History of the *Bijnor* Rebellion (1858)
CHAPTER I -- Spread of the Mutiny
News of the tumult and disloyalty that broke out in Meerut on May 10, 1857 had not reached Bijnor on May 11. By May 12, however, this news had become well known and its influence more and more apparent. Looting began on the Ganges road, and the movement of travellers ceased. Travellers who were going to Meerut from Bijnor came back on May 12 and 13; but in Bijnor itself there was no rebellion at this stage.
The Mutiny began gradually in Bijnor too. Robbing of wayfarers started. Pillaging was reported on May 16 between the villages of Jhat and Olenda, which were under the control of the Bijnor police station. Here the Gujars/1/ looted one Debi Das Bazzaz./2/ Dacoits attacked Shahbazpur Khaddar in the same way. The Gujars banded together to loot this village, the very first to be plundered in Bijnor District.
On the same day, sixteen thousand rupees that Chaudhri Pratab Singh, Rais of Tajpur,/3/ had sent to Bijnor to meet his assessment was taken into the treasury. Later, on May 17, Mr. Currie, the Postal Superintendent, was robbed at Ghat Rawali. Thanks to the energy and foresight of the Magistrate, the culprits were arrested by a detachment from Daran police station, including Mir Turab Ali Tahsildar/4/ and some police officers. Some stolen property was even brought in. Although the public was cowed, the Gujars persisted in their crimes, particularly as they got help in their villainy from Gujars across the river.
Although the Gujars were ill-disposed from the outset, they used a strange strategem to reveal their true intentions. The Rawa caste (very fine farmers in the District but at the same time notorious as the most unmanly of its people) stirred up the Gujars. A Gujar woman, together with her husband and a barber, was passing through Shahbazpur in the subdivision of Mandawar, an important Rawa center. This Gujar woman was seized there, and her husband killed. The barber escaped to lodge a complaint with Basawan, the Gujar leader in Shaikhpura. A complaint was also made to the entire Gujar brotherhood. They decided to loot and destroy the Rawa. Thereupon the Gujars gathered in Ramjiwala, where they were quite near to Shahbazpur and Abul Khairpur. All the houses were looted in the ensuing attack, and most were set on fire. There were six men dead and injured; the Gujar woman was retaken.
1) Plans of the Bijnor Administration
The Magistrate had begun to make proper plans for the administration of the District from the outset of the disturbances. Regular army sowars (troopers) on leave in Bijnor were called to duty; irregular troopers were also hired, while police officers were instructed in writing to increase the number of constables to an appropriate degree. To protect the city itself, Chaudhri Nain Singh, Rais of Bijnor, was authorized to maintain regular night patrolling. Accordingly, he was doing so; in addition, Mr. Alexander Shakespeare, Collector and Magistrate, and Mr. George Palmer shared in these night patrols and surveillance. Three of us officers [i.e., Indian officers] divided our immediate staff into two groups for this night duty. The first group was led by Muhammad Rahmat Khan, Deputy Collector and Deputy Magistrate. The second group belonged to Mir Sayyid Turab Ali Khan, Tahsildar of Bijnor, and myself, the Sadr Amin. It had been brought together to make up a single group because we each had but few men under us. These two groups used to patrol separately at night in the city, the outlying dark orchards, and also the jail and treasury areas. Returning from these rounds we three officers, together with our men, remained on the alert and kept watch from chairs at the bungalow of the Collector. There was extreme confusion and apprehension at this stage in the District, but we cannot manifest enough our gratitude to the Collector for his consideration and kindness. For our sake he had arranged all kinds of facilities, including a very fine canvas shelter which he had set up, where we used to stay at our complete ease.
2) Arrival at Bijnor of a Company of the Twenty-ninth Battalion Enroute from Saharanpur
A company of soldiers/5/ who were enroute from Saharanpur to Moradabad appeared without warning at Bijnor on May 18. I learned about this development through reports that the company had rebelled and that the Subahdar/6/ and a few soldiers had gone to the bungalow of the Collector. This news at once alarmed me, and I went to the bungalow. There I learned that they were enroute to Moradabad as a relief company. I saw the impudent Subahdar sitting near the Sahib [Collector]. He was reporting something of his situation and the resistance which the Gujars had offered him near Ala Bas. However, his arrogance and lack of concern were manifest in the way he sat and spoke, while the evil that was in his heart was also evident on his face. It was proposed that day that plans should be made for this company to stay in Bijnor. Accordingly a plan was made for this purpose, whereupon I became frightened. However, their way of talking among themselves and the big noise they made in the bazaars made their sojourn extremely undesirable. Their departure was seen as a godsend, even though permission actually came from Moradabad for their posting in Bijnor. They themselves were against staying, and so they left for Moradabad.
The news of the jailbreak at Moradabad on May 19 reached Bijnor very quickly. After the fleeing prisoners penetrated the rural areas, news of the event caused even more disorder. Thousands of villagers began to congregate from all directions. There was no fear of government left in anyone's heart. For our part, we began to fear that dacoits might attack Bijnor and loot the treasury. We still tried our best to maintain our vigilance and patrolling, so that nothing should be omitted which might serve to overawe the villagers. In Bijnor itself, a very good atmosphere had been instilled. Thus, special dread of Bijnor weighed on the hearts of the villagers.
3) The Rebel Sapper and Miner Companies Reach Najibabad
At this time three hundred Sapper and Miner soldiers rebelled at Roorkee. A company of Sappers and Miners that had been sent to join the Commander-inChief's camp at Saharanpur returned to Roorkee. Both groups joined hands and started for Landhorah. They asked the Rani there to enlist them in her service, on the promise that they would conquer Roorkee etc. for her. The Rani refused their offer. They decided to approach the Nawab of Najibabad in order to achieve their aims. Therefore they set out for Najibabad, where they arrived on May 20.
4) Conspiring of Nawab Mahmud Khan and Ahmad Allah Khan with Subahdars
This much is clear: that when these soldiers reached Najibabad, some officers and men went to Ahmad Allah Khan Tahsildar to meet inside his house and negotiate; that Ahmad Allah Khan next took this group to Nawab Mahmud Khan; and that negotiations went on for a long time at his place. An authenticated version of these negotiations could not be known. But according to what was heard, these soldiers invited the Nawab to revolt against the British officers and to establish his rule. Besides this, what other advice could they give? There was also no authentic news about the Nawab's reply, which was given in secret. But this much was heard about what the Nawab said: that he could not take this risk as long as the British were present in Bijnor; that they should not make trouble in his own city and tahsil, which were dependent on him; and that if they were to make trouble in Bijnor and drive the English out, then it would indeed be within his power to become Nawab. The soldiers thereupon promised to go to Bijnor. Reports that were constantly being received about these soldiers being enroute to Bijnor made us very frightened. We three officers had thought out plans so that if these faithless ones should come, the protection of the Europeans might be assured to the extent possible. We told the Collector, so that the arrangements for each one might be settled beforehand. We ourselves thought that this was the first time the seed of revolt had sprouted in the hearts of Mahmud/7/ Khan (and Ahmad Allah Khan) who imagined to himself that the fanciful tree of his government would be a good shade tree. In one stroke, he forgot all the favors and patronage which the English had shown to his father and himself.
5) Arrival of the Sapper and Miner Company at Nagina, and Looting of the Tahsil
On this day -- that is, on May 20 -- news of the jailbreak at Moradabad reached Nagina. The intentions of the ruffians in Nagina were evil. The bazaar began to close. Maulvi Qadir Ali, Tahsildar of Nagina, together with his orderlies and Munir ud-din, Deputy in Charge of the Police Station, patrolled the bazaar in order to calm the public and reopen the shops. They also instructed the Hindu and Muslim landlords to stay on the alert and organize their individual wards in the town. It is a matter of great surprise that on May 21 at 11 o'clock Munir ud-din, the police deputy, informed Maulvi Qadir Ali Tahsildar that there had been a jailbreak at Bijnor. In actual fact, there had been no trouble as yet at the Bijnor jail. Maulvi Qadir Ali now became anxious. Yesterday, he said to himself, upon news of the jailbreak at Moradabad, there had been a disturbance in Nagina. What could not happen now, when the news broke of a jailbreak at Bijnor? Therefore, he instructed his orderlies to remain alert. The door of the tahsil office was closed, but the window was left open. The Tahsildar himself still had no word of the soldiers.
It was reported that the soldiers had decided among themselves that it would not be proper to make such.a big disturbance without having first returned to the cantonment. So they decided to go to Moradabad by way of Najibabad. Suddenly, three soldiers entered the tahsil office by way of the window and demanded supplies from the Tahsildar. Meanwhile, many soldiers penetrated the tahsil office to surround the Tahsildar with drawn bayonets. Taking him by force to the court building, they pulled apart the chests with nooses and broke the lock of the treasury in order to loot it. At this time, the Tahsildar and the Police Deputy slipped away to hide in a house. When the soldiers came after them, they left the city for a short period, after which they came back by another route to hide in another place. They sent a report to the Collector. Many of the town ruffians had joined the soldiers, in order to loot the effects of the Tahsildar and ransack the bazaar. These ruffians also robbed Bhagirat Kalai, a very wealthy man. When all the soldiers had left the town, the Tahsildar called together the Hindu and Muslim Rais-es to secure their assistance in controlling the ruffians who had stirred up sedition in Nagina. Details of the looted property appear below.
