Category Archives: Amazing Feats

A father’s dream, a daughter’s dedication: The story of the first Muslim woman from Kishanganj to crack state civil services

Kishanganj, BIHAR  :


Purv chalne ke batohi, baat ki pahchaan kar le
Anginat raahi gaye
Iss raah se unka pta kya
Par gaye kuchh log iss par
Chhod pairon ki nishaanithe

(Get grounded through introspection before beginning the unknown journey.
Innumerable laureates have been through this journey
But only a few could leave their footprints on sands of time.)

Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s ‘Path ki Pahchaan’ motivates her, Nirala is her favourite poet, and she likes the stories of Premchand, Ilachandra Joshi and Manu Bhandari among others. Mohan Rakesh finds a special mention in her never-ending list of Hindi laureates for portraying a realistic picture of the middle class and the lower-middle class lives in his dramas. She claims to have read every book in the Hindi section of her college library and only the lack of space at her home has stopped her from turning her home into a library.

Nargis – the first Muslim woman from Kishanganj district, which has a Muslim-majority population, to crack Bihar Public Service Commission (BPSC) Examination – is a rare person in Seemanchal’s Surjapuri community, where most girls are given the basic education just to find a good match while a few become government school teachers to ease the financial strain of in-laws. Nargis, however, will join the services as a Commercial Tax Officer soon.

Nargis with her parents
Nargis with her parents

The daughter of an Army man, she was saved from the deteriorating education system of Bihar early on by Kendriya Vidyalaya, the central government schools instituted under the aegis of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. KVs, as they are often known, remained a constant in her school life, but cities kept changing with her father Mohammad Akbar’s postings. Samba (J&K), Secunderabad (Andhra), Binnaguri (WB), Kishanganj (Bihar), Jalandhar (Punjab) – by the time she finished her school she had got firsthand experience of India’s cultural diversity. ‘The more you travel, the more you learn’ – she says, explaining why she is thankful to her army life for personality development which ultimately made BPSC interview easy for her and she cracked the examination in her first attempt.

“Civil services were my father’s vision, if I had my go I would have joined the Army, women in the uniform look beautiful,” says Nargis. Her story is a textbook case of an amalgamation of a father’s dream and daughter’s dedication. When he retired from Army in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur, the family moved back to Jalandhar for her Masters. In absence of a salaried job and waiting for his pension works to complete, Akbar worked in a steel factory and later in a home furnishing showroom. When his efforts couldn’t meet the daily needs, he moved back home. She wanted to go to Delhi to prepare for civil services examination; parents didn’t feel safe with the idea and sent her to Patna instead. ‘Ni maamu se kaana maamu bhala’ (Having a blind uncle is better than not having one) – she laughs explaining the reason behind accepting her parents’ decision.

Her teachers at her coaching were confident, but as is often the case, a few boys couldn’t tolerate a girl excelling ahead of them. She particularly remembers how a group of backbenchers would pass comments on her, referring to Kishanganj’s traditional food and clothing using the words ‘tribal and refugees’ every time she entered the classroom.

Her mother Shahnaaz, a housewife who attended school till class 6, would sit with Nargis throughout her late night studies reading Quran. When Nargis moved to Patna, she would encourage her over the phone, and share her grief – “She is my best friend,” says Nargis while talking of her mother. People would bother Shahnaaz with questions like, “when are you going to get your daughter married?”, “do you want to live on your daughter’s earnings?” but Shahnaaz remained unfazed by all these taunts and continue to pray for her daughter.

Nargis took coaching for two years and appeared for prelims in March 2015. The results came in November of the same year. The Mains examination took place in July 2016, and results were announced in February 2018 – almost two years later. “It was very frustrating, but my parents were always there for me,” says Nargis.

Once, Nargis recalls, she called up her mother to say she was feeling nervous about the results. Her father travelled 386 kilometres from Kishanganj to reach Patna next morning and brought her back home despite her teachers’ insistence. When the final results were announced, she played a prank on her father telling him she failed to qualify. He rushed back home to tell her ‘don’t worry, you can try again.’

Har safal panthi yahi
Vishwas le iss par badha hai
Tu isi par aaj apne
Chitt ka avdhaan kar le

(Like all other aspirants who have succeeded in the past, you must also believe in yourself and keep moving ahead.)


Nargis is inspiring many others in the community. An intermediate district topper has decided to follow her path. A group of boys worried about finance to support their coaching education met her for guidance. Educated girls who were married early regret that they couldn’t stand up to their parents to pursue their dreams. Friends who gave up midway have resumed civil services preparations. Villagers unaware of such competitive examinations come to see her with their kids.

Hazaaron saal nargis apni benoori pe roti hai
Badi mushkil se hota hai chaman mein deedawar paida

 (For thousand years the narcissus was lamenting its lack of lustre;
With great difficulty the one with true vision is born in the garden)

Tanzil Asif is a Bihar-based journalist-cum-entrepreneur and founder of a hyper-local news app ‘Main’ Media. He tweets at @tnzl_ 

source: / / Home> Indian Muslim / by Tanzil Asif / September 07th, 2018

Beyond religion: Muslim cooperative society helps transform lives of Hindus, others

Patna, BIHAR :

Courtesy: Two Cirlce
Courtesy: Two Cirlce


Kamla Devi, Pankaj Kumar, Geeta Devi and Sanjay Singh, all Hindus, share one thing in common. Their lives have been transformed through “interest-free” loans provided by a Muslim cooperative credit society in Bihar, yet another example how integrated Indian society has always been at the grassroot level.

They are four of nearly 9,000 Hindus — mostly vendors, small traders, roadside shopkeepers, marginal farmers and women — who got rid of exploitative moneylenders thanks to interest-free loans by the Al-Khair Cooperative Credit Society Ltd that is based here.

“I used to sell potatoes and onions in a small roadside shop. I was often exploited by moneylenders for a small amount of Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 that I needed for my business. But a few years ago, I was surprised when someone informed me of interest-free loans from Al-Khair Society,” Kamla, in her mid 40s, told IANS at her shop in Mirshikar Toli here.

She first took a Rs 10,000 loan to run her shop, followed by loans of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50, 000.

“It helped me expand my business from a vendor to a wholesale trader,” she said.

Now doing financially well, Kamla managed to fund the education of her two sons, with one getting admission in an engineering college and the other in a B.Ed. college.

Based on the Islamic principle of prohibiting interest, Al Khair Society has provided interest-free loans of more than Rs 50 crore to nearly 20,000 people, mostly those struggling for survival, in the last one decade of its existence.

About half of these beneficiaries are Hindus. Regardless of religion and any other considerations, Al Khair Society has opened new vistas for large sections of marginalised people, skilled and unskilled, from unorganised sectors.

Geeta Devi not only turned her small roadside vegetable shop into a big one; she has opened another vegetable shop for her son.

“Our life has changed after I came into contact with Al Khair Society. It helped us live a life of dignity. For poor people like us, interest-free loans are God’s gift and, unlike in regular banks, there are no uncertainties about getting the loan,” she said.

Manju Devi, another beneficiary, has been taking a loan of Rs 20,000 to pay the annual school fee of her children for the last five years. Her husband runs a roadside shop.

“I also deposit my daily earnings with Al-Khair Society and repay the loan amount without paying any interest,” Kamla said.

Sanjay Singh, another beneficiary of the interest-free loans, said banks have no time for vendors like him and they have no interest in giving out small loans.

“Banks charge interest and there is a lot of paper work involved that only discourages and frustrates the poor,” said Sanjay, who used to sell garments on a bicycle. He now owns a small garment shop run by his wife even as he continues to sell clothes on his bicycle.

What attracts people, many of whom are not literate, to Al Khair Society’s door is that it involves minimal paper work and a poor-friendly perspective.

“Interest-free loans may be a concept associated with Muslims as Islam prohibits interest as it terms it unjust, but it has a universal appeal and can benefit all, not just Muslims,” said Shamim Rizvi, a retired bank officer closely associated with Al Khair Society for nearly a decade.

Unable to get help from banks, these loans help people free themselves from the clutches of moneylenders who charge high interest rates.

Nayiar Fatmi, managing director of Al Khair Society, told IANS that interest-free loans are gaining popularity.

“Even a small amount of five to ten thousand is significant for people who don’t have access to banks. Nearly 50 percent of the beneficiaries of interest free loans are Hindus. Most of them use the money for earning livelihoods that empower them,” Fatmi said.

Al Khair Society has 13 branches spread across the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

“We are planning to open new branches in Kishanganj in Bihar and Ranchi in Jharkhand to reach out to more such people,” Fatmi said.

Al Khair Society is a successful example of interest-free microfinance that has brought smiles on faces of thousands of people. It started with merely a small fund and two employees at a small office in Patna. Today it has 100 employees.

The organisation charges a nominal service charge from those who take interest-free loans to pay salaries of its employees, rent of office and other expenditure.

Started by a group of educated Muslims in early 2000 as a small step to help ordinary people, the organisation has seen a tremendous response from all sections of society, irrespective of religion, caste or creed.

(The weekly feature series is part of a positive-journalism project of IANS and the Frank Islam Foundation. Imran Khan can be reached at )

source: / The Siasat Daily / Home> Breaking News> Featured News> News> Top Stories / by Imran Khan / April 18th, 2018

Yesteryear sportspersons wallow in nostalgia

Hyderabad, TELANGANA :

Sportspersons from the city being honoured at an event on Saturday.
Sportspersons from the city being honoured at an event on Saturday.

Football legends and athletes felicitated by Ethic Sports Foundation

It was an evening when some of the football legends from the city went down memory lane while reflecting on the state of the sport.

On Saturday, Ethic Sports Foundation felicitated some of the finest sportspersons from the city, under the banner of ‘City of Heroes’, which also saw a sprinkling of outstanding women athletes like 2004 Athens Olympian J.J. Shobha, Arjuna Awardee and volleyballer Mulini Reddy and quite a few kabaddi players.

The objective of the event was to honour these stars of yesteryears and also remember the contribution of legendary football coach S.A. Rahim, who scripted India’s golden era in football.

Some of the speakers included sports historian and commentator Novy Kapadia, former sports scribe N. Ganesan, Olympians T. Balaram, M.S.S. Hameed, D.M.K. Afzal, S.S. Hakeem, son of late S.A. Rahim, renowned badminton coach and Dronacharya S.M. Arif, former SAI boxing coach Emani Chiranjeevi, hockey Olympians N. Mukesh Kumar and Edwards Alloysius, former India football captain Victor Amalraj, Mohd Habib, Shabbir Ali, rowing coach and Dronacharya Ismail Baig, Arjuna Awardee Mir Khasim Ali.

Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary to Telangana Government, was the chief guest.

To inspire youth

Kailash Nath Yadav, MD of Ethic Sports Foundation, said they hosted the event to inspire youth by showcasing the diverse nature of sports in Hyderabad along with highlighting the efforts of the greats like S.A. Rahim.

 source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Hyderabad / by Special Correspondent / Hyderabad – September 15th, 2018

Expat wins first prize in Qur’an memorization contest


Prince Mishaal Bin Majed, governor of Jeddah, presents Abdullah Abdul Mateen Usmani the key of the car he won as first prize in the Quran memorization project
Prince Mishaal Bin Majed, governor of Jeddah, presents Abdullah Abdul Mateen Usmani the key of the car he won as first prize in the Quran memorization project

Jeddah :

Abdullah Abdul Mateen Usmani, an Indian expatriate, has recently been declared winner of the annual Qur’an memorization contest organized by Jamia Tahfiz-ul-Quran Makkah region.

One thousand huffaz (memorizers of the Holy Qur’an) participated in the event with 13 of them scoring marks between 95 and 99. In the second competition that ensued Abdullah Abdul Mateen Usmani was declared the winner.

Prince Mishaal Bin Majed, governor of Jeddah, was the chief guest at the gala event with hundreds of senior officials, philanthropists and parents of the participants in attendance.

Prince Mishaal distributed prizes among the winners with first prize going to Hafiz Abdullah Abdul Mateen who was given a car.

Jamia Tahfiz-ul-Quran is an institution and center established for the students to memorize and recite Holy Qur’an.

The Jamia holds the competition every year to encourage students and other participants.

Hafiz Abdullah Abdul Mateen Usmani belongs to the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

The award winner’s father, Mateen Usmani, thanked Almighty Allah for the honor bestowed on his son and lauded the efforts of Jamia Tahfiz-ul-Quran in memorization and recitation of the Holy Qur’an.

source: / Saudi Gazette / Home  / by Syed Mussarat Khalil / September 08th, 2018

Asian Games 2018: Twitter celebrates as Hima Das, Muhammed Anas, Dutee Chand win three silvers for India

Nilamel, KERALA :

Asian Games 2018 – Indonesia

Hima Das and Muhammed Anas won a silver medal each in women’s and men’s 400m on Day eight of Asian Games 2018, continuing India’s strong show at the tournament in athletics.

Hima Das, Muhammed Anas and Dutee Chand added three silvers to India’s medal tally.
Hima Das, Muhammed Anas and Dutee Chand added three silvers to India’s medal tally.

Hima Das and Muhammed Anas won a silver medal each in women’s and men’s 400m on Day eight of Asian Games 2018, continuing India’s strong show at the tournament.

Hima beat her own national record in two days as she clocked 50.59 seconds to win the silver, behind Bahrain’s Salwa Naser who won the gold in a new Games record time 50.09 seconds. She had qualified for the final with a national record time 51.00 seconds on Saturday, bettering the 14-year-old mark set by Manjeet Kaur (51.05) in Chennai in 2004.

Asian champion Anas also settled with a silver in the men’s 400m final as he timed 45.69 seconds, behind Asian season leader and 2017 World Championships bronze medallist Hassan Abdalelah of Qatar, who clocked in 44.89 seconds. Anas, who holds the national record of 45.24, had clocked 45.30 in the preliminary heats.

Dutee Chand clinched a silver in women’s 100m dash to win the country’s first medal in 20 years in this event. Running in lane number 7, Dutte clocked 11.32 seconds, a tad below her national record of 11.29 seconds.

source: / The Indian Express / Home> Sports> Asian Games 2018 / by Sports Desk / August 27th, 2018

Downtown pilot girl takes to skies

Srinagar, JAMMU & KASHMIR :

Iram Habib (30), a resident of downtown Srinagar city, is the first and youngest woman from Srinagar to fly an aircraft. After completing her flying training from the US in 2016, Iram is now set to fly the aircraft of GoAir and IndiGo.

