View Full Version : Indian Revolt of 1857

06-10-2008, 05:29 AM
Gottcha, not American Indian.

Any comparison of the current American position in Iraq, compared to the Indian Sub continent revolt/massacre against the British in 1857? Hope theres a "few" artillery batteries in Iraq that are not doing "MP" duty.

Semper Fidelis,

06-10-2008, 10:55 AM
Gottcha, not American Indian.

Any comparison of the current American position in Iraq, compared to the Indian Sub continent revolt/massacre against the British in 1857? Hope theres a "few" artillery batteries in Iraq that are not doing "MP" duty.

Semper Fidelis,

Do you plan to lash insurgents to barrels?

06-10-2008, 12:17 PM
Hope theres a "few" artillery batteries in Iraq that are not doing "MP" duty.

Al Jazeera photography of folks being "blown from the guns" would not be a IO coup for the Coalition's side.

Kididng aside, I suspect that the number of disanalogies between the Sepoy Mutiny and current Iraq operations far outweigh any analogies. As such, this makes dubious the prospects of drawing any meaningful lessons from the British operations supressing the mutiny in India for application in Iraq (or Afghanistan). However, I would be more hopeful about reviewing the history of British 19th C. involvement on the Northwest Frontier as a source for insights into how not to engage the Afghans.

06-10-2008, 06:23 PM
Gottcha, not American Indian.

Any comparison of the current American position in Iraq, compared to the Indian Sub continent revolt/massacre against the British in 1857? Hope theres a "few" artillery batteries in Iraq that are not doing "MP" duty.

Semper Fidelis,


I cannot see any comparison between the two conflicts. I would recommend David Saul's recent history of the Indian Mutiny and for one example Soldier Sahibs by Charles Allen, which ends with the Mutiny. As for the artillery batteries analogy, just what our enemies want. I know there was much British Imperial incompetence before the Mutiny, let alone in Afghanistan; there many lessons to be learned from our failures.


06-11-2008, 03:20 PM
Hi David,

I cannot see any comparison between the two conflicts.

I've got to agree with that! After all, Britain didn't control the Indian states before the Revolt, the British East India Company did. India didn't even exist as a nation state, even as poor a one as Iraq - it was a collection of States ranging from Princely successors to the Mughals, to the Deccan states, to independent kingdoms.

As for the artillery batteries analogy, just what our enemies want.

Too true! The Sepoy Mutiny is probably one of the inspirations for AQ and other irhabi groups. I'm sure they are hoping and praying that they can spin Gitmo and Abu Ghraib into the Black Hole of Calcutta.

06-10-2016, 06:20 PM
Some background on what we now call India before the Indian Mutiny, from Hamid Hussain, an occasional contributor; who this time is engaged in an email exchange:
Some questions came my way regarding evolution of Indian army for those interested in the subject. My two cent worth comments about your questions in red.

The following website has a few interesting articles. Here is the link to the the one with the heading of "The Punjabi Soldier".
Although the article is written from a Canadian/Sikh perspective, after reading this in the context of the historical events, the author makes some sense and in fact raises some interesting point that led me to think as followingLink:http://www.darpanmagazine.com/magazine/feature/the-punjabi-soldier/

