Titu Mir

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Titu Mir (1782-1831) a peasant leader who resisted the oppression of the local zamindars and European indigo planters on the peasantry with ultimate object of liberating the country from British domination. He was a leader of the tariqah-i-muhammadiya in Bengal, and his movement initially aimed at socio-religious reforms, elimination of the practice of shirk (pantheism) and bidat (innovation) in the Muslim society and at inspiring the Muslims to follow Islamic principles in their day to day life.

The real name of Titu Mir was Saiyid Mir Nisar Ali. He was born on 14 Magh 1188 BS (1782 AD) at village Chandpur (controversially Haiderpur) under Bashirhat subdivision of the district of 24 Parganas in West Bengal. His father was Saiyid Mir Hasan Ali and his mother's name was Abida Rokaiya Khatoon. The family of Titu Mir claimed descent from Hazrat Ali (R). His predecessor Saiyid Shahadat Ali came to Bengal from Arabia to preach Islam. Saiyid Abdullah, son of Shahadat Ali, was appointed the chief qazi of Jafarpur by the emperor of Delhi and was invested with the title of Mir Insaaf. The descendants of Shahadat Ali used both the hereditary titles 'Saiyid' and 'Mir'.

Titu Mir had his early education in the village maktab and then he studied in a local madrasa. He was a hafiz in the Quran. He excelled in three languages, Bangla Arabic and Persian, and developed keen interest in Arabic and Persian literature. He was well versed in Islamic theology, jurisprudence, philosophy, tasawwaf (Islamic mysticism) and mantiq. While a student in the madrasa, Titu Mir grew up into a good gymnast and a renowned wrestler (pahlwan).

Titu Mir went on a pilgrimage to Makka in 1822 and came in close contact with the great Islamic reformer and revolutionary leader Saiyid Ahmad of Bareilly who inspired him to free his fellow countrymen from un-Islamic practices and foreign domination. On his return from Makka in 1827, Titu Mir started preaching among the Muslims in the districts of 24 Parganas and Nadia. He advised them to refrain from practising Shirk and bidaat and inspired them, especially the weavers and peasants, to follow the Islamic way of life. But soon he was in conflict with the Hindu zamindar Krishnadeva Rai of Purha for his sectarian attitude towards the Muslims and for imposing illegal taxes on them. Titu Mir happened to be in conflict with other landlords like Kaliprasanna Mukhopadhyay of Gobardanga, Rajnarayan of Taragonia, Gauri Prasad Chowdhury of Nagpur and Devanath Rai of Gobra-govindpur for their oppression on the peasantry.

To face the situation and to give protection to the peasants Titu Mir formed a Mujahid force and trained them in lathi (bamboo stick) and other indigenous arms. His disciple and nephew, Ghulam Masum was made commander of the force. The increasing strength of Titu Mir alarmed the zamindars who however attempted to take united stand and to involve the English in their fight against him. Being instigated by the zamindar of Gobardanga, Davis, the English kuthial (factor) of Mollahati, advanced with his force against Titu Mir, but was beaten back. The zamindar of Gobra-govindpur was killed in a conflict with Titu Mir. Alexander, the collector of Barasat, advanced against Titu Mir with the daroga of Bashirhat, and sustained a severe defeat in the hands of Titu Mir. By this time Titu Mir filed a complain to the government of east india company against the oppression of the zamindars, but to no result.

Titu Mir built a strong fort with bamboo poles at Narkelbaria in October 1831, recruited mujahids and gave them military training. The number of Mujahids soon rose to nearly five thousand. Having completed his military preparation Titu Mir declared himself Badshah (king) and urged upon the people to participate in jihad (sacred war) against the British. He soon established his control over the districts of 24 Parganas, Nadia and Faridpur. Titu Mir demanded tax from the zamindars of Taki and Gobardanga who implored protection of the English. An English contingent was sent from Calcutta. But the combined forces of the zamindars and the English sustained severe defeat in the hands of the mujahids (troops). Subsequently, Lord william bentinck sent a regular army against Titu Mir under Lieutenant Colonel Stewart consisting of 100 cavalry, 300 native infantry and artillery with two cannons.

The English launched attack on the mujahids on 14 November 1831. The mujahids with traditional weapons failed to resist the English army equipped with modern arms, and took shelter inside the bamboo fort. The English opened fire and totally destroyed the fort. There was heavy casualty on the side of the mujahids. Titu Mir along with many of his followers fell in the battle (19 November 1831). The mujahids numbering 350 including their commander Ghulam Masum were captured. Ghulam Masum was sentenced to death, and 140 captives were sentenced to imprisonment on different terms. [Muazzam Hussain Khan]