When Rani of Jhansi wrote on gold pa­per to lawyer

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - NATION - Ra­jesh Ahuja ra­jesh.ahuja@hin­dus­tan­times.com

NEWDELHI: A let­ter writ­ten in Per­sian on ‘gold pa­per’ brought the Aus­tralian John Lang, who stud­ied law in Eng­land and had made In­dia his home, face-to-face with the Rani Jhansi Laxmi Bai whose life will soon be de­picted on sil­ver screen by Bol­ly­wood star Kan­gana Ra­naut.

The year was 1854. The or­der for an­nex­a­tion of Jhansi had been passed the pre­vi­ous month.

The Rani was in­ter­ested in Lang be­ing her rep­re­sen­ta­tive be­fore East In­dia Com­pany and fight­ing the case against the an­nex­a­tion.

Lang de­voted a full chap­ter to “The Ra­nee of Jhansi” in his 1861 book ‘Wanderings in In­dia — Sketches of Life in Hin­dostan’ that was first pub­lished in 1861.

Three years back, the book was re­pub­lished by Har-Anand pub­li­ca­tions.

In re­cent years, there has been re­newed in­ter­est in John Lang and his life in In­dia, es­pe­cially after Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi in 2014 gifted his then Aus­tralian coun­ter­part Tony Ab­bott a copy of the pe­ti­tion filed by Lang on be­half of Laxmi Bai.

Lang writes that the to­tal rev­enue of ‘lit­tle prov­ince’ of Jhansi was around Rs 6 lakh per an­num and after dis­burs­ing the gov­ern­ment ex­penses and pay­ing the troops in her late hus­band’s ser­vice, Rani Laxmi Bai used to be left with around Rs 2.5 lakh in profit. Troops, mainly horse­men, were less than 1000 in all. When Jhansi was an­nexed, the East In­dia Com­pany de­cided to pay her a yearly pen­sion of Rs 60,000 which would be paid monthly.

The queen wasn’t keen on the an­nex­a­tion, a de­ci­sion that Lang at­tributes partly to the fi­nan­cial as­pects of it. That made Laxmi Bai sum­mon Lang, who died at the age of 48 in Mus­soorie in 1864.

The queen, Manikarnika or Manu was born in 1828 into a fam­ily of Ma­ha­rash­trian Brah­mins. She took the name of Laxmi Bai fol­low­ing her mar­riage to Jhansi king Raja Gan­gad­har Rao Ne­walkar who died with­out a bi­o­log­i­cal heir; weeks prior to his death he had adopted a six-year-old boy from his ex­tended fam­ily.

Lang writes that the Jhansi Raja was “par­tic­u­larly faith­ful to the Bri­tish and Gover­nor Gen­eral Wil­liam Bentinck had pre­sented his brother a Bri­tish en­sign and let­ter giv­ing him ti­tle of ‘Ra­jah’ and also as­sured him that the ti­tle and the in­de­pen­dence at­tached to it would be guar­an­teed by the Bri­tish to him, the Ra­jah and his heirs and suc­ces­sors (by adop­tion).”

“That that treaty (for such it pur­ported to be) of Lord Wil­liam Bentinck was vi­o­lated with­out the slight­est shadow of a pre­tence, there can­not be any doubt,” he adds.

Lang writes that the Bri­tish may have had a prob­lem with the ti­tle of Ra­jah pass­ing on, more than any­thing else.

Laxmi Bai sent a large com­fort­able palan­quin car­riage to fetch Lang from Agra to Jhansi, a jour­ney of two days.

The palan­quin was fit­ted with ev­ery con­ve­nience in­clud­ing a punkah (fan) which was pulled form out­side by a ser­vant who sat upon a foot board. “In the car­riage, be­sides my­self and the min­is­ter and va­keel (who were sent to bring Lang) there was a khansamah or but­ler who with ap­pa­ra­tus be­tween his knees, kept cool­ing wa­ter, wine and beer, in or­der that, when­ever I felt thirsty, I might be sup­plied at a mo­ment’s no­tice. The enor­mous car­riage was drawn by a pair of horses of im­mense strength and swift­ness.” The horses were im­ported from France, he writes.

In the palace he met the young son of the Ra­jah and caught a glimpse of the queen although she spoke to him from be­hind a pur­dah.

Lang told Laxmi Bai that the Gover­nor Gen­eral had no power to re­store the ti­tle and recog­nise the claim of the adopted son with­out a ref­er­ence to Eng­land and pru­dent course would be to pe­ti­tion the Bri­tish throne and mean­while draw the pen­sion un­der protest. Rani re­fused to do this and said, “Mera Jhansi nahin dengee” (I will not give up my Jhansi).

Lang said her op­po­si­tion might end up jeop­ar­dis­ing her lib­erty. Fi­nally at Lang’s per­sua­sion, she re­lented but said she would not draw any pen­sion from the Bri­tish. Lang lost her case and the rest is his­tory.

The Rani was in­ter­ested in Aus­tralian lawyer John Lang be­ing her rep­re­sen­ta­tive be­fore East In­dia Com­pany and fight­ing the case against the an­nex­a­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.