World Bulletin/News Desk
The Indian Muslims, whether be in World War One, or during the War of Independence, displayed both material and moral support to the Ottoman, Anatolian and Muslim brotherhood- although throughout history this has been remembered little, quickly forgotten and lost in oblivion and has remained in the shadows like other subjects. With the intervention of the “Indian Caliphate Committee”, they encompassed a wide range of support - initially through organised weapon-ammunition acquisition as well as medical, food and clothing, but also extended to substantial financial aid, lobby movements, military and civil disobedient action. Behind this support however was the words of an Indian Muslim: “At one time, there were many Muslim governments and kings. When one of these were abolished we never let ourselves slide into sorrow. Turkey was the last of the Islamic governments and the strongest. We fear that we will become stateless like the Jews”. This reflected that the idea of the “Caliphate” and the “Islam” had a focal point of hope.
It can be understood through many examples that the Ottomans even at their lowest point, actively pursued “Islam” and the “Caliphate position” starting from Europe, the Middle East, Africa right to the furthest points of Asia. The impact of this was realised through “a mass fast and mass prayers by India on the 17th October 1919 with general demonstrations throughout the country”. With the aim of destroying the Treaty of Sevres, a peaceful political protest campaign had begun to influence the British government in India. At the end of the movement, many arrests were made including those of “Nehru” and “Ghandi”. Elections, schools and British goods were boycotted. On top of this, the Viceroy of India, Lord Reading, claiming increasing Islamic favouritism, advised London that British nationals in Istanbul to be sent home, the Caliphate has sovereignty of Islamic sacred sites to be recognised and that Thracia and Smyrna be returned to the Ottomans.
One of the lesser known supportive aspects of the Indian Muslim support was their rebellion and their demonstrations against the British army. One of the most serious acts of rebellion resulted on 15th February 1915 in the British Empire colony of Singapore. Made up entirely of Indian Rajput, Mogols and Pashtuns, the 5th Light Infantry Brigade initiated a mutiny – declared by the Ottoman Government as a “Major Jihad” - against the organised British government for independence, with the support of Indian members of the “Ghadar Party” and an active German propaganda movement.
Although the British authorities and the media put forward that the reason of the uprising was the discontent and jealousy of the appointments, the real reason what that the discontent that had begun in Indian and Burma since the Ottoman government entered World War I, it was actually the reluctance to fight against the Muslim Ottoman army and that the actual enemy was thought to be the British and French.
Thus in this situation, in the report given by the Ottoman empire's Batavia Consul General Rifat Efendi said that: “It is that there are various rumours surrounding the rebellion in Singapore however the truth is that an Indian Muslim, in the afore mentioned city and Indian Muslim soldiers have declared major Jihad for the greater Islamic state against the British and also including the Hindu soldiers arriving from Singapore as well those Muslim civilians according to the intelligence that I have received”.
After beginning to kill the British soliders and freeing the German-Austrian prisoners held at the prison camps and taking control of the fort and weapon arsenal, the rebellion by the Indian Muslim soldiers with no strong leadership and as a result of the unorganised and unplanned attack was quickly suppressed by the allied Japanese, Russian and French ships as well as the ground army. Despite this outcome, the possibility of the effect of a “Major Jihad”, “Islam” and “Caliphate” in Singapore caused the British to be apprehensive. With what took place in Singapore possibly sparking further conflict and rebellion, the British administration severely punished the Indian soldiers.
On other hand, while the trials and the executions of those Muslim soldiers in the 5th Light Brigade were being carried out, a propaganda campaign had begun in order to vitiate and cover up the extent of the mutiny. The official statement to the press claimed that those who had petioned to want to fight in Europe were rejected. A portion of the 850 soldiers belonging to the 5th Light Brigade and a portion of the 200 officers and seboys were executed by firing squad and publicly hanged, and some were imprisoned and exiled. The remaining soliders were deployed for service in Cameroon and German East Africa against the Germans. In 1917, the Turkish recognised “Malaysian Armed Forces” were led against a campaign against the Ottomans in Eden.
Another rebellion took place in Kut-al-Amare by the Indian Muslims of the 5th Light Brigade. A year after the mutiny in Singapore, in order to occupy Iraq, the 6th Division, composed of Indian soliders - mostly Muslim Pathans - were led by General Townshend who proceeded to Kut-al-Amare by way of Basra to fight against the Turks. The Muslim Pathans who were reluctant to fight against their Muslim Turkish brethren, gave way to discipline issues causing many to rebel and desert the division. Through reports given by Brigadier Halil Pasa, the soldiers who were invited to the Ottoman army and rebel against the British imperialists, eventually opened fire against the British as a result of their experiences during the battle and thus joined the Ottoman army.
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