The first freedom fighter – Mangal Pandey

On the auspicious day of 19th of July, 1827; the Indian lands got Mangal Pandey, a staunch Brahmin and heroic freedom fighter who sacrificed his life for the cause of independence of India from the East India Company. His contribution in the Revolt of 1857, technically the First War of Independence; served to be the igniter and pioneering effort which is worth of paying tribute even today. Notably, based upon his sacrifice is the well-credited Bollywood movie Mangal Pandey-The Rising starring Aamir Khan marking a tribute to the life of this courageous soldier.

At the tender age of 18, this courageous soldier joined the British army as a Sepoy since he was provoked by the column of Sepoy Infantry in the march. At that time, Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, served in the British army helping Britishers colonize the nearby Asian land and acquiring control over the Indian rulers, Zamindars etc, thereby, acquiring the fruitful Indian lands for cultivation of Opium, Cotton and spices that helped Britishers flourish their trade. Notably, the strength of Indian soldiers was more in the British army as compared to the Britishers however; Indians were given less salary and were not promoted above the rank of Subedaar.

Hailing from Nagwa, a village at Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh; this devoted Brahmin joined army in the year 1849, eight years before the Revolt of 1857 and he played a pivotal role in the First War of Independence. Unfortunately, he was hanged till death as per the judgment of the Company Raj. Mangal Pandey was brilliant to understand the ‘Divide and Rule Policy’ of the East India Company and ultimately he turned rebellious after the introduction of the new Enfield Rifles in August 1856.

The new Enfield Rifles were enclosed in the cartridges which had to be torn via mouth. The worst part was that the cartridges were greased with the fat of cows and pigs. Markedly, cows are considered to be pious by Hindus while pigs are deemed to be blasphemous by the Muslim Community. Despite of the fact that none of the Indian soldier at that era was ready to use them, the British army forced them to do so.

Ultimately, in the Bengal regiment of 6th military brigade; under the leadership of enraged Mangal Pandey, few of his colleagues turned rebellious and outrageous. A rebellion broke out which sparked in the nearby areas. The other Indian rulers viz, Rani Lakshmi Bai, Tantia Tope, Nana Saheb, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Begum Hazrat Mahal and many others also turned against the Britishers and began to revolt thereby, initiating a mutiny. The poor Britishers were lack of soldiers at a moment and thus, a battalion of British soldiers were called upon however, the victory of Indians did not last for long and ultimately, the Revolt of 1857 was suppressed because lack of coordination, efficient leadership and unity amongst the Indians.

There were many Indians who proved the loyalty towards British in that era. For instance, the Nizams of Hyderabad supported the Britishers, a great deal. Coming back to Mangal Pandey, history reveals that on 29th day of the month of March in the year 1857, Mangal Pandey was furious and denounced the British army. However, Lieutenant Baugh learned about the upcoming revolt and planned to arrest the enraged Pandey but he was unsuccessful. Mangal Pandey had taken the oath to kill each and every British who came in his way. Sergeant-Major Hewson ordered an Indian officer Prasad to arrest Mangal Pandey but he refused to oblige. Mangal Pandey thus, brought both Lieutenant Baugh and Sergeant-Major Hewson to ground but other officials of British army came to the site. Mangal Pandey was quick to analyze that his arrest was unavoidable therefore; he tried to commit a suicide but could not succeed.

Ultimately, Mangal Pandey was hanged till death. Despite this rebellious hero was unsuccessful yet his contribution was worth infinitely towards the War of Independence. He will be remembered for eons in the Indian history for his selflessness towards the cause of nation as he sacrificed his life for India’s Freedom thereby, pioneering the revolts against the tyranny of the Company Raj.

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