Introduction to translation:
The Indian Revolt of 1857, or what was known as the Sepoy Revolt (after the sepoys who sparked the revolution and formed part of the army of the British East India Company, a British colonial institution that ruled most of India at that time), was one of the largest uprisings against British rule in India. Many consider it the country’s first war of independence and the first manifestation of Indian national sentiment. It is believed that the revolution broke out primarily because Indians, both Muslims and Hindus, objected to the British army’s orders that forced them to deal with pig and cow fat (forbidden to both Muslims and Hindus, respectively), but it expanded to include protest against all the injustices in which the British India Company was involved. .
The revolution took Bahadur Shah II, the last Muslim emperor of Mughal India, as its leader. But eventually, British forces were able to crush the revolt by 1859 with brutal retaliation, including the execution of several members of Bahadur Shah’s family, while the British government assumed full control of the region in place of the British India Company. In his article in The Diplomat, Bilal Ahmed explains the similarities between the way Britain crushed the revolution in India, and what the Israeli occupation is doing in Gaza today, especially in terms of the way it distorted the reputation of the Indian resistance (just as the Israeli occupation does with the Palestinian resistance). Today) and how to pass calls for genocide on an entire people based on incomplete information and false propaganda designed primarily to serve the purposes and desires of the colonizers.
Perhaps you might wonder about the similarity between the British retaliation after the recapture of Delhi from the rebels (resistance)* in 1857 and the violent military attack launched by Israel on the Gaza Strip today. Despite the time difference that separates the two incidents, amounting to 165 years, there are very clear similarities. It cannot be overlooked.
The revolt waged by the sepoys to temporarily liberate Delhi from British rule in May 1857 was an unprecedented military and intelligence failure for the British. The revolt broke out from the city of Meerut, and quickly aroused the interest of many large and small kingdoms in northern India and decided to join the revolt. However, these attacks were by no means as unprovoked as many British officials claimed at the time, and they were keen to see this lie spread across the world.
During their 100 years of rule over India, the British never shied away from a way to violate everything that Indians held dear and sacred. This is why the revolution came as a violent reaction, but it is understandable after a century of enslavement, humiliation and dehumanization of the population. One of the incidents that exacerbated the situation was what happened in the city of Kanpur during the Indian Revolution, when about 150 Britons were killed, including civilians, women and children. In his study titled “The Devil Released on Earth,” Indian historian Rudrangshu Mukherjee pointed out that the Sepoys initially offered to provide safe passage for the British detained in the city of Kanpur, but after they were loaded onto boats in a nearby port, they were subjected to random gunfire, which complicated matters. Things are more.
But let us move to the date of October 7, 2023, when the world woke up to a series of shocking news that Hamas had taken control, albeit temporarily, of some areas near the border between Gaza and Israel. These attacks, in addition to their unique and unprecedented character, carried great symbolic importance (beyond the abstract importance of the events themselves). Hamas was able to control checkpoints and settlements, and was even able to bulldoze parts of the apartheid wall. All of these actions symbolized protest against the Israeli occupation that has lasted for half a century.
The October 7 attack was undoubtedly violent, but like the 1857 Revolution, it was not without provocation. Therefore, the Palestinian reaction cannot be separated from the reasons and circumstances that fueled its outbreak, and those reasons are in fact based on a long and intense history of Israeli settler colonialism and government violence on the Palestinian territories. During half a century, the lives of the Palestinians were not devoid of blemishes of distress, because everything they cherished, from Al-Aqsa Mosque to the olive trees, witnessed repeated desecration at the hands of Israeli forces and settlers.
After liberating some areas from the grip of the British, the Sepoy army quickly lost momentum, coinciding with the arrival of reinforcements from Punjab, which decided to expel the Sepoy rebels from Delhi. By then, the story of Kanpur had not only spread from India to Europe, but many exaggerations had been added to it. In the midst of the chaos surrounding the events, the atmosphere darkened and unfounded stories about the torture of children and the gang rape of British women began to spread, and these accounts played a major role in shaping public opinion in England in favor of the excessive use of force against the indigenous people who appeared to the West as “savages.” “.
When the time came to punish the sepoys, British soldiers and the media resorted to these rumors not only to justify excessive use of force and impose widespread retaliation, but also to demand the complete crushing of Delhi. For example, British writers in the Lahore Chronicle newspaper repeatedly called for the execution of the Sultan of India and the razing of his city to the ground, while one reader asked to avoid the “Jami’a Mosque” for fear of insulting Muslims and provoking their anger, while on the other hand suggestions appeared. To convert the Grand Mosque into a church.
In a world where war lurks everywhere, these writings, suggestions and demands struck a chord with the British forces in Delhi, and provoked a strong response among British soldiers. Even after the looting and mass killings in Delhi, demands continued that the city should be ravaged and completely crushed. In doing so, British colonialism justified mass killing that amounted to genocide on the basis of fabricated lies.
In the same way, the Western media, shortly after the Hamas attack on Israel, promoted exaggerated and baseless rumours, the most famous of which was the story of the 40 children who were beheaded, which was fabricated by an Israeli reserve soldier in an interview conducted with reporter Nicole Zedek. However, the Israeli Prime Minister and the US President quickly repeated similar allegations without confirming their veracity, sparking a wave of intense anger around the world. But about two days later, Zedek retracted the report because there was no evidence to confirm the beheadings. But by then, the story had spread widely in the international media and contributed to shaping public opinion in favor of massive and horrific retaliatory measures against the Gaza Strip.
Demands emerged from various quarters calling for the complete destruction of the Gaza Strip and razing it to the ground. These demands quickly received support from the Israeli army, and often took an approach imbued with a religious and racist nature that attempts to portray Israelis as “sons of light,” while Palestinians are “sons of darkness.” Israeli operations on the Gaza Strip so far have included bombing hospitals, residential buildings, universities, refugee camps, and border crossings, in addition to cutting off water, gas, and electricity supplies to the Strip. As a result of the ongoing Israeli bombing of Gaza, more than 10,000 people have been killed – at the time of writing this report (now more than 11,000)* a large percentage of whom are children, which demonstrates the extent of the horrors that war is capable of causing. However, there are still persistent demands for the complete destruction of Gaza.
These operations, which – if we follow even the narrowest definition – would certainly rise to the level of war crimes, are currently justified by international reactions on the basis of unfounded allegations that Palestinian militants (resistance)* are beheading children and raping women, in addition to exaggeration. Added to the narrative surrounding the Hamas attack on October 7, it helped create an image of brutality for all Palestinians, which now makes the bombing of their homes and schools seem less tragic.
If there is one thing that the comparison between British retaliation in 1857 and Israel’s retaliatory measures in 2023 underscores, it is the fact that the rules of the colonial game have remained virtually unchanged. On the one hand, there is a refusal to acknowledge indirect colonial violence, which manifests itself in the form of discriminatory laws and apartheid walls, as well as the preparation of the land to become a hotbed of settlements and checkpoints. On the other hand, the current direct colonial violence in the Gaza Strip is justified by dehumanizing the indigenous population and creating the image of “human animals,” which can only be tamed or curbed by massive and indiscriminate violence.
This article is translated from The Diplomat It does not necessarily reflect the location of Maidan.
translation: Sumaya Zaher.