What Did the Irish ever do for India/Pakistan - Part 2


An Irishman's Guide to the History of the World
- India & Pakistan

In part one of What Did the Irish ever do for India/Pakistan, I wrote about the influence of Irish-founded schools on the political leadership of the countries of the Indian subcontinent; the prominent role of Irish women in the struggle for Indian independence; the co-operation between Irish and Indian nationalists and the fact that the Indian National Congress was on two occasions led by Irish people (a man and a woman).
The story continues below.
 

India’s “De Valera”
Subhas Chandra Bose (1897–1945) was one of the most renowned leaders of the Indian independence movement, president of the Indian Congress Party and Head of State of the Provisional Government of Free India during World War Two. According to Bose’s biography The Indian Struggle, he saw Ireland as the best example in the 20th century of a national struggle for independence and said that “there is so much in common between us that it is only natural that there should be a deep bond of affinity and comradeship between the Irish Nation and ours”.  He supported the Irish armed resistance against British rule during the War of Independence. He agreed too with the Irish republicans’ opposition to the subsequent Treaty with its partition of Ireland into two states and their opposition to dominion status within the British Empire. According to Anton Pelinka in his excellent book ‘Democracy – Indian Style’, Bose recognised that these two issues (partition and dominion status) presented a danger that the Indian Congress Party must avoid at all costs. He closely identified with Eamon De Valera, leader of the anti-Treaty Sinn Féin movement, who later became Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Irish Free State in 1932.  De Valera was his political role model. He met him three times. Bose visited Ireland in 1936 at the invitation of De Valera who treated him as if he was the official representative of India.  He met him again in 1938 when the Irish leader was in London to negotiate with the British government over partition, British naval ports in southern Ireland and economic issues. It was at that time that a British newspaper labelled Bose as “India’s De Valera”.
When Bose established an Indian Government in exile in 1943 in Japanese occupied Singapore to oust Britain from India, De Valera sent him a congratulatory note. 


First Indian Restaurant & Shampoo Clinic in UK introduced by an Indian from Ireland
In 1810, Sake Dean Mahomed established the first Indian restaurant in British. It opened as the Hindoostanee Coffee House on George’s Street in London. In 1814 he and his wife set up the first commercial shampooing masseur bathhouse in England whose celebrity clientele included British royalty. It is interesting to note that the term shampoo is derived from a Hindi word meaning to soothe/press. Made from herb extracts, shampoo was used since ancient times in India to clean hair.
But whilst Dean Mahomed was born in Patna in India, he came to England from Ireland where he had married and held a position of high social status amongst the landowning colonial elite. He was only ten years of age in 1769 when his father, who worked with the British East India company, died. But he was taken under the guardianship of Godfrey Evan Baker, an Anglo-Irish Protestant officer. Thirteen years later Baker resigned his military commission and left India accompanied by the twenty three year old Dean Mahomed who became a manager on his estate in Cork. In 1786 he eloped with Jane Daly, a 16 year old girl from a local wealthy Protestant family. But he soon became a pillar of the local community and it was whilst he was in Cork that he published The Travels of Dean Mahomet, the first book in English to be written by an Asian.


Fictional Son of an Irish Soldier becomes an Imperial Icon of the Raj

Kim, one of the best loved English novel’s of the 20th century, written by Nobek-prize winner Rudyard Kipling features as its main character the orphaned son of an Irish sergeant in the British Army and his Irish wife who worked as a maid in the house of a British officer.  

The novel is called after its main protagonist and hero, whose full name is  Kimball O'Hara, a beggar boy who lives by his wits on the streets of Lahore.


Indian & Irish Literary Greats - The Connection
In 1913, Rabindranath Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. This achievement was helped by the fascination that William Butler Yeats, then Ireland’s greatest poet and an internationally recognized star of Western literature, had with Tagore’s manuscript collection of poems entitled Gitangali: Song Offerings, which he first read in 1912 shortly after the Indian writer had arrived in England.  Upon reading it, Yeat’s felt that Tagore was far superior to himself or to any other living writer, that the lyrics “display in their thought a world I have dreamed of all my live [sic] long . . . a tradition, where poetry and religion are the same thing.”  He became the Indian writer’s most passionate supporter and wrote the introduction to Gitangali when it was published in March 1913. By November of that year Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize solely on this one anthology. Yeats recognised a strong cultural essence between his spiritual homeland of the rural West of Ireland and that of Tagore’s native Bengal as it was portrayed in his poetry. Both cultures held a strong affinity between nature and religion which appealed to him.
But Yeat’s interest in the religions, mysticism and mythologies of India go back much further, to 1885 when at the age of 21 he had invited Mohini Chatterji, a Bengali Brahman, to Dublin.