Iram Habib, PIC courtesy: The Tribune
Iram Habib, PIC courtesy: The Tribune

According to a report published by The Tribune, Iram pursued her bachelor’s in forestry from Dehradun and post graduation in forestry from the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir.

Iram’s family wanted her to pursue Ph.D. in forestry and get a government job, but she did not abandon dreaming to become a pilot.  “I pursued Ph.D. for one and a half years but left it and went to a US flight school,” she says. “I looked for things on my own and kept my dream alive,” the report quoted her as saying.

In 2016, Iram completed her training from Miami in the US and returned to India to get a commercial pilot license, but the journey was not easy.  Iram had 260 hours of flying experience from the US and got a commercial pilot license in the US and Canada on the basis of her flying hours, the report said.

According to the report Iram was supported by her father to pursue her dream, her relatives and friends would always tell her that a girl from Kashmir would never get a job as a pilot.

Iram says that it is difficult for her relatives even now to believe that she flies an aircraft. “They still can’t believe I chose this profession and got a job too,” Iram says, adding she had also trained in Bahrain and Dubai in Airbus 320, the report mentioned.

“During my training and exams everyone would be surprised to see a woman from Kashmir as a pilot, but there was no discrimination. I worked hard and got a job offer from Indigo and GoAir. I am set to join as a first officer in Indigo next month,” says Iram, The Tribune reported.

source: / Kashmir Life / Home / by KL News Network / August 28th, 2018

From Kashmir to Kerala, with care for the flood-struck

Srinagar, JAMMU & KASHMIR :


The disastrous floods of 2014 in Kashmir is as vivid in Bilal’s mind as if it happened yesterday.

Along with his two brothers, he was stuck in his house in Srinagar for almost 12 hours. The three boys, who had already lost their parents, stared helplessly at the waters which seemed to reflect their fear of death. But fortunately for them, their uncle managed to find his way to their house in a boat and rescued them.

Bilal Ahmed Sofi, a 29-year-old marketing professional from Srinagar, was reminded of those days when he heard about the flood waters rising in the other end of the country, Kerala. The youngster, who has been working as part of a social service group who calls themselves Athrout Kashmir  , kept everything else in the backburner and took off to Kerala, along with two other selfless souls from the group — businessmen Abdul Hamid and Waseem Hakim.

“We flew from Kashmir to Bengaluru first, to source some medicines. From there, we took off to Wayanad by road as it was in the news as one of the most affected districts,” says Bilal. The three-men army from Kashmir helped out the volunteers in Wayanad with medicines, supplies and more for almost a week here, and left only after assuring that if ever in need, they wouldn’t hesitate to come back and help again. “Athrout is a Kashmiri word which means a helping hand. We have many college students, youngsters and more as part of the group and we help with many things like conducting weddings of girls from poor families, helping the unemployed youth start a business, providing medicines, disaster relief, and more to those in need, wherever possible for us.” But then, what inspired them to come all the way to Kerala, from the other end of the country? “I believe that for volunteers, there are no boundaries,” says Bilal.

Hamid, who has also helped the victims of Chennai floods

 in 2015, says, “I feel that the most difficult aspect during such a disaster is overcoming that mental stress, induced when watching your house getting torn down, nature in all her fury and being tormented by thoughts on what would one do from now on. Though there was a language barrier, we tried our best to talk to people and reassure them on how it’s still possible to rebuild their lives, from our own experiences.” The three also joined the various relief groups and visited villages, interacting with people, inquiring their needs and meeting them.

The three feel that when compared to how the authorities in Kashmir handled the floods, Kerala fared much better. Hamid says, “First of all, there was no religion causing any divide at least compared to the Northern States. People were helping each other out very well. We were given food from the house of one of the local volunteers and they were even ready to provide us accommodation.”

But it’s the local administration they praise the most. “The relief work was so systematic and well thought out. We could see that even the supplies we bought were first sorted and stored carefully, after which we were given a receipt. “This is a crisis, so we have to make sure all needs are taken care of,’ said some of the officials. When it happened back home, the counterparts there were only trying to save themselves and nothing more. Here, they were also tracking down dead bodies soon enough,” Bilal says.

At the same time, the trio feel that it’s time the government did something to form well-trained volunteer groups for such situations, across States. “Having a mind to serve is great, but it’s also important to have the right skills for it. For instance, a flood relief volunteer should know how to swim and what medicines would help the ailing. If there are such groups of interested citizens, the relief efforts can save lives better,” Bilal adds.

Click here to watch the video

source: / Times of India / Home> City / by Deepa Soman , TNN / August 31st, 2018

Kashmir’s wheelchair sportstars win hearts

Srinagar, JAMMU  & KASHMIR :

Three-day workshop on basketball helps them hone skills, aim for big events.

 Wheelchair basketball players in Kashmir. (Photo:H.U. Naqash)
Wheelchair basketball players in Kashmir. (Photo:H.U. Naqash)


An Urdu couplet goes Uth bandh kamar kiya darta hai; phir dekh Khuda kiya karta hai (Get up and grid your loins; then see what God does). Probably, inspired by the message hidden in the verse Jammu and Kashmir’s many young boys and girls, who have been left disabled due to various reasons, decided to show their calibre by doing something discordant and raucous. They opted for sports for their endeavour.

About two dozen such men and four women players participated in a three-day workshop on wheelchair basketball held in the state’s summer capital Srinagar recently and most of them astonished everybody with their performance.

These young men and women were happily leading their lives until spinal injuries pushed them in wheelchairs and with that were shattered their dreams for life. But as a Persian adage goes Himat-e-mardan, madad-e-Khuda (When men dare, God sends help), they took a pledge to do something great in their lives and get their calibre acknowledged by others. They chose wheelchair bound basketball for it.

Insha Bashir, 24, is in the forefront of the activity both as a player and a coach for budding players. She said, “When I met with an accident I went into a state of deep depression. I felt life is no longer worth living. My parents were also suffering with me”. However, she also said that after getting into games she feels “new and better”.

Insha is a national player today, representing Jammu and Kashmir. She takes pride in it and says, “I represent my state and I feel very good.”

Wheelchair basketball is played by people with varying physical disabilities that disqualify them from playing an able-bodied sport. Wheelchair basketball is included in the Paralympic Games and was first contested at the Summer Paralympic in Rome in 1960. The first national wheelchair basketball tournament in the world was held in Illinois, US, in 1949 with six teams. As the game soon become popular mainly, with those who had been disabled during the Second World War, the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) was formed as the governing body for the sport, thereby promoting it in various continents including Africa, Europe, Americas and Asia and Oceania.

In India, the sport got its godmother in Madhavi Latha, a paralympic swimming champion, who initiated a movement “Yes We Too Can” for the sportsmen with disability in 2014. Soon the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI) came into existence to promote the sport.

The sport is becoming popular fast also in Jammu and Kashmir which has, during the three-decade old turmoil, witnessed a rapid increase in the number of disabled people. Many people were rendered disabled in traffic accidents.

Varun Ahlawat, who has been a wheelchair basketball coach for 10 years, said that the purpose of holding the workshop was to teach the Valley’s disabled young boys and girls how to play wheelchair basketball in a better way so that it becomes easy to get them included in the national team. “We are promoting girls in Kashmir. There are four such girls this time. We’re optimistic about one of them being selected for the international contests,” the Delhi-based coach said.

