Spreading disinformation about 1857 continues to this day. Those who want to maintain the existing State and worship its Constitution propagate, in one form or another, a distorted picture of 1857. They deny that it represented the assertion of the masses of Indian people that they must be the master of society.
Call of the Central Committee of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, 10th May, 2017
Ghadar Jaari Hai Presentation Title Graphics
Today is the 160th anniversary of the Great Ghadar of 1857, which has also come to be known as the First War of Indian Independence. It was on the 10th of May that soldiers of the British Indian Army at Meerut Cantonment revolted and marched to seize Delhi. That was the signal for revolts against the rule of the British all over the subcontinent.
The Ghadar of 1857 was the greatest war of the 19th century in terms of geographical scope and numbers of people involved. From hired soldiers in the British Indian Army to patriotic kings and queens, tribal peoples, peasants and artisans participated in the armed uprising. They were actively supported by many traders, intellectuals and religious heads of all types. They were united around a program to end the colonial plunder and address the needs of farmers, artisans and others who produce the wealth of Hindustan.
The insurgent soldiers who marched from Meerut and seized Delhi appointed Bahadur Shah Zafar as the representative of a new political power in place of the oppressive and alien power wielded by the East India Company. A Court of Administration was formed in Delhi, consisting of both civilians and army soldiers, whose decisions were binding on the king.
Bahadur Shah explicitly declared that he had been placed on the throne by the people and he was bound by their will. Arguing that British rule had no legitimacy and must be eliminated; he said, “as for the future, the people of India will decide”.
On 12th May, Bahadur Shah issued the following shahi firman (royal decree):
“To all the Hindus and Mussalmans of India, taking my duty to the people into consideration at this hour, I have decided to stand by my people. Whoever shows cowardice at this delicate hour, or whoever in innocence will help the cunning English, believing in their promises, he would stand disillusioned very soon. He should remember that the English will pay him for his faithfulness to them in the same manner as they have paid the rulers of Oudh. It is the imperative duty of Hindus and Mussalmans to join the revolt against the English. They should work and be guided by their leaders in their towns and should take steps to restore order in the country. It is the bounden duty of all people that they should, as far as possible, copy out this Firman and display it at all important places in the towns. But before doing so, they should get themselves armed and declare war on the English”.
He also issued another firman which warned the people:
“The English will try to raise the Hindus against Mussalamans and vice versa. Do not give heed to what they say, drive them out of the country”.
Such decrees issued by an authority which enjoyed widespread respect among the people accelerated the process of the revolutionary uprising spreading to all parts of British India. Right through May and June, leaflets appeared in all the centres of the Bombay Army and Madras Army, conveying the message that Bahadur Shah Zafar had been reinstated as “The Emperor of India” and the British Raj was over.
After intense battles which lasted for more than 2 years, the British colonialists ultimately succeeded in drowning the revolution in one of the biggest bloodbaths with the aid of traitorous elements among the kings and princes, big landlords and capitalist merchants.
The Ghadar of 1857 was a defining moment in our history. It gave birth to the idea and vision of a new political entity – an India whose master is her people. It articulated a vision and goal that galvanised peoples of different nationalities and of different languages, castes, tribes and religious beliefs, across the length and breadth of this subcontinent.
To us belongs our Hindustan and to no one else
Ganga and Jamuna making our lands fertile
And then came the firangi and such magic spell he cast
Hum Hain Iske Malik, Hindustan Hamara! (Hindustan belongs to us, We are her master!) This slogan of the insurgents became a powerful battle cry to vest sovereignty in the people.
While the revolutionary uprising was put down, the thought material and vision that it gave rise to could not be erased from the conscience of Indians. The demand that we, the people, should be the master of India, continued to inspire several generations of Indian revolutionaries in the 20th century and continues to do so.
The source of all the problems afflicting our society today stems from the fact that the goal of the Ghadaris was not fulfilled in 1947. Sovereignty was transferred from London to Delhi but it did not reach the people of India. The people are not the master of India. The vast majority have no role in setting the direction of society and its development. Supreme decision-making power over India’s fate has been usurped by a minority of exploiters, who are today headed by about 150 capitalist monopoly houses. They are represented by rival parties which take turns to manage the State, while people are reduced to voting cattle and powerless victims of an exploitative system.