6) Details of the Official Money and Property Looted at
Such was the calamity that had taken place in Nagina while we three officers met with the Collector to discuss the question of protecting the treasury. The air was thick with reports about an assault by the villagers and about the steady advance towards us of the Sapper and Miner battalion. We decided at this point to throw the contents of the treasury into a well the next day.
We had just come to this decision when all of a sudden, at a little before one o'clock, the sound of firing on the jail was heard. We learned that there had been a jailbreak. The Collector, myself the Sadr Amin, the Deputy Collector, and Sayyid Turab Ali Tahsildar set out for the jail with swords and muskets. We ran towards where we thought groups of prisoners might be heading. We must have covered half a mile when the thought hit home that the treasury might meanwhile be looted. The Collector ordered me the Sadr Amin, and the Deputy Collector, to look after the treasury. So we returned to the treasury and at once set up a picket and watch, while the Collector and Sayyid Turab Ali Tahsildar proceeded towards the jail. At this time Mr. George Palmer appeared fully armed on a horse. He handed me the keys of the treasury, before leaving with several troopers to pursue the prisoners. We took it for a certainty that a jailbreak would be staged, only so the prisoners and ruffians might then join hands to attack the treasury. However, the escaping prisoners continued to flee towards the river. One might say that either our original assessment had been wrong, or that the prisoners were deterred from this evil intent when they saw the Collector and Mr. George Palmer so determined in their pursuit. In short, several prisoners were killed and wounded by musket fire. The rest, who were unharmed, were locked up in the jail. Next the Collector came to the treasury. The treasure was taken out at once and I the Sadr Amin threw with my own hands 150,000 rupees into the well. Mr. George Palmer pursued the prisoners in the lowlands of the Ganges.
The jailbreak is an extremely strange and thought-provoking affair. It is clear that there had not been an attack on it from the outside. There can be no doubt that because of the wickedness or conspiracy of Ram Sarup the Jamadar [superintendent of the jail], who once had belonged to some Telingana battalion, the jail was broken into and a window was left open. In our opinion after many prisoners had already escaped. he got hold of a gun to go after the remaining ones. Perhaps the jailbreak took place because Ram Sarup was afraid of an outside attack. and so adopted this strategy in order to avoid the greater loss to himself that an outside attack would entail. There is a thought that still causes me to be suspicious: that if the reports about a conspiracy at Najibabad are regarded as accurate, then this was the very day -- nay, the very hour -- for the Telingana soldiers to come from Najibabad to Bijnor. Moreover, after the English officers had left, Ram Sarup suddenly rose greatly in the esteem of the Nawab. His access to the court there grew each day, although previously there had been no reason at all for him to have any such entree there.
7) Looting at Barampur
After this event, the Gujars came together in great strength in Pargana Mandawar in order to loot the wealthy Rawa, their traditional enemies. An attack was launched against village Barampur in Pargana Kiratpur, a very big village of the Rawa. Thousands of Gujars gathered from both sides of the Ganges to make this attack. Some Meos were also with them. They joined together to loot the village for eight days. Houses were dug up and property taken out. Houses were set alight. It is well known that thirty thousand maunds of coarse sugar was seized; taking into consideration the grain, cattle, and goods, the total loss amounted to Rs. 300,000. The village was a big one, and many villagers had brought their goods for deposit there in the belief that it was a safe place. The looted sugar was sold off at the going rate for wheat.
8) Coming of Mahmud Khan to Bijnor
Before this event, the Collector had called the leading personages of the District to meet in Bijnor so that they might be on hand to support the administration. It is very strange that on the evening of this very day, Mahmud Khan reached Bijnor from Najibabad with 60 to 70 Pathan musketeers. On the surface, no doubt, he had come by invitation. Still, the surprising part is that he had brought empty wagons to take the treasure to Najibabad. Wringing his hands and making a very sad face, he met with the Deputy Collector to complain about how awful it was that the money had been thrown into the well, when he had brought wagons to take it to Najibabad. This assertion confirms that Najibabad conspiracy, and makes the cause of the jailbreak extremely suspicious.
There was much fear in Bijnor that night, since the intention of the soldiers to go to Moradabad had not yet been disclosed, and people were still convinced that they were enroute to Bijnor. For ourselves -- well, we had little hope of passing the night safely. Our biggest worry was for the English officers and their wives, since these miserable, disloyal soldiers were most of all determined to harm English officers. They had no concern at all with Hindustani men and clerks. We speak the truth in our hearts when we say that Mr. Alexander Shakespeare (may he be fortunate!) and Mr. George Palmer showed such regard and consideration for us that we had come to love them dearly. In their service we truly had little regard for our own lives. I am sincerely revealing my inner feelings in saying that love for these gentlemen had filled my heart with profound anxiety on their account. As a consequence,. a flame of love, as it were, arose from my heart in order to surround them. We truly intended at the time to sacrifice ourselves first, like the moth, should -- God forbid -- that evil hour come; and then so be it. I do not have the slightest doubt that my two comrade officers felt the same way. We did not come to sit on watch that night at the Residence with the intention of leaving that place alive to return to our own homes again. It is a matter for deep gratitude to God that our sincere intention brought its reward. God preserved our beloved superiors in His grace, and saved us too from affliction. By the favor of God, we have reached that day now that all of us who held that good intention are alive and well together with our beloved superiors. We thank God with a heart full of joy. Amen.
