Review: Directorate S


Review from Major Amin: Directorate S –The CIA and Americas Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016-Steve Coll -Allen Lane- Penguin Books-2018-ISBN-978-1-846-14660-2 ISBN-13: 978-1987659184 ISBN-10: 198765918X


A leading US-Israeli Intelligence analyst and operator recently summed up pathetic state of US intelligence operators in Pakistan as following:–

They are afraid of their own shadows”

As great powers decline , their quality of strategic judgement and decision making and their operational effectiveness also markedly declines.

Steve Coll’s voluminous and bulky book reconfirms this fact .

The first defect of this book is that it does not contain a single relevant map connected to the subject i.e Directorate S.

On page 12 the writer repeats a false and unsubstantiated claim that CIA pilots had to fly Russian MI series helicopters for Northern Alliance , whereas in reality Afghanistan never had any shortage of Afghan helicopter pilots.

On page 14 the author confirms his absolute lack of knowledge of geography when he fallaciously claims that Panjsher valley slices north towards Tajikistan , whereas in reality Panjsher valley inclines towards Chitral in Pakistan towards the Northeast , ending at Anjuman Pass.

The authors analysis is a clear testament to the fallacious assessments of US policy makers about Afghanistan like on page-17 he discusses Al Qaeda and US policy makers obsession with Al Qaeda.

As a matter of fact Al Qaeda was never the real player in Afghanistan all along . It was a puny group with limited strategic ability. The real players in Afghanistan all along were Taliban supported by Directorate S of the ISI.

This basic US perceptual error repeatedly appears in Steve Colls voluminous narrative and Steve Coll himself is quite confused about it.

Steve Colls factually flawed statements like page-17 where he states “Recalling the miserable fates of Imperial Britain” while referring to Britain”s Afghan wars. Why Coll has to make such baseless statements is perplexing. As a matter of fact all three Afghan wars were a strategic success , the first being waged by a British private company. All three Afghan wars made British strategic position in India and West Asia stronger and created a more stable Afghanistan.I guess it is fashionable in western authors to make such statements about what a terrible place Afghanistan was and is . Continue reading “Review: Directorate S”

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BrownCast Podcast episode 13: The British Indian Army

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else).

If you aren’t in a position to be a patron, please give us 5-star ratings and a positive review!

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
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How Pakistan Got Divided

Review of General Rao Farman Ali’s book by Major Amin

HOW PAKISTAN GOT DIVIDED-RAO FARMAN ALI KHAN -298 PAGES – OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS-PAKISTAN –ISBN NUMBER 978-0-19-940698-2- YEAR OF PUBLICATION -2017

Reviewed by Major Agha H Amin (Retired)

This is yet another disappointing book in the genre that Pakistani writers write to rationalize the separation of East Pakistan and creation of the new state Bangladesh in 1971. The real causes are always simply whitewashed and not even discussed. This book does so again .

The book is divided in 17 chapters but only one deals in a very vague and rudimentary manner with the historical background. The remaining chapters are devoted to 1970 elections and its aftermath. This is a rather ultra myopic way of writing history. The bottom line of the whole issue was that ethnicity was the defining factor in Indian Muslim relations. Starting in 1906 Indian Muslim politics was dominated by United Provinces (UP) Muslims . When All India Muslim League was created in 1906 with Bengalis in the forefront , it was hijacked by UP Muslims and its headquarters shifted to Aligarh in 1907 . Bengalis were regarded as an inferior Dravidian race. The watershed moment was the Lucknow Pact under stewardship of Mr Jinnah,  where without discussing the matter with Punjabis or Bengali Muslims a twin thrust in the back was delivered to Punjab and Bengal. Punjab’s Muslim legislative majority being reduced from 54 to 50 % and Bengal’s Muslim majority reduced from 52 to 40 % . All this being done by an All India Muslim League that contained 90 % of its delegates from Lucknow city and UP. Continue reading “How Pakistan Got Divided”

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Interview: Cecil Choudhry and MG Hidayat Niazi

