Friday, December 08, 2017

Oude, 1855

Long ago, at one of the peak times of controversy over the Ramjanmabhoomi/Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, I discovered one of the joys of the full-fledged American university libraries, and found there news-reports from a previous flare-up.

This battle was over the Hanumangarhi site. The news reports are from the Times of London, and are in the order of publication (remember, news and correspondence traveled much slower in those days.)

One should note that the British were eyeing the province Awadh or Oude as they spelled it,  which included Ayodhya and its sister town Faizabad for annexation, and they did annex it in 1856. 

October 2, 1855
(The newspaper  quotes the Bombay Times, (overland survey) of August 29th.)
 A religious war appears to be raging in Oude betwixt the Mahomedans and Hindoos, the King's troops having joined the former against the latter, without  the  slightest regard apparently to the wishes of authority.  This state of matters will in all likelihood hasten on the crisis that has long been looked for.  The Governor-General has meanwhile  given orders that  not a man shall be moved from Cawnpore, a station formerly belonging to Oude, and close upon its western frontier.

The force here stationed at present consists of two battalions of artillery, one regiment of cavalry, and three regiments of infantry, or 4,000 men in all. We have three regiments at Lucknow itself, and, were military operations to become necessary, a force abundantly sufficient for the occupation of the kingdom could be provided whenever required in a short space of time.  The Governor-General is understood to have made up his mind on the subject of the indispensability of annexation. The reported interference with the affairs of Oodipore has been explained away.  It is not against the Rana that our troops were to take the field, but to assist him, at his own earnest and long-continued entreaties, to bring to order his own rebellious nobles.

[news from other parts  of India deleted]

 In Oude events are taking place which point to the absorption at no distant time of that decrepit State into the Anglo-Indian empire, and to the completion of one more step towards realizing the prediction of the old Lion of the Punjab, that the map of India would soon be coloured red through-out.  In the city of Fyzabad, the ancient capital of Oude, the Hindoos possess a fortified temple, dedicated to one of their gods, which is the resort of many thousands of pilgrims annually. In dangerous proximity to this temple is a mosque, which for prudential reasons had long been abandoned by the Mussalmans and had fallen into ruins. Of late, however, they had been wishing to repair and use it, but were prevented by the strenuous opposition of the Hindoos. 
After various threatening appearances, the storm broke out on the 28th of July, when great number of Mahomedans, armed and prepared for resistance, flocked to the temple and profaned its sacred precincts. The Hindoos, 3,000 or 4,000 in number, attacked them fiercely, and a desperate engagement followed, ending in the total route of the Mahomedans, of whom 113 were killed with a loss to the Hindoos of only 17. 
The excitement spread rapidly throughout the country. The measures of the Prime Minister were marked by firmness and temper, and all might have ended well but for the fanatical obstinacy of the King. Instead of an arbiter between the rival parties, at once and with equal hand redressing grievances and repressing violence, the debauched and worthless tyrant has, by the last accounts from Lucknow, announced his intention of coming forward as a partisan and heading the faithful in a religious war. 
Troops were ordered to march upon Fyzabad, raze the temple to the ground, and erect a mosque upon its ruins. The British resident, Colonel Outram, threw the great weight of his personal influence and high character into the scale of justice and prudence, but without effect, and at present the interference of the British Government and the deposition of the King appear almost inevitable.  ____________________________________________________
October 20 1855.

The anticipated disturbances in Oude consequent upon the desperate fight between the Hindoos and Mussalmans at Fyzabad have been avoided, for the present at least, by the firmness of the Prime Minister, backed by the weight and influence of Colonel Outram.  While appearances were still  threatening, and the intention of the King to head the troops of the faithful, confidently announced by the fanatical head of the Ulemah, had not been formally contradicted or revoked, the President kept the brigade continually under arms. Order was thus preserved in Lucknow, notwithstanding the exag gerated and exciting reports from Fyzabad, and the loud cries of "Deen, deen !" ("The faith, the faith !") incessantly raised by the fanatics.

