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Bengal at the Time of the Revolt

Amar Farooqui

Edited by Ananda Bhattacharya
K.P. Bagchi and Company, Kolkata, 2013, pp. xxxi 186, Rs. 495.00


It is generally assumed that Bengal, and eastern and north-eastern India generally, remained unaffected by the anti-colonial struggle of 1857-58. Recent research on the subject has indicated that such an assumption is erroneous. The struggle had an all-India spread and Bengal was no exception. Ananda Bhattacharya has compiled some useful source material by way of introducing and attracting, one supposes, prospective researchers to what is by and large an unexplored field. This slim volume contains an assortment of documents and research papers, most of them published earlier, which tell us something about the situation in the region at the time of the revolt. The editor’s introduction looks at the manner in which different parts of Bengal responded to the events that had unfolded following the mutiny of sipahis of the Bengal Army at Meerut on 10 May 1857.  It is well known that by the middle of June great alarm was caused by reports that plans were afoot for an uprising in the province. The situation in Calcutta was so tense on ‘Panic Sunday’ (14 June) that a large number of inhabitants left the city or else sought refuge in Fort William. The panic was triggered by rumours that a mutiny had taken place at the cantonment of Barrackpore and that the sipahis were marching towards Calcutta. Though the news was eventually found to be untrue, one of the consequences of the panic was that the exiled ruler of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah, was confined to Fort William and continued to be a prisoner throughout the revolt. Other precautionary measures taken by the British heightened fears of an uprising in Bengal. The late Basudeb Chattopadhyay had published a detailed account of ‘Panic Sunday’ and its aftermath. Bhattacharya covers more or less the same ground, though he also looks at developments in other parts of eastern India. Europeans in the region continued to live in a state of anxiety till at least the end of the year, while several sections of Indians in Calcutta rushed to assure the government of their support in case malcontents attempted any mischief. Over one-third of the volume consists of a lengthy extract from George Dodd’s History of the Indian Revolt (1859). Dodd’s chapter on events in ‘Bengal and the Lower Ganges’ is reproduced, along with material from some other chapters. Unfortunately we are not told anything about Dodd or his History. Dodd (1808-1881) was, according to ...

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