The main exchange:
Were the Punjabi loyalties of 1857 with the British, the result of the long lasting animosity of the Sikhs against the Mughals? After all the history is replete with the Auragzeb's oppression of the Sikhs for quite some time. And if that was so, why the Muslims of Punjab joined in? Moreover, I realize that the memory of Chilianwala was merely eight years old but then that was a total humiliation for the Sikhs who were no longer bearing the secular standard of Rajeet Singh. (We need to look at historical events in the context of their time and not with modern lenses of nationality. Modern nation state concept was not there in 17th and 18th century India. After eclipse of central Mughal authority, foreign commercial entities (East India Company - EIC, French, Dutch and Portuguese companies) entangled in local power struggles where they were alternately cooperating and fighting with various local power brokers. Hence French helping Tipu Sultan against EIC. Company making alliance with Marathas against Tipu and later shattering Maratha power in central India. Similarly EIC made alliance with Sikh Durbar to put Shah Shuja on Afghan throne and later extinguishing Sikh power. Local power elites also made many alliances depending on their own interests. Hence Nizam of Hyderabad and Marathas allying with EIC against Tipu Sultan. In this context making generalizations based on religion can lead to lot of confusion. A Madrassi Hindu had nothing in common with a Punjabi Jat Hindu and similarly a Muslim Pathan had nothing in common with Bengali Muslim. Their culture, language, customs, food etc were alien to each other. They only happen to have same faith but that had nothing to do with the immediate interests. Sikhs were an exception as religion was localized to an ethnic group in a specified geographic area that shared language and culture and there were no other ethnic groups that accepted Sikh religion. Even with egalitarian values, caste was a major issue even among Sikhs. Jat Sikhs would not allow low-caste Mazhabi and Ramdassia Sikhs. British have to accommodate these Sikhs into separate regiments as Jat Sikh would not serve with low-case Sikh. British Indian army had some impact on preserving the purity of Sikh religion; a fact not much known or acknowledged. When political and military power is crushed, people start to question their existing structures including religious beliefs. Traditionally, there had been some fluid border between Sikhs and Hindus and boundary was not clear cut. A close look at available census figures show that the number of Sikh returns showed some decline. Social trends also suggested some laxity on part of Sikhs where they were cutting hair and assimilating more within Hindu traditions. British announced that they would not recruit any Sikh who didn’t adhere to religious tenets scrupulously. Sikh religious symbols were incorporated in the regiment and a priest assigned to the regiment. This assertion of Sikh identity in the army had a broader impact on the community and later paved the way for intellectual religious revival where differences between Sikhs and Hindus were highlighted to assert Sikh identity. Muslims of Punjab had faced the frequent looting expeditions of Afghans followed by oppressive rule of Sikh groups Missels. Ranjeet Singh brought some stability and relief and Muslims joined Durbar army. They were over-represented in Sikh artillery. After Ranjeet’s death, internal power struggle resulted in reversion to old days where indisciplined troops as well as robbers and bandits made life miserable. Once Sikh army was finally crushed, there was no local power group that could fill the vacuum. Only EIC was powerful enough to fill this vacuum. EIC army paid for its provisions when encamped which the locals had not seen in generations. Although alien, but close interaction with British controlled territories of Jullundhar Doab prior to annexation made locals aware that peace brought economic prosperity and hence general acceptance of company rule. This was repetition of what had happened in central India, Delhi and surrounding areas. The influence of Mughal court was not even five miles out of Delhi. Governors had declared their independence and carved out their fiefdoms. Large swaths became hunting grounds for Maratha bandit gangs as well as Pathan Rohillas. They were equal opportunity plunderers and didn’t differentiate their victims based on religion or ethnicity. Hence Pathan Rohilla looting Muslims of Delhi and surrounding areas and in one case their leader dashed into the royal quarters demanding to hand over jewels. Maratha plundering rich Hindus of central India. General public sick of this insecurity accepted company rule as a much better alternative.)

06-10-2016, 06:22 PM
And more:
This further leads to two more questions.