Before the firmness of the Resident even the chief of the Ulemah quailed. At a meeting of Ameers in the house of the Minister it appeared that the fear of annexation by the Company overcame the desire of vindicating the honour of the faith. The arrival of an English officer--Major Banks--a short time before, with despatches for the Resident, had given rise to much alarm, and the Ameers had sense enough to see that violent opposition to the wishes of the British and an armed attack upon the Hindoos would render nearly certain the annexation which they believed to be contemplated. Hence
all idea of resistance and violence was abandoned, and the attention of the meeting was directed by various influential speakers to the best means of averting the threatened evil.  Bribery and agitation were, we are told, recommended and determined upon--the former to a large amount.

The  people were pacified partly by bribes and partly by representations of the power of the English Government and of certain ruin consequent upon offending them.  The Moulvie, as we further learn, was despatched to Fyzabad with the King's firman, to effect a compromise. On his arrival he had an interview with the principal Brahmin of the temple. A long conference ensued, and at length an amicable arrangement was come to on the basis of an apology by the Moulvie on the part of the King for the insult offered to the temple and the payment of a sum of money for its purification.

By the last accounts the large bodies of men collected on either side were quietly dispersing. During these proceedings the King is represented as having been in a continual state of stupefaction from opium or bhang. The Prime Minister and the English Resident, with his assistants, were the real masters of the situation.


November 7, 1855  (excerpts of an editorial kind of article)
        The last intelligence from India cannot be properly called either serious or alarming, but nevertheless contains matter which may reasonably give cause for disquiet and uneasiness. A wild and fanatical spirit is abroad, so much the more formidable as it disclaims the fears and despises the  interests by which the masses of mankind are governed and swayed. The fierce and sanguinary spirit of Islamism is aroused anew, and threatens, unless curbed by a strong hand and a resolute will, to add the scourge of civil war to the horrors of private assassination. What may be the cause  which has led to so many simultaneous outbreaks and outrages in so many distinct quarters we do not know, though we may partly guess that they are the reverberations of the vast conflict that is going on on the shores of the Black Sea.
[Events of a Moplah attack; not included here.]
[A fight with Rohilla mercenaries, and the attack on Col. Mckenzie, in the territories of the Nizam  of Hyderabad; not included here.]
In Oude the Asiatic world is giving a singular proof of its gradual approximation to European forms and methods, even while it is seeking objects the most entirely opposed to our belief and our civilization. Fanaticism does not now content herself with raving from the pulpit or storming in the bazaar ; she has called in the arts of the West to her aid, and seeks to stir up the dormant spirit of Islamism by the agency of the press. For the first time, so far as we are aware at least, in the monotonous annals of the unchanging East, a pamphlet has been circulated by the advocates of a particular class of opinions.
This circumstance has in itself something gratifying, for it implies an  involuntary homage to the practice of more enlightened nations, and the introduction into Asia of a new power destined in its full expansion to be fatal alike to bigotry and tyranny; but in the meanwhile the title of  the work,"The Sword is the Key of Heaven and Hell", is not very reassuring to the tranquillity of India.
In Oude, indeed, all things seem ripe for the outbreak of a religious war, and long years of tyranny, rapine, and murder have unsettled the minds of men; there is the concussa fides and the mullis utile bellum of the poet. At the head of the Mahomedan party stands the KING, as fanatical as he is said to be cruel and prolifigate, and the Hindoos confront him with equal resolution. There is a story of some new descendant of the Prophet having appeared; the time is deemed ripe for the employment of that sword which every true Moslem believes opens Heaven to the faithful who fall in wielding it, and, singularly enough, as if to show that the Hindoos can also have their fanaticism, amid all these symptoms of Mahomedan bigotry, we have likewise the rebellion of the Santals,... ... ...[not included here]
Such, with the usual amount of fighting on the N-W frontier, is the bloody chronicle of a single fortnight of the Anglo-Indian empire. Some of these coincidences may by fortitous, and only to be traced to those peccant humours which occasionally find vent in violence in all semi-civilized societies.
But there is one observation that must forcibly strike everyone. The seats of these disorders, ....,are the two quasi independent kingdoms of Hyderabad and Oude........[Stuff about Hyderabad deleted]

In Oude, we have a Government steeped to the lips in profligacy, debauchery, cruelty, and avarice, plundering and murdering its subjects without mercy, and allowing them in return to plunder and murder each other-- a barber for a Prime Minister, a fiddler for a Chief Justice, ....[not included here]
Why do we allow in the north a State where Islamism may preach her fierce doctrine of extermination with impunity, .....?

