(A continuation of the account of the Bangalore Mutiny, 1832)
According to the court martial report Mohammed Yacoob, private, Shaikh Ahmed, private, Horse Artillery, Yacoob Khan, private, Horse Artillery, Shaikh Jaffer, private, 48th N.I, Honoor Khan, private, 9th N.I, Shaikh Mohammed, private, Horse Artillery were to be shot to death by musketry. These sentences were later commuted to transportation for life, reasons unknown. Cawder Khan, camp colour man, Horse Artillery and Chand Khan, private were sentenced to death by musketry. Ahmed Beg, private, and Budderodeen, private were sentenced to transportation overseas for the term of their natural lives.
I slowly pieced together this dramatic story with a little bit from here and there. Information in the public domain was sketchy. It was absent from text books, local and otherwise. It was also shrouded in mystery and a considerable amount of speculation. Other than their ranks, was there more information available regarding these men? Which part of the Pete had witnessed these secret meetings? Balepet? Kumbarpete? Cubbonpete? What happened to Hyder Ali Khan and Syfut Ali Shah? Their trail ran cold quickly. Could this have been a complex subversive conspiracy to set an example? This is unlikely, even though those were troubled times.
While the British takeover of Mysore in 1831 was reported as peaceful, the people evidently did not share this feeling. Following Tipu Sultan’s death in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1799), the interregnum plunged the region into a state of chaos. Fires of resistance flared but the rebels paid a price. Dhondia Wagh was the first casualty. The Vellore Mutiny followed in 1806 and the Koppal rebellion in 1819. In 1824, Kittur Rani Chennamma fought for her adopted son to be recognised as the legitimate heir and died imprisoned in the Bailhongal Fort. Her lieutenant, Sangoli Rayanna who continued the revolt, was caught and executed in 1830. Soon after, the peasants found their voice in the Nagar uprising (1830-31). “While we were under the dominion of the family of Caladi Sivappa Naik, who governed this country for many years and also in the days of Nawab Bahadur Tippoo, we were in a state of happiness.” [i] Not to be outdone, even the British Officers attempted a short lived mutiny in 1809!
In his memoirs, Senior Commissioner, General John Briggs recorded his concern over the increasing discontent. “The people see the head of Government in a manner cut off from all communication with the capital and the Kajah. They see the senior, and apparently the sole, Commissioner prohibited from interference with the measures of a Dewan whom they know to be ignorant and corrupt.” [ii] he wrote.
Nobles who were prominent during Tipu’s rule now faced reduced circumstances. Families were displaced. Arrears had piled up and more than a year’s pay was due to both military and civil establishments. There were two thousand untried prisoners in jail. Pensioners and land owners had their incomes suspended. The past had not yet faded. Many soldiers had family who had fought beside Tipu in the final assault on Srirangapatna in 1799. According to Briggs, the unrest was primarily due to `sudden loss of subsistence and of honourable position’. He suggested administrative reforms to improve the situation immediately but was soon frustrated, angry and helpless when he found himself up against the then Junior Commissioner, CM Lushington and his brother, SR Lushington (1776-1868), Governor of the Madras Province who turned a deaf ear.
Briggs goes on to say that “The European troops at Bangalore in 1832 consisted of the 13th Light Dragoons, the 62nd Foot, and a Company of Madras Artillery, altogether about 1,200 men; while the Natives, including a Regiment of Light Cavalry and a troop of Horse Artillery, amounted to more than 4, 000 ; and there were, also, close at hand, 2.000 of the Mysore Silladar Horse, nearly all of them Mohammedans, and 2,000 of the Mysore ” Barr” or Line Infantry”. This was a volatile combination.
Much to their surprise, the British officers conducting the court martial found that Hyder Ali Khan was a man of means who had socially engaged with and enlisted native officers and sepoys from the Native Horse Artillery, both in service and those discharged from the Maharaja’s Mysore troops. He had negotiated deals with the Pindaris, almost several hundred of them. They were even more surprised to find that Chikka Veera Rajendra, the errant Raja of Coorg, through his ambassador (Vakeel) had promised to send 12,000 mounted and 7,000 foot soldiers to Hyder Ali Khan’s aid when the Fort was taken.
But while some accounts indicate that the plot was discovered just before D-day, Colonel Briggs records that on the 5th of March 1832, seven months before the appointed date of October 28th, he received information that the Mysore Infantry posted in the Fort were planning to seize the Fort and murder all the European officers. He says he took steps without `a moments delay’ along with the General commanding at Bangalore (Hawker), and `secured the alleged ring leaders in the conspiracy’. 130 men were subsequently apprehended and convicted. Many were transported to the Eastern Archipelago.
Further unrest broke out in the Pete area on 5th March 1832, according to Briggs, when the head of a pig transfixed on a wooden cross was thrown into a prominent mosque in the Fort precincts. But that is the subject of another story.
The Mysore Gate is now long gone, the city having grown over and around it. Of the Mutiny, there is no sign. No memorial, no plaque, nothing to mark the spot where perhaps India’s first mutiny took place long before the sepoys revolted in Meerut. The location of the execution and the subsequent burial of the men remain unknown. Campbell recorded Syed Tippoo’s last words. “According to law, I have forfeited my life; and I give it freely. They can take my life but they cannot destroy my spirit. This shall revisit the earth and rouse my fellow soldiers to action[iii]…” Twenty five years later, the words acquired prophetic undertones in another Indian Mutiny that was as ill-fated as its predecessor. Syed Tipoo’s dream was realised only in 1947.
But while the winds of change continue to blow over India, the fragmented spirits of the mutineers remain hidden in the nooks and crannies of the busy Pete. A hundred and eighty one years later, they still hover there, unacknowledged.
This is a work-in-progress to commemorate the Mysorean soldiers who gave their lives for Bangalore (1791-1832). Any additional information/corrections are most welcome.
Notes and Bibliography
[i] Janaki Nair, Mysore Modern: Rethinking the Region under Princely Rule (Greater Noida: Orient Blackswan Private Limited, 2012), 6
[ii] Evans Bell, Memoir of General John Briggs, of the Madras Army; with Comments on Some of His Words and Work (London: Chatto & Windus, 2012), 167-170
iii] Walter Campbell, My Indian Journal (Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas, 1864), 397
References for Briggs’ differences with the Governor and notes on maladministration: