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A Colonial Memoir and Its Contestation

Ranjana Sheel

By Colonel A.R.D. Mackenzie , C.B. Honorary A.D.C. to the Viceroy (Allahabad, 1891)
Edited by Mushirul Hasan
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 1st published 2008, 2nd Impression 2009, pp. 172, Rs.395.00


We are indeed grateful to Professor Mushirul Hasan for bringing to public knowledge yet another narrative that can serve as a valuable history source book. Mutiny Memoirs by Colonel A.R.D. Mackenzie, according to Hasan, has not been referred to by many of the important writings on the events of 1857 (p. 9). The slim volume provides an introduction by Hasan, 14 illustrations, short profiles of some of the British officers mentioned in Mackenzie's text and the text itself. The rare printed copy of the text, found by Mushirul Hasan in Dr Zakir Hussain Library of the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, has been included in full. Part I of the book, an Introduction by Hasan, is divided into four sections. The first two deal with a 'partly imaginary and partly factual' description of the Rebellion; the next focuses on various images and representations of the events, particularly on the account in James Grant's History of India. Jawaharlal Nehru's insights on the events are included in the next section as representing a different frame of analysis; the fifth section deals with how Delhi's most prominent citizens as well as the Muslim population coped with the events, challenging thereby the thesis of city's desire or decay; and lastly, discussion on the impact and some concluding remarks. Hasan, in fact, provides three points as conclusion. He seeks to dispel three com-monly held contentions pertaining to the Rebellion (pp. 63-68): First, he maintains that resentment and hatred did not continue in the period after the Rebellion was suppressed. Religious bigotry existed in some quarters but these were not the only forces present. Secondly, the view that Muslim elites turned to Bahadur Shah as their saviour and Islam is, according to Hasan, 'untenable'. Despite the loss and grief expressed, most coped well with the end of the Mughal Empire (p.64). Even Zakaullah, who along with his family suffered much, believed that the old times were full of decay and corruption and contact with the new would infuse fresh blood into an old civili-zation. In fact, he was glad that the Rebellion had been suppressed. Ghalib too conveyed the necessity of sovereignty changing hands. Later, the liberal reformist tide among Muslims was augmented by the efforts of Syed Ahmad Khan and other educationists. The colonial govern-ment too modified its initial distrust of the Muslims as a discontented, conspiratorial and mutinous lot. A ‘rapproachment’ and increasing faith in ...

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