In the first few months of 1857, a conspiracy gained color. Gossip began to spread. There was news that some people are partaking in a movement wherein they are circulating ‘something’. This ‘something’ goes from one village to another and travels endlessly. But, what was being circulated? Nothing other than chappatis (unleavened flatbread)! In the 4th post of the #Storyof1857 series, we are going to see how chapattis caused chaos in the months pre-dating the mutiny. ⠀
Reports of the circulation started coming in from many places. There had been sightings in Delhi, Shajahanpur, Fatehpur, Indore and Nimach. In these regions, one person would come at night and give a chappati to the watchman of the village and ask him to make five more and distribute it to the next village and so on. ⠀
However, the catch was, that nobody knew for certain why this was happening! Was it a practice to drive away diseases? Was the circulation a way of spreading an atmosphere of mystery? Was this a way of warning the British to not interfere with the local food of the region? Some reports speculated that there were around 90,000 policemen who took part in this movement, would they have troubled themselves for no reason? When the revolt broke out in Meerut on May 10, many believed that the circulation of the chappatis started as an underground movement devised by rebels. ⠀
In this wonderful & humorous illustration by @ankithakini , a chowkidar who was carrying chappatis in his turban, earnestly takes off his turban for the officer to check. The officer, who has heard of the mysterious chapattis, freaks out at being exposed to the sight of them! The chowkidar innocently smiles because even these men who took part in the chappati circulation, were blissfully unaware of the purpose behind it. When Sir Theo Metcalfe asked chowkidars why chappatis were brought from Bolundshar to Delhi, they stated that they thought these were the orders of the government!⠀
Here, the words of the British historian, Kim A. Wagner make sense, the chappatis were not “harbingers of the coming storm” but the movement, at the time, meant whatever people wanted it to mean.
- Eric Chopra (itihasology)