Gillespie in Vellore, 1806 (mass murderer as hero)

800px-Vellorefort

Vellore Kottai

The Vellore Mutiny took place on July 10th, 1806, nearly 60 years before the 1857 Rebellion. It was led by the ‘native’ sepoys of the First and Second Battalions and the First and 23rd Native Infantry. The sepoys took on the crocheted knot of oppressive realities, a combination of religious, caste and racial discrimination which had peaked in the form of a series of new commands. These commands came welded with a complex symbolism that was read by the mutineers as deeply offensive subjugation methods on the sepoys (largely muslims, along with untouchables and caste hindus).  The imprisoned members of Tipu Sultan’s family and retainers in the fort are attributed to having planned and coordinated the day-long mutiny.  It lasted several hours, and left about 200 Britishers dead, inside the fort.

Gillespie took charge of the counterviolence. The bloodbath was multiplied several folds with indiscriminate killing of the mutineers and anyone suspected of being part of the plan. The fort was retaken within a short time. This was followed by an intense military-bureaucratic conflict and upheaval which included William Bentick and John Craddock being recalled.

One witness, Captain Charles Marriot described Gillespie’s actions on July 12th, 48 hours after the mutiny:

The Europeans have been hunting for any mutineers who may have hid…. every son of a bitch they found has either been pistol’d or bayoneted… Near seven hundred have been killed inside and outside, the work of death has only stopped this morning.
Gillespie came to be celebrated as the one who saved the British in India, but between the lines of excessive praise he has also been described as a psychopath, a soldier with an agenda of personal violence and as someone keen on propagating his own myth as a hero.
Several historians and many others including the poet Henry Newbolt, did precisely that– mythicize this slaughterer.

Gillespie

by Sir Henry Newbolt

Riding at dawn, riding alone,
Gillespie left the town behind;
Before he turned by the Westward road
A horseman crossed him, staggering blind.

‘The Devil’s abroad in false Vellore,
The Devil that stabs by night,’ he said,
‘Women and children, rank and file,
Dying and dead, dying and dead.’

Without a word, without a groan,
Sudden and swift Gillespie turned,
The blood roared in his ears like fire,
Like fire the road beneath him burned.

He thundered back to Arcot gate,
He thundered up through Arcot town,
Before he thought a second thought
In the barrack yard he lighted down.

‘Trumpeter, sound for the Light Dragoons,
Sound to saddle and spur,’ he said;
‘He that is ready may ride with me,
And he that can may ride ahead.’

Fierce and fain, fierce and fain,
Behind him went the troopers grim,
They rode as ride the Light Dragoons
But never a man could ride with him.

Their rowels ripped their horses’ sides,
Their hearts were red with a deeper goad,
But ever alone before them all
Gillespie rode, Gillespie rode.

Alone he came to false Vellore,
The walls were lined, the gates were barred;
Alone he walked where the bullets bit,
And called above to the Sergeant’s Guard.

‘Sergeant, Sergeant, over the gate,
Where are your officers all?’ he said;
Heavily came the Sergeant’s voice,
‘There are two living and forty dead.’

‘A rope, a rope,’ Gillespie cried :
They bound their belts to serve his need.
There was not a rebel behind the wall
But laid his barrel and drew his bead.

There was not a rebel among them all
But pulled his trigger and cursed his aim,
For lightly swung and rightly swung
Over the gate Gillespie came.

He dressed the line, he led the charge,
They swept the wall like a stream in spate,
And roaring over the roar they heard
The galloper guns that burst the gate.

Fierce and fain, fierce and fain,
The troopers rode the reeking flight:
The very stones remember still
The end of them that stab by night.

They’ve kept the tale a hundred years,
They’ll keep the tale a hundred more:
Riding at dawn, riding alone,
Gillespie came to false Vellore.

The legal documents as well as historical and popular writings about the mutiny in the colonial archives decry the savagery of the mutineers and simultaneously glorify Gillespie’s slaughtering. Subsequent studies have stirred the waters a little to patch together evidence from many sources — personal letters and documents of the British, the captured mutineers and other witnesses. But the jury seems still out as to what were the immediate triggers as well as the deep-seated subjugation processes which caused the mutiny.

Will these records hold the views of the untouchables– the drummers of the Infantry and Battalions at Vellore?  The deadly symbolism that triggered the mutiny perhaps can be unraveled by the descendants of  the untouchables. But is there a point in unpacking what happened in 1806?

