Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 26

The Past and Present Society

"Satan Let Loose upon Earth": The Kanpur Massacres in India in the Revolt of 1857 Author(s): Rudrangshu Mukherjee Source: Past & Present, No. 128 (Aug., 1990), pp. 92-116 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/651010 . Accessed: 21/10/2011 12:27
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Oxford University Press and The Past and Present Society are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Past & Present.


was this, that massacres of the Cawnpore In fact, the peculiaraggravation the deed was done by a subjectrace by blackmen who daredto shed the blood of theirmasters,and thatof poorhelplessladiesand children. combined,but Herewe had not only a servilewarand a sortof Jacquerie we had a war of religion,a warof race, and a warof revenge,of hope, of andto re-establish promptings to shakeoff the yokeof a stranger, national the full powerof nativechiefs, and the full sway of nativereligions. . . the causesof themutinyandthe revolt,it is clearenoughthatone Whatever to instinct,determined of the modesby whichthe leaders,as if by common of everywhiteman, womanor child effecttheirend was, the destruction who fell into their hands.1

rulewouldcome "Ourlearnedmen . . . told us thatthe Company's to an end in 1857, since this was one hundred years after the firstgreatbattle":so wrote Sitaram,the loyal sepoy, in Company's of 1857.2The explosion of the uprising narrative his autobiographical that the astrologershad predicted a prophecythat was widely in northIndia did indeedcome, but not exactlyon the circulated centenaryof Plassey. It began on 10 May 1857 in the cantonment of Delhi.3 In the spaceof one monththe town of Meerut,north-east
* This paperwas writtenwhen I was a fellowat the ShelbyCullomDavis Center for HistoricalStudies, PrincetonUniversity,in spring 1989. The first draft was to Power".I am on "Powerand Responses presented to the Davis CenterSeminar response.Susan of the seminarfor their enthusiastic gratefulto the participants NatalieZemonDavis,Barun Chatterjee, Amussen,ChrisBayly,PeterBrown,Partha De, Greg Denning, John Dunbabin,John Elliott, AmitavGhosh, RanaiitGuha, Hill, HaroldJames,WilliamJordan,DonnaMerwick,GyanPrakash, Christopher and Ted Rabb, Asok Sen, LawrenceStone and Sean Wilentzcriticized,approved is, forthe finalproduct The responsibility forimprovements. mademanysuggestions of course,mine. (New York, 1970), Diaty, ed. M. Edwardes 1 W. H. Russell,My IndianMutiny pp. 29-30. Lunt(London, Norgate, ed. James trans.Captain From Sepoy toSubedar, 2 Sitaram, of Bahadur Shah,dated25 August1857,notedthat 1970),p. 173.The proclamation of the the writings "theancientworks,bothof the Hindoosand the Mahommedans, punditsand rammals,all of the astrologers, miracleworkers,and the calculations agree in assertingthat the English will no longer have any footing in India or Struggle in Uttar (eds.), Freedorn quotedin S. A. RizviandM. Bhargava elsewhere": Pradesh,6 vols. (Lucknow,1960),i, pp. 453 ff. is available in J. A. B. Palmer, reconstruction of the Meerutoutbreak 3 A detailed 1966). in 1857 (Cambridge, at Meenzt TheMutinyOutbreak



uprising had engulfed the entire Gangeticplain, and British rule there, as one Briiish officer put it, had collapsed "like a house made of cards".4It took nearlytwo years for Britishrule to be reestablished.The uprising and the subsequentre-establishment of Britishpowerwere markedby scenesof violencequite unparalleled in the historyof Britishrulein India.This articleattempts to analyse one such episode:the massacres of the Britishby the rebel Indians in Kanpur(Cawnpore). Violence, it must be emphasized,was an essentialcomponentof the British presence in India. It was violence that served as the ultimate imprimatur of colonialism."Therewas no powerin India", wrotePhilip Francis, "but the power of the sword, and that was the British sword, and no other". Francis'sfamousrival, Warren Hastings,also admittedthat the swordwas the most valid title the Britishhad to sovereigntyin India.5A dominantpower is always uneasy withviolencedirectedagainst it, sincenon-reciprocal is one of the necessaryconditionsof its reproduction. violence The right to violenceis, therefore,everywherea privilegethat authority enjoys andrefuses to share with those under it: power always insists on violenceas its exclusive monopoly. British rule in India, as an autocracy, hadmeticulously constructed a monopoly of violence.The revolt of 1857shattered thatmonopolyby matchingan official,alien violence by an indigenousviolenceof the colonized. The violence associatedwith Britishpoweralso manifested itself in crudeforms,sinceBritishruleanddomination in Indiahada very physical aspect.It chosethe bodyas the siteto inscribe its superiority. The bodiesof the Briiishacquired certaindignitiesin Indiathatwere predestined by birth and by the colour of their skin. This was the condition of their domination,of their superiority: rulersand ruled were arranged hierarchically as superior andinferior races,ascivilized and uncivilized.And this superiority manifested itselfby denyingto the Indiansa "humanness"; by treating themandconceiving of them as animals.WilliamHowardRussell,the Times correspondent, noted in his diarythat:
to the intelligent Briton,they areas the beastsof the field. "ByJove!sir", exclaimsthe major,who has by this time got to the walnutstage of the argument,to which he has arrivedby gradations of sherry,port, ale and Madeira,-"By Jove!"he exclaims,thicklyandfiercely,with everyvein
MartinGubbins, An Account of theMutinies in Outlh andtheSiegeof theLucknow Residency (London,1858), p. 118. 5 R. Guha, A RuleofPropertyforBengal (Paris andThe Hague,1963;repr.Calcutta, 1982), p. 146.



in his forehead swolnlikewhipcord,"thoseniggersaresucha confounded sensual lazy set, crammingthemselveswith ghee and sweetmeatsand smokingtheir cursedchillumjees all day and all night, thatyou mightas well think to train pigs. . ." The fact is, I fear that favouritesof heaven-the civilizersof the world la race blanche.the . . are naturally the most intolerant in the world.6



the sepoyis [regarded as]an inferior creature. He is swornat. He is treated roughly.He is spokenas a "nigger".He is addressed as "suar" or pig, an epithetmost approbrious to a respectable native. . . [theyoungerBritish officers] seemto regard it as an excellentjoke,as an evidenceof spiritand a praiseworthy senseof superiority overthesepoyto treathimasaninferior animal.7

It was an era of brutalfloggingsand of Indianwomen being forced to become mistressesof white men; of recalcitrant elementsbeing blownfrom cannonsso that their bodies were effaced and the onlookers coveredwith blood and fragments of flesh. Britishrule thus visiblymanifesteditself by markingthe body of the Indian. This brutality andviolenceis important if we areto understand the overall context of the Kanpurmassacres.Imperialrule in Indiacould only perpetuate itselfby a deployment of terror,a terrorthatwouldstrike awein the minds of the ruled. The British had not only conqueredIndia but had also, in the process of consolidating theirpowerin the firsthalfof the nineteenth century, violatedall that was held sacredand dearby the peopleof India. Socialreformsbasedon the principles of reason,land-revenue administration based on Ricardiantheoriesof rent, a legal system imported from England, the propagation of Christianity and the dispossession of kings, their successorsand landedmagnates,had together broughtabouta majorupheavalin northIndia. An entire way of life was going under, and naturallythe people affectedfelt aggrieved. This way of life in the nineteenthcenturywas inevitably imbricated withreligion.The reforming zealof British administrators was thus often interpreted as an attemptto subvertthe religionof Hindus andMuslims.This created an atmosphere of fearanddistrust in which anything associatedwith Christianity was an object of suspicion and hatred. In Sitapur,in Awadh, the very name of the commissionerMr. Christian becameidentified withthe religion and increasedthe wrathof the rebels.8The uprisingof 1857 thus
Russell, IndianMutiny Diaty, p. 8. Quoted in C. Hibbert, TheGreat Mutiny: India, 18S7(Harmondsworth, 1978), p. 56. 8 J. W. Kaye, History of theSepoyWarin Inzlia,1857-58,3 vols. (London; i, 9th edn., 1880; ii, 5th edn., 1881; iii, 4th edn., 1880), iii, p. 456.
6 7



displayeda very strong religiousfervour.The rebels thoughtthat they were fightingin defenceof theirreligion.And in this therewas no differencebetweena Hindu and a Muslim.9A group of rebels setiing out why they had takento armsdeclared,"If the religionof a Hindoo or Mussalmanis lost, what remains in the world''?10 A rebel proclamation announcedthat "The rebellionbegan with
religiOn 11

There was amongthe people and the sepoys a deep-seated belief in the existenceof a deliberateBritishplot to overthrowcaste and religion.The interventions of Britishadministrators in all aspectsof lifeonlyservedto aggravate theseapprehensions. Suchanatmosphere facilitated the circulation of rumours.In northIndiain the summer of 1857, therewere rumoursaboutthe cartridges of the new Enfield rifle being coatedwith the fat of cows and pigs; about flourbeing polluted by bone-dust;about forcible conversionsto Christianity; aboutthe intentionsof the Britishto disarmthe sepoys;and about theend of Britishruleat the centenary of Plassey.All thesecirculaiing together aggregated intoone giganticrumour abouttheevilintentions of the British. Untraceable in their origin and unverifiable in their import,the rumours movedin a powerful current touchingon issues that were profoundlyclose to indigenous sentiments.What was important in all this was not the objectivetruth,but whatthe people believedto be true. And it was this belief that bredfearand panic. Rumourspreadfrom village to village, from bazaarto bazaarand fromone sepoy line to another,bringingmen together,stokingtheir suspicionand hatredand therebyspurringthem to violentaction.12 The violence intrinsicto British rule in India, the violationby zealousBritishadministrators of all that was sacredand cherished, and a perceivedthreatto religionthat manifested itself in the circulationof rumours these are perspectives thathave to be bornein mindforcomprehending the natureof the uprising andthe massacres in Kanpur. * * *
9 The religious fervour andunityarediscussed in R. Mukherjee, Awadhin Revolt, 1857-58:A Stutlyof Popular Resistance (Delhi, 1984), pp. 147-54. 10NationalArchivesof India, Delhi, ForeignDept., PoliticalConsultations, 13 May 1859, consultation no. 326, abstract translation of an arzi (proclamation) from the rebel camp on the part of all the rebel officersand sepoys to Maharaja Jang Bahadur, n.d.: quotedin Rizvi and Bhargava (eds.), FreedOn Stnzggle, ii, pp. 603-S. 11National Archives of India,ForeignDept., Political Consultations, 17Dec. 1858 consultation no. 251, "Translation of a Proclamation Issued by the Begumin the Name of BirXis Qadr". 12 For rumours,see Mukherjee, Awadhin Revolt,pp. 72-6; for a more general discussionon rumoursin peasantinsurgency,see R. Guha,Elernentary Aspects of PeasantInsurgenczy in Colonial India(Delhi, 1983),pp. 251-77.




The firstnews of disaffection amongthe sepoysof the BengalArmy reachedKanpursome time in April 1857.13 In May the news of the outbreak in Meerutand) followingthat, the fall of Delhi a few days later, had an electrifying effect on the troopsand the population in Kanpuras well as all over northIndia. As one officerput it:
the intelligence receivedof the mutinyof the troopsat Meerutappears to havelit the flameat Cawnpore, as well as at everyotherstationit reached. So daringan act of mutinywith murderof theirOfficers in the presence of anoverwhelming European force- therepetition ofthe sameat Delhithe seizureof thatCitywith the proclamation of a rebelking, encouraged and strengthened the handsof the disaffected amongstthe nativetroops and otherclassesin the stationand neighbourhood.14

Troops in Kanpurvery soon began to show their hostility to the British.One sepoy told an employeeat the commissariat, "Youare serpents, and not one of you shall be spared''.15 In the bazaara sergeant'swife was told by a sepoy out of regimental dress, C'You will none of you come here much oftener;you will not be alive another weeks. 16 Therewas a generalsenseof alarmandexpectancy in the city, in whichtherealsoseemedto be moresepoysandvillagers thanusual.17 In the sepoylines,panchayats (ageneral assembly where things of importanceare discussedand decided collectively)were held everynight.18 A loyal sepoymadethe followingstatement after the revolt:
The foremost in this consultation [heldon 4 June]wereShumsh-ood-deen Khan, Sheikh Boolagee, SirdarBeg Raw Singh and others . . . The meetingswere held at Shumsh-ood-deen's house, and sometimesat the houseof TeekaRamSingh,a subadar of the cavalrr. . . On the4th June, all the trooperssent awaytheirfamiliesand property to the city.l9

The mutinybeganon the night of 4 June 1857in whatJ. W. Kaye describedas the "wonted fashion":firing of guns and extensive
13 Deposition of Sheo Churrun Das, Sadhoof Cawnpoor, in Depositions Taken at Cawnpore undotheDirection ofLieutenant-Colonel G. W. Williams (hereafter Depositions at Cawnpore), printedwithNarrative of theEventsin theNWP in 1857-58(Calcutta, n.d.), sectionon Kanpur (hereafterNarrative, Kanpur). SeealsoG. Williams, "Review of the Evidence Takenat Cawnpore Regarding the Revoltat thatStation in Juneand July 1857"(hereafter "Reviewof the Evidence"), in Na7rative, Kanpur. 14 Williams,"Reviewof the Evidence". 15 W. J. Shepherd, A Personal Narratise of theOutbreak andMassacre at Cawnpore dunngtheSepoyRe?wolt of 1857 (Lucknow,1879),p. 11. 16 Mowbray Thomson,TheStoty of Caumpore (London,1859),p. 29. 17 Nanak Chand'sdiary of events in Kanpur(hereafter Nanak Chand'sdiary), printedas "Translation of a Narrative of Eventsat Cawnpore", in Narrative, Kanpur: 3 June 1857. 18 C, Ball, History of the IndianMutiny,2 vols. (London,n.d.), i, pp. 299-300. 9 Depositionof Ewuz Khan in Depositions at Cawnpore.



Then the sepoyssped in the direction burningof Britishproperty.20 a little of Delhi, stoppingfor the night at a placecalledKalyanpur, distancefrom Kanpur. had atMeerut,the Britishin Kanpur Sincethe timeof the outbreak to protectthemselves.Sir HughWheeler, been makingpreparations of the KanpurDivision, a favouriteof the sepoys and commander convincedof the loyaltyof his troops,decidednone the less to take not only for the safetyof the British He was responsible precautions. troops and their families, but also of all Europeans.He decided, becausehe did not wantto be too distantfromthe sepoy principally lines, not to use the magazineadjacentto the river and which, surroundedby a strong wall, was thereforethe best suited as a defensiveposition. Insteadhe chose a spot nearerthe sepoy lines, around with verandahs barracks wheretherewere two single-storied to foriify entrench, to began he site This outhouses. themandseveral in the spread the alarm As provisions. with stock and artillery with whichcameto into the entrenchment, city he orderedall Europeans This would be the be inhabitedby some nine hundredpersons.21 on spot where the Britishwould remainuntil 27 June. Surrounded all sides by rebels who fired on them night and day, the British withstoodthe siege. Their sufferingand heroismare the stock-intradeof most popularaccountsof the Mutiny.22 the rebelsturnedback, havingfirstmet up with FromKalyanpur Nana Sahiband his men. Nana Sahibwas the adoptedson of the last (prime minister), Baji Rao II, the leader of the Maratha peshwa to the Englishin June 1818. In who had surrendered confederacy, with an annualpension of ?80,000 from the East India retirement lived in Bithur,a little distanceaway Company,the formerpeshwa fromKanpur.He adoptedthreesons;Nana Sahib,or DhondoPant, which was his real name, was the eldest. In his will BajiRao made WhenNanaSahibinherited NanaSahibthe sole heirto his property. afterBaiiRao'sdeathin 1851he wasin his thirties.The the property government,however,refusedto recognizehis right to Company's the pension that BaXiRao had received. "For thirty years", the wrote, "the Peishwareceivedan annual stipend governor-general
Kaye,Histotyof theSepoyWar,ii, p. 307. p. 19. at Cawnpore, andMassacre ofthe Outbreak Narrative Personal Shepherd, Mutiny,ch. 9; S. N. Sen, 1857(Delhi, 1957). 22 See, for example,Hibbert,Great and of theOutbreak Narrative Personal areShepherd, accounts The best contemporary reconstrucA nineteenth-century StotyofCawnpore. Thomson, at Cawnpore; Massacre (firstpubd. 1865;repr. Brentwood, in G. O. Trevelyan,Caumpore tion is available are to the reprint. 1986);references
20 21




