Thursday, 16 March 2017

Random thoughts 14032017

Sometimes or rather most of the times, the significance of an event is lost because  of  its inability to influence the outcome of other events as a chain reaction. The victors generally write the history and it is celebrated , everywhere. But it is always interesting to dwell upon the chain of events that might have taken place in case of an alternate outcome Of course these hypothetical conjectures are in the realms of romantic speculation, no doubt.But they often give us  glimpses of parallels , elsewhere.

In August 1798 the British Navy under Admiral Nelson( who was not yet the Lord, as he is known in history) faced the French Navy and defeated them, stopping their progress from the Mediterranean sea towards Asia. This famous sea battle between the French and English is known as the Battle of Nile and  has been made famous in the poem Casablanca which many of us may have read as a child. Remember those famous first line- The boy stood on the burning deck.The Battle of the Nile was a major blow to Napoleon's ambitions in the east.

The significance of this battle is the unrelated non event of history which did not happen due to the defeat of the French forces. Napoleon Bonaparte was preparing to progress through Asia with plans to invade India and defeat the British there. The French already had a substantial military presence in India during those times. Though the British forces and The East India company controlled the trade and a large part of the territory, the Mughal dynasty was still the reigning power , even if nominally so. India was ruled by different princely states who were quite powerful and the British aligned them by various treaties. They included the big states like Scindias, Holkars, Nizam , Patiala, Lucknow, Jaipur and Mysore. Most of these states had foreign mercenaries working for them , in addition to the British protective force.

Tipu Sultan was the ruler of Mysore then . He had many French soldiers on his payroll and also French generals commanding his army. So did the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Maratha rulers. Tipu was in regular touch with Napoleon and they both exchanged letters. He wished for an alliance with Napoleon . Napoleon had promised help to Tipu in his letter personally . He assured him and other Indian rulers of defeating the British in India and sought their support. Tipu in his letter had extended a very warm welcome to Napoleon to the shores of India. Actually, India was a part of the "Great Game" then too, as it still remains.

Napoleon wanted to invade India and liberate the country from the British rule . The defeat at the hands of the British in the Battle of Nile  put paid to his grand plans of emulating and surpassing Alexander the Great. Had he not been defeated by Lord Nelson in the Battle of the Nile, he would definitely have reached India by landing up somewhere on the Malabar coast where Tipu already had a strong naval presence too.The British identified Tipu Sultan as their principal obstacle in India and attacked , defeated and killed him soon in the famous Siege of Seringapatanam in 1799. The Nizam of Hyderabad helped the British in the battle. Thereafter, the British faced only two big challenges, first from Marathas and later Sikhs to expand their hold over India till the uprising in 1857.

Most of the Indian  rulers of different provinces were at loggerheads with each other, as usual. But they were all eagerly waiting for Napoleon to invade India hoping that he would get them rid of  the British . The British always followed the Divide and Rule policy and fueled rivalry among the Indian rulers . Only once, in 1857 did some rulers of North India come together and fought against the British.

What actually would have happened had Napoleon  won the Battle of Nile , can only be speculated upon but definitely the history of India would have been written in a different way or maybe in a different language.

The British ruled India ,divided it, partitioned it  and it took a lot of efforts by our leaders to unite the country and then make it a true republic by removing the feudal vestiges of power. But surprisingly enough, probably it is the English language that keeps us bound as a nation . We may not like it or ignore it but that is a fact.

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