Indian Freedom Fighters - Ramachandra Pandurang Tope(Tantia Tope)
September 06, 2020, 03:07 PM IST
Tatya Tope also misspelled as Tantia Tope (1814 - 1859), was a general in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and one of its notable leaders. Despite lacking formal military training, Tatya Tope is widely considered as the best and most effective rebel general.
Born as Ramachandra Panduranga Yawalkar to a Marathi Deshastha Brahmin family, in Yeola, (near Nasik). Tatya (Tantia) took on the title Tope, meaning commanding officer. His first name Tantia means General. A personal adherent of Nana Saheb of Bithur, he progressed with the Gwalior contingent after the British reoccupied Kanpur (then known as Cawnpore) and forced General Windham to retreat from the city. Later on, Tatya Tope came to the relief of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi and with her seized the city of Gwalior. However, he was defeated by General Napier's British Indian troops at Ranod and after a further defeat at Sikar, he abandoned the campaign.
Tatya Tope joined hands with Rani Lakshmi Bai After the reoccupation of Kanpur by the British and kindled a revolt in Bundelkhand.Then he reached Gwalior where he declared Nana Sahib as Peshwa with the support of the Gwalior contingent. But before he could consolidate his position he was defeated by General Rose in a memorable battle in which Rani Lakshmi Bai suffered martyrdom. The fall of Gwalior was a turning point in the career of Tatya Tope. Thereafter commenced his remarkable feats of guerrilla warfare over very vast regions of Central India, Malwa, Bundel-khand, Rajputana and Khandesh, from the recesses of the Vindhyas to the gorges of the Aravali, harassing and perplexing the British and their allies. Pursued from June 1858 to April 1859 by nearly half of the British forces in India under their ablest generals enjoying the fullest support of their military intelligence, he outmaneuvred them several times.
Tatya Tope could not be captured in the marathon chase of about 2,800 miles horizontally and vertically through forests, hills, dales and across the swollen rivers. At last he was betrayed by his trusted friend Mansingh. The British army captured him on 7th April 1859. He admitted boldly, "What I did, was for my mother and I have no regrets". He was hanged on 18th April 1859 and the sun set forever on the First War of Bharatiya Independence.
ROLE IN THE 1857
Nana Sahib decided to use the captives for bargaining with the British. The Company forces from Allahabad, under the command of General Henry Havelock, advanced relentlessly towards Cawnpore. Two forces sent by Nana Sahib to check their advance were defeated. When it became clear that the bargaining attempts had failed, an order was given to Anuj murder the women and children imprisoned at Bibighar, on 15 July. The details of the incident, such as who ordered the massacre, are not clear, but it is widely believed Tatya Tope gave the order The sepoys refused to kill the captive women and children, but some of them agreed to remove the women and children from the courtyard, when Tope threatened to execute them for dereliction of duty.
After losing Gwalior to the British, Tope and Rao Sahib, nephew of Nana Sahib, fled into the Rajputana. He was able to induce the army of Tonk to join him. He was unable to enter the town of Bundi and though announcing he would go south in fact went west towards Nimach. A British flying column commanded by Colonel Holmes was in pursuit of him and the British commander in Rajputana, General Abraham Robert was able to attack the rebel force when they had reached a position between Sanganer and Bhilwara. Tope again fled from the field towards Udaipur and, after visiting a Hindu shrine on 13 August, he drew up his forces on the Banas River. They were defeated again by Roberts's forces and Tope fled. He crossed the Chambal River and reached the town of Jhalrapatan in the state of Jhalawar. He induced the state forces to rebel against the raja and was able to replace the artillery he had lost at the Banas River. Tope then took his forces towards Indore but was pursued by the British now commanded by General John Michel as he fled towards Sironj.
He was still accompanied by Rao Sahib and they decided to divide their forces so that Tope could move to Chanderi, and Rao Sahib, with a smaller force, to Jhansi. However they combined again in October and suffered another defeat at Chota Udaipur. By January 1859 they were in the state of Jaipur and experienced two more defeats. Tope then escaped alone into the jungles of Paron. At this point he met Man Singh, raja of Narwar, and his household and decided to stay with them. Man Singh was in dispute with the maharaja of Gwalior and the British were successful in negotiating with him to surrender to them in return for his life and protection of his family from any reprisals by the maharaja. After this Tope was alone.
Capture & Death
1.Tantia Tope was finally captured by the British in April 1859 after the Raja of Narwar, Man Singh, betrayed him. In exchange of protection for himself and his family, the latter handed over Tantia Tope to the British.
2.He was tried in a military court where he refused to accept any role in British civilian massacres. He also challenged the sedition charges declaring that his master was Nana Saheb and not the British. He was executed at Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh on 18th April 1859 in front of thousands of people.
3.The descendants of Tantia Tope, however, claim that he was not hanged. In a book titled, ‘Tatya Tope's Operation Red Lotus’ written by Parag Tope, it is claimed that he died in January 1859 fighting against the British in a battle in Chhipa Barod and did not die because of hanging.
4.It further states that the person who was hanged was one of the freedom fighters who continued to fight till April by becoming Tatya Tope.
A park in Kanpur – Nana Rao Park - honours eminent personalities of India’s struggle for freedom. The park houses a statue of Tatya Tope, together with those of Nana Saheb and Rani Lakshmi Bai. Yet another statue stands at his hometown in Yeola in Nasik district, Maharashtra.
In 2016, the Union Culture Minister, Mahesh Sharma, released a commemorative coin of Rs 200 denomination and a circulation coin of Rs 10, in Tantia Tope’s honour.