During the 1830’s, a conspiracy to overthrow the British in India was allegedly devised by itinerant Muslim preachers, Indian princes, and the Russian and Persian armies. In response, British colonial officials detained and deposed Muslim migrants, conducted weapons inspections, and eventually annexed lands of Muslim rulers in South India. This paper explores both real and imagined aspects of this so-called “Wahabi conspiracy.” Moreover, it demonstrates how various actors – both rulers and ruled – exploited the discourse of conspiracy for their own interests. Based on new archival findings, the paper describes less known global links between South India, Afghanistan, Persia and Arabia and presents a well-documented case study concerning the complex psychology and politics of conspiracy.
Chandra Mallampalli earned his doctorate in Modern South Asian history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His scholarly work addresses a range of interests concerning the intersection of religion, law and society in colonial India. He is the author of Race, Religion and Law in Colonial India: Trials of an Interracial Family (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), and is Professor of History at Westmont College in Santa Barbara.