Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Revolt of 1857 and Saurashtra




A few weeks ago I had brought to the readers excerpts from the book Rashtrano Swatantrata Sangram ane Gujarat (National Struggle for Independence and Gujarat) by Dr Shantilal M. Desai.  In this book while the author elaborates the armed struggles against the British in Ahmedabad, Rajpipla, and other parts of Gujarat around 1857 revolt, there is hardly any reference to the struggle/s in Saurashtra.

The following excerpts from the book ‘Saurashtra no itihas – 1807 - 1948’ (History of Saurashtra), by A.V. Jani, published by Darshak Itihas Nidhi (Darshak history fund), gives some idea of the 1857-58 revolt in Okhamandal [As per this book, it would be interesting to note that by the year 1822, the area under British in Saurashtra barring Amreli under Gaikwad, Diu under the Portuguese, and Jafrabad under the Sidis, was 54,038 square kilometers and income 148, 87,000/-. This was a good enough reason for revolts I think!]

Excerpts from the book (Translated from Gujarati by me):



“The Vaghers’ of Okhamandal had declared revolt at that time. The Vagher community loved independence and was a militant community. …They were opposed to the rule of the Gaekwad or the British. They had revolted against the Gaekwad in the year1820, which was put out by the Gaekwad with the help of the British agency in 1822. The forefathers of Vaghers ruled this area. Therefore they wanted to remove the rule of the Gaekwad. In 1858, they revolted and took away Beyt and Dwarka from the Gaekwad. At the request of Gaekwad, the British agency called about 1400 soldiers from Mumbai under the leadership of Col. Donavan and sent another army from Rajkot under the leadership of Col.Scribe. This army destroyed the fort of Beyt and won/captured the same. In this (fight) the leader of the Vaghers Devo Chabani was killed. The British looted booty worth 3.5 lakhs from the temple of Beyt, which was returned later. Later they bombarded Dwarka and acquired it. The British army damaged the temple and the idols and looted the booty. The rulers of Jamnagar, Porbandar, Kutch as well as the business class expressed their opposition to this and asked to return the booty as well as repair the temple; otherwise they expressed fear of revolts in other places…

…Many people under the leadership of Jodha Manek ran away to the Gir and hid themselves there. From Gir they adopted guerrilla warfare. Their main leaders were Jodha Manek and Mulu Manek. They had hidden in the hills of Abhpara. Col. Homer had driven them out from there. This is how the revolt of the Vagher community came to an end. Many were caught and kept in the Vadodara jail. They ran away from there and came back to Okhamandal and once again Mulu Manek and Deva Manek, the nephews of Jodha Manek formed their team and began looting. However they were badly defeated in Macharda village under Jamnagar. At the fight in Macharda, the British commander in chief Captain Latush and Captain Hebart were killed. In the end, on 7-5-1869, the army of Porbandar surrounded Mulu Manek near Ranpur and killed him. This is how the revolt of the Vaghers going on for several years came to an end. The graves of the two British officers remain at Macharda.”

PS:
1. Sketches of Jodha Manek and Mulu Manek can be seen on the link: http://www.jhaverchandmeghani.com/life-2.htm

2. Jhaverchand Meghani, the well known figure in Gujarati literature  has written about the life and struggles of these heroes in his book Sorthi Baharvatiya.

3. Those who wish to read further details of the Okhamandal revolt can also read:  http://archives.peoplesdemocracy.in/2007/1007/10072007_1857.htm

4. It is interesting to note from the write up in People’s Democracy that to fight the Vaghers some of the princely states of Saurashtra joined hands and sent their army. It is noted in the article that the Porbandar State sent “Diwan Karamchand Gandhi with 200 soldiers.  

 (end)

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The coming of the British to Saurashtra:



When India became free, there were over 200 princely States in Saurashtra alone! It would be interesting to know how the British made inroads into Saurashtra and gained supremacy over the States in Saurashtra. The following excerpts from the book ‘Saurashtra no itihas – 1807 - 1948’ (History of Saurashtra), by A.V. Jani, published by Darshak Itihas Nidhi (Darshak history fund), gives some idea of the same.