. . . Those who remainhaveno claimwhatever on the consideration of the BritishGovernment". The Nana Sahibappealedto the court of directorsand even sent his agent, Azimullah,to Londonto plead his case. His effortswerein vain. Yethe continued to remain friendly with the British, entertaining them quite lavishlyin his palacein Bithur.23 His relationship with themwas so closethathe wasinvited by the magistrate of Kanpurto guardthe treasury; Nana Sahibhad, in fact, put himself'4infrequentcommunication with the Magistrate . and proffered offersof assistance in caseof an outbreak".24 The circumstances that led to Nana Sahib's joining the rebels will be discussedbelow. Sufficeto say at this point of the narraiive thatthe rebelsreturnedto Kanpurand the Nana informedGeneral Wheeler on 7 June of his intentionto attackthe Britishentrenchment. The siege had begun. On 25 June the British pickets saw a woman approaching the entrenchments. The identityof the womanis somewhat of a mystery: eyewitnessesidentify her as eitherMrs. Greenway or Mrs. Jacobi. She carrieda letterwhich statedthat "All those who are in no way connectedwith the acts of Lord Dalhousie, and are willing to lay down theirarms,shallreceivea safe passageto Allahabad".25 It was not signed, but the handwritingwas recognizedas Azimullah's. Negotiationsbegan, terms of surrender were agreedupon and the treatysignedby Nana Sahib.The conditions of surrender, according to Mowbray Thomson,were"honourable surrender of our shattered barracks and free exit underarms,with sixtyroundsof ammunition perman;carriages to be provided fortheconveyance of thewounded, the women and children;boats furnishedwith flour to be readyat the ghaut[embankment]".26 On the morningof 27 Junethe British left the entrenchments to proceedto Satichaura Ghat,wheretheboats werekept. According to one estimate,madeaftercomparing different accounts,four hundredand fifty personscameout of the entrenchments.27As the Britishbeganto boardthe boats, guns openedfire
23 The best account of Nana Sahibis in P. C. Gupta,NanaSahibandtheRisingat Cawnpore (Oxford,1963).The governor-general's letteris quotedon p. 20. 24 J. W. Sherer,"SomeAccounts of the Mutinyand Subsequent Eventsat Cawnpore",in Narrative, Kanpur. Zoe Yolland suggestsin Traders andNabobs: TheBritish in Cawnpore, 1765-1857 (Salisbury, 1987),pp. 251, 318-19n. 38, thatthetrustreposed in Nana Sahibby the Britishwas a consequence of the familyties betweenhim and GeneralWheeler's"unofficial wife, an Indianlady". 2S India Office Libraryand Records, London (hereafter I.O.L.R.), P^persof General Sir Mowbray Thomson,PhotoEur 137. 26 Thomson,Stozyof Cawnpore, p. 153. 27 Shepherd, Personal Narrative of theOutbreak andMassacre at Cawnpore, p. 74.



from both banks and the thatchedawningsof the boats were set twentyof alight. All but one hundredand thirtywere slaughtered; the survivorsmanagedto escape, the rest were takenprisoner. To appreciatethe nature of this massacresome featuresof the outbreakin Kanpurhave to be highlighted.In Kanpur,as in most to direct otherstationsof northIndia,when the sepoystookrecourse buildings, werethe government aciionthe firsttargetsof destruction wires, the post office,the court,the jailand the record the telegraph the presenceof British rooms. All those buildingsthat represented rule were burnt or demolished. Similarly,British-ownedbungalows buildingsunlikeanykindof Indianresidence wereobjects as the mutiniescommenced, of the rebels'fury. More significantly, uniform",tore off the of their themselves the sepoys "divest[ed] coloursand brokeout fromtheirlines.28As threesepoys regimental giving evidence to the Britishsaid, "the men [sepoys]did as they In the momentof mutiny liked. No, theydid not dressin uniform".29 withwhichan alienpowerhadsought the sepoyscastoff the markers from to regimentthem and thus set them apartfrom the peasantry theywouldnot whichthey wererecruited.Of coursethe one marker jettisonwas their arms. The "peasantin uniform"-as the sepoy with arms. was disownedhis uniformonly to becomethe peasant In eschewingthe regimentaldisciplinethat the Britishofficershad Theymerged character. theirpeasant drilledintothemtheyreclaimed with the ordinarypeople. This merger is significantsince it signals the extension of the mutiniesto a generaluprising.The mutiniesstruckwith remarkable of Britishrule in northIndia. successresultingin the disappearance of Kanpur'sneighbouring allowedthe inhabitants This breakdown villages, some of whom had been armingthemselvesprior to the mutiny, to pour into the city.30 Once this happenedit became the rebelandthe mutineer. to distinguish andimpossible meaningless enterprise.31 hadbecomea collective trueto its character, Insurgency, Nanak Chand, a loyalistwho kept a diaryof the events in Kanpur
in "Synopsis"), Mutiny"(hereafter of the Evidenceof the Cawnpore 28 "Synopsis and Despatches fromtheLetters, see also G. W. Forrest,Selections Kanpur; Narrative, ofIndia,18S7of theGovernment Department in theMilitary Papers Preserved otherState pp. 156-8. ii, introduction, 4 vols. (Calcutta,1893-1912), Selections), 58 (hereafter of GobindSingh, SheikhElaheeBukshand GhouseMohomed,in 29 Depositions at Caumpere Depositions diary:29, 31 May, 3, 5 June, 1857. 30 NanakChand's in greatdepthin Guha,ElementwyAspects is analysed andcollectivity 31 Insurgency of PeasantInssrgeng,passim,esp. ch. 4.




andscrupulously recorded nameswhenever he could)pointedto this, albeit unconsciously,when he wrote on 6 June, "Thereis a great crowd. It is impossibleto recordthe namesof all at such a time". And againwe readin the entryfor 8 June, "It would be impossible to mentionthe names of all evil-mindedmen who joinedthe standard".32 Sheernumbersled the diaristto despair,but for historians the anonymity,the facelessness of the thousands involved,is indicative of the collectivenatureof the project. An emeute within the army had acquiredthe characterof an insurgency almostas soon as it occurred.The populace,seizedby a rebelconsciousness, set out to destroy,but not indiscriminately. The British,and all thatthey ownedor represented, werethe firsttarget. After this the destructionextendedto the wealthyand propertied in Kanpur;businessmen,especiallymoney-lenders, were the chief targets.33 Suchdiscrimination and selectivity in destruction has been singled out as one of the generalfeaturesof peasantinsurgencyin colonial India.34The destruciionin Kanpurwas carriedout by ordinary people,members of the lowerordersof society.This is clear from Nanak Chand'sfrequentuse of words like "bad characters", budmashes, and "low-castemen"; there are also clear references to villagers andartisans.35 LalaBadriNath, the commissariat contractor in Kanpur,also testifiedthat "Thousands of the lowerclassesfrom the city, cantonments and villageswent aboutwith them sharingin their excesses".36 The uprisingin Kanpurbore the imprintof the subaltern classes:NanakChandwasemphatic aboutthisby declaring "not one of the respectablecitizens joined the Jehad".37 Respectability,needlessto add, was definedin the eyes of NanakChand,as well as the British, by the ownershipof wealthand property.The menof property sawthe rebellionas the workof the subaltern classes andthe latter madeit theirownby theirveryactions.Twooverlapping structures of domination overlapping becausemost tradersand money-lenders in nineteenth-century India, who were the rebels' targets, earnedtheirprofitsby collaborating with the British were simultaneously attackedby the subordinated.In confrontingthe
Nanak Chand's diary: 6, 8 June1857. Ibid.:5, 6 June1857. Guha, Elementa7y Aspects ofPeasant Insurgeng, pp. 20 ff. Nanak Chand's diary: 5, 6 lune 1857. Deposition of Lala Badri Nath,in Depositions at Cawnpore. Nanak Chand's diary: 7 June1857.By "Jehad" he is referring to theraising of the green flag.
32 33 34 35 36 37



