During the summer of 1857, Indian rebel soldiers from the British Army attempted to overthrow the British hold on India and reinstall Mughal rule. For five months, rebels seized Delhi and declared the aged Mughal noble, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Emperor of India. Referred to as the 1857 Mutiny by British rulers and as the First War of Independence by enthusiastic nationalists, few events in Indian history incite more passion than the 1857 seige of Delhi.
My own family hails from Aligarh, a city about 90 miles southeast of New Delhi and, as Muslims, opted to move to Pakistan. I was aware of this as a child, but because I grew up outside Pakistan, it was not until I began my research and had enough comfort speaking Urdu that I persuaded some of my elderly relatives to tell me their stories of the time of independence and partition.
I remember when we were in our old house, it was a big house, which is a big house with a big courtyard inside and a big garden outside. It was a big area. And we used to all sleep inside in the courtyard with all the beds laid out and mosquito nets and everything and one table fan for all of us because we used to be in a row, all the beds laid out.
In the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguard, the citizens of Delhi unleashed a murderous campaign of violence on the Sikh community as a whole. Delhi-ites were horrified to discover both the inaction of the local authorities to provide safety and security for citizens, and the failure of the media to report the atrocities taking place.