Why do we suffer our Indian exchequer to be bankrupt, our expenditure for public works to languish, and our own subjects to be ground down by excessive taxation, in order to retain on their tottering thrones profligate tyrants [paraphrase:which only British might preserves from the wrath of their own subjects]?

We know not, unless it be that in the House of Commons may be found some half a dozen gentlemen with a taste for fallen Indian royalty, in deference to whose sentimental predelictions the East India Company shrinks from assuming those powers over the whole of India which are absolutely necessary, if she would in any degree satisfy the duty she has already accepted.


November 12, 1855

A letter to The Times


Sir,- I beg leave to call your attention to a statement contained in the leading article of The Times of Wednesday last, the 7th. inst., upon the subject of Indian affairs, and which statement is verbatim as follows:-

"In Oude we have a Government steeped to the lips in profligacy, debauchery, cruelty, and avarice . . . a barber for Prime Minister, a fiddler for Chief Justice."

I cannot but feel surprised that two such unfounded and mendacious assertions as those I have marked should have been deliberately made in a journal alike distinguished by its accuracy of information and its regard for truth.
The Prime Minister, Sir, whom you thus hold up to ridicule and contempt is a hereditary Prince, related by the ties of blood to His Majesty the King of Oude. His name is Syed Allie Nuque Khan Bahadoor, and he is the son of Syed Mohummud Allie Khan, formerly a statesman of some note, and who now enjoys an annual stipend from the Hon. East India Company. Syed Allie Nuque Khan is highly accomplished in Persian and Arabic literature, and well versed in every other branch of Oriental lore. As a proof of the estimation in which he is held by your own people I need only mention that on the occasion of his (Syed's) marriage Sir Herbert Maddock,M.P., made him a wedding present of 5,000 rupees, and that, moreover, he is known to and highly respected by Viscount Hardinge.

As for the Chief Justice, whom you stigmatize as a "fiddler", he is the son of a gentleman celebrated throughout India for his learning. Both he and his son after him acquired such proficiency in Oriental studies that, after a due and formal examination, they obtained from the Fazil* (or learned men) in Mecca and Tehran the degree of Moulvee,--that is, Mahomedan lawyer.

Having thus shown, Sir, that with respect to the above persons you have been most grossly imposed upon by your informant, whoever he may be, I doubt not that, in justice to those said persons, whose characters and feelings you have thus, unwittingly as I believe, misrepresented and injured, you will insert the present contradiction to the statements complained of.

I have the honour to be,Sir,your most obedient and very humble servant,
A Native of Oude.
35,Upper Berkeley-street, Portman-square,Nov.10.

November 15, 1855
                   (FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
                             BOMBAY, OCT. 17.
Though no event of much public importance has occurred since I last wrote, the state of affairs in Oude and the insurrection among the Santals continue to occasion much disquietude. I mentioned the apprehensions entertained that the celebration of the Mohurrum at Lucknow might at the present juncture be attended with acts of violence, and even, perhaps, be the signal for a general rising of the Mahomedans against the Hindoos. These apprehensions were, happily, not realized, the festival having passed off, in the capital at least, with no more than the usual amount of turbulent demonstration.
In the northern part of the kingdom, however, near Khyrabad, a riot took place
between parties of the rival religionists, in which several lives were lost on either side, but finally the Mussulmans, who were the aggressors, were severely beaten by their
opponents. Meanwhile the rage and fanaticism of the more violent of the Mahomedan population was being concentrated at a place called Sehowlee, [my copy is bad, the last 2 vowels could be oo or aa ] some 25 miles from Lucknow, where  a Moulavie, named Ameen Ali, had established himself with  the avowed intention of moving upon Fyzabad and destroying  the Hindoo temple of Hunooman, the monkey god. It was, as  you will remember, by an attack upon this temple some six  weeks ago that these disturbances were initiated.

