Shaikh Paltu (Hindi: शैख़ पालतू) was a soldier (sepoy) with the British East India Company, serving in the 34th Bengal Native Infantry in March 1857, shortly before widespread discontent broke out in the Bengal Army. When on March 29, Sepoy Mangal Pandey of the same regiment revolted and attacked his British officers, it was Shaikh Paltu who saved the life of the adjutant by attacking Mangal Pandey. The sepoys of the quarter guard on duty and others present refused to take any action against their comrade and remained as "idle spectators of a murderous assault".
By that time an English sergeant-major had arrived at the scene and attacked Pandey. He was however overpowered by Pandey. While other sepoys looked on, Shaikh Paltu continued to defend the two British officers, calling upon other sepoys to join him. The sepoys, with obvious sympathy for Pandey, chose to remain inactive. Some are reported to have attacked their officers with the butts of their muskets. The sepoys however threatened Shaikh Paltu asking him to let go of Mangal Pandey. Paltu however "continued to cling to him" until the British officers had time to rise.
General Hearsey, who by now was at the scene, promoted Shaikh Paltu then and there to the post of a Havaldar (native sergeant). Other sepoys did not take any active measure to support their comrade Mangal Pandey, who may have been acting in concert with at least some others, if not all, if his speech to the sepoys on the spot is any indicator. The sepoys however seem to have developed cold feet at the last moment. Another possibility is that Pandey acted hastily and too early so that the sepoys were not yet (mentally) prepared for an open conflict with the British.
The complete regiment, with the natural exception of Shaikh Paltu, was disbanded on May 6 of the same year "with every show of disgrace", as Malleson calls it. Shaikh Paltu was promoted to the rank of Jemadar in the Bengal Army.
- Durendra Nath Sen, page 50 Eighteen Fifty-Seven, The Publications Division, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, May 1957
- Malleson, G.B., The Indian Mutiny of 1857, pp. 36–39, Delhi, Rupa & Co. publishers, 2005 (first published: 1890)