Sunday, 12 August 2007

The Proclaimations

By the summer of 1804, the local East India Company forces was still not able to contain the Pychy Rajah and his supporters. His men had been able to strike at villages within ten miles of Tellicherry itself.

A series of blockhouses had been built around the perimeter of the settlement at Tellicherry which were used to defend the perimeter. It was from one of these blockhouses at Kudroor that Thomas was leading efforts to suppress the rebellion beneath the Ghats.

Thomas Baber appears to have realised that it was only by controlling food supplies coming from the local villages, and which were being passed to the insurgents, that Thomas could make it more difficult for the Pychy’s men to operate in the coastal plain.

The Rajah's men were operating from the deeper forests, along the foothills of the Ghats, and these were unable to support his followers without supplimentary supplies.

On the 8th of July 1804, Thomas Baber issued the following proclamation from Cadoor. I believe that Cadoor is probably the same village was later called Kudroor, and which had a block house situated in it, which was subsequently used as a prison to hold the Yelleh Rajah, a prisoner from the Travancore royal family, and which was described by James Welsh following a visit he had made on the 20th of December 1812, when he accompanied Thomas Baber to the gaol that Thomas ran at Kudroor in the blockhouse.

Notice is hereby given that in consequence of the support given by certain individuals to the enemies of, and those who are in rebellion against the Company’s Government in affording them the supplies necessary to their existence thereby enabling them to continue their resistance to the established authorities to the great detriment of the Honourable Company, the hitherto latitude of trade is restricted in the export of supplies of all description from the bazaars in the northern division bordering on and in the district of Cotiote, and it is accordingly hereby ordered that no larger quantity of rice than one silver fanam’s worth, and articles in proportion be sold to any person not an immediate inhabitant of such bazaars, without producing a chit from the constituted authorities that such person is in allegiance to the Company’s Government. It is also ordered that no supplies whatever be carried out of these bazaars by any other than the public roads on pain of being apprehended and punished as rebels. In the bazaars of Tellicherry and Cannanore there are guards placed, who are directed to examine all roads, and to carry all persons who cannot give satisfactory account of themselves before the Cutwall for examination.

Cadoor (Signed) T. H. Baber
8th July 1804 Sub-Collector, N.D.

During the spring of 1805, in an attempt to separate the local population from the Rajah, Lieutenant Colonel Macleod, the local military commander published the following proclamation granting an amnesty to the villagers, if they would desert the Rajah. He had also been authorised by the Governor in Madras to offer rewards for the capture of the Rajah and his key subordinates.

Proclamation by Lieutenant Colonel Macleod Commanding in Malabar etc. to the Inhabitants of Wynaad be sensible of the injury which that District has sustained for a long time past, and of the distress which they and there families have experienced from their attention to the councils of ill disposed persons, as well as the many accidents and severe losses which they have consequently met with. It is therefore made known to all the inhabitants except those names underwritten and whose crimes are considered as of too great a magnitude to come within the bounds of pardons, that this Government of Madras have ordered into the District a large body of Troops under my command who will be permanently stationed here for the purpose of protecting those well affected as well as to punish those who contrary to their true interests may obstinately persist in their rebellious dispositions and endeavour to prevent the Restoration of Peace and good order which must ultimately prove their disgrace and down fall under this authority I hereby acquaint the inhabitants in General Eddackenna, Coongan, Comappa, Othaner and Amees excepted that pardon will be granted to all who submit themselves to me or to the Principle Collector at Panoita Cota and that the Government have empowered me to try and to punish by Martial Law all such as do not wish to take advantage of this Proclamation, and who may subsequently fall into the hands of the Troops.
Signed M. Macleod
Lieutenant Colonel

This Proclamation quickly reached the hands of the Rajah, who composed the following response. This response is fascinating because it allows us to clearly understand the grievances that the Rajah and his supporters held, arising from the burdensome EIC taxation to which they were being subjected.

It was these same grievances that Thomas Baber would later spend so much time trying to correct.

Translation of a Letter to Lieutenant Colonel Macleod Commanding in Malabar and Kanara etc. from the Principle People and Inhabitants of Wynaad.

We have received and read the Proclamation that you have been so kind to send us, and understand its contents.
You are acquainted that the Proclamation issued in the year 976/1801 ml/el offered protection to all of us and proscribed the Rajah and his Karryakars / Ministers when the great army entered the country at which time we accordingly submitted to the wishes of Government and resided in tranquillity.
Subsequent to this, in year 977/1803 ml/el when Sham Row was appointed Tesheldawe, he taxed the lands from whence we procured the means of conducting our religious ceremonies and also our other properties at double that they were equal to, and our funds were inadequate to payment of the Revenue demanded, we consequently met with treatment of the most disgraceful nature, and various other grievances, and altho’ our grievances were neither investigated or addresses, we still remained patient under them and obedient to laws, in consideration to our families, since which time that the Rebellion commenced in the years 978/1803 ml/el to the present day we have experienced the most severe losses and greatest distress which we again suffered a repetition of as there was no mode adapted for the admission of the Rajah and his Karriakars and for pardoning all kinds of crimes which had formerly been committed therefore of in the present Proclamation the admission of all descriptions of people is inserted, we should henceforth most likely reside quietly and unmolested under the Protection of the Honourable Company, otherwise on perceiving the particular name at the end of the proclamation upon which we are permitted to come in, & reflecting upon what formerly happened & and what may now be the consequences, we solicit for your permission to state it as the most advisable method that a general pardon should be given, and that we may all be allowed to remain happily under the honourable Companies protection and permitted to attend to the performance of our religious worship and ceremonies in conformity with ancient customs.