Major Amin’s interview of Pakistan Air Force veteran Cecil Choudhry and Honorary Major Gen Hidayat Niazi
CECIL WAS EXTREMELY BITTER IN RECOLLECTIONS OF ANWAR SHAMIM WHEN THIS SCRIBE INTERVIEWED HIM AS ASSISTANT EDITOR DEFENCE JOURNAL- GRATEFUL THAT THE INTERVIEW WAS PUBLISHED WITHOUT ANY EDITING BY THE JOURNALS OWNER MR IKRAM SEHGAL—
THIS SCRIBE INTERVIEWED CECIL CHOUDHRY IN 2001 AND RELEVANT EXCERPTS ARE AS BELOW :—
Pakistan Army through eyes of Pakistani Generals
Q. What do you have to say about the assertion that our Intelligence agencies indulge more in petty reporting and in settling personal scores rather than solid intelligence gathering?
What can one say about something that is almost God’s truth. My personal experience during both the wars was that the way these agencies were being made to function was a complete waste of resources. We had no authentic information about our targets that we could rely on in our planning. We were provided information that was 10 years old.
Q. Who was the finest air force professional that you saw in your entire service?
This is a very difficult question to answer because we are covering a wide spectrum. The finest was Sarfraz Rafiqui. The finest Chiefs were Air Marshal Asghar Khan and Air Chief Marshal Zulfiqar Ali Khan in that order. Most professional officers I worked directly under, Syed Mukhtar Ali, Hakimullah and (late) Masroor Hussain. Highly professional officers I worked with were P.Q. Medhi (ex Chief), Aliuddin (present DGCAA) and late Hashmi.

Continue reading “Interview: Cecil Choudhry and MG Hidayat Niazi”

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Ordered to Die; A History of the Ottoman Army in WWI

Ordered to Die: A History of the Ottoman Army in the First World War (Contributions in Military Studies) Hardcover – November 30, 2000
by Edward J. Erickson  (Author)
Quick review by Major Amin
This is a very interesting, must read book.
The Ottoman Army was not logistically equipped to fight the huge battles that it was forced to fight in First World War. The main culprit was Ottoman Defence Minister Enver Pasha a man of myopic vision and petty intellect (Normal problems in Muslim world).The bottom line is that Ottoman Turkey had no reason to go to war but unnecessarily joined the war because of phenomenal stupidity of Enver Pasha.
The odds that Ottoman Army confronted were too heavy.This is the writers basic and most balanced assessment.
In Egypt the attack on Suez was a logistic miracle and Ottoman failure because of massive allied naval guns was a foregone conclusion.
In Caucasus Russian Army was vastly superior to Ottomans logistically and materially.
In Mesopotamia British numerical superiority was massive after 1916 and Ottoman failure was a foregone conclusion.
Despite all these huge odds Ottoman Army kept itself intact to finally save Turkey under Mustafa Kemal as nationalist army.
It fielded 2.8 Million troops and suffered 750,000 fatal casualties,proportionately one of the highest.
Like all third world armies it was outstanding in defense and weak in attack where greater military dynamism and superior numbers are required.
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The Last Hurdle to Afghan Peace

Brigadier Simon Saraf wrote a piece on the Afghanistan “peace” process that reflects the Paknationalist viewpoint. Major Amin has added his comments to it. (Major Amin’s comments are bolded). Major Amin is a military history aficionado who has decades of on the ground experience in Afghanistan.  

The last hurdle to Afghan peace

https://nation.com.pk/02-Feb-2019/the-last-hurdle-to-afghan-peace

Taliban and USA are in constant negotiations over withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. A draft pact addressing mutual sensitivities is concluded. The two parties facilitated by Pakistan will again meet towards end February to build a roadmap on the skeletal agreement.  

APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVING— US HAS NO STRATEGY AND ITS ACTIONS ARE ACTIONS OF A LAME DESPERATE PRESIDENT BESIEGED BY SCANDALS AND A MINORITY IN CONGRESS–THIS MAKES HIM MORE DESPERATE THAN THE MOST UNDERFED TALIBAN–MR TRUMP WANTS TO NEGOTIATE A US WITHDRAWAL WHICH WOULD BE COMPLETED BY THE TIME ELECTIONS ARE ON THE TOP AND HE MAY WIN THE ELECTIONS—AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN CAN GO TO HELL—A.H AMIN

The best solutions must consider lessons learnt from the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, leaving power in hands of proxies and ignoring a broad based representative government. A representative government for Afghanistan does not mean democracy. Besides the people, it also means co-opting various warring groups, warlords and educated elites. Links with drug mafia and gun running are intrinsic. So unless these groups are satisfied, they have many supporters to make them disruptive. 

BROAD BASED REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT WAS NEVER THE LESSON IN SOVIET AFGHAN WAR— PAKISTAN HAD ITS STOOGES–LOWEST RUNG MULLAHS LIKE HAQQANI WHO AS PER HIS ISI HANDLER COL QASIM ABBAS STANK SO MUCH THAT THEN MAJOR QASIM MADE HIM SIT IN THE OPEN BACK BODY OF HIS VEHICLE–THERE WAS NO BROAD BASE IN SOVIET AFGHAN WAR AND NO BROAD BASE NOW–ONLY STOOGES-PAKISTANI STOOGES OR IRANIAN STOOGES OR AMERICAN STOOGES OR RUSSIAN STOOGES OR INDIAN STOOGES—A.H AMIN

USA, the Afghan resistance, Taliban and Pakistan have been here before as a resistance to Soviet occupation and then a broad based alliance approved by Pakistan and USA. 

