a gap of 10-12 years, V S Naipaul again returns to India for another long visit in 1988.This time he makes better preparation for the visit and acknowledges the helpful role of three eminent Indian journalists-Nikhil Lakshman, Vinod Mehta and Rahul Singh son of Khushwant Singh, who accompanied him in his journey partly, apart from few more personalities during his stay in Bombay, Bangalore, Madras, Calcutta, Delhi and Chandigarh. And the result of this journey is-’India: A Million Mutinies Now’, published in 1990 for the first time. His third Indian journey begins from Bombay, moves on to Calcutta, Goa, Bangalore, Mysore, Madras, Delhi, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Patiala, Amritsar and finally Kashmir again. This time India does impress Naipaul.
India: A Million Mutinies Now
V S Naipaul took extensive journey, made detailed notes, travelled many places, met more informed people and tried to analyse some of the major happenings/phenomenon of Indian society in turbulent 1980’s. Generally his impressions carry the influence of his source persons, but at places, he has tried to present his own opinions as well, with which one may not agree, but has to recognise their worth.
V S Naipaul has tried to understand the phenomenon of Dalit movement and politics in Bombay and has been in conversation with eminent Marathi Dalit writer Namdeo Dhasal, who ironically has shifted to Shiv Sena politics these days. He also met his writer wife Malika Amar Sheikh, daughter of Communist Amar Sheikh and focussed upon known fact of Dhasal-Malika personal tensions as well. He has tried to understand Dr. Ambedkar through them. In Madras or Chennai this time he goes to Periyar Tiddle to understand E V Ramaswamy Naicker or Periyar phenomenon by interviewing his follower K. Veermani. In Calcutta, he tries to understand Naxalite phenomenon, by conversing with Chidanand dasgupta like enlightened personalities. He brings to focus Charu Majumdar, the Naxalite leaders Spartan life despite being from a large landholding family.
In Chandigarh, he meets Gurtej Singh, who quit IAS to become Jarnail singh Bhindrawale’s Khalistani terrorist movement. He reproduces Kapoor Singh ICS’s story, who was dismissed from service, became MLA etc. and was fountainhead of Khalistani thought. He meets Amrinder Singh, posing himself as ‘Maharaja of Patiala’, despite Princely states and titles being abolished. He tries to feel the pinch of feudal Muslim gentry of Lucknow, who did not migrate to Pakistan and lost their privileged position after partition.
V S Naipaul in third journey finds India getting out of slumber, which he found it in during his earlier two visits. The writer himself concludes in the final chapter of the book—’What I had not understood in 1962, or had taken too much for granted, was the extent to which the country had been remade; and even the extent to which India had been restored to itself……’4.V S Naipaul does not make qualitative difference between leftist or rightist mutinies, he puts them in the same bucket, whether ‘the destructive chauvinism of the Shiv Sena, the tyranny of many kinds of religious fundamentalism’… or ‘the pious Marxist idleness and nullity of Bengal’5, in his own words. And he concludes by saying-’the mutinies were not to be wished away. They were part of the beginning of a new way for many millions, part of India’s growth, part of its restoration.’6
V S Naipaul does not make qualitative difference between leftist or rightist mutinies, he puts them in the same bucket, whether ‘the destructive chauvinism of the Shiv Sena, the tyranny of many kinds of religious fundamentalism’.7 or ‘the pious Marxist idleness and nullity of Bengal’, in his own words. He concludes by saying-’the mutinies were not to be wished away. They were part of the beginning of a new way for many millions, part of India’s growth, and part of its restoration.’9
Two decades after V S Naipaul’s third travelogue on India, the country has banged on international scene. It is a growth as desired by Naipaul. Now it is a ‘power to be reckoned with’ according to its ruling classes, it has now produced 100 plus billionaires in the world and Prime Minister of India is proud of it . Though one can’t even count how much foreign debt India has to pay-in trillions perhaps. How many millions is due in taxes from so called 100 billionaires and other multi-millionaires of India is also not on record, how much black money is stashed in Swiss banks is not even told to Supreme Court of India. V S Naipaul may be happy about this coming up of India, a great power, which after crushing left oriented ‘mutinies’ and patronising ‘rightist’ mutinies has become the blue eyed country of unipolar world power USA. Bye to non alignment romance to bygone days!
Yet the condition of Naipaul’s ancestral village, which he never felt like visiting again, even though of high caste Pundits like Naipaul family, has not changed much for the better and who cares two boots if 1/5 million (1/6th of Trinidad & Tobago population) peasants all over India have committed suicide since 1997, being in debt, as per Government of India’s own records. Let us see what Sir Vidya Naipaul’s fourth travel to India brings about through his pen or say computer!
1. Naipaul V S, 1992, A House for Mr. Biswas, Penguin India
2. Naipaul V S, 1968, An Area of Darkness, Penguin India
3. Naipaul V S, 1979, India: A Wounded Civilization, Penguin India
4. Naipaul, V S , 1997, India A Million Mutinies Now, Minerva U.K
1. Naipaul V S, 1968, An Area of Darkness, Penguin India edition, page 70
2. Naipaul V S70, 1979, India: A Wounded Civilization, Penguin Books
India, Page 154.
3. …Same…………… page 159
4. Naipaul V S, 1997, India: A Million Mutinies Now, Minerva Reprint,
U.K., page 517
5. …Same… page 518
6….Same.. Page 518
7. ………….. Same……page 518
8……………Same… page 518
9……Same … …. Page 518
Paper presented at international conference on South Asia Diaspora on 3rd June 2011 at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus, Trinidad & Tobago, West Indies.
Alvida Tejinder Gagan: It was too early to leave!
In this age of social media, news and fake news both travel so fast that one forgets even old faster modes like telegram or even long tried landline calls. On 11th July at 9.15 pm, Hindi novelist Tejinder Gagan living in Raipur after being retired as Deputy Director General Doordarshan at the age of 67 years, had heart attack and sudden collapse, attended immediately by neighbour doctor, but could not be saved. By 11 pm, the social media was abuzz with the shocking happening. It was a shocking midnight WhatsApp message in a literary group about this. As I Checked on Tejinder face book page, the message was a fact. Tejinder Gagan was part of Progressive Writers Association (PWA).
Tejinder was a friend since more than two decades. In fact I became his admirer after reading his year 1990 novel Veh Mera Chehra based on Sikhs condition during 1984 anti-Sikh riots outside Punjab and Delhi. This depiction based on Sikhs of Madhya Pradesh, where Tejinder was working, it was so sensitive and yet without any rancour with progressive humanist perspective that I wrote on the novel in Sahitya Akademi Hindi quarterly Samkallen Bhartiya Sahitya. During Gurbachan Singh Bhullar term as editor of Punjabi Tribune, I recommended publication of Punjabi translation of Veh Mera Chehra, which he happily accepted and serialized the novel in Sunday magazine of the daily. Later, Parminderjeet editor Akhar Punjabi monthly published this novel in book form, which got translated in English as well. The novel is a story of a Sikh family migrated to Madhya Pradesh for work from Punjab and was thinking of returning at the anti-Sikh turn of events in 1984, but Shaminder the main character in novel finds humanity in common people there and good and bad people among both Sikhs and non-Sikhs, he decides to stay back integrated with local people, where he was brought up in an Adivasi town Kanker, now in Chhatisgarh. This novel won him Vagishwari and MP Govt. awards.
I developed a close relations with Tejinder and met him few times in Dehradun, where he was with Doordarshan and at other places. He gifted two of his novels-Kala Azar on my birthday 27th August and Kala Padri on 10th December 2001. I collected most of his other publications too-from 1981 novel-Mijajilal to Seedhiyon par Cheetah of 2010-almost ten collections in 38 year creative period, mostly novels, one diary/memoir of Odisa Adivasi Sambalpur area-Diary Saga Saga, its preface was written by radical socialist Kishan Patnaik. I wrote review of Kala Padri novel, which impressed me with its realistic depiction of Chhatisgarh adivasis. I wrote on it in a Hindi journal, which is part of my forthcoming book on Indian novel. This novel was unique in depicting life of Chhatisgarh’s poorest adivasis with a profound human touch and a fellow Hindi fiction writer Udai Prakash described it as an ‘unprecedented Hindi novel’ in post-modern description of reality’
Post retirement from Doordarshan , Tejinder settled in Raipur, where one of his sister is also teaching in a college and brought out English journal-Untold-voice of the downtrodden-, for which he corresponded and spoke to me passionately. I contributed for the journal an article on Ghadar party as desired by Tejinder in 2013. Tejinder is survived by his wife Daljit Gagan and daughter Samira. It was too early to leave Tejinder, when you were trying to humanise society by your writings in the tough times of dehumanisation! Alvida dear friend! Your writings shall keep on enlightening the society!
