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Special Content

Issue no 23, 04-10 September 2021

Peer Ali Mardana

Five years before the formal commencement of mutiny in 1857, a strong organisation of committed crusaders of freedom was formed in Patna to wage war against the British empire. Many famous Muslim religious teachers called 'Maulvis' were leading this group of rebels.They were publicising and propagating acrimony against foreign rule. The access of this group ranged to people from the police force to booksellers. Rich businessmen, employees and soldiers of the Danapur Cantonment, used to attend the secret meetings of the group to pledge their lives to be sacrificed for their nation. One of the leading members of this group was the brave man, Peer Ali.

He hailed from Lucknow, but he had been in Patna for a long time into the business of book selling. He used to read the books which he brought for sale. Many of these were history books. The study of the books had inspired him to do something for the freedom of his country. He was tired of dependency and subjugation.

Inspired with freedom, Peer Ali set up his contacts with mutineers in Lucknow and Delhi through correspondence. With the flame of patriotism burning in him, he had awakened the desire to do something in others hearts also. The bookseller Peer Ali was highly regarded by the rebel group of Patna. He collected funds from the well-off members of his secret organisation and had not only got many members of the group armed but had also infused commitment for revolution against the British at an appropriate time. Ever since Taylor, the British Commissioner of Patna, had begun his atrocities and repression on the people of the town, Peer Ali's blood was boiling.

On being informed of the revolutionary blasts at Meerut on 10 May, 1857, Taylor sent two hundred of his trusted soldiers under the leadership of Retre who had come from Punjab. On their reaching Patna, Taylor had decided to wipe off the mutineers' organisation. A police 'Jamaadaar' Waris Ali of Tirhut, who was suspected of antiBritish activities, was arrested and then later hanged by the British officers.

Similar arrests of members of the revolutionary group were being made at Gaya and Bihar. Taylor found out the names of many important revolutionaries. He planned to capture them all together. He had strong proof about three Maulvis who were members of the revolutionary group. He had a wicked plan in mind to arrest them.

To discuss the affairs of the state he invited many important people including the three Maulvis. He welcomed them with due respect to his home where the confident soldiers from Punjab were already deployed. When the meeting ended and people started leaving for their homes, he stopped the three Maulvis and said, "It would be dangerous for the State to let you remain free so you are arrested."

The whole affair was so planned that it was over before any reaction or unrest could take place in Patna. With this aim, the British officer passed two orders. Firstly, arms may be taken away from the residents and second was that no one be allowed to step out of their houses after 9 p.m. The second ruling proved to be a hindrance in the functioning of the mutineer's group as they could no further hold their meetings. To accumulate arms also became difficult for them.

These orders passed by Taylor further aggravated the anger among men like Peer Ali. He was waiting for instruction from Danapur. But when he realized that the British had endeavoured to uproot the sapling of revolution, he discussed it within his group and decided that armed rebellion would be good.

The meeting took place at Peer Ali's place on 3 July, 1857 and the complete program of the revolt was chalked out.

Thus, these brave men came out on the streets of Patna, blowing the conch of freedom and holding the rudder of holy crusade for freedom in their hands. Almost two hundred revolutionaries took different roads to reach the nearby church. When a British named Layal, along with a handful of soldiers tried to stop them, Peer Ali aimed his gun at him and shot him dead. Then, under the leadership of Retre came the British army's loyal soldiers of Punjab.

The revolutionaries who were less in number could not hold the fort for long in front of better equipped and disciplined force. The British arrested many of the revolutionaries. Peer Ali, who had shot Layal, was also there.

Peer Ali though stern and courageous in disposition was valiant too. He could not bear the torture that his fellowmen had to go through. He had said earlier about himself; he had taken the action even before the people were aware of it. After his arrest Peer Ali was handcuffed and rough, hard iron rings were put on his legs which were so brutally pressed to his skin till they would pierce his skin and his hands would bleed. Finally, the British decided upon giving him the death sentence.

When he was taken to the post where he was to be hanged, there was a heroic smile on his face. But when he called his beloved son, his throat got choked. The British officer wanting to utilize this moment of passion said, "Peer Ali you still have time. Give us the names of your other fellowmen and we will spare you." Brave heart Peer Ali retorted back, "Times come in the life of a man when it is important to save his life but there are more important times when sacrificing life is more important than living it. Now I only have the second one to choose. Today embracing death would pave the way to become immortal."

This lion-hearted man, then referring to all the different tortures that the British soldiers had given him, roared, "You can kill me and hang many other men like me. But anything you do, you will never be able to curb our prayer for freedom. Every drop of my blood will give birth to thousand more brave soldiers and they all will oust you and only then will they attain peace."

Forecasting this, the patriot kissed death in its face without letting his motherland down. This great man, following the trodden path of sacrifice, became a martyr.

Commissioner Taylor had himself said, "Peer Ali was a man of extreme courage and will power. Although he was not good looking and his face appeared cruel and brutal, yet he was a calm and sober man. He was polite in his speech and behaviour. Men like him who have invincible loyalty prove to be great enemies. But because of their tremendous self-respect they command admiration to some extent."

"Every drop of my blood will create thousands of brave men." This prediction of that immortal martyr could not be proved false. It was not proved wrong. As soon as the news of the death of this brave man reached the Danapur Cantonment, the very soldiers, who were considered loyal, sounded the victory call for revolution on 25 July, 1857. Without caring for the British artillery, three Indian platoons marched from there. They tore away and threw the uniforms of the British army into the river. Major Lyod owing to his old age could neither follow the mutineers nor could his army of Indian soldiers chase these worshippers of Independence.

The martyrdom of Peer Ali had rejuvenated in them a whole new sea of passion. They moved ahead and made the palace of Jagdishpur, their appointed destination, whose ruler was old Narkesari Kunwar Singh, but had enough strength and his sword still had its edges sharp. Under his flag these brave men of the revolt gathered and joined hands with the army of Danapur to make Peer Ali's wish come true. Their hearts were burning with the fire of revenge and they also had tears in their eyes remembering the sacrifice that Peer Ali had made.

(The book, priced at Rs. 95, can be purchased from the Publications Division’s Sales Emporia and its authorised agents across the Country, and online through Publications Division’s website www.publicationsdivision. nic.in)