Insha said that basketball has become a part of her life and has helped her in putting up a fight. She has a message of hope for J&K’s disabled youth who wish to make a mark in sports. She said, “You should never give up. It takes time to come to terms…  I assure you, you will triumph over what you are carrying with you.”

Insha became disabled after she fell from the third floor of the family’s under construction house in central district of Budgam in 2009. She like, most other participants of workshop, learnt that disability is no barrier to achieving incredible things at a voluntary medicare society called Shafqat Rehabilitation Centre (VMS-SRC) which has been operating from Srinagar’s Bemina area since 2010.

source: / The Asian Age / Home> India> All India / by Yusuf Jameel / August 25th, 2018

10 Muslim Freedom Fighters Who Fought For India’s Independence


Ironically, in our present day India, even freedom fighters are judged on the basis of their religion. Many people believe Muslims didn’t contribute to India’s Independence from the British rule. To make it worse, there are not many sources available that disclose Muslims’ contribution to India’s Independence.

To break the myth of every person who believes Muslims have given no contribution to India’s history, we have tried to come up with a list of 11 Muslim fighters who fought for India’s Independence and are still present somewhere in India’s history.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad


One of the greatest freedom fighters of India, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, is our first name of Muslim Freedom Fighters. His service to the nation didn’t just stop after India became independent, he continued serving India till his last breath. He first took part in India’s Independence aged just 16. In his second stint as Congress President, He started the Quit India Movement. He was the first education minister of India. He was conferred a Bharat Ratna in the year 1922. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, after serving the country for over 50 years, breathed his last on 22 February 1958.

Dr. Zakir Husain


Another Bharat Ratna awardee, Dr. Zakir Husain was the third president of independent India and also the first Muslim president of India. He was a stern follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence policies. He believed that education was essential to make the Indian youth capable of fighting against the British and thus focused on empowering the education system. He acted as the Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia for 22 years (1926-48) and made it one of the finest educational institute of India. He died on 3 May 1969 becoming the first Indian president to die on duty.

Syed Mohammad Sharfuddin Quadri


A forgotten hero of India’s freedom struggle, Syed Mohammad Sharfuddin Quadri is included in our list for his supreme acts of nobility. He joined India’s freedom struggle during the Salt Satyagraha movement in 1930. He ably supported Mahatma Gandhi in every struggle and was imprisoned in the same cell as Mahatma Gandhi. Even after independence, he stayed away from politics and still continued to contribute his bit to the nation. He died on 30 December 2015, at the age of 114, 8 years after getting awarded with a Padma Bhushan.

Bakht Khan


Hailing from Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh, Bakht Khan was a major part of the rebellion of 1857. An experienced army-man, Bakht Khan served as a Subedar in the Army of East India Company. Bakht Khan took command of the rebel forces. He lacked ammunitions, food and other necessities and still managed to improve the standard of rebellion forces drastically. His strong and powerful rebellion activities prompted the British rulers to launch a man hunt. In May of 1859, the British had their prime target, Bakht Khan, shot dead.

Muzaffar Ahmed


Born in the present day Bangladesh, Muzaffar Ahmed initiated a magazine Navayug to promote the nationalist feeling amongst the Indian youth. He was one of the founders of the communist party of India. He was jailed several times for his involvement in various conspicuous deaths of British officers. The headquarters of Communist Party Of India in Kolkata is named after him. He died in Kolkata in the year 1973.

Mohammad Abdur Rahiman


Born in the Thrissur district of Kerala in the year 1898, Mohammad Abdur Rahiman was known for his heroics in restoring peace in the riot affected areas of 1921. He was jailed for two years for the same. He practised Salt Satyagraha and was again sentenced for rigorous imprisonment for 7 months. He mobilised the Muslim masses against the two nation theory of Muslim league Party. Soon after addressing a public meeting at Kodiyathur on 23 November 1945, he breathed his last.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan


Known as ‘Frontier Gandhi’, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was one of the major reasons behind the Britishers leaving India. He pioneered the famous Khudai Khidmatgar (“Servants of God”) movement in 1929 and it successfully guided it to its Destiny. After independence, he opposed the partition of India but failed. He moved to Pakistan and started a movement for a separate Baloch province. He was jailed many times for the same cause. He died in 1988. During that period, a war was going on between the Afghani rebels and soviet forces. However, both sides halted their proceedings to lend a tribute to this legend.

Abbas Ali


Inspired by Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad, Abbas Ali joined the Indian freedom movement in his teenage after completing his education. He joined the Indian National Army (INA) or the ‘Azad Hind Fauj’ and was subsequently court-martialled and sentenced to death. However, before he could serve his punishment, India attained independence and Abbas was eventually set free. He was in jail for over 50 times all throughout his life and stayed in jail for 19 months when Indira Gandhi imposed the emergency. He died on 11 October 2014 due to a heart failure.

Asaf Ali


When tons and tons of freedom fighters were getting jailed everyday, Asaf Ali stepped up and fought their legal battles to bail them out. He was even jailed alongside Jawaharlal Nehru. He participated in the ‘Quit India Movement’ and did everything he could for helping India achieve independence. On 1 April 1953, Asaf Ali died in Bern (Switzerland) while serving as India’s representative. A postal stamp was issued in his honour in 1989.

Maulana Mazharul Haque


Born in Patna district of Bihar on 22 December 1886, Maulana Mazharul Haque was known for his his social works during the famine of 1897. He became the Vice Chairman of Bihar Congress Committee and started taking part in the freedom struggle. He played a major role in making the Non-Cooperation and Khilafat Movements and the Champaran Satyagraha a success. He died in January 1930 before which he donated every single bit of his property for encouraging education. In his honour, in April 1988, the Maulana Mazharul Haque Arabic and Persian University was founded at Patna.

Not just these 10, there are many many more of such brave souls who fought for their nation while being active followers of Islam. Maghfoor Ahmad Ajazi, Saifuddin Kitchlew, Moulvi Mohammad Baqir, Vakkom Majeed and many more names can be added to this list.

Yes patriotism is a religion in itself and tagging it with another religion is completely unacceptable. Do let us know if you know about other such Muslim Freedom Fighters in our comments section below.

source: / RVCJ / Home> Extras / by Kashif Sheikh / February 13th, 2017

Bakht Khan: Winner of a lost battle

Bijnor, Rohilkhand (Mughal Empire) / BRITISH INDIA  :

On India’s independence day we remember a forgotten hero from our history

Bakht Khan: Winner of a lost battle

Second of July 1857, a hot humid day some one hundred and fifty-five summers ago, a contingent of about 250 men in their Bareilly regiment uniforms arrives in Dilli of the time, the world renowned Red Fort to be precise. Mounted on their horses, they march past the Laal Purdah [1][entrance to the private chambers of the last Mughal King]. The General of the regiment marches too albeit without the customary bowing down of his head; much to the outrage of those present at the court. But what happens next would seem rather more sacrilegious. That unbending commander of the arriving regiment, a tall and corpulent man of Rohilla stock appears least caring about the sensation he creates and the protest that comes his way, he moves forward and ‘salaams’ the King as if he is an equal.[2] But the King, Zille Sub-haani, Khaleefatur Rehmani, Khudawand e Majaazi, Hazrat Abul Zafar Sirajuddin Bahadur Shah Zafar is helpless.

