The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mutiny guided tour, for Rs 2 lakh
- British historian to accompany compatriots to sites of 1857 rebellion

London, May 13: A respected British historian, Peter Liddle, is to act as an upmarket guide and lecturer on two tours of India that will include some of the bloodiest backdrops to the 1857 uprising.

Liddle, who is doing extensive research into the events of 1857 ahead of departure, said he would try to bring alive history from 150 years ago as he escorts his British visitors paying nearly £2,500 (about Rs 2 lakh) each to such venues as Gwalior and Lucknow.

Asked whether he would cover the Indian perspective of the “First War of Independence” as well as the British one of “the Sepoy Mutiny”, he told The Telegraph in emphatic terms: “Of course.”

Liddle, who is director of the Second World War Experience Centre in Leeds, said he had a deep and abiding respect for India, its people and its culture and was looking forward keenly to returning to the country.

The subject of 1857 still has the potential, however, to stir passions.

In one letter to a newspaper last week, a British reader expressed irritation that the Indian government, led by Manmohan Singh, was projecting what he at least thought was a one-sided view of 1857.

In his letter, “Forgotten suffering of the Indian Mutiny”, William Wright, writing from Budapest, Hungary, struck what came across as a slightly sneering note.

“So Indian troops are marching on Meerut and Delhi this week to commemorate the Indian Mutiny and honour all who fought for India’s independence,” he began.

“Those British civilians, chiefly women and children, who died in 1857 will no doubt be conveniently forgotten — the Rev John Rotton, chaplain of the Anglican Church in the British cantonment at Meerut, counted and buried 31 bodies on May 10 alone.”

Liddle, on the other hand, does not want to brush anything under the carpet. He is the founder of the Liddle Collection of First World War materials at the University of Leeds. He has put together an enormous amount of data on the experiences of soldiers in the First and Second World Wars.

He has interviewed a number of Indian veterans who have lived in Britain for 50 years. Liddle said he was bewildered and frustrated by the experience — “I don’t mean this as a criticism but they were woefully ignorant when it came to expressing themselves in English”.

When it came to 1857, Liddle, the author of 20 history books, spoke about the paucity of written material from the Indian side.

Liddle was trying to put together the lectures and talks he would give during the two tours in November this year and January next year that are being organised by Indus Tours, a travel firm based in London and Delhi.

The tours will include much else besides the uprising but part of the itinerary is described thus: “Delhi and its Indian Mutiny siege. Visit The Ride, the walls, Kashmir and Water Bastions, Ludlow Castle, the Kabul and Lahore Gates, the Jama Masjid, the Red Fort, the site of Brigadier John Nicholson’s death, the Chandni Chowk and the graves of those killed in the assault.”

The Lucknow part promises: “The siege and the Relief of Lucknow, visiting Sikander Bagh, the Royal Pleasure Gardens when Sir Colin Campbell finally broke the siege.”

It mentions the Residency, “the heart of the British defence under Sir Henry Lawrence”. The following day, there is an “optional visit to Kanpur for visit to the sites of the Cawnpore massacre of British civilians given ‘safe custody’ by a river exit of the city”.

The tours will also mark the 60th anniversary of Independence. The first tour will include Imphal, Kohima, Kaziranga, Guwahati, Darjeeling and Calcutta, while the second will go to Jim Corbett’s National Park, Shimla and Amritsar.

Yasin Zargar, managing director of Indus Tours, said: “We aim to give a real insight into the important history of this bygone era and rekindle a feeling for the unique Anglo-Indian culture making India ‘the brightest jewel in the Imperial crown’.”

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