- kewal sethi
the last days of tantia tope
the last days of tatia tope
after the defeat of rani lakshmi bai in gwalior on 29th june 1858, tatia tope disappeared from the scene. he had another skirmish at jaura alipur but defeat followed and he was again away. he headed for the central india forests accompanied by rao sahib peshwa. they marched to place called sarmathura resolving to take to guerilla tactics. after trying to march to bharatpur and jaipur, he finally landed at tonk. the nabob shut himself in his fort but the army sided with the freedom fighters. tatia was pursued by holmes on one side and roberts from other. tatia turned north east towards bundi and then to neemuch nasirabad. on 7th august there was a battle with the british. tatia had to retreat fifteen miles and had another battle on 14th august. tatia with remnants of army, (he had lost his guns) crossed chambal despite english vigil.
tatia came up to jhalarpattan where the raja prepared to give battle but his army sided with tatia, the raja paid ruppes fifteen lakhs to save his skin. tatia now had thirtytwo guns. they planned to cross nerbada but the english were also aware of the plan and detemined to prevent it. tatia went to rajgarh and intended to march on indore. english armies moved from mhow, nalkhera and one marched to rajgarh. the tatia army was tired and not in a mood to fight. in fact they left their guns for the english. tatia then entered into forest and appeared at sironj where he got four guns. next he assaulted isagarh and got another eight.
an english writer writes about him “then commenced that marvellous series of retreats which, continued for ten months, seemed to mock at defeat, and made tatia’s name more familiar to europe than that of most of our anglo-iIndian generals. the problem before him was not an easy one. he had to keep together an army of beaten asiatics bound by no tie to his person and bound to each other only by one common hate and one common fear – hate of the britisher’s name and fear of the british gallows. he had to keep this ill-assorted army in constant motion at a pace which should baffle not only the enemies who pursued him but the enemies who streamed down at right angles to his line of march. he had, while thus urging his half-disciplined host to mad flight, to take some dozen cities, obtain fresh stores, collect new cannon and, above all, induce recruits to join voluntarily a service which promised only incessant flight at sixty miles a day. that he accomplished these ends with the means at his disposal indicates ability of no mean kind".
and tatia tope - through the hot weather and the rains, and the cold weather and the hot weather, again, he was still flying, sometimes with two thousand followers and sometimes with fifteen thousand men. tatia then divided his army in two parts, one under him and other under rao sahib peshwa. they did not change tactics. they often eluded the enemy cleverly, got guns and lost them, fought when it was necessary as at mangroli and sindhwaha, retreated in good order after skirmishes, were pursued for miles and escaped successfully; and again the two armies came to-gether at lalitpur.but narmada was no nearer. they marched to talbahat and then suddenly turned south. they had skirmishes with english at kajuri and raigarh. despite all english effort he marched towards south. and finally he did cross narmada. englishman malleson says, "it is impossible to withhold admiration from the pertinacity with which this scheme was carried out."
the times reported, "since last June he has kept central india in a fervour. He has sacked stations, plundered treasuries, emptied arsenals; collected armies, lost them; fought battles, lost them; taken guns from native princes, lost them; taken more, lost them; then, his motions were like forked lightning; and for weeks, he has marched thirty and forty miles a day. he has crossed the narbada to and fro; he has marched between our columns, behind them, and before them. ariel was not more subtle, aided by the best stage mechanism. up mountains, over rivers, through ravines and valleys, amid swamps, on he goes, backwards and forwards, and sideways and zig-zag ways, now falling upon a post-cart and carrying off the bombay mails, now looting a village, headed and burned, yet evasive as proteus."
tatia crossed narmada near hoshangabad and arrived near nagpur. but in october 1958 it was not likely to succeed in almost all places, the war was over. the english were at melghat, asirgarh was closed to him and so were gujrat, khandesh, and nagpur. the whole south was closed from below, while, from above, from the north, the pursuing armies had now crossed the narbada and come after him. still the invincible hero did not lose heart. he marched towards baroda. at khargun. here ensued a battle with the english. he eluded them and crossed over to other side of narmada. he left his guns behind but the speed of march improved. tatia came up to rajpura and then to chhota udaipur. baroda was just fifty miles away. but english armies were in between. banda on which tatia set his eyes sided with english. tatia was trapped. he tried to go to udiapur but did not succeed. he turned towards partapgarh. an english contigent was in front but tatia fell upon it, defeated them and got out of the cage. it was december 1958. ferozeshah from oudh and man singh from gwalior joined rao sahib and tatia.and they took indergarh in january 1859. but the english army closed in. at dewas their camp was raided but tatia and others escaped. they were again seen near sikar where they had a skirmish with the english. tatia was with man singh after this but he was betrayed by him and was arrested. on 7th april, 1859.
(based on veer savarkar's indian war of independence 1857. for details see www. savarkar.org)