The SARAGARHI Memorial and gurdwara premises in Ferozepur is abuzz with activity as the district administration prepares for a state-level function to mark 120 years of the Saragarhi battle.
Although tributes are paid to 21 martyrs of 36th Sikhs of British Indian Army every year on September 12, this year the state government has planned a state-level function for the first time. Out of the 21 martyrs of this historic battle, families of only 12 are living in Punjab at present and the rest have migrated out of country, Ferozepur district administration revealed.
Descendants of 12 martyrs have been invited and they will be honoured on Tuesday. Apart from this, a 14-member British contingent has also arrived in Punjab to take part in the September 12 function in Ferozepur. The Battle of Saragarhi was fought between 21 Sikh soldiers of British Indian Army and 10,000 soldiers of Pashtun Orakzai on 12 September, 1897. Havildar Ishar Singh was the commander at the post when British Indian Contingent was attacked by 10,000 Afghans. He, however, chose to fight to death, which is considered by some military historians as one of the history’s greatest last stands.
Santokh Singh, the fifth generation descendant of Havildar Ishar Singh, said, “Although we were given an invitation every year, but we went 2-3 times in the past. As the day has been given importance of a state-level function with a holiday in government offices, we are feeling honoured. I will be going for sure tomorrow to be part of this historic day so as to remember the martyrdom day of my great-great grandfather and 20 other martyrs. We do observe the day in our village as well, but now we have postponed the function for a day.” Santokh lives in Jagraon’s village Jhrur and is a small farmer. After Ishar Singh, no one from the family joined the Army. Santokh said,”I could not clear the recruitment tests. So had no choice but to be a farmer.”
Harkirat Singh, is from the fourth generation descendant of Naik Lall Singh from Dhun Dhai Wala village of Tarantaran district.
About Tuesday’s function, he said,”Martyr Lall Singh was my uncle and he had no child.. He had just got married when he was martyred. My niece, Simranjeet Sandhu, is serving as Squadron Leader in the Indian Air Force. No one else could make it, though everyone had a zeal to serve the nation. We are excited to go to Ferozepur tomorrow. The function in our village will be observed on September 13, where we will be getting some monetary help from government for the first time, while earlier we were doing from our own pocket.”
Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu will attend Tuesday’s event. The British contingent will also visit villages of Ishar Singh and Lall Singh, their families said.