1. Sikhs should have remembered their defeat and therefore should NOT have joined the British against the mutinous soldiers who were primarily from the Oudh, some Maratha and areas east of Delhi. The mutinous parts had done nothing to the Sikhs or for that matter or to the Punjabis. Punjabis, both Sikhs and Muslims should have been happier to see the British in peril and near trouble. Moreover, the Punjabi Muslims had even bigger ax to grind because after all a "Muslim" empire was being extinguished at Delhi.(Hindu Brahman and Muslim dominated Bengal army had conquered Punjab for EIC. Sikhs were defeated by this army therefore they had no love for this army. There was gradual decline of Sikh political power after Ranjeet’s death and Anglo-Sikh wars decimated the flower of Sikh youth. We have to remember that Sikhs were/are very small in numbers. Sikhs gave the most tough fights to EIC army and casualty numbers speak for itself. Sikhs couldn’t overcome this political and military decline so quickly and more important is the fact that there was no charismatic political or military Sikh leader that could rally his flock. In the absence of this, most Sikhs joined the rising power of EIC. They had tasted the bitter fruit of defeat and now wanted to reap the benefits of aligning with victors. For Punjabi Muslims, decaying Mughal authority of Delhi was the thing of the past. For over half a century they have been alternately under Afghan and Sikh rule interspersed with periods of anarchy. For them choice was obvious and they happily accepted supremacy of EIC. They rushed to the company flag to claim their own share. Punjabi has been looted and beheaded by Afghans and Sikhs as well as armed robber gangs. Company rule was a benign rule. As long as you didn’t challenge the supremacy of the company you were allowed to prosper peacefully under its shade.)

This brings me to another scenario that has contemporary angles.

Did the 'martialization' of Punjab occurred because of the British-Punjabi alliance? Granted, that the Punjabis were constantly fighting off the marauding Afghans on the Western frontier but what is inherently present in these 'settled agriculturists" to become martial at all?(No. In view of ebb and flow of many armed groups, Punjab was militarized long before the arrival of EIC. Main fight was between Sikhs, Pathans of present day Pakistan and Afghans. After the defeat of Sikh army, British were very conscious of this fact that unemployed soldiers of Sikh army and an armed populace can rise again. They started large scale disarmament of Punjab and very limited Sikh recruitment in EIC army after annexation in 1849. However, 1857 mutiny came too soon and this trend was reversed.)

I have read that a war-like tradition is basically rooted in lack of resources from the land where people dwell therein. Most agriculturist communities throughout have been peaceful and rather victims of the raids from the hill countries. Examples of this are all over in history. If you have food and security of a shelter you don't go out start looting and robbing your neighbor, in fact you are more charitable and richer. It is the hungry neighbor who wants to steal your resources because he has nothing in his own house to eat. (Generally true but there are many shades. There are some groups who pride in carrying sword and hate the plow. Their own values perpetuate the warrior myth. In Hindu caste system there was the warrior khashtriya class so martialness was not a British invention but refinement of existing values. Hindu and Muslim Rajputs although land holders would prefer to serve in army. They served in Mughal and company armies and continue to serve in Indian and Pakistan armies. Highlanders due to paucity of resources take military as profession. Dogra, Garhwali, Gurkha, Punjabi Muslims of agriculturally poor areas and Pathan are examples of this class. EIC army did a unique thing of integrating peasant with the army. Inhabitants of agriculturally poor areas such as salt range that brought Muslim Rajput, Hindu Jats from Rohtak, Hissar and Taran Taran tehsil that brought young Sikhs to company’s standards. For these communities military pay and pension would make the difference between starvation and full stomach as famines were common. From military savings they could buy precious agricultural land and with opening of canal colonies, veterans were rewarded with rich agricultural land and sons followed fathers and grandfathers to repay the Queen’s favors. Rich agricultural lands produced less number of recruits although later when division of land among children markedly decreased average land holding, one or two sons were sent to the army to supplement family’s income or expand holding. Some rich landholders like Tiwanas and Noons prided themselves carrying sword and enlisted in the army. Similarly, tribal heads brought their clansmen for the army and usually his son or other relative was given a direct commission of Daffadar or Jamadar where he would supervise his own in the army. Majority of Muslims of Indian army came from five districts of Rawalpindi, Jehlum & Attock (Punjabi Muslims) and Peshawar and Kohat (Pathans.)

