The Historic Environment Scotland – an executive non-departmental public body responsible for investigating, caring for and promoting Scotland’s historic environment – has set out to write a new account of Indian history, courtesy a young Indian Doctor.
The writings in a plaque at Edinburgh Fort caught the eyes of Vivek Makumdar, who was roaming inside the Fort. The 26-year-old Doctor from eastern Indian Province of West Bengal lives in Marchmont, a residential area of Edinburgh. He found the story of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, depicted in the plaque inside the Edinburgh Fort, quite offensive. The Indian Mutiny, also called Sepoy Mutiny or the First War of Independence was a widespread, but unsuccessful rebellion against the British Rule in India in 1857-59. Begun in Meerut by the Indian soldiers (sepoys) in the service of the British East India Company, it spread to Delhi, Agra, Kanpur and Lucknow! Majumdar immediately wrote to the Historic Environment Scotland, which agreed to remove the offensive plaque!
It is mentioned in the large plaque, called India Cross, that the plaque was erected to honour all the British soldiers who had taken part in the suppression of the Sepoy Mutiny. It is also mentioned that the British Army had fought heroically to liberate Lucknow from the occupation of the rebels from the then Indian Army! Majumdar stressed: “What was written on the plaque about the Sepoy Mutiny is one-sided, as it was written from the point of view of the British Army. The concerned authorities underestimated the achievements of the Indian Army. I could not accept the disgrace of the Indian Army.”
The young Indian doctor did not expect that he would receive a reply from the Historic Environment Scotland within a week. The public body has assured Majumdar that the old plaque would be replaced by the new one, and the heroism of the Indian Army would be mentioned in it!
Indian Historian Rajatkanta Roy has said that a historic events should not be explained from a particular point of view, as attitudes change over time. He has further said that many Indian historians consider the Sepoy Mutiny as the War of Independence, but they have not found the spark of Nationalism in it. Meanwhile, Roy has welcomed the Historic Environment Scotland’s decision to replace the old plaque with a new one. He stressed: “India is a big power in South Asia and a friend of Britain. Moreover, the Indians are the dominant minority group in Britain. That is why Scotland gives importance to the Indian sentiment.“
Crispin Bates – the Professor of Modern and Contemporary South Asian History in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh and former Director of the University’s Centre for South Asian Studies – has stated: “The Sepoy Mutiny has always been considered by the British as a huge success. On the contrary, the Indians have considered the revolt as the First War of Independence.“
According to Majumdar, it is very common to publicly glorify the colonial past in Scotland. “However, I could not accept the way in which British colonialism and imperialism were shamelessly glorified in the plaque,” he added. Initially, some Scottish Dailies covered the news of Majumdar’s efforts to get the history rewritten. Later, various British broadsheets published the news of the Rewriting of History!
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