Trial of Mangal Pandey II

Posted by sepoy on August 12, 2005 · 5 mins read

On April 6th, 1857, the martial court assembled in the 34th Regiment Mess House to try Sepoy Mangal Pandey. Presiding was Subadar-Major Jawahir Lal Tiwari, with fourteen other native subadars as members of the court. The Judge-Advocate was Captain Hatch and Lt. James Vallings undertook the interpretation duties. Mangal Pandey, sepoy number 1446, 5th Company, 34th Regiment, Native Infantry had the following charges read:

1 - For mutiny, in having at Barrackpore, on the 29th March 1857, gone on to the parade ground in front of the quarter-guard of his regiment armed with a sword and musket, and then and there used words intending to incite the men of his regiment to turn out and join him in resistance to lawful authority.

2 - For having, on the occasion set forth in the first charge, used violence against his superior officers Sergeant-Major James Thornton Hewson and Lieutenant and Adjutant Bempde Henry Baugh, of the 34th Regiment, Native Infantry, by discharging at them, severally, his loaded musket, and then and there striking and wounding with his sword the said Lieutenant B. H. Baugh and Sergeant-Major Hewson.

Mangal Pandey plead not-guilty, his hand-cuffs were removed and the prosecution started with the first witnes, Lt. Col Wheeler, the Commanding Officer. He testified in general about what he observed happen on the 29th. He was asked if he had observed anything unusual among the sepoys lately. "Towards the latter end of January, there was much talk among the sepoys, I understood, of the new cartridges being made up, and in consequence they had an idea that we were going to make them Christians by force." The second witness was Sergeant-Major Hewson who testified while lying on a charpoy still wounded. The bulk of his testimony was about the conduct of sepoys while Mangal Pandey was inciting them. They had done nothing to help him subdue Mangal Pandey and had just stood there "talking between themselves". Mangal Pandey refused cross-examination.

Lt. Baugh was sworn in as the third witness. Baugh pointed out that no one except Sheikh Pultoo had lifted a finger to help him. Baugh was also severely hurt so he retired. The fourth witness was Drummer John Lewis who had been told by Mangal Pandey to sound the assembly. He saw Pandey extort another sepoy nearby, Why are you not getting ready? It is for our religion". He further testified that the Jamadar had not made any move or given any order to stop Mangal Pandey. The fifth witness was the recently promoted to Havilday Shaikh Pultoo. He was asked,
Was Sepoy Mangal Pandey in an excited state? He eats bhang; I do not know if he had eaten any then.

The prosecution rested and the prisoner was called upon to present his defense. These are the only words directly attributed to him in this history: "I did not know who I wounded and who I did not; what more shall I say? I have nothing more to say. I have no evidence." Next day, the Court found him guilty on both charges and called Captain Drury for character testimony:

Question - Has the prisoner been warned that his former convictions and general character will be brought into evidence against him?
Answer - There are no previous convictions; he has been warned as to his general character.
Question - What is the prisoner's general character?
Answer - Good.
Question - What is his age and length of service?
Answer - His age is twenty six years two months and nine days. His service is seven years two months and nine days.

Mangal Pandey was hanged the next evening at 5:30 in the presence of all assembled troops.

Such was the end of Mangal Pandey. The mutiny though was about to spread. On May 6th, 86 sepoys of the 3rd Native Light Cavalry refused to accept the cartridges. They were immediately tried, condemned and sentenced to ten years. The night of May 10th, the sepoys were set free by their companions and armed; 50 British men and women were killed. And the sepoy regiments began their march to the 82 year old Mughal pensioner Bahadur Shah Zafar's courtyard in Delhi. The mutiny spread all over North-Western provinces, Awadh etc. and lasted until November of 1859.
All quotes and material from Letters, Dispatches and Other State Papers, The Military Department of the Government of India 1857-1858. George W. Forrest, editor. vol. 1. Calcutta: Military Department Press, 1893.


Jonathan Dresner | August 12, 2005

That last dialogue sounds pretty pro forma: I have trouble imagining any circumstance in which the court would not have imposed the penalty that it did. Was it part of normal trial proceedings?

sepoy | August 12, 2005

You mean the character bit? Yeah, it was standard fare before sentencing. I doubt it changed anything in any case, though.

kabina | August 13, 2005

saw the movie last night. looks like the movie took quite a few artistic liberties (although no march from Meerut from Delhi under Mangal's command was depicted)...its interesting to compare "fact" with "folklore"...for the movie claims to be based largely on folklore and legends.. good movie

