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Shaheed Mangal Pandey

Mangal Pandey (July 19, 1827- April 8, 1857) was one of the first freedom fighters from India executed by the British. He served as Sepoy in the 34th Regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry of the British East Indian Company. He was one of the most important fighters of the Sepoy Mutiny or the first war of independence in 1857. In 1984, the Indian government issued a postage stamp to remember him and a park has been constructed in the name of Shaheed Mangal Pandey at Barrackpur where Pandey attacked the Britishers. His life and actions have also been portrayed in several cinematic productions. Since 1857, Pandey's martyrdom gave inspiration to the Indians to fight for the freedom of India.

He was born on July 19, 1827 in the Nagwa village of the Upper Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh into a Hindu Brahmin family. His father, Diwaker Pandey, was a farmer and his mother's name was Abby Rani. His sister died in a famine in 1830. He joined the 34th Bengal Native Infantry Regiment of the British East Indian Company in 1849. In 1857, he was a soldier in the 5th Company of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry. He refused to bite the ends of the cartilages of Enfield Rifle which was newly introduced and which was believed to have been smeared with cow and pig fat for lubrication. Being a Brahmin, Mangal Pandey worshiped cows and revolted against the British using cow’s fat in the Infield Rifle. He was informed on 29th March 1857 that some soldiers of the Regiment were furious for using the fat of cow and pig on cartridges, so they armed themselves with loaded muskets and tried to kill the first Britisher they met. The soldiers thought it was a deliberate act of the British to let down the religions and their feelings towards their religions.

Mangal Pandey was heading these soldiers. Angered Pandey seized all the weapons and rushed towards the quarter guard building after knowing that British soldiers had arrived near the cantonment. Sergeant Major Hewson, after arriving at the parade ground, ordered the Indian officer Jemadar Ishwari Prasad to arrest Mangal Pandey. Ishwari Prasad explained that he cannot arrest Pandey as all his NCOs have gone for help and he alone cannot arrest Pandey. Meanwhile Lieutenant Baugh arrived in search of Pandey and to disperse the rebellions. Pandey fired at Baugh but it hit the horse on which he was setting. Baugh fell to the ground but quickly took his gun and fired at Pandey; it did not hit Pandey. Again, Pandey attached Baugh and wounded him severely. Shaikh Paltu, an Indian soldier, tried to stop Pandey from causing more harm to Baugh. Hewson, a British officer, arrived at the ground to help Baugh. Hewson was hit by a blow from Pandey’s musket. On hearing the sound of the gunshot, many soldiers rushed toward the ground, but they refused to take any action against Pandey when Shaikh Paltu was trying to defend the two British men. The Sepoys threw stones and shoes on Shaikh Paltu and threatened to shoot him if he does not release Pandey immediately. Both the British army officers (Baugh and Hewson) and Shaikh Paltu ran away and escaped from the Sepoys.

Commanding officer General Hearsey surrounded the ground along with his two officers, sons and army. General threatened the Sepoys to shoot if they do not obey and follow his orders. Pandey had no choice to escape and tried to end his life by putting the muzzle of the musket into his chest and pulling the trigger with his foot. However Pandey did not die. He recovered and was brought to the trial on 6th April 1857. He accepted that revolt was caused by him alone and no one else is responsible for it. Both Mangal Pandey and Ishwari Prasad were given death sentences. Execution of Pandey was scheduled for 18th April 1857, but British fearing a bigger revolt hanged Pandey on 8th April 1857. Ishwari Prasad was hanged on 21st April 1857. It was concluded that the regiment failed in doing its duties and also failed to control the rebellious Sepoys and was disbanded on 6th May 1857. Shaikh Paltu was promoted as Havaldar but he was murdered in Barrackpur cantonment just before the regiment was disbanded.

The first reason of revolt is the using cow and pig fat on the cartilages. It was thought that the British did this purposely to show disgrace to both Hindu and Muslim religions. The wife of captain William Halliday had the Bible printed in Urdu and Hindi and distributed among the Sepoys which raised suspicion that the British were trying to convert all the Indians to Christianity.

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