We have all heard of Aron Rolston, subject of the hugely successful movie ‘127 hours’ who had cut his own arm to for survival. The role was essayed by James franco in the movie.
However, not many people are aware of Babu Kunwar Singh, a patriot who played a very important role during the 1857 freedom struggle in spite of being an Octogenarian. In fact, during this struggle he cut off his own hand and still continued resisting the British armies wherever possible.
The story of Veer Kunwar Singh is a tale of supreme sacrifice and awe inspiring. The military commander who was born in 1777 staged a rebellion against the British forces in the great mutiny of 1857 at the difficult age of 80. Even then, his heroics and persona convinced the troops of British East India Company at Danapur (Bihar) to revolt and swore their allegiance to Kunwar.
The Beginning of a revolution by “The rebel of Arrah”
The revolutionaries fought a battle with British forces in Arrah, Bihar to gain control of district headquarters. Despite being outnumbered and having lesser artillery might, Kunwar Singh’s army defeated the Britishers sending a strong message to the empire. Due to his battlefield skills at this age, Kunwar was regarded as “The rebel of Arrah”.
Numerous battles and inspiration to other rebels
The British didn’t relent and kept fighting to regain control. Under the command of Major Vincent Eyre, the British troops won and destroyed the city of Jagdishpur. The loss didn’t deter Kunwar Singh to achieve his goal of British free India and thus he quickly moved out of Bihar and marched to Lucknow. He inspired numerous revolutionaries to take up arms and fight British troops in areas surrounding Lucknow. His forces crushed Brigadier Douglas’s army to take Azamgarh.
The tribute to river Ganges
But, once again, he couldn’t continue to hold his territory due to successive attacks by British army. At this moment, Kunwar Singh thought backtracking to his home in Arrah. While crossing river Ganges at Shivpur (Balia), Douglas’s army opened cannon fire which severely injured Kunwar’s left wrist. The fear of excessive blood loss and infection due to bullet injury, Kunwar unsheathed his sword and cut his hand himself and offered it to the river Ganges as tribute.
The final battle and Kunwar’s lifelong invincibility
The amputation caused blood loss which contributed to his rapidly deteriorating health. Even in those circumstances, he primed for yet another battle against Captain Le Grand. This battle near Jagdishpur proved to be his last one as he succumbed to his injuries on 26th April, 1858. He remained invincible till the end by setting an example in front of his cavalry by fighting the war with one hand.
Contribution to the social cause to strengthen the societal roots
Kunwar Singh was not only a great commander but a social leader too. During his struggle, he took several initiatives for the betterment of the Indian society and challenged social taboos which were impeding growth. He made efforts to unite Hindu and Muslim soldiers because he knew how British rulers had cashed in on this communal divide. He fought for equal status for women and also the downtrodden dalits and other deprived communities of India.