Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has said that bigger and better memorials would be raised in the native villages of Havildar Ishar Singh and his fellow soldiers who died fighting tribals in the Battle of Saragarhi. The CM was speaking at the launch of his latest book – The 36th Sikhs in the Tirah Campaign 1897-98 – Saragarhi and the defence of the Samana forts’.
He made the announcement in response to a point raised by a representative of the Indian Ex-Services League who said that the present memorials in the villages of Havildar Ishar Singh, Naik Lal Singh and Sepoy Gurmukh Singh were inadequate. At the book launch function, Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore as the guest of honour and several serving and retired military officers were in attendance.
Speaking on the occasion, Governor Badnore suggested that the state government start a literary festival in Chandigarh, to be focused only on defence and war. Captain Amarinder accepted the suggestion and announced October 27 as the tentative date for holding the maiden fest, given the fact that it was on this day that the first Indian troops landed in Jammu and Kashmir in 1948 and is celebrated as ‘Infantry Day’.
Captain Amarinder also announced on the occasion that the control of Saragarhi Memorial Gurdwara in Ferozepur would not be handed over to a religious sect as ordered by the previous government and that a Sikh Regimental trust would take care of it.
The book written by Amarinder is a description of the valiant last stand of the 21 men of 36th Sikhs (now 4 Sikh), led by Havaldar Ishar Singh. It is dedicated to the lone non-combatant, the 22nd man, generally known as Dad, who also died fighting during the battle, having picked up a weapon and killed a few tribals before falling in the last moments of the battle.
As an emotional Captain Amarinder put it, “In many ways, it was an untold story, waiting to be told. While there are many books and articles on the Battle of Saragarhi, the Tirah Campaign, in its entirety, had remained somewhat obscured. I wanted to share the story of Tirah, and in particular the story of Dad – the 22nd man, whose name or religion remains unknown till date and about whom even the source of his origin remains unclear except that he came somewhere from Naushera now in Pakistan.”