Sunday, 8 December 2019

Heroics Of A Legendary Strategist

Updated: June 5, 2010 12:32 pm

This book presents the detailed account of Tatya Tope, which covers his entire campaign from the planning of the war until his death. It covers the detailed planning of the war and the logistical issues that were overcome to allow the Indian troops to march over a million men miles in the early months of the war. Hundreds of Urdu letters, written to Tatya Tope during the war that have never been published before, were translated to demonstrate Tatya’s administrative acumen in running a full-fledged government in parallel, fascinating troop movements and battles are illustrated using several dozen military-style maps and schematics, offering the reader a near ringslide experience of Tatya’s chess-like moves and counter-moves.

            The author initiates his account of Indian history during the 1857 war of independence with the view that understanding India’s economic history is a pre-requisite for understanding the history of 1857. In India’s long history, the coastal states dominated the seas in terms of both trade and military strength. Later, England started states controlling through forceful subjugation, therefore, the supply chain of products and goods was disrupted.

            The writer has introduced a new idea that Britain and other European countries were the late participants in the industrialisation process, in which countries such as India and China were pioneers. He refers to Macaulayan view of using the state to enforce a foreign language and Christianity to detach Indians from their personal choice of language and faith to weaken the Indian nation. Tatya was witness to the dramatic collapse of India at many levels. One of the historians emphasises that Tatya Tope, Nana Saheb and Laxmi Bai did not wake to the reality of British rule just on the era of 1857. They were products of a strong anti-British tradition that continued even after the fall of Marathas in 1818. Giving an account of Tatya’s legendary campaigns during 1857, the writer states that these campaigns inspired generations of people in Central Asia specially in India. It, later, became a source of many myths as well. He appreciates Tatya’s ability to reorganise and restrategise his actions as the situations changed. He refers to the strategies of red lotuses and chapatis, the mystery which the British historians could not unfold. They could not see beyond a mutiny or a civil rebellion. They have simply dismissed this intrigue. The mute red lotuses became instruments to pass the messages to Tatya, an information, on the basis of which, Tatya was able to plan the movement of troops as the strategic inputs required became available. It is the reason, why the operation has been named “Operation Lotus”. This was followed by the operation for freedom, Delhi was liberated and Awadh tasted freedom. By July 1857, Operation Red Lotus was largely a success. Most of the areas surrounding Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Gwalior and parts of central India were free. The advanced planning and co-ordination had successfully created a strong position for the Indians.

            In August 1857, the war in India had shaken the world. England felt short of funds. Tatya Tope and Nana Saheb continued their efforts inventing new strategies and new opportunities. But later, there was a reversal of fortunes and India started facing defeats due to treachery. The death of Laxmi Bai rekindled the dying flame of liberty. Ever since the war started, Tatya’s trail left behind upheavals and turbulances. He adopted the tactics mainly to reignite the spirit of revolution that had died due to British gruesome acts. Ultimately, Tatya died after the battle of Chipla Barod. It signified the end of a substantially organised start against the English.

            This book is just not a military chronicle limited by the period it covers, it also addresses issues of modern relevance. It offers an Indian paradigm to what freedom really means. It provides platform for the dream to be realised of a resurgent India and its charisma as an eternal nation.

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By Prof KD Sharma

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