Maulvi Liaqat Ali (1817-1892) was born on 05 October 1817 in Tehsil and Pargana Chail of Mahgaon, a few miles away from Allahabad (renamed as Prayagraj) in the house of Syed Mehar Ali and Amina Bibi. He was the only son of Syed Mehar Ali.
Maulvi Liaqat Ali’s father’s younger brother Dayem Ali married Chanchal Bai who was Rani Lakshmi Bai’s father Moropant’s sister living in Banaras. For this reason, Maulvi Liaqat Ali often addressed Rani Laxmi Bai as Chhabili Behn or Chhoti Behn (younger sister). Later, to help Rani, Maulvi Liaqat Ali sent his famous Topchi (cannon operator) Khuda Baksh from Allahabad to Jhansi where he got martyrdom in war. It is also said by the people that Maulvi Liaqat Ali was present in the last rite of martyr Rani. In the name of Chanchal Bai (Chanchal Bibi after marriage), there is still a mosque and her grave in Dargah at Mahgaon village.
Maulvi Liaqat Ali was a good orator, a writer, and a person who would love to care for his followers. He and his followers successfully launched their anti-British operations at various places such as Sandee, Bilgram, and Pali of district Hardoi. The landlords and other prominent people of the region gave their full support to Maulvi and accepted him as their leader. The Sepoy uprising began at Meerut, Delhi, and other regions and the heat of the uprising engulfed Allahabad too. Maulvi and his advisors reorganized and planned their attacks much earlier before the outbreak at Allahabad in June 1857.
On the night of 06 June 1858, the mess of Sixth Infantry Cantonment of Allahabad was attacked by the rebellions of Banaras, in which the infantry soldiers were also helping the rebellions. These soldiers shot down their own officers from close range. That was the beginning of the uprising and the city was thrown at the mercy of uncontrolled rebellions. There was complete anarchy prent in the city. On 07 June 1858, Maulvi Liaqat Ali took control of the situation. He enforced law and order in the city. Looking to the uncontrolled rebels, the unnecessary looting, destruction of public property, and bloodbath, he revoked the name of Bahadur Shah Zafar, Mughal Emperor of Delhi, and with the green flag of the Emperor, a procession was taken out in the city, and cantonment. He won in his leadership the confidence of rebel sepoys, Mewatis of Samadabad and Rasulpur, and several village chiefs. Between 7 and 17 June 1857, he appointed two persons Saifulla and Sukh Rai as Tehsildars of Chail Pargana, two Kotwalis, one Naib, and two persons as army officers. The people of Allahabad including general Muslims, Brahmins, Pandas, and Pathans were in support of the revolutionaries under the leadership of Maulvi Liaqat Ali. There was a wave of enthusiasm amongst all to restore power and glory, inspired by Maulvi against the oppression of the British. Both Hindus and Muslims were equally impressed with Maulvi’s integrity of character and intellectuality.
Maulvi Liaqat Ali made Khusro Bagh his military operational headquarters since it was the only fortified spacious place available in the city near the Allahabad Fort. The Allahabad Fort had sixty-five cannons, a garrison of four-hundred Sikh soldiers, and eighty troops of the Sixth Native Infantry. The fort had a very important strategic location in eastern India. From Khusro Bagh he conducted the war against the so-called ‘infidels’. He tried to take the Allahabad Fort in hand but failed to achieve this. To assist General Havelock in curbing the disturbances at Allahabad, Lt. Col. Neill from Banaras (now Varanasi) with more forces arrived at the Allahabad Fort. The city area at this time was in complete control of Maulvi. Neill ordered their cannons of the Fort to the direction of the civilian areas of Kydgunj and Daragunj. Neill was happy with the mass exodus of the people from the area. To save the civilians, Maulvi withdrew his forces from the areas. Neill led the attack with his powerful artillery on Khusro Bagh on 16 June. Neill successfully seized the Khusro Bagh but the Maulvi was out of his reach. Neill hanged Maulvi’s appointed Tehsildars and a sepoy. On the night of 17 June Maulvi left for Cawnpore (Kanpur) secretly. Neill began to burn the villages and execute the rebellions with the innocents irrespective of sex and age. People were hanged from the trees. Many young children were hanged simply because they were beating drums and parading with green flags in their hands. Eight hundred people were hanged within a few days from the seven neem trees that stood near the Allahabad city Kotwali. For this reason, the people named him Butcher of Allahabad. The entire region came under their control. Simultaneously, Nazim of Allahabad was keeping the fire for independence in the company of Mewatis of Samadabad and other followers of Maulvi. Over here Maulvi reached Cawnpore and met Nana Dhondu Pant, popularly called Nana Saheb, and his men, and discussed further plans. He was daily receiving information about Neill’s atrocities in Allahabad and neighboring villages since he left. Nana after listening to the news of atrocities from Maulvi decided to take revenge. In his attack with his forces at Cawnpore, General Wheeler had to surrender before him. Nana permitted them to leave Cawnpore and arranged for boats for them to cross the river Ganga. Then the Sati Chaura Ghat incident of 27 June happened, unfortunately. The hidden guns at the bank started firing on the English men and women while they were assured by Nana of safe passage to Allahabad. Nana, not involved in it, was blamed for this, while he had no knowledge about this sudden attack from another party. This tragedy was actually a result of Neill's atrocities at Allahabad and news of which reached Cawnpore like fire. Many English historians like Kaye, Malleson, and Charles Ball have written about the barbaric killing of Allahabad citizens. Henry Havelock arrived at Allahabad on 30 June and took over the command. Maulvi came to Delhi and met Bakht Khan who further took him before Bahadur Shah Zafar. Through a Parwana (detailed report) Maulvi explained all events to Bahadur Shah Zafar. Maulvi returned to Lucknow. In July 1857, after the battle of Fatehpur, the Sikh force was ordered by Havelock to burn the city of Fatehpur to teach the people a lesson. After this task, the Sikhs were ordered to join Neill again at Allahabad. Maulvi again with his men tried to intercept Havelock on Fatehpur- Cawnpore road but failed to achieve this.
After defeat in the fight at Cawnpore and Nana’s escape to the Nepal region, Maulvi continued his activities in Northern India. After some time he traveled southwest via Bhopal and Surat, he started living in Laajpur about ten kms from Surat. He made this place his new center of activities against the British Raj for independence. He assumed pseudo names and was changing his residence. During this period Nana Saheb’s movement was a mystery and Maulvi was able to dodge English officers for a full fifteen years which was impossible for any ordinary rebellion. In 1872, Maulvi was arrested at Bombay Railway Station by a British Police officer namely Style who was pre-informed by Maulvi’s two own men.
He was brought to Allahabad and tried in the Court of District and Session Judge. After Maulvi honestly confessed what he did against the British Raj, in the judgment of 24 July 1872, he was sentenced to transportation for life to the penal settlement of Andamans. It is noteworthy that the court had honestly mentioned that Maulvi Liaqat Ali had no active part in murder or gross cruelties. In Andamans, he died on 17 May 1892.
The mystique of fifteen years he spent out of British catch is still untold. What was he doing? Was he active with a changed name during this period? remains buried in the annals of Andaman history.