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Remains of 100 1857 martyrs dug up from Punjab gurudwara

After 157 years, historians with volunteers retrieved the remains of freedom fighters, who took part in the mutiny against the British

Amritsar: Scores of volunteers are engaged in digging a well inside the campus of a gurudwara to take out the remains of 282 martyrs who laid down their lives in the First War of Independence in 1857.

Be it members of the Gurudwara committee, people from non-governmental organisations or even school children — all are involved in the digging, which commenced on Friday. It was preceded by Sikh, Hindu and Muslim prayers.

Till now, remains of over 100 martyrs have been taken out. These include skulls, bones and jaws.

“These were our freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives during the First War of Independence in 1857. The British authorities pushed them into the well and let them die,” said Amarjit Singh Sarkaria, president of Gurudwara Shaheed Ganj.

The gurudwara came up at the site as a tribute to the martyrs. The well, which was earlier called kalian wala khu (well of the blacks), is now referred to as the shaheedan wala khu (well of the martyrs).

The martyrs were troops comprising of Indians from the 26th Bengal Native Infantry posted at Mian Mir cantonment near Lahore who were marching towards Ajnala after hearing reports of the mutiny in Meerut and other places.

The then British deputy commissioner of Amritsar, Fredrick Cooper, ordered action against the troops.

While many were killed, 282 were captured and brought to Ajnala. They were then thrown into the well and a 10-foot layer of soil was put on them. “We will take out the remains of the martyrs. We will perform their last rites with the respect and honour that they deserve,” Sarkaria said.

Historian Surinder Kochhar said it was an emotional moment for people in Ajnala town when the skulls and bones were taken out. Residents and gurudwara committee members, however, rued the government never bothered about their sacrifice.

>> Gurudwara committee to perform last rites for the martyrs
>> A 10-foot layer was thrown on top of the soldiers in the well
>> Committee saddened that government has not honoured their sacrifice

 

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