structuresof dominationdirectlythe rebels definedtheir task as a projectof power. It was not just direct aciion that informedthe project. Other featuresof insurgency,like undermining the presiigeof the dominatorsthroughverbal and other kinds of insult, accompanied the outbreak. Shepherdrecalled that while in captivityhe had been continouslyinsulted and that the rebels would not utter a word withoutan "abusiveepithet"to describethe British.38 AmeliaHorne recordedthe "rude and rough"behaviourof the rebelswhen they entered the entrenchments on the morning of 27 June.Britishofficers, she said, were severelybeaten,and when an officerobjectedto such behaviour"they abusedhim in so gross a mannerthat it made the earsof all tingle, threatening in the bargain to spit on his face".The Britishwere not accustomed to such behaviour; it frightened "us to death", wrote Amelia Horne.39The women who were taken as prisoners fromthe site of the massacre wereoftentakenout to grind corn; in his magisterial narrative of the "SepoyWar", Kaye, with greatdiscernment,observesthat:
An educatedEnglishgentlewoman needednot even a week'sresidence in Indiato teachher the meaningof this. As they sat thereon the ground, these Christian captivesmust have had some glimmering recollection of their biblicalstudies, and remembered how in the East the grindingof cornwas ever regarded as a symbolof subjection.40

An act carriedout every day by a peasantwoman in India would indeed be the utmost humiliation when imposedupon a womanof the masterrace. ColonelEwart,beforebeing killed, was tauntedby the formersepoys of his regimentas the Britishwalkedout of the entrenchment with the words, "Is not this a fine paradeandis it not well dressed up?''.41The Britishwere certainlynot used to being tauntedor insulted;they expecteddeferenceand obedience.It was only in the circumstances of rebellion,whenthe established relationship of dominationand subordination had been broken, that the codes of behaviourcould be so grosslyviolated.

Shepherd, Personal Narrative oftheOutbreak and Massacre atCawnpore, pp.81-

39 British Lib., London(hereafter Brit. Lib.), Add. MS. 41488,Papersrelating to the IndianMutiny,i, Amy Haine's[AmeliaHorne?]Narrative. The samenarrative with minoradditionsand alterations is reprinted as AmeliaBennett[nee Horne?], "TenMonth'sCaptivity afterthe Massacre at Cawnpore", in The Nineteenth Century (Jan.-June 1913),pp. 1212-34; ibid. (July-Dec.1913),pp. 78-91.Therewasno Amelia Bennett in theKanpur entrenchment so thisis in all probability thenarrative of Amelia Horne, who escapedthe massacre. 40 Kaye,Histoty of theSepoy War, ii, p. 355. 41 ''synopsis>s-




It wasnot the Britishalonewho hadsuchindignities inflicted upon them. The elites of Kanpur,who were knownto be friendsof the British, were similarlyinsulted. The Nuneh Nawab, or Mahomed Ali Khan, an influentialpersonin the town and a knownfriendof the British,hadhis horsetakenawayfromhim and"instead of which I got a mere 'Tuttoo' [mare/mule]belongingto a servantof my brother"42 In a societywherethe typeof carriage invariably indicated status, to ask a Nawab to ride a mule and that belongingto a servant - was to destroyhis positionin society.The Nuneh Nawab was also "led throughthe streetsin ignominiousshow", the rebels "heapedabuseson me" and "threatened to haveme tied to a tree".43 As the rebellion gathered momentumthe ranks of the rebels swelled. People came "to see the fun" of the dominatorsbeing attackedand humiliated,and such people were pressed into the rebellion.44 The rebelsused their presencein largenumbersto win over the vacillatorand draw the onlooker into the folds of the rebellion.Numbersprovidedthe moralprestigeof solidarity: collectivityafforded a sanctioll forthoselesswillingto join.45 The collective natureof the enterprise possiblycontributed to it beingseenas "fun": therewas feasiingandsharbat (sherbet)was distributed;46 the rebels held nautcheswith buffoons.47 There was a sense of liberation,the joy of havingachievedthe impossible. What these featuresmake obvious is that the initiativefor the uprisingin Kanpurcamefromthe ordinary people.Havingrevolted and destroyed,they still had to dealwith Nana Sahib.Therearetwo versionsof the meeiingbetweenthe rebelsandthe Nana. According to one version, a deputationfrom the rebels met and told him, "Maharaj, a kingdomawaitsyou if you join our cause but deathif you side with our enemies".The Nana readilyreplied,"Whathave I to do with the British?I am altogetheryours". And in a royal gesturehe placedhis handson their headsand sworeto join them. The otherversionstatesthatwhen the Nana saw the entiresoldiery had completely thrown off their allegianceto the Company, he decidedto join and advisethem.48
42 I.O.L.R., Board's Collection, no. 195724,translation of the diaryof the Nuneh Nawab. 43 Ibid.

NanakChand'sdiary:7 June 1857. "Pressing" a-s an instrument of solidarity is discussed in Guha,ElntawyAspects of PeasantInsurgeng,pp. 195-8. 46 NanakChand's diary:8 June 1857. 47 Deposition of John Fitchett,in Depositions at Cawnpore. 48 See Forrest, Selections, ii, introduction, pp. 158-9.
44 4S



In a case like this there is no way of establishingthroughthe historian'sstandard methodsof cross-checking which is the correct version. But both the accountsconvey one importantaspect. The Nana did not have very much of a choice. In the one version, the absenceof choicewas direct:the rebelsmadeit clearthatdeathwas the alternaiive. In the other,the lackof choicewas not so direct.Yet, surrounded by an insurgentpopulation eagerto embarkon a career of destruction, the Nana could only havecourteddeathanddestruciion by opposingthe rebels. Havinghis own grievances againstthe British,he consideredit prudentto throwin his lot with the insurgents. At thatmoment,with Britishpowervirtually non-existent and an entirepopulaceup in arms,Nana Sahibhad no alternative but to join the rebels. In short he was a prisonerof the circumstances. Perhapsthis was what TantiaTopi, a very close associateof Nana Sahib,wantedto indicatewhen, in his confessionto the British,he said that afterthe mutiny "the threeRegimentsof Infantry and 2nd LightCavalry surrounded us andimprisoned theNanaandmyselfu'.49 Thereis no evidencewhatsoever of eitherNanaSahibor TaniiaTopi ever being held prisoner.The statementcan then only be readas a testimonyof helplessnessin the face of popularinsurgency pressing Nana Sahibinto the rebellion.Sucha situation was not at all unique in 1857. Time and time again, in differentregions,deposedrulers and dispossessedlanded magnateswere forcedto rebel becauseof the mountingpressurearoundthem. The old and retiredMughal emperor was forcedto acceptthe nominalleadership of the rebellion by the sepoysfromMeerutand the populaceof Delhi; in Jhansi,the rani becamea rebel leaderbecauseall aroundher therewere rebels coercing her to join; in Bihar, in Jagdishpur,the eighty-year-old KunwarSingh had the mantleof rebel leaderthrustupon him; and in Awadhthe big landedmagnates joinedor stayedwiththe rebellion becauseof the militancyof theirpeasantry.50 It would, however,be an over-simplification to suggest that princesand magnatesjoined the rebellion only because they were forced to by pressurefrom
49 I.O.L.R., HomeMiscellaneous, no. 727A,translationofTantiaTopi's confession and orders. so See Sen, 1857,p. 278;for Kunwar Singh,see K. K. Datta,Biography ofKunwar SinghandAmarSingh(Patna, 1957);for Awadh,Mukherjee, Awadhin Revolt,pp. 129, 168. In othercountriestoo, in situations of popularinsurgency, the actionsof landedmagnates and the gentryhavebeen constrained by popular pressure: see, for example, M. James,"Obedience andDissentin Henrician England: The Lincolnshire Rebellion,1536",in M. James,Society,PoliticsandCulture: Studies in EarlyModenz England (Cambridge, 1986),pp. 256-7.