On 15th July, a memorial meeting-Bhog wa held in a Raipur Gurdwara, I could not reach there, but I pay my tribute here on my blog by reproducing my two writings on Tejinder’snovels. It was too early to go Tejinder-Alvida with deep sadness!
1. अवध का किसान विद्रोह, सुभाष चन्द्र कुशवाहा ,२०१८, राजकमल प्रकाशन दिल्ली, प्रष्ठ 328, मूल्य 299/ रुपए
This is Subhash Kuhwaha’s second book on history of people’s movements, he earned laurels with his first book on Chauri Chaura and now he has come up with peasant revolts in Awadh region during 20th century in British colonial period. In the beginning author has spoken about common understanding about peasants that ‘good peasants are of docile nature’! Poor peasants also lack unity. Awadh peasant revolts also made Jawaharlal Nehru realise the reality of poor peasantry. There was spontaneous revolt of peasants in all districts of Awadh region during 1920-22. The leaders of revolt were Baba Ramchander, Chhote Ramchander, Dev Narain Dwidey, Rehmat Ali, Madari Pasi and others. Subhash Kushwaha opines that revaluation of Awadh peasant revolt is necessary so he undertook this task. He thinks that though Baba Ramchandder led the revolt, the role of Suraj Prasad or Chhota Ramchnder and Madari Pasi has been neglected. He has referred to few other studies of peasant struggles-D N Dhangere, Kapil Kumar and Sushil Srivastva’s works in English and Mahender Pratap work-Peasant movement in UP- in Hindi are referred. Book contains nine appendices which include the details of sale of eight girls between 5 to 12 years by their father or brothers in 200 to five hundred rupees to landlords in first appendix. In second appendix details of war fund given to British for world war by landlords is noted. Third appendix carries the 22 pledges of Baba Ramchander for peasants. Fourth appendix has noted the rules of Pratapgrah Kisan Sabha. Fifth appendix carries list of 65 people who gave evidence in favour of Pratap editor Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, which included Nehrus and Malviya. Sixth appendix is depiction of firing at Munshiganj Bridge. Appendix seven carries the list of 21 persons listed killed in firing at Munshiganj memorial. Appendix eight carries the official list of wounded people in Munshiganj firing and appendix nine carries the list of six dead in firing. The last six appendices are related to one incident of firing in Munshiganj. Bibliography is provided by the author. The book is well organised into eleven chapters. The first chapter focusses upon British land revenue system evolved from 22nd March 1793 after East India company had occupied most of India after 1757 Plassey war. There is reference to Jat revolts in Agra and Dhaulpur area in 1669 and 1672. Second chapter focusses upon peasant and workers revolts during British Indian period. This is a general survey of revolts at all India level like Chuad revolt during 1767-1777 of lower classes, 1770-77 Chero revolt, 1772 Sanyasi-fakir revolt led by Manju Shah. Mostly these revolts were against higher rate of land tax, which continued continuously in 1817-25, 1831, 1843, 1846 and had bigger revolt during 1855-56 of Santhals. There was forced sowing of Neel, which led to revolt during 1859-60. By 1920 end, British had laid down 35000 miles Rail lines, fourth largest in the whole world. 1917 was the year of Champarn peasant movement, which gave Gandhi a boost in Indian politics. Around 1920 there were peasant, worker revolts and alongside communal riots. With the impact of 1917 Soviet Bolshevik revolution, there were 110 strikes, participated by 25 lakh workers. By 1921, 48 labour unions had come up in Bombay. In 1921 there was Moplah revolt in south India, which took hundreds of lives. There was Bardoli peasant satygrah in Gujarat in 1927 led by Vallabh Bhai Patel. With Swami Sehjanand Saraswati appearing on scene there were number of peasant organisations coming up after 1930. In 1932, there was revolt led by Titu Mir in Barasat, there was Tebhaga and Telangana massive peasant revolts before and after partition in 1947. In this general context, author has planned to study Awadh peasant revolt of 1920-22 which include Madari Pasi led Eka movement, which became news even for London newspapers. Third chapter of book is focussed on peasant revolts in United Province (UP) prior to 1947. It gives background of Awadh which became part of UP in 1856. Awadh feudal lords were so dehumanised that in seven droughts, 15 lakh people were killed, these happened n 1877, 1878, 1889, 1892, 1897 and 1900. All kinds of oppression was there on peasants, they were subjected to Begaar, Nazrul Fourth chapter draws attention to awakening among Awadh peasants and formation of peasant bodies. In 1917, initiative was taken by Jhinguri Singh and Mahadev Singh in Pratapgarh district to form Kisan Sabha. Baba Ramchander whose real name was Shridhar Balwant Jodhpurkar was born on 28th March 1863 in Maharashtra, he was a Dakshini Brahmin and left home in childhood and came to Ujjain. He went to Fiji in 1905 at the age of 42 years as Girmitia and returned in 1916. He was in touch with CF Andrews, close friend of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1917 there was peasant association formed in Allahabad also which led to formation of UP peasant association under the leadership of P D Tandon. In Kanpur also Kisan Sabha was led by Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi in 1919. Baba Ramchander reached these areas in 1920 and got organised more kisan sabhas leading to formation of centralised Awadh Kisan Sabha in October 1920. There was a massive convention of peasants on 20-21 December 1920 at Faizabad with 80 thousand to one lakh peasants participating, where Ramchander put forward 14 point demand charter. Baba Ramchander was taken to Anand Bhavan at Allahabad and Motilal Nehru was made President of UP Kisan Sabha.
The next five chapters focus upon peasant revolts in five major districts of Awadh-Pratapgarh, Rai Braille, Faizabad, Sultanpur and Hardoi.
In fifth chapter-Peasant revolt of Pratapgarh, author gives the socio-economic data of 1901 census as out of 9 lakh population, largest population of one lakh were Kurmis, Brahmins and Rajputs were at no. two and three respectively. Awadh peasant revolt began from Pratapgarh where a mass of people got even Baba Ramchander freed from jail. Largest number of peasant organisations 20-25, here were made of lower castes by Jhinguri Singh. The impact of Baba Ramchnader returned from Fiji was at its peak during 1920-21, who was Ramkatha sayer. By June 1920, there were fifty branches of Kisan Sabhas. There were eight anti-feudal pledges which included -No to land tax, No to free labour, No to mutual clashes, Help others, no fear from police to stop oppression and trust in God. As per author’s interpretation these were very weak pledges. Pandit Nehru and Gauri Shankar visited this place in September 1920, when there was 38 hour revolt on 10-11th September. There was massive gathering of sixty thousand peasants of lower castes. Here the displacement was most cruel, agitation was against this. There was Mehta committee formed to enquire. V N Mehta was liberal Deputy Commissioner of Pratapgarh.
Sixth chapter focusses upon peasant revolt in Rai Braille, Out of 10 lakh population of district, 90% were Hindus and Rai Braille city had population of 18 thousands. Here there was extreme exploitation of lower class peasants and it led to spontaneous revolt in 1921. First violent incident occurred on 2nd February 1921. Peasants attacked Fursatganj and Munshiganj bazar. There was crowd of 8-10 thousand people. Six peasants were killed and 24 were arrested. On Munshiganj Bridge, crowed swelled from three to ten thousand, Pandit Nehru reached there despite notice to return. He addressed 3-4 thousand peasants. A feudal Veerpal Singh incited the people by firing. There was fifteen rounds of firing. Even British papers carried the news of firing. 600 peasants were arrested, situation could be controlled by 11-12th January only. Pratap edited by Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi was subjected to trial, which was defended by Hindi novelist Vrindavan Lal Verma. Moti Lal/Jawaharlal Nehru and Madan Mohan Malviya appeared as witnesses in favour of Vidyarthi ji. There were revolts in more areas as well.
Seventh chapter is focussed on Faizabad peasant revolt. Faizabad remained capital of Awadh during 1760-80. In 1921, city population was as high as eighty thousands. As per US newspaper report army was sent to quell ten thousand revolting peasants here in February 1921. It was mainly lower and untouchable castes revolt against Brahmin landlords. Revolt was led by young revolutionaries-Devnarain Pandey, Kedarnath and Suraj Prasad or Chhota Ramchander. Chhota Ramchander wished to set up parallel government. The leaders did not like each other and Congress party did not like all the leaders, who were trying to follow Bolshevik principles to organise landless hungry peasants. Abu Zafar, a cruel landlord was getting forcible poppy cultivation from peasants. London newspapers published revolts in 37 villages of the area during January 1921. There was revolt in Baskhari, 77 kilometres from Faizabad. Alopi Brahmin was a cruel landlord, on 27th January 1921, 30-40 thousand peasants gathered in Gohanna to protest. Nehru addressed the gathering in five hour long meeting. There was spirit of Hindu-Muslim unity during protest. Suraj Prasad or Chhota Ramchander was landless peasant of revolutionary nature. On his arrest there was revolt in Gosainganj railway station. There was firing on five thousand peasant gathering, no report of death but number of wounded was very high. Ahmad Khaleel was peasant leader in Akbarpur area in 1922 peasant revolt
Eighth chapter focusses upon Sultanpur. On 14th November 1920 was Kisan Sabha of Sultanpur, which got peasants from Lucknow and Gonda. There were far reaching consequences of Awadh peasant revolt which erupted due to feudal oppression patronised by colonial power.
