You may hang me, or such as me, every day, but thousands will rise in my place, and your object will never be gained- Peer Ali Khan.
In the annals of India’s fight for freedom, the year 1857 will always be associated with the First War of Independence that spread across the North, West, and Central India. This momentous period in the freedom struggle had prominent personalities and leaders involved. While one associates the revolt with leaders such as Mangal Pandey, Tantia Tope, and Rani Lakshmi Bai, to name a few, there are many whose names and contributions have been overshadowed and long forgotten. One such hero is Peer Ali Khan.
Born in 1812 at Muhammadpur in the Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, he ran away from home to Patna when he was only seven. The zamindar who sheltered him and educated him raised him as his own child. Eventually, Peer opened a bookstore in Patna, which during the revolt of 1857 was suspected to be the venue for the rebels to meet. William Taylor, the Commissioner of the Patna Division (1855-1857), in his book writes, “Peer Ali was a native of Lucknow, but had resided for many years at Patna; he was by trade, a book-seller, and I strongly suspect that he may have originally established himself here, for the express purpose of carrying on the intrigues which issued in this abortive out-break.”
The fearless Peer Ali Khan became the leader of the July 1857 upsurge in Patna. He secretly distributed important leaflets and pamphlets and even sent coded messages to other revolutionaries. In the course of all the communication between the revolutionaries to plan and organise anti-colonial protests, it is said that two letters fell into the hands of the authorities. Peer Ali Khan’s role in the revolutionary movement was firmly established by this finding. However, Peer Ali Khan refused to back down in his resolve to fight the British.
Peer Ali Khan led the uprising in Patna on 03 July 1857. They first attacked the house of a Catholic priest in the heart of the city, but the priest escaped. They then killed Dr Lyell, the principal assistant to an opium agent. Soon after this incident, Peer Ali Khan was traced and arrested along with other revolutionaries. Upon being offered amnesty in exchange for information about the revolt, he declined, and his words … you may hang me, or such as me, every day, but thousands will rise in my place, and your object will never be gained, only goes to show the fearless spirit and resilience of the man. Peer Ali Khan was publicly executed on 07 July 1857.