Mar 25, 2010

Bhopal Ki Beti

Snubbed by the CPM, the jamai raja could now bond with his sasural.

Amitabh Bachchan, who was rejected by the Left party as brand ambassador of communist Kerala because he has taken on a similar role for Narendra Modi-ruled Gujarat, has been requested by wife Jaya to firm up ties with Madhya Pradesh, the state where she grew up and lived for much of her early years.
Jaya, now a Rajya Sabha MP of the Samajwadi Party, unilaterally offered to convince her husband to help voice the story of the river Narmada, a main tributary in the state, and spread awareness about water conversation.

The actress was speaking at the valedictory session of the three-day Second International River Festival 2010 on the banks of the Narmada at Bandrabhan, about 90km from Bhopal.

Jaya said that as the “daughter of Madhya Pradesh”, she would be delighted to hear Bachchan’s baritone as part of their contribution to the “Save Narmada” campaign.

“I feel the story of the Narmada river should be recorded in Amitabh Bachchan’s voice. This way, the new generation can know about the Narmada and make people aware about the environment,” said Jaya.

Her remarks triggered speculation on whether the Bachchans were hoping to renew their links with Madhya Pradesh.

Jaya, a Bengali by birth, belongs to Bhopal, having studied at St Joseph’s Convent there before joining the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune.

Her father, the late Taroon Coomar Bhaduri, was a Calcutta newspaper’s special representative in Bhopal in the late ’50s and ’60s.

Bhaduri was also an accomplished writer and a stage artiste. His Bengali novel Abhishapta Chambal (Accursed Chambal) has been translated into several languages. Bhaduri had served as chairman of the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Corporation during the regime of Arjun Singh.

The ruling BJP in the state is willing to take up Jaya’s offer. Culture minister Laxmi Kant Sharma described Amitabh as Bhopal’s “jamai raja” (son-in-law) who had a special bond with the state.

“We are seriously considering thinking in this direction. In case Amitabh Bachchan agrees, it will be a matter of immense pleasure and pride for the people of the state and all of us,” he said.

The minister, however, hastened to add that a final decision would have to be taken by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, who, like Narendra Modi, has steered the BJP to poll victories but unlike the Gujarat leader, enjoys wider acceptability among the masses.

Bachchan incidentally has time and again identified himself as the “jamai raja” of Bengal and has even offered to be brand ambassador of Orissa because it is a neighbour of the state.

State Congress leaders interpreted Jaya’s remark as a sign of Bachchan’s bid to move closer to the BJP following the exit of close friend Amar Singh from the Samajwadi Party.

In January, the actor’s visits to Gujarat and Karnataka had sparked speculation on whether the Big B was again treading a “political path”. Bachchan had flatly denied any such move, pointing out that he had approached the Gujarat government with a request for exemption of entertainment tax on his film Paa which dealt with a rare genetic disorder.

Bachchan, in his blog today, took potshots at the CPM — without naming the party — for objecting to his association with Kerala.

“You want to stop me from promoting tourism in a state, because you have reason to believe that there are political connotations to the event. This is such rubbish! All I shall be doing will be working in a short film that shall highlight the various places of interest in the state, so that it encourages more tourists to visit the region…

It is a petty act of cheap convenience to prevent me from doing that, and by pitting me against political connotations and manoeuvres without paying any respect for the actual work that would be done….I shall abide by the judgement of the state government. I did not ask them for it, they came forward with the invitation, I accepted, now they want to decline it, fine…”

At Bandrabhan, Jaya spoke of the need for water conservation, recalling days when people drank unfiltered water straight from hand pumps and taps. “We cannot even think of doing so today. We fear we will die,” she said.

Describing her fond memories of the hills and lakes associated with Bhopal, she rued that the place has changed beyond recognition. “First we tamper with the environment, exhaust all our water and then search for water on the moon,” she said.

Mar 9, 2010

A Post Veer Revisit To Bhopal's History and Pindaris

Recently Salman Khan acted and produced a film called Veer, which revolved around the Pindharis. Pindharis belonged to the valleys of Narmada, and Bhopal staged many Bhopale Pindariimportant episodes of their life. This is my attempt to reconnect these episodes.
“Their (Pindaris) true history has perhaps not yet been written. The profuse British accounts suffer from a natural bias created by the last years of their activities perpetuating the impression that the Pindaris were the enemies of society and such loathsome pests as deserved to be exterminated.” G. S. Sardesai, Maratha historian.
Bhopal founder Dost Mohammad Khan  was succeeded by Yar Mohammed Khan - his son. His two successors  - Faiz Mohammed Khan and Haiat Mohammed Khan,  proved to be utterly incompetent,and both devoted themselves to a life of religious austerity and seclusion. Their ministers were therefore the real masters of the state and the post of dewan was the object of frequent contest.

