Vellore Mutiny

The word Mutiny to any Indian immediately brings to mind the picture of Rani Lakshmibai riding the horse fighting gallantly, Tatya Tope and more recently (in terms of images that is) Mangal Pandey going to the gallows and an old poet with a white flowing beard (read: Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’).

Not many of us know about the Vellore Mutiny of 1806 which preceeded the Sepoy Mutiny by more than half a century. I too was unaware of it until I came across this article in The Hindu a few Sundays back. The reason for the Mutiny here was again the resentment in the ranks over the rules imposed by the British officers. Hindus were prohibited from wearing religious marks on their foreheads and Muslims were required to shave their beard and trim their moustache. Interestingly, Tipu Sultan’s family was imprisoned in the Vellore fort since his defeat and death in 1799. This gave the soldiers confidence to go ahead with the rebellion. Notice here the parallels with the mutiny of 1857, where the reasons for the rising were the greased cartridges and the soldiers fought to bring Bahadur Shah back to power.

Two hours after midnight, on July 10, the sepoys surrounded the fort and killed most of the British. The rebels seized control by dawn, and raised the flag of the Mysore Sultanate over the fort. Tipu’s princes, though were reluctant to take charge. Here the plan went astray as some of the soldiers started looting the Britisher’s houses. By 9.30 on the morning of July 10, the East India Company regained control of the fort.

I am sure by now, there would have been a handful of movies made in the Hollywood has such an incident taken place in America, here it doesn’t even get a mention in the school history books. A bi-centennial commemoration stamp was issued in July at a low key affair, the only mention of which I find on the net, ironically, is on the BBC Website.

I dread to think of the day when August 15th would be covered only by the foreign press.