Early Life

Ghulam Qadir was the son of Zabita Khan, Ruler of Rohilkhand. Mughal emporer shah Alam II accused Zabita Khan  of high treason. Zabita Khan ally himself with the Sikhs in order to become the official Mir Bakshi(state treasurer) of the Mughal Empire. His son Abdul Qadir was also accused of betrayal.

Emperor Shah Alam II
Emperor Shah Alam II

Shah Alam arrested the entire family of Zabita Khan and severely humiliated him after the war with Mughal. Shah Alam ordered castration of Zabita’s son, Ghulam Qadir Rohilla and made to serve as a page in the palace.

War Against Mughals

In 1787, Ghulam Qadir Rohilla, who had reassembled his forces and recovered his father’s lands. He returned to attack Delhi but the valiant Bagum Samru, ever loyal to Shah Alam II, yet again came to his rescue with her forces.

Ghulam Qadir withdrew and the Emperor invited back the Maratha leader Mahadji Scindia. Mahadji Scindia was unable to protect Delhi as he was entangled in Central India. When the mercurial Ghulam Qadir Rohilla leader learned about this, it reinforced his longstanding grudge against the Mughals.

Ghulam Qadir Capture Delhi

Within a couple of days, the combined forces of Ghulam Qadir, Badal Beg and Hamdani ‘took full possession of the city’. The chief eunuch of the emperor, named Manzur Ali, was also won over by the rebels. Through Manzur Ali  treachery Ghulam Qadir was able to gain entry into the Red Fort and took its forced possession by disarming the royal guards.

Thus began the last Afghan occupation of Delhi, which lasted for two months and a half, from 18 July to 2 October 1788. Rohilla let loose hell on the hapless Mughal emperor and his family.

Vengence of Ghulam Qadir

Ghulam Qadir deposed and blinded Shah Alam ten days later on 30 July. Ghulam Qadir took out Bidar Bakht, son of Ahmad Shah, the ex-emperor, from the royal prison and made him the new puppet emperor with the title of Jahan Shah.

Malika-i-Zamani gave Ghulam Qadir 12 lakhs of rupees to wreak her vengeance against Shah Alam. Shah Alam father Alamgir II deposing and blinding Ahmad Shah, the only son Malika-i-Zamani to gain the throne.

Ghulam Qadir tortured and thrown into the prison all the nineteen surviving sons of Shah Alam. The plunder of the palace and atrocities on the inmates of the Mughal harem, commenced on the same evening of 30 July.

Ghulam Qadir flogged the Princes and molested the princesses. Rohilla tortured and killed maidservants and eunuchs to make them confess location of royal treasures. Ghulam Qadir looted the Red Fort of all the valuables. Rohilla ransacked the entire palace area as well as the mansions of the rich inhabitants of the city.

During the two and a half months of Afghan occupation the royal family had to undergo intense suffering. This resulted in death of 21 prices and princesses within the brief span of two weeks. Ghulam Qadir compelled the queens to go about without their veils.

Maratha Recapture Delhi

Soon Mahadaji Sindhia came to know about events in delhi. He at once dispatched the Maratha contingents to restore law and order in Delhi.

Mahadaji Sindhia
Mahadaji Sindhia

Mahadaji Sindhia himself marched through the Doab with his main army to intercept the Rohilla marauders in flight from the capital. The Maratha forces reached the suburbs of Delhi on 28 September. Marathas liberated the metropolis of Shahjahanabad from Rohillas after a few skirmishes by 2 October.

Ghulam Qadir held out at Red Fort up to 10 October. He made desperate bid to evacuate his besieged men with the booty. The Rohillas ferried across the Jamuna into the Doab. He also carried away with them a few surviving sons of Shah Alam, besides their own royal stooge, Bidar Bakht.

Before making their exit from Delhi, the Rohillas did not spare even their collaborators including Manzur Ali and Malika-i-Zamani and robbed of their entire wealth.

The Marathas took possession of the Red Fort on 11 October 1788. Maratha flag once again fluttered on its walls and was to continue there without a break’ for the next thirteen years.

Defeat of Rohilla

The fugitive Rohilla roamed from place to place closely pursued by the Marathas. Aligarh, his stronghold, fell to the Marathas on 20 October. At last he took shelter in Meerut fort on 4 November with 15,000 troops and 100 guns. The Marathas invested the fort and tried to starve the Rohillas through a stringent blockade.

Ghulam expressed his readiness to surrender all the treasure to Marathas provided his territories were returned to him.

On 17 December he slipped out of the fort with 500 horsemen and fled towards Ghausgarh. Marathe troops closely followed him and after a short battle killed all his followers. He hid himself in the house of a Brahmin at Bamnauli, 24 miles from Meerut.

Capture, Torture and Death of Ghulam Qadir

The Brahmin informed Ali Bahadur whose forces captured Ghulam on 19 December. Maratha also imprisoned Ghulam Qadir followers, including Manzur Ali, Maniyar Singh and Bilas Rai.

Maratha soldier took Ghulam Qadir to Mahadaji at Mathura on 31 December 1788. Mahadaji Scindia kept Ghulam Qadir in his custody at Mathura so that the Maratha could recover the royal treasure. Ghulam’s mother asked Mahadji to forgive her son’s sin and agreed to surrender the imperial treasures in her possession.

But under an express order from the Emperor, Sindhia ordered the Emperor’s chief secretary, Mir Galib Ali, to go to Ghulam’s prison, extract his eyeballs, cut off his ears and nose, put them in a casket and send it to the Emperor. Maratha executed the emperor order on 3 March. Mahadji then took mutilated rebel to a place 12 miles from Mathura and put them to death.

When the casket reached the Delhi palace, Shah Alam’s revenge was gratified as the blind old man fumbled its grisly contents and felt that his tormenter Ghulam Qadir had been paid back in his own coin.

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