forbeing Manyof the olderrulingclasshadtheirown reasons their below. away taken had latter The towardsthe British. antagonistic conjuncture prestigeandland. The uprisingoffereda unique together. power, come could insurgency and popular elite disaffection when a man questionis, of course,why the rebelsneeded The significant in answerlies the Nana Sahib or the Mughal emperor.The like to affirmitself in quest for legitimacy.The rebellionwanted rebels' they now wanted nameof a publicauthority.Havingdestroyed, in nineteenththe reconstitutethe world. And that reconstitution to was not India and in the contextof the rebelconsciousness century consciousness Therebel alas,outsidetheworldof hierarchy. possible, to a leader,a king. appealing by actions its soughtto legitimize thus Mughal the declining harkedbackedto an olderpoliticalsystem It principalitregional century,andthe various of the eighteenth empire it was butbecause oppressive, less and idyllic ies not becauseit was administration of British Britishconquestandtheimposition familiar. grotesque:hostile, something as seen were western practices and people had been and inhuman. The familiarworld of the alien the "natural" Hence andtheywantedit restored. topsy-turvy turned Delhi to the in order: of the previous to the representatives affiliation in Jhansito Qadr, emperor,in Awadhto the boy-kingBirjis Mughal Nana confederacy, raniandin Kanpurto the headof the Maratha the the heir to the peshwa. Sahib, of negation Hegelthatin theinitialmoment Onecouldsayfollowing destruction"; of wasseizedby the "fanaticism rebelconsciousness the that consciousness"possessthe feelingof could onlyby destroying "leadsat of thatdestruction itselfas existents'.Yet the actualization fleeting that from transition onceto some sort of order".There is a The determinacy''.51 a of momentof destructionto the "positing to Or content. a of positing to the old orderwas the harking-back structures the when put it anotherway, that momentof liberation, akinto communitas, hadseemedto passinto something of domination and "direct,immediate a la VictorTurner,when therehad been a for of humanidentities",could not be sustained totalconfrontation old to of structures, long; and there was a return to the domain




the mergingof the sepoy The precedinganalysishas emphasized

of Right, trans.T. M. Knox (Oxford,1967), 51G. W. F. Hegel, ThePhilosophy para.5. (Cornell,1977), andAntiStructure Structure Process: S2 VictorTurner,TheRitual 132. p. from is quotation ch. 4, passim.The



elementinto the commonpeopleand the strengthof popularinsurgency in the makingof the rebellionin Kanpur.Yet at this pointin the discussionthe specificcontribuiion of the sepoyelementprobably needs to be re-introduced. The sepoys,despitetheirpeasantorigins, werein a uniqueposition.Withinthe domainof popular insurgency of which they were a definitepart, they were the only sectionwhich hadbeenproximate to statepower.As sonsof the peasantry theyhad left the village, seen the world and now duringthe revolthad, as it were, broughtthe worldbackto the village.Thiswasa riteof passage throughwhich the peasantbecameinitiatedinto the mysteries of the state: he graduatedfrom the knowledgeof mere officialdomto a knowledgeof the stateas the authenticobjectof hatred.53 One sees the hatredwrit large in the selectionof the rebels' targets.Their proximity to statepowerhad, however,a duplexcharacter. It enabled them, on the one hand, to identifythe state as the enemy. On the otherhand, the same exposureand experience,especiallythe many battles they had fought on behalf of the British state in India, had made them realizethe importance of leadership,disciplineand structuresof commandin the conductof war. Their returnto the ruralcommunity as an armedpeasantry was thus informed by a new consciousness.The harking-back to traditional leadership could be the productof that consciousness.It is significant that peasantsin revolt usually sought legitimacyin colonial India by appointing somebody from among themselves a leader or a king,54 but in 1857dethronedkings or dispossessed princes,thatis those thathad previously established claimsto leadership, werechosento lead and give the uprisinga legitimacy.An olderandlegitimate politicalorder had lost to the British in the late eighteenthand early nineteenth centuries;it was as if the sepoys in their quest for leadershipand commandwere revivingthat orderand fightinga war on its behalf anc ln ltS name. The desireto reinstatethe old orderwas evidentin the establishment of courts of law where justice was meted out accordingto "nativeideas";in the prohibition of writingin English;in the revival
. .

53 Cf. AntonioGramsci "the 'people'is awarethat it has enemies, but only identifiesthem empiricallyas the so-calledSigttOtZi. Containedin the concept of signorethereis much of the old dislikeof countryfor town. Thereis also dislikeof officialdom the only formin which the Stateis perceived. The peasant. . . hates the civil servant; he does not hate the Statefor he does not understand it": Antonio Gramsci,Selectses from the PrisonNotebooks, ed. and trans. QuintinHoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith(New York, 1971),p. 272. S4 Guha,Elementary Aspects of PeasantInsurgeng,pp. 112-15.




of old offices;in the reappointment of formerofficials; in the setting up of a councilof war; and in the restoraiion of old courtrituals.55 This is not to say that the sepoys and the ordinarypeople had completelysurrendered theirinitiaiiveto the Nana and his men. In the council of war the sepoys were stronglyrepresented: in fact it was Teeka Singh, a formersepoy, who was madea generaland put in charge of operations.Other sepoys took the ranks of major, coloneland so on, makingevidenttheirdesireto havea hierarchy of command.56 There were also instanceswhen, despiteNana Sahib's disapproval, the rebelshumiliated the wealthycollaborators.57 Again the Nuneh Nawab recordedthat:
One of the sepoys who had been in the entrenchment [with the British] andwasseizedandconfined on 27 Junehada son in the2nd LightCavalry, who first went to Baba Bhut and menacingto kill him in case of noncompliancewith his request, he was referredto Nana, to whom he went and repeatedhis requestin the same threatening manner.Nana immediately liberatedhis fatherand his comrades.58

Pushedto an extreme,an ordinary rebelcouldevenbreachthe codes of deferenceto a leader, speak threateningly to him and have him overlook sucha serious"crime" as loyaltyto the Briiish.The leaders, in theirturn, recognizing the strengthandimportance of the people, soughtto keep them happy. Thus we readin TaniiaTopi's "order book" instructions such as "Anyonewho takeswood etc. from the Godownor fromthe housesof the poor,shouldbe punishedby order of a Court";or again"all the commanding officersare requestedto give strict order to their men . . . that if they are found extoriing money from the poor villagers or plunderingthem they will be severelypunished".59 There is a deliberate comingtogetherhere of the two domains, of the popularand that represented by a feudal leaderlike Nana Sahib and his men. It leads to the formaiionof a united front againsta commonenemywhose completeannihilation alone can lead to a stablereconstitution of the old order.Azimullah represented the position:
55 The setting up of courtsis described in Alilliams,"Review of the Evidence"; the prohibition of Engtishin Shepherd, Personal Narrative of theOutbreak andMassacre at Cawnpore, p. 41; for the restoration of formerofEcialsand ntuals, see Nanak Chand'sdiary,passim;"Synopsis".For the councilof war, see Lt.-Col Williams, "Memorandum", in Narrative, Kanpur. 56 "Synopsis"; also Rizvi and Bhargava (eds.), Freedorn Stggle, iv, p. 669. 57 I.O.L.R., Board's Collection, no. 195724,translation of the diaryof the Nuneh Nawab. 58 Ibid. 59 I.O.L.R., HomeMiscellaneous, no. 727A,translation ofTantiaTopi'sconfession and orders.