The task of vesting sovereignty in the people remains the key to lift Indian society out of crisis and open the path to all-round progress. It is the key to the complete emancipation of society from all forms of exploitation, oppression, discrimination and enslavement.
Blocking the path to this goal stand all those within India and abroad who want to maintain the powerless condition of the vast majority of Indian people. Such forces defend the existing State and the political theory it is based on, which is that the Indian people are unfit to rule themselves.
Starting with Queen Victoria’s proclamation of sovereignty of the British Crown over Hindustan in 1858, bringing to an end the delegated power enjoyed by the East India Company, the state machinery of British India was built up systematically to divide and rule over all the peoples of this vast subcontinent. A “Rule of Law” was created, with institutions and mechanisms of enforcement, all to serve colonial plunder and enslavement of the people. The colonialists rewarded the traitorous elements, the capitalists and landlords who benefited from the colonial plunder. They created a political process to accommodate representatives of such classes while keeping the broad masses of people out of power.
The theory underlying the State built by the British was that the people of India are divided into warring religious communities and are unfit to rule themselves. It was allegedly the “white man’s burden” to rule over us and prevent us from killing each other.
The communal Constituent Assembly set up by the British, consisting of representatives of big capitalists and big landlords, adopted the Constitution of independent India in 1950. They retained the basic framework of the colonial State and its theory that people are unfit to rule. Only the parliament and state legislatures have the power to make laws and only the ruling camp within those bodies has the right to set policy. The toiling majority of people have only the right to cast their vote, following which they have to hand over all power into the hands of the elected “people’s representatives”. They have no right to select the candidates prior to elections, no right to hold elected representatives to account or recall them, and no right to initiate legislation. It is clear that the Constitution does not vest sovereignty in the people.
There is an irreconcilable struggle between the movement to vest sovereignty in the people and the defence of the existing State and its Constitution. This clash is reflected in diametrically opposed assessments of the content and significance of the 1857 uprising.
The British colonialists spread the lie that it was a “revolt of the Mussalmans”. They used this propaganda to justify the massacre of Muslims which they organised in collaboration with the traitorous kings of Patiala, Jind and Faridkot. They spread the lie that Sikhs had not participated in the uprising. They called the Ghadar a “sepoy mutiny” to hide the widespread participation of people from all walks of life.
Spreading disinformation about 1857 continues to this day. Those who want to maintain the existing State and worship its Constitution propagate, in one form or another, a distorted picture of 1857. They deny that it represented the assertion of the masses of Indian people that they must be the master of society. They do not want the people to draw inspiration from their revolutionary traditions. They want to bury the age-old aspiration of our people to be the masters of their own destiny.
There are historians and intellectuals who claim that 1857 was a rebellion led by feudal and backward forces, whose aim was allegedly to return to pre-colonial times. In other words, the British colonial State and its “Rule of Law” represented the New, while the revolt of 1857 represented the Old. In this way they turn the truth upside down.
It was not the king, Bahadur Shah, who was telling the people what to fight for, but on the contrary, it was the mass revolutionary uprising that was compelling the king to stand by his people. The establishment of a people’s council whose decision was binding on the king was something entirely new. It was profoundly democratic and thoroughly revolutionary. On the other hand, the State based on the theory of white man’s burden was thoroughly reactionary and based on preserving everything backward from the old pre-colonial society so as to keep people divided and enslaved.
For the working class, toiling peasants and all other hardworking and patriotic people of our country, the Ghadar of 1857 and its clarion call, “Hum hain iske malik!” represents the theory and vision of the New India that is crying out to be born. Let us work wholeheartedly for the Navnirman of India – that is, for a new State and political process based on the principles that sovereignty belongs to the people; and that the State is duty bound to ensure prosperity and protection for all.
Workers, peasants, women and youth – We constitute India! We are her master!
Ghadar jaari hai!