BRITISH REIGN OF TERROR AT BENARES
4 June 1857 – Colonel James Neill, imposes a reign of terror at Benares after crushing the mutinous Indian soldiers of the 37th Native infantry. He armed civilians so that they could form “volunteer hanging parties”, and so pacify the city with summary and indiscriminate hangings, who’s victims even included young boys who had merely paraded in rebel colours. James Kennedy of the London Missionary Society, who was at Benares when the British troops entered, remembered how
“the terrible work of retribution commenced. Martial law was proclaimed and many poor miserable creatures, charged with plundering, were hanged. Some of the Sepoys caught were blown from guns. I will not harrow my readers with details. I shunned as much as I could these bloody scenes, but on several occasions I came suddenly on them. To the present day I shudder to think of what I saw.”(1)
On 16th June a reporter for the Englishman praised the Colonel’s murderous work.
“Thank God there is one man of nerve here not afraid to hang a few rascals every morning.”(2)
News of the British atrocities at Benares however only incensed Indian soldiers at Allahabad , Fatehpur, Faizabad and Jaunpur into open rebellion against their British commanding officers.
- J. Kennedy (1889), “Life and Work in Benares and Kumaon,” Cassell and Company, New York, pp192-193.
- Quoted in “Executions at Benares” in the Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser, 4 August 1857, p2