2ndlook

Justice in ‘modern’ India

Posted in British Raj, History, India, Media by Anuraag Sanghi on October 3, 2011

Is revenge, punishments the only way of delivering ‘justice’. Is prison and death justice?

Jhansi Fort (image source and courtesy - indianwarhistory.co.in). Click for larger image.

Jhansi Fort (image source and courtesy - indianwarhistory.co.in). Click for larger image.

21 March 1858

The British started the siege of Jhansi. The Rani of Jhansi, explicitly on the side of the British, was no longer trusted by the British. She had not joined the anti-British War on the side of Nana Saheb Peshwa – but maintained a steady relationship with the British.

The British had earlier asked her to come, unarmed and without escort for ‘negotiations’ – which she refused. Before the siege, Jhansi was given the ‘option’ of surrender.

Jhansi on my mind

The people of Jhansi were one – behind the Rani. In a city of 2,50,000, some 14,000 people volunteered to defend the city. Considering that there must have been some 25,000 families in the city, (large joint-families was the norm), nearly every house volunteered a soldier. For 10 days, Jhansi was bombarded by British artillery. Jhansi’s walls were breached on 30th March.

Rafting on the Betwa river in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh. (image source and courtesy - frontlineonnet.com). Click for larger image.

Rafting on the Betwa river in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh. (image source and courtesy - frontlineonnet.com). Click for larger image.

On the banks of Betwa

Even though the Rani was not a part of the War, (at least a major player), the fate of Jhansi occupied the minds of Indian leaders.

On 30th March, a diversionary force under Tatia Tope split the British siege army at Jhansi. General Hugh Rose, fed with information that the relieving force was 20,000 strong, himself led the ‘attack’ on diversionary forces to Betwa. This diversionary force battled the British at Betwa river – east of Jhansi, north of Orchcha.

The British lost around a 100 soldiers – and were ‘victorious’. The Indian military leadership engineered a split in British forces to allow Jhansi’s defenders to attack or escape the siege. An attack or escape party from Jhansi did a probe against a British unit, besieging Jhansi, led by Major Gall.

Every family in Jhansi joined the battle

On 3rd April, General Hugh Rose returned to Jhansi – and British forces stormed Jhansi. Fierce fighting ensued in the streets of Jhansi – door-to-door, street-by-street, with the Rani in the thick of the battle, with her female companions. The next day, the British realized that Lakshmibai was not in Jhansi.

Jhansi and its people paid a heavy price. Jhansi burnt for days. Jhansi’s Halwaipura was put to flame – and the fires could be seen from a distance. Corpses were piled high – and stench of burning and rotting flesh, hung over Jhansi.

Reluctant warrior as a hero

In modern India, Rani Lakshmibai, a reluctant warrior, has been cut out as the most heroic figure(See comment below on parallels) of the 1857 War – whereas the real leaders and generals have been forgotten or faulted. This behaviour is consistent with Indian tradition.
Mandodari and Tara (wife of Ravana and Bali) have been included in the पंच-कन्या panch-kanya pantheon1↓. Ahilya, wife of Rishi Gautama (not the Buddha), cursed for adultery by the rishi, was released from the curse by Vishnu as Raghu Ramchandra himself. Duryodhana’s wife, Bhanumati is almost forgotten – but not cast in negative light. Neither is Duryodhana’s mother, Gandhari.

In a society, where the two most important festivals are dedicated to worship of goddesses, casting women in negative light is an idea, that India is not comfortable with.

Journalists take pictures over Wang Shouxin's body.  (Source and courtesy - telegraph.co.uk; Photo: LI ZHENSHENG). Click for source.

Journalists take pictures over Wang Shouxin's body. (Source and courtesy - telegraph.co.uk; Photo: LI ZHENSHENG). Click for source.

People or Monsters

Meanwhile in ‘modern’ China, pictures of the execution of Wang Shouxin, a woman government official from northern province of Heilongjiang scored more than a million hits. This case was documented in People or Monsters (《人妖之间》), a book by Liu Binyan, in a style of reporting called baogaowenxue, and became famous the world over.

Shot with a bullet in the back of her head, the the execution of Wang Shouxin was widely covered by Chinese and international media. This is now an old story – Wang Shouxin was executed in the 1980.

This killing only increased Chinese appetite for more executions by the State.

In another corner of the world

Neither of the two major US political parties has ever had a woman nominee for the Presidential election. Closer to the Islāmic world in this aspect, the thought of a woman President seems unacceptable to Americans.

India goes ‘modern’

Looking at the way the mainstream media, literatti, chatteratti, bloggeratti, twitteratti are rejoicing over Kanimozhi’s arrest gets India closer to China and US and further India itself. What Kanimozhi deserves is complete contempt, for participation in the family swindling, and the courts ‘had’ to arrest her, did the ‘media’ have to go overboard?(Sentence modified to clarify that Kanimozhi deserves no adulation).

Did it …

Or am I reading too much meaning into an anecdote?

^1↑. [Text of footnote 1]
अहल्या द्रौपदी तारा कुंती मंदोदरी तथा । पंच कन्या स्मरेन्नित्य महापातकनाशनम् ।

Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari
Keeping in memory these five maidens will destroy greatest sins

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,035 other followers

%d bloggers like this: