1857 was not the first war of independence

By TwoCircles.net staff reporter

New Delhi : As the Union Government has launched a series of high-sounding programmes to celebrate 150 years of 1857 as the first war of independence, conveniently forgetting all earlier armed struggles for independence, the Ulema seem to have taken the cudgel to right the wrong being done to the history of independence struggle. Prominent among them is Naib Ameer Imarat Shariah Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa Maulana Wali Rahmani, who, in an edit-page article in the Urdu daily Hindustan Express (July 10), has turned the pages of history to bring into limelight the real history of independence of India.

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Maulana Rahmani, who is also Sajjada Nashin Khanquah Rahmani Munger (Bihar) and secretary All India Muslim Personal Law Board, asserts that "the pre-1857 armed struggles for freedom cannot be forgotten only because they were led by Muslims and Sikhs."

Referring to Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat's speech at the May 10 historic celebrations of ‘the first war of independence' in the Central Hall of Parliament, during which Deputy Speaker and Sikh leader Charanjit Singh Atwal intervened to assert that before 1857 a fierce battle between the Sikhs and the British had taken place in 1845, and demand that that historical fact should also be mentioned during these celebrations, Maulana Rahmani laments that in that august gathering there was not a single historian who could have given right direction to the history being written in a wrong way.

"The fact remains that it is not proper to declare 1857 war of independence as the first armed struggle for independence. It may be called ‘political writing of history' but it has nothing to do with historical reality. The (first) formal and organised war against the British was waged in Bengal by Ali Wardi Khan in 1754. Later on some more historic wars were fought against the British. Even the 1857 war of independence started in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and then reached Meerut. This was the last biggest and most organised war against the troops of East India Company," Maulana Rahmani writes.

He further writes, "Cadre-building is necessary for a struggle. Shah Waliullah (b. 1703 – d. 1762) formally started this work in 1731. His writings are preserved. He wrote a letter to Ahmad Shah Abdali for the independence of India. He went on cadre-building at Madrasa Raheemya, Menhdiyan as well as in his Qur'an classes. His disciples were spread from Burma to Arabian countries and Africa. Inside the country an urge for independence arose in the minds of Ulema. That is why the British martyred 19,000 Ulema (some historians have put this number to 52,000) besides the common Indians. After Shah Waliullah, his madrasa was maintained by Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlavi. He too continued to mobilise public opinion in favour of struggle for independence and war against the British, besides his teaching. His famous fatwa is very much on the pages of history of independence as well as in fiqh books. This fatwa got very wide popularity through the medium of mosques, impressing upon the people the wrong-doings of the British government. There was a long period of 126 years between 1731 and 1857. Had the ideological and physical efforts made during this period not been part of the struggle for independence, the truth is that the revolutionary move of 1857 would not have been made."

Maulana Rahmani's article is full of historical facts related to pre-1857 war of independence.