Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Imami Malang Majnu Shah- National Hero in Bangladesh but ‘Zero’ in India

A Devotee of Panjatan and First Martyr of India's freedom Struggle- Majnu Shah
By Prof.Mazhar Naqvi
Majnu Shah, a great devotee of Panjatan Pak, is a national hero of Bangladesh. Neither India nor Pakistan has acknowledged him as the first one to oppose the oppressive policies of East India Company. Even Bangladesh government might have also given him a shabby treatment but could not do so as his relentless fight against the British is well preserved in Bangladeshi literature and folklore. Moreover, famous Bangladeshi actor- turned director Darashika by producing a film titled Fakir Majnu Shah once again revived his memory even among the modern Bangladeshis. The biggest tribute to the Fakir was given by the Bangladesh Government when a bridge was named after him and dedicated to nation by the then Prime Minister herself a few years ago.
The appreciation and acknowledgement from Bangladesh can’t be considered as justice or tribute to someone who had fought against the British for more than three decades at a time when India was undivided. Hence, efforts should have been made by the governments of India and Pakistan to preserve his memory. The responsibility of Indian government is even more in this context as Majnu Shah had breathed his last on Indian soil and he lies buried unknown and unsung at Makanpur village of Kanpur Nagar district and famous for the shrine of prominent Sufi saint of Madariya order Hazrat Badiuddin Zinda Shah Madar.   
Majnu Shah was a Malang (wandering mystic) and belonged to ‘Deewanagan’ branch of Shah Madar’s followers. He was born in Mewat region of Haryana State and his real name was Muhammad Abu Talib. Little is known about his parents or early life or how he became a Malang but he prominently figures as the leader of Fakir-Sanyasi movement against East India Company and landlords under its patronage after the battle of Plassey in 1757.He had succeeded the leadership of Madariya fakirs or Malangs in Bengal from shah Sultan Hasan Suriya Burhana in Hemtabad of Dinajpur district. He also has a residence at Madarganj and also used to live at his Gaddi in Bogra.       
Being a Malang, he had great affection for  Panjatan (Pious Five- a term referred to Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Ali,  Bibi Fatima, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain).Further, he used to follow  the ‘Sunnat’( traditions) of Imam Zain- Ul- Abdeen, son of Hazrat Imam Husain who was much persecuted as captive after the battle of Karbala. Imam Zain-Ul- Abdeen always attached great importance to alms giving and always emphasized that one should give in alam what he relishes the most. He himself used to give grapes in alms as it was his favorite fruit. Imam never returned anyone empty handed and did not hesitate in offering his own food to any ‘Sawali’. Moreover, he always said “You give alms in the name of Allah and therefore you should take back what you have given to any Sawali and return him after kissing it”.   
Hence, he immediately raised his voice against when East India Company (EIC) placed restrictions on alms collection by fakirs and sannyasis. As a leader of Madariya Sufi order, he was a man of means but other Fakirs and sannyasis were not. They relied heavily on the alms collection. Majnu Shah considered the restriction as interference in religion and moved between various parts of Bihar & Bengal. He inspired people to rise against the British for the sake of liberation, religion and harmony. His sensational leadership qualities brought Fakirs and Sannyasis under a common platform. The sannyasis under his influence mostly represented the Ved His untiring efforts began giving results by 1760 and it gathered momentum in 1763. The followers of Majnu Shah mainly targeted EIC Kothis, Katchharis of zamindaars, and houses of British officials and mansions of Pro-Firangee landlords. They freely used swords, spear and lances, gun, fire throwing device, Hawai and even revolving cannons. Their number swelled to around fifty thousand or more by 1770 and whenever they fought in open, EIC could not collect more than 6000 troops.
In a bid to crush Majnu Shah led resistance, EIC deputed Lieutenant Brenan. In his first, major encounter with the British army led by Lieutenant Feltham in Dinajpur on 25 February, 1771 was unsuccessful. He had to flee to a Dargah at Mahasthangarh in Bogra district. After keeping quite for about two years, in the winter of 1773, Majnu Shah and his team reappeared in Rajshahi district. On 23 December, 1773 they once again confronted four companies of EIC sepoys who repulsed them again.
The successive defeats however did not dampen his spirits and as a true follower of Imam Husain, he continued his campaign against the British who in his view were tyrant like Yazid. Though he had a large number of supporters but they lacked in military training and discipline. In Guerrilla warfare, he succeeded but always suffered defeat in the open encounters. He was shot at and wounded on December 8, 1786.he managed to dodge the British and reached Makanpur where he received shelter from the ancestors of local landlord Mir Syed Hasan. The injury however proved fatal and he died on January 26, 1787. The ‘Deewanagan’ Madariya Malangs observe their death rites in a manner different from the rest of the followers of Shah Madar namely Khademan, Ashiqan and Taliban. While in other branches, the dead body is buried the long hair called Ghegha or Jata is cut off after the  death of a Malang and then, the body and hair are buried at two different places. The last rites of Majnu Shah were also performed likewise and his two graves exist even today at Makanpur. The first grave is near Mela area and the second one is in the large residential complex of Mir Syed Hasan. It is known as Majnu Shah Ki Kothri and is used for keeping Kathghari, Musallahs, alams and bamboo structure of Budhia ka tazia. Every year in Muharram, Kothri is whitewashed and tazia is prepared for taking part in the procession near his grave.    
For the past few years, Sameer Madarvi who had established Madariya Sufi foundation in Mumbai, has been striving to ensure due acknowledgement of Majnu Shah as the first martyr of India’s early resistance to the formation of British empire but all his representations have evoked no response from the government. As a result, Majnu Shah remains unknown in his motherland, among the Muslims of Pakistan but eulogized in Bangladesh due to his action- packed and thrilling campaigns in Bengal of undivided India.( Reference available on request)     
Fakir Majnu Shah bridge,Bangladesh