The Rebel Administration of Delhi
The Revolt of 1857 in Delhi has been a subject of much interest among historians of modern India. Some of them have also rather incidentally discussed the rebels effort at establishing a working administration of Delhi. Percival Spear has assigned some pages in his Twilight of the Mughals to the travails of the rebels within Delhi. A detailed study of administration of Delhi under the rebels, is, however, long over due. In this paper, an attempt is made, to discuss the type of administration the rebels set up in Delhi. Effort has been made to set out information in a chronological order. Unless directly relevant to our theme, details of Court politics and intrigues by princes and other members of the Royal family, have been avoided.
Delhi was occupied by the rebel sepoys on 11 May. The rebels foisted upon Bahadur Shah the responsibility of administering the country.1 The need for firm administration, indeed, immediately asserted itself. Taking advantage of the sudden disappearance of the British rule from Delhi the bad characters and plunderers began to loot the people in the guise of sepoys.2 Five of them were apprehended and thrashed by the rebel sepoys and were sent to jails.3 Some of the sepoys also seems to have joined in the plunder of the jewellers, baniyas and even petty shopkeepers such as sweetmeat sellers as there was no leadership to control them.4 Many of the plundered people appealed to the King for protection.5 The developments were so rapid and unprecedented that it was beyond the abilities of Bahadur Shah, already bereft of power and resources, to control declining law and order in the city. On 12 May the condition of the city worsened. Munshi Jiwan Lal tells us that the unwilling king was distracted by the cries and petitions. The servants of the Europeans, shop-keepers, rich people whose houses had been
* Formerly Professor of History, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh
Social Scientist, Vol. 26, Nos. 1 - 4, Jan. - Apr. 1998