Ninth chapter focusses upon an important Eka movement led by Madari Pasi in Hardoi district. There were Eka meetings in villages through distribution of supari. Quran Sharif and Gita-both Muslim and Hindu scriptures were kept together. Daily Mail of London described this movement in March 1922 as ‘dangerous’. There are fewer facts available about Madari Pasi, who had turned into legend. Madari was born around 1860 in village Mohankheda, tehsil Sandila. He died at the age of 70 years in 1930, there are stories of Madari meeting Bhagat Singh, but not supported by facts. There is no arrest or trial shown in British records, though Kamtanath has depicted his popularity in his epic novel Kalkatha There were more heroes of peasant revolt which was crushed by army by 1922.
Tenth chapter has focussed on creation of Gandhi myth, which was created after 1917 Champaran peasant movement. Gandhi joined 25th November 1920 ten thousand peasant meeting with Baba Ramchander. Baba Ramchander arrest on 10th February 1921 was in Gandhi presence. Swami Sehjanand Saraswati the undisputed peasant leader was disillusioned by Gandhi approach towards peasant issues.
Author highlights the fact that 70 Moplah prisoners were choked to death in goods train compartment, in this movement 3266 peasants died.
Author also refers to Dr. Manilal, who played important role in Fiji and Mauritius Indians and who was close to CF Andrews.
In the last chapter-In conclusion, author refers to Baba Ramchander’s release from jail in 1923 and his love for Congress. He faced charges of misappropriation f funds in 1924. He tried to get involved with peasant issues in 1929 again. In 1930, Jawaharlal Nehru became Congress President, but Congress avoided taking up peasant issues. Finally All India Kisan Sabha came into existence on 11th April 1936 in Sehjanand Saraswati leadership with CPI patronisation. Around same time came into existence PWA and AISF. Baba Ramchander again went to jail during 1930, 1941 and 1942. He died in 1950.
Subhash Chander Kushwaha has organised his research in chronological order using research methodology without being himself an academician or professional researcher. This book is continuation of his earlier work-Chauri Chaura which was based on 1922 incidents, this book focusses more on 1920-21 incidents, but he time span is more or less same. This study again underlines the fact that peasant movements and issues have been neglected by academicians as well as left activists. Peasantry which is the core of social change remains a periphery of left jargon despite the fact that since the ushering of British colonial regime, peasants had suffered maximum oppression and they had revolted, but in a scattered form, there had been no well organised all India level peasant revolt or movements. In west Bengal CPM could rule for 34 years just on the strength of Operation Burga, a major land reform, as was done earlier in Kerala, which still pays the left parties there. Suppressing peasant revolt in Singur and Nandigram caused the nemesis of left movement in West Bengal, which has by now slipped so much that they are losing all mass base in the state and even in adjoining Tripura.
Author has underlined the specific aspect of Faizabad’s landless peasant struggle. Awadh peasant struggle should be studied in link with Tebhaga, Telangana and Pepsu’s Mujara-landless peasant movement of 1948 led by Red Party, which was also crushed by army.
It is worthwhile study of peasant movement of Awadh.
1. Rajmohan Gandhi, ‘Punjab-A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten’, Aleph Delhi, 2013, pages 432, price Rs. 695/
It took more than a month to read this book, a good history of Punjab of about two and half hundred years. Book is dedicated to Khushwant Singh, Mubasir Hussain and Pyare Lal Nayar. It is divided into 11 chapters along with Preface, Introduction, Note, Bibliography and Index.
In Preface written in 2012 end, Rajmohan refers to his 11-12 years age in 1947, he remembers 1945 trial of three INA Punjabis-Hindu, Muslim and Sikh. He visited Lahore fifty years later for first time, where he found similarities between Lahore and Delhi. Born in 1935 Delhi, which was not Punjabi city and which almost became after 1947, though from 1858 to 1911 it was part of Punjab province. Mother Laxmi Devi of Rajmohan was C Rajgopalacharya daughter. Father was Devdas Gandhi editor HT.
References to contacts are Javed Akhtar, class fellow son of later Pakistan Prime Minister Ch. Mohd. Ali, Principal Mahndernath Kapoor, Amtus Salam from Rajpura, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Gulzari Lal Nanda and NMML Balram Nanda. From Lahore references are of Ishtiaque Ahmad book, Anarkali archives, Babar Ali of LUMS etc.
In introduction Rajmohan has answered question-Why Punjab History? In 2012, six innocent Sikhs killed by shoot out in Wisconsin. Pakistan Punjab population more than Egypt or Turkey. Punjabiyat defined by Amrita Pritam, Faiz, Manto and Khushwant Singh, Kundan Lal Sehgal, Noor Jahan, Mohd. Rafi, Nusrat Fateh < Nargis, Devanand, Rajkappor, Rajesh Khanna, Sunil Dutt. Panchnad and Panj Aaab-five rivers, Do-ab river between rivers-Chej between Chenab and Jhelum, Rachna between Ravi and Chenab, Bet between Beas and Sutlej, Bari doab between Beas and Ravi, Sindh Sagar doab between Jhelum and Sindh. Five Divisions of Punjab-Multan having Montgomery, now Sahiwal, Lyallpur now Faisalabad, Jhang, Dera Ghazi Khan, Jullundur, Ambala, and Lahore and Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi, Lahore and Multan had Muslim majority ad Jullundur/Ambala others. Book starts with 1707 demise of Aurangzeb, 1739-Nadir Shah Attack, 1758-Adina Beg Governor, 1799-1846-Khalsa raj, 1849-1947-British raj. Gandhian nationalist Congress movement failed in Punjab-1919-1947. So writer moves to the chapters.
In Bibliography the important books on Punjab history referred are-
1. Ali Imran-Punjab under Imperialism (1885-1947)
2. S M Latif-History of the Punjab, 1889 ed.
3. S M Burke-Akbar: The Greatest Moghul, 1989
4. Ishtiaque Ahmad, Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed, 2011
5. Malcom Darling-Punjab Peasant in Prosperity and Debt, 1947
6. Lepel Griffin, Punjab Chiefs,
7. Prakash Tandon, Punjabi Century
8. Denzel Ibbetson, Punjab Castes
9. H.A.Ross, Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of Punjab
10. Ian Talbot, Punjab and the Raj (1849-1947), 1988
11. Ian Talbot, Khizar Tiwana: The Punjab Unionist party and partition of India,
12. Sujan Rai Bhandar, Khulastae-Twarikh, 1696
The first chapter of the book-Punjab Until Aurangzeb’s Death-gives an overview of Punjab history from its inception. It was seat of ancient Harappan civilization. Persians ruled it in sixth century BCE and two centuries later Alexander forayed. Chandergupt Maurya-Kautilya ruled. Taxila grew as seat of learning. Panini, the Grammarian, was born in Attock in 4th century BC.
First three centuries CE, were ruled by Kanishka and Kushan , Buddhism had a sway in Punjab areas. Gupta king followed, Harshvardhan ruled in seventh century. Early eighth century Sindh was captured by Arabs. Ghazni Mahmud ran over it, resisted by Anang Pals. Punjabi old tribes included-Gakhars, Khokhars, Syals and Bhattis. Multan was business city. Data Ganj Baksh died in 1070 AD, writing Kashful Mahjub. Ghori-Prithviraj fought in Bathinda.-Aibek first Sultan and Iltutmish followed. Persian became court language. Ali Qalandar, Panipat-1209-1324,
Farming castes-Arain, Awan, Jatt, Kamboj, Rajput, Saini
Punjab Muslims mostly Sunnis
Amir Khusro poet
Jasrat Khan Gakhar stood up to Timur. Lodhis ruled, defeated by Moghuls-Babar in 1526 at Panipat. Akbar ruled for fifty years-1556-95, Lahore his third capital .Four great Sufis-Baba Farid-1266 died Pakpattan , his master Qutabdin Kaki, died in 1236, Farid disciple-Nijamudin Auliya died in Delhi 1335, Kaki master Moindin Chisti-died Ajmer 1233.
Deception, war, fratricide, murder, blinding’s of close relative rivals marked every succession in Moghul sultanate
This chapter has Sikh Gurus history as well.
Badshahi mosque built in Lahore between 1671-73, for 300 years, world‘s largest mosque..
In 1707, Aurangzeb died at 88 years in Aurangabad. Guru Teg Bahadur executed under Aurangzeb orders. Arjun Dev under Jahangir orders.