The past is not done, and it is not over, it is still in process, which is another way of saying, when it is critiqued, analyzed, it yields new information about itself, the past is already changing as it is being re-examined, as it is being listened to, for deeper resonances, actually it can be more liberating than any imagined future, if you are willing to identify its evasions, its distortions, its lies, and are willing to unleash its secrets. ~Toni Morrison

 ~~~

To be continued

Sources:

 ~ The Poemhunter.com

~ Rebellion, Repression, Reinvention: Mutiny in Comparative perspective, Jane Hathway, 2012

~ Madras Presidency, By Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. Select Committee on the East India Company, 1866

~  The Untouchables who were they and why they became untouchables? Dr BR Ambedkar.

Image courtesy the Internet.

‘Why not just declare that killing Dalits in this country is legal?’

In a country where massacres of dalits leave no evidence, how can justice be faulted?

In a nation where massacred bodies of pregnant dalit and muslim women produce no concrete evidence of their own murders, how can justice be wrong?

In a democracy where butchered infants and children deliver defective evidence of their butchering, how can justice be denied?

In modern India where the massacred are always landless laborers, daily wage earners and small vendors, how can justice not be done?

In a casteless nation, when the slaughtered are always dalits, pasmanda muslim and low-caste, while the criminal-justice system is wholly upper caste, why won’t justice be given?

Take a brief walk through a few modern-day massacres and their verdicts:

laxmanpur_1

laxmanpur_2

laxmanpur_3

laxmanpur_4

laxmanpur_5

laxmanpur_6

 

laxmanpur_8

Images courtesy: The Internet

Title courtesy: Rahul Bhalerao

for them, for me

for daughters who did not survive rape, for ones not given a sorrowful farewell, for ones who remain as numbers for rape-murders, for ones who will today, this very minute become another protested or unprotested,  mourned or unmourned rape-murdered number, give me courage to raise a son unafraid of women, give me strength to raise a son confident in himself to never feel the need to hurt anyone. for i do not have any insights into what can terrify some men so much that they feel compelled to leave trails of raped and murdered women, every single day, throughout history. for this to not  proceed into eternity, give mothers, the one group of agential elements in society’s massive cauldron of violent constituents, this one set of not easily available insights to raise gentle sons who can always, always stay non-violent towards women, towards humans.

-

as always, by mother, i mean all those involved in raising children, all genders.

Kongu by Jupaka Subhadra

Image

Kongu isn’t a rag that stands guard over my head 

Kongu ties up my hunger,

tucks my stomach in and keeps watch

for me like Katta Maisamma* while sleeping;

When I turn into a canal of sweat at work

she mops it up like a cool breeze,

like the moon clutching together the stars

she glistens as the sack

that holds holds roots, vegetables, grains

and the komati‘s* groceries on my head;

In the fields and the fallow plots, when I grow tired

she spreads out a bed to give me rest,

when my grief streams from my eyes to the skies

she draws my eye babies towards herself

like a mother, and hugs them close, my dirt rag;

When my husband reaches out in love or anger

like a ball of butter she always gets caught before I,

to aggression or violence, from those at home or outside,

my kongu rag always succumbs first…

Kissing my ears and cheeks

she holds up an umbrella of senna flowers

over the dawn of my face

the sapphires of my hair;

From chilly weather and searing looks

from the blasts of heat waves

from the sneakiness of rain drops

she offers cool relief like the shade of a tree,

becomes a warm fire that covers my shoulders.

She becomes a pad for cool pots

that slake your thirst from a mile away,

burns her fingers

handling vessels on the stove,

comforts my crying babies

hugging them like warm baby clothing.

Though she works cheerfully by my side all day in the dust

she stems the life streams

flowing from my body’s sluices all night;

Like a cow nursing a new-born calf

she licks all dirt off my body,

like a wicker wall

she hides the modugu* stain spreading through my cloth;

Only when she becomes the snake charmer’s been at my waist

do planting, harvesting, weeding and threshing,

chores and songs screech into motion.

My dirt rag that rolls in my hands, sweat, bed, bones, limbs

in pleasure and sorrow,

my kongu rag that sticks to me

in work and song, in crisis and comfort,

like the filth that clings to my feet, the companion

of my life path…slaving like the washerman’s stone,

when does my perspiring kongu find the time for rest?

She’s not the patchy pallu that stands guard over my head

nor the hobbling stone… over my breast

how can I drag her into the bazaar

set fire to her honour and lose myself? 

  • Katta Maisamma: Village goddess, goddess of water bodies, tanks etc.
  • Komati: Shopkeeper, Bania.
  • Modugu: Here, it refers to the colour (bright orange-red) of the Butea monosperma tree (called ‘Palash’ in Hindi).