The man in the eye of this little storm was General Bakht Khan, Commander of the Neemuch brigade, of the Army of East India Company, among the true heroes of 1857, who had arrived to make a fight against the Company which till now he had served.

General Bakht Khan’s bust in Red Fort museum.
General Bakht Khan’s bust in Red Fort museum.

He was described as “a much garlanded and battle hardened veteran of Afghan wars, with huge handlebar moustache and sprouting sideburns…. Known personally to several of the British officers” [3] His reputation as an able administrator and a shrewd military strategist had reached Delhi much before his arrival.

The poor Mughal King, after much reluctance, decides to award the just landed General ,a royal sword and a buckle but Bakht Khan still refuses to present the ‘nazar’ (a mandatory monetary gift to be offered to the King) when meeting him. Soon after, this Khan then begins to give a piece of his mind to the king, he begins, “Your good for nothing princes [sons] enjoy full powers over your military. Give all the power to me as no one else but I know the norms of the English army, who knows them better than me?” This was blunt and undiplomatic at its best, but the man in question, meant business. He was duly appointed the Governor General of the army, effectively displacing Mirza Mughal the headstrong son of Zafar.

Reading literature about 1857 revolution became quite an obsession with me since a teenager, our shared history of the sub-continent, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. A familiar heritage we possess, a common thread running through our past. History is journalism with hindsight and this special journalism about 1857 period transports us to a novel world inducing in us a sense of déjà vu. It was through these readings that I ‘discovered,/em>’ Bakht Khan. But it was not love at first sight; I must tell you, what with his being a man with a pot belly that did not make him a fine horseman! Add to it the derision he was subjected to contemptuously for the reason of his being a Wahabi. But more surprising were the contradictions that I began noticing in various descriptions about him. A few, mostly historians from the east, respected him as one of the bravest soldiers and the real hero of 1857 Ghadar while the rest seem to scorn him just for being a Wahabi. This term in itself is quite controversial, even today, just as it was in those days.

Wahabism is the name given to Islamic philosophy instituted by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab Najdi[1703-1792] in 7th Century Arabia; the intention was to practice Islam it in its purity just as Prophet Muhommad (peace be upon him) did. William Dalrymple elaborates General Bakht Khan‘s Wahabism thus, “Like a Wahabi ,” he says, “Bakht Khan disdained earthly rulers, whom he regarded as unIslamic, and longed instead for a properly Islamic regime.” [4] He cites his Wahabist thoughts to be a cause of his failure. Interestingly , Bakht Khan fought under a king who was the embodiment of everything a true Wahabi abhors.

What is astonishing is that in almost every account about the man, his being a Wahabi is essentially stressed, perhaps to draw attention to his real or imagined fanaticism. Some of the earlier prominent revolutionary figures like Syed Ahmed Shaheed and Shah Ismaeel Shaheed were self-proclaimed Wahabis. Let’s see what Bakht Khan‘s Wahabism was like.

His Wahabism was said to have been inspired by his spiritual mentor, Moulvi Srafaraz Ali, a master teacher of Algebra and Geometry and with a thorough knowledge of Tafseer[Quranic interpretations] and Hadeeth [Prophet Muhammad‘s sayings]. Moulvi Sarfaraz Ali was entitled as Imam of Mujahideen and his orations exhorted people to join this revolution. It was he who had motivated his initially reluctant disciple Bakht Khan to join this momentous struggle. In the pre- revolution time, Moulvi Sarfaraz Ali was regarded as one of the brightest jewels in Delhi’s intellectual crown, by no less than Sir Sayyed Ahmad Khan himself. So it was Moulvi Sarfaraz Ali who urged Bakht Khan to fight against the infidel Christians for the honor of his country. Interestingly this ‘accusation’ of his being a Wahabi also betrays probable renaissance Islamic nature of the revolution of 1857.

Being a Wahabi, Bakht Khan was against the veneration of Sufi shrines, which was/is quite a rampant practice among a large section of the Indian Muslims. The Wahabis disapprove of it as being nearer to idol worship and a tendency picked up from their Hindu brothers. What is important to be noted and not to be overlooked is; this Wahabism of Bakht Khan and his mentor Moulvi Sarfaraz Ali was borrowed not from Abdul Wahab Najdi of Saudi Arab but from Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehalvi [1703-1762], the father of Islamic reform movement in India. This reform movement aimed at eliminating all non-Islamic innovations and practices from the religion and restoring a strict Islamic monotheism, among Indian Muslims. Shah Waliullah, was the first one to translate Quran into Persian and anticipated many modern, social, economic and political thoughts, such as social reform, equal rights, labour protection, and welfare entitlement of all.


Where is Indian account of 1857 war of freedom?
P.C. Joshi in his work, Inquilab 1857 makes a significant observation about this term, Wahabi. He says that, “The use of the term Wahabi is not at all correct, because the political ambitions and social views of allegedly Indian Wahabis , were not based on Abdul Wahab of Najad but on the man who came before him. He was Shah Waliullah [died:1762]. That’s the reason, some supporters of Islamic renaissance like, Ubaidullah Sindhi [1861-1948], Ghulam Sarvar and [Hakeem]Ajmal Khan have preferred to call themselves as Waliullahi or the followers of Shah Waliullah. But I have maintained this word due to its popular use and historical importance.” [6] His Wahabism thus had Indian roots. Hence despising the Rohella Subedar as a Wahabi is to belittle the efforts he made for a unified fight against our former rulers. It is unfair to the man in question who is among the real heroes of the mutiny. Noted historian Irfan Habib too condemns the practice of labeling and cornering him as a Wahabi and describes Bakht Khan as, “the republican minded commander–in-chief in Delhi, who is most unfairly portrayed as a Wahabi in some modern accounts.” [7]. Wahabi or not, what is important to notice, is that he struggled for unity among the different religious sects and led the Fauj-e-Hindustani and fought for a unified and free India. Barun De admires this General of Bareilly for providing the quintessential unity that was severely lacking among the ranks of the rebels. He terms Bakht Khan a true leader and lauds his efforts at unifying different forces of the time, as worth studying. [8]

My attempt here is to present a brief sketch of this Great General as a figure who, till his last struggled for the dream of a Free and Unified India where harmony among the different ethnic groups was his top priority.

His Origins:

Bakht Khan was of Rohilla [Afghan] stock. His grandfather Ghulam Qadir Khan came to Lucknow to make a living. His father Abdullah Khan, said to be a very handsome man, was married to an Awadh Princess. Bakht Khan was formerly a Subedar in the 8th Foot Artillery at Bareilly and had served the British for over forty years and fought bravely in Afghan wars. He had progressed quite rapidly and was appointed in a high-ranking position there. Interesting to note, is his close friendship with many British officers, under whom he had served and imbibed the art of war. Colonel George Bourcheir was educated in Persian by him, and who describes his tutor as, “very fond of English society …..[and] a most intelligent character.”[9] But quite a few disagreed and called him, a fat guy, socially ambitious and an incompetent horseman, probably the worst insult for a soldier, in those times. His commanding officer, Captain Waddy [BHA], describes him thus, “ He is sixty years of age and is said to have served the Company for forty years; his height 5 feet 10 inches; 44 inches round the chest ; a very bad rider owing to a large stomach and thick thighs but clever and a good drill” [10] When the revolution began he was already in his native town of Bareilly and his fame as a fine administrator and a brave and especially able army commander had spread in the country. He had arrived in Delhi with a huge contingent of 7000 [according to another source, 14000] cavalry and hundreds of infantry and a treasure from Bareilly.

