A petition addressed to President Pranab Mukherji, Vice President
Mohammad Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh put
online Friday, has urged the Indian government to bring back the
mortal remains of Bahadur Shah Zafar - symbol of freedom and
secularism in India.
Asking the government for how long will Bahadur Shah Zafar's exile
continue, the online petition filed by Shamsul Islam says
Zafar’s simplicity and secular credentials resonated among his
people. He was a Sufi who celebrated in his Court, Hindu festivals
like Holi, Dussehra and Diwali with the same gusto as Muslim
festivals. He had seats for Pandits in his Court like ulemas. He
believed that both Hinduism & Islam shared the same essence.
"However", the petition says, "Due to the treachery of British spies and stooges in
Delhi the British army captured Delhi on September 14, 1857. Zafar
was forced to surrender on September 21. In the meantime his two
sons and a grandson were shot dead publicly outside Delhi Gate.
Zafar was tried by a military tribunal (January 27, 1858-March 9,
"Zafar for his complicity to murder
and treason was to be exiled to Rangoon (Yangon) in Burma
(Myanmar) with his close family members, a decision which was
executed in October 1858. No contacts or visitors were allowed",
"For the ousted King, Zafar, who
also happened to be a renowned poet, the pen, ink and paper were
the three things which were completely forbidden. Zafar died as an
unsung hero on November 7, 1862 and was buried at an unmarked
place", the petition says.
"The idea was that in few years’ time it would be lost
amidst over-grown grass and nobody would know where Zafar, a
symbol of resistance to the British hegemony was buried. Nothing
else could be expected from the colonial rulers", the petition
India’s First war of Independence began on May 10, 1857 at Meerut
cantonment. The rebel sepoys of the East India Company marched to
Delhi accompanied by thousands of villagers who had joined the
rebellion on the way to Delhi.
On May 11, this mass of rebels of
which more than 75% were Hindus and Sikhs, had an audience with 82
year old King and prevailed upon him to lead the liberation
struggle against the British rule as he being a secular ruler,
symbolized the unity of the country.
The contemporary documents
prove that Rani Laxmi Bai, Nana Saheb, Tatia Tope, Azimullah Khan
and Begum Zeenat Mahal of Oudh supported this move. Zafar agreed
to take up the fight.
"Unfortunately, after India’s independence we did not bother about
this great leader of the anti-colonial struggle whose leadership
ignited one of the most glorious liberation struggles in the world
history", the petition says.
"His exact burial site was found in 1991, almost 130 years
after Zafar’s death, by a group of Burmese who had been searching
for decades for the grave of a saint-poet whom they revered", it
Shamsul Islam further writes in his petition it is on record that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose started his “March
to Delhi” campaign in 1942 from this shrine in Rangoon.
Gandhi during his official visit to Myanmar (December 1987) came
to pay tribute to Zafar and wrote the following in in the
visitor’s book placed at the shrine: “Although you (Bahadur Shah)
do not have land in India, you have it here, your name is alive…I
pay homage to the memory of the symbol and rallying point of
India’s first war of independence…” In fact, Rajiv Gandhi through
this note was echoing the sentiments of Zafar expressed in the
following couplet of his:
kitna hae bad-naseeb Zafar dafn ke liye/do gazz zamin bhi na mili
ku-e-yar maen. [How unfortunate is Zafar! For his burial/not
even two yards of land had to be had, in the land of his beloved]
"This is unfortunate that this great commander of the First Indian
War of Independence remains buried in a foreign land. It is high
time that steps are taken to bring his remains to India so that we
and coming generations have the opportunity to emulate Bahadur
Shah Zafar’s deeds for a free and secular India", the petition
Follow the link below to sign the online petition: