The hundreds of commuters that travel down the Meerut-Delhi highway have little idea they are driving past a marker of the one of the greatest revolts in Indian history.
This Independence Day, City Spidey takes you to a tiny graveyard that lies wedged between scrap yards in Ghaziabad, which maybe just a handful of people know about. However, this site, protected by the ASI, is intrinsically connected to the revolt of 1857, also known as the First War of Independence.
The hundreds of commuters that travel down the Meerut-Delhi highway have little idea they are driving past a marker of the one of the greatest revolts in Indian history, one that paved the way for independence almost a century later. This graveyard houses the memorials and graves of British soldiers that died in a brave uprising from the bands of local militia on the banks of the Hindon river in May 1857.
Much of its identity and historical significance has been wiped out by the vagaries of time and human negligence, and all that remains now is the name “Isaai Kabristan”, or the Cristian Graveyard, and netted railings around the site and an iron gate marked with “ASI”.
But there are those that have not forgotten.
Ashfaq Ahmed, a local fruit vendor, guided us to the “puraani kabr”.
The ground was slippery with the rain a few hours ago. The ground level, about 4 ft feet lower than the rest of the area, caused rainwater to rush in every time there was even a slight drizzle, leaving the place impossible to explore on foot.
But we could make out three memorials. One of them was broken. Ahmed said some people were angered by the presence of British graves on Indian soil.
“ASSO Of Ensich W.H. Napier. Who was wounded on 31st May and died at Meerut on 4th June, 1857,” read one side of a memorial, while another side read, “Erected by The 30th Rifles in memory of Captain F Andrews. Segeant W McPherson. Corporal T.O. Meacher. Private J. Darinc.”
There was not much to be made out from the memorials, but we were in luck. We met S Hasan, a senior journalist who had researched the findings of the Ghaziabad Itihaas Samiti and compiled them into a book, Woh Tees Mai, or “That 30th of May”. “I only have one copy of the book. I have given the rest away over the years,” Hasan said. “These are the graves of British soldiers killed by local militia between May 30 and May 31 during the uprising of 1857. The locals stopped British forces under Brigadier Archdale Wilson on their way from Meerut to Delhi for relieving the city’s besieged garrison.”
“The government neglects this and people think this is an insult of our hard-won independence, but they must understand that this is not just graves of British soldiers but a testament to the brave resistance of Indian locals and villagers who took up arms in solidarity with the entire nation. This was the first pan-Indian uprising that ignited the fire of patriotism in the rest of the country,” he added.
“I’ve heard people from England still visit the site when they are here. Maybe they are just curious, or maybe they are descendants of those buried here. We don’t know for certain, and no one wants to find out,” he said.