Return of warlords gave meteoric rise to Taliban. They over ran most Mujahedeen groups led by warlords and fought fierce battles with Al Qaeda. 

AL QAEDA NEVER EXISTED — FOUGHT AFGHAN WAR AS LOGISTICS ADVISOR OF A SIDE –NEVER SAW AL QAEDA–BASED IN AFGHANISTAN SINCE 2001–NEVER SAW AL QAEDA—DAESH IS ALSO A FICTIONAL ENTITY THAT THE PAKISTANI STATE INVENTS WHEN IT GUNS DOWN INNOCENTS LIKE AT SAHIWAL Continue reading “The Last Hurdle to Afghan Peace”

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Afghanistan. Exit to Chaos?

Prompted by some discussion on Twitter, a few random thoughts:

  1. The US has spent 100s of billions of dollars in its longest war and Trump has had it and wants out. He is not wrong in regarding this as a colossal waste of money. But Trump being Trump, he will probably end up wasting whatever gains the US DID make in the region in the process. Zalmay Khalilzad may be sincerely interested in a viable Afghanistan, but his boss has neither the interest nor the ability. Without knowing ANYTHING about the various layers of secret planning and execution going on right now, just on general principles (losers don’t get to dictate terms, winners are not bound by promises they made, Trump is an ignorant conman, etc) this is not going to end well. There WILL be blood.
  2. The waste is going to get blamed on “corrupt Afghans”, but really, the Afghan elite (while undoubtedly corrupt in many cases) is not the main actor here. The United States is simply not a very effective imperial power. Much of the corruption is on the US side (contractors for the most part) and all of it is ultimately the responsibility of the imperial power cutting the checks. The US has a frighteningly capable military and a huge war chest. For the US to spend 100-1000 billion dollars and be unable to manage Afghanistan is a tribute to American incompetence, not Afghan resistance or corruption. If they were fooled by Pakistan is it Pakistan’s fault? if they were fooled by Afghans, is it all the Afghan’s fault? Beyond the obvious corruption on the US side there is the issue of ideological incompetence; the US is neither a capable imperial power, nor an innocent spectator with no interest in meddling in far away countries. And somehow its processes are so designed that it is easier to waste a 100 billion per year than it is to sit back and figure out what the aims are, where the carrots and sticks are most likely to work and now to apply them.
  3. The threat of withdrawal is not necessarily a bad idea. There is an obvious moral hazard in this situation, where Afghan (and other anti-Taliban parties, including India, Iran, Russia, China etc) have limited incentive to shape up or step up as long as the US is walking around with a generous checkbook and a tremendous fighting force willing to act on their behalf. In better hands, this might have been exactly the way to make everyone shoulder their own share of the burden.. but these are not “better hands”. Trump has no plan and less interest in any good (or bad) outcome. I find it hard to imagine that this could end up as a US “win”. As a US citizen, I will be happy if it does, but I am not holding my breath.
  4. Pakistan, supposedly the “winner” in this war, will not find victory too satisfying. The Taliban will not take orders (I mean they probably WILL entertain requests to kill X or Y as a favor to us, but they won’t do things they don’t want to do anyway), anti-Taliban Afghans will not roll over and play dead. India will continue to support them and Indian support is not insignificant. Russia, Iran and even China probably do not want a Taliban govt either. Instead of peace, we will have renewed civil war and more violence, not less violence. (Including blowback IN Pakistan). While the US may pay us (directly or more likely, indirectly via Gulf allies) for help in getting out, they will not keep paying once they are out. And they may not leave either. They may stick around to support the rump Afghan regime, and may pay troublemakers in Pakistan. And China will never be as generous as Uncle Sam used to be. Our troubles will not end with “victory” in Afghanistan.
  5. It would have been better to work WITH the US to stabilize a pro-US Afghan regime back in 2002 instead of playing double games. The cost of these games may extend beyond “victory”.
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(Machine) Learning Biases

Cross posting from Ali Minai’s excellent “Barbarikon” blog (this is, of course, Ali Minai’s writing, not mine)

 In a recent tweet, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – widely known as AOC – responded to a report from Amazon that facial recognition technology sometimes identified women as men when they have darker skin. She said:

When you don’t address human bias, that bias gets automated. Machines are reflections of their creators, which means they are flawed, & we should be mindful of that. It’s one good reason why diversity isn’t just “nice,” it’s a safeguard against trends like this

While I agree with the sentiment underlying her tweet, she is profoundly wrong about what is at play here, which can happen when you apply your worldview (i.e. biases) to things you’re not really familiar with. To be fair, we all do it, but here it is AOC, who is an opinion-maker and should be more careful. The error she makes here, though, is an interesting one, and get to some deep issues in AI.