Bakht Khan as an Administrator:

It is indeed quite fascinating to know Bakht Khan’s efforts in trying to enforce some kind of sense and sensibility, onto the madness of loot, plunder and sheer chaos of the Delhi of 1857 uprising. He tried every trick in the book to restore law and order amid that disturbing pandemonium .Munshi Jeevan Lal, [11] the overweight Mir Munshi [Chief Assistant] of Resident of Delhi, Sir Thomas Metcalfe [who was working as a British spy, describes how General Bakht Khan went about restoring order amidst that unprecedented anarchy spread after the arrival of the rebels, in the capital. It’s a human thing to love admiration; but when it comes from the enemy, it becomes doubly significant.

Munshi Jiwan Lal in the notes to his British Masters appreciates measures taken by Bakht Khan. There were to be no taxes on salt and sugar, looting [by the just arrived rebel soldiers]had to be stopped else their plundering hands would be cut off, shopkeepers were to be given full protection and even encouraged to use weapons[if they had none, then would be duly provided from the state armory], soldiers were to be removed from the Dilli bazaars as it created difficulties for the general public and relocated in camps outside Delhi gate, their salaries were to be restored and promises of jagirs were made to them in return of their services to the army. He further informs that the General’s men had also killed three spies working for the British [M.Baqar Ali, father of Muhammad Husain Azad, the famous Urdu writer, too, had complained in his first report that, he is followed by the spies of Bakht Khan wherever he goes,[12]

The Metcalfe’s Munshi tells his masters that General Bakht Khan was soft spoken to his men but also remained firm that, they should not cross their line of duty even in the smallest measure. Impressive army parades were conducted by him from Delhi Gate to Ajmeri Gate. Many important petitions from various kings, Nawabs, Rajas, and officials of courts, were forwarded to the King and replies were received through the office of Governor General Bakht Khan; chief among them were, Qudratulla Khan, Risaldar of Awadh, Khan Bahdur Khan, Rao Tula Ram. A ruqqah was also addressed to the Patiala Rajah, conveying pardon of the King for his faults, many other such instances of accessing the King through the General can be found in different accounts of history. [13] Here he was playing the role of a keen diplomat. His honest and sincere attempts at running the administrative affairs efficiently at court and his diplomacy with the men of importance are discernible from these accounts. The steps he took to restore a sense of sanity in those insane times are evidently commendable but somehow go unnoticed by his critics.

Bakht Khan as a military strategist:

The General was a shrewd military strategist. What he achieved at the battle field of Delhi becomes more significant considering the dire circumstances he worked in. He had little support from his own army factions and was constantly attacked and maligned by some hostile elements from within. His strategies on the battle field, his trying to sabotage the passages that took supplies to their camp, invention of rota system and his playing the mind games with the enemy, all are indeed splendid. Richard Barter gives tribute to this great man thus: “Thanks to the system organized by Bakht Khan…..We were scarcely able to stand….” [14] He was speaking, worn out at the battle ground along with his soldiers, thanks to the new General’s machinations. Their frustration grew to the extent that some of the British soldiers seeing no sign of relief wanted to kill themselves on purpose, and some even did.

Be it propelling a contingent to Alipore or setting up a new rota system intended to engage the British forces on a daily basis, and which meant leaving them no respite from the combat, General Bakht Khan always worked on new strategies to defeat his enemy. Soon after his arrival, on the ninth of July he made a massive attempt to destroy the British forces and one of his strategies was to clothe his men in British white uniforms. This took the opponents by surprise and a deep access was gained into their camp. Such regular expeditions by Bakht Khan frustrated the enemy to the extent that, they began losing all hope of capturing Delhi again. He succeeded as he knew the British tactics inside out .His long service to them had at last, paid off.


“Mutineers” or Freedom fighters?: Museum at Red Fort continues to insult our heroes by calling them “mutineers.” 
But unfortunately the fact that Bakht Khan’s attempts had been gaining success went unreported, unrealized at Delhi court due to the absence of a parallel intelligence system like their adversary had. The British had knit an intricate network of spies throughout the city and at the Red Fort. Reports about every single move of the King, the parleys held at the court, the movements of the rebel forces and their strategies planned for the future attacks, reached the British ears without fail. Many prominent and respected people were on their payroll. But sad to say, no such system was in place, at the other end of the battle camp. W. Dalrymple observes sharply, “The lack of intelligence reaching the city meant that no one among the rebels realized how successful Bakht Khan’s tactics were proving” [15] They didn’t know how fragile the British forces had become and what a tremendous pressure Bakht Khan‘s tactics had put on them. Unfortunately this ignorance about his success was perceived to be his seeming failure and this set his detractors buzzing. Mirza Mughal had nursed a grudge since the General caused his removal from the military affairs. Bakht Khan’s undiplomatic ways too didn’t help. He was ruthless enough to ask the princes to keep away from military and administrative affairs as he believed ‘everyone knew that they were good for nothing fellows’. It was but an ugly truth.

Bakht Khan informed the king that Prince Khizar and others were stashing away the taxes collected from the city traders and due to this salaries of the army could not be paid. Prince Khizar was asked to return the booty. The commoners were pleased with him while the Mughal princes vowed vengeance. Undoubtedly Bakht Khan was a man of the world but he was not at all, worldly. He frequently failed to decipher his detractor’s nasty plans and eventually became a victim to their malice.

The Neemuch brigade-his force- was well-known for its valor; but the two of its generals Ghaus Khan and General Sidhari Singh [supporter of Mirza Mughal] parted ways, from Bakht Khan, as they couldn’t digest the fact that, an officer of the similar rank as theirs should get so much importance from the King. During the battles he was left alone to fend for himself. A most ridiculous charge of his being a British spy also came along. All this put him under great pressure and he had to issue a statement denying all these charges. Whether it was failure to capture the army bastions at Alipur, Manali Bridges and the Ridge and almost all the failures were wrongly attributed to the General. Zafar too now was infected with doubt and the devious designs of his foes resulted in Bakht Khan’s removal as Governor General by the end of July. A Court of Administration was established to run the affairs of the Mughal Darbar. The General and his Bareilly brigade kept their distance from it but their assaults grew weaker and the tremendous pressure that he was able to put on the British began to diminish. Dalrymple remarks, “…the end of Bakht Khan’s military system brought instant relief to the British on the ridge”. [16]. It is indeed saddening that such lowly games of selfishness and rivalry did the good General in and ultimately caused the struggle for freedom, a catastrophic damage, giving a boost to the enemy. Richard Barter joyously announced that, “And so, when we were scarcely able to stand, the attacks ceased, as if by a dispensation of Providence, and gave our force the repose they so much needed.”[17]. The one man who possessed the potential for defeating the enemy was thus, rendered impotent.

