Murree rebellion of 1857

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The Murree rebellion of 1857, sometimes termed a war of Independence, was part of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. It was a rebel skirmish between the tribes surrounding the hill station of Murree (modern day Pakistan) and the colonial government of British India.[1] Resentment against colonial rule had been mounting for many years and there had been occasional isolated uprisings against British rule at various times since the British had established themselves in the subcontinent. What made 1857 different was that, although not centrally coordinated, the uprisings had the feel of something much larger with real anticipation that colonial rule would be overthrown. In the Murree hills these were the members of Karlal, Dhund Abbasi, Awan, Syed, Ghakhar and some other hill tribes who rose up against the British.[2]

Background[edit]

Although the tribes of Murree had risen against the British, not everyone had been against British rule. Before British rule had been established in the area, the tribes had fought against the Sikhs. Under the command of the Pir of Plasi Mohammed Ali Shah, they had fought against the Sikh Army in Balakot – the troops here were commanded by Shah Ismail Shaheed and Syed Ahmad Shaheed (known as "The Martyrs").[3]

The Pir of Dewal, had also died fighting in Dewal against the Sikh army chief Hari Singh Nalwa. He built a fort on frontier of Punjab and NWFP in 1815, now called Aarhi or Hadd. Nalwa's troops had brutally crushed the tribes of Circle Bakote and beheaded many of them. He also sold the ladies of these tribes in Jammu central bazaar in 1834,[4]

The British, after battling in Rawalpindi in 1845 had captured Rani Jindan, the widow of Ranjit Singh (the former Ruler of Punjab) – this caused the collapse of Sikh rule and, when the British marched into the Murree area, the local tribes initially welcomed them. However, many of the tribes soon considered that they had exchanged one form of occupation for another and events elsewhere in India also encouraged an uprising.

The British had recruited many of the tribes in the area into their army, for example, numerous members of the Satti Tribe were recruited as Sepoys and the British commanders (like elsewhere across Colonial India) won this war largely by the use of native infantry.

War reaches Murree[edit]

The ultimate leader of all tribes was Sherbaz Khan Abbasi.The masterminds of this plan of independence were Sardar Hasan Ali khan Karlal & two Seyed brothers from Dhoke Syedan of Dewal Sharif. As per Mutiny Report of District Hazara 1857 compiled by British Government when Sardar Hasan Ali Khan along with his tribe and with the help of certain other tribes of Murree tried to attack Murree garrison.Wajib-ul-Arz of 1874 compiled by British Indian revenue Department gives detail account of this event and states that English Government immediately after the coclusion of war of independence of 1857 started construction of road linking Galyiat and Muree and establish five cantonements of Bara Gali,Nathia Gali, Dounga Gali,Changla Gali, and Kouza Gali and garrisoned them to protect any future incursion of on Muree Garrison.

Attack on Murree[edit]

By the end of August many of the British troops who had been stationed in hill stations like Murree had left to join the attack on Delhi. Rebels had taken Delhi from British control, the decision to send troops to Delhi reduced Murree to a still more defenceless state.[5] However Delhi still held out against the British and encouraged by this Dhund tribesmen in alliance with other tribes of Murree tried to seize Murree by simultaneously rising on every side and crowding up the nearer hill-sides threatening destruction of the station. Several of the Mussulman table-servants were in league with the hill-men, and for some hours the danger to Murree became imminent.[5]

According to the 1857 Punjab Mutiny Report the attack failed due to the fidelity of one of Lady Lawrence's personal attendants, named Hakim Khan, himself an influential man of one of the tribes that had risen. The loyalty of Hakim was described in the report as "the means, under God, of saving Murree."[6] Alerted to the danger the British organised defences, and quickly rallied volunteers commanded by Major Luard of the 55th NI and Captain HC Johnstone of the 5th N.I. A cordon of sentries surrounded the station and the three weakest points were held in some force; so the Dhoonds (the distinctive name of these disaffected hillmen), stealing up the hill-sides in the dead of night found the whole station waiting for them.[5]

After a few hours of skirmishing the Dhonds retreated with the loss of two or three of their men who had come within musket range of the British. The British however were to learn that the rebellion was wider than just the Dhonds. After the repulse of the Dhoonds, it was found that the conspiracy affect many more clans and a much wider extent of country than had been suspected. It had reached far into Hazara and nearly down to Rawalpindi.[5]

The British also convicted and executed two Hindustani doctors for being involved in the plot. They had been educated in government institutions, were practising in Murree and employed by the government. The British suspected that the Dhonds were expecting support from their Hindustani allies, so in addition to the doctors several domestic servants were seized and punished. An urgent request was sent to troops in Hazara to reinforce Murree and Major Beecher sent every available man from Abbottabad to Murree – however the British troops in Murree had managed to secure the station and beat off the attack before the arrival of reinforcements.

However although the British had managed to repulse the attack on Murree town, two neighbouring heights were held by the Dhund tribesmen. The British in Murree were unable to send men to tackle the tribesmen in the hills as these were needed for the defence of Murree. For the whole of 2 September 1857 the heights around Murree were held by the tribesmen. It wasn't until 3 September with the arrival of the reinforcements that the tribesmen were repulsed from the hills.[7]

According the Punjab Mutiny report however, the reinforcement themselves were almost ambushed. They had to cross difficult country full or morasses and defiles. The tribesmen belonging from various tribes of Murree who scattered into the forest laid an ambush to cut them off, but Providence saved them. The road on which the trap was laid became impassable from the rains. The force turned off, and not till it had passed the spot, did it learn the greatness of the peril from which it had been delivered.[6]

Once Murree had been garrisoned with extra troops and supplies of food, the British then exacted their revenge, rebellious villages were burnt, cattle confiscated and men seized.[7]

Aftermath[edit]

The revolt did not succeed, the rebels were betrayed and, as punishment, all of Sardar Sherbaz Khan's eight sons were blasted by cannon fire in Murree whilst Sardar Khan Abbasi himself was hanged.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Addleton, Jonathan S. (2002). Some Far and Distant Place. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 978-0-8203-2458-6. 
  2. ^ William Wilson, Hunter; James Sutherland Cotton; Richard Burn; William Stevenson Meyer; Great Britain India Office. "History". 1908 Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 21, p. 265 The Imperial Gazetteer of India 21. 
  3. ^ "A view from Pakistan". 6 August 2003. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  4. ^ Tareekh-e-Kashmir, Second Volume, by Seyed Mehmood Azad.
  5. ^ a b c d Cave-Browne, John (1861). The Punjab and Delhi in 1857. William Blackwood and Sons. 
  6. ^ a b Montgomery, Robert. "1857 Punjab Mutiny Report". 
  7. ^ a b British Rule