9) The Sapper and Miner Soldiers Reach Dhampur
In short, the soldiers who had come to Nagina left for Dhampur. News of the violence they had all at once perpetrated in ignorance in Nagina had previously reached Dhampur. The Tahsildar had closed his office while his men were on the alert inside. It was quite a stroke of luck that none of the town ruffians joined the soldiers to mislead and instigate them. It was also fortunate that on this very day there was a wedding party at Har Sukh Rae Lahiya's house. He gave goods and the very best sweets from the feast to the soldiers. The townspeople also gave them rations. The soldiers made no trouble there and left for Moradabad.
10) Additional Plans for Bijnor and Bijnor District
Rebelliousness grew in the District after the jailbreak. It was the notorious fact that robber gangs were descending even upon Bijnor city itself. Large rural bands also came together, particularly in Pargana Mandawar. Accordingly the Collector, with the help of Chaudhri Nain Singh, hired two hundred men to put up pickets in different places and block the roads about the city. We officers, after the day's work, patrolled at night as we had before, as far as the residence of the District Magistrate. In truth, a peaceful atmosphere prevailed in Bijnor on account of this activity. It was well known throughout the District that the administration in Bijnor city itself was sound. Fear and respect for such arrangements explain why nobody dared strike a blow at Bijnor city. Nevertheless, rebellion prevailed as before in other Paraganas [sub-districts]. The Collector was also busy restoring law and order there. New troopers were employed, and foot soldiers were being enlisted too. He requested Meerut and Moradabad to send help and a very small, reliable military force. It was expected that when all these had been brought together they would invade the Paraganas to attack the seditious there. In addition, there was no negligence with respect to the administration and the police force. Appropriate orders were constantly sent to the police. The district administration did not allow its excellent plans to be jeopardized. However, the Gujars kept up constant movement on both banks of the Ganges between Bijnor and the adjacent district of Muzaffarnagar. The pargana of Chandpur was adjacent to the country of the Pachhande Jats and the Meos, while the Pargana of Najibabad was adjacent to the forests and wastelands. As a consequence, the District became more disturbed. It was impossible to repel this danger without the support of a reliable army and two light cannons.
11) Arrival in Bijnor of Chaudhri Randhir Singh and Chaudhri Partab Singh
It was the misbegotten Mahmud Khan who had come first when the Rais-es were asked to give their support. On the next day, first Chaudhri Randhir Singh, Rais of Haldaur, and then Chaudhri Partab Singh, Rais of Tajpur, appeared. Each could offer only five troopers in support; some soldiers also came with them. They stayed in the compound of the Collector. Such scanty support was not able to repel this big disturbance.
12) Reference to the Chaudhris' Support and the Absence of Artillery
It is a matter of regret that none of these Rais-es acknowledged having artillery. If at that time we had had two pieces such as the artillery that came to light only after our departure, and if they had been helpful to us then, affairs might have turned out differently from what actually transpired in the District. Notwithstanding the summons of the Collector, Bhup Singh, Taluqdar of Rehar and Burhapur, did not appear, nor did he offer any help. Mahmud Khan, who was present, became very restless after only twelve hours; he wanted to return to Najibabad on any pretext, and offered excuses in order to get away. We did not have the slightest suspicions about him at this time. We took his false excuses at face value, and tried our best to convince him that he ought to stay in Bijnor, since we looked to him for a great deal of support. But now we are able to realize that his restlessness stemmed from only one cause -- that his plans had misfired in Bijnor: the rebel soldiers had not come, and he would not be able to take away the treasure. This was why he had become alarmed, and why he wanted to return to Bijnor to make a new plan. After two days of restless sojourn, he again went away to Najibabad.
In short, arrangements were completed to the extent possible. However, the villagers did not refrain from disorder, and looting continued in the rural areas. An attack by dacoits took place at Partabpur in Pargana Najibabad. The watchman and Chanda Pradhan were wounded in the affray. The village overseers and butchers of Akbarabad also formed a gang. First they robbed the village accountants of Akbarabad; then they went to strike the Jats of Sikandarpur and also to attack Hajipur. At Hajipur they met resistance. Several men of Hajipur were killed, along with the old headman of Allahheri, who had come to the aid of the people of Hajipur. Rampur was looted next. All the Jats then came together to attack Akbarabad. Its houses were all plundered and set on fire. We then saw the phenomenon of these villagers who had united to seek vengence not confining themselves to looting one or another specific village that was the object of their hate, but once being mobilized, looting whomever they pleased and whomever they saw as weak.
