Friday, March 5, 2010

Different faces of courage

A Tale of Two Revolts — India 1857 and the American Civil War, by Rajmohan Gandhi, provides an interesting perspective on these two contemporaneous events in history that occurred in widely separated parts of the world. The author says: “One links nineteenth century India with India today, the other links the India of the 1850s-60s with the America of that time”. The American Civil War and the Indian revolt were both cataclysmic events. The civil war had major consequences for society and politics in America. Although the revolt of the sepoys may have had major long-term consequences, its immediate effect on society and politics in India was somewhat limited.

What is telling about this volume is how the author binds these two events through the reportage of William Howard Russell, a correspondent with The Times in London. Known for his riveting accounts of serious issues, Russell had previously covered the Crimean War for The Times.

The first three chapters focus primarily on the Indian revolt as well as reactions to it in the American newspapers. There is mention of four significant Indians, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Jyotiba Phule, and of the Scotsman, Allan Octavian Hume who left an indelible mark in the annals of history, but whose work had little to do with the mutinous sepoys, other than the fact that they lived during that time. In fact, the Indian revolt was hardly discussed by the intelligentsia in Calcutta, which was the premier intellectual centre in the country at that time.

Full report here Telegraph

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