May 11, 2007

India celebrates anniversary of anti-British revolt | Reuters.com

India celebrates anniversary of anti-British revolt
Fri May 11, 2007 7:45 PM IST


By Kamil Zaheer

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India celebrated the 150th anniversary of its First War of Independence against British rule on Friday, poking fun at its former colonial rulers at a historic fort in the capital which saw much bloodshed on both sides.

The festivities centred around the Red Fort, a magnificent 17th-century red sandstone structure in Delhi where mutinous Indian soldiers proclaimed the ageing and frail Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar as ruler of India in May 1857.

What started as an act of defiance by some Indian soldiers who refused to use rifle bullets said to be greased with beef and pork fat quickly became a popular rebellion against the British East India Company that ruled most of India. Muslims consider pork unclean while Hindus view the cow as holy.

Thousands of people, were killed on both sides, including many women and children. Vengeful British troops crushed the revolt, referred to in Britain as the Indian Mutiny and in India as the First War of Independence.

At Red Fort on Friday, colourful floats, cut-outs and a huge demon-shaped ballon with the Union Jack printed on it showed scenes from the conflict that glorified the mutineers' courage in the face of the might of the country's British masters.

"There is no doubt that 1857 was a shining example of our national unity," said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, speaking from the high rampart of the fort, built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in 1648.

"Our war of independence was based on unity in diversity and today our national unity is also based on this.

"This is our strength and this is our destiny," said Singh, referring to India's secular constitution and its many faiths, castes and languages.

SONG AND DANCE

Patriotic songs were played in the background as a huge and mobile cutout of Zafar showed the reclining emperor smoking a hookah. Thousands of young volunteers shouted "Jai Hind" (long live India) during the celebrations.

Men with swords performed traditional martial arts while two people dressed as British gentlemen walked on stilts. The costume of one of them carried the words "Economic Exploitation".

Nearby, men dressed in red balloons, ridiculing British soldiers, waddled like penguins.

Hundreds of policemen, including anti-terrorist commandos, stood guard as thousands of people including President A.P.J Abdul Kalam and the head of the ruling Congress party, Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, watched the two-hour show.

The government had declared a public holiday in the capital to mark the occasion.

Thousands of young people marched to Red Fort on Thursday from the city of Meerut, a three-hour drive from the capital.

Meerut is where the revolt started after soldiers killed their British officers and their families.

The uprising was fully quelled by the summer of 1858 and the reins of power passed directly into the hands of the British government from the East India Company.

The rebellion sowed the seeds of India's freedom movement which culminated in independence in 1947.

Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled to Burma, now Myanmar.

Rebels killed hundreds of British women and children but the British revenge was savage. Many rebels were tied to the mouths of cannons and blown to bits while whole villages were wiped out for supporting the rebellion.

But a living freedom fighter, Ram Kumar Awasthi, 87, had a bit of advice for the current government of independent India.

"Please govern better and improve law and order," a frail Awasthi said, after attending the celebrations.

India celebrates anniversary of anti-British revolt | Reuters.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is how history judges people. Not only someone's terrorist is someone's freedom fighter but today's terrorists are tomorrow's hero. All those who fought for India's struggle were labeled as terrorist by the same white racists Anglos who label Al_Qaeda, Hamas, Hizbollah and Iraqi freedom fighters as Terrorists. India would not have been independent, have the people accepted British stooges like today's Maliki, Mubarak and Musharraf. But yesterday's terrorists rejected the proposal and India earned its freedom. Today's terrorists have rejected White man's stooges and they are not only today's hero but tomorrow's hero.
Muslim nations will celebrate the struggle of Hamas, Hizbollah and Al-Qaeda in time to come; not matter western hijacked world says today.