Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tatya Tope’s Operation Red Lotus
Prag Tope.
Rupa and Co
Pp 893
Rs 595.

THIS is an extraordinary book, an unusual and different one in tone and method from the general run of studies published on what the historians have called the Sepoy Mutiny, revolt, rebellion, or the War of Indian Independence. From a different angle, the 1857 revolt has been interpreted as the last bid of the ill-organised, disorderly and degenerate Indian forces to challenge the rising tide of new civilisation that was emerging in the country. The author of the present study, Prag Tope, describes the 1857 revolt as the Anglo Indian War of 1857. The main focus of the study is on the heroic role of Tatya Tope in the revolt of 1857. Tatya Tope waged a war against the British government from the middle of 1857 to 1858, especially at Jhansi and Gwalior. A man of great courage and reckless energy, he was determined to defy the necessities of the situation that confronted him.
From the study of this work, it is evident that a team of researchers were engaged in collecting and compiling the source-material on the subject, which was interpreted and chiselled into shape finally by Prag Tope, "the main architect of the book" who was assisted by his wife Manisha, and other members of the family. A vast array of literature, including the Marathi, English, Persian, Urdu, and Bundeli sources, has been used to construct the traumatic events of 1857-58. A special feature of the book is the inclusion of several short and neat maps, illustrating precisely the Indian and British military encounters of various places of conflict.
The author of this study asserts that an authoritative and important historical work on 1857 has still to be written because the books published on the subject are written from the British perspective, and regrettably, the Indian historians too follow the British line by using the English sources.

Prag Tope makes a strenuous effort to wrestle with two issues: firstly, to rehabilitate the reputation of Tatya Tope which has been sullied in British histography of 1857, and secondly, to challenge eminent historians like RC Majumdar and Surendranath Sen who have berated the national character of 1857. Denouncing the Emperor Bahadur Shah, as a feeble and inert dotard, a small potato, RC Majumdar declared that the 1857 struggle was "purely a mutiny of the sepoys joined last by some discontented elements as well as of the riff raff and other disorderly elements". In his official history of 1857, Surendranath Sen emphasised that the 1857 upheaval was essentially a military revolt, though later, in Oudh and Central India, it exhibited among some people the signs of strong patriotic feelings of national upsurge.

The author emphasised that Tatya Tope was not the Maratha Peshwa Nana Sahib’s aid-e-camp or the superintendent of his kitchen, but his Dewan, a mentor and guide and an undaunted military genius. From his several military encounters with some of the top-ranking British military officers, it is clear that in his battle with them, he took no rest himself and gave none to others. His military operations were secret, prudent and rapid. Surendrath Sen acknowledged that Tatya Tope inherited the natural instinct of his Maratha race for guerrilla tactics. His lightning speed, his daring and tactical skills formed the essence of his military genius. He knew the terrain—the hills, the forests, the valleys, and the rivers—and made the best use of them in his battles with the adversary. Even when he retreated, he drew new resources from adversity.

Full review here The Tribune

No comments:

Post a Comment