Nana Sahib - Role in The First War of Independence of 1857 - Bibighar Massacre

Bibighar Massacre

The surviving women and children, around 120 in number, were moved from the Savada House to Bibighar ("the House of the Ladies"), a villa-type house in Cawnpore. They were later joined by some other women and children, the survivors from Wheeler's boat. Another group of women and children from Fatehgarh, and some other captive women were also confined in Bibighar. In total, there were around 200 women and children there.

Nana Sahib deputed a prostitute called Hussaini Khanum (also known as Hussaini Begum) to care for these survivors. He decided to use these prisoners in bargaining with the East India Company. The Company forces consisting of around 1,000 British, 150 Sikh soldiers and 30 irregular cavalry had set out from Allahabad, under the command of General Henry Havelock, to retake Cawnpore and Lucknow. Havelock's forces were later joined by the forces under the command of Major Renaud and James Neill. Sahib demanded that the East India Company forces under Havelock and Neill retreat to Allahabad. However, the Company forces advanced relentlessly towards Cawnpore. Sahib sent an army to check their advance, and the two armies met at Fatehpur on July 12, where General Havelock's forces emerged victorious and captured the town.

Sahib then sent another force under the command of his brother, Bala Rao. On July 15, the British forces under General Havelock defeated Bala Rao's army in the Battle of Aong. On July 16, Havelock's forces started advancing to Cawnpore. During the Battle of Aong, Havelock was able to capture some of the rebel soldiers, who informed him that there was an army of 5,000 rebel soldiers with 8 artillery pieces further up the road. Havelock decided to launch a flank attack on this army, but the rebel soldiers spotted the flanking maneuver and opened fire. The battle resulted in heavy casualties on both sides, but cleared the road to Cawnpore for the Company forces.

By this time, it became clear that the Company forces were approaching Cawnpore, and Sahib's bargaining attempts had failed. Sahib was informed that the British troops led by Havelock and Neill were committing violence against the Indian villagers. Some believe that the Bibighar massacre was a reaction to the news of violence being perpetrated by the advancing Company troops.

Sahib, and his associates, including Tantya Tope and Azimullah Khan, debated about what to do with the captives at Bibighar. Some of Sahib's advisers had already decided to kill the captives at Bibighar, as revenge for the murders of Indians by the advancing British forces. The women of Sahib's household opposed the decision and went on a hunger strike, but their efforts were in vain.

Finally, on July 15, an order was given to kill the women and children imprisoned at Bibighar. Although some Company historians stated that the order for the massacre was given by Sahib, the details of the incident, such as who ordered the massacre, remain unclear. According to some sources, Azimullah Khan ordered the killings of women and children at Bibighar.

At first, the rebel sepoys refused to obey the order to kill women and children. When they were threatened with execution for dereliction of duty some of them agreed to remove the women and children from the courtyard. Sahib left the building because he did not want to be a witness to the unfolding massacre. The women and children were ordered to come out of the assembly rooms, but they refused to do so. The rebel soldiers then started firing through the holes in the boarded windows. After the first round of firing, the soldiers were disturbed by the cries of the captives, and adamantly refused to fire at the women and children.

An angry Begum Hussaini Khanum termed the sepoys' act as cowardice, and asked her lover Sarvur Khan to finish the job of killing the captives. Sarvur Khan hired some butchers, who murdered the surviving women and children with cleavers. The butchers left, when it seemed that all the captives had been killed. However, a few women and children had managed to survive by hiding under the other dead bodies. It was agreed that the bodies of the victims would be thrown down a dry well by some sweepers. The next morning, when the rebels arrived to dispose off the bodies, they found that three women and three children aged between four and seven years old were still alive. The surviving women were cast into the well by the sweepers who had also been told to strip the bodies of the murder victims. The sweepers then threw the three little boys into the well one at a time, the youngest first. Some victims, among them small children, were therefore buried alive in a heap of corpses.

Read more about this topic:  Nana Sahib, Role in The First War of Independence of 1857

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Siege Of Cawnpore - Bibighar Massacre
... surviving British women and children were moved from the Savada House to Bibighar ("The House of the Ladies"), a villa-type house in Cawnpore. 120 women and children were confined to Bibighar ... captive European women were also confined to Bibighar ...

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