In the spring-summer of 1857, while the First War of Indian Independence was sweeping through north India, two Prussian (now in Germany) men in their late ‘30s were keenly following the developments from faraway London and Manchester.
Between 1857 and 1858, these two leaders of the international communist movement, Karl Marx, the then London correspondent for New York Daily Tribune, and Friedrich Engels were often busy sifting through newspaper articles and letters from British officers to gather information on the revolt.
Their articles on the revolt, nearly 30 of them, were published in the New York Daily Tribune (now the New York Herald Tribune following its merger with the New York Herald in the 1920s) between July, 1857 and October the following year.
Titled variously as `The Revolt in the Indian Army’, `State of the Indian Insurrection’, 'Investigation of Tortures in India’ (Marx), `The Capture of Delhi’, `The Siege and Storming of Lucknow’ and `Details of the Attack on Lucknow’ among others capture in great detail the events of those times.
Through their articles Marx and Engels attempted to refute the contention that revolt was a mere mutiny by soldiers and there was no involvement of broader sections of the society. They also wrote that the uprising had brought together religions and communities.
``That Mussulmans and Hindus renouncing their mutual antipathies, have combined against their common masters; that disturbances beginning with the Hindus, have actually ended in placing on the throne of Delhi a Mohammedan emperor; that the mutiny has not been confined to a few localities,’’ Marx wrote in one article.
Even in the end, when the revolt was dying, Engels predicted ominous portents for the future for the British. ``The great rebellion, stirred up by the mutiny of the Bengal army, is indeed, it appears, dying out. But this second conquest has not increased England’s hold upon the mind of the Indian people. The cruelty of the retribution dealt out by the British troops, goaded on by exaggerated and false reports of the atrocities attributed to the natives have not created any particular fondness for the victors,’’ Engels wrote on October 1, 1858.
CPI general secretary, AB Bardhan, released a collection of the articles on Sunday. Bardhan said that both Marx and Engels appreciated the events of 1857 and it is only fitting that these articles are released while the country is commemorating the uprising.