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Trial as a Tool of Colonialism: The 1858 Trial of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar

In: International Criminal Law Review
Author:
Aman KumarIFIM Law School, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India, amanintlaw@gmail.com

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Abstract

This paper brings the 1858 trial of 82 years old Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar into the mainstream international law. It discusses the aesthetical aspects of Zafar’s trial, who was tried as a British Subject, despite being the Indian sovereign. The paper argues that the trial was used as a tool to colonise India. It also points out the treatment given to Zafar post his arrest, when he was displayed to the Europeans ‘like a beast in a cage’. It highlights the confusing nature of the trial which was, at times, presented as an enquiry. Moreover, it tells Zafar’s story from his point of view. The paper also highlights the blind-spots in the subject of international law where Zafar’s trial finds no mention. It provokes readers to question their understanding of colonialism by pointing out the well-known nature of trial of Warren Hastings, but the obscurity surrounding Zafar’s trial.

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