During this period two Pindari leaders, Hiru and Barun,sons of Shahbaz Khan,offered their services to the Nawab of Bhopal. Shahbaz Khan organized one of the main division of the Pindaris, generally connected with Sindhias of Gwalior. Shahbaz Khan died in a campaign in Sindhia's service, but his group continued their association with the house of Sindhia. During the chaotic phase of Bhopal there was hardly a person who could take any decision. When no decision was seen for some period, the Bhonsla family at Nagpur hired the two brothers. The Pindaris' first assignment, which they executed with enthusiasm and success, was to plunder Bhopal. However, jealous of the wealthy loot accumulated in this assignment and siding with Hiru in a dispute, the Bhonsla Raja plundered the Pindari camp and took Barun prisoner. Hiru fled back to Sindhia uncertain of his own safety. Both leaders died shortly afterwards in 1800.

Meanwhile in Bhopal Chotey Khan became the all powerfull diwan (Chief Minister). He fought the battle of Phanda, thrust upon him by Bahu Begum. His son was made diwan after his death by Nawab Hayat Mohammad Khan. Amir Khan, Son of Chottey Khan, and his brothers conspired with the Scindias, raided the treasury, made off with 1½ lakh cash and took refuge with Daulat Rao Scindia. Amir eventually persuaded Daulat Rao Scindia to invade Bhopal with force of 49000.Nawab Hayat Mohammad Khan was in no position to oppose and conceded the forts of Hoshangabad and Raisen.

The saviour appeared in the form of Wazir Mohammad Khan. After the death of Murid, Wazir Mohammed imitated the example of Sindhia and Holkar, and started supporting his army by similar acts of aggression to his neighbours. During this period a Pindari by the name Karim Khan tried to get into Bhopal. Karim Khan was briefly the wealthiest and most powerful Pindari leader. As a young soldier, he successively served under the Peshwa, Sindhia, and Barun. When the Bhonsla Raja took Barun prisoner, he fled and served under Sindhia. In the wars against Hyderabad, especially at Kharda (1795), he amassed a fortune in plunder. To safeguard this newly acquired wealth, he established himself at Shujaulpur in central India. There he attracted a large Pindari following. Later, in 1804, Sindhia confirmed his possession of this land which was worth 15 lakhs of rupees annual revenue. Seeking to set himself up as a prince, Karim Khan tried to expand unsuccessfully into Bhopal. In 1806, Sindhia, fearing Karim Khan's expansionist ambitions and growing power, enticed him to his camp and took him prisoner. Karim Khan's mother fled with her son's wealth to the prince of Kotah, Zalim Singh. During the next five years, Karim Khan remained a prisoner of Sindhia while other Pindari leaders continued to expand their power.
Chitu, the other outstanding Pindari leader of the Independent Period, was born a Jat near Delhi. Dobble Khan, whose sons led Barun's durrah, bought Chitu as a slave and then adopted him as his son. Eventually Chitu acquired the leadership of Barun's group. Like Karim Khan, Sindhia gave Chitu a title and lands in 1804, but also took him prisoner in 1807.

Meanwhile in Bhopal, Nawab Ghous Mohammad Khan, the heir apparent, engaged in  treacherous deals with Marhattas of Gwalior and Nagpur. This left the British unsure of Bhopal’s commitment to resisting Marhatta power, while Wazir was negotiating with the Britishers for a treaty that would give Bhopal protection against its neighbors. Hayat died on 17 November 1807, aged 73, and Ghous Mohammad Khan succeeded him 18 days later. Soon Raghuji Bhonsle sent a force of 40,000 under his able general, Sadiq Ali. Sadiq Ali took over Bhopal and demanded that Ghous hand over Wazir and his wife as hostage. No sooner had Sadiq Ali left Bhopal than Wazir swooped down from Ginnor fort and routed the Nagpur forces and resumed governance of Bhopal.

On payment of a large ransom, Sindhia released both leaders, Chitu and Karim Khan, in 1811. During the Dusshera festival they planned to join forces against Sindhia and the Bhonsla. As has already been mentioned, the Bhonsla bought off Chitu with grants of land. Chitu then joined Sindhia by helping his officer, Jago Bapu, defeat Karim Khan. Karim Khan fled to Zalim Singh for protection. At the same time Sindhia threatened Zalim Singh with reprisals if he gave Karim Khan asylum. Karim Khan finally turned to Amir Khan and Holkar for help. They negotiated a settlement, by which Karim Khan remained under their confinement until 1816. When he obtained his freedom in that year. he again attempted a union with Chitu for a common defense against the British. Quarrels between the two prevented such an alliance. Namdar Khan and Wasil Muhammad were among the leaders of smaller durrahs during this Period. As Karim Khan's nephew, Namdar Khan occasionally plundered Sindhia's territory to avenge his uncle's subjugation. His durrah numbered only about 2,000 men compared to the 10,000 of Karim Khan's. Wasil Muhammad, who was a son of Hiru, generally remained loyal to Sindhia with a durrah of 5,000 men.