Second chapter is 1707-1757-Collapse of Authority Aurangzeb 63 year old son Muazzam, known as Shah Alam or Bahadur Shah1, proclaimed himself as emperor at Aurangzeb’s death. Challenged by two brothers, defeated/killed. 38 year old Kashmiri Rajput became Madho Das Bairagi and in 1708 Guru Gobind Singh turned him into Gurbax Singh , who became known as Banda Bairagi. Guru stabbed by Afghan Jamshid Khan, related to Sirhind Nawab Wazir Khan. In 1709, Banda descended on Samana with his forces and massacred 10 thousand plus Muslims in the town. Some other killed Wazir Khan too and razed Sirhind to ground. Banda took wife from hills and held on in Lohgarh, later sixty six year emperor Bahadur Shah, whose mother Bai Begum was Punjabi, tried to locate Banda, who hid in hills.In June 1716 Banda and thousands Sikhs executed, tortured badly in Delhi, near Qutab tomb, four year old son of Banda also killed. 18 year old Muhammad Shah was installed as emperor in 1719, who ruled for 3o years. Guru Gobind Singh companion Bhai Mani Singh took care of Golden Temple affairs. Governor Samad Khan moved to Multan, his son Zakariya took over and fought Sikhs. Jat Raja Suraj Mal ruled near Delhi in 1722, Zakariya Chief Minister was Lakhpat Khatri, who served his father too. Iran ruler Nadir Shah raided Punjab in 1739, executed 1007 prisoners, Delhi citizenry to the extent of 20 thousand massacred. Nadir attack in Sikh history is known as Chhota Ghallughara. Bulle Shah born around 1680, Adina arose around 1710, became Adina Beg Khan, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia confronted him. Afghan Ahmad Shah Abdali made ten invasions of India, from 1748. By 1757, Moghul authority ceased to exist in Punjab. England’ East India company got trading licenses in Surat 1612, Bombay 1638, and Madras 1639. From 1690, they held Fort William fort Calcutta. By 1757, Britain obtained Bengal, Afghans annexed Punjab, Sindh and north west, Punjab had no ruler. Chapter 3-1757-1799: Adina Beg Khan, Afghans and Sikhs.
Abdali 11 year old son Timur given authority. Sikh chief Ala Singh of Patiala entrenched forces in Sirhind town. 2 lkh Maratha forces got support from Sikhs, Adina celebrated Maratha victory in Lahore on 12th April 1758, Adina Beg conferred Nawab title by Raghunath Rao. British defeated French in Buxar in 1757, by 1764, East India Company claimed revenue of Bihar and Odisha as well. Shah Alam2 was recognised as emperor in Delhi, but without power. First Sikh rupee minted in name of Jassa Singh in November 1761, withdrawn quickly. Abdali stayed in Punjab to subdue Sikhs in 1762, Hindu Kabul Mal made Lahore Governor .Ala Singh bought Sirhind ruins for 25 thousand rupees. Abdali invaded again in 1766. Sikh Misals and not Punjabi Muslims filled the power vacuum. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, Gujjar Singh Bhangi and Charhat Singh Shukarchakia like warriors resisted Afghan attacks. Racially Punjabi Sikhs and Muslims were same, both had farming profession. Sikh rural society was more egalitarian. In same period in South 1760-90, father-son duo-Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan defied British rule in Mysore.
Quest for power in Sikh misals increased. Maha Singh Shukarchakia led missal after death of his father Charhat Singh, it dominated other misals. 18 year old Ranjit Singh succeeded his father Maha Singh as Shukarchakia missal chief. In 1799, Zaman Khan forced to leave Lahore and Ranjit Singh occupied it.
Chapter four-1799-1849-Ranjit Singh and his successors.
Born in Gujranwala or close to Jind, his Nana of Kanhaiya missal was Jind chief. With pit of smallpox on face, Ranjit had dark skin, and short in stature, left eye blinded, never learnt to read or write. Ugly looking Ranjit loved horses, married Mahtab Kaur daughter of Sada Kaur of Kanhaiya missal, he took another wife Raj Kaur from Nakai missal. Willing to become king at early age, earlier Ala Singh was designated king by Abdali. Kharak Singh was his first son from Raj Kaur. Wishing to be people’s monarch, Ranjit sat in a chair or on a carpet, while giving audience to people, not sitting on a throne. His govt. was called Khalsa Sarkar and court as Khalsa Durbr ith clear Hindu-Sikh imprint. Paid homage at two mosques-Badshahi and Wazir Khan Masjid. City kotwal was Muslim.
East India company ruling from 1750 onwards by 1800, took over much of India, including South with killing of Tipu in 1799. A rogue adventurer George Thomas proclaimed himself as ruler of Hansi in 1797. Ranjit Singh engaged Sufi Fakir Azizudin Bukhari as minster and confidant. French mission also had diplomatic engagement with Ranjit. Kangra ambitious king Sansar Chand gave some territory to Ranjit mother-in-law Sada Kaur. Ranjit triumphed Amritsar and more territories. In 1802, three year old Kharak was betrothed to Kanhiya girl and Ranjit fell for attractive Muslim courtesan Mohran, whom he apparently married and got a coin in her name.
Agreement with Fateh Singh Ahluwalia and British, kept away from Jaswant Rai Holkar. In 1807, twins born to Mahtab-Sher Singh and Tara Singh, rumour galore, but Ranjit attached to Sher Singh. In 1809, Ludhiana became British controlled, Union Jack flown. In 1818, Multan brought to knees, Sawan Mal made governor. Kapurthla king Fateh Singh Ahluwalia also subdued, who tried get British support, failed and went ton knees to Ranjit, got back and died in 1837. In 1821 biggest wins-Kashmir, Multan and Peshawar, annexed hill states of Bilaspur, Chamba and Kullu. In 1831, Ranjit ruled over 14-15 million people out of which Sikhs were only 1.5 million or so, just 12.5%. Persian was official language of Khalsa durbar.French military officers in Ranjit army. Hari Singh Nalwa, governow of Peshawar moved closer to Kabul in 1834, died in war. In 1837, seventeen year old Victoria became queen of England. Kunwar Naunihal Singh, son of Kharak Singh and grandson to Ranjt grew..Ranjit died on 27th June 1839, four of his Ranis including Raj Devi daughter o Sansar Chand of Kangra and seven slave girls mounted funeral pyre with him. Ten years later Sati was banned by British. Kharak Singh anointed King. Some wanted his son Naunihal to be king. Crowning ceremony on 1st September 1839 by Dhian Singh, Chet Singh was murdered On 5th November both Kharak Singh and Naunihal died, Khark of disease(poisioned) and Naunihal in accident. Six princes in line for succession-Sher-Tara twins, Sada Kaur grandson in 30’s Peshaura, Kashmira and Multana in 20’s and two year old Duleep from Rani Jindan, youngest wife of Ranjit. 9th November 1840 Sher Singh proclaimed king. Chand Kaur widow of Kharak wanted to act a Regent and Naunihal son in his wife’s womb to be proclaimed king. Gulab Singh with Chand Kaur. Army divided. Dhian Singh manipulated abortion of Naunihal child and murder of Chand Kaur. Sandhawalias switched to Sher Singh and then killed him on 15th September 1843. Sher Singh son Pratap was also killed simultaneously by Sandhawalias. Dhian Singh also killed. Dhian Singh widow demanded Sandhawalias heads before cremation of Dhian Singh, got next day of both Lehna and Ajit. All burnt together including widow going on pyre. Dhian Singh son Hira became Sher Singh faction leader. Six year Dalip named king, Jindan Regent and Hira became wazir. Hira and his uncle Gulab tried to kill Princes Peshaura and Kashmira, as his other uncle Suchet claimed wazir seat, he was also killed by Hira. Pandit Jalla made insolent remarks on Rani Jindan and Hira/Jalla and 1000 army all killed. By 1845, 1 lakh 20 thousand military was costing 50% more than in 1839,
Jindan brother Jawahar, Fakir Nurudin, brother of late Azijudin and Diwan Dinanath ran show. Prince Peshaura revolted killed at Jawahar order then Jawahar killed and his four wives mounted pyre, cursed end of Khalsa raj.Two wars with company in 1845-46 and in 1848-49 extinguished the raj.
Ranjit Singh in his regime took no life. Company lost in Afghanistan got compensated in victory of Sindh in 1843.Dalhousie became governor-general in 1848. Lal Singh and Tej Singh of Khalsa army betrayed to hand over Khalsa raj to British. Gulab Singh made wazir, war in Sabraon Sham Singh Attariwala the hero of defeated Khalsa army, 10 thousand Sikhs and 2400 Britishers killed in Sabraon war on 10th February 1946, Gulab Singh rewarded with Jammu state, Dalip Singh now eight became protectorate of British. Rani Jindan removed as Regent, banished from kingdom. Shah Muhamad Jangnama..Punjab and Hind warring parties..Chillianwala on 14th January 1849, worst defeat of Britishers loosing 3000 men. On 13th March 16000 Sikh army laid down arms. On 29th March ten year boy king signed document renounced kingdom, all property including Kohinoor jewel. All of Punjab annexed that day. Dost Muhmmad ceded Peshawar
British had four armies in India. Smallest was purely British ‘Queen’s regiment’, other three racially mixed ‘presidencies’ armies of Bengal, Bombay and Madras. In 1840, three armies contained 40 thousand whites and two and half lakh Indians. No white served under any Indian and the highest paid Indian earned less than lowest paid Britisher. More than half of Bengal army had high caste Hindus from Awadh, 1/3 Muslims from UP/Bihar.
