Even as the country is celebrating the 150th anniversary of India's first struggle for freedom in 1857, few know that the people of Kheri not only revolted against the British rule, but successfully drove them out of Kheri in 1856 and kept their independence till November 8, 1858. It was in 1858 that the British returned with full force to crush the freedom struggle.
It was due to the effort of Raja Lone Singh that Kheri managed to succeed in its mission. The raja spearheaded the inaugural struggle for freedom along with his counterparts Raja Indra Vikram Singh and his brother Surendra Vikram Singh of Dhaurehra state. Raja Lone Singh died while fighting the British army in Mitauli, Raja Indra Vikram Singh was captivated and externed to 'kala pani'
, where he breathed his last while his brother Surendra Vikram Singh was jailed.
Kheri's tryst with the freedom struggle started in 1856 when the British dismantled the Awadh kingdom. They established Mohammadi as Kheri district headquarters and appointed James Thomson as the first district collector to be assisted by Captain Patrick Ore as assistant district collector. At that time, the nawab of Awadh had deputed some platoons of his own army. However, ignoring the arrangements, Captain Ore set up his own regiment.
This change of guard by foreign rulers irked the zamindars
of various states in Kheri including Raja Lone Singh of Mitauli state and Raja Indra Vikram Singh of Dhaurehra state. Raja Lone Singh, though a peace lover opposed the British rule. He organised likeminded kings and zamindars
and resolved to free Kheri from foreigners. They contacted the freedom fighters of neighbouring districts of Shahjahanpur and Sitapur districts and decided to launch a unified movement to drive out the British.
Meanwhile, a victory at Shahjahanpur inspired the revolutionaries of Kheri. Thompson and Ore were aware of this too and yet they were silent. When they came to know their colleagues were running for their lives in Shahjahanpur, they became concerned for their safety and their platoons. They sought shelter at Raja Lone Singh's fort in Mitauli. This put the raja in a dilemma as he was spearheading the freedom movement.
However, he provided refuge to the British and arranged for their stay at Kachiyani village. He even opposed the freedom fighters killing the escaping Britons. However, his fight against foreign rule continued without any compromise.
Meanwhile, after arranging for the safety of their families, the British officials attempted to transfer the government treasury to the Company.
The armed revolutionaries plundered treasury and took away Rs 110,000 in June 1856. This proved to be the last straw and the British officials attempted to leave Mohammadi on June 5, 1856. The revolutionaries held them near Aurangabad and killed most of them. Ore was captured and produced before Raja Lone Singh, who kept him at the Kachiyani village. However, the increasing number of British refugees forced him to send them to Lucknow in October, 1856.
The revolutionaries of Sitapur also launched a crusade against the British. This resulted in the escaping of Captain John Hirsi along with his troops. Hirsi took shelter in Dhaurehra state, where Raja Indra Vikram Singh sent him to Matera village.
Meanwhile, the Mallapur state of Kheri also forced the district collector and the SP to leave and they too took shelter in Dhaurehra. The rising number of enemies in the shelter camp at Dhaurehra forced Raja Indra Vikram Singh to transfer them to Lucknow, However, while being deported to Lucknow in captivity, the Britons attempted to escape through the Indo-Nepal border. But the armed freedom fighters held them at Banbirpur village in Nighasan tehsil. Only John Hirsi and Captain Hastings were fortunate to have escaped to Nepal. The escaping of British authorities from Kheri paved the way for its full freedom for 33 months. However, in October 1858, the British forces recaptured Mohammadi and attacked Mitauli estate, where Raja Lone Singh bravely countered them till his last breath. The British forces razed the Mitauli fort with their artillery and held the Mitauli state in November 1858. The British forces also arrested Raja Indra Vikram Singh and his brother Surendra Vikram Singh and took hold of Dhaurehra state. John Hirsi was awarded with the Dhaurehra state for this while WC Wood took charge of Kheri district, whose headquarters was shifted to Lakhimpur.
However, despite the bravery shown by these martyrs, there is no monument erected in their memory.