Waris Ali, the lesser known hero of 1857 in Tirhut

One of the letters seized from Waris Ali, informs William Tayler, expressed resentment against the wealth amassed by the European planters. The same day, he was hanged till death.

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Prof Mohammad Sajjad

On 10th  May 1857, the upsurge started from the Meerut cantonment and since then Bihar was on the verge of similar insurrection. On 12 June 1857, the Rebellion started from Rohini (Deoghar, now in Jharkhand), therefore the headquarters of  the regiment was shifted from there to Bhagalpur but here also another rebellion began in August 1857.

The fearful  European planters had started demanding protection from the district administration. Wahabi leaders began to be arrested. It may be noted here that, in Bihar, besides the Sadiqpur family of so called Wahabis, two more groups were active against the British. One was called the ‘Lucknow Group’ consisting of the people like Peer Ali, Yusuf Ali, Imamuddin and Masihuzzaman and the other was called the ‘Delhi Group’, consisting  of the people like Ali Karim (zamindar of Dumri, Gaya) and Waris Ali.

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It was this ‘Delhi Group’, which was alleged to have planned to induce the Danapur sepoys with money and other incentives to rebel against the British. The two groups combined and planned to start an uprising on Friday, 3rd  July 1857. Ali Karim had to be elected as the ruler of the province. The raja of Bettiah was also suspected to have been involved in the plot. In Patna,  the  Commissioner, William Tayler invited  some Muslim notables of Patna on  dinner  and  then treacherously arrested them on 19th  June 1857.

They included Molvi Md Husain, Molvi Ahmadullah and Molvi Waizul Haq. The next day all Muslims were ordered to submit their weapons in the thanas. Merely on doubts, quite a large number of Muslims were arrested in the town of Muzaffarpur and in the villages like Singhia and Lalganj.

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On 23rd June 1857, Waris Ali, the Jamadar of Muzaffarpur, was arrested from Baruraj police chowki, where he was poste, ‘by Mr Robertson, the Assistant Magistrate and some indigo planters, with his horse saddled, his goods packed and in the act of writing to tell Ali Karim that he had resolved to join him at once’.

‘He was a man who had been for years in the district, and knew well what he was about, himself of high family, as is said, with the Royal Family of Delhi, and possessed of considerable property’.

The Jamadar was sent to Major Holmes,  at Sugauli, for being hanged but the latter sent him to Danapur to take his trial in the court of the Commissioner.

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Some accounts say, he was tried by the Commissioner, Willaim Tayler, and on 6th July 1857, he was declared guilty of possessing some letters which were considered to be treasonable correspondences with one Ali Karim (the zamindar of Dumri, Gaya) and, therefore he was sentenced to death.

One of the letters seized from Waris Ali, informs William Tayler, expressed resentment against the wealth amassed by the European planters. The same day, he was hanged till death. William Tayler, the Commissioner, says, “The Najeeb was hanged on the evening of 23rd  (July) at 6 PM. He had, during his confinement, simulated madness, but met his death, as most Mahomedans do, with calmness and fortitude”.

The accounts of Shaad Azimabadi record that Peer Ali, the associate of Waris Ali, did mobilize people also to protect their deen and dharma, i.e. faith.

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In 1855, government decided to withdraw the brass vessels (lotahs) and introduce earthen vessels in the jails. This particular decision infuriated the prisoners of the jails of Arrah and Muzaffarpur. In fact, in April 1854, one of the prisoners of the Alipur (24 Pargana, Bengal) jail had hit the unpopular jailor Richardson with the brass vessel and killed him.

This incident led to the decision of replacing the brass vessel with earthen vessel, in the jails of Muzaffarpur (Tirhut District) and Arrah (Shahabad District), but it hit the religious sensibilities of the Hindus as the metal brass, in use since ancient days, carried some religious sanctity. The decision was greatly  resented by the prisoners as well as the common people of the respective districts.

A large crowd of ryots and the town  people had come out on the streets of Muzaffarpur against this decision and had attacked the jail, setting the prisoners free. This was probably a re-enactment of what had happened with the Bastille Prison House of Paris during the French Revolution of 1789.

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This mass assertion brought the colonial state on its knees and the brass vessels were again allowed to be used. Shaad Azimabadi (1846-1927), a famous Urdu poet and writer of Patna, has written some accounts like Tarikh e Bihar (1876) and Naqsh e Paidar, where he has noted that this lotah uprising was the brainchild of Waris Ali, claiming  to be a  relative  of the Mughal  Emperor and posted as  police Jamadar of  Baruraj in Tirhut (Muzaffarpur).

After Waris Ali’s Execution, Ghazi Khan, Khairati khan, Meer Hidayat Khan, Wazir Khan, Kallu khan & many more policemen were arrested & were expelled from their jobs & all their assets were sealed in mid August 1857 after a trial. They all were sentenced life imprisonment. Along with them Sheikh Qurban Ali too was suspended from his Police Job. His all assets were sealed & was awarded 3 years imprisonment.

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One thing has to be noted that ‘Zameendaars’ of Motipur, Bakhra, Narhan & nearby areas helped Britishers a lot in crushing the revolt.

After Independence the road from Motijheel to Rail Godown was named as Waris Ali Road; later corrupted in common parlance as Warsalli Road……. Now With time even this name has vanished.

Author is with Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University.

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