Friday 19th Sep 2014
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How Haldwani was Captured by the British

Cover Story

, by NISAR AHMAD ANSARI

The British signed peace treaty with the King of Nepal on April 27, 1815, the day of capture of Kumaon’s capital Almora. On May 3, 1815 by the order of the Governor General of India, E. Gydes was appointed Commissioner and the Agent of the Governor General for Kumaon. By another order of the Governor General Kumaon was annexed to the British. On July 8, 1815 G. W. Trail was appointed Assistant to Gydes who later rose to the rank of the Commissioner of Kumaon. The terms of the Peace Treaty were not accepted. Through this annexation Kumaon came under full control of the British. For the protection purpose an Army Battalion called Nizamat Platoon was raised by Gydes at Gor Ghaon. The British also took control of the Iron and Copper industry of Kumaon.

The Nawab of Rampur was pro-British whereas the Nawab of Rohila family Khan Bahdur Khan wanted to drag the British out of the country. To accomplish this task Nawab Khan Bahadur sent his armies from Muradabad to Kaladhongi and from Bareilly to Haldwani. At this very crucial moment the news of attack on May 24, 1857 – the day of Eidul Fitr – by rebels came to Rampur. This prompted the British residing in Rampur to flee to Almora with the help of Nawab Rampur. On hearing the news of the rebellion, the Commissioner clamped Martial Law in Kumaon on May 22, 1857. As a consequence the communication system of Kumaon broke down and on June 8, 1857 Kumaon cut off from the rest of the country. The postal system was partially restored in the month of July and some post was dispatched from there.

On June 17, 1857 the King of Delhi Bahadur Shah Zafar accepted Khan Bahadur Khan – the grandson of Nawab Hafiz Rahmat Khan – as the Nawab of Rohilkhand. The armies of Nawab Khan Bahadur Khan reached Ladhongi Haldwani.

Nawab of Rohilkhand Bareily Khan Bahadur Khan, under the command of his General Kale Khan dispatched a battalion of 30,000 Pathans to capture Nainital via Beheri Kalwari Lal Kuan. Kale took hold of Haldwani. This control lasted for one month. To end this control and to crush the rebels the Commissioner of Kumaon sent an Infantry of Ghor Gaon under the command of Captain Hugel and Lieutenant Cheap. On the other hand, he also sent cavalry to suppress the rebellion. However, this Cavalry failed to meet the enthusiasm of the rebels and was badly defeated. Therefore, the Kumaon Commissioner dispatched a much bigger battalion under the command of Lieutenant Grewich and a police force under the command of Road. The rebels took control of Haldwani on September 17, 1857 and the fighting continued for the whole months of September and October. During this battle the amount of ammunition that was used was so high that for many weeks following the battle the bad smell remained in the air. To avoid this odour the British officers left for Ranikhet and Nainital. Ranikhet was converted into a cantonment which is still continuing. In this battle 114 Pathan Muslim soldiers attained martyrdom. Although Nawab Khan Bahadur was heavily shocked by this defeat, he never lost courage and raised another army of freedom fighters led by Maulana Fazlul Haq. On October 14, 1857 he conquered Haldwani and fled to the mountains. This is how Haldwani again came into the hands of the revolutionaries. The Commissioner of Kumaon was very shrewd. In the Tarai region he spread the rumour that a huge army is heading here. To prove his point he blew so much of dust in Kathgodam that everyone believed that really a huge army is in preparation. Impressed by this illusion the rebel forces went back to Haldwani. This way the British captured Haldwani without firing a single bullet. Some of the rebels, on January 1, 1858 attacked Haldwani via Rudrapur. This led to chaos in the British camp. In this attack 50 freedom fighters laid down their lives. After the defeat of the 1857 rebellion the British resorted to oppression against the freedom fighters.

In this exercise the Muslim rebels were arrested, tried without any charge and worst of all tied to the barrel of the tank and blasted. Some were hanged to death in Nainital. The gallows are still intact there. Both the sons of Nawab Daud were also hanged. Today our young generation is not aware of the history – how, where and what sort of sacrifices our forefathers made to free their beloved motherland from the clutches of foreign powers.¨



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