The desperate and successful defence of their sanctuary by the Hindoos, which was no less exemplary than their subsequent moderation, kindled a flame which was smothered for a time, but not extinguished, by the exertions of the more thinking and temperate among the King's counsellors. With the Hindoos, the outrage on their faith appealed at once to the courage of the Rajpoots and the zeal of the Brahmins and devotees. The Mahomedans, smarting under the conciousness of defeat, and believing the report industriously circulated among them that the temple in question was erected on the site of a musjid, or mosque, were wounded alike in their pride of race and in their devotion to the Prophet.

For men thus roused a fitting leader soon appeared in the person of Ameen Ali. This man, the Moulavie, or high priest of a small town not far from Lucknow, immediately, on hearing of the fight at Fyzabad, proclaimed a crusade against the infidel, and declared his intention of placing himself at the head of such true followers of the Prophet as should resort to him, and avenging the death of the martyrs who had fallen in the attack on the temple. A considerable number of fanatics had joined his  standard, and he appeared to be on the point of action, when, as if abandoning his plans, he suddenly repaired to Lucknow. There he was officially reported to be under a strict surveillance which would render his escape impossible.
But it is believed that his supposed detention was part of a ruse to which the King and his Durbar were privy, devised in order to gain time more fully to rouse the passions of the Mahomedans, so as largely to increase the number of his adherents, and, perhaps, to extend the area of his projected rising. It at least appears certain that while the Moulavie remained in the capital, so far from soothing measures being adopted, stimulants of the most powerful and exciting character were unceasingly applied.
Inflammatory pamphlets, like that I alluded to in my last, were disseminated far and wide; the bazaars of Lucknow swarmed with active agents well primed with exaggerated and distorted versions of the affair at Fyzabad; and we are even told that a copy of the Koran, said to have been torn from the bosom of a martyr, clotted with his blood, spit upon and trampled under  foot, was paraded for public view in the streets of the capital.

And now, spite of the vigilance of the Durbar, Ameen Ali disappeared from Lucknow, the richer since his arrival both in money and men. Four days passed before his flight was made  known to the King, who, professing the utmost surprise and indignation, ordered out troops and despatched them under the guidance of some of his principal generals and attendants to bring back the Moulavie alive or dead. Ameen Ali, surrounded by his fanatical chiefs, received the summons of his Sovereign; but, far from obeying, ordered the two officers who were specially intrusted with the mission into a confinement real or pretended.

The leader of the troops, instead of attacking the Moulavie as a rebellious subject, treated with him upon terms of equality, and finally the following conditions were agreed to:-The troops were to return to Lucknow unmolested and unmolesting. For one month the Moulavie was to remain quiet. If within that month, dating from the 4th of September, the Durbar, in the name of the King, should order the demolition of the temple and the erection of a musjid on its site-- an order which the general pledged himself to obtain-- Ameen Ali would still remain quiet.

But if the Durbar should fail in its duty to Allah and his Prophet, then the Moulavie was to be at liberty to carry his followers to Fyzabad, and act as should seem to him advisable and advantageous to the faith.

If, as appears to be the case from the sources whence they are derived, these accounts are deserving of credit, we are warranted in entertaining the gravest apprehensions. The period of one month, limited by these extraordinary negotiations, has now expired, but some little time must yet elapse before we can learn whether the Durbar has redeemed the pledge of its general, or  whether its silence has set free for action the violence of the
Moulavie and his followers.

In either case the danger of an outbreak of the most perilous nature is imminent. The Hindoos would not be backward in meeting their enemy; they are brave, united and numerous, and the Mahomedans, in all probability, would succumb. But the  shock of a contest between the rival religions would be felt  through every regiment in our service, and we cannot but wish to hear that an energetic interference in the affairs of this misgoverned country, even though it amount to annexation, has been undertaken by the Supreme Government.

