Written by one who has done her doctorate on 1857, this book is based on the author'sown thesis on the vital aspects of the multifaceted war of 1857 as also the vision of the revolutionaries of heroic dimensions.
Smita Pandey says that they were no romantic, fanciful revolutionaries?jihad was waged against the British?without suicide battalions and the promised after-life in paradise; battle strategies were intelligently formulated and every native was exhorted to join the war. An important aspect was the use of religion by evolving the slogan that religion was in danger to mobilise the masses. It did not mean performance of rituals or prayers to free the land from British rule but free it by doing everything else they could. The aim was to establish a Hindustan which ?would be inclusive, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and from which the firangis would be excluded from exercising political power.? The goal was to establish the rule of the natives whereby civilian and military elements would together govern the country and ensure the welfare of every individual who would co-exist harmoniously.
She says that the revolutionaries set up their governments in Delhi and Lucknow which ran from May to September, according to a written constitution where numerous promulgations were made to promote Hindu-Muslim unity despite the efforts by vested interests to divide them. She also points out that the war was not confined to the north of the Narmada as the popular perception is, but was spread across India.
Talking of the role of the Christian missionaries, Smita Pandey says that in contemporary accounts, there has always been emphasis on the role of missionaries in instigating the war of 1857. The cry of ?religion in danger? resonated throughout the sub-continent and was disseminated through the writings of revolutionaries. She condemns Christian historio-graphy which ignored the blatant proselytising activities of Christian missionaries and ?their repeated denigration of Islam and its Prophet, their constant condemning of idolatory, combined with their constant expansionist designs resulting in rapid annexation of territories of Indian rulers which the British continued to usurp.?
After reading the book one gets the feeling that it was only the Muslims who played a role in the 1857 struggle while the Hindus were mere spectators. The book should be titled Role of Muslim Rebels during 1857.
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