An Imperial Gaelic Army in India
“India was the great prize of a Gaelic-speaking army recruited by the East India Company exclusively in Ireland under Irish generals.”
So said Donegal born, former imperial administrator in India and Liberal MP C. J. O’Donnell in 1913.
There is much truth in this statement as it is recognised by historians that the Irish were the largest ethnic group in the British Army during the nineteenth century, probably forming between 40%-45% of the membership. It was probably a similar situation in the army of the East India Company before its duties were taken over by the British state after the Indian Mutiny of the 1850s.
In order to escape endemic poverty and for a love of foreign adventure many Irish Catholic peasantry and urban dwellers enlisted as infantry. The sons of the predominantly Anglo-Irish Protestant landowning elite of Ireland also served in the British military but as cavalry and officers, an aristocratic tradition that goes back to medieval times. Due to religious and racial discrimination, Irish Catholics were very rarely able to gain admittance to the upper echelons of the British military.
There is no doubt then that many Irish served as members of an army of occupation in India, brutally repressing rebellions by the indigenous peoples.  
John Nicholson
It is also the case that the majority of the Anglo-Irish officers during the Raj were proud imperialists who probably viewed both native Indians and the Catholic Irish as racially inferior beings whose destiny was to be ruled by the morally and intelligently superior English.
Amongst the Anglo-Irish who served in the British military and administration in India were Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington (Dublin); Sir John Cradock (Dublin) commander-in-chief of the Madras Army, who in 1806 enforced the removal of turbans, beards, bodypainting and jewelry from Indian soldiers which lead to a major uprising against British rule; Major-General Sir Robert Rollo Gillespie (Down), who co-commanded a British invasion of Nepal in 1814; Brigadier-General John Nicholson (Dublin) who during the Indian Mutiny of 1857 employed the terror practice of tying mutineers to the mouths of exploding cannons; Sir Michael Francis O'Dwyer (Tipperary), who as Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab in1919 sanctioned  General Dyer’s actions which became known as the Amritsar Massacre when an estimated 1000 non-violent protestors we killed.


Irish Regiment’s Mutiny praised by Indian Nationalists
The Connaught Rangers (formerly the 88th foot) was one of the most famous regiments of the British Empire. Its regimental headquarters was at Renmore in Galway city.
In 1920 the regiment was stationed in the Punjab. Angered by reports of atrocities being committed by British forces on the civilian population in Ireland, C Company of the 1st Battalion at Wellington Barracks in Jullundur (Jalandhar) on June 28th decided to protest by refusing to obey orders.  The commanding officer was informed that the men would not return to their duties until all British soldiers had left Ireland. 400 soldiers became involved and an Irish republican tricolour flag of green, white and orange, stitched together from cloth purchased in local bazaars, was run up the flag post in place of the Union Jack.  The mutiny was peaceful. Messengers were sent to two other Ranger companies based at Solan and Jutogh. At the former barracks, two mutineers were shot trying to take control of the armoury. 
The mutiny ultimately failed. Fourteen of the mutineers were sentenced to death by firing squad, but the only soldier whose capital sentence was carried out was Private James Joseph Daly from county Westmeath.
One of the leaders of the mutiny Joseph Hawes stated that they as members of an occupying foreign army were doing in India what the British military were doing in Ireland (Professor Tom Bartlett). Indian nationalists at the time viewed the mutiny as a show of solidarity and common cause in the struggle against imperialism. Professor Michael Silvestri mentioned that the “Fateh newspaper of Delhi praised the mutineers’ actions as an adoption of Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of civil disobedience and an illustration of ‘how patriotic people can preserve their honour, defy the orders of the Government, and defeat its unjust aims”.  

Last Viceroy of India assassinated by IRA
Lord Louis Mountbatten served as the last British Viceroy of India (1947) and the first Governor General of the independent Dominion of India (1947-'48). 
 After the death of his wife Lady Edwina in 1960, Lord Mountbatten spent his summers staying at this family's estate of  Classiebawn Castle at Mullaghmore in county Sligo in the Irish republic. 
On August 27th 1979 whilst he was out fishing off the coast of Mullaghmore, his boat was blown up by the Provisional IRA. He and three others onboard died from the blast. 

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