“…In the 18th century, first the Mughals and then the Marathas, in order to collect Khndni (tribute) from Saurashtra, instead of keeping a permanent army [in the region], adopted the system of Chadai - invasion with army. This system was called Mulakgiri…

The army of the Gaekwad came often to Saurashtra to collect Khndni (tribute/money)…

…By 1770, the Maratha rule had been established in Gujarat. As per the treaty of distribution of regions between Peshwa and Gaekwad, the work of collecting Khndni was done by their collective armies. Many a times they would invade every year…they had also increased the amount of Khndni a lot, they used to collect Khndni with force and threats…the Sates that refused to give Khndni or opposed used to be destroyed by them…

…The expense to maintain an army for such invasions was very high…the Mulakgiri army turned the regions through which it passed barren and the farmers suffered heavy losses… the sole purpose of the Maratha Mulakgiri army was to collect maximum Khndni… as a result, for the people [of Saurashtra] it was ‘pay up or invite destruction.’…

 …The British Government was aware that a large portion of the income of the Gaekwad was the Khndni collected from Saurashtra. [It so happened that] A part of the Khndni amount due to the Gaekwad remained outstanding. To collect that, help of British army was needed. Therefore they [Gaekwad] entered into a treaty with the British Government and kept three platoons of British auxiliary army and had also decided to send one platoon to Saurashtra if required…

…earlier too…in 1771, the British East India Company with the help of the Bhavnagar Maharaja had defeated the pirates of Talaja…in 1800 as per the British guarantee, collection of Peshwa’s Khndni from Ahmedabad and Saurashtra was given exclusively to the Gaekwad. In the mean time, due to the Vasai treaty, the British Government power became supreme in Gujarat. With that, the British got a foot hold in Saurashtra as Gaekwad’s friend and colleague…

…by the beginning of 19th century, the Gaekwad and the Peshwa too did not remain very effective before the wide powers of the British… 

…Likewise many of the smaller States of Saurashtra for having suffered due to the army of the Peshwa and Gaekwad who collected Khndni and also fearful of the atrocities by the bigger States like Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Jamnagar, had requested the British company to provide protection and rescue them from such unjust - oppressive situation… 

…in 1807, it was found that getting involved in the matters of  Saurashtra was beneficial to the British and so Mumbai’s British Government gave them [British] permission to go to Saurashtra…

…Keeping in mind various scenarios, it was decided in 1807 that British resident Col. Walker along with British army and Gaekwad’s army with its commander in chief Vitthalrao would go to Saurashtra. The right to decide how much Khndni should each State of Saurashtra pay…was given to Col. Walker…  

…The Maratha army of the Gaekwad and the British army under the leadership of Col. Walker came to Saurashtra in the year 1807 and they made  continues efforts for a year to enter into a treaty regarding collection of Khndni with the royalty of Saurashtra and in the end, in the month of May 1808, they met with success…

…as per the special rules of inheritance of the Rajputs the total of Khndiya Kings was coming to153 [153 States liable to pay Khndni]…The treaty regarding the payment of Khndni with the 153 talukedars [revenue officers] is known as Walker treaty…with this treaty the total amount of Khndni [tribute to be paid every year] was Rs.9, 79,882 [there is no mention of how much of this was the share of the British]…

…Like this, with the exception of two States from all of Saurashtra, all the other states paid Khndni to the Gaekwad. These two States were Diu under the Portuguese and Jafrabad under the rule of Sidis of Janjira [Janjira is in today’s Maharashtra which has a famous fort]…

…Col. Walker lived in Saurashtra till the year 1809…He lived as British resident in Vadodara from 1802 to 1809…After him Capt. Kanark was appointed as the new resident of the British in Vadodara…After the departure of Col Walker, the administration of Saurashtra was under the Gaekwad’s commander in chief Vitthalrao Devaji. He was appointed as Saurashtra’s revenue commissioner…In Saurashtra the capital city of the Gaekwad was Amreli…

…Between 1807 to 1820, in the matters of larger States of Saurashtra like Porbander, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Jamnagar, there remained interference of the Gaekwad and the British power and the situation was such that only with the help of the collective armies of both (British and Gaekwad) it was possible [ for the larger States] to continue to retain their own power. They had to take the help of this collective army in order to drive out their enemies from their States. Therefore the British and the Gaekwad authority had become very effective in Saurashtra. It was likely that the power and the region of anyone opposing it could be snatched away…

…In 1816, the Peshwa accepted the British’s auxiliary army project and in return for the expense of that army, gave up all their rights regarding Saurashtra through Pune treaty (1817) to the British. As per the condition of the treaty, Peshwa forfeited their rights over the Gaekwad by accepting the past dues of Rs 4 lacs and handed over their [share of] Saurashtra Khndni to the British. This is how Gaekwad became an independent King by separating from the Peshwa…

...moreover Peshwa were defeated by the British in 1818…the British became the rulers of the Peshwa States…the British became more powerful and the strength and powers of Gaekwad reduced…In spite of having collected a lot of wealth through Mulakgiri, they [Gaekwad state] had become a State with debt… a situation arose where in they too [Gaekwad] had to depend on the British mercy and help. Therefore in the end, in the year 1820, the Gaekwad gave away their right to collect Khndni from Saurashtra to the British powers...

