Showing posts with label Chapatti Movement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chapatti Movement. Show all posts

Friday, June 9, 2017

Chapatti Movement

The Revolution of 1857 – Chapatti Movement 

 

History is said to be of several lessons and tends to have great mysteries for us to unravel. Some may tend to be new while others could be very ancient. One such mystery is regarding the Chapatti Movement which involved the rare distribution of thousands of chapattis which is known to be a kind of unleavened flatbread that was eaten in various Indian villages during 1857. The revolution of 1857 was said to be the first war of independence of India from the British rule.

Though the Indian soldiers were not well equipped as the British soldiers, they fought bravely with all their might laying their lives down fighting the oppression of the British policies. Some historians were of the belief that few months before the revolution of 1857, a mysterious distribution of chapattis had started which was difficult to explain by anyone and the event has left all perplexed over the years.

The Chapatti Movement involved the rare distribution of thousands of chapattis though the crucial cause of the movement is not clear. However the British agents were of the opinion that the chapattis could have contained some secret messages though investigation carried out showed no such messages.

Strange & Inexplicable Distribution

 

Dr Gilbert Hadow, an army surgeon in the employment of the East India Company, in March 1857, had written the following lines describing the peculiar movement which had taken place in 1857 in a letter to his sister in Britain saying that there was a mysterious affair going on all over India. No one was aware of the meaning of the same.

 Moreover it was unclear where it had originated from by whom or for what reason, whether it was supposed to be linked to any religious ceremony or whether it had to do with some secret society. The Indian papers were full of assumptions to what it meant and was known as the Chapatti Movement.

 Dr Hadow described the 1857 movement of the strange and inexplicable distribution of thousands of chapattis which had been passed from one person to another and from village to village all over the country. During that time, tension in British occupied India, was at its peak and the discontented Indians, tired and sick of the unfair British rule were on the quiet planning a mutiny. That year, in February a strange thing occurred.

Movement Exposed by Magistrate of Town of Mathura 

 

Thousands of unmarked chapattis had been circulated to homes as well as police outposts all over India by runners at night where those who had accepted them would silently make more collections and pass them on.

The movement had been exposed by the magistrate of the town of Mathura, Mark Thornhill, who had engaged in some investigation and discovered that chapattis had been travelling up to a distance of 300 kilometres each night everywhere from Narmada River in the south to the border of Nepal many hundred miles to the north.

 The mysterious distribution of the chapattis led to a belief that something strange was going on. On extensive enquiries on the strange distribution of the same gave rise to several theories though few facts. Moreover since there was no written note or any sign on the chapattis, the British were irate for being incapable of finding any valid reasons for stopping or arresting the chapatti runners who often seemed to be police officials themselves.

Strangely, when the chapatti runners were questioned later on regarding the significance of distributing the same from one home to another, they had been totally ignorant of the purpose of the distribution.

Code Signalling a Call to Rebel 

 

The chapattis had been real and even the runners had not been aware of the purpose of the distribution of the chapattis. The police officials would bake the same, which was two inches each in diameter and distribute them to their colleagues who in turn would make some more and pass them to their associates in the neighbouring villages.

In some unusual documents of the revolution of 1857 it was discovered that the chapattis had travelled far and wide by March 5, 1857, from Avadh and Rohilkhand to Delhi. The British officers were filled with anxiety when they discovered that the chapattis had reached into every police station in the vicinity and around 90,000 policemen had been involved in the movement.

They were particularly disturbed knowing that the chapattis had been moving much quicker than the fastest British mail. Though they had no convincing proof the confused British assumed that the chapattis had been some sort of a code signalling a call to rebel against the colonial rule.

Shaken British Empire to the Core

 

Debates were on as to whether the same had come from the east, near Kolkata or from Avadh in the north or from Indore in the centre of the country. Overall the Chapatti Movement had shaken the British Empire to the core.

 India had been controlled by the British with a small number of men about 100,000 in total, conquering a large population of 250 million and hence they were aware of how insufficient they would be in the event of a serious revolution. Being continuously tensed due to it, they considered any sort of communication by the locals which they were unable to comprehend as suspicious resulting in fear.

Rumours regarding the unusual chapatti chain had resulted in an uneasy atmosphere prevailing across the country. When the rebellion broke out that year, with the first armed rebellion at Meerut on May 10, it had been alleged that due to the circulation of the chapattis, an underground movement had been planned which had started the movement.

Operative Weapon of Psychological Warfare

 

Some years later, J W Sherar, in the book Life During the Indian Mutiny, had acknowledged that if the purpose behind the plan was intended to create an atmosphere of mysterious restlessness its purpose was served. The movement had put the British in a state which turned out to be very operative weapon of psychological warfare against the colonial rule.

Moreover it was said that the chapattis had been a basic in the army of Tantia Tope and Lakshmi Bai when they had moved around at the time of the revolution. The notable guerrilla fighting, Kunwar Singh had also travelled with a few soldiers and would stop at villages in order to get a refill of ghee laden chapattis, gur and water.

Latest studies have shown that the circulation of chapattis could have been an attempt of delivering food to people affected with cholera. But considering the inconclusive evidence, it can only be concluded that at the moment the chapattis had just been chapattis and not any secret messages or warning of looming rebellion.