Chapter Five-1849-1859-British Punjab and the 1857 Rebellion
Mogul ruled Punjab 156 years from Akbar’s 1556 to Shah Alam2 till 1712. Zakariya Khan, Mir Mannu, Adina Beg ruled during 18th century. British ruled 1846/49 to 1947 101/98 years. In 1848, Dalhousie was replaced by Hardinge as Governor General. Cornerstone of British rule-DC-Deputy Commissioner. Henry Lawrence/ John Lawrence two brothers. 1853-John Lawrence named Chief Commissioner of Punjab. 1857 Punjab had 36000 sepoys, by the end of revolt they had 58000 men, 11000 Europeans, 24000 Muslims, 13000 Sikhs and 10000 Hindus. Cooper got shot hundreds near Ajnala, 40 blown by guns in Peshawar, 870 shot in Jamrud. Gogena’s Ahmad Shah Kharal roused tribes against British, killed. Insurrection ended by November only, but 19 year old Duleep did not condemn revolt. Between May and 20th September 4000 British side killed, before Delhi was back in British hands. On 21st September Hodson brought Zafar, his wife Zeenat and son Jawan Bakht and imprisoned.. . Next day Hodson arrested from Humanyu tomb and shot dead three princes-Mirza Moghul, Mirza Khizr Sultan and Mirza Abu Bakar, twenty one other Moghul scions were hanged in few days and Moghul dynasty wiped out. Blood thrust had free paly in recaptured Delhi. In March 1858, a military court condemned Bahadur Shah Zafar to exile and life imprisonment, they were taken to Rangoon, where Zafar died in 1862, just four years later. In March 1858, Sikh soldiers plundered Lucknow. Nana Fadnavis and Hazrat Mahal ran to Nepal, never caught. British Parliament abolished Company rule and Queen Victoria assumed direct control,, Governor general became Viceroy. In February 1859, military rule ended in Delhi and it was made a district of Punjab.
Chapter six- 1859-1919-Imperial High Noon
Post 1857, British rulers decided-
• Separate Christianity from British rule
• Recognise aristocrat sensitivities
• Rule Punjab and India as superior race
• Focus on better quality of life through roads, railway, post/telegraph, canals., hospitals, education, law courts
• Cultivate farmer
• Recruit new soldiers ,keep them away from big weapons
• Make soldier agent of Empire in villages.
This strategy art of 1858 queen proclamation.
Canals built during 1860-1920 brought ten million acre land under irrigation. Schools/ educational institutions opened Lahore Govt. College in 1864. By 1900, Punjab supplied half of combatants of entire Indian army. Biggest grant to Baba Khem Singh Bedi from Nanak clan for canal colony in Montgomery
1907 land colonisation bill brought rebellion in Punjab. Ajit Singh, Lala lajpat Rai, Banke Dayal song. Umar Hayat Khan MLC also protested
Duleep and Harnam Singh Ahluwalia of Kapurthla converted to Christianity. Namdhari suppression, Singh Sabha and Dayanand Saraswati Arya Samaj movements, Qadian’s Mirza Ghulam Ahmad founded Ahmadiya sect. 1881 launch of The Tribune in Lahore. Punjab Muslims inspired by Syed Ahmad Khan-1817-98, founder of Aligarh’s Anglo Oriental college in 1875.
Sir Ganga Ram-1861-1927 talented civil engineer, built Lahore, Amritsar Patiala historic buildings. Rudyard Kipling English poet lived in Lahore for five years-1882-87 as assistant editor of Civil and Military gazette. , father Lockwood Kipling founder curator/Principal of Lahore Museum/Mayo arts college. By 1905, Punjab had 263 journals/papers published. Contrast between Bengal and Punjab-Bengali common language with script of all Bengalis-Muslims and Hindus, Punjab-divided in Hindu-Hindi, Sikh-Punjabi/Gurmukhi and Muslims-Urdu. In 1909, first Bengali/Indian VC of PU Lahore P C Chatterjee tried for Punjabi to be language of instruction, failed. 1881 Multan ban on cow slaughter demand. Punjab communal situation worsened in March 1897, 40 year Arya Samajist Lekh Ram stabbed to death. DAV College Lahore started in 1888, Islamia College in Lahore in 1892 and Khalsa College in Amritsar in 1892. Lord Curzon 1859-1925 pushed land alienation act, he split Bengal into two in 1905-divide and rule policy given shape. Most of the Muslims in Bengal were happy at separate Muslim majority province. Shimla interaction of 1st October 1906, 35 member strong Muslim deputation led by Agha Khan. All India Muslim League founded in Dhaka on 30th December 1906. Bengal partition annulled in 1911 for 36 years only. Bihar, Orissa and Assam became separate provinces. Undoing of Bengal partition shocked Muslims in Bengal and elsewhere in India. Muhammad Ali Jinnah joined Congress in 1906-1876-1948. In 1908, Jinnah defended Tilak in court, his closest friend was Gokhale. He won Muslim seat in assembly in 1909, he joined Muslim League in 1913. In 1916-Congress-League pact first time after 1857, demanded common things. Maulana Zafar Ali-1873-1956, editor Zamindar-foremost Urdu daily of Punjab. . Mohd. Ali’s English Comrade and Urdu Hamdard both from Delhi, Maulana Azad’s Al Hilal from Calcutta all opinion makers. Mohd. Iqbal- Turkey’s Khilafat issue was in centre focus. Fazal Hussain, Punjab Congress President and General Secretary of Punjab Muslim League.
Out of 683149 combatants recruited in 1914-18, sixty percent 349688 were from Punjab. Titles given to Sir-Umar Hyat, Sir Khem Singh Bedi, Rai Saheb Chhotu Ram.
Reference to Hardyal and Ghadar movement in Half page, ends with Gandhi’s rise.
Chapter seven-1919-22: Together for Freedom
Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915, in 1917, Champarn Satyagrah took place. Following year Textile workers in Ahmedabad and Kheda farmer’s demands. Gandhi turned fifty in 1919 was aiming for deeper Hindu-Muslim alliance. He befriended Delhi’s Hakim Ajmal Khan, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari who was league President in 1918. Rowlett act made a strong movement, Jallianwala happened. Between 10th and 13th April, British writ did not run in Lahore. On 11th April, 35 thousand strong rally with 2/3 Muslims held at Badshahi mosque. Swami Shrdhanand 1856-1926, Munshi Ram-both friends with Charles Andrews. Shradhanand became famous with baring chest on 30th March 1919 to be shot during Delhi protest.
August 1921, Moplah protest in Kerala, February 1922-Bardoli satyagraha in Gujarat, Chauri Chaura occurring in February 1922, Gandhi withdrew non-cooperation Satyagrah, inviting seventy page indictment from Lala Lajpat Rai, who acknowledged that during 1919-21-Hindu-Muslims were fairly united.
Chapter 8-1922-42: Collaboration and Separation Call
Unionist party raised in 1923-Fazal Hussain and Chhotu Ram energies combined for interests of Punjab landed peasantry. Elections in 1923 gave clear majority to Unionist party in legislature assembly. Lala Lajpat Rai, member of Central assembly, writing in The Tribune in November/December 1924 proposed Punjab/Bengal partition in Muslim and Hindu Majority portions. Many Congress Hindus moved to Hindu Sabha. After 1926 elections, Manohar Lal, Cambridge educated became education minister. Fazal as revenue minister tussled in 1928 for Land revenue act. In December 1926, Shradhanand for his Shudhi movement was stabbed to death in Delhi by a Muslim, In 1927 publisher Rajpal acquitted by court for publishing pamphlet on prophet Mohamad. Later killed by Ilm din in December 1927, who was hanged in October 1929.
RSS formed in 1925 ith Maharashtra Brahmin group initiative.
During 1927-29, Fazal influenced Delhi privately through men like Feroze Khan Noon, Sikandar Hyat Khan, Chaudhary Zafarulla and Ahmad Yar khan, from 1930, he had direct influence through Viceroy council member. Bhagat Singh story is wound up in just two pages-304/305, showing of no consequences. Only information worthi afer Jatin Das death in hunger strike Gopi Chand Bhargav and Dr Mohd Alam resigned from Punjab council.
