BrownCast Podcast episode 13: The British Indian Army

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In this episode Omar talks to Major Agha Humayun Amin and Dr Hamid Hussain. Both gentlemen are deeply interested in military history and know everything there is to know about the British Indian army and its daughter armies in India and Pakistan. We talk about the army of the East India Company and its domination of the Indian subcontinent, the 1857 mutiny, the army after 1857 and finally a few words about partition and in particular about the role played by British officers in the Pakistani army and in the capture of Gilgit and Baltistan (a region that is now central to our plans to form an alliance with China). We hope to have more podcasts in the future about the various India-Pakistan wars.

Major Amin and Dr Hamid Hussain

the British “created” India according to this Coloniser

I observe a moratorium on all electronics between dinner and bedtime but I’ve commandeered V’s laptop (with her permission) to express my profound outrage. I’m also sorry to detract attention from the excellent Episode 10.

I am reading “The Shortest History of Germany” by James Hawes and on page 13:

“Rather like the British in India, the Romans in Germany found a patchwork of warring statelets and imposed upon it, for their own convenience, the notion of a single vast Nation. Like the British, they then created for this invented land a class of semi-acculturated leaders from whom they expected loyalty.”

I just tweeted him this link but this coloniser has no shame in writing such ahistorical filth and must be called out. Any reading of Indian history shows that there has always been an intrinsic geographic identity that stems back as far as IVC and that centralised authority has existed twice (in the Maurya dynasty and the Mughals) pre-British (I was going through the Numismatics podcasts). Continue reading “the British “created” India according to this Coloniser”


1857: The Central Indian Campaign

This is a chapter from Major Amin’s history of the Sepoy Rebellion (“The Sepoy Rebellion Reinterpreted“). The formatting needs work, but I wanted to post it anyway just to give readers an idea of the kind of campaigning that took place in that region. For a quick overview of the entire rebellion, see here. 


Chapter Seven: The Central India Campaign 1857-1859


The Central India Campaign was fought over the widest area in terms of length and breadth as compared to all the other campaigns of 1857. It took the British longer in terms of time to suppress the rebellion in Central India as compared to all other regions involved in the rebellion. Yet the Central India Campaign in terms of forces involved and casualties suffered was only a very minor campaign of the Sepoy Rebellion. The smallest number of units of Bengal Army were actively involved in this campaign, as far as the Sepoys were concerned. The conflict in Central India was a minor one because nothing strategic was at stake. The Bengal Army before the outbreak of the rebellion had a sizable strength in Central India in terms of number of units. However as soon as these units rebelled most of them marched towards Delhi because Delhi was the most popular point of concentration of the Bengal Army Rebels. Some units however did march to Cawnpore, Kalpi or to Banda. Banda was the hot choice because of the prospects of looting. The Nawab of Banda who had rebelled was active in looting and his leadership inspired many rebels to go to Banda. Three units of infantry entered Central India because of geographical compulsions. These were led by the indomitable Hindu Rajput Talukdar Kanwar Singh and came to Central India because they could not move to the north because of the Ganges River and because of proximity of European units who were marching on the main Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta to Benares.

The Central India Campaign however was significant because of presence of three charismatic figures who caused a lot of trouble to the British. There were the Rani of Jhansi a Hindu contemporary of Hazrat Mahal of Lucknow, Tantia Topi the only sepoy leader who executed an offensive plan of strategic level to sever the British Army’s communications with Calcutta and Feroz Shah a Mughal Prince who fought valiantly and also later on managed to escape and survive the rebellion by almost twenty years. The Rani we admire because although a woman by sex she was more of a man than most of our worthy feudals whose grandsons later on became our Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers! Tantia Topi we admire because without any formal military education or background he did at least effectively and physically threaten the British communications. Something in which our Generals Rajinder Prasad and Nasir Ahmed Khan  years later failed miserably despite possessing much more in terms of education, manpower and material superiority ! Feroz Shah we admire because despite being a Muslim he inspired many Hindus to fight for a just cause at a time when Muslims in Muslim majority areas were soldiering for a foreign nation ! After the failure of the rebellion he also made many attempts to convince Muslim Kings of “martial races” like Afghanistan or Iran to resist the British. But all praise to General Nott and Pollock, the lesson taught by them to the Afghans in 1842 in the Grand Bazar of Kabul was too hard to forget. And that handsome subsidy of Rs. 12 lakh the Afghan King was getting was so hard to refuse !!


Various Bengal Army troops and princely state contingents were present in Central India and Western Rajputana in 1857. We have included the following areas in Central India for the purposes of analysis / discussion:– (1) Central India Agency comprising various princely states in the area between Narbadda River and Jumna River. (2) The Southern and Eastern Rajputana area of Ajmer Jodhpur Tonk etc. (3) The Bundelkhand, Saugor and Narbadda territories. Rough deployment of various units and contingents was as following356 : a. Bengal Army Infantry:- (1) 12 NI -Wing each at Jhansi and Nowgong. (2) 15 NI -Naseerabad (3) 30 NI -Naseerabad (4) 72 NI -Nimach (5) 23 NI -Mhow (6) 31 NI -Saugor (7) 42 NI -Jubbulpur (8) 52 NI -Jubbulpur (9) 50 NI -Nagode b. Bengal Army Cavalry (1) 1 LC -Wing each at Mhow and Nimach. (2) 14 Irregular Cavalry – Wing each at Jhansi and Nowgong. (3) 3rd Irregular Cavalry- Saugor. c. Gwalior Contingent (8318 men) (1) Infantry-Seven Regiments at Gwalior, Goonah, Sipri, Nimach etc. (2) Cavalry-Two Regiments. (3) Artillery-Four Field Batteries and a Light Siege Train. c. Jodhpur Contingent. A Composite Force of infantry, cavalry and artillery comprising approximately three Troops of Cavalry, eleven Companies of Infantry, and two Nine Pounder Camel Guns stationed at Erinpura in Jodhpur State. Cavalry entirely Hindustani Muslim/Ranghar/Kaimkhani Muslim and eight Infantry companies out of the total entirely consisting of Hindustanis. d. Malwa Contingent. Similar to Jodhpur Contingent. e. Other Contingents. There were similar other but smaller contingents of other states like Jaipur State Troops and Kotah Contingent.


On 28 May 1857 the sepoys at Nasirabad comprising of 15 and 30 NI regiments rebelled, killed their British officers and after plundering the town marched towards Delhi. In Central India the initial development of the rebellion was slower than Eastern Rajputana. Here on 9 June the Malwa contingent rebelled and on 14 June the Gwalior contingent rebelled at Gwalior and Sipri. The wings of 12 NI and 14 Irregular cavalry stationed at Jhansi and Nowgong rebelled on 6th and 9th June respectively. On 1st of July the Indore contingent rebelled. The Indore contingent was soon joined by the Bhopal contingent comprising mostly Pathans and some Hindustanis. However most of its Sikh troops who constituted a minority stayed loyal. The Begum of Bhopal like the Rani of Jhansi was a woman, but was made of the same passive fibre as most of the Muslim Hindu and Sikh Feudals of that era. Thus she stayed loyal to the British. The 23 NI and the wing of 1st Light Cavalry stationed at Mhow rebelled on 1st July and marched towards Gwalior on the Grand Trunk Road. They reached Gwalior on 31st of July 1857 and from here marched to Delhi via Agra. The 23 NI and 1st Light Cavalry sepoys played an important role in reviving the spirits of the Gwalior contingent troops who after their initial rebellion on 14 June had subsequently become very demoralized because of clever propaganda by their ruler the Sindhia who was secretly in League with the British at Agra. Another factor in the earlier demoralization of the Gwalior contingent troops stationed at Gwalior was the arrival of remnants of the 6th Infantry Regiment of Gwalior contingent who had earlier rebelled at Lalitpur and had joined the Nana Sahib at Cawnpore. These troops withdrew from Cawnpore to Gwalior after having been routed by General Havelock in July 1857. Anyhow after 31 July the Gwalior Contingent troops gained greater resolution, thanks to successful exhortation by the 23 NI and 1st Light Cavalry who stopped at Gwalior on their way to Delhi for a few days.

Meanwhile following was the situation in eastern half of Central India: – a. The 42 NI and 3rd Irregular Cavalry stationed at Saugor rebelled on 1st July. The 31 NI stationed at Saugor however remained loyal. The 3rd Irregular Cavalry and the 42 NI for some time marched around Saugor looting and plundering but finally they marched towards Banda which they reached around September 1857. Here they joined the Nawab of Banda who had declared himself independent in the aftermath of a rebellion led by sepoys of the detachment of 1st NI stationed at Banda on 14 June 1857. (Subsequently they went to Kalpi)

Prince Ferozeshah who had gone to Mecca for Haj in 1857 meanwhile was in Central India after returning via the port of Surat. Ferozeshah was in area inhabited mostly by Hindus and had no army. It is an irony of history that the two finest Muslim military commanders Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan offered the toughest resistance to the British despite the fact that they were ruling a Hindu majority state. This clearly proves that it is not mere majority in population but superiority in terms of quality of leadership which is the deciding factor. On the other hand we see that many Muslim majority areas were rendered impotent merely because of absence of good leadership. Ferozeshah managed to reach Mandesar in Gwalior state territory with some followers. He was still wearing the ahram which pilgrims on Haj wear. He reached Mandesar on 26 August 1857. There was a detachment of Gwalior troops stationed here. These being mostly Hindus but from Northwest province immediately joined Ferozeshah and raised the standard of revolt in Mandesar ! Continue reading “1857: The Central Indian Campaign”


How to avoid offending people?

Please watch the last three minutes of:

How to avoid very unexpectedly offending people when we don’t want to? How to have dialogue with people, ask them questions and get feedback from others without suddenly massively angering them?

This has nothing to do with Saira Roa’s actual opinions or high resolution fully integrated philosophy of philosophies. She seems to be a sweet loving person. Her perspective is unique and I would have loved to better understand it.

I have met many people from childhood who are suddenly and very unexpectedly massively triggered and angered. Often they will start accusing others of nazism, fascism, racism, bigotry, prejudice, sectarianism or some other related charge. In many cases immediately walk away. Many junior high school, high school, undergraduate and graduate level teachers at institutions I attended were this way. Some students were also this way, but truth be told teachers were far more likely to exhibit these symptoms than students. And a lot of the time, I and many others didn’t understand why this happened. Saira Roa is very middle of the road representative of very large numbers of people I have met (teachers and non teacher adults), (in the west or in India) and I am not picking on her. Rather I am asking how to avoid causing a massive firestorm when we don’t want to create one. In this case, Sargon didn’t want to anger her, but rather was very curious to better understand what she believes and why she believes what she believes.

This particular unexpected firestorm was set off when Sargon says to Saira Roa that some blacks were complicit in the slavery of other blacks. My questions about this is two fold:

  • Is there some way Sargon could have made a similar point without massively angering Saira Roa and causing her to end the interview?
  • Why did this statement elicit this reaction in the first place?

Saira Roa has a Hindu name. When the east (and large parts of Europe for that matter) was (were) conquered by Islamists (note that most muslims are not Islamists and today’s muslims are in no way responsible for the actions of their great ancestors), almost all eastern universities, libraries, temples, spiritual centers, scientific institutions etc. were destroyed. Much of the non muslim population was converted into slaves. Because of this, many Asian nonmuslims get emotional when the subject of slavery is mentioned. Could this be where part of Saira Roa’s feelings come from?

Most Asians (Indians included) and Africans initially welcomed Europeans as a way to drive Islamists out. Europeans as a quid pro quo of sorts banned slavery across Asia and Africa. This was deeply popular among nonmuslims and seen as sectarian Islamaphobia by many Islamists. [Obviously after this initial period, Africans and Asians wanted European colonizers to let them to be independent.] Perhaps Saira Rao thinks that the people who owned slaves on the African continent and sold them to South America, Central America, Mexico, Caribbean, North America, North Africa, East Africa, Europe, Asia were not really Africans but Islamist occupiers? Perhaps her definition of “African” or “black” is only nonmuslims with substantial sub-saharan African DNA haploid admixture? Therefore, “blacks” by her definition were not complicit in the slavery of other blacks and the exporting of black slaves around the world? I am not saying this is true. But rather could this be what she believes?