Kabina | August 13, 2005

Kabina, The "facts" that were presented by George W. Forrest may have been those from the British point of view. What is it that someone said about victors writing history. :-)

therealkabina | August 13, 2005

of course that is why i put fact in quotations...i was too lazy to go into the semantics of that statement...:-)

sepoy | August 13, 2005

Just to be clear: These two posts come from the trial transcripts of Mangal Pandey. The volume in question, edited by Forrest, is NOT a narrative - it is merely the collection of transcripts. As the trial took place BEFORE the uprising, it is hard to argue a case of "spin". All that aside, facts are not the whole story in the MP saga, clearly.

ravikumaran | August 14, 2005

High time, we stop calling Mangal Pandey, a hero and the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, The First War of Independence. Mangal Pandey's dissension to cartridges was a Mutiny. Lakshmibai's was a War of Independence. Why color history, when it is already in gray. And why have the Indian historians and chroniclers not done a better job of putting together unbiased accounts of our history?

Jane | August 15, 2005

This is really interesting. Thank you.

ravikumaran | August 15, 2005

For those intested in researching the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny and the First War for Indian Independence, Osprey Publishing ( well researched titles, amongst others. 1. The British Troops in the Indian Mutiny 1857ñ59 2. Bengal Cavalry Regiments 1857ñ1914 3. The British Army on Campaign (3) Of course,please do bear in mind, the historians are obviously British and therefore you would have to exercise your bettah judgement.

Mel Redr | August 17, 2005

ravikumar, Note that the cartridges were what precipitated the events that led to the rebellion. They are not the sole reason as British Historians would have you believe. The rebellion would be a "mutiny" if you accept that East India's rule is legitimate. Often the Indians were depicted as illogical, superstitious and lacking in honor to justify "civilizing" British rule - thus the Cartridge is depicted as the prime reason. I for one, know better than to mistake "History" as written by the British for the truth.

ravikumaran | August 17, 2005

I am not an apologist for the Raj. Rather, the custodians of British Raj still owe India an apology. Nevertheless, an independent India is doing well sans the British. Yet, we ought to study our history in its context. And that context should be unbiased, not concocted. The cartridges at Barrackpore or other cantonments, have not been proved conclusively to be laced with Bovine Tallow or Porcine Lard. Consequently, it is only fair to assume that in 148 years since the event, no empirical proof has been suggested or submitted by Indian historians to conclusively settle the issue of greased cartridges in favour of Mangal Pandey's claim. The aggressive conversion activity of missionaries made the caste Hindus (of which the Sepoys, who were overwhelmingly Brahmin were foremost concerned) wary and uneasy of their identity. Resentment built up for other reasons too. For example, the Sepoys were from chiefly agrarian occupations wherein they had seen the British apply coercion to discourage food crop cultivation in lieu of cash crop cultivation viz. indigo and opium for the China Trade. The Barrackpore Mutiny of 1857 was not the first instance of mutiny by Sepoys. There were stray mutinies prior to that as well. The reason why the 1857 Mutiny acquired such a strong imprimatur in Indian and Raj chronicles is because it happened to be at the genesis of a chain of seemingly related incidents, which in effect were really a confluence of distinct and parallel events. The nature of History, as taught in "official" versions by any culture and government, as well as the academic posturing and counter-debate, leads to the reconstruction of a manufactured causality. This is an act of reflex and not a reflection. The purpose is to invent a narrative that helps create a distinct "them" versus a common "us". A version that serves well the purpose of justification of certain acts, certain national mythololgies, certain national perceptions and in the end define a fait accompli ... which justifies the means. To call it propaganda would be too much of a stretch, but it comes very close. History, not narrated without bias and with the intent of forging an artifical sense of belonging, falls just short of propaganda. It ceases to deal with facts and spawns factions. The British version of history is not unbiased, but nor is the Indian version. There is an entire spectrum of historians from Arnold Toynbee to Niall Ferguson, who have sought to define the British Raj and none has been entirely convincing. Not the least, Mr.Ferguson. Then there have been Indian historians such as Romila Thapar, whose interpretations are sanitized of any Indian perfume. What is our option? The British incursions into India, as well as those of the Portuguese, Dutch and French incursions, all happened primarily due to a number of factors. 1. Foreigners were welcome : - Commodity trade - British were welcomed by the Mughals - Slave trade - Portuguese were welcomed by the Zamorin (Yes, Saurashtra merchants were engaged in the African slave trade alongwith the Portuguese) - Political alliance - French were welcomed by Tipu to offset the British inroads. 2. The internal fractiousness of : - Hindus and Muslims - Caste Hindus and "Untouchables" 3. The technological stagnancy of the Indian industry. 4. The moribund debate over political reform and representative social institutions. Why didn't a single royal state, move towards granting greater autonomy to citizens, prior to the advent of the British? 5. The prevalence of a stupendously stuporous and superstitious mindset in both Hindus and Muslims. Do not Sati, child marraige, injunctions against foreign travel, female infanticide, Shariah and Manu based legal codes all qualify as superstition? The British systematically stripped the Indian sub-continent of its natural resources and made it a dumping ground of their industrial output and by so doing made the arguably richest economy, the largest contiguous stretch of pauperized mass ... a civilization enslaved. History books will well record the infinite instances of their perfidy. The moral weight of their immorality shall not sit lightly on their shoulders. But, our leaders and the trajectory of our history, is also to blame. For look around, do not our politicians and we, excuse ourselves from our complicity in the sorry state of national and social matters, presently? What gives? History or us? I wish all Desis the best. Let us read our history, not merely recount it.

