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How India lost the 1857 war

I read the book review How India lost 1857 (April 20). It is an erroneous perception that because the rulers of Patiala, Jind, Nabha and Kapurthala helped the British in 1857, the whole Sikh population of the Punjab was on the side of the British. The Raja of Jammu and Kashmir and the Nepal king sent a large number of their troops to help the British against the rebels. By helping the British, these rulers wanted to get great benefits from the paramount power, which they actually got.

As far as Punjab regiments were concerned, the composition of these troops included Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. They remained loyal to the British mainly because they were recently recruited troops and had not yet felt the discrimination vis-a-vis the white troops in pay and social status as the rest of the soldiers in the service of the British had been suffering since long. This type of discrimination was a new phenomenon as during the Mughal rule troops belonging to all classes were treated equally.

Many rulers of Rajasthan had also offered their services to the British, but their offer was ‘politely’ declined. For, the British officers thought that the troops from Rajasthan might not serve the British as these troops had close cultural affinity with the rebel soldiers. So it is wrong to pinpoint the rulers of the Sikh states only for helping the British.

The main reason for the failure of the uprising in 1857 was that the uprising erupted gradually in stages and the sepoys could not find a sterling leader who could lead them to victory. The sepoys proved their mettle in the blood-soaked battlefields of Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Jhansi and many other places.

The British lost three Commanders-in-Chief and several senior officers like John Nicholson, Major Hodson, Sir Henry Lawrence and Gen. Neil. But due to the lack of experience and able commanders, the revolutionaries lost the war.

V.P. MEHTA, Chandigarh


Sublime art

In his article, Degenerate mind, not art (Sunday Oped, May 11), A.J. Philip has rightly observed that “Ugliness lies in the eye of the beholder”. He has quoted several examples to justify his observation. Numerous examples can be added in the context of Indian art and literature wherein romance of gods and goddesses has been treated as a sublime subject.

In his Masterpieces of Figure Painting, I.E. Relouge has aptly observed: “It would be completely wrong to interpret the Indian art as purely erotic, designed to arouse blind passion or — in the temple reliefs — to serve as a test book on psychopathia sexualis.”

Unfortunately, M.F. Husain has been hounded out of the country; nevertheless, his creativity will prosper in adversity.


Neglected soldiers

In her piece Born to Fight (Spectrum, May 4), Megha Mann has written about Bachan Singh, 95-year-old soldier of World War II, who succeeded in getting his disability pension restored after the intervention of a senior Army General. His disability pension had been stopped arbitrarily by the Controller of Defence Account (Pensions).

However, Bachan Singh is not the only former soldier whose disability pension has been stopped by the CDA (P) in spite of the Army medical boards confirming their disability. There are hundreds like him. The situation has become so grim that nobody in the babudom even reads the representations submitted in this regard. It is a pity that no government at the Centre has ever paid attention to the grievances of the armed forces personnel.


For a better deal

“Commission’s omissions” by Vibha Sharma and The great divide by Ajay Banerjee (Spectrum, April 20) were thought provoking. The shortage of IAS and IPS officers is continuing, but the government seems to be insensitive and unconcerned. Low remuneration and difficult working conditions are the major factors responsible for this shortage. Poor salary is one of the reasons for the illegal supply of CSD items in general market.

May be our politicians will be able to understand the problems and difficulties being faced by armed forces personnel, if their own children joined these. It is time the Sixth Pay Commission reviewed its recommendations for these forces for the betterment of the country. They are providing safety to the whole nation; why can’t the country give them a better deal?


Ghost tales

In his article, The ghost story (Spectrum, May 11), M.L. Dhawan has mentioned Amol Palekar’s Paheli as one of the Hindi films, which revolved round ghosts and spirits. Would it not be an injustice to omit Mani Kaul’s Duvidha (1979) of which Palekar’s movie was a remake?

The writer has included Bimal Roy’s Madhumati in his piece. Interestingly, Shah Rukh Khan picked up the “ghost part” of this movie for his home production Om Shanti Om. Deepika Padukone in Om Shanti Om essayed the role played by Vyjantimala in the original.

One of the most acclaimed movies of the genre was Ram Gopal Verma’s Bhoot (2003), which bagged Filmfare Award for Best Actress (critics’ category), Best Editing and Best Sound. Incidentally, Bhoot was a remake of Verma’s own Raat (1992), starring Revathi.

Some other notable movies on the theme of ghosts and spirits were R.D. Productions’ Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan (1968), Anuj Sharma’s Maa (1991) and H.P. Nagaich’s Jaadu Tona (1977). The last mentioned movie, incidentally, was remake of the renowned Hollywood flick The Exorcist.

Besides Bees Saal Baad, N.N. Sippy’s Woh Kaun Thi? and Gumnaam (1965) and Arjun Hingorani’s Kab Kyon aur Kahan? were some other slick movies where notional ghosts were used as cover for crimes by screen characters.


Governor-General who loved India

One of the Sahibs who loved India (Khushwant Singh’s column, Saturday Extra, March 29) was Sir Charles Metcalfe. He served India under East India Company for 38 years (1801-1839), rising to the rank of the Governor-General.

He was barely 23 when he represented the East India Company in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and negotiated the Treaty of Amritsar (1809) providing for mutual friendship between the Maharaja and the British. In Amritsar, he found the love of his life, a Punjabi belle, whom he married as per Indian rites and sired children from her. Although his wife died only after eight years of their marriage, he did not remarry.

Ironically, the British society refused to recognise this marriage, and his sons as legitimate. As a result after his death, the baronetcy passed on to his younger brother Thomas Metcalfe who also was the Resident of Delhi (1835-53), and better known as builder of Metcalfe House.

Sir Charles Metcalfe was against the custom of Sati and banned it in the British territory. He was the first to introduce English as the official language of the government and brought about reforms in the Press.

He was liberal to the core and was of the view that, “all that a ruler can do is to merit dominion by promoting the happiness of those under them...” He had a novel way of reforming petty criminals. He used to put them in a ‘home of industry’ where they were taught to make blankets and carpets, etc.

V.K. RANGRA, New Delhi



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