13) Appointment of Superintendents in the District Administration
It was on account of these particular evils that the Collector decided to appoint several honorable men of importance in the District to serve as superintendents. Taking along an appropriate number of men, they were to actively patrol in each paragana and disperse the villagers who were forming themselves into bands.
Among those selected for this work were Shafi Allah Khan, brother of the wretch Ahmad Allah Khan, and Sa'ad Allah Khan, Rais of Barhapur and also a former police deputy in Nagina. These men were honorable, and they had at their call many Pathan soldiers, companions, and members of their brotherhood. It also served a useful purpose for our weakened administration to take heed of them and win their gratitude. It could turn them into well-wishers of the authority and, in addition, divert the attention of those who might otherwise stir up trouble in the District. These plans were, in truth, so sound that if the men who were available had also been sound, the District administration would have remained sound also. All the Hindu and Muslim Rais-es of Nagina issued a joint request that Nathe Khan, the wood merchant, should be put in charge of patrolling, with a suitable company of men. Perhaps if they had not made this request, Nathe Khan would then, as leader of the ill-disposed, have started to create trouble. Their request was accordingly granted; and the order to patrol was given to Nathe Khan. It is clear from this entire report that our District Magistrate was not deficient in foresight, that each and every plan he adopted was valid and popular. Indeed, a better plan than his could not be devised.
14) Dacoity at Chandpur
On May 26, Id Day, many Meos and Pachhande Jats attacked Chandpur, to pillage the place. The townspeople fought back manfully. There were several killed and wounded on both sides; but the city itself was saved. Many villagers then gathered a second time to loot Chandpur. The Collector sent Najaf Ali Risaldar in the leave regiment as officer-in-charge of twenty-five troopers to aid the police at Chandpur. The troopers stayed for two days after reaching the place, returning to Bijnor when the dacoits had been scattered. Through these events, the Collector became aware of the lax and timid behavior of the police inspector at Chandpur and called in Gulab Singh, the police inspector, to rebuke him. Taking Bhola Nath Jamadar along, Gulab Singh then went to Ghalli village, which belonged to the locale from which the mischief-makers had come, and he set the village alight. On the whole, after this disciplining, the pargana was peaceful.
15) New Servants of Little Use
We did not feel more secure in keeping with the growth of numbers of soldiers and troopers. At this juncture, the essence of the security situation was two-fold: (1) if by chance the District should be invaded by an army, then its defense might be accomplished; but any possibility of assistance from these men could be ruled out before; and (2) if some leading man of the District should revolt, then this matter, too, might be resolved satisfactorily; but, again, these men would not be able to do anything for our self-defense. They were all, in fact, our secret enemies, for the eyes of the entire District were fastened on Mahmud Khan. Of course, they could handle the villagers; but they would be able to do so only if the District as a whole were at ease in the other two respects. For this reason, the Collector sent urgent requests for reinforcements.
16) Arrival of Some Troopers from Bareilly and Soldiers from Moradabad
The Collector was dispirited after his failure to get military support. However, on May 28 Mr. Robert Alexander Bahadur, the Commissioner, had sent to Bijnor twenty-five troopers just taken on in Bareilly, and forty soldiers from Moradabad who had proven themselves sound, although shortly earlier their battalion had mutinied. Mr. George Palmer and Sayyid Turab Ali Tahsildar of Bijnor, together with these soldiers and twenty troopers under command of Bahadur Ali Khan Risaldar dispatched by leave of the Commissioner, went through the pargana of Mandawar during the night of May 20. Here the Gujars and similar peasant groups had their traditional stronghold, where they were mobilizing themselves for dacoity at this time near Mandawar itself and Muhammadpur.
17) Bad Intentions of Ahmad Allah Khan and Shafi Allah Khan
If one looks carefully at the deeds done by Ahmad Allah Khan and his brother Shafi Allah Khan while the Collector was still in charge, then they too will not be free of the suspicion of being arrogant and insubordinate. Take the example of the Banjara [grain-carriers] who had gathered together in the forest for mischief. Shafi Allah Khan took out a force to attack them. It was well known that the looted property he took from them was worth about twenty-five thousand rupees. He also carried off twelve of their women as his slaves. They had to be set free a week later after these grain-carriers had mobilized themselves in great strength. In the same way, Ahmad Allah Khan attacked Bhaguwala, where the Banjaras were also gathered together. He kidnapped some of them -- only, it was rumored, to release them after taking their money. It was also rumored that a Banjara was killed and strung up on a tree. While enroute to make this attack, Ahmad Allah Khan wounded a pradhan at Kanakpur and appropriated ten thousand rupees in property there. Shafi Allah Khan attacked the Jats of Bodagari while they were plundering some villages. He ran away when they showed fight. This took place when Mahmud Khan was coming to Bijnor from Najibabad even though he had not been summoned to appear by the Collector. He stationed himself at Kiratpur, where Shafi Allah Khan reached him. The two joined hands with their fellow travelers to descend on Bodagari, which they looted and set alight. If these matters are looked at carefully they will then not emerge clear of the taint of willfulness.