Pradeep | August 19, 2005

It was a small incident with big consequences, I dont think Mangal Pandey was a freedom fighter or a patriot, His heroism was out of frustration and may be influence of Bhang. Anyway Lucky guy like the one who played his character in the film.

Pavan | August 23, 2005

What ever it is, Mangal Pandey has done an amazing job by revolting against the british, which during that time no body else could do. So, what if he has done this with the influence of bhang. After Mangal Pandy was hanged, the unrest in british india continued and finally in the month of May , 1857 the first war of independence again started. This continued till september. Check these links. They are truly fantastic. They are the eye witness accounts of the 1857 revolt. The eye witness was Khwaja Hasan Nizami. He has written the book in Urdu during those times. It was translated in to English during the 20th Century.

ekta | August 24, 2005

Everybody is talking about "Mangal Pandey",the movie. I watched it last night and i feel its a very good effort and its a fairly good bollywood movie. We must remember that history of any nation is written,most of the times, by the oppressors, not from the side of the oppressed. And as far as Mangal Pandey is concerned there is very little about him that all of us know. People should not compare the movies with the realities.Movies are there for your own entertainment, for your enjoyment. They are saying that Mangal pandey did not have an affair with a prostitute, his and Gordon's friendship is fictitious.......maybe this is true....but would the indian audience have accepted a movie without girls dancing with the heroes???? We all know the answer to this!! But the fact is that Ketan Mehta did try to make a movie on a person who we know very little of and yes he did stress on the point that after what Pandey did there was a 'Uprising' in the Nation.

sujit | August 30, 2005

I think we are so obssessed with History and facts and evidence, we have obviously ignored the psycological effect that this 'incidence' had on the Indian masses or sepoy or even the British. One thing was that none of the sepoys (except one) actually came to the rescue of the British soldiers when Pandey attacked them. I can imagine the effect Pandey's action have on the sepoys, given the fact that British were ruling a large population whose minds were enslaved. A small incidence like this, whether pre-mediatated or on impulse can have a huge effect and I think to dismiss Pandey's action as inconsequential would be a grave mistake. To understand this, I would ask you - Do you have the guts to strike a senior police officer in your area even if you know that he is corrupt?

Alok Chandra | September 03, 2005

The very fact that the movie has elicited wide-ranging debate and discussion on 1857 is, to my mind, a validation. Never mind that the individual in question (Mangal Pandey) was only one of many who could no longer bear serving under the British (200 sepoys died in a mutiny at Barrackpore in 1824)- his action has remained in popular memory due to its fortutious timing. Unlike the others associated with 1857 (Tatia Tope, Rani Jhansi and many many Muslim noblemen) he was a commoner - and hence eulogised in later years. I think most of the critics of the movie are missing the point. Yes, there is a lot of kisch; YES, the director has taken artistic liberties with historical facts; and YES, you may not want to see the movie a second time. But that does not detract from the fact that a very large number of the people who will see the movie will become more aware of one part of Indian history. And some of those will get fired with a little more pride in ourselves than formerly (one also expects a resurgance in hirsute adornments). That, to my mind, is another validation. India is one of the world's most amazing experiments in living: a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual democracy (with many shades of red thrown in) that has repeatedly been written off as having no rationale or chance of surviving. And yet here we are. We owe so much to those who fought for freedom that it's easy to forget their sacrifices. 'Mangal Pandey' puts a human face to one of the earliest known martyrs - which, to my mind, is a great achievement.

narender | June 17, 2007

this is a great mangal pandey.i dnt have any words for this great starting pearl of freedom

17 Things You Should Know About Mangal Pandey - The Man Who Fired The First Shot Of 1857 Indian Revolt - TopYaps | February 14, 2014

[…] he kept his promise, and fired at Lieutenant Baugh. Although he missed his shot, Pandey was able to overpower the Lieutenant with a sword—so much […]