Edinburgh Castle to replace sign describing British who put down 1857 Indian Rebellion as ‘heroes’
Edinburgh Castle will replace a sign describing British soldiers who put down the 1857 Indian Rebellion as "heroes" after a visitor complained that it "pandered to imperialism".
The sign explains what happened during the siege of a British garrison in the Indian city of Lucknow, which followed the mutiny of some 100,000 soldiers in the Bengal Army.
Titled ‘Heroes of Lucknow’, the text describes how British soldiers "fought through rebel ranks to relieve the city" and were awarded the Victoria Cross for their "valour".
However, a visitor to the historic Edinburgh Castle in Scotland said that while the description of the battle was accurate, it portrayed the British victory in an unjustifiably "celebratory" way.
Officials at the tourist attraction have now promised to change the sign, which sits next to the India Cross on the castle’s esplanade, to make it more "accurate and balanced".
Vivek Majumder, 26, a junior doctor from Marchmont, Edinburgh, spotted the sign last month and said he felt "infuriated".
"The description of the battle wasn’t inaccurate, it was more how the belligerents were presented I took issue with – in my eyes it was blatant pandering to imperialism," he said.
"It was not the first time I had seen distasteful imperialistic things in Scottish public spaces, but this was the first that painted the British as ‘heroes’ and that Lucknow was ‘relieved’."
He said that it was "too celebratory of the British and dismissive of the Indian forces", adding: "I don’t think Britain’s past should be forgotten, nor its attitudes in the past."
Dr Majumder emailed a letter of complaint to Historic Environment Scotland, who are responsible for the sign. The public body responded a week later accepting the criticism and vowing to alter it.
A spokesman said: "We agree the use of the contemporary British description of the regiment as the ‘Heroes of Lucknow’ lacked qualification in the context of the siege and the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
"A fuller context of the siege, including from an Indian perspective, is critical for our visitors to better understand this event and why it led to the erection of the India Cross on the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle.
"As such, one of our historians is currently undertaking research into the siege and the Rebellion of 1857 to ensure the new content on an updated panel, is accurate and balanced."
Dr Majumder said the move was a "step in the right direction" and will go some way to "explaining the past in a neutral light".
The causes of the Indian Mutiny which raged across north and central India for more than a year have long been the subject of Indo-British historical debate.
Dr Crispin Bates, professor of South Asian History at the University of Edinburgh, said the crushing of the Lucknow uprising was seen in Britain as a "great victory of British civilisation over violent and barbaric Asiatics".
However, he said many also continue to see it as the "First National Indian War of Independence" in which people in North India joined forces to fight for freedom.
"The crushing of the uprising was seen in Britain as a great victory of British civilisation over violent and barbaric Asiatics – unsurprisingly, Indians see these events very differently," he said.
"In 1910, Indian nationalist V.D. Savarkar called it ‘The First National Indian War of Independence’.
"Many continue to use this term, seeing in the events of 1857 as an occasion when peoples of all classes and faiths in North India came together to fight successfully for freedom.
"The 150th anniversary of the Uprising in 2007 was a major occasion for national commemoration."