Gagan K. Teja
Tribune News Service
Patiala, February 27
The unparalleled valour demonstrated by 21 Sikh soldiers and one camp follower on September 12, 1897, while participating in the Battle of Saragarhi against a 10,000 strong enemy force was relived at the stage of the Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports here in the form of the first-ever light and sound show highlighting one of the most fierce battles of the world.
The portrayal of all characters gave goose bumps to the audience who were touched by the heroism of the Sikh soldiers who did not give up their signal post despite the fact that they knew that they were short of ammunition and could not compete with the enemy that was thousands in numbers.
The Sikh soldiers of the 4th Battalion (then 36th Sikhs) of the Sikh Regiment of British India were sent to defend Fort Lockhart at Saragarhi post in North West Frontier Province (now in Pakistan).
Some 10,000 tribesmen had attacked the Saragarhi post. The battle lasted over six hours and one by one defenders kept falling while trying to protect their post but they did not surrender.
Notably, the British Government made four memorials to commemorate the gallant action of the 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36 Sikh Battalion (now 4th Battalion Sikh Regiment) who laid down their lives defending the Saragarhi post on September 12, 1897, in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) now in Pakistan. The first was at the site where the war was fought, second at the Battalion Headquarter at Ford Lockhart in North-West Frontier Province and the other two were in the form of gurdwaras as Ferozepur and Amritsar.
All 21 Sikh non-commissioned officers and soldiers of other ranks who laid down their lives in the Battle of Saragarhi were from the Majha region in Punjab and were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award of that time which an Indian soldier could receive. The corresponding gallantry award was the Victoria Cross. The award is equivalent to today’s Param Vir Chakra awarded by the President of India.
The Saragarhi Battle is recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as one of the 10 most famous battles of the world history showing collective bravery, devotion to duty and calm defiance in the face of certain death. Even the British Parliamentarians gave them a standing ovation.
The show was highly appreciated by people from all walks of life who deeply appreciated the effort to throw light on this important part of history and apprise the current generation of this.
Preneet Kaur, former Minister of External Affairs and wife of Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh, Raja Malwinder Singh, Congress MLA Hardyal Singh Kamboj, Mayor Sanjeev Bittu, Patiala Deputy Commissioner Kumar Amit and Captain Amarjeet Singh Jaijee were the main dignitaries.
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