UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Mar 09

09 March 1858

Bahadur Shah Zafar was sentenced to deportation


What happened?

On 9 March, 1858, on the concluding day of the trial of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, he was sentenced to be deported on account of his involvement in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.

Bahadur Shah Zafar is an important personality in modern Indian history as he was the last emperor of the Mughal Empire and also the figurehead around which the Revolt of 1857 unfolded. So, his life story is important for the UPSC exam. In this article, you can read about Bahadur Shah’s biography for the IAS exam.

Background

  • Bahadur Shah II, better known as Bahadur Shah Zafar, was crowned the emperor of Delhi on 28 September 1837.
  • His reign largely was centred on Delhi as the once mighty Mughal Empire had weakened and disintegrated.
  • The Sepoy Mutiny broke out in 1857 and the sepoys rallied around the emperor. He was practically powerless, but the mutineers were fighting in the name of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the Emperor of India.
  • He was just a figurehead and could do nothing in the face of the sepoys’ determination and powers.
  • Of course, he did give public consent to the revolt. He did not have much choice.
  • When it became clear that the East India Company was gaining an upper hand in Delhi, he fled from his palace and hid in Humayun’s Tomb along with some of his family members.
  • But Major William Hodson arrested him on 20 September 1857.
  • After his arrest, his two sons and a grandson were shot and killed in public by Hodson.
  • Bahadur Shah’s trial took place at the Red Fort. It was the first trial to happen there.
  • Whether the Company had the authority to try the emperor is a big question. The company’s legal powers in India stemmed from the Mughal court when it was granted the diwani of Bengal after the Battle of Plassey which took place a hundred years before the mutiny.
  • The trial began on 27th January 1858. It went on for 41 days. Most of the time, Zafar seemed to be unaware of what was going on, but briefly he would defend himself saying that he was powerless before the sepoys. But the prosecutor said that the mutiny was the result of the dynastic ambitions of the emperor.
  • The trial ended on 9 March 1858 and Zafar was found guilty on the following 4 charges when the verdict was given at 3:00 PM.
    • Giving aid and abetting the troops’ mutiny.
    • Motivating and helping people in waging war against the British government.
    • Assuming sovereignty over Hindustan.
    • Causing the murder of Christians.
  • His unanimous guilty verdict would have given him the death sentence but Hodson had promised him not to give him death if he surrendered. His promise was kept and Zafar was deported to Burma.
  • On 7 October 1858, in the wee hours of the morning, Zafar and his wives and the two remaining sons left for Burma in bullock carts.
  • Of course, the occupying troops entered the Red Fort and stole valuables and artifacts, most of which can be seen in the various museums of Britain.
  • He died in Burma in 1862 at the age of 87.
Also on this day

1836: Birth of Navalram Lakshmiram Pandya, eminent Gujarati critic and playwright.

 

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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