Punjab is the most resourceful land perhaps in the subcontinent and has been repeatedly invaded from the Northwest. Why therefore the Punjabi's are warlike? Did the British needs make them so? So that Punjabi's would fight the British wars all over the world. If this wasn't the Punjabis, the Empire of the British would have been extinguished by the Germans and their allies in 1914.(Martialnesss was linked with loyalty and you could not separate the two. Hindu Brahman was martial of all as he conquered for EIC army large swaths of Bengal, fought against Gurkhas, Marathas, Sikhs and Afghans. But when he rebelled in 1857, he was pulled down from the pedestal of Martial and loyal Punjabis (Hindu, Sikhs and Muslim) elevated as they proved loyal in 1857. Similarly, Pathan was vile, barbarian, treacherous etc. but when he became loyal, he also joined the Martial club. Tran-frontier Pathans especially Afridis were recruited in large numbers and even their homosexuality that was an abominable trait in Victorian England was not only tolerated by quietly praised and equated with manliness comparing them to Greeks. But when in Great war, some Afridis deserted to Germans their recruitment was stopped and now same homosexuality was equated with feminine characteristics. Baluch and Brauhis served in Bombay army battalions but when he showed more independence, he was kicked out. When Punjabis showed loyalty, all doors were open to them. However this favor was not in perpetuity and depended on continued loyalty. In early 1920, rise of nationalist and communist trends among Sikhs as well as internal struggle for control of Gurdwaras and movement against Mahants resulted in serious disturbances in Punjab. This question mark on Sikh loyalty resulted in significant reduction of Sikh recruitment in the army. Bombay and Madras armies recruited low castes, Muslims, Christians and they were mixed in regiments. These so-called non-Martials conquered large swaths of India including Sindh for the EIC army. They were unceremoniously removed and these two presidency armies were ‘Punjabized’ by early 1900. It was a mutually beneficial relationship between Punjab (including North West frontier province and Pathans) and British. The former served military, police, paramilitary and civilian administrative structures of the Raj and this loyalty was repaid with preferential treatment, economic, educational and agricultural benefits. Yes Indian army played an important role but only marginal on western front. British fortunes were not pegged to Indian army on western front. In Mesopotamia, Indian army played a much more important role. In Second World war, Indian army role was crucial in Burma campaign but almost no role in western theatres.)

Are the present day difficulties in Pakistan are because of the 'martial' mindset of the mainly Punjabi army? Of course the Pashtuns may have become complicit in that mindset only as opportunists?(Yes, to some extent this mindset among Punjabis and Pathans contributed to the problems especially with Bengalis. British declared Bengalis non-martial and they were not recruited. Bengalis were among the first group who availed modern education facilities set up under company rule. British feared educated Bengalis the most and considered them dangerous as they were now becoming introduced to western concepts of nation and started to ask uncomfortable questions from the rulers. Later, increased communist influence in Bengal increased British apprehensions. British encouraged its soldiers to educate their children and sons and grandsons of Subedars and Risaldars were preferred when officer corps of Indian army was opened for natives. A large number of officers of Indian and Pakistan army have long tradition of military service going back now to fifth and sixth generation.)

07-06-2016, 03:17 PM
Thread drift - the India-Iraq connection might be more relevant looking at the summer of 2003 (Wiki says the Indians were 'considering' sending troops, I distinctly remember one of their Divisions being on standby until the situation went down the tubes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India%E2%80%93Iraq_relations).

From 2009, see also

New Delhi, Oct. 29: An Indo-US wargame that ended today in Uttar Pradesh helped retrain part of an American contingent that went into action in Iraq and will be redeployed in the war-ravaged country, scaling up the bilateral exercise that was originally projected as a peace-keeping drill.

Exercise Yudh Abhyas 09 – the latest in a series of Indo-US drills that began in 2004 – involved the largest deployment of ground forces by the two countries for joint training. When the exercise began, the Indian Army officially stated that the scenario for the drill was that of joint operations for peace keeping under a United Nations’ mandate.