By Special Correspondent
New Delhi: On the 165th anniversary of the start of the 1857 War of Independence, the CPI (ML)-New Democracy demanded that the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s remains be returned from Yangon, Myanmar. They stated that it is up to the public to press the demand for Zafar’s return. This demand should be made in all forums, avenues, and gatherings. Bahadur Shah Zafar was a potent emblem of Hindu-Muslim harmony.
May 10 marks the day in 1857 when soldiers from the British Indian Army staged a mutiny against colonial rule. People across India rose up against British rule as a result of this. It was the first people’s struggle for independence in India. It was essentially the first autonomous statement of the Indian peasantry, as well as the last stand of the independent-minded feudal princes.
This war continued for nearly two years in which reportedly 23 lakh Indians laid down their lives. This has been hailed as the biggest war of the 19th Century by many historians. Indians who rose in revolt against British colonial rule regarded themselves independent of foreign rule till the advent of British rule, hence proclaimed last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar to lead the Indians’ war for independence. Events of 1857 are a clear refutation of revisionist history peddled by Hindutva inspired historians that India was nor free even before British colonial rule. This revisionist history was patronized by colonial rulers as it negated the importance of the anti-colonial struggle of the Indian people.
It has been nearly 75 years since colonial rule in the country ended with transfer of power. However, during this period the heroes of 1857 were largely ignored. The leader of that war, Bahadur Shah Zafar, died in captivity in today’s Myanmar. However, no attempt has been made to bring his remains to India and buried here (a place already marked near Qutub Minar). This demand has been repeatedly raised but the rulers of the day have been deaf to this. Indian rulers have been more beholden to the erstwhile colonial masters than to Indian people who struggle against the colonial yoke.
The War of Independence of 1857-’59 symbolized people’s united struggle against foreign colonial rule. Its most pronounced aspects were anti-colonialism and unity in the struggle of the two major communities in India- Hindus and Muslims. This secularism was of united aspirations to make India free of foreign domination and not of mere mutual tolerance. While many other aspects got imbibed in further course of movement for freedom like democracy, social justice and federalism; these two aspects i.e. anti-imperialism (genuine freedom) and secularism (of common aspirations) continue to be of vital importance.
Bahadur Shah Zafar is a symbol of both India’s yearning of freedom from imperialist influence and unity of different religious communities inhabiting India. It is time that his remains are brought back to India, his beloved motherland for whose freedom he laid down his life.
Present rulers i.e. RSS will not countenance this demand. They are out to erase all examples of unity of Indian people especially Hindu-Muslim unity. They are attacking Muslims under one pretext after another; even attacking their means of livelihood. Moreover they are out to erase Muslims from the Indian history itself; negating common sacrifices and common heritage. It was not accidental that they kept themselves aloof from the freedom movement of Indian people. They were intent on dividing Indian people on communal lines, a goal which they shared with the then colonial rulers of India. Ruling class politicians as well as other authorities talk of Indianization but their Indianization does not include ethos of Indian people, their shared heritage and their common struggle for better future. Present rulers are afraid of the unity of Indian people and they would not like any symbol of such unity to be allowed to exist, leave alone brought to India.