 Some further particulars have reached us concerning the pamphlet which I alluded to at some length in my last, and have mentioned above. It was originally written ( I believe in Persian) by a  learned Moulavie, and translated into Hindoostanee (to use its own words) "in order to give the work a wider circulation among the faithful." It is printed at a native press at Cawnpore, and bears a Mahomedan date corresponding with June or July, 1852, though it is supposed to have been in print only a few months. When discovered at Lucknow, intelligence was promptly sent to the magistrate of Cawnpore, by whom the press in question was searched and 300 copies of the pamphlet seized. This proceeding has materially impeded the circulation of the tract, but copies have been met with in Agra and in the Upper Provinces.

Leaving Oude behind us,............."


December 31, 1855 (excerpt)

"We have received the following telegraphic despatch from Trieste:--
"TRIESTE, SATURDAY, DEC. 29. The steamer Bombay arrived here this morning...... ...On the 7th November there was a collision between the Hindoos and Mahomedans at Oude, in which 500 persons were slain. The Hindoos were victorious. The Mahomedan leader was killed.
Herat has been taken by the Persians. ......"

January 2, 1856
           (The Calcutta correspondent, dated November 22, 1855)
The collision so long expected in Oude has occurred at last. At the date of my last letter Ameer Alee, the fanatic Moulavie, lay encamped, with about 3,000 followers, at Daryabad.  This place lies between  Lucknow and the great temple of Hunooman, about 35 miles from each.

The royal troops, some 12,000 in number, were encamped further down  the road, between the Moulavie and the temple. In this attitude they remained for some ten days, the Moulavie unwilling to stir without reinforcements, and the King's officers fettered by the absence of  definite instructions from Lucknow. 

Meanwhile every kind of intrigue was put in motion. The Lieutenant of the district, a bitter partisan of the Moulavie, endeavoured to secure him a rescript from Lucknow, authorizing him to build a mosque upon the site of the Hindoo temple.  For himself, he plundered the King's Treasury to supply the fanatics with food. 

The Durbar, on the other hand, though sympathizing with the Mussulmen, dreaded the Hindoos, who are known to be in Oude the more powerful of the two.  It dreaded still  more any occurrence which would offer an excuse for British interference, and between its conflicting apprehensions lost all sense of self-respect.  Orders were issued one day to be recalled the next. The  Moulavie was threatened with death.  He was implored to visit Lucknow. He was to be slain wherever he could be found.  He was to be caressed as the vindicator of an outraged faith.

At length the vacillation gave way. The danger of British interference  overcame even fanaticism, and Captain Barlow conveyed to camp the order for the slaughter of the Moulavie.  It was more easily issued than  obeyed.  The Mussulmen in the King's service were known to be disaffected and it was believed would at the first shot go over to the enemy. The artillerymen were still more deeply implicated, and it was probable that the order to advance would be answered by a universal mutiny.

Fortunately, Captain Barlow understood his position and his men. Slowly and quietly the Hindoos of his regiment were separated from their comrades.  A few guns, six I believe, were entrusted to the Hindoo gunners.  The Mussulman gunners were despatched on various errands, and at last Captain Barlow had about five companies on whom he could rely.

The supplies of food granted by treachery were peremptorily stopped, and at last, on the 7th of November, the Moulavie, urged on by the cries of his men, terminated the situation.  By a forced march he gained a point in advance of Captain Barlow, and streamed along the road to the great temple.  Leaving all the Mussulmen behind them, Captain Barlow and his picked corps started in pursuit.  They overtook the Mohammedans some seven miles in advance, and the engagement commenced with a shower of grape. Ameer Alee fell wounded at the first discharge, but his Pathans, mad with fanaticism, charged sword in hand straight up to the muzzles of the guns. While the day was still doubtful, they were attacked from behind. The Hindoo Zemindars, all along the road, had assembled their retainers, and appeared at the critical moment in overwhelming force.

The Pathans saw the day was lost, but they had come for death in the  cause of Islam, and they died, fighting shoulder to shoulder, round the guns. The King's Mussulman troops, enraged at the manner in which they had been checkmated by Captain Barlow, drew their swords on their  Hindoo comrades, and the tumult was only suppressed by an order dispersing the regiments to different and distant stations.