[Obviously some historians might posit the hypothesis that even if the large majority or vast majority of people who owned African slaves were muslim, at least some African slaves were owned by nonmuslims with substantial sub-saharan African DNA haploid admixture too. But perhaps Saira Roa disagrees with this.]

Are there other possible reasons for why she was so offended?

Can everyone reading please explain this to me in the comment section below? What advise does everyone have for how to avoid deeply angering or offending people in general? Thanks to everyone in advance.


An Unfair Comparison: Modi and Liaqat Ali Khan

Someone on Twitter posted a video of Arundhati Roy speaking out against Indian liberals who have “normalized” Narendra Modi by treating him as just another PM or CM.

The tweeter is an Indian Muslim (who, as far as I can tell, now lives in Australia) and I assume that he regards Modi, Yogi and Vajpayee as Hindu Nationalists who are out to make India a “Hindu Pakistan”, where minorities (especially Muslims) will be second class citizens who will fear for their life and live under humiliating and unfair restrictions. Let us assume this is true (that the BJP is a Hindu Nationalist party with exactly such ambitions), then liberals who “normalize” this party and its leaders are indeed guilty of betraying liberal principles. But even if that is true (and to some extent it surely is; we can debate to what extent), there can be several objections to this tweet, especially to the fact that ALL THREE are being compared to Hafiz Saeed. I raised this particular objection in the following tweet:

I will be the first to admit that this was mildly trollish, since I am well aware of the fact that the “done thing” is to make such judgments in terms of “local standards”.. by Pakistani standards, Hafiz Saeed is a religious extremist and a terrorist. So when Brumby wants an unflattering comparison for Modi, he picked Hafiz Saeed. On the other hand, Liaquat Ali Khan (first prime minister of Pakistan) is a Pakistani moderate. But my point was precisely this: the two standards are NOT the same. What Modi (or Yogi, or Vajpayee) may want is what Liaqat Ali Khan and Jinnah demanded and already got (thanks to some timely British help): an Islamic state, with discriminatory rules and laws that privilege one religion over all others. In that sense, Jinnah and the Muslim League leadership are indeed the correct comparison for a Hindu nationalist party.

But people also have other objections in mind. One is that Modi was CM during the Gujrat riots, when around 2500 people (mostly Muslims) died in a well organized pogrom during which the state machinery either stood aside or actively cooperated with the killers. Surely Liaquat Ali Khan cannot be compared to such a person? but even this objection stands on shakier ground than people may imagine. Liaquat Ali Khan was prime minister of Pakistan during a period when there was near-total ethnic cleansing of Sikhs and Hindus in Punjab and Karachi. This was not simply one or two spontaneous riots; there were well organized pogroms and the state machinery mostly stood aside (as in Gujrat, there were exceptions) and there is at least SOME evidence that Liaqat Ali Khan wanted them to stand aside because he did not really object to this cleansing (at a minimum he considered it the natural response to what was happening to Muslims in many parts of India). You can read more about this aspect here, but I will just post a paragraph from that newspaper article:

The prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was angry with Khuhro when he went to see him on January 9 or 10. Liaquat said to Khuhro: “What sort of Muslim are you that you protect Hindus here when Muslims are being killed in India. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself!” In the third week of January 1948, Liaquat Ali Khan said the Sindh government must move out of Karachi and told Khuhro to “go make your capital in Hyderabad or somewhere else”. Liaquat said this during a cabinet meeting while Jinnah quietly listened. The Sindh Assembly passed a resolution on February 10, 1948, against the Centre’s impending move to annex Karachi. The central government had already taken over the power to allotment houses in Karachi. Khuhro was forced to quit and Karachi was handed over to the Centre in April 1948.

The above facts made me write that the violence against Sindhi Hindus and their mass migration to India was a tragic loss scripted, orchestrated and implemented by non-Sindhis in Sindh. I will happily withdraw my claim when furnished with the evidence to the contrary.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2012.

