VEER KUNWAR SINGH: DR. HARESHWAR ROY
The part which Veer Kunwar Singh played in the First War of Independence marks a glorious chapter in the chequered history of our country. He was destined to become a martyr for the cause of India's independence. When India rose against the British authority in 1857, Kunwar Singh was already past his prime being nearly 80 years old. Despite his age and failing health, when the call to fight came, the old lion plunged into the thick of it and for nearly a year battled fiercely against the British and allied forces with grim determination and undaunted courage. He remained invincible till the end.
Kunwar Singh was born in Jagdishpur in Shahabad (Now Bhojpur,Ara) District of Bihar in 1777. He belonged to a royal Parmar Kshatriya (Rajput) family of Jagdishpur. His ancestors belonged to the dynasty of the great Raja Vikramaditya as well as Raja Bhoj of Malwa.
Kunwar Singh, the light and lion of Bihar, actively led a select band of armed soldiers against the troops under the command of the East India Company and recorded victories in many battles.
On July 25th 1857, the Indian army of British Fauz declared the Independence at Danapur and arrived at Ara. As soon as the revolutionary army reached there Kunwar Singh, the Raja of Jagdishpur, immediately assumed the command of that army and captured the English Treasury, released the prisoners from Ara Jail and destroyed English Offices totally. At that time he was at the age of 80 years.
On July 29th 1857, Captain Danwar proceeded to Ara with 300 English and 100 Sikh armies. He was attacked by Gorilla fighters of Kunwar Singh in Mango Garden (kayamnagar) at night. Only 50 persons of British army were survived out of 415 till the morning of 30th July. Captain Danwar was also killed at the same place (Kayamnagar). Shahabad now passed virtually under Kunwar Singh's control.
The task of relieving Ara was now assigned to Major Vincent Eyre who advanced with his column from Buxar. A big battle took place at Bibiganj (about 5 kms, west of Ara). The English army became successful in this battle and Kunwar Singh was forced to retreat. The Kila of Jagdishpur fell in the hands of Major Eyer who committed acts of Vandalism and perpetrated atrocities on the hapless citizens with impunity. But the reverses at Jagdispur could not cow down Kunwar Singh.
Kunwar Singh with his troops marched towards Rewa (M.P.) via Robertsganj. On the 27th of August he reached Rewa, where some prominent nobles helped him. From Rewa, Kuer Singh proceeded to Banda with a view of joining Tantia Topi. On the 8th of October at Banda, the combined forces of Nawab Ali Bahadur and Kunwar Singh attacked the Nimnipar fort and completely destroyed it. The Gwalior troops joined Kunwar Singh at Kalpi and marched onto attack Kanpur on the 7th of November. The Gwalior contingent, Nana Sahib and Kunwar Singh fought against the English forces at the battle of Kanpur in December 1857. Kunwar Singh was soon at Lucknow where the Nawab of Oudh presented him ‘Khillat’, a roll of honour.
By the 27th of March in 1858 Azamgarh came under Kunwar Singh's control. Col. Mark Kerr was deputed to relieve the Azamgarh entrenchment and crush Kunwar Singh. Kunwar Singh checkmated him. In a strategic move Kunwar Singh left Azamgarh on the 13th of April with a part of his troops and advanced towards Ghazipur. After crossing the river Gogra he pushed onto Maniar in Ghazipur district in the night. On the morning of 21st of April Brig. Douglas made a surprise attack on the troops of Kunwar Singh at Maniar. The latter dispersed themselves in different directions only to reassemble by the evening and proceeded during the night to the river. In spite of sustaining personal injuries Kunwar Singh with a large body of Sepoys crossed the Ganga at Sheopur Ghat, 10 miles away from Balia.
While crossing the Ganges on way to his ancestral seat at Jagadispur, Babu Kunwar Singh was wounded in the arm by the pursuing forces. He preferred to cut his arm and offered it to the Ganages than to be captured by the British soldiers.
After 8 months, fighting with British armies at different places in Eastern U.P., Kunwar Singh reached his capital Jagdishpur and again took-over his throne with the help of another small army collected by his younger brother Amar Singh on April 22, 1858. Kunwar Singh was forced to fight again within 24 hours of his arrival at Jagdishpur.
Capt. Le Grand with a column of soldiers set out for Jagdispur from Ara on the evening of 22nd of April. A fierce battle again took place between Kunwar Singh and Britishers at Dullaur (one and half miles away from Jagdishpur). This battle had taken place between the night of 22nd and 23rd April, 1858 and was again won by the injured Kunwar Singh.. Kunwar Singh regained his throne of Jagdishpur on 23rd April, 1858 and ruled again till the death. Kunwar Singh was not destined to live longer. The old and injured Lion Kunwar Singh died on 26the April 1958 as an independent ruler but before his death he freed his state and the people from the slavery of British rule.