25 January, 2021

The First Martyr

A sepoy rebelled in 1824. But was it India's first anti-Brit mutiny?

Sandipan Chatterjee
The First Martyr
A nondescript temple in a sylvan corner of this subcontinent's oldest cantonment has thrown an intriguing challenge to Raj-era history. A year after the nation celebrated the 150th anniversary of the 1857 revolt sparked by Mangal Pandey—officially the First War of Independence—this temple is being cited by some historians to dispute the devout sepoy's claim to fame. It was Binda Tewari, to whom this temple was built, who raised the first banner of revolt against the British 33 years before Pandey's mutiny, say these historians. And, they add, history textbooks ought to be corrected to accord Binda the status of hero of the First War of Independence.

That Binda, a sepoy of the 47th Native Infantry, led an uprising by disgruntled Indian soldiers of his and of two other regiments stationed at Barrackpore, is an undisputed fact. Many prominent historians, including Ramesh Chandra Majumdar and Amalendu De, have chronicled the 1824 revolt. According to records at the state archives and with the army, the 26th, 47th and 62nd Native Infantry...


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