V.26:No. 1-4 Janary-April 1998 #296-299

"Introduction," Shireen Moosvi, p. 3-5.

"The Coming of 1857," Irfan Habib, p. 6-15.

"The coming of the Revolt in Awad: The Evidence of Urdu Newspapers," Faruqui Anjum Taban, p. 16-24.

"The Rebel Administration of Delhi," Iqbal Husain, p. 25-38.

"Profile of a Saintly Rebel - Maulavi Ahmadullah Shah," Saiyid Zaheer Husain Jafri, p. 39-52.

"The Gwalior Contingent in 1857-58: A Study of the Organisation and Ideology of the Sepoy Rebels." Iqtidar Alam Khan, p. 53-75.

"The 'Tribals' and the 1857 Uprising," K.S. Singh, p. 76-85.

"Popular Culture and 1857: Memory Against Forgetting," Badri Narayan, p. 86-94.

"1857 and the 'Renaissance' in Hindi Literature," Ramesh Rawat, p. 95-112.

"1857: Need for Alternative Sources," Pankaj Rag, p. 113-147.

Farhat Hasan's review titled, "A Welcome Study," of Tapti Roy, The Politics of a Popular Uprising - Bundelkhand in 1857. Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. X, 291, Price Rs. 350.

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Introduction [by Shireen Moosvi]

The Revolt of 1857 is one of those events which have been interpreted again and again by officials, nationalists and historians.

Here we have an uprising which for its scale alone demands explanation, whatever view of history we may adopt. In the words of a contributor to the present collection of essays, there is no gainsaying the fact that it was "the greatest armed challenge to imperialism the world over during the entire course of the nineteenth century".

The designation "Mutiny", so long given by the rulers, and accepted by the ruled (who called it "Ghadar"), loses its perjorative and restrictive colour, when applied to that great event. If it was a mutiny, it was not of this or that group of soldiers, but of the bulk of soldiers of the largest modern army in all Asia, the Bengal Army, of about 130,000 men (excluding British officers). The Mutiny involved soldiers stationed from Barrackpore near Calcutta to the Northwest frontier. But in a large region whose population today amounts to nearly a quarter of the population of this country, the revolt took the complexion of what Disraeli pronounced to be a "national revolt". For in this extensive space large masses of civil population Joined the soldiers' rebellion. Whether the revolt was not simply "national" in this sense, but also "nationalist" can always be debated, and the absence of ideas of equality and democracy among the rebel leaders can be legitimately stressed. But what surprised even the English opponents of the Rebellion, was the stress laid by rebels on the unity of Hindus and Muslims, -which is surely an important, perhaps crucial, building block for the nation that is India. There was also a fairly strong concept of India ("Hindustan") and the need to free it of foreign rule that animated the rebels, beyond their immediate, local or parochial grievances.

From these generalities, one must pass to the specific problem of reconstructing the revolt on the basis of the massive information that exists, much of it still unexplored.

The work of extracting this material for the reconstruction of the events in JN Kaye's History of the Sepoy War or G.B. Malleson's History of the Indian Mutiny, written in the immediate aftermath of the Mutiny, deserves all credit even when full allowance is made for their obvious bias. But the authors would have been the last to claim that they had exhausted the possible sources, or that they were called upon to see the events from the rebel point of view as well. Much new information has since then been published, and the series of collections of documents on the History of the Freedom Movement, commissioned by the state governments after independence, such as the series issued by the Uttar Pradesh government, edited by S.A.A. Rizvi, deserve special mention. The National Archives as well as the state archives contain much material, still unpublished, that needs to be utillsed. One must draw particular attention to the material in Urdu, then almost universally the language of lower levels of administration, lying in government archives. This remains largely unused, owing to the sad decline of that language in India. If the inner history of the rebellion, with an emphasis on what the rebels thought, did or aimed at (in which respect S.N. Sen' s official history " 1857" unfortunately falls so very lamentably) is to be reconstructed, then this material must be studied and analysed.

One of the objectives of the Aligarh Historians Group for which it has been modestly working for many years is to further the cause of people' s history based on rigorous fealty to documentation. For some time we have approached colleagues and friends to give us studies that could contribute to the building in future of a Rebels' History of 1857. The intention is not to glorify, but understand the rebels, who fought so strongly for their cause even when all was lost. Professor Irfan Habib' s general essay on the coming of 1857 (courtesy SAHMAT) serves for an introduction. Faruqui Anjurn Taban uses 1857 Urdu newspapers to establish how civilian unrest was preparing the ground for the Revolt. Iqbal Husain studies the Rebel administration of Delhi from archival sources and Delhi' s contemporary Urdu newspapers. S.Z.H. Jafri takes up Ahmadullah Shah, a notable and uncompromising rebel, who was already in prison for sedition when the Revolt broke out. Iqtidar Alam Khan pursues the history of the Gwalior Contingent, which, betrayed by the Scindia, yet trounced General Windham in open battle. K. Suresh Singh describes the role of the tribal people in 1857 - an oft-forgotten chapter. Three essays deal with the impact of 1857 in different ways: Badri Narayan and Pankaj Rag explore the survivals of 1857 in folk memory-, and Ramesh Rawat contests the connection between 1857 and the "Hindi Renaissance", so Widely held currently among Hindi literateurs.

It is hoped that all those who are interested in the history of imperialism and resistance in India will find these studies of some interest.

I should like to acknowledge the kindness of my young colleagues, Dr Farhat Hasan and Mr Ghulam A. Nadri for giving me much assistance in preparing the final copy.

Secretary, Aligarh Historians Group

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