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Revisiting India's first war of independence

April 29, 2007 15:53 IST

The voice of Prince Mirza Muhammad Feroze Shah, a cousin of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, was loud and clear when he declared war against the British in 1857.

"I do now proclaim a sacred war and exhort all, according to the tenets of their religion, to exert themselves. We shall certainly conquer the English," he had said in a proclamation.

This proclamation and many other such orders passed by different rulers and sepoy leaders across the country, calling for a united war against the British, will now be available in a book to be published by the Indian Council of Historical Research.

To celebrate 150 years of the First War of Independence, the ICHR is bringing out the book in three languages -- English, Hindi and Urdu -- after compiling such proclamations.

"The original proclamations issued at that time show the united voice of the leaders, irrespective of their religious and cultural backgrounds, against British rule," ICHR Member Secretary P K Shukla told PTI.

"It was a time when the idea of India as a nation emerged. People should read these orders as the country celebrates 150 years of the first war of independence."

The orders, which were preserved in various archives across the country, have been collected and compiled by experts, he said.

The proclamations were made in different languages like Persian, Marathi, English, Devanagari or Hindi.

The orders included one by Prince Birjis Qadr, who asked every 'zamindar' in his territory to join the war.

"In the book, we will not give any interpretation of our own. We will present the text and readers will make their own interpretation," Shukla said.

The ICHR will also publish excerpts from different Urdu newspapers of that time.

"There were a lot of Urdu newspapers, some of which were started at that time, which contain vital information on the First War of Independence. We will publish those in a book form," Shukla said.

Some of these newspapers are Delhi Urdu Akhbar, Siraj-ul- Akhbar, Tilsim and Sadiq ul Akhbar.

Besides this, the ICHR will bring out a bibliography on 1857 giving an outline of the availability of literature or records, petitions and proclamations at various places pertaining to the uprising.

It will also publish a book -- Popular History of First War of Independence -- which will present a comprehensive picture of the uprising.

There is a plethora of literature on 1857 in German, French, Russian and Portuguese in various archives in foreign countries. These materials will also be collected and published, Shukla said.

Basant Kumar Mohanty in New Delhi
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