‘BENKI’ NAWAB: One man’s hero is another’s zero

GOURI SATYA writes: I have read with interest the responses to my article ‘Once upon a time, in the agraharas and mohallas‘. I thank Jeevarathna, in particular, for the additional input.

I agree with what Major Wilks has said about ‘BenkiNawab! For the British army, Benki Nawab was a cruel general of the Tipu Sultan’s army as he caused devastation wherever he fought, and burnt alive the captured Naimars, their families and children when he fought in the Malabar, apart from other ‘enemies’.

But here is what a biographer of the opposite camp writes about the very same Benki Nawab:

“The troops of the Sultan, however, still followed them and vigorously attacking them again, strained every nerve to rout and destroy them. At this critical period Muhammad Raza, Mir Maran, having by much entreaty obtained from the presence leave to charge, proceeded with his division like a raging lion towards the enemy, and stretching forth the arm of valour, it went near that the whole of the enemy’s army was cut up and destroyed.

(History of the Sultan by Mir Hussain Kirmani, 1802)

Yes! For the enemy, the British, ‘Benki’ Nawab was a
merciless killer and a cruel ‘Nawab’.

But, for the Mysore Army, which took on the British and those other rulers who joined hands with them, Benki Nawab was a great general. He fought with great valour and fought like a ‘roaring lion’ in the battlefield.

Is there any change in this perception even today in the battles? For the army of one country, the captured soldier is an enemy and for the country for which he fought, he is a war-hero. It depends from which side one takes one’s view.

As regards the cruelty inflicted in the battles those days, what looks cruel today was a part of warfare, very common in almost all the battles. Nose-cutting, beheading, burning away the camps of the enemy, carrying away of women, conversion, etc, were the order of the day. History is full of such incidents, though we see them as ‘barbaric’ today.

After ‘Benki’ Nawab’s death on March 5, 1799 while fighting against the British and their allies near Periyapatna and the fall of Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799, Benki Nawab’s family and relatives settled down in Mandi Mohalla and the road came to be known after him.