Whatfools,thenwe naiiveshavemadeof ourselves, so quietlyto surrender our countryto a handfulof tyrannical foreigners, who aretryingin many ways to deprive us of our religion and our privileges!It behoves us, therefore and I call upon you all to join heartand hand to extirpate our enemies,root and branch,from the face of all India. Let not a soul escape,let not the nameof a Christian be evernamedin Hindoostan. We are strongand numerousto keep our own.60

There is a statementhere of unity, strengthand confidence;the enemyis clearlyidentifiedand annihilation clearlyproclaimed as the purpose.Ishtahars (proclamations) were issuedin both Urdu and in Devnagiricalling upon "all Hindoos and Mahomedans to unite in defence of their religion and presentthemselvesfor service".6tA mutinyleadingto a collectiveattackon the dominators hadnow been transformed into an entire society'swar againsta commonenemy. An insurrection,by its collectivenature, by its acceptance of a leadershipand by seeking its identity with a politicalorder, had acquiredlegitimacyfor itself. It was now public and open. Nana Sahibcould thus informGeneralWheelerin the entrenchment that the attackwas going to commence.62 From the extantevidenceit seems that the massacre on the river was a stratagem in the conductof the war. It was plannedin advance. The idea of luring the British out of the entrenchment and then killing them en masse was probablysuggestedby a statementmade by W. J. Shepherd,who had left the entrenchment disguisedas a naiive and had been apprehended. To quote Shepherd,
a man, havingthe appearance of one in authorityn cameto me and asked if I could tell whetherthe officersand Europeans were aous to leave the station,and if, in the event of an offer being made to that effect, it would be accepted.I repliedthat I could not exactlytell, but that the femaleswere certainlyanxiousto get awayby any means, and for their sakesno doubt such an offerwould be acceptedif madein a satisfactory

Shepherd,needlessto add, hadno ideaof whatthis statement would lead to; he was tryingto free his countrymen, includinghis family, fromthe tormentthat they sufferedwithinthe entrenchment. A full councilmet, and decidedthat the best way to defeatthe Britishwas to get themout of the entrenchment withthe promise of a safepassage down the riverand then kill them. It is significant that this council
60Shepherd, Personal Natrattseof theOutbreak andMassacre at Cammpore, p. 42.
61 ''synopsis9-

62"The next day June 7th Gen. Wheelerreceiveda note statingthat the Nana intendedto attackhim":I.O.L.R., Papersof General SirMowbray Thomson,Photo

Eur137. 63 Shepherd, Personal Natrative of theOutbreak andMassaere at Caumpore, p. 69.




was attendednot only by Nana Sahib, his men like Azimullahand rebelslike Teeka Singh, but also by MaulaviLiakatAli.64A Hindu princeand a maulavi (muslimreligiousteacher) sanctioned the massacre. The decisionto slaughterin this manneralso seemedto have the sanctionof the qazi (judge):a witnessreported
Two daysbeforethe boatsforthe Europeans weregotready,in theevening theKazi[Wasiuddin] withtwosirdars of thecavalry regiment whosenames I don't know, was concerting measures at his own housefor theirdeath. At thattimeI arrifired at the houseandheardthatto murder the Europeans havinggot them out of the entrenchment was lawful and proper.65

The massacrecould thus take on the natureof an execution,of an open and public affair.It was a spectaclewatchedby some ten to twelvethousandpeople.66 And in the mannerof executioners some of the rebels told a group of Englishmen,"now repentof all your misdeedsand ask pardonof God".67 The public and open characterof the massacreon the river is testifiedby all the eyewitnessaccountsthatthereareof the event. At the risk of being gory and prolixI quote fromthreeof these. Here is the massacre as seen by Mowbray Thomson,who escapedon one of the two boats that got away, and down-river swam to the shore and was rescuedby a landedmagnate:
MajorVibartand his familywere the last to go on board,a partyof his Regiment,the 2nd cavalry) escortedhim downand insistedon his taking all thatbelongedto him on boardthe boatsbut when they saw him fairly embarked and us tryingto get our boatsawayfromthe bank, they made signalto the boatmenwho immediately left us, havingpreviously set fire into the thatchedcoveringof the boats, which brokeout instantlyin a blaze.Everyone whocouldwasobligedto jumpoverboard.The wounded andhelplesswho couldnot, perished in the flames.The Cavalry menwere firstto fireonus and theirfiringappeared to be the signalforthe massacre to commence,for the instantafterwards four guns openedon the forty boatswhich had [been]providedfor us and about 10,000muskets.68

ElizaBradshaw hadan incredible escape.She stoodin the waterwith the blood-bathall aroundher and succeededin "secreiing" herself to a Muslimcemetery.She thus lived to describethe scene:
At sunriseon the 27th, somehackeries, threeor fourelephants, andthree palkeeswere broughtinto the entrenchments . . . The General and some
64 ''SynOpSiS''-

Depositionof Hulas Singh, in Depositsnsat Cawnpore. Emphasis added. Depositionof KhudaBux, ibid. All eyewitnesses confirmthat therewas a big crowdat the ghat; for exampleGangaSinghin his narrative said, "Indeed,it was difficultto get there,as therewasan enormous crowdof Soldiers as well as peopleof the Town lookingon": I.O.L.R., Board's Collection, no. 195718. 67 Deposition of JohnFitchett,in Depositions at Cawnpore. 68 I.O.L.R., Papers of GeneralSir Mowbray Thomson,PhotoEur 137.
65 66

109 ... in a palkee[palanquin] wereon elephants,Mrs. Wheelerwas officers the aboutthe centrewith ladieswere on the hackeries. . . We were The and sepoyswere on our right sowars The families. their and drummers with the white railingsnear left . . . When we reachedthe bridge and men fromthe assembled, crowd large a saw we William'shouse, Colonel theywere that out shouted ahead, were the sowarswho and villagers; city descended then we ghat, the to down tostandaside, and none to come our leadingto the river.Whenwe got to the dry nullah[watercourse] into we heard Suddenly . . . flooring bamboo no had boat,we found that it on both of bullets, and then the roarof cannon firing,and the pattering In shore. and us between was boat the sidesof the river.We jumpedout, youngest Colonel's the saw boatwe thewater,a few pacesoff, by the next his bayonet.She said, "My A sepoywas going to kill her with daughter. andjustthena villager away, turned He " kindto sepoys. wasalways father the water. . . we saw into fell she and struckher in the headwith a club, read it, for a sowar him see not take out a book, we did the clergyman on the neck; he then blow a with down him cut and water rodeinto the . . . A sepoykilled a missionary killedthe Padre,and the other,who was child by the leg young a took sepoy another . a child with his bayonet. . and threwit into the water.69


by the massacre Horne,who was takenawayfromthe site of Amelia later: years many sepoy as his "prize",as it were, recalled a

and the violence. The There was no attemptto concealthe hatred placedto preventescape.The two gunsand troopswere strategically
69 70

theshorewaslinedwithspectators to embark Whilewe wereendeavouring manydemons,as theyundoubtso like who werelookingon andexulting tauntingand jeeringat us for condition, distressing our over were, edly like so many devilsgrinned black The hands. their into havingat lastfallen language. monkey their in chatter apes, keepingup an incessant took abouttwo hoursto accomplish Afterall had embarked which orders these obeying crew the of the wordwas given to proceed.Instead and they all leapedinto the waterand a signalwas given from the shorefirst secretedburningcharcoalin the having after bank, waded to the a volley of bulletsassailedus, Immediately boats. thatchof most of the struckthe boats . . . In a few which grape followedby a hail of shot and Severalof the boats were seen to be minutes pandemoniumreigned. woundedwereburntto death.Some in flames,and the sick and wrapped shore,butwerepicked andtriedto swimto the opposite overboard jumped theirvile work continued guns the . . . off by the bullets of the sepoys bankwhich opposite the from . . . and grapeand musketrywere poured to intercept there placed been soon became alive with rebels who had boatsto thefurther their pushing in succeeded few A shore. to that refugees wadedinto The cavalry slaughtered. side of the riverandweremercilessly alive . . . still were who those down cut the riverwith drawnswordsand the smokefromthe firingof the cannon The waterwas redwith bloodand burningboats, lay like dense clouds and musketsand the fire from the laughedand cheered,incitingeach over and aroundus . . . the sepoys otherto greateracts of brutality!70

at Cawnpore. in Depositions Depositionof ElizaBradshaw, i, Amy Haines'sNarrative. Brit. Lib., Papersrelatingto the IndianMutiny,




