Monday, July 2, 2007

BITHOR,where human race on earth was propagated and Tatya Tope spent his life before he was galloped, neglected; district magistrate humiliates heirs

Bithoor, where human race on earth was propagated and Tatya Tope spent his life before he was galloped, neglected; district magistrate humiliates Tatya’s starved and malnutrited heirs, live and continue to languish in squalour and anonymity

BITHOOR (KANPUR) : Clad with Marathi dhoti and banyan, neglected and malnutrited Vinayak Rao Tope, 52, and his 18-year son Ashutosh Tope were sitting at Gajanan Kirana and General Store (at the premises of Ram Chandra Pandurang @ Tatya Tope’s house) at Lava-Kusha Nagar of Bithoor - a place of great antiquity - situated on the bank of River Ganga, about 30 kilometer from Kanpur.

It is here at Bithoor that Brahma, the God of creation, performed the grate horse sacrifice for propagating the human race on earth and Tatya Tope came here at the age of four with Baji Rao Peshwa-II and fought with the British army during the first war of Independence in 1857 before he was galloped in 1859.

The people of Bithoor, especially the new generation, does not know who is Vinayak Rao Tope and his ancestors’ contributions in the freedom struggle. Thanks to district and state administration and political system of the country. Old timers of this pious village, however, hailed their sacrifice for the nation.Time has changed, so the humanity of the people.

On June 25 this year, Anurag Srivastava, the district magistrate of Kanpur has ‘humiliated’ Vinayak Rao Tope and his two daughters – Pragati and Tripti – and forced them to get out from his office when the latter visited his office for a domicile certificate which is mandatory for any government employment. The certificate was later issued by Mrs Nirmala Singh, president of Nagar Panchayat, Bithoor

“Our ancestors spent more than 200 years in Bithoor. Our ancestors came this village during Baji Rao Peshwa-II and settled here. They, especially Tatya Tope, fought the first war of independence in 1857 and sacrificed his life. Today, the district administrators are not ready to listen us. What kind of treatment we are getting?” Vinayak Rao Tope with tear in his eyes said to a Delhi-based couple – Neena Jha and Shivnath Jha – who was in Bithoor with a mission to rehabilitate Tatya Tope’s heirs to promote the secular philosophy of late shehnai maestro ustad Bismillah Khan.

The couple had launched a nationwide movement “Andolan Ek Puystak Se” under the aegis of Bismillah:The Beginning Foundation, a trust, to protect those musicians, artists, academicians and others who have brought laurels and pride to the nation.

The story of Bithoor is told in the Puranas that the Lord Vishnu, after having created the earth, asked Brahma to create human beings to inhabit it. Thereupon Brahma brought certain Saints into existence, but they began to live a life of austerity and would not propagate their race.On the prayer of Brahma, the Lord Vishnu then advised him to perform a Yagna (sacrifice) and to perform it at the most sacred place on the earth - the forest of the name of Utpalaranyan. So, Brahma performed the Yagna here after installing the image of Lord Shiva and naming it Brahmeshawra Mahadeva.

On the completion of Yagna Brahma created Swayambhuva Manu and his wife, Queen Satrupa through whom the world began to propagate. At the place of yagna, Brahma also fixed a nail of the shoe of the sacrificial horse. Legend has it that the nail which is now seen embedded in one of the steps of the Brahmeshwara Ghat in Bithoor is the original nail which, along with the temple of Brahmeshwara Mahadeva on the bank of river Ganga, commemorates the exact place of Brahma’s yagna. On the completion of the yagna, the forest of Utpalaranyan became known as Brahmavarta from which the popular name Bithoor has been derived.

It is in Brahmavarta (Bithoor) that the sage, Valmiki, the famous author of the Sanskrit Ramayan known after his name, has his hermitage. On that spot, which is on a high mound, there now stands ancient temple known as the Valmiki Temple. The temple was renovated and added to by Peshwa Baji Rao-II.

In the premises of the temple there is a place called Sita Kund which is said to mark the spot where mother Sita had disappeared in the bosom of the Earth.It was in the area of Brahmavart forest that Mother Sita was, in a pregnant state, left by Lakshman at the bidding of Rama. From here she was taken in protection by sage Valmiki. Two sons – Lava and Kusha – were born to her.

According to the Ramayana of Valmiki, Lava and Kusha defeated the armies of their father.

In May 1818, Baji Rao-II, the last Peshwa of Poona, suffered a severe reverse in a battle with the forces of the East India Company commanded by Brigadier General Malcolm. Lest the Peshwa might recoup himself or other developments unfavorable to the British might take place, General Malcon hastened to make certain offers to Baji Rao with a view to obtaining his surrender.One of the propositions was that if Baji Rao resigned the sovereignty of kingdom of Poona he should receive a pension of not less than eight lakhs of rupees per annum.

