Editor : Satish Ohri    Edition : March - April 2018

Patparganj- A Battle Field

A visit to this suburb in Delhi would make one ponder that Patparganj was infact the scene that let the British enter Delhi. Relatively less heard it was this battle victory that paved way for consolidation of empire and entry into the city. The recent controversy though much hyped about the Peshwas getting defeated could be resonated in the final battle of Patparganj which decimated all hopes of gaining control of the Fort that symbolized the empire. Mughals still ruled Delhi not to say India that effectively. Their authority was on wane yet Northern India still keeping their future with Mughals. British knew of the discontent but were far away settling the Awadh before knocking Delhi. Not only that there were many small Rajas who posed tough or put blocks but gradually they all fell into their lap. They had to be calculative since Holkar and Jats were already in the Fort and precision was required. Yet they did not hurry. Rather they were never in hurry since they landed and gradually spread their tentacles all over. One often hears modern day politicians talking about glorious past and a unified image of the land which was eons back. India was always a land divided by small rulers, satraps and surprisingly still called India as one land. That could be attributed to the earlier Mughals who had expanded till South or the British which kept it geography intact under control. The large piece of land however remained fragmented and fiercely divided. There was never unity between states howsoever big or small. If one found commonality of language, character and social similarities, the conflict amongst them was purely political. Each vied for supremacy and history records fissures everywhere. Such a scenario would always get attracted by exploiters and British were united enough to spread their national interest. They understood the Indian psyche better of all settlers and reason for their centuries of entrenchment. The Scindias of Gwalior and Jats were together controlling Delhi. They were a dominant power in the Northern region. British company had already taken control of Awadh in 1801 and got funds from them to maintain their army. It was Delhi that was to be included to create an empire. The Marathas and Jat under French army officers were well protecting Delhi. But there was resentment over their atrocities. That helped East India Company to add Delhi in their plans. Their army was not imposing both in numbers and material compared to the French General. But after capturing Aligarh, Monsieur Perron wrote to his C in C that he was retired from Scindias and liked to move to Lucknow. This emboldened the British who found him a tough officer. The Company moved its troops to Delhi. Monsieur Louis Bourquien as new general with force of 19000 with 6000 as cavalry with impressive artillery moved to defend Delhi from marching Britishers who numbered 4500 only. Notwithstanding the disparity of numbers coupled with intensity of heat and fatigued being with arms for over eighteen hours, the English army was determined. Both the forces were positioned opposite each other at Patparganj, a village just across the Jumna. The village could be seen in the far distant background from Humanyun's Tomb. Many from other villages were perched on top to witness the battle. Historians record how people eye witnessed an actual battle that was fierce and brutal. It did not last long either. The English made their task easier by deft planning and forced Marathas and Jats retreat. Not only that, they were forced out of all gates of Delhi and the Fort was emptied.

The Battle of Patparganj fought on September 11, 1803 saw British entering Delhi the first time as victors and rulers. With getting hold of Delhi they also got Rohtak and Panipat as Assigned Territories. Revenue from these two places was primarily meant to finance Emperor Shah Alam who was propped keeping the sentiments while English rested with actual control. An elated but helpless Emperor sent a message to Commander-in-Chief and sought his protection. The tyranny and misrule of Marathas and Jats saw their end. The four French Generals leading Marathas were granted reprieve and most of their gunnery was taken over. The Marathas still hoping to overturn the fate tried to stifle the English at other places but English had already entered and they were welcomed by people at large who were fed up of tyranny and loose administration of loot and vilification. Local support helped English to take over yet Holkar was not so easy an enemy. After getting uprooted at Patparganj which was the decider he still made few attempts to gain hold. But the gallantry of Col. Ochterlony and Col. Burn was well sighted. They positioned on those portion of wall surrounding Shahjahanabad that was wide and strong. They knew it could withstand the cannon attack which a fleeing Holkar might make. This was between the Ajmeri Gate and Turkman Gate and British foresight made it decisive. Holkar arrived with strong detachment of infantry and cannonade but could not breach the wall. Holkar had sighted to ascend the Delhi throne with the help of French. He gradually brought in huge numbers and large train of artillery. This was planned well to capture the throne before English intervened. But he could not win over public support that went to the British. The battle at Patparganj eventually brought the English to Delhi. It sealed fate and revival of an Indian empire and history soon took new shape of things to happen.

–Vinod Kapoor

Advertise with us