The final objection I heard to my tweet was that Modi is an illiterate rabble rouser while Liaquat was the highly educated Westminster type. While it is true that Liaquat Ali Khan came from a rich feudal family (his grandfather, the nawab of Karnal was boss of 300 villages and had been given many honors because of his support of the British during the Indian Mutiny of 1857) and was educated in Oxford, he was never as thoroughly English as Jinnahbhoy, and neither is Modi as illiterate as his opponents make him out to be. That said, this objection has does have a little truth to it. My defense is that I was not saying they are exactly alike, I was only saying that as far as comparing BJP leaders to Pakistani politicians goes, the correct comparison is “any Muslim League leader” and not Hafiz Saeed.

I understand that many readers will find this comparison (BJP to Muslim league) hard to digest, but that is the point; it is hard to digest because it is unfamiliar. TIME magazine would not make this comparison and they have conventional wisdom on their side. But then again, we are not TIME magazine 🙂

PS: Arundhati, who admires Lenin (and Mao) has far to go before she can sit in judgment on liberals who “normalize” violent leaders.. If nothing else, we can all agree on that (see my article on Arundhati and her ilk here)

PPS: For details about partition violence (and later episodes of mass killings in Pakistan), see here.. 


Pakistan and the Great War

From Dr Hamid Hussain

2018 is centenary of the end of the Great War. This piece was written for a magazine published in England about Indian military history. I tried to highlight participation of areas and units of future Pakistan army in that epic struggle to honor countless who served all over the globe.


Pakistan and the Great War

Hamid Hussain

“We know that it was not strategy nor tactics nor leadership that really gained us the victory, but the spirit of sacrifice”. General Sir William Birdwood’s address on unveiling of the Punjab Frontier Force (PIFFER) Memorial at Kohat October 23, 1924.

It is impossible to narrate the story of the Indian Army in the Great War on ethnic or religious lines as some modern observers are tempted to do. It is equally futile to attempt a “revisionist” narrative through the nationalist lens of modern India and Pakistan. What were then Indian soldiers of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds fought in the Great War under their regimental standards as imperial British subjects of the Indian Empire on a global battlefield.

In 1947, British India and its armed forces were divided between the two new nations of India and Pakistan. Punjab Province, which had provided the bulk of the old regular Indian Army, was carved up with a few strokes of the cartographer’s pen. Ambala and Jullundur divisions and Amritsar and Gurdaspur of the Lahore division became part of India. Punjabi Muslims, Muslim Rajputs and Pathans of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) became Pakistani citizens while Sikhs, Jats, Dogra and Rajput Hindus became Indian citizens. All of this cut across the traditional structures and allegiances of the old Indian Army, and the Great War experiences of men such as Subedar Major Parbhat Chand, a Hindu Dogra, who won a Military Cross fighting under the colours of the 59th Scinde Rifles, which would later become the 1st Frontier Force Regt. of the Pakistani Army, the many Punjabi Muslim sepoys who served under the colours of the 125th Napier’s Rifles and 101st Grenadiers which were allotted to India in 1947, and medical officers Capt. Indrajit Singh of the 57th Rifles and Major Atal of the 129th Baluchistan Infantry who died alongside their Punjabi Muslim and Pathan comrades. While these and other factors discourage any attempt to interpret the conflict in light of the later partition of the subcontinent, there is no reason why the war-time experience of what is now Pakistan, especially the Punjab, should not be studied in the same way that, for example, the impact of the war on the north of England and regiments raised there are examined for insights. Continue reading “Pakistan and the Great War”


The Tears of the Rajas: One Family’s Experience of Serving the East India Company

From my personal blog:

Ferdinand Mount’s The Tears of the Rajas: Mutiny, Money and Marriage in India 1805-1905 (Simon & Schuster 2015) tells the story of his grandmother’s family—the Lows of Chatto–who spent a century serving the East India Company. The book focuses on Mount’s  great-great grandfather, John Low, who arrived in India in 1805 and finally retired after the Mutiny of 1857 (the First War of Independence as it is known in India). John’s sons also served the Company, with one of them—General Sir Robert Low—being involved in the 1895 relief of Chitral, the northernmost outpost of British India (now in Pakistan).  The Lows were also related by marriage to other prominent British Indian families, including the Thackerays (which included the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray) and the Metcalfes. John Low’s daughter Charlotte married Theo Metcalfe, the son of Thomas Metcalfe, the British Resident at Delhi.  Through the stories of these families, Mount provides an enlightening perspective on what life was like for the British as they consolidated their Indian Empire during the 19th century.