Accepting the terms, Baji Rao surrendered his kingdom. But he did not wish to settle at Varanasi and preferred Bithoor.Baji Rao had no children of his own. He loved children though and was very fond of little Ram Chandra Pandurang @ Tatya Tope. Ramchandra grew up spending most of his time in the Peshwa's palace in Bithoor. He tutored along with Nana Sahib, the Peshwa's oldest adopted son. Nana Sahib, ten years younger than Tatya, was awed by his intelligence and personality.

During Baji Rao Peshwa – II time more than 5000 Maratha families were migrated from Maratha to Bithoor. Today, barely two to three families including Vinayak Rao Tope are living in this village. Tantya Tope's heirs are now struggling to take out a bare survival.Back to Tatya Tope’s house. Vinayak Rao Tope opened a small grocery shop in January last year. He, a third generation descendant of Tantya Tope, sells grocery items and earns a pittance -- not enough for the sustenance of the entire family. He also earns some food from his 'jajmans' (masters) by conducting religious ceremonies from them. Due to the poverty, daughters in the family were deprived of higher education.

“Kaun dekhta hai? Kaun sunta hai? Chandra Shekhar jab pradhan mantri the tab mere ghar aaye they, bahut ummid dilayi thi, lekin kuch nahin hua. Dilli se neta log aayey, sabon ne santwana di, kuch nahin hua,” Vinayak Rao Tope’s wife Saraswati, who hails from Gwalior, with tears in her eyes, said to Neena & Shivnath. All the three children were the silent expectators.

Between 1859 and 2007 millions of water flown in the river Ganga. But Tatya Tope Bhawan is still intact on the bank of river Ganga where Vinayak Rao Tope, his grate grandnephew and son of Narayan Rao Tope lives and continue to languish in squalour and anonymity.During their two days stay in Bithoor the couple met several local people, officials in the district administration and others. Vinayak Rao Tope's wife had to pay a bribe to secure sanction of pension in 1995 which is yet to see the light of the day. She reportedly paid Rs 500 as bribe for pension. Daughter Pragati is a teacher in the Laxmibai School on the salary of only Rs 600 a month. Her elder sister Tripti, a graduate, is still unemployed. Starvation and mal-nutrition mar the family.

In the reign of Akbar the Grate, a part of Bithoor pargana was included in the Sarkar of Kannauj belonging to the Suba of Agra. Latter, along with the district of kanpur, it fell into the hands of the Bangesh Nabab of Farrukhabad in 1738 and remained in his position till 1754 when the Marathas occupied it.

In 1801, Bithoor, along with the district of Kanpur and other large territories, was ceded to the East India Company by the Nabab Vazeer Shuja-ud-Daula under the treaty of November 10, 1801 and made Bithoor the headquarters of Kanpur.

Tatya Tope led many battles during this time. He started as one of the leaders of Nana Sahib's army during the first battle for the defense of Kanpur against the English force approaching from Allahabad in July 1857. Finally he was appointed General of the Peshwa Army. He led and fought many battles till the final defeat of the Peshwa's army and the fall of Kanpur.

He then strategically reorganized the army in Bithoor with the aim of regaining Kanpur. General Havelock, who was attempting to recapture Lucknow, had to return in panic for the protection of Kanpur. The British and Indian forces once again fought in Bithur on August 18, but the Peshwa's army was defeated.

In May 1857, when the political storm was gathering momentum against the British rule, Tatya Tope won over the Indian troops of the East India Company, stationed at Kanpur, established Nana Saheb's authority and became the Commander-in-Chief of his revolutionary forces. After the reoccupation of Kanpur and separation from Nana Saheb, Tantya Tope shifted his headquarters to Kalpi to join hands with Rani Lakshmi Bai and led a revolt in Bundelkhand. He was routed at Betwa, Koonch and Kalpi, but reached Gwalior and declared Nana Saheb as Peshwa with the support of the Gwalior contingent.Before he could consolidate his position, General Hugh Rose defeated him in a memorable battle in which Rani Lakshmi Bai underwent martyrdom.

After losing Gwalior to the British, he launched a successful guerilla campaign in the Sagar and Narmada regions and in Khandesh and Rajasthan. The British forces failed to subdue him for over a year. He was, however, betrayed into the hands of the British by his trusted friend Man Singh, Chief of Narwar, while asleep in his camp in the Paron forest. He was captured and taken to Sipri where he was tried by a military court and despatched to the gallows on April 18, 1859.

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