Bring back the mortal remains of Bahadur Shah Zafar from Rangoon

Bahadur Shah Zafar

On coming 10 May is the 161th anniversary of 1857 – the country’s First War of Independence. 10th May 1857 is the day when the brave Indian soldiers first raised the war-cry for independence against the British regime. To secure freedom for the country by breaking the chains of slavery, on 10th May the soldiers started from Meerut, reaching Delhi on 11th May. In Delhi they requested emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar to lead the First War of Independence. The emperor, at the age of 82, accepted to head the struggle as the suggested by the soldiers and the citizens who had come along with them. It was an important day for India’s struggle for freedom and for the combined Hindu-Muslim heritage of the country. The soldiers could not win the battle due to several reasons, which included the betrayal by some fellow Indians. In this First War of Independence which continued for about 6 months in Delhi and for about a year in the other parts of the country, lakhs of soldiers and common citizens achieved martyrdom. The British subjected the emperor to charges in the military court and in October 1858 sent him in imprisonment to Rangoon. At the age of 87, on 7 November 1862, he passed away in Rangoon and was buried there in the darkness of anonymity.

The Socialist Party has appealed to the president of India earlier in 2013 to bring back the mortal remains of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the emperor who was an excellent poet and secular ruler of his times. The party had presented a memorandum to the president in this regard. Senior member of the Socialist Party Justice Rajindar Sachar met the president personally in this regard.

Last year, on the 160th anniversary of the First War of Independence, Dr. Prem Singh, president, Socialist Party, again appealed to the president to bring back the mortal remains of Bhadur Shah Zafar before the end of his illustrious tenure.

The Socialist Party, in continuation of its efforts, once again submits the memorandum to the present president Shri Ram Nath Kovind requesting him to fulfill the long-pending demand. The Socialist Party believes that this will strengthen and honour the combined heritage of the country’s First War of Independence.

A copy of the memorandum, sent to the president, is attached.

Date: 8 May 2018


His Excellency
Shri Ram Nath Kovind
President of India

Sub. : Request to bring back the mortal remains of Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Most Respected Sir

The Socialist Party would like to request you to direct the Indian government to bring back the mortal remains of Bahadur Shah Zafar from Rangoon (presently Yangon), Myanmar, to Delhi. The Socialist Party takes inspiration from the thoughts of Dr. Rammanohar Lohia. Dr. Lohia had suggested that in case a leader passes away in a foreign country, her/his last rites should be performed there itself. The Socialist Party accepts this view of Dr. Lohia that would lead to strengthen the bonds of world brotherhood. But the case of Zafar was all together different. He was arrested by the imperialist rulers, tried and brought to Rangoon in captivity in 1857. He passed away there on 7 November 1862, at the age of 87, longing for two yards of mother land for his burial. Zafar, a poet of his own style, expressed his pains of exile in his famous couplet: ‘kitnaa hai badnaseeb Zafar dafn ke liye, do gaz zamin bhi na mili kuu-e-yaar mein’.

As you know, it is a long pending demand made by several citizens of India time to time. The first such request was made by the Bahadur Shah Zafar Memorial Society in 1949. However, the government has not conceded the demand though it knows very well that Zafar had expressed the desire to be buried in India after his death.

One can understand that the colonial rulers kept Zafar, the symbol of revolt and Hindu-Muslim unity, in captivity and then buried him in exile as a non-entity. But it remains unexplained why the rulers of free India are not ready, even symbolically, to undo the insult and injustice meted out to Zafar by at least bringing back his remains to India and put him to rest at the place of his choice – Dargah Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki at Mehrauli, where an empty grave awaits his remains.

Sir, the demand to bring back the remains of Bahadur Shah Zafar to India is not merely an emotional issue for the Socialist Party. Zafar was the leader of our First War of Independence against the colonial powers and a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. Therefore, it should be the duty of the Indian government to bring back his remains. Further, a grand memorial should be constructed in the memory of the martyrs of 1857 for the benefit of present and future generations..

We would like to draw your kind attention towards the tribute paid to Zafar by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, addressing a ceremonial parade of INA at his tomb at Yangon. Netaji ended his speech quoting famous couplet of Zafar: ‘Ghazion mein bu rahegi jab talak iman ki/ Takht-e-London tak chalegi tegh Hindostan ki!’ (As long as there is faith in the heart of the freedom fighters/ The sword of India will pierce through the throne of London). Netaji declared on that occasion, ‘‘This parade is the first occasion when India’s new revolutionary army is paying homage to the spirit of the supreme commander of India’s first revolutionary army.’’

Sir, we make a sincere appeal to you to kindly take personal interest in this matter of great importance and convince the government to concede to the long-pending demand at the earliest.

With best regards

Sincerely yours

Dr. Prem Singh
Socialist Party (India)


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