Utpal Borpujari

May 31, 2010

‘India remains a nation because of Tatya Tope and other leaders of 1857’

An engineer-MBA based in the US, an MD in Anesthesia based in Delhi, a psychologist, a software engineer, a Navy-official-turned-teacher and many others from the scattered Tope family joined hands to find out the truth about one of their forefathers, and one of the foremost heroes of the First War for Freedom in 1857, Tatya Tope. The result is Operation Red Lotus (Rupa & Co), a voluminous account of Tope’s valour, based on meticulous research, including that of previously-not-accessed historical documents. Parag Tope, the US-based engineer-MBA, has written the engrossing book that deflates the accepted history that Tope was hanged by the British in Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh in 1859, and says that in reality he was killed in action a few months prior to that. Tope discusses Tatya, history writing in India and the book with Deccan Herald’s Utpal Borpujari:

Why did you decide to take up the research?

The stories of Tatya Tope and 1857 that we heard growing up had little coherence with what was “officially” taught to us or written as history.  This gap remained in the back of my mind.  I use to often discuss history with my siblings whenever we met.  History was a hobby, a passion.  In 2006, my sister, Rupa (the psychologist), read in the newspapers about the books that were planned to be released in 2007, the Sesquicentennial of 1857.  She wondered if the same old tired story was going to be retold, and asked me to write this book.

Several members of the current Tope family carried out the research. How difficult was the process?

The process was tedious – in terms of locating information, but not manageable. Rajesh (the doctor), my brother, for example came across the existence of these never before translated Urdu letters written to Tatya Tope. This needed traveling to Shivpuri, Bhopal, etc. We also traveled to various other towns and cities.  While it was tedious, we saw it as an opportunity to reunite the scattered Tope family.  There was a gathering of all the Topes from far flung places in April 2007 in Shivpuri.  The difficulty was not in research – it was in coming to terms with a jaundiced history written by Indian historians claiming to be objective.

What are the most significant and unknown aspect of Tatiya Tope that you unearthed during the research?

The biggest find about Tatya Tope the person was an eye-witness account of Tatya Tope’s death in the battlefields of Chhipa Barod at 6:30 AM on January 1, 1859, by Major Paget, and English artillery officer, months before he was supposed to have been hanged as per history books.

Does the contrast between what your research threw up and what is contained in the known history reaffirm your argument that Indian history, especially that of the 1857 war, needs significant reassessment?

Absolutely.  I recognise that history is always written with an agenda.  The primary problem with the historiography of 1857 is not the rigour or aptitude of those wrote it – but their attitude and predetermination, which betrays an agenda.  While we did unearth new content, our reassessment was in the context.  A reassessment of 1857 needed to be done without the “feudal” agenda or the “mutiny” prism or without the “sub-altern” or “armed peasant” obsessions.  Clearly we had an agenda as well which was to close the gap between what we had “heard” of as history and what was being “told” to us as history. 

Do you feel Indian historians have faulted by largely following the English history and not carrying out their own original research into the 1857 war?

There has been plenty of research on 1857, including what would be considered “new” research.  The problem lies not in the research and the aptitude of the work, but the tone and the attitude of the scholars.  Semantics also changed.  The “Oriental Despot” became the “Feudal.”  Words such as “dotard”, “wicked”, “worthless”, “vexatious”, “petty”, “ill tempered” were used freely to describe Indian leaders.  Hardly scholarly.  The “mutiny” paradigm changed to a “civil rebellion” or an “armed peasant” to force fit 1857 into Karl Marx’s ideas.  The “sub-altern” view of 1857 forced a narrow and emotional view on 1857 to transform the “mutiny” into a “religious” war.  Historiography of 1857 remained a collection of incoherent and incomplete and illogical presentation of the events. 

The current generation is hardly interested in knowing about past heroes like Tatya Tope, except in what they require to know as part of their educational curricula. Comment.

Indian history particularly that of 1857, that is taught in schools is built on a foundation of a false paradigm that punishes the mind and demotivates those who are exposed to it.  Tatya Tope is mentioned as a hero, but none of his stories are consistent with the label.  Operation Red Lotus demonstrates that India, today, remains a nation because of the leaders of 1857 and Tatya Tope, especially his resurgent campaign during late 1858 that revived the spirit of freedom.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 30-05-2010)




  1. Very interesting and heartening to read this piece of information in Deccan Herald. Happy to note that Tatya Tope’s present 5th or 6th generation seem to have been settlled reasanably well. We expect atleast one of the present generation member from Tope family join active politics and try to bring about a change in our country. Also request them to visit our website http://www.rgspbharath.com which is working towards creating awareness about revolutionary freedom fighters and has got plans to esablish awards & scholarship in the memory of revolutionary freedom fighters in the state of Karnataka including in the memory of great Tantya Tope.

    I also take this opportunity to come down to Bangalore (Karnataka) and meet the present Chief Minister and get few landmarks of Bangalore and other cities of Karnataka named after Tantya Tope, Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai, Nana Saheb and other heroes and leaders of war of Indian Independence of 1857. They can contact me for fixing an appointment with the Chief Minister of Karnataka. My telephone No. is 098456 2560.

    Also I would like to inform them that on ZEE TV, the teleserial on the life of Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai is telecasted and request them to watch it or alternatively the same can be viewd in the internet also.



    Comment by T N RAMAKRISHNA — June 22, 2010 @ 6:56 pm | Reply

  2. Can some well read like minded people get together to rewrite history – so that not only does our future generations get the correct picture, but also and more importantly we need to do away with the distorted and misconstrued glorified version.

    Comment by aruna — October 15, 2010 @ 9:25 pm | Reply

  3. great job ….i have always felt the need of reading the first war of Independence in the right manner…now the revealed stories show how the english and the Indian historians wrote history for their own vested interests.Sir,I think the whole of the 1857 incidents should be traced back along with the details of Rani Laxmi Bai who was the dearest student of Tatya TOPE…..i would like to request you to take the pain in writing this as well explaining every atrocity that the queen of england and her orderlies did to the patriots of our Motherland.they enjoy the resources which were earlier squeezed out of Bharat and now it really hurts me when i see all the things looted are now being auctioned throughout the world..even watch this helplessly…not only of 1857 but of the plundering they did from the Mughals as well..they exhibit this in their famous London museum;which for us is painfully pricking our soul..it’s not the gold or the precious stones that matters but what matters is our pride..those valuables including letters and potraits of our KIngs and Queens were taken away after killing so many of our motherlands Sons’ and Daughters’.if you can contribute in revealing the real stories, then our future generation unlike us would learn the real History of Bharat….

    Comment by DIVYA — May 29, 2011 @ 4:59 am | Reply

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