It is ironic that John Low, who firmly believed in leaving native kingdoms alone whenever possible, was involved in the deposition of several princes from their thrones.    The first of these was the Maratha Peshwa, Baji Rao II.  In 1817-18, Low was the assistant to Sir John Malcolm and was responsible for getting the Peshwa to surrender and go into exile in Bithur, a small town just outside Cawnpore (modern Kanpur).   He also served as Baji Rao’s jailer in Bithur. The Peshwa’s surrender brought an end to the final Anglo-Maratha War.

Later, while serving as the British Resident at Lucknow, Low was responsible for deposing Munna Jan, the boy-king of Oudh (Awadh).  In 1837, after the death of Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider, the British decided to put his uncle, Muhammad Ali Shah (Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s grandfather) on the throne.  However, the late Nawab’s stepmother, The Padasha Begum, had other plans and led a coup in favor of Nasir-ud-din’s son, Munna Jan.  Low thwarted this rebellion and sent the Begum and Munna Jan to Chunar Fort, near Benaras, where they were locked up for the rest of their lives.  A sepia drawing by Monsieur Dufay de Casanova, the Court Painter, entitled The Begum’s Attempt to Usurp the Throne of Oudh for Moona Jan, 7th July 1837 “conveys the darkling chaos with the heroic Resident standing firm and his brother-in-law John Shakspear with his huge black mustachios being manhandled by the supporters of the Begum, who is just visible in her palanquin below the throne” ( Mount 295).

In contrast to John Low, who did not believe that the British should annex territory, various Governors-General were interested in increasing the revenue of the Company and expanding the area under direct British rule.  The chief example is Lord Dalhousie, who is responsible for the final annexation of Oudh that sent Nawab Wajid Ali Shah into exile in Calcutta. Mount writes: “Across the path of these vital modern communications there still lay a wodge of native principalities, as much a barrier to the spread of British justice as to the British spirit of modernity. The petty princes of Bundelkhand, the greater rajas of Nagpur and Jhansi and above all the King of Oudh were an offense to His Lordship’s pious and impatient eye. With their eunuchs and their dancing girls, they stood, or rather rolled, in the way of progress” (416).  John Low was against Lord Dalhousie’s intent to annex territory, arguing that deposing native rajas who had not broken their word to the British alienated the people as did “remitting large portions of the revenue for pensions and salaries in England (which bring no return to India), instead of spending such revenues within the countries which produce them” ( 421).  He went further and wrote that “the natives of India are in one respect exactly like the inhabitants of all other parts of the known world, they like their own habits and customs better than those of foreigners” (423). Low recognized that British annexation was the cause of great resentment among the Indian people.

However, for Lord Dalhousie, Oudh was “a cherry which had long been ripening” (430).  In February 1856, Wajid Ali Shah was deposed. Mount writes: “Wajid Ali Shah was the last of the weeping Rajas to discover how much British friendship was worth. Every native prince’s dealings with John Low and his clan seemed to end in tears” (443).

More here



Rising global caste and tribalism

Related articles:

Should Amy Chua and Michael Shermer be added to the list of leaders for the Intellectual Dark Web? They discuss the rise in global tribalism (caste) and victimhood and how it is threatening the entire world. Amy Chua implies that the opposite to caste tribalism in global classical liberalism, which has not really caught on around the world. Most people who self identify with European enlightenment values unconsciously retain nationalism and many other forms of tribal (or caste or cultural) identity.

Amy Chua has written 5 books. Her first four were very well written. No doubt her fifth, which I haven’t read, is too.

What does everyone at Brown Pundits think is driving the dangerous surge in global identitarian caste tribalism? I think post modernism is the largest. Are there are other drivers too?