The Marhatas were furious at Wazir’s presumptuous counter-attack. Accordingly Gwalior and Nagpur jointly resolved to defeat Wazir and carve up the state of Bhopal among themselves. Wazir sought Bhopal’s salvation in British support, sent numerous messages to the Governer-General and to British army commanders soliciting a treaty of friendship. The British were initially inclined to respond to Wazir’s entreaties but drew back from committing their support, partly because they did not entirely trust Wazir and partly because they hoped to neutralize the Marhattas by compromise. When Gwalior and Nagpur armies, numbering 82,000, converged on Bhopal on 15 October 1812, Wazir stood virtually alone. He could muster up only 11,000 able bodied fighters, which included three thousand were Pindaris, commanded by Namdar Khan, a nephew of Kareem Khan. A few weeks into the siege, Wazir’s allies, the Rajput, sikh and some Pindari forces decided to quit and withdraw from the fort. The Bhopal forces were now reduced to 6000. The seize of Bhopal continued for about nine months, by the end of which Bhopal state was reduced to 200 men and women manning the fort. At end Sadik Ali lost his patience and abandoned the Siege. His departure destroyed the hopes of Sindhia's forces, already dispirited by the duration, and events of the siege; they accordingly followed the example of the Nagpur troops, and marched to Sarangpur, where they were stationed during the rains. (Check related details)

When the regular forces of the Marathas had been broken up in the campaigns conducted by Sir Arthur Wellesley and Lord Lake, the Pindaris made their headquarters in Malwa, under the tacit protection of Maratha Dynasties like Sindhia and Holkar. Many Pindari leaders owned lands in the Narmada valley. On these lands their families and followers subsisted when they were not plundering. Other lands were located within the territories of the ruler who employed or supported Pindari leaders. Many of them were within the territory of the Nabab of Bhopal, and it was from this area. which included Nemawar, Sutwas (don't know where is this?), Raisen and Bhilsa (Vidisha) that the Pindaris conducted their raids. They were accustomed to assemble every year at the beginning of November, and went into British occupied territory in search of plunder. In one such raid upon the Masulipatam coast they plundered 339 villages, killing or wounding 682 persons, torturing 3600 and carrying off property worth a quarter of a million pounds. In 1808-09 they plundered Gujarat, and in 1812 Mirzapur. In 1814 they were reckoned at 25,000 to 30,000 horsemen.
Although the attack of Bhopal was thus repelled, there was every appearance of its being speedily and successfully resumed. Meanwhile Lord Hastings, with the approval of the Court of Directors of the East India Company, decided to exterminate and eliminate the Pindaris in September 1816. Hastings put into place a plan by the end of 1817. To begin with, he entered into an understanding with several other powers active in India. The eminent war between Bhopal state and Marathas was prevented by the treaty between Wazir's son Nazar Mohammad Khan and the East India Company in 1818.  This organized campaign of Lord Hastings was known as the Pindari War or the Third Anglo-Maratha War.

Chitu fled to Bhopal, where he tried to reach an agreement with the British through theBhopale Pindari 3 Nawab. The British rejected his plans as too extravagant. Karim Khan's group split into three bodies, but the British troops still detected them. Clarke's cavalry attacked one group around Gangraur, while Adams pursued the rest into the Bhopal area. Soon, most of the Pindari leaders surrendered to the British authorities. Namdar Khan gave himself up on February third, and Karim Khan surrendered to Malcolm on the fifteenth. Others gradually followed their example.

Only Chitu escaped. He participated in the events connected with Appa Sahib at Nagpur but eventually fled to the jungle, deserted by his followers. Near the end of February 1819 his body was brought to Malcolm. He had been attacked and killed by a tiger.

John George arranged for the Pindari leaders and their families to settle in northern India at Gorakhpur with pensions and land. To prevent any resurgence of the Pindaris, the British permitted only Namdar Khan, Karim Khan's nephew, to settle in Bhopal near the old banes of the Pindaris.
In conjunction with British consolidation after the war, John Malcolm arranged for the Pindari leaders and their families to settle in northern India at Gorakpur with pensions and land. To prevent any resurgence of the Pindaris, the British permitted only Namdar Khan, Karim Khan's nephew, to settle in Bhopal near the old banes of the Pindaris.

Bhopale Pindari 2 About a century later a Gorakpur gazetteer reported the inglorious history of the Pindari descendants and their land. The land had passed from rent-free to assessed land though the revenue was very low. The descendants lived in pretentious opulence with the title of Nawab, which the Government refused to recognize. Though a few leaders, such as Sheikh Dulla, continued to plunder the Deccan areas during the 1820's, their followers were few and their devastation minimal. By 1825 Malcolm reported that most of the Pindaris had become absorbed into the general population of central India. He found it difficult to trace them.

In 1866 Alfred Lyall wrote in "The Old Pindaree" of laments of Pindaree, the fiercely independent fighter/pluderer from central india: 

And if I were forty years younger, with my life before me to choose
I would'nt be lectured by Kafirs, or bullied by fat Hindoos;
But I'd go to some far-off country where Musalmans still are men
Or take to the jungle, like Cheettoo, and die in the tiger's den.

Other groups and events now occupied the center of the Indian stage of history.

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