As no intelligence about the success of the good General’s methods reached the court and Delhites, it led to huge misgivings about his military forays. Resentments, against this good soldier soon began to build up. As mentioned earlier, he was accused of being a British stooge himself. His own colleague from the Neemuch Brigade Sidhari Singh accused him thus. Other former co-workers too were not far behind. Gauri Shankar [who was himself a British spy] and Talyar Khan, on 20th August, arranged for a Sikh to proclaim that Bakht Khan provides all information about the court happenings to the enemy. But the truth was found out and the witness was rejected for his false claims. The General himself issued a public statement denying this in the presence of Mirza Mughal and other army generals.

The ever eternal quintessential factors of jealousy envy and contempt did this great warrior in. Quite perceptibly his disenchantment began to grow. He became more cautious but continued to be at the forefront of the war and the biggest headache for the British. He marched towards Najaf Garh separate from the Neemuch brigade as his own soldiers refused to take orders from him (and resultantly was smashed by their rivals). Like before, the General was unjustly blamed for this fiasco, as well. Nevertheless Bakht Khan still remained defiant. He was unrelenting and rejected Zafar’s suggestion of opening the gates of Delhi, if the British could not be defeated. He elaborated on some new strategies and it was quickly reported by the spies present at the court to the Gora Sahibs. Needless to add this rendered his plans useless. His failures thus began mounting up. Yet he succeeded in defeating the opponents at the Delhi Gate even in those final hours, and kept a strong vigil at the Ajmeri Gate till the last moments of the war.

Despite his failures, more due to the non co-operation of his team than his own faults, what he did achieve was the delay in recapturing of Delhi by the British, as long as he could. The erstwhile Dilli would have been rounded up, quite early in the day, had it not been for the efforts of General Bakht Khan Rohilla.


Memorial for British soldiers at Delhi Ridge. No memorial for Indian soldiers though.

His military achievements despite the hostilities he faced were amazing; be it capturing three hundreds of British horses taking supplies to their masters, or one of his final determined attacks with his Bareilly and Neemuch troops, which forced the British to make a hasty retreat, from Hindu Rao’s house. Bakht Khan’s advance up to the house of Hindu Rao was no mean achievement; it threatened to cut off the British troops from their camp.[18] Had he been supported efficiently by his own people at the time, his success rate would have been much higher. Miyan Muhommad Shafi , in his famous work, Pehli Jang-e-Azadi-Waaqeyaat wa Haqaayeq, blames this sorry state of affairs on the conspiracies hatched against Bakht Khan by the unfortunate and unreasonable Mughal Princes, who conspired against him, unaware of their approaching terrible end. He says, “The courtiers created havoc each and every time and put blame on him for everything going wrong, without providing him with any kind of general support. All this and the corruption at the court and among the army rank and noncompliance of the troops, disheartened this most able of the fighters, Bakht Khan and after being relieved from his various significant positions , he got reduced to taking care of his own original regiments alone. This turn of events and colossal difference of opinions, among the different elements at the court, led eventually to the downfall of Delhi, the arrest of Zafar and slaughtering of his sons, not to mention hundreds and thousands of Delhites being butchered and displaced, forever.”[19] But in the mayhem of 1857 mutiny what was more tragic perhaps, was the ruin of Shehar e Dilli and its uniquely rich Ganga –Jamuni Tehzeeb. It died forever.

It was but for Bakht Khan‘s efforts that the rebel forces cold hold on for a longer period. It is an irony that they all blamed him; his enemies could be found easily on both sides of the divide. When the scene grew bleaker and the British forces entered the city gates, he continued persuading Zafar to join him in the inevitable retreat as the area outside Delhi was still under the rebel control and help could be at hand. The former Subedar in his last ditch attempt, insisted to Zafar, that, the name and status of Mughal King would surely bring victory to the Indians. Never say die spirit of Bakht Khan is here for all of us to see. The fragile eighty year old King Zafar, last descendant of the Timuri lineage had even agreed initially. But schemers like Hakeem Ahsanullah Khan, the court physician and Mirza Ilahi Bakhsh, father in law of Zafar’s deceased heir Mirza Fakhru, superseded the Khan one more time, eventually leading the last Timur to be a hapless royal British prisoner.

At this juncture, Bakht Khan speculated on the reasons of their defeat. He explicated that, their choosing of Delhi as their bastion of the battle was erroneous from the day one. He also faulted the princes and especially Mirza Mughal who’s imprudent handling of the affairs at the battle field did greater damage to the cause. This Prince was the one who possessed no experience of any war and had taken up the cudgels only for bragging about his bravery.[20]

Bakht Khan’s administrative skills added to his superb military zeal had proved to be a deadly combination for the enemy. Alas, his spirit was broken by his own men and he had to retreat and disappeared. There are different theories about his departure. It is said he went to Awadh and fought against the British, one more time. A few others opine that he was killed in a battle and a few more say he escaped to Nepal, never to be seen again. This last version seems more authentic.

The Hindu-Muslim equation of the time and Bakht Khan’s role in it:

In his legendary fight at Delhi of 1857, Bakht Khan’s zealous efforts at maintaining Hindu-Muslim unity are outstanding. More so as he is accused of being a Wahabi; this becomes doubly significant.

A general peace had always prevailed among the Hindus and Muslims of Delhi. Turmoil seemed to brew when Hindu sepoys killed five butchers for slaughtering some cows. The fear of inter-communal clashes strengthened the already existing general disillusionment among the Delhi masses [especially among the Ashraaf or high class people] about the rebellion and the uncouth rebels, popularly called, Purabiya or Tilanga. The British were sitting with their fingers crossed, hoping for a bloody game to begin on the day of approaching Baqrid. They expected violence, as Muslims would slaughter the cow which would anger Hindus as it is deemed holy in their religion. But to the disappointment of the British, Bahadur Shah Zafar himself assured a group of Hindu generals about his intention of banning the practice of sacrificing a cow, with immediate effect. Bakht Khan through his order of 30th July saw to it that this order was strictly implemented. He thundered that whoever was found guilty of slaughtering cow, ox, or buffalo, would be considered an enemy of the state and of the king respectively, and would be punished with death![21]

He didn’t stop at that. He sent out a written proclamation to Delhi’s Kotwal on 31st July and 2nd of August 1857 to the effect that, every morning and evening, it should be announced to the people that this order against cow slaughter should be strictly followed, and anyone found guilty would be severely punished. He also saw to it that an alleged fanatic Moulvi Muhammad Sayyed found enticing people for jihad was reined in. The restraining of the fanatic elements and banning cow slaughter were big steps towards restoring communal peace and harmony, at the time and proved a great boost to restoring trust. Hindu Muslim enmity had to be avoided at any cost, so as not to allow the enemy to make a profit out of it. Bakht Khan made it the central point of his fight and this is admirable.

However the Good General is also blamed for drawing together Delhi ulemas [supposedly against the wishes of King Zafar ]and making them sign a fatwa to urge the Muslims to fight against the British, taking it to be their religious duty. But it must be noted that, it was a call for a mutual struggle, for the honor of the motherland. Barun De makes a valid point, when he articulates, “All listened to the call of dharma or deen. In this sense, Christianity was the symbol of intrusive colonialism, seen as a bourgeois crusade for market globalization, much as it is being seen by neoconservatives today [22) This was something quite remarkable about the 1857 revolution. We can call it a golden period of proverbial Hindu-Muslim harmony.

