KENDRAPARA: The State Government has erased the name of Sir Hugh Massy Wheeler, an army officer of the East India Company who fought against Indian freedom fighters in 1857 at Kanpur, from the ITR missile testing facility by renaming Wheeler Island as APJ Abdul Kalam Island.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday officially released a gazette notification renaming the island marking the second death anniversary of the former President.
Noted researcher Dr Basudev Das of Kendrapara said, “Wheeler Island was named after Sir Hugh Massy Wheeler, who commanded the troops in the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1838-39 and the First and Second Anglo-Sikh wars. In 1857, he was the commander of the garrison at Cawnpore (now Kanpur) during India’s War of Independence known as the Revolt of Sepoy.”
Welcoming the State Government’s move in renaming the island, Dr Das said, “It was a shame for us that even after 70 years of Independence, there was an island named after such a person who was responsible for the death of many freedom fighters in 1857.”
He said when the Indian Rebellion of 1857 broke out in Meerut on May 10, 1857, Kanpur was home to 1st, 53rd and 56th Native Infantry and 2nd Bengal Cavalry. On June 27, 1857, Wheeler, his wife and elder daughter were gunned down by the rebel soldiers while they were crossing the Ganga river at Satichaura Ghat near Kanpur. Later, British soldiers, led by Major General Sir Henry Havelock, killed several freedom fighters in Allahabad, Kanpur and Lucknow on November 24, 1857. After crushing India’s first freedom struggle, the Britishers named many islands, towns and cities in the names of British army officers. An island in Andaman was also named after Major General Sir Henry Havelock, he added.
In March, BJP Rajya Sabha member LA Ganesan had demanded that Havelock Island in Andaman should also be renamed.