Jupaka Subhadra, in this poem, discusses how the Kongu, the free end of the sari, doesn’t just stand guard over the Dalit working woman: it’s a tool, a companion, a comrade-in-drudgery. Much unlike the ghunghat (the Hindu equivalent of the veil) draped over the head of an upper-caste woman.

Translated by Naren Bedide from the Telugu original (‘kongu naa bocce miida kaawalunDE bonta pEggaadu’ from the collection of Madiga poetry ‘kaitunakala danDem’), first published in the literary magazine Danse Macabre. Read his translations of other Dalitbahujan poets here.

Image courtesy of the artist and feminist poet Nitoo Das (River Slant). 

Cross post from Savari

Janlokpal bill: a brahmanic and patriarchal script

The Jan Lokpal bill is under 35 pages. The creators of this document successfully manufactured a ‘revolution’ out of this. The corporate media sold it as such, and some academics called it a ‘movement’.

Media and academia largely did not comment on the contents of the document. Their preoccupation was with the leaders on the dais and the people on the Ramlila grounds.

In a caste ordered, rigidly patriarchal society like ours, exclusion of dalitbahujan men and women is the default status when socio-political changes are framed by upper-caste, male-dominated power groups, such as Kejriwal’s team. Unless contested, this group of unelected civil society actors will not concede their male and caste privileges. Hence all their formulations have to be meticulously examined for their apparent and hidden biases against women and non-dominant castes.  Read the rest here

A note to the Dalit child

When you read Ambedkar’s comments below, please substitute the Left for the Congress or any individual or organization that takes it upon itself to say who should speak for the Dalits. Always know this, every time a Dalit speaks (literate or unlettered) he/she fully represents themselves and their communities. Plural.

Here is what Ambedkar said:

“What disturbs me, after hearing Mr. Gandhi, is that instead of confining himself to his proposition, namely, that the Minorities Committee should be adjourned sine die, he started casting reflections upon the representatives of the different communities sitting around this Table. He said the delegates were the nominees of Government, and that they did not represent the views of their communities for whom they stood. We cannot deny the allegation that we are nominees of the Government, but speaking for myself, I have not the slightest doubt that even if the Depressed Classes of India were given the chance of electing their representatives to this conference, I would all the same, find a place here. I say, therefore, that whether I am a nominee or not, I fully represent the claims of my community. Let no man be under any mistaken impression as regards that.” Continue reading

why bant singh can’t go to rahul pandita

This is a cross-post from Kufr.

something led me here, to this very entertaining piece of information:

The meaning of the word ‘Saraswat’ has more than one origin. One refers to ‘offspring ofSaraswati[citation needed] , the Goddess of learning applied usually to learned and scholarly people. It may also denote the residents of Saraswati river basin. The brahmins of this region who are referred to as ‘Saraswats’ in Mahabharata and Puranas were learned in Vedic lore[citation needed] . They concentrated on studying subjects like astronomymetaphysics,medicine and allied subjects and disseminating knowledge[citation needed] .

the heading, you’d notice says ‘history’. history? do people really believe that’s history? gods and goddesses are history? do you notice anything like dates in that whole section?

that piece of history whetted my appetite for more such knowledge. this page tells you about the origins of the nambudiris:

The ancient Sangam literature mentions Brahmins ofChera Kingdom (which became Kerala) who may be Namboothiris as there is mention of Perinchellur(Taliparamba) village, which is one of the most important villages for Namboothiris, as a great Vedic village. There is no concrete evidence to suggest migration of Namboothiri Brahmins to Kerala but would most probably be the heavily civilised Aryans who took the Red sea route to Kerala even before the 100O BC. The recent evidence of Brahmin migration to Kerala is the Embranthiris who were originally Tulu Brahmins.

no concrete evidence, but they’re most probably heavily civilised Aryans who took the Red sea route to Kerala even before the 100O BC (100O BC?).

what’s funnier (than the content of those histories) is the fact that some people, at least two persons, actually wrote those pages. why? to tell people like me: this is not your history, you can’t bask in the glory of the saraswats or the nambudiris, you can only admire them. but would anyone have written those pages if non-nambudiris/non-saraswats like me didn’t exist? what’s the point of being a brahmin when there aren’t any non-brahmins around? so i am there in those narratives: as, say, most probably the heavily uncivilised native who didn’t take the red sea route to kerala even before the 100O BC, but was born here. no non-indian can read between the lines and spot me, the non-saraswat or non-nambudiri, who doesn’t deserve any history. the nambudiri is the light, i am the shadow that gives the light meaning. Continue reading