1857, Ghadar

Here in lies an amazing story of the people, fighting an enemy hundred times stronger than them. These people were the poor, the workers, the weavers, the peasants; all joined hands together to resist the injustice they were subjected to, since last hundred years or so. More admirable is the fact that, despite huge caste disparities, clan conflicts, geo-ethnic varieties and most of all those bona fide religious differences, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs became united for the cause of India/Hindostan. Esteemed historian Irfan Habib finds this assimilation exceptional. The astonishing fact, he says is that, “…on many occasions largely Hindu contingents elected Muslim officers and, similarly, contingents with a largely Muslim composition chose Hindus as their officers. The fact that this was not anywhere done consciously makes it a particularly notable example of inter-religious solidarity among the Bengal Army sepoys.” [23]

This message of unity in diversity is indeed the most outstanding lesson; we get to learn from 1857 uprising. The little armies from all over India grouping in Delhi to fight under the leadership of a Muslim King, is a grand testimonial in itself. This Muslim King had been a titular figurehead of the erstwhile India, for quite some time, but still thought to be a figure of authority. It was a matter of belief, of faith, for the Indians. They still believed or wished to believe in Bhadur Shah Zafar being Baadshah-e-Hindostan.

At the risk of digression, allow me to drift and explore this phenomenon a bit more. It was a fact that all army contingents, from all over the erstwhile British Raj territories, moved towards Delhi and gathered at the Lal Qilaa to win blessings from a Muslim king. Today this may seem beyond belief but back then, in 1857; it came most naturally to the Indians of the time. William Dalrymple astutely remarks that, “The rip in the closely woven fabric of Delhi’s composite culture, opened in 1857, slowly widened into a great gash, and at Partition in 1947 finally broke into two. As the Indian Muslim elite emigrated en masse to Pakistan, the time would soon come when it would be almost impossible to imagine that Hindu sepoys could ever have rallied to the Red Fort and the standard of a Muslim emperor, joining with their Muslim brothers in an attempt to revive the Mughal Empire.” [24]

It was due to the unmistakable aura that surrounded the Mughal Empire. Bahadur Shah Zafar possessed that unique trait of being a Benevolent Baadshaah who alone had the power of rendering a sense of strong unity among the varied regions and natives of India.

Now coming back to our General, he proved to be a perfect foil to Bahadur Shah Zafar. H.L.O.Garret, keeper of the records of the government of Punjab, in his 1933 account of the rebellion enlightens us that Bahadur Shah Zafar was only a nominal ruler of a dying Delhi; he duly informs, “The actual military operations were directed by Bakht Khan, on whom a royal decree conferred the title of Commander-in –Chief.” [25] C.T. Metcalfe notes that despite Bakht Khan’s removal from his post at the Delhi Durbar, King Zafar trusted him all along and used to urge him to put up a brave fight as before.[26] Bakht Khan’s endeavors in executing the commands of his king at putting up a unified frontagainst the colonizers, is something fascinating. But strangely enough we do not find many mentions to him in our history books.

The year 1857 strikes a resonance in our hearts even after one hundred and fifty five years. We identify with this first war of independence. The Mughal authority had eroded long before this date; but many critics say, what died in 1857 was hope; hope for freedom, for unity. After 1857, India could never be the same again. The unique aura of Mughal Mystique died too in September of 1857. This aura symbolized a most beautiful land, varied and various in so many ways yet presenting an amalgamation so unique so endearingly rich that the world still fails to offer another such prototype. Bahadur Shah Zafar was an unwilling and hesitant hero standing at complete disparity with the General. The General believed in action. It is this action that makes General Bakht Khan Rohilla a True Hero and those among us who wish to dismiss him as just a sundry character, for them let me quote T.S.Eliot here,
They know and do not know, what it is to act or suffer,
They know and do not know, that action is suffering,
And suffering is action.

It is action, our striving for it and the resultant suffering that teaches us the ways of surviving/winning life. It is our action, our Karma that makes our destiny.

In this regard Bakht Khan became a winner of the war, despite losing the battle.

Asma Anjum Khan is Assistant Professor of English in Maharashtra


1-Lal Purdah- the Red colored curtain at the doorway to the Mughal king’s private chambers.
2-Memoirs of Hakeem Ahsanullah Khan-p.8
From:The Last Mughal- William Dalrymple, 284
3-Bourchier, Eight Months,44n],from: The Last Mughal, William Dalrymple,285
6-Inquilab 1857, P.C.Joshi, Urdu Translation, pub: Taraqqi Urdu Taraqqi Urdu Bureau ,secondedition1983,105[References]
7-Irfan Habib, History from Below- Frontline, issue dated, June 29,2007,pg.16
8-Baun De ,Frontline issue dated ,June 29,2007,Pg 9 (Scholars Iqbal Husain and Rajat Kanta Roy too endorse his views.)
9-Bourchier-Eight Months,44,[quoted in Last Mughal,285]
10- H.L.O. Garret, The Trial of Bahdur Shah Zafar,King by Committee,8[ quoted in Gimlette’s post script to the Indian Mutiny]
11–Metcalfe,Two Native Narratives, Narrative of Munshi Jeevan Lal
12-William.Dalrymple,The Last Mughal,302
13-H.L.O.Garret, The Trial of Bhadur Shah Zafar, The Physician’s Testimony ,[Hakeem Ahsanullah Khan was the royal physician]
14-Barter Richard, The Siege of Delhi,36, The Last Mughal.
15-William Dalrymple-The Last Mughal,292
17- Barter Richard, The Siege of Delhi ,[from:William.Dalrymple, The Last Mughal, 294]
18-William Dalrymple, The Last Mughal,357
19-Miyan Muhommad Shafi,Pehli Jang e Azadi –Waqyaat wa Haqaayeq,Urdu,288-89, edition,2007
20- Ameer Ahmad Alavi,Bahadur Shah Zafar,[Urdu]Lucknow, 1955,138-9,[ through [P.C.Joshi, Inquilab 1857-112-114,Urdu , ed.1983,Taraqqi Urdu Bureau ]
21-Press List of Mutiny Papers, no.120/143, 7 Zilhaj,21-RY,29 July 1857
Press List of Mutiny Papers, no.111,[c] 332,8 Zilhajj 21 –RY,30 July,Spear,pg.207 [from Iqbal Husain]
22-Barun De, The Call of 1857,Frontline ,issue dated, June 29,2007,pg.8-9
23-Irfan Habib, History from below ,Frontline issue dated June 29,2007,pg.14
24-William Dalrymple, The Last Mughal, 484
25-H.L.O.Garret, the Trial of Bahadur Shah Zafar, King by Committee, 7
26-C.T.Metcalfe, Two Native Narratives of the Mutiny in Delhi,[1974] 213

The following books helped too in making of this essay:

1-1857 ke chashm e deed Halaat[Almaroof Daastaan e Ghadar]-Syed Zaheeruddin Dehalvi.ed:2006
2-The Other Side of Medal by Edward Thompson, translated by Shaikh Hassamuddin, first edition,1982,Urdu Academy New Delhi Publication
3-Bakht Khan [Marathi]–by Iqbal Husain,2008, National Book Trust ,edition 2010]

source: / / Home> Articles / by Asma Khan for / August 15th, 2012