This remote village of Hoshiarpur district had sent 73 men in World War-1, including eight martyrs.
But, when the state recently commemorated the 100 years of WW-1, in Ludhiana in presence of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh in November, none was invited from Dhol Baha village, not even anyone from the martyrs’ families.
The village, located around 30 km from Hoshiarpur district headquarters in the foothills of lower Sivalik, however, had a quiet commemoration.
“We had paid tribute on our own last month. No big leader had come here even to pay
homage. Even we were not invited for the state-level function where the Punjab CM had honored the families of WW-1 heroes,” said Subedar Major (Hony) Shakti Singh, President of War Heroes Memorial committee of Dhol Baha, who had fought the Kargil war and spent nearly 10 years in militancy area of Jammu and Kashmir.
Soldiers from this village had not just fought the WW-1, but Indo-Afghan War in 1880, World War 2, Indo-Pak wars (1962, 1965 and 1971) and Kargil battle in 1999. Total 17 soldiers from this village had laid their lives in all these wars, including two each in the Indo-Afghan War in 1880 and Indo-Pak war of 1971. One solider had died during operation Rakshak in J&K in 1995.
Almost each household in this village has an army man, either serving or retired. Currently nearly 300 soldiers are serving in the Indian Army and other forces from Dhol Baha. Several youngsters from this village aspire to join Army.
Singh said the names of eight martyrs of WW-1 are written on a pillar in the War Heroes Memorial, which the villagers have preserved since British era.
“Havildar Dhiraj Singh, Sepoys Ratan Singh, Jaisi Ram, Jagat Ram, Bikram Singh, Brij Lall, Lachhman Das and Gulam Qadir had laid their lives in WW-1. A total of 73 men from this village fought in the WW-1,” he said, adding when Dhol Baha Dam was constructed in 1987, almost the entire village was submerged, “but we preserved this pillar and installed it at a new place in the rehabilitated village.”
“The village panchayat had given 1.5 kannal land to set up the memorial and we installed pillars on various wars on our own. We want to develop the war memorial so that we can celebrate our two annual functions, August 15 and January 26, properly, but we don’t have funds,” said village Sarpanch Ram Pal, adding that several political leaders came here in the past, including Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma.
Dr Nirmal Singh, great grandson of Havildar Singh, said he feels proud to belong to the family. “ I am proud that my great grandfather Havildar Dhiraj Singh had fought in the First World War. His contribution was recognised pre- and post-independence by the respective governments, but now things have changed. Even my brother and uncle had served in Army, which is a matter of pride for me,” said Dr Nirmal.
Deputy Commissioner of Hoshiarpur, Isha Kalia, said that she was not aware about this matter as letters related to war heroes’ function come to the district soldier board. “I will enquire why the martyrs’ families from Dhol Baha were not contacted for this function,” she said.
Col (retd) Dalwinder Singh of district soldier board, however, denied that any local function was organised in any village. “Only one state-level function was organised where we took some of the families of WW-1 heroes from Hoshiarpur. There are around 302 men and 12 martyrs from Hoshiarpur district who had participated in WW-1, but majority of them could not be located yet,” said he.
Nike Jasbir Singh, who fought Kargil war and lost both his eyes and right arm, said that like any other youngster from the village, he always wanted to join the Army. “My father Subedar Varyam Singh, who fought the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan, was a great inspiration for me,” said he.
Pal added the village is dominated by Rajput community. “We are always fascinated by the armed forces. We are lucky that our youth aspires to join Army and are away from menaces like drugs,” said Pal who is also the Numberdar of the village.
The village, which has around 2,000 voters, however showing a picture of government apathy as the main road from Tahli Adda to Dhol Baha is in a bad shape and the memorial has no covered place. Villagers alleged that despite constructing toilets under open defecation-free scheme, government had not even paid Rs 15,000 subsidy to them. Also the village has a pending bill of water supply to the tune of Rs over 1.50 crore towards the POWERCOM.