In 1931 agitation for democratic rights in Kashmir aginst Hari Singh by Muslim peasant did not get Congress support. A Simon commission gave 18% seats to Sikhs in Punjab council as against 30% demand, Dr. Satya Pal did not protest with Sikhs alienated from Congress party. In 1930, Iqbal expressed separation wish and in 1933, Chaudhary Rehmat Ali drafted Pakistan demand, he was born in Balachaur of Hoshiarpur district. P-Punjab, A-Afghania or North West-Kashmir, S-Sindh and Tan-Baluchistan. Bhai Parmanand wanted Hindu majority area of Punjab to be joined with Delhi or UP!
After 1937 elections, Sikandar Hyat Khan succeeded Fazkl Hussain, Jinnah-Sikandar pact was formed Out of 175 Punjab seats, Muslim league won only two, Congress got 28, Hindu Sabha 11, different Sikh groups 24, independents 19. Unionist party wining 95 seats formed govt under Sikandar Hyat with Chhotu Ram, Manohar Lal, Khizar Hyat, son of Umar Hyat Tiwana as minister. In 1939 Congress ministries resigned against war situation, Jinnah and Ambedkar celebrated 22nd December as Deliverance day. Khalistan was demanded by Sikhs in 1940. In March 1942 Cripps came to India called Cripps mission for India’s future plans. Congress rejected his federal structure plan proposal, Jinnah was willing to accept. Rajgopalacharya wanted agreement with empire and Muslim League. SIKANDAR Khan died on 26th December 1942 at 50 years only.
Chapter Nine: 1942-47: Independence and Trauma
Sikandar succeeded by 43 year old Khizar Hyat Khan as Punjab Premier. Within Unionist party, he faced lot of problems, many siding with Jinnah. Nawab Mamdot’s residence was Jinnah abode during his Punjab visits. Chhotu Ram died in 1945. A leftist Punjab Congress chief Iftikhardin went over to League. In 1945-46 elections Muslim League won 75 of 86 seats in 175 member house. Congress got 55, Sikhs and Unionist party 21 each. In March 1946, Khizar Hyat became Premier again with Congress and Akali support, taunted as Sardar Khizar Singh.
On 15th March 1946, Premier Attlee told British parliament to leave India. Stafford Cripps with Pethik Lawrence sent again for future plans. All three spent three months in India, proposal of three tier India with fedral structure. Jinnah was ready to accept, but Nehru-Patel rejected. It was called 16th May scheme. On 6th June League formally accepted. Nehru replaced Maulana Azad as Congress President. Interim Govt. under Nehru took shape, Liaqat Ali Khan joined as finance minister from League. Baldev Singh, defence minister, Patel home. Raja Ghaznafar Ali another Punjabi but league representative in cabinet. Jinnah direct action call for 16th August caused tensions. Khizar wanted independent multi-faith independent Punjab, day dream was late many a year, nor pursued by Khizr. Both Bengal and Punjab feebly tried for independent status, both failed. Master Tara Singh unleashing his sword at the gate of Punjab assembly brought destruction in communal flare up. Labh Singh killed while pacifying in Jullundur. Saifudin Kitchlew stripped to see being a Muslim. Raj reluctant to check violence, even though Jinnah asked for shooting rioters, even if Muslims. Gandhi became back number since 1945. 3rd June plan by Mountbatten more devastating, to leave before June 1948, but left in three months! RSS involved in Hindu attacks in Lahore lesser than Muslim guards. Punjab Boundary force under T W Rees od-f 9 thousand soldiers was incapable of controlling riots. On 14th October two Punjab’s decided to exchange their minorities formally.
Chapter Ten: Insaniyat amidst Insanity
There are ample examples of humanity as happens everywhere in the world. Rajmohan noted some, but can’t be all. Ahmad Hayat Khan of Sargodha, Ch. Mohd Hayat of Gujrat. Three part report of Lahore visit published in The Tribune.
Chapter 11-Divided Punjab and the future of Punjabiyat
Reference to literature of Amrita Pritam, Faiz, Manto etc. During 1955-57, Dr. Khan Saheb functioned as Chief Minister of single West Pakistan, then he was assassinated. In 1969, old provinces came back. Saraiki movement referred. APNA website referred, focus on promoting Punjabiyat.
While reading it appeared good book, during taking notes, looked weak in presentation of historic facts and interpretation also not very objective. But there is a sense of objectivity and non-biasedness.
On 21st April, it will be 25 years of Principal Sujan Singh’s departure from this world. A two-day national seminar on this occasion is being held at Punjabi University Patiala by Kendri Punjabi Lekhak Sabha, of whose Sujan Singh was himself President once. I had a pleasant association with him in his lifetime, though not very close. He had visited our Baradari Garden house once with his close friend Kartar Singh Sumer, a frequent visitor at Baradari Patiala. He also presided over first Kavita Divas in memory of revolutionary Punjabi poet Pash on 9th September 1989, organised by Paash memorial international trust. This grand function was co-chaired by Hindi progressive writer Nagarajuna and revolutionary Jaidev Kapoor, now all three are not in this world. At one time I wished to translate Sujan Singh stories in Hindi, as well as of Kulwant Singh Virk and Gurbachan Bhullar’s, also the poetry of Navtej Bharti. I could not do it but did translate one of Sujan Singh story Rajai in Hindi. Sharing few of his photographs here.
A Century of Jalianwala Bagh Massacre
These are some photographs of this historic place, where on 13th April, 1919,General Dyer killed hundreds of Indians, who had gathered to protest against British oppression
It was on 13th April 1919, Baisakhi day that General Dyer had killed hundreds of people from Amritsar and surrounding areas, who had gathered to listen and protest against Rowlatt Act, an oppressive legislation being enacted by British colonial regime of that time.It all started from with the ‘Sedition Committee’ report prepared under Rowlatt itself and published in 1918, which listed the revolutionary(terrorist in British terms) nationalist movements of the country at that time.Starting from the killing of cruel British officer Rand in Pune, after the outbreak of plague in 1897, the report has listed Bengal division and revolutionary activities of Anushilan and Jugantar in Bengal, Ghadar party in Punjab etc. and recommended strict laws, so accordingly Rowlat act was prepared.Nationalist movement resisted throughout the country and in Punjab, after a strike of 30th March, when Mahatma Gandhi was not allowed to enter Punjab, the situation became explosive.British deceitfully arrested Dr. Saifudin Kitchlew and Dr. Satya Pal on 10th April, invited to his office by the Deputy Commissioner for discussion, leaders of the movement. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, showing exemplary unity, drank water from same glasses and took food together and gathered in Jallianwala Bagh, adjoining Golden Temple on 13th April 1919.It has a narrow gate even today this area is a congested residential area.When Hans Raj, an activist was addressing, around 5 p.m. in the evening, Gen. Dyer, who had encircled the Bagh from all sides and closed the only exit gate ordered fire straight on the bodies of people.One can imagine the scene. British Government of the day with Punjab governor O’Dwyer at that time, itself first admitted 291 deaths, later in Hunter commission inquiry in London admitted more than 300 killings.Despite hue and cry all over the world, Hunter Commission gave no punishment to Dyer, however, he got afflicted with so many diseases that he did not survive beyond 1927 and died on 23rd July that year, as per his family, he died of ‘heartbreak’.Nigel Collett, his biographer, gave the title of his biography-‘The Butcher of Amritsar’-General Reginald Dyer, this was published in India by Rupa in 2005.
Congress party, which instituted its own enquiry committee on this ghastly massacre, could start functioning only in November 1919 and as per its voluminous report in two parts, republished by National Book Trust and Nehru Memorial Museum and Library New Delhi, assesses more than one thousand deaths.Sewa Samiti Amritsar of that time insisted that they had cremated more than 500 bodies, the substantial number of Muslims and Sikhs remained outside its count.Now Govt. of India has assigned ICHR to have the count of deaths.Punjab Govt and some others have got names of more than 400 persons on record.Raja Ram in his Punjab University Chandigarh publication has listed 381 names in 1969 first edition of his book. Ram Singh Majitha has listed 406 names of martyrs in his Punjabi language publication in 1988, this includes 200 plus Hindu names,80 plus Muslim names and 120 plus Sikh names, including two women.One can very well imagine that how Punjabi society in 1919 was integrated at the religious level, later developments have made it disintegrate, leading to its tragic division, against the wishes of common people.
Jallianwala Bagh massacre was seen by Udham Singh, who was 15 or 16 years at that time and was in an orphanage in Amritsar, it is he, who avenged the massacre in 1940, full 21 years later in London, by shooting Micheal O’Dwyer, Governor of Punjab in 1919.The hated Dyer was already dead in 1927.Udham Singh was executed on 31st July 1940 in London.Jallianawala Bagh was also visited by 12-year-old Bhagat Singh, who was a student at Lahore in those days and he brought the bloodstained earth from the Bagh, which is still preserved in Bhagat Singh memorial museum at Nawanshehar, now called Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar in east Punjab.