...This is how the British became all powerful in Saurashtra. Later Junagadh too gave up its right to collect Jortalbi (tribute) to the British. As remuneration for the work of collection, the State of Junagadh gave 25% of the amount collected to the British…this is how British power became supreme in Saurashtra...

...This is how in 1820, the complete powers that Gaekwad enjoyed in Saurashtra came into the hands of the British. Therefore to look after the work of Saurashtra, the British Government established British agency in Rajkot and appointed as its first political agent Capt. R. Barnvel…

(Excerpts translated by me from Gujarati)

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Forgotten Stories of Indian Soldiers During World War One



I was delighted to read the news in The Hindu yesterday morning that an Indian origin film maker in Paris, Mr. Vijay Singh is making a film based on the Indian soldiers who participated in World War-1 (WW-1)

For details of the film see:  


Regular followers of my blog may recall that I had made an entry titled Mahatma Gandhi in Defense of Violence’, in which I have noted excerpts from Mahadevbhai Desai’s diary regarding Gandhiji’s appeal to the people of Kheda, Gujarat in particular to join the army for  WW -1. The details in Mahadevbhai’s diary show that Gandhiji had not received much response to his appeal. The diary also notes that many followers of Gandhiji were not in agreement with his call for army recruitment. However further information is not available in the same diary (volume-4) as to what was the final outcome, what happened to the people (though few in number) who responded to Gandhiji’s call and enrolled in the military to fight in the WW-1, etc.  In fact, this issue has not been covered much in the fifteen volumes of Mahadevbhai’s diaries that I have already read so far.

Mahadevbhai’s diary (volume-4) also notes the following:

(Gandhiji) “…The Government needs five lakh people for the army. Government will get such kind of people anyhow. If we give this many people, we will get credit…it is heard that many times recruiting agents are taking people, that also can be avoided. It is not any less powerful if we get the entire work of recruitment…”


On reading this, one was naturally eager to know about the response to the British agents drive for military recruitment. I was also keen to know how the Indian soldiers fought in foreign lands, their fate, the fate of the soldiers who survived, something about the families of the large number of soldiers who died, etc, etc. However, I was surprised to see that not much information is available about the Indian soldiers and their contribution/role in WW-1 in either the diary or some of the other important History books that I referred to as follows:
  
         1.  The Discovery of India, by Jawaharlal Nehru.
         2.  Glimpses of World History, by Jawaharlal Nehru. 
         3.  India’s struggle for Independence, by Bipan Chandra.

It is all the more surprising because all these books otherwise cover most of the small and big events of India including other aspects of WW-1. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that important information regarding the large number of Indian troops who fought in WW-1, or that Gandhiji himself appealed to the people to join the army for WW-1, the political intention behind the same, and related details are almost absent in some of the popular books of Indian History that I referred to.  

Even in the book “Rashtra no swatantrata sangram ane Gujarat (India’s struggle for freedom and Gujarat),” by Dr. Shantilal M.Desai, published by University Granth Nirman Board, Gujarat State; the reference to Gandhiji’s call for military recruitment in  Gujarat is limited as follows:

“ … Gandhiji went from Mumbai to Delhi and there in the convention concerning recruitment for the Great War he supported the resolution passed to extend support to the Government in the work of military recruitment…Therefore on returning from Delhi he made the Gujarat Sabha pass a resolution to support the work of military recruitment…It is noteworthy that during such big, small and diverse satyagrahas, Gandhiji and his colleagues continued to cooperate and support Government's war efforts fully.  ”

I therefore do feel that History has not given the importance that the Indian soldiers in WW -1 deserve, the political implication of joining the war efforts on India's struggle for freedom, etc. I somewhat agree with the film maker Mr. Singh when he says, “Everybody remembers India’s freedom struggle, but very few …would remember the contribution made by Indian soldiers during the World War I, about the role played by Indian soldiers during the World War I.” 

I therefore look forward to the film by Mr. Singh which will throw some light on this crucial part of Indian History of which very less is known.