The Muslim Who Started First War of Independence
The Mutiny of 1857 brought forth a number of heroes of freedom struggle with out whom the history of the first war of Indian independence would be incomplete.
One such personality was Fatehpur's Deputy Collector Hikmathullah Khan .
After giving up his authoritative post of Deputy Collector during the period when even a peon of the British had a lot of authority over the Indians, Hikmathullah raised a revolt against the aliens and declared Fatehpur Independent on June 10th, 1857. Soon after the independence of Fatehpur, the revolt spread in the whole of Nothern belt including Lucknow, Kanpur and Allahabad. The British author and Collector of that period, J.W. Sharar, held the Deputy Collector, Hikmathullah Khan responsible for the revolt of 1857. In his book Life during the Indian Mutiny, Sharar addresses him as number one enemy and traitor of the British and held him solely responsible for the outbreak of Mutiny.
As per the happenings soon after the revolt by Hikmathullah, the British got anxious and majority of them fled for safety. Frightened with the rebellious mood of Hikmathullah and his companions, the Collector J.W. Sharar handed over night charge to chief civil officer and Judge, Robert Thakkar and fled to a place called Chilla of Banda district.
All the secretaries of Lord Canning, either went underground or fled to Chilla for fear of assault by the companions of Hikmathullah. According to the secret report of the British officer, Joseph, the District Magistrate, Robert Thakkar, who was also a missionary agent, along with his force went on a killing spree, shooting the unarmed freedom seekers and who so ever was found on road whether he offered any resistance or not.
From the other side, under the command of Hikmathullah, Dariyan Singh, Shivdayal Singh and Baba Gayadin Dubey of Jamranwa, Maulvi Liaqat Ali of Allahabad, Maulvi Ahmedullah Shah of Faizabad, General Tikka Singh and Jwala Prashad Sarike trapped District Magistrate Robert Thakkar and asked him to surrender, which he refused. On his refusal Hikmathullah gave instructions to Baba Gayadin Dubey, who shot dead Robert Thakkar.
As soon as Thakkar died the soldiers surrendered and the state treasury was taken possession of by Hikmathullah and his companions. The prisoners were freed by opening the Jails and an independent government was formed which functioned successfully for thirty two days. On June 13th, 1857 J.W. Sharar narrating the incident of June 10th, 1857 wrote a letter to his wife, describing the events as follows.
"Poor Joseph has escaped from Fatehpur to bring us the news of Mr Thakkar's death. He was shot by order of Deputy Collector. The whole plot at Fatehpur was a Mohammadan Conspiracy, Frank mentioned to one of Lord Canning's secretaries, that Fatehpur was lost at 10th June and fell into the hands of an influential band of Mohammadan conspirators headed by Deputy Magistrate and collector of the District. They have opened the jail and got possession of the treasury nine lacs. A Hitler Nawab was setup but the Deputy collector is the principal Manager." (Private Correspondence - J.W. Sharar).
The hoisting of Indian flag at Fatehpur was disliked by the British. Lord Canning was very worried about this daring act of the Indians. General Havelock and Ronald were appointed on June 20th, 1857, to overpower Hikmathullah and his companions. With this aim in mind General Havelock and Ronald proceeded with a large force towards Fatehpur. They were moving ahead after causing a lot of destruction and bloodshed on the way. On July 8th the Britishers recaptured Khaga. According to a strategy General Havelock remained at Khaga and asked General Ronald to proceed to Fatehpur.
General Ronald found the route very sensitive and was able to reach Bilanda after a great struggle. Here instead of using manpower to crush Hikmathullah, General Ronald started sending feelers to gauge the situation and in the process he started parleys with the people who could be effective in betraying Indians. General Ronald was successful in getting some of the prominent people as his informers.
On July 12th, 1857, General Havelock also reached Bilanda and, after great resistance and bloodshed, was able to corner Hikmathullah and his associates. Heavy fighting started from both sides but inspite of having a very large army the Britishers were unable to get hold of Hikmathullah. It was only after the traitors helped General Havelock that he was able to overpower and nab Hikmathullah.
Hikmathullah, without even a judicial trial, was beheaded on July 12th, 1857 for murderous attack on General Havelock. In order to teach patriotic Indians a lesson, the head of Hikmathullah was hanged at the gate of the police station for one week.
After cornering Hikmathullah General Havelock created havoc in the area. In a letter to London General Havelock wrote that they had achieved a very big victory and that the wealth collected after taking over of Fatehpur was indescribable. Fatehpur was burning and not even a single pathan child of twelve years was spared during the mass slaughter.
According to some historians, had there not been treachery from some of the locals and had the Britisher not caught him unwares then General Havelock would not have been able to leave the vicinity of Fatehpur and would have been killed and Kanpur, Lucknow, Jhansi, Allahabad, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh would have been independent of the clutches of the British.
Therefore, the role of Hikmathullah gets underlined as virtually triggering off the First War of Indian Independence.