In today’s Punjabi tribune magazine, a full booklet of the long poem written by famous Punjabi novelist Nanak Singh at that time under the title-‘Khooni Baisakhi’ has been reproduced.This was perhaps first Punjabi publication, which was proscribed by British government at that time. I wish that ‘Sanjh’. ‘Pancham’ or other Punjabi journals in Pakistan transliterate in Persian script and publish it there.It is really moving poem.
in a seminar on Dr.Ambedkar, held in Lahore by Sir Ganga Ram foundation on 13th April 2007, I had started my address by saying that ‘ as the earth of Lahore is pious for me or other Indians, because it has the executions of Bhagat Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha and so many other revolutionaries in its jail, now demolished, so is Amritsar pious for Pakistanis, as the blood of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs was shed together here on 13th April 1919’.The audience got so emotional that so many people hugged me after the programme was over.Now every incident of police brutality in India is called-‘another Jallianawala bagh’, such as the symbolic value of that place.India, Pakistan and Bangla Desh should commemorate Jallianawala Bagh every year jointly, as it is part of their joint tradition of struggle for freedom, as was 1857 revolt, which unfortunately has been commemorated separately by all three in its 150th anniversary in 2007.
my warmest congratulations on the publication on this important subject. I was interested to read of the role and case of Bhagat Singh, who sought to avenge a brutal and tyrannical act, one of many of British imperialism, for which a proper historical accounting has never been rendered,
Best wishes for 2014!
My tributes to dedicated Jamaican scholar activist Norman Girvan
Norman Girvan passed away in Cuba at the age of 72. He fell from a mountain extridition in Dominica in early 2014 and was taken to Cuba for treatment. I was hoping he would recover, he did not. We both felt sorry for not meeting each other at The University of West Indies, St. Augustine in Trinidad, where he was Professor Emirtus and I was visitng Professor in year 2011. We got connected through mail and social media and he wished to post my article on his bloghttp://www.normangirvan.info/- published in Trinidad Guardian in October 2011, for which I had to face the adverse action by Indian High Commission of that time in Port of Spain, who was my paying master, being on deputation from ICCR. He published my article in full, including one part, which was not published by Guardian, he gave even better title to the article_
Later we remained in correspondence, which I am sharing here to remember him fondly
I wrote him with others:
Some of you know the name of Rahul Bhattacharya, I myself was mentioned about him here in Trinidad by some local friend. While I have not read the novel, but The Hindu, the most prestigious English daily of India, has conferred its first ever literary prize to the young writer, among his competitors were many literary giants. I hope my Caribbean friends will be happy at this, one of most prestigious award from India on writing based on Caribbean life.
He replied:Dear Chaman, this is indeed a great honour for the Caribbean and the Indo-Caribbean connection. I would love to have a copy of the Citation and of Bhattacharya’s acceptance speech, to post on my blog. Can you help?Best wishes, Norman
Norman Girvan email@example.com
Good Morning Prf Lal,in yesterday’s Trinidad Guardian there is a reference to your articles on Indentureship which were published on Ocrobe23 and 24 2011. Would you be able to send copies of same?Thank you, Norman
On 26 April 2012 14:15, chaman lal wrote:
How colonial UK and neo-colonial US have committed worst fascist crimes against humanity, one can see here!Guyana popular leader Dr. Cheddi Jagan was toppled and was not allowed to be in power for two decades. His book ‘The West on Trial’ also lists the crimes of US-UK
Chaman Lal firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Norman Girvan,
I probably may be having links to my Trinidad Guardian articles,but I am interested to know in what reference the articles have been mentioned.Article is probably available on TT Guardian website also.
Norman Girvan email@example.com
Hi Prof,it was mentioned in a letter to the Guardian on Tuesday saying you had denounced the celebration of Indian Arrival Day and the exploitation of Indian indentured workers by the imperialists. I searched the Guardian website and couldnt find your articles. If you have the links please send. I would like to read and possibly post on my blog, www.normangirvan.infoToo often people forget that Indians and Africans were both the victims of the same forces. The historical similarities need to be recalled in view of the present politically motivate divisions in the society.Norman
Here are the links of the paper, which has published my article in two installments, on the basis of which ,I am sought to be persecuted.
Chaman Lal firstname.lastname@example.org
This is Pandit Priag Sooku letter,I just checked.At least there are people,who appreciate rational views!
Thanks and regards
Professor & Former ChairpersonCentre of Indian Languages, JNU, New DelhiFormer President JNU Teachers Association(JNUTA)
Norman Girvan email@example.com
Prof Lal,thank you very much. A very informative and thought-provoking perspective.I agree that in the same way that African-descendants celebrate Emancipation Day it is appropriate for the Indo-descendants to celebrate the Indentureship Abolition day which was a victory coming from years of struggle. It seems to me that the main point about celebrating Indian Arrival Day is to validate the presence of East Indians and their descendants in these societies and their contribution, in spite of prejudice and policies of social and political exclusion by the colonial authorities. I suspect that both events should be marked (Arrival and Abolition) each being given their own significance.
I am really happy that you made the point about Walter Rodney too. In fact the main reason he was assassinated is that he was threatening to succeed in forging a Working People’s Alliance between the African and the Indian workers. His book on How Europe Underdeveloped Africa has just been republished by Pambazuka Press.
By the way I am not sure if you meant to imply that Spartacus was a Caribbean slave rebel leader; of course he was not but I think led a slave rebellion against the Roman Republic in the 1st Century BC. Famous slave uprisings in the Caribbean were led by Bussa (Barbados 1816) Cuffy (Guyana 1763) and Sam Sharpe (Jamaica 1831), and Nanny of the Maroons in Jamaica led successful Maroon wars against the British in the 18th century. And the first country to abolish slavery in the Americas was Haiti (on Jan 1 1804, in the Declaration of Independence) Britain is often erroneously given the credit. Very interesting to take a look at Professor Hilary Beckles, The Hate and the Quake, at http://www.normangirvan.info/beckles-hate-quake/
I would love to publish your two articles on my blog, it would be good if you could look into the possibility of checking out those particular historical facts as I am sure that others would do so i it were to published as it is.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Chaman Lal firstname.lastname@example.org
Reference to Spartacus is in general context of slavery and not in particular context of Caribbean.I got the copy of Black Jacobins during my stay in Trinidad, which I could not find in India since many years. I have a piece on the book if you like I can mail it to you.Of course, Haiti was the first country not only to abolish slavery but make first black revolution in history and I admire CLR James for bringing out that history through his classic book.
I was joining most of the time MSJ/OWTU activities during my stay in The University of the West Indies,I regret we did not meet those days.
Norman Girvan email@example.com
Categorise this message as:
Never show this again
Dear Chaman,I am sorry we did not meet too. So you do you wish me to use your articles as they are, without any changes?I will send you a flyer about an event next week.Best wishes, Norman
Norman Girvan firstname.lastname@example.org
to me, Ozzi
Prof Lal–thank you. I hope you approve of the new title I have given it. This is posted on my blog to coincide with the event to re-launch Rodney’s book on How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. It makes an excellent companion piece!In solidarity, Norman
Imperialism and East Indian Indentureship, Chaman Lal
Posted by Norman Girvan
Chaman Lal, who was visiting Professor at Hindi Chair at the UWI , St Augustine, is Professor & Former Chairperson at the Centre of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. His article recounts the cruel history of Indian indentureship as a source of exploited labour post-Emancipation and the long and ultimately successful struggle to eliminate it and to forge African-Indian Unity, highlighting the role of Mahatma Gandhi, Cheddi Jagan, CLR James and Walter Rodney.
Read Imperialism and East Indian Indentureship
Chaman Lal email@example.com
I do like your new shape to article,but I missed one thing,as TT Guardian left one part of my article,for blog,complete article would have been better,I am attaching the left out part,which in fact is the last part,which you can put as you deem right.
Chaman Lal,Professor & Former ChairpersonCentre of Indian Languages, JNU, New DelhiFormer President JNU Teachers Association(JNUTA)_Lalwww.facebook.com/Dr.Chaman.JNU http://in.linkedin.com/in/chamanlaljnu
Left Out part of What to Celebrate from The Guardian published article.doc
Norman Girvan firstname.lastname@example.org
So happy to get this. I will fix it.PS You can listen to the Rodney Forum tonight at 6 PM TT time in radio I95, link.Norman
CLICK HERE FOR LIVE AUDIO STREAMING OF PANEL DISCUSSION, WEDNESDAY 13 JUNE 6 PM TT TIME ON RADIO I95 FROM TRINIDAD
Go to the link above, bottom bar and Click on “HI”, “MD” or “LO
How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
Walter Rodney’s classic study, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa has just been republished by Pambazuka Press. You are invited to a Panel Discussion on the book at the Cipriani Labour College, CLR James Auditorium, on Wednesday June 13 at 6 PM. Speakers will include Dr Patricia Rodney, Dr George Lamming, Dr Jerome Teelucksing, Mr David Abdulah, Mr Firoze Manji and myself as Chair. The event is sponsored by the O.W.T.U. as the C.L.R. James Memorial Lecture for 2012.
