Today, let me tell you the story of a battle. A battle like never before in the history of wars the world has withstood then, now and forever. A battle which has remained eternal and left behind its trail in the mind and heart of every soldier irrespective of the nation. I am going to tell you the story of those men who refused to give up in the face of adversity and certainty of imminent death; which the Indian history books, however, have often shied away from discussing. Being Indians, let’s celebrate the Sikh history and know more about our Sikh soldiers and their immense contributions to the country. To all futile theories like Sikhs fought for the British, here is some actual enlightenment.
What is the Battle of Saragarhi ?
The Battle of Saragarhi was the bravest battle ever fought in India. It was a battle fought between the Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army and Pashtun Orakzai tribesmen. It was fought on 12 September 1897 in North-West Frontier Province (now, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan).
Since it was a pre-independence battle and that India was under the governance of the British, our Indian Army is referred to as the ‘British Indian Army’. And the region where the war befell is referred to as the ‘British India Province’ which belonged to India before partition.
Whom did we actually fight against?
We fought against the ‘Pashtun Orakzai tribesmen’. The Pashtuns are historically known as ethnic Afghans and Pathans who are an Iranian ethnic group who mainly live in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Orakzai is a Pashtun Afghanistan tribe which is native to the Orakzai Agency and parts of Kurram Agency located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan.
This Orakzai tribe is a deadly one. The government of British India estimated that the tribe had 28,000 fighting men. They were the object of various British military expeditions.
Salutes to our 21 Sikh Soldiers! – None like them can ever be born!
Our Sikh Soldiers, the then British Indian contingent, comprised 21 Jat Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikhs (now the 4th battalion of the Sikh Regiment) who were stationed at Saragarhi army post and were attacked by 10000 to 12,000 Afghans. The Sikhs, led by Havildar Ishar Singh, chose to fight to the death, which is considered as one of history’s greatest last-stands.
The last stand battle is a battle which is between the final defense of what is left of a military group, against overwhelming opposition. Such battle usually results in either ‘Annihilation’ of the defending force, or in rare cases, ‘Retreat’ of the attacking force. But our soldiers never for a second thought about surrender but simply fought to death! Hats off!.
The sequence of the battle happenings will give you goosebumps!
Around 9 am approximately 6,000–10,000 Afghans reach the Saragarhi post. Sepoy Gurmukh Singh signals to Colonel Haughton, that they are under attack. Haughton states he cannot send immediate help to Saragarhi. The soldiers immediately decide to fight to the last. Sepoy Bhagwan Singh is the first soldier to be killed and Naik Lal Singh is seriously wounded. Our enemy breaks a portion of the wall. Our soldiers suddenly realize that there are between 10,000 and 14,000 Pashtuns attacking as signaled by Haughton.
Enemies ask our soldiers to surrender. Two determined attempts are made to push open the gate but are unsuccessful. Finally, the wall is breached. Some of the fiercest hand-to-hand fighting occurs. In an act of outstanding bravery, Havildar Ishar Singh orders his men to fight. Most of the Pashtuns are killed. Sepoy Gurmukh Singh, who communicated the battle to Haughton, was the last surviving Sikh defender. He is stated to have killed 20 Afghans.
Our mighty, just 21 Sikhs killed 180 Pashtuns. But our proud 21 Sikh non-commissioned officers and soldiers died in the Battle of Saragarhi. It wasn’t death according to them. It was dignity!. Because ‘giving up’ was not in their blood at all!. The 21 could have surrendered to the 14000 bloodthirsty onslaughters!. But did not, rather chose to fight until their last breath. This speaks INDIA!.
Saragarhi Day is a Sikh military commemoration day celebrated on 12 September every year to commemorate the Battle of Saragarhi. Sikh Regiment and British Armed Forces i.e ‘Royal Military College, Sandhurst, UK celebrate the day every year as the ‘Regimental Battle Honours Day’. The Brave men were posthumously awarded the ‘Indian Order of Merit’ and the highest gallantry award, then, called the ‘Victoria Cross’.
Saragarhi – every country army men know about it!
The Prince of Wales in 2002, inaugurated the Jawans to Generals exhibition which featured a section on Saragarhi. The exhibition successfully toured the UK and was seen by over 100,000 visitors. Saragarhi was introduced back into the UK by writer and filmmaker Jay Singh-Sohal.
Also, the British Army launched the book ‘Saragarhi: The Forgotten Battle’ in 2013 at Old College Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Also, there are three Bollywood films being produced featuring the Battle of Saragarhi. They are the ‘Sons of Sardaar: The Battle of Saragarhi’, ‘Battle of Saragarhi’ and ‘Kesari’.
Let’s know them Please!
Here are the names of the 21 iron men with unimaginable guts and above all unconditional love for the country.
Havildar Ishar Singh, Naik Lal Singh, Lance Naik Chanda Singh, Sepoy Sundar Singh, Sepoy Ram Singh, Sepoy Uttar Singh, Sepoy Sahib Singh, Sepoy Hira Singh, Sepoy Daya Singh, Sepoy Jivan Singh, Sepoy Bhola Singh, Sepoy Narayan Singh, Sepoy Gurmukh Singh, Sepoy Jivan Singh, Sepoy Gurmukh Singh, Sepoy Ram Singh, Sepoy Bhagwan Singh, Sepoy Bhagwan Singh, Sepoy Buta Singh, Sepoy Jivan Singh, Sepoy Nand Singh.
Let’s cherish them with the release of ‘Kesari’. Also, it is said that along with the 21 life-giving militants there were 600 more bodies found in the Battle of Saragarhi.