18) The Second Unsolicited Visit of Mahmud Khan
Although Mahmud Khan could not wait to leave Bijnor the first time, this current and unsolicited visit to the Collector from Najibabad was not unsuspicious. He reached Bijnor on June 1 and set up his tent in the Collector's compound. This time the signs of rebellion were evident on his features. He was exhilarated at the prospect of being his own master; the love of it intoxicated him. He spoke in such a manner to the Deputy Collector that his seditious intentions became manifest. The Deputy Collector revealed these intentions to me. I told him that he ought to report everything at once to the Collector. We thereupon reported to the Collector the words of Mahmud Khan that had made known to us his intention to revolt. It was proposed that Mahmud Khan be sent away from Bijnor. It looked difficult to arrange his departure, but a strategem was worked out to send him to make a tour in the pargana of Chandpur. Showing his waywardness, Mahmud Khan went off instead to Daranagar.
19) Mr. George Palmer Punishes the Seditious in Mandawar
Mr. George Palmer reached Mandawar with his force on May 31, 1857. He requested reports about the various places where the Gujars were suspected of mobilizing. At four o'clock Mr. Palmer, together with Sayyid Turab Ali Tahsildar and Latafat Ali, Police Inspector, mounted and rode to Aswakheri, which is on the Ganges, in order to remove two large jezails [small cannons] from that village. News came on June 1, the second day, that the villagers were mobilizing in Fazalpur Village. Mr. Palmer took along twenty-five or thirty soldiers, twenty troopers, Sayyid Turab Ali Tahsildar of Bijnor, Mir Latafat Ali Police Inspector of Mandawar, and Mir Muhammad Ali, Road Agent. About a thousand inhabitants of Mandawar also came, along with one Bisawan, headman of Shaikhupura, and his two sons. They observed about four thousand men near the orchard of Fazalpur. Mr. Palmer galloped ahead to strike them on the right flank with his troopers. The other leaders advanced together with the soldiers. Seeing this attack, the villagers fired their muskets. They also offered resistance with drawn swords. Nevertheless, on receiving a flanking volley they fled. This attack was pressed home, and many men were encircled. Fazalpur was set alight and looted. Fifteen or twenty men were killed outright; many were wounded; twenty or thirty armed men were captured; and many were drowned in the Lahpi River and the Ganges. In addition to Fazalpur, Jahangirpur, Bhojpur, Shaikhupura, Husainpur, Narayanpur, and Aminpur were also set alight, as the people of these villages were also implicated.
20) Fifty Thousand Rupees sent from Bijnor to Meerut
Captain Gough came to Bijnor from Meerut on June 2 with a few troopers to take the treasure. Fifty thousand rupees was taken out of the well and handed over to him. Even though he had just a few troopers under him and dacoits were to be found everywhere in large numbers, the aforementioned Captain had some elephants loaded with this treasure and most courageously set off for Meerut on June 4 by way of Daranagar Ghat. His intrepid action won everyone's admiration. Also on June 2, Mr. George Palmer had sent to Bijnor the prisoners who had been taken in the pargana of Mandawar. Gujars were called in from the environs. A large number assembled on June 3; their bonds were taken to keep the peace, restore stolen property, and hand over their arms. There was fear and order in the District as a consequence of this punishment. It was even thought possible that the District might now be free of disorder.
21) Bareilly Mutiny and Return of Mr. George Palmer to Bijnor
But it is a matter of regret that prior to these arrangements Bareilly and Moradabad had rebelled on May 31, 1857. All the English had gone from there. We tried our best to conceal knowledge of the news, which was known to at least a few persons, but confirmation of the rebellion at Bareilly and Moradabad was received by the mails at evening time on June 3. In these new circumstances, Mr. George Palmer's stay with the soldiers could on no account be considered desirable; he was asked to come to Bijnor without fail. He arrived the same night; Sayyid Turab Ali Tahsildar reached Bijnor with the soldiers in the morning. The following day the soldiers set out for Moradabad.