The fact that machine learning algorithms misclassify people with respect to gender, or even confuse them with animals, is not because they are picking up human biases as AOC claims here. In fact, it because they are not picking up human biases – those pesky intuitions gained from instinct and experience that allow us to perceive subtle cues and make correct decisions. The machine, lacking both instinct and experience, focuses only on visual correlations in the data used to train it, making stupid errors such as relating darker skin with male gender. This is also why machine learning algorithms end up identifying humans as apes, dogs, or pigs – with all of whom humans do share many visual similarities. As humans, we have a bias to look past those superficial similarities in deciding whether someone is a human. Indeed, it is when we decide to override our natural biases and sink (deliberately) to the same superficial level as the machine that we start calling people apes and pigs. The errors being made by machines do not reflect human biases; they expose the superficial and flimsy nature of human bigotry.

There is also a deeper lesson in this for humans as well. Our “good” biases are not all just coded in our genes. They are mostly picked up through experience. When human experience becoming limited, we can end up having the same problem as the machine. If a human has never seen a person of a race other than their own, it is completely natural for them to initially identify such a person as radically different or even non-human. That is the result of a bias in the data (experience, in this case), not a fundamental bias in the mind. This is why travelers in ancient times brought back stories of alien beings in distant lands, which were then exaggerated into monstrous figures on maps etc. This situation no longer exists in the modern world, except when humans try to create it artificially through racist policies.

The machine too is at the mercy of data bias, but its situation is far worse than that of a human. Even if it is given an “unbiased” data set that includes faces of all races, genders, etc., fairly, it is being asked to learn to recognize gender (in this instance) purely from pictures. We recognize gender not only from a person’s looks, but also from how they sound, how they behave, what they say, their name, their expressions, and a thousand other things. We deprive the machine of all this information and then ask it to make the right choice. That is a huge data bias, comparable to learning about the humanity of people from distant lands through travelers’ tales. On top of that, the machine also has much simpler learning mechanisms. It is simply trying to minimize its error based on the data it was given. Human learning involves much more complicated things that we cannot even fully describe yet except in the most simplistic or metaphorical terms.

The immediate danger in handing over important decision-making to intelligent machines is not so much that they will replicate human bigotries, but that,within their limited capacities and limited data, they will fail to replicate the biases that make us fair, considerate, compassionate, and, well, human.

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Watching Shtisel.. (and Turkish TV)

We have been watching the Israeli TV serial “Shtisel” the last few days  (it is available on Netflix). I find the availability of foreign serials on Netflix a very good development; We watched Yunus Emre (a Turkish serial about the Turkish Sufi poet; a sort of less famous Rumi) and enjoyed it.  Turkish serials have good production values, though the propaganda requirements of modern Turkey can be heavy handed (and therefore the depictions of 13th Century Turks are likely to be not even close to accurate), but even so, at least they shed light on what contemporary Turkish media mavens regard as desirable. Yunus Emre is about “spiritual” matters, so the propaganda is not a huge issue (no more than what it would be in a Western production), but it is a much bigger element in Ertrugul.. another series worth sampling (though it is extremely long, so don’t even try to watch it all). The propaganda in this series completely dominates any actual historical record that may be buried under it. Still, at least one can see what kind of founding myth the neo-Ottomans want to project (short version: The torch of Islamdom is passed to the vigorous (though as yet insignificant) Ottomans as the Seljuks and others are falling to the Mongols and the vicious conspiracies of the Crusaders; the spiritual side of this great clash is being handled by Ibn ul Arabi on the Islamic side and the Templar Grand Master on the Christian side). 

Shtisel is far closer to reality than either of the Turkish serials I mentioned (it is also set in contemporary times, so that makes a difference, though the Turkish serials set in current times are much more crudely propagandistic as well). I have never been to Israel and don’t know a lot about the Haredi community, but what little I know (mostly from reading the news and from conversations with a couple of Israeli colleagues), this seems to be a very realistic (and very sympathetic) portrayal of this ultra-orthodox community. Some of the subtler plot elements may be missed by viewers who have no knowledge of Israeli society, but maybe the serial will be gateway to learning more?

I have only seen about 6 episodes, so I have no idea how it holds up later.. still, check it out.

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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. 

CENTRAL INDIA CAMPAIGN ; A SMALL AFFAIR APART FROM MUCH RHETORIC

Chapter Seven: The Central India Campaign 1857-1859

Maj (Retd) AGHA HUMAYUN AMIN

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 !!

INITIAL DEVELOPMENT OF TROOPS

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.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE REBELLION IN CENTRAL INDIA AND RAJPUTANA

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”

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