Indians didn’t rape English women in 1857

Story by  Saquib Salim | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 10-05-2024
An artists' imagination of the First war of Independence of India
An artists' imagination of the First war of Independence of India


Saquib Salim

The Indians revolted against British Imperialism on 10 May 1857 at Meerut triggering the First War of the National Independence of India. Hindus, Muslims, Upper Castes and Lower Castes, Men and Women, Rich and Poor, the ruling class and the ruled, and every Indian was part of the movement. 

A Slice Of History

However, by the end of the year, the British defeated the revolutionaries. They massacred Indians, burnt down villages, and hanged people after labeling them as revolutionaries who behaved in an uncivilized fashion during the war. 

One of the most important rallying points made by the Europeans was that the English women were raped by the revolutionaries. Reports of brutal killing of small children and rapes were publicized to justify the uncivilized violence against the revolutionaries.

Indian revolutionary women were burnt down, men were blown from the cannon guns, Hindus were forced to eat beef, and Muslims were forced to eat pork before being killed. These excesses were justified on the account that the revolutionaries raped European women. 

Sadly, several Indians fell for the propaganda. Recently, I watched a play in Delhi where Bahadur Shah Zafar is shown repenting for crimes against women committed by the revolutionaries in 1857. How shameful is it that the Indians after more than 75 years of independence still believe this lie against their heroes?

Thomas C. Smyth wrote to Major G. W. Williams from Meerut, on 16 December 1857, “I cannot discover a single case in which it is proved that violation was perpetrated. I am now of the opinion that no females were violated at Meerut.”

William Muir in his inquiry also found out that most of the reports were exaggerated. He wrote, “The statements which appear in the English newspapers regarding the atrocities perpetrated by the rebels here and elsewhere are, in many instances, grossly exaggerated… the Sirdhanah Nuns were also mentioned in an English paper as having escaped to a valley in Thibet (Tibet),’ instead of which they were housed from June till early in September within the walls of the Rifle Hospital.”

C. B. Sanders wrote to Muir in 1857, “I believe there is no reason whatsoever to suppose that the European ladies and girls massacred either at Meerut or Delhi were violated or outraged before death put an end to their sufferings, I have taken considerable pains to ascertain whether there is any foundation for the tales which have obtained publication in the public prints regarding violence having been offered to poor Miss Jennings and Miss Clifford, and am perfectly satisfied that there is no ground whatever for the supposition that they were in any way ill-treated before death.” 

The English reporters, who were of course presenting an anti-Indian narrative, did not report any rapes. They did report the killing of women which happened during the war as people from both sides were engaged in a bloody war. 

The revolutionaries were kinder towards women and children. The British records tell that when the English army reached Mirganj (Bareilly) they found that the whole station was destroyed but the Church was intact. They also rescued women and children who were held captive and not killed like European men. 

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It is not to deny that English women and children were not killed in this first war of independence of India But, the reports of rape, brutality like chopping children into pieces, especially attacking women were found to be untrue by the British officers. It is shameful that Indians still believe the propaganda of the colonial rulers.