An Indian freedom fighter who raged against the “Doctrine of Lapse”

Sheikh Bhikhari Saheb raged against General Dalhousie’s “doctrine of forfeiture,” whose sole purpose was to expand the British Empire. He supported freedom-loving native leaders and fought against foreign rulers.

He was born in 1819 in a village called Hupte which came under Budmu Police Station in Ranchi district of Bihar. His father’s name was Shaik Buland. After completing his studies in his native village, Bhikhari joined the army as a soldier.

Later, he went to Oudaghar province at the invitation of its ruler Thakur Viswanadha Sahadev and soon became the Diwan of the province. He sensed the imminent danger of the “Doctrine of Lapse” by the British and that it would be inevitable.

He sent special emissaries like Amanath Ali Ansari, Karamath Ali Ansari and Shaik Hore Ansari to various provinces to unite the impatient leaders of the expansionist activities of the British. In a strategic move and with the cooperation of Ram Vijay Singh and Nadir Ali Khan of the East India Company, he first attacked the British army headquarters at Ramghad of Hazaribagh district in 1857 and won the battle .

Buoyed by this victory, he entered the Santhal pargana with his forces and defeated the British forces at Bhanuka. Some British officers were killed in battle. Thakur Viswanadh celebrated the victories. Having been informed of a massive deployment of company forces at Danapur, Bhikhari and Tikontha Umrao Singh reached Ramghad with their forces. A terrible battle ensued.

Although the native soldiers lacked the arms and ammunition to confront the heavily armed British forces, they used arrows and stones in battle. Eventually, British officers set their sights on Bhikhari, the strategist who created sleepless nights for British leaders.

They lured some of the greedy people from the native forces and found Bhikhari’s secret place. Commander MC Donald went there in person with a huge contingent and captured Bhikhari and Umrao Singh on January 6, 1858.

Later they hanged them both from a tree without any trial. In this context, MC Donald said, “Among the rebels, Bhikhari is the most dangerous and notorious mutineer.” This shows how terrified Sheikh Bhikhari Saheb was to British officers.

Thelma J. Longworth