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Forgotten martyrs: Nawab Kadar Ali, his companions were hanged by British at Sitabuldi fort in Nagpur

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Freedom Fighters  Nagpur  Maharashtra  Vidarbha  Nawab Kadar Ali  Sitabuldi Fort  1857  Independence Movement  Freedom Struggle  First war of independence  Muslim freedom fighters





Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

More than seven decades after India achieved independence, the role of innumerable martyrs and freedom fighters who gave their blood and offered lives for the motherland, needs to be remembered. 

Many of them got harsh punishments, didn't get proper last rites, remain forgotten and even those whose sacrifices are known, don't have monuments or memorials built in their memory.

The martyrdom of Nawab Kadar Ali, and his companions, who planned attack on residency and to take on the East India Company forces in Nagpur, also needs to be recalled. They were hanged here for their role in 1857--the first war of independence.

Though there is no monument named after them and no big memorial, they remain heroes in public memory. The fort that had been a base of 118 Infantry Battalion for years, is opened on three days including August 15 and January 26. Thousands of people arrive on these days, and also pay visit to the grave and offer their respects.

The flame for independence was already lit. History books mention that soon after Meerut, the anger was palpable among soldiers and citizens in this region too. On June 13 1857, a large gathering took place near Mission High School. The soldiers too were anxious and ready. 

Scared, some of the East India Compnay officials ran towards Kamptee Cantonment, while others went inside the Sitabuldi Fort. It was due to treachery that the attack plans had been leaked and the news reached British officers. More EIC forces were called from other places to control and overpower the rebels.

Rani Baka Bai, wife of late Raghoji II, was supporting the British and issued a warning that anyone abetting or aiding the revolutionaries would be arrested and handed to the East India Company. It's a long story and how the soldiers and citizens suffered, refused to name the leaders of the movement. 

Historical texts say that the signal of a fire balloon was decided. But after the traitors gave information to East India Company officers, Plowden, the commissioner, ordered a regiment to move into the city. The irregular calvary at Tali was dismayed. Major Arrow tried to get information from ring leaders but no one gave names.

Baka Bai summoned all her relations, and dissuaded them with threats. This chilled the spirit of public. However, later when Company officials' strengthened their hold, the rebels were identified. Arms were collected and after inquiry, Dildar Khan, Inayatullah Khan, Vilayat  Khan and Nawab Kadar Ali were tried and executed.


The Gazetteer briefly mentions that 'tucked away between the easter walls of the inner fort and the barracks is a large grave known as Nav Gazah Baba...the grave of Nawab Kadar Ali...and his eight associates..who were killed and hanged by the ramparts of the fort due to their role in the war of independence". 

"They were all buried in a common pit, nine yards long. The fort recalls to our mind the memory of the brave soldiers who fought in an attempt to preserve the independence of the mother land". It was treachery that was responsible for the arrests and the punishment.  Those who helped the British, got 'jagirs' as rewards.

Ghulam Rasool 'Ghamgeen', the poet, wrote these lines in Farsi:

Choo.n Qadar Ali Khan Ameer Kabeer
Shud-az-tohmat, ahl-e-balwa aseer

Bajurm shiraakat girafaar shud
Chau mansoor, Hallaj, bar-daar shud

Duaa'e shahaadat ba-raahe Khuda
shab w roz mi kard aa.n mahtada
Khirad guft ee.n misra-e-silk-e-noor
Za-daar-e-jafaa shud ba-daar-e-suroor

The last couplet of this long Persian verse, brings out the 'tarikh', the year of execution. The complete verse is mentioned in Dr Mohammad Sharfuddin Sahil's book 'Tarikh-e-Nagpur'. It shows the impact of the hangings on the people in the region. Nagpur is geographillcally considered to be a part of Central India and is the biggest city in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.

The fort for a long period remained the base of 118 Infantry Battalion of Territorial Army. Every year, on August 15 and January 26, fort is opened for public so that it can pay respect to the freedom fighters. It's also opened on May 1 i.e. Maharashtra Day. [Illustration is representive]

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Journalist for more than 20 years. Had started his career with National Mail in the nineties. Worked as Special Correspondent with Hindustan Times, as an Assistant Editor with DB Post, later Contributing Editor with The Huffington Post, writes for First Post, The Wire, Newsd & several other major publications.