Norman Girvan email@example.com
Chaman–I have added the last section. Also I’ve changed the title because of your point.I’ve also taken the liberty of inserting references to the Caribbean slave revolts and Haiti in place of Spartacus. I hope you dont mind’.This is really good.Norman
Imperialism and Indian Indentureship, Chaman Lal
Posted by Norman GirvanChaman Lal, who was visiting Professor at Hindi Chair at the UWI , St Augustine, is Professor & Former Chairperson at the Centre of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. His article recounts the cruel history of Indian indentureship as a source of exploited labour post-Emanicpation and the long struggle to eliminate it and subsequent movements to forge African-Indian Unity, including the roles of Mahatma Gandhi, Cheddi Jagan, CLR James and Walter Rodney.
Norman Girvan firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note the addition of the following:
A Lost Opportunity? The Jamaican Independence Experience Taitu Heron
The entire selection can be accessed at the home page ofwww.normangirvan.info
On 5 September 2012 09:07, Norman Girvan wrote:
CRITICAL COMMENTARIES ON CARIBBEAN ‘INDEPENDENCE’
50 Years of Jamaican In-Dependence Norman Girvan
The Colonisation of Independence Lloyd Best
The Myth of Independence Louis Lindsay
Trinidad and Tobago – A State But Not Yet A Nation Michael Harris
Towards a New Democracy and a New Independence Tennyson Joseph
George Lamming on Collective Caribbean Amnesia
— Norman GirvanProfessor Emeritus, UWI (Trinidad)
And the last message:
Norman Girvan email@example.com
my warmest congratulations on the publication on this important subject. I was interested to read of the role and case of Bhagat Singh, who sought to avenge a brutal and tyrannical act, one of many of British imperialism, for which a proper historical accounting has never been rendered,
Best wishes for 2014!
And shortly after I got the news of his fall, which I shared on face book with my wishes for his recovery and suddenly this news, feel really sad, but pay my tributes to great humanist schaolar activist:
The only Empress of India was a Muslim
Razia Sultan’s tomb in Delhi; Razia Fort in Bathinda
Not many Indians realise or remember that the only Empress of India lived and died 800 years ago
There have been films, TV serials made, plays staged and biographies written on the first empress of India in many languages. Punjabi playwright Balwant Gargi, who was from Bathinda, and in his childhood lived near the fort, where Razia Sultan was kept imprisoned, wrote a full length play in Punjabi-Sultan Razia in 1973, which was staged in Urdu in Delhi by Ibrahim Alkazi.
In 1983, Kamal Amarohi made a feature film Razia Sultan, featuring Dharmendra and Hema Malini, both joining BJP for a political career. While Dharmendra lost a re-election bid, Hema Malini continues to be a Member of the Lok Sabha.
Jamila Brijbhushan’s biography of Razia was published in 1990 and Shahana Dasgupta’s Razia: The People’s Queen came out in 2001. Meva Ram wrote a long, 670 page novel Sultan Razia in Hindi in 2011. In 2015, a television channel aired 170 episodes on Empress Razia Sultan.
And yet, she has not been given her due in Indian history. Now when there is so much sympathy for Muslim women, who are supposedly all victims of Triple Talaq, the great role played by a slave emperor’s brave daughter Razia Sultan, whom her father preferred over his sons in the thirteenth century, appears more relevant than ever.
India was ruled by slave dynasty from Turkey during 1206 and 1290 AD. Qutab-ud-din Aibak was the first emperor from slave dynasty and he set up the Delhi Sultanate. His son-in-law Iltutmish succeeded him. Razia was the daughter of Iltutmish and granddaughter of Qutab-ud-din, who had begun building the Qutab Minar in Delhi and who lies buried in Lahore.
Razia Sultan ruled over India for just about four years between 1236 and 1240, but she left an indelible imprint during this short period on Indian history.
Born in 1205 at Badaun, her grandfather Sultan Qutab-Din-Aibak died when she was just five years old.
After the fall of the Gupt dynasty, India was divided into many small states and these states were fighting with each other. Thanesar was the strongest of these states under Emperor Harshvardhan during 590-647 Ad. Later India was subjected to Arab attacks and Mohammad Bin Qasim succeeded in conquering Sindh in 711 AD and Islam took roots in India and spread to many more areas. After three hundred years Ghazni’s Turk ruler Mahmood Ghaznavi attacked India 17 times in a period of 27 years, but he returned every time after plundering India and had no interest in setting up his rule directly. Yet it led to influence of Turks, Mongols and Pathans in the area.
In the 12th century another Turk ruler from Afghanistan Muhammad Ghori attacked India many times conquered many states. Decisive wars were fought between Muhammad Ghori and Rajput ruler Prithviraj Chauhan in 1192 in Tabarhind (Now Bathinda), which led to the long Muslim rule in India.
Qutab ud din Aibak was the army chief of Ghori and he won Delhi and established Ghulam dynasty in India in 1206 AD after the death of Muhammad Ghori. Aibak married his daughter Qutab Begum to his favourite slave Shamshudin Iltutmish and after Aibak’s death, Iltutmish provided stability to Ghulam dynasty in India.
Razia was daughter of Iltutmish and she was given training in arms and administration at an early age. Elder son of Iltutmish Nasiruddin died, whom Iltutmish wanted to hand over his kingdom. Two other sons of Iltutmish from another wife Turkan, were incompetent, so Iltutmish designated Razia as his successor. During his absence from the capital, Razia was given charge of the kingdom, which she ran with competence.
In 1236, just before his death following a palace intrigue by his wife Shah Turkan, Iltutmish revised his decision and nominated his son Rukandin to be his successor, who succeeded him in 1236 after his death. But Rukandidn could rule for only six months, before he was assassinated along with his mother. After Rukandin’s death Razia Sultan was designated as empress or Sultan by the chiefs and she ruled with distinction for nearly four years.
Though historian Satish Chandra called her ‘a romantic figure in medieval Indian history’, another historian Prateeti Bhatacharya from Calcutta University describes her as ‘People’s queen’, who built roads to link villages and cities, and was also the first to abolish Jazia tax charged from Hindus. She was coroneted in November 1236 and given the title of Jalalat-al-din Razyia Sultan.
She would wear male army attire and did away with the veil or Burkha to have direct contact with her people. Razia established schools, academies, centres for research and public libraries that included works of ancient philosophers along with the Qur’an. Hindu works in literature, philosophy, the sciences, and astronomy were reportedly studied in schools and colleges.
Jamal Yakut, an African, was her favourite officer, fully loyal to her. By some accounts she even wanted to marry him. But she was also a childhood friend of the Governor of Tabarhind-Altunia as well. A few of the Governors of states under the Delhi Sultanate were unhappy with the coronation of Razia, so they conspired to remove her. They gathered their armies to attack on Razia, who was not unnerved and successfully created division among the rebels and even got several of them killed.
She proved her mettle as Sultan, but was too independent to the liking of a group of 40 chiefs of her durbar, who wanted the Empress to be pliable and kept under their thumbs. They were also offended at the appointment of Yakut, a black, called Habshi derogatively, as a senior official.
The group of forty chiefs encouraged Razia’s confidant and Tabarhind Governor Malik Altunia to rebel against her and she was imprisoned at Tabarhind by Altunia following a conspiracy. Yakut was killed. Tabar-e-Hind or Gateway to India was the name of present day Bathinda, the fort there is called now Qila Mubark, where Razia was kept imprisoned.
Later Razia married Altunia in order to regain her kingdom from her brother Bahram Shah who had been installed as Sultan. With no major office given to Altunia, he felt betrayed by the chiefs. Altunia and Razia set out for Delhi from Tabarhind, but they were betrayed and killed near Kaithal in Haryana on October 14, 1240, thus ending the tragic story of the first and the last woman Sultan of India.
There is dispute about her tomb, three places are referred—at Kaithal, where she was killed with Altunia, Bulbul Khana in Delhi and Tonk in Rajasthan. The Delhi tomb is maintained by the archaeological department. It is said that her step brother Bahram Shah who succeeded her, brought her remains to Delhi and buried her properly, the second tomb at Delhi is not identified, but could be of Altunia.
Razia Sultan lived with great grace and dignity and died fighting bravely, showing exemplary courage, intelligence and independence under extreme feudal and patriarchal conditions of Indian society in the 13th century.
That she became a symbol of feminist power in South Asia in the 13th century is remarkable indeed. Not many women in Islamic countries have achieved what Razia Sultan did eight hundred years ago. She is the real inspiration for not only Muslim women, but all women of India!
The author is a retired Professor from JNU and comes from Bathinda. It was by sheer chance that he stumbled upon Qutab-Din Aibak’s tomb in Lahore in 2007