boatsthatdid get awaywere chasedand shot down. The rebelstook up theirpositionsat nightandordersweregivento the neighbouring zamindars (land-holders) andvillagersto be presentat the ghat.And they were present, "armed",one witness reported,"with swords, and battle axes''.7l Things were so arrangedas to overpowerthe British:accordingto Shepherd,"The Englishwere entirelyin their power".72 The massacrewas also executedin keepingwith a very definiteplan.The boatmen setfireto the thatched awnings ata signal, and the guns opened fire at the sound of a bugle. The rebels on horseback went into the waterto slashthe survivors on very definite ordersfrom TantiaTopi. The operations were supervised by Teeka Singh,JwalaPrasad(an associate of NanaSahibwho hadbeengiven the rankof brigadier),a cavalrytroopercalledNukkee, and Tantia Topi, all of whom sat on a speciallybuilt platform.73 Everybody presentwas implicated in the violence,eitherdirectlyor as a partof a crowd that watchedand exulted. The massacrewas a collective affair:an expressionof an entiresociety'shatredand rejection of an alien order. It was a spectacleof rebel power. The massacrecould thus be celebratedas a great victory. Gun saluteswere firedto markthe occasion.Nana Sahibtookhis seaton a throneand the sacredmarkwas put on his forehead.The city was illuminatedfor the victory.74 In the surrounding villagestoo there was a certainatmosphere, for, NanakChandrecorded,C'The daring speechesof the villagersfrightened me out of my wits".75 A proclamationannounced the victoryandthe establishment of a new power:
As by the bounty of the gloriousAlmightyand the enemy-destroying fortuneof the Emperor the yellow-faced and narrow-minded peoplehave been sent to hell, and Cawnpore has been conquered, it is necessary that all the subjectsand landownersshould be as obedient to the present Government as they havebeen to the formerone; thatall the Government servantsshould promptlyand cheerfullyengage their whole mind in executingthe ordersof the Government; thatit is the incumbent duty of all the peasantsand landedproprietors of every districtto rejoiceat the thoughtthat the Christians have been sent to hell, and both the Hindoo and Mahomedan religionshave been confirmed, and that they shouldas usualbe obedient to theauthorities ofthe Government, andneversuffer any complaint againstthemselves to reachto the earsof the higherauthority.76
Deposition of Peer Bux, in Depositions at Cawnpore. Shepherd, Personal Narrative of theOutbreak atulMassacre at Cawnpore, p. 73. 73 These details are stated in the depositions of Goordial, Lochun, Nundeedeen Aheer, Jagganath and Peer Bux, in Depositions at Caumpore.
71 72 74 ''SynopsisX75 76

Nanak Chand's diary: 27 June 1857. Quoted in Trevelyan, Cawnpore, p. 141.



The affirmation of rebel powerwith such brutalityand violence also has anothercontextrelatedto Briiishcounter-insurgency measures. As the British administraiion in Calcuttarecoveredfrom the shockof the uprisingthey took immediatemeasures to quell it. The forces sent up to north India under Neill and Havelockhad three aims:the re-establishment of Britishauthority; punishing the rebels; and relievingthe Britishgarrisonsin Kanpurand Lucknow.Neill arrivedin Allahabad on 11 June; this was to serve as his first base forthe takingof Kanpur.Butbeforehe couldmoveto Kanpur, he had to "settle" thetownof Allahabad andits surrounding countryside. His methodswere simple. He orderedhis troopsto go into towns and villagesand to kill and burnindiscriminately; old men, womenand childrenwerenot spared.Hereis Kaye,a writernot knownfor being sympathetic to the revolt, writingaboutNeill's operations:
Over the whole of the SepoyWar there is no darkercloud than that which gatheredover Allahabad in this terriblesummer. . . It is on the recordsof our BritishParliament, in paperssent home by the GovernorGeneralof India in Council, that "the aged, women and children,are sacrificed, as well as thoseguiltyof rebellion.' Theywerenot deliberately hanged, but burnt to death in their villages . . . Englishmendid not hesitateto boast, or to recordtheir boastingsin writing,that they had "sparedno one" and that "peppering awayat niggers" was very pleasant pastime. 77

WilliamHowardRussellwas in Indiain 1858, and he met an officer who was a partof the columnthatmovedup fromAllahabad towards Kanpur.The officerreported,in Russell'swords,that "In two days forty-twomen were hangedon the roadside,and a batchof twelve men were executedbecausetheirfaceswere 'turnedthe wrongway' when they were met on the march.All the villagesin his frontwere burned".78 Even boys who had playfullyflauntedrebelcoloursand beatena tom-tomwere killed.79 The motivesfor such butcherywere also clear. The Briiishwere unableto accept that a subjectpopulationhad taken arms against them,had daredto destroytheirproperty and lives. As Kayeput it,
77 Kaye,History of theSepoyWar,ii, pp. 269-70.Neill'sorders,according to Kaye (p. 275), werethat"allthe men inhabiting them[certain villages,previously marked out]were to be slaughtered. All sepoys of mutinousregimentsnot giving a good account of themselves wereto be hanged.The townof Futtehpore whichhadrevolted wasto be attacked, and the Pathanquarters destroyed, with all theirinhabitants. All heads of insurgents, particularly at Futtehpore, to be hanged.If the DeputyCollector is taken,hang him, and have his headcut off and stuckup on one of the principal (Mahomedan) buildingsof the town". 78 Russell,IndianMutiny Diary, pp. 281-2. 79 Narrated in E. Thompson,TheOther Sideof theMedal(NewYork,1926),p. 72.




So it happenedthat whilst the first bitternessof our degradation the degradation offeanngthosewhomwe hadtaught tofear us was still fresh upon our people, there came a suddenaccessionof stout Englishhearts and strongEnglishhands, readyat once to punishand to awe.80

John Lawrence,the governorof the Punjaband a very influential administrator, laid down the priorities of Britishpolicy:'COur object is to make an exampleand terrifyothers''.81 Whatis significant is thatthesekillingsby the Britishtroopswere carriedout beforethe massacre in Kanpur.82 It is not far-fetched to imaginethatthenewsof suchmassacres reached therebelstronghold. Theywantedto counterthis showof violenceby theirownexhibition of power. They "borrowed"from the British and replicatedthe violence. The terms of their violencewere thus derivedfrom that very structureof poweragainstwhich they had revolted.83 But was it merely "borrowing"? Or are we being too hasty in pointingto the derivative character of the rebels'use of violence?Is there not somethingmore significant in this tremendous displayof force and power? Rebel power, in however tentativea fashion, constituteditself as an alternative order;as a sovereignpowerthat sought its identity in the pre-Britisheighteenth-century political system. The British presence was, therefore,an obstacle to the reconstitution of that sovereignty.The massacre restoredthe sovereigntyby manifesting it at its most spectacular. By a displayof terror not dissimilarto the terrorthe Britishdeployed,it soughtto create an awarenessof its unrestrained and independentpresence. The spectaclereactivated the power that Britishrule had undermined. This was a powerthatembarked on its career,as indeedrebelpower alwaysdoes, not by tryingto enforceits lawsbut by clearlymarking out its enemy. The intensityand ferocityof the violencewas also relatedto the imbrication of the revoltwith profound religiousfeelings.As Natalie Zemon Davis has noted, "religiousviolence is intense becauseit connectsintimatelywith the fundamental valuesand self-definition of a community".Like the crowdsof late sixteenth-century France, the rebels in Kanpurhad a sense that what they were doing was legitimate; theyfoughtanddestroyed in defenceof theirreligion,and
Kaye,History of theSepoy War, ii, p. 269. Emphasis added. Quotedin Thompson,Other Sideof theMedal, p. 40. 82"These 'severities'could not have been justifiedby the Cawnpore massacre, becausethey tookplacebeforethatdiabolical act":Russell,Indian Mutiny Diawy, p. 282. 83 See Guha,EZementaty Aspects ofPeasant Insurgency, p. 75.
80 81



