Ramachandra Pandurang Tope (1814 - 1859), also known as Tatya Tope (pronounced Toh-pey), was an Indian leader in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Born in village Yeola in Maharashtra, he was the only son of Pandurang Rao Tope and his wife Rukhmabai, an important noble at the court of the Maratha Peshwa Baji Rao II. His father shifted his family with the Peshwa to Bithur where his son became the most intimate friend of the Peshwa's adopted son, Nana Dhondu Pant (known as Nana Sahib) and Maharaja Madhav Singhji. In 1851, when Lord Dalhousie deprived Nana Sahib of his father's pension, Tatya Tope also became a sworn enemy of the British. In May 1857, when the political storm was gaining momentum, he won over the Indian troops of the East India Company, stationed at Kanpur (Cawnpore), established Nana Sahib's authority and became the Commander-in-Chief of his forces. When Nana Sahib's forces attacked the British entrenchment in June, 1857, General Wheeler's contingent incurred heavy losses as a result of successive bombardments, sniper fire, and assault. Also slow supplies of food, water and medicine added to their misery and they decided to surrender, in return for a safe passage to Allahabad. But despite Nana Sahib's arrangements, some confusion at the Satichaura ghat led to attacks on the departing British by the rebel sepoys, and were either killed or captured.The surviving British women and children were moved from the Savada House to Bibighar ("the House of the Ladies"), a villa-type house in Kanpur. Retaliation occurred as Company forces started approaching Kanpur, and Nana Sahib's bargaining attempts had failed(in exchange for hostages). Nana Sahib was informed that the British troops led by Havelock and Neill were indulging in violence against the Indian villagers.Nana Sahib, and his associates, including Tatya Tope and Azimullah Khan, debated about what to do with the captives at Bibighar. Some of Nana Sahib's advisors had already decided to kill the captives at Bibighar, as revenge for the murders of Indians by the advancing British forces. The details of the incident, such as who ordered the massacre, are not clear. Hearing the screams and groans inside after the first fire, the rebel soldiers declared that they were not going to kill any women and children. An angry Begum Hussaini Khanum, the Bibighar in charge, termed the sepoys' act as cowardice, and asked her lover Sarvur Khan to finish the job of killing the captives. Sarvur Khan hired some butchers, who murdered the surviving women and children with cleavers. After losing Gwalior to the British, Tope launched a successful guerrilla campaign in the Sagar and Narmada regions and in Khandesh and Rajasthan. The British forces failed to subdue him for over a year. He was, however, betrayed into the hands of the British by his trusted friend Man Singh, Chief of Narwar, while asleep in his camp in the Paron forest. He was defeated and captured on 7 April 1859 by British General Richard John Meade's troops and taken to Shivpuri where he was tried by a military court. Tope admitted the charges brought before him saying that he was answerable to his master Peshwa alone. He was executed at the gallows on April 18, 1859. There is a statue of Tatya Tope at the site of his execution near the present collectorate in Shivpuri town in Madhya Pradesh. Tope is considered a hero in India. Writes Colonel G.B. Malleson , eloquently in The Indian Mutiny of 1857- "Tántiá Topí was a marvellous guerilla warrior. In pursuit of him, Brigadier Parke had marched, consecutively, 240 miles in nine days; Brigadier Somerset, 230 in nine days, and, again, seventy miles in forty-eight hours; Colonel Holmes, through a sandy desert, fifty-four miles in little over twenty-four hours; Brigadier Honner, 145 miles in four days. Yet he slipped through them all--through enemies watching every issue of the jungles in which he lay concealed, only to fall at last through the treachery of a trusted friend. His capture, and the surrender of Mán Singh, finished the war in Central India. Thenceforth his name only survived" On 19 June 2007 the Times of India reported that in response to a request from the NGO Bismillah: the Beginning Foundation, 1 lakh Rupees of financial aid was to be provided to his descendants who live in Kanpur.
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