Dated 5th Koomburn 800 ML
14th February 1805 EJ.

It would appear that for the Raja the basis for a negotiated settlement quite possibly existed.

However it is not entirely clear what happened next, because the EIC appears to have decided that the only way to deal with the Rajah was by military means. By the beginning of March 1805, the rebellion had become sufficiently serious for another major military force to be sent into the area.

On the 8th March 1805 Lt Col. Macleod wrote to George Buchan Esq. The Chief Secretary to the Government in Madras: -

I have the honor to inform you that for the information of His Lordship in Council that the Field Detachment under my command entered Wynaad on the Commencement of this month, since which I have detached a considerable part of it for the purpose of rebuilding the redoubt at the top of Cotiote pass, in order to prevent the descent of any partly of the Rebels into the lower country.

Macleod went on to describe how he had sent a force up the main road from the coast towards Seringapatam, where it waited on the border of Wynaad for several days for a convoy of military supplies sent down by Major General Wellesley to Panarta Coalo on the 7th of March 1805.

These supplies were necessary to maintain the army in the field. Macleod planned to build a cantonment so that his forces could remain in the Wynaad during the monsoon.

This was something which had not previously been possible, due to the very high rate of sickness that would have resulted due to the lack of any shelter for the troops from the heavy monsoon rains. He intended to keep the 2nd Battalion 1st Regiment of Native Infantry, 1st Battalion 13th Regiment Native Regiment, and six companies of the 1st Battalion 12th Regiment Native Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Innes in the hills.

The success of the rebellion had ebbed and flowed with the seasons. In the dry season the EIC troops would enter the hills and force the Raja’s adherents into the remoter districts and into Coorg. Then as the monsoons broke the EIC grew sick and had to retreat to the barracks. This had been allowing the Raja to regroup and to recapture areas.

Throughout 1804 Thomas Babber had been operating in Chirakkal Taluk, the area of land below the Ghats, and inland of Cannanore and Tellicherry. This was the Pychy Rajas home territory.

However Thomas Baber's Nairs seem to have had their own reasons for dislikeing the Pazhassi Raja, and were loyal to the EIC. At some point in 1805 Thomas seems to have decided that they only way to end the war was to remove the Raja.

Thomas Baber acting on his own initiative took direct command of search and destroy operations using his own Kolkars, to identify and attack the insurgents. The achievements of Thomas and his Kolkars were recognised by the authorities in the following letters that Thomas later included in his 1815 Testimonial.

Extract of a letter from Mr T. Mardeen Principle Coll r to T.H. Baber Subordinate Coll r in Northern Division of Malabar dated 20th April 1805 –

I have read with particular satisfaction the reports which you have sent me of your extra-ordinary success against the formidable band of Rebels who lately descended into your district to exert their mostly despicable desperate efforts to excite the inhabitants to insurrection and have to return to you my warmest thanks for the promptitude & zealous energy with which you personally set an example to those under your immediate local authority to defeat with resolute perseverance the bold designs of the insurgents to their own confusion & ultimate destruction.

During May or June of 1805, an attack on a post at Choorcharry took place, led by Welatory Rama Thareakarar accompanied by Palara Yemen. A report from his trial on the 7th of April 1806 at Seringapatam survives, which gives a very good idea of the tactics the Raja’s supporters had been using to such effect.

A former servant of Welatory Rama Thareakarar, Yemen Nair, who had changed sides and who had become an EIC Holkar (or Kolkar) gave the following evidence: -

In May or June 1805, the prisoner & Palaro Yemen accompanied with about nineteen men armed with firelocks and about thirty Thooramans armed with Bows and arrows set out from Choorekooney; The party halted in the road during the day. & were joined by a reinforcement of Thoramans at night they proceeded & were met at a short distance from Choorekonnery by one of their spies who informed them, that the post was too strong and the Holkars to numerous to be attacked, on receiving this report Palora Yemen urged and persuaded the party to proceed, saying “go on never fear” Yemen then under the pretence that business of importance required his presence elsewhere, departed leaving the charge of the party to the Prisoner & desiring him to conduct the attack against the post of Choorekoony which he accordingly did that night.

Thomas and the EIC appear to have been successful in turning a number of Nairs like Yemen Nair.

It is not entirely clear exactly how many operations Thomas undertook to round up the rebels, but it is possible that the extracts set out below refer to the same events. Sadly, so far I have been unable to locate the original reports.

Extract of an extract of a letter from the Chief Secretary to Govt to Mr T. Mardeen Principle Collector dated 8th June 1805.

His Lordship in council having had repeated occasion to Commend the Zeal and activity of the northern Sub Coll r Mr Baber I am directed to desire that you will particularly inform that gentleman of their favourable opinion entertained by this Lordship of his Conduct.

Extract of a letter from Mr T. Mardeen Principle Coll r to Mr T. H. Baber dated 14th June 1805.

I have derived much satisfaction from your report of the (way) in which the seizure of the very noted rebel leaders Kassat Jematha, Chemurtherry Daisapsur, & Kayinder Koren is communicated.

The circumstances which led to the apprehension of these very important characters are to be recorded as additional Testimony of the Loyalty of the Inhabitants of Catish & Chasical which reflects no less credibly (sic) on the people themselves than on your own personal abilities & zealous exertions which have so essentially contributed to inspire that loyalty in their minds under a full conviction that their future prosperity is inseparable from that of the interest of the Hon’ble Companies gov’t.

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