theirviolencehada structure dramaiic andspectacular. Whatwas seenas grotesque wasdestroyed in a grotesque way, by dehumanizing the victims.84 Britishrule, as I haveemphasized, inscribedits domination on the body of the Indian. To eradicatethe marksof that domination,a rebel power had to, in its turn, destroythe body of the Briton. The violence embeddedin Britishrule was eradicated throughcounter-violence: Britishpowerhad to be disembodied for the rebel power to be completelysovereign. "The very excess of the violence employed"in the massacre,one could say following Foucault,was "one of the elementsof its glory".85 The glorywas all the greater becausethe massacre was seenby the rebels as divine retribution.The English officerwho collectedthe evidenceon the massacreremarked in his synopsisthat this was a period "when Satanmay truly be said to have been let loose upon earth".86 A groupof captured sepoys,minutesbeforetheirexecution, were asked individuallywhy they had killed their Britishmasters; each one of them replied that "the slaughterof the British was requiredby our religion".87 Whatwas the workof God for one was the work of Satanfor the other. In that abstractcontraposition is perhaps capturedthe configuration of two contestingsystems of power. The massacreat Satichaura Ghat on 27 June 1857 was a dramatic momentwhen a bodypoliticstruggled to recover its totality by destroyingthe body of its dominantother. The narrativeof violence in Kanpur does not end here. The massacre on the riverwas followedby a secondmassacre, the nature of which was distinct from that of the first. This involved those who had survivedthe slaughterat Satichaura Ghat. The men were separated out fromthe survivors and shot. It wasa straight shooting, as if in continuation of whathad happenedon the river.The women andchildren werekeptas prisoners in a room,knownastheBibighur. In the meantime,in the rebelcamp, preparations had to be made to stop the Britishforces marchingup from Allahabad.The rebel forces were defeatedin two hard-fought encounterson 15 July, in the villageof Aong andon the banksof PanduNadi. The rebelsnow
84 Natalie Zemon Davis, "The Rites of Violence",in N. Z. Davis, Society and Culture in EarlyModern France(Oxford,1987edn.), pp. 181, 186-7,passim. 85 The above paragraph is based on my readingof M. Foucault,Discipline and Punish:TheBirthof thePnson(Harmondsworth, 1979),esp. ch. 2; Guha,Elementaty Aspects of Peasant Insurgency, pp. 164-6.The quotation is fromp. 32 of Discipline and Punish. 86 ''synOpsiss87

Ball, Histowof theIndianMutiny,ii, p. 242.




retreated to Kanpur,facingthe prospectof a Britishtake-over of the city. It was then decided that the ladies and childrenwere to be killed. A personalservantof Nana Sahib, namedBegum, who was in chargeof the prisoners,broughtordersfrom the Nana for the sepoysto kill the womenandchildren.The sepoysrefusedto comply, and fired a few volleys aimed at the ceiling. At this four or five professional executioners were sent in armedwith swordsand long knives, and they cut up the prisoners.The bodies it was saidthat not all were dead were throwninto a well.88 In this episode there is clear evidence that the unity that had previouslybeen forgedbeganto breakdownwith the advance of the Britishforcesandthe defeatssuffered by therebels.The rebelsclearly refusedto obey their leader. Defeat had led to a loss of legitimacy. The leadersnow had to fall back upon their personalservantsand on mercenaries. The men who were calledin to carryout the killing were paid.89This massacre,unlike the first one, was no longeran open affair.It was carriedout in a closedroom. The peoplearound could not see the killing. The massacre no longerhad the sanction and participation of an entire society which saw itself as defeated. Lieutenant-Colonel Williamsindicatedthis when he commented in his synopsisof the evidence:
Regardingthe numerousmassacres that took place, the evidence. . . is clearlyand freely given, but on approaching the last and most terrible scene, all seem instinciivelyto shrinkfromconfessingany knowledgeof so foul and barbarous a crimeas the indiscriminate slaughter of helpless womenand innocentchildren.Evidencethat runs clearand strongfrom 15thof May to 14thof July, suddenlyceaseson the fatalday of the 15th of that month.90

The very way in which the massacre was carriedout eliminated the possibilityof any direct witnesses, since it was in a closed room. There were people outside, but they, as Williamsnoted, refusedto speakaboutwhattheyhadseenor heard.Do we detectin this silence, this reticence,disapproval? Peoplehad exultedin the firstmassacre; theydisownedthe secondby remaining silent.Sepoyswhohadkilled on the river were unwilling to obey orders. Thus the first was a spectacle, the other carriedout indoors;one had been a show of power,the otheran act of retreat.The secondmassacre was the work of a leadershipno longer sure of its power, its mass support,and thereforeof its victory. The leadershipwanted to kill becauseit
88 "SynOpSiS"89 Ibd 90 Ibid.



wantedto removewitnessesof its own complicity.It was a massacre producedby fear. The massacreof Satichaura and the massacre at Bibighurwere basedon two differentcodesof violence.Contrasting crimewith insurgency,a historian of peasantinsurgency in colonial India writes that "the criminalmay be said to stand in the same relationto the insurgentas does what is conspiratorial (or secretive) to whatis public(or open), or whatis individualistic (or smallgroup) to whatis communal (ormass)in character''.91 It wasindeedan irony thatunderpressure fromBritishcounter-insurgency measures, in the space of a fortnightthe power of the insurrection had transformed itselffromthe publicto the secretive: fromthe communal to only the leadership:what had previouslybeen seen as a work of God had become, one could say using the same terms, an act of Satan.

It wouldhavebeen convenient if one couldleavethe analysis of rebel violenceand its natureat this point. To do so would be to leavethe narrative withoutobservinga significant absence.Herewas a society in openwarwith a foreignpower;at the timewhenthe rebelsseemed to be victoriousthey had Britishwomen at their mercy for about fifteen days. Yet there was no rape. Williamsconcludedafter his investigations that "the most searching and earnestenquiriestotally disprovethe unfounded assertion thatwasatfirstso frequently made, and so currently believed,thatpersonal indignityanddishonour had beenofferedto ourpoorsuffering country women".92 Witnesses who hadbeen veryclose to wherethe ladieshadbeenimprisoned testified that nobody had molested the women.93In 1858 Lord Canning ordereda full inquiryon the dishonouring of Britishwomenby the rebels all over north India. The findingsof the inquirywere very definite:
nothinghas come to my knowledgewhich would in the smallestdegree supportany of the talesof dishonour currentin our publicprints.Direct evidence,whereverprocurable, has been steadilyand consistentagainst them. The people,thosewho mustknowhadtherebeencasesof outraged honourandwouldhavetold us, uniformly denythatsuchthingswereever perpetrated or thoughtof.94
91Guha,Elementaty Aspects of PeasantInsurgency, p. 79. "synopsisX93 Depositions of WilliamClarke,Eliza Bradshaw and Hingun, in Depositions at Canumpore. 94 I.O.L.R., Home Miscellaneous, no. 725, "Memorandum containing the Result of Enquiries madeby Desireof the Governor General into the Rumours of European Femaleshavingbeen Dishonoured duringthe LateMutinies".




Officer afterofficerfromthe districts wroteto saythattheyhadfound no evidenceof dishonourto women.95 Whatare we to makeof this absence?I wouldlike to suggesttwo possibleexplanations. The revoltof 1857visualized itselfas a warof religion,a struggleto preserve the purityof casteandreligionagainst a perceived attempt at contamination by theBritish.The maintenance of puritywent so far as to label all loyalistsas Christians.96 It was said that in conversation among the rebels the Britishwere never mentionedfor "a man's mouth becameimpure[for] forty days by namingthe Kafirs".97 In such a situationcontactof any kind with Britishwomenwouldobviouslybe considered polluting.The preservationof religiousand castepuritycould thus eliminaterape. The aim of the rebels, as I have tried to emphasize,was the destruction of all thingsBritish.As Muir,who conducted the enquiry orderedby Lord Canningput it, "the objectof the mutineerswas . . . not so much to disgraceour name, as to wipe out all tracesof Europeans, and of everythingconnectedwith foreignrule".98 Rape was probablyseen as an instrumentof defilement,a method of subordination which pollutedthe blood and body of womenby the most intimateand forcefulcontact.This was not the agendaof the rebels.They weredrivenby the idea of annihilating the British;this is how they wantedto show and establishtheirpower. That power did not distinguishby way of genderor age. In that contextwhen the desire to destroywas overwhelming, rapebecameredundant. University of Calcutta Rudrangshu MukheUee

95Ibid., enclosures. Depositionof KhodaBux, in Depositions at Cawnpore. Depositionof John Fitchett,ibid. 98I.O.L.R., HomezMiscellaneous, no. 725, "Memorandum containing the Result of Enquiries madeby Desireof the Governor General into the Rumours of European Femaleshavingbeen Dishonoured duringthe LateMutinies".
96 97

Centres d'intérêt liés