22) Impact on Bijnor of the Bareilly Mutiny
The post to Bareilly was closed for several days, while the post across the river also could not be arranged. We were extremely upset because of this. It is clear that there were many other Districts whose attention, like ours, was fixed on Bareilly. And since Bareilly, Shahjahanpur, Pilibhit, Badaun, Moradabad, and all the districts of Rohilkhand had already revolted, what hope could there be that Bijnor -- nestled between jungle, mountain, and the alluvium of the Ganges -- would be able to stand? And when, moreover, there was no defense equipment nor even a small reliable force at the disposal of the Collector? And where Mr. Colebrooke had, in 1812, planted a very big thorny tree -- that is to say, where he had permitted the uprooted and exiled Bhanbu Khan, father of Mahmud Khan, to settle in Najibabad? It was for this reason that this ruined family again became the cynosure of all eyes. Each person in the District for this very reason was viewing himself as the ancient retainer, the loyal and ancestral servant of Mahmud Khan. At an hour of such degradation, all eyes were fixed on him alone. In truth, who was able to counsel that, despite the revolt of the entire Rohilkhand, the English officers should not abandon the District? Yet our Collector continued to persevere in an effort to keep up the administration. His remarkable foresight gave us all hope that even in such an hour, the District might stand, if only another calamity were avoided. We were not to be spared that other calamity, the one whose griefs can never be forgotten.
23) Mahmud Khan's Third Appearance at Bijnor with Rebellion in his Mind
Mahmud Khan had gone toward Daranagar, where he learned that the Collector was sending the rest of the treasure to Haldaur. The family of Haldaur had a big name and intimidating reputation in the District. If Mahmud Khan had any reason for concern, it was on account of this very family. He calculated that it might be more difficult to achieve his goal if the matter was allowed to proceed in this way. Right after hearing this news, he suddenly came to Bijnor on June 7, 1857, with a party of his comrade Pathans, determined to disclose his changed attitude and to demonstrate its influence. By evening, some more Pathans had come from Najibabad. I think there must have been between 200 and 250 well-equipped Pathan musketeers present with Mahmud Khan that night. The hearts of the Pathans and of the others that had just been taken into service -- and for that matter, the hearts of our old servants, too -- were all fixed on Mahmud Khan. There can be no doubt that they were all siding with him and paying court to him. Is it such a surprise that they may have been his confederates in some secret, too? At this juncture, in Bijnor, the calamity had come upon us that in each person's mind the thought had taken root that the authority of the Government would evaporate and that Mahmud Khan would doubtless sit on the throne of Government. Each person who lived in the District thought it necessary to adjust his own behavior to that of Mahmud Khan. On this basis it can be said that even all our own employees were on the same side as the companions of Mahmud Khan. We had never anticipated they would stand together with us when hard times came. In fact, we had known for a certainty that at the point they would all side with Mahmud Khan.
24) Report of Mahmud Khan's Intention to Revolt at Night
Chaudhri Partab Singh, Rais of Tajpur, received detailed letters on the same date about the revolts at Bareilly and Moradabad and the faithlessness and disloyalty of Khan Bahadur Khan./8/ He showed all these letters to the Collector. The wretch Mahmud Khan had also received news about the unprincipled Khan Bahadur. With this particular news in hand he had taken the firm decision to become a disciple of Khan Bahadur, and to achieve his aims that night. Up to this time, however, we had received no report about this wretch's intent. We knew only this much: he had twice failed to respond to the Collector's summons; and when he did finally call, the Collector himself could observe the arrogance in his utterances and the symptoms of his innermost intentions on his face. Muhammad Sa'id Khan, a writer in the Collectorate and a resident in Najibabad, reported to me at eight o'clock that Mahmud Khan intended to revolt that very night, because he had become upset. over the news that the Collector was sending the rest of the treasure to Haldaur. Muhammad Sa'id Khan expected a massacre during the night. I told Muhammad Sa'id Khan that he should go at once and devise some strategy to keep the peace. He himself should speak, and he should also make use of Wali Muhammad to convey information from me to satisfy the Nawab that the treasure would not be sent to Haldaur, nor had there ever been any decision taken to do so.
Thereupon I called Sa'ad Allah Khan of Burhapur and enjoined him most forcefully to stop the rebellion and to reason with the Nawab along these lines: if, for example, two Englishmen (God forbid) were to be killed, then what would be the profit? We would be disgraced for disloyalty, and his face would be blackened in God's abode. The Sadr Amin was responsible (he should also argue) for the assurance that the treasure would on no account be sent to Haldaur and that the Collector would never do anything that might show that he accorded more importance to someone else than to the Nawab. So where was the profit to be gained from rebellion, disgrace, and bloodshed?
Sayyid Turab Ali Tahsildar and I immediately called on the Collector. The Deputy had also come. After the letters received by Chaudhri Partab Singh, Rais of Tajpur, had been examined and their contents discussed, I gave a detailed report on the entire matter [of Mahmud Khan]. There followed a long discussion about the Magistrates' staying or leaving, and about what would be best action should they give up their responsibilities.