I must not forget one incident of the engagement.  It illustrates the passionate zeal of the two parties even better than the death of the Pathans.  One Mussulman gunner accompanied Captain Barlow. Though all alone, he refused to fire on his co-religionists, and was sabred on the spot.  About 200 Hindoos and 300 Pathans perished on the field.

According to my letters from Lucknow, the danger is not yet over. The fallen are regarded as martyrs, and the ditch into which the bodies were thrown is styled the "Martyr's Grave". The Prime Minister has been threatened with death, the sentries at his gate have been cut down, and an outbreak is considered possible in Lucknow itself. The revenue has fallen to nothing. The Durbar are afraid to employ force for its collection, and this year it will reach scarcely 300,000l. And out of these 30 lakhs, 80,000 "soldiers", as the rabble are styled, have to  be paid.

Daryabad is utterly desolate.  Every house has been unroofed, every hoard of grain taken away, every woman subjected to the insults of the King's forces.  The end of all this cannot be far distant, and troops are accumulating at Caunpore.  As this is the frontier station, the assemblage of an army of 16,000 men, including three European regiments, is considered proof positive that ulterior measures are intended.


January 2, 1856
         (from a Bombay correspondent, dated December 3, 1855)

I had mentioned in my last that a telegraphic message had just reached Bombay, to the effect that Ameer Alee, the fanatical leader in Oude, had fallen in an encounter with the King's troops.

Full accounts of the action have since arrived, from which it would appear that the religious character of the movement was so far preserved to the end that it was by the King's Hindoo Sepoys exclusively that the Moulavie and his followers were overthrown, and that they were designedly selected for the purpose.
On the 3d of November, while the insurgents were still in Daryabad, Captain Barlow, an officer in the service of the King, arrived from Lucknow to take command of the Royal troops, who occupied the road by which the Moulavie would have to advance upon the Hindoo temple.

He brought with him an order for the head of the arch rebel, the arrival of which was notified to Ameer Alee by a messenger from the camp, who at the same time conveyed to him a recommendation to surrender himself and disperse his followers. This advice, though backed by the opinions of many of his principal partisans, the Moulavie steadily rejected.

Hostilities being thus inevitable, Captain Barlow prepared for them by quietly and on various pretexts weeding his force of all Mussulman officers and soldiers, till there remained in the ranks but one gunner of that persuasion only.  He then, to force the enemy to an engagement, harassed his foraging parties, and at last completely cut off his
At length, finding actual starvation staring him in the face, the Moulavie determined on the final step, and, separating his force into small portions, he prescribed to them various lines of march, all uniting at a point in the rear of the King's troops, and on the road to the temple at Fyzabad. 

The plan was at first successful, and the fanatics, having met at the appointed rendezvous, were in full march for the temple, when they were overtaken by Captain Barlow, who had followed them with all speed.  The King's guns at once opened with grape. The one Mahomedan gunner, purposely giving an undue elevation to his piece, was cut down by his Hindoo fellow-soldiers. Ameer Alee fell severely wounded, but his followers, consisting chiefly of Pathans or Affghans, were only stimulated by his loss, and with desperate courage charged, sword in hand, right up to the guns and began to sabre the artillerymen; but, attacked in the rear by a neighbouring Rajpoot chief, whose men in moving up despatched the wounded Moulavie, they  were cut to pieces among the guns to the number of 400, and the rout of the insurgents was complete.

Thus has fallen Ameer Alee, but, inasmuch as he met his end by Hindoo and not Mahomedan soldiers, fears are entertained that the evil he has done may live after him.  We are told that while the whole of his  followers were buried indiscriminately in one large pit, his body received separate burial as the relics of a martyred saint, over which men are talking already of erecting a mosque.  At Lucknow the excitement among the Mussulman part of the population is reported as violent in the extreme.  The King, alternating between puerile follies and gross debauchery, cares for none of these things, though the life of his Minister is threatened, and the knell of his sovereignty, it may be, is on the point of striking. Rumours are prevalent of measures with regard to his country about to be concerted between Major Outram and Lord Dalhousie, and of a gathering of forces, including, it is said, no fewer than six European regiments, in the neighbourhood of Cawnpore, and in a, for him, dangerous proximity to his capital.