We learned on the same day from Moradabad that a rebel force with two guns was about to leave there for Bijnor. This time, too, we accepted the accuracy of this report and really understood the interest of the rebels in loot and their even greater interest in doing bodily harm to the English officers; still, no one could even conceive of evacuating Bijnor in the face of these troubles. Sometime later, we learned from a thoroughly reliable source that the report had, in fact, been correct. The essence of the account was that when the forty soldiers had reached Moradabad from Bijnor, the soldiers of the disloyal battalion would not allow them to share in the looted treasure of Moradabad - on the grounds that they had, for no good reason, left the treasure of Bijnor untouched and the English officers unscathed. These soldiers had then decided to take more men and artillery and return to Bijnor to carry out their plans.
In short, there could be no doubt that this was what they had firmly decided to do; that night there was discussion in the hour of council about how to meet this rebel force on its arrival. After listening to these exchanges and searching the minds of these people, I had determined that when they were convinced that the rebel army was enroute to us they would all desert the place, so that we would be left without even a pro-English mouse to escort them to asylum across the river Ganges. My view of the case was unquestionably sound and well thought out. The Collector and other more sensible men accepted it.
In short, a decision was at last taken that the memsahib [Mrs. Shakespeare] and the Christian women and children and some men, including Mr. Currie, should leave that very night for Roorkee by way of Muzaffarnagar. Only the Collector Mr. Alexander Shakespeare, and Mr. George Palmer, were to stay in Bijnor. This course of conduct was decided on at midnight. Preparations for the departure of Mrs. Shakespeare began. Since Mahmud Khan's evil intentions were now out in the open, it was decided to consult with him about the departure of Mrs. Shakespeare lest -- God forbid -- some harm come to her if he were uninformed. Accordingly, acting on the instructions of the Collector, I went at midnight to Mahmud Khan in the compound of the residence where he was staying. I found him seated among the crowd of his Pathans. I asked for a private discussion. Mahmud Khan replied at first with a curious pride, "Who is an outsider here? These are all my brother Pathans. Speak!" However he did, on my insistence to come aside with me, arise. I asked him at the outset: "Who has informed you that the treasure is going to Haldaur? This is a complete lie. I am answerable that on no account is the treasure to go." He answered: "I have been disgraced to the last shred of my honor. My Pathans are abusing me right and left because Bahadur Khan is sitting on his ancestral throne while I, poor wretch, must sit in secret. I have eaten the salt of the English; I don't want any Englishman to be killed and my face blackened. If the Englishmen want to live, then they should go from here. If a Pathan kills one of them, what am I to do?"
Besides his oral testimony, the very manner of his utterance was such that only the two who shared the dialogue really knew and understood from evidence that could not be put into a written account that this wretch was determined and ready for rebellion with all his body and soul. I cannot describe my thoughts at the time. I was convinced that the English officers would certainly be harmed. "There ought not be any questions of violence or disgrace," I continued to argue with Nawab, "when the matter could be settled otherwise. If you wish it, we can arrange for the ladies and other officers to leave here this very night; the Collector and the Joint Magistrate Bahadur will leave a few days later. Then you will be Nawab and will have achieved your end without any dishonour." I told him other things of this nature suitable to the occasion, so that he agreed that the English officers should not be harmed. He retorted, "What kind of a tiresome business is this that the memsahib [Mrs. Shakespeare] leaves today while the officers go later. If they are to go, then let them all go together today, otherwise I will be disgraced, since someone may kill them. I have been barely able to hold the Pathans up until this time: my control over them is limited."
The fact of the matter is that Mahmud Khan and Ahmad Allah Khan had employed many men in Najibabad, and that his Pathan companions were gathered there in strength. We also can be sure that he had called this group from Najibabad to await the coming of those people. I can cite in proof the fact that that very night many men had already left Najibabad. We were to see many of them enroute as we fled toward Kotlah ourselves. An assembly sufficient for the purpose had gathered about Mahmud Khan at the very same instant that the Collector issued the order for his own departure. If the matter is not as we think, then what cause is there for this sudden appearance in Bijnor of so many men from Najibabad?
25) Discussion of Administration after the Revelation of Mahmud Khan's Evil Intent to Rebel
When I became convinced that Mahmud Khan had indeed determined to revolt and that he would not change his mind, I told him that we should both go to the Collector and report that it was no longer proper for him to stay here. He said: "I won't go; I have already told him not to stay. I have performed my engagement of loyalty. Now it's up to him to go or stay." Mahmud Khan thereupon went and sat down among his Pathans.
Feeling helpless, I reported everything to the Collector; once again
there was discussion about handing over the District and the departure.
In such a predicament, with the rebel force enroute from Moradabad and
a strong foe nearby and no one among our employees -- either new or old
-- who could be trusted, we three could do little else but offer up our
lives. The only way out was for the English to abandon the District in
order to save their lives. We all agreed; and our Magistrates also approved,
although the Deputy Sahib hesitated at the very first. But finally, even
/1/ Caste of graziers in
Punjab and Northwest India.