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Current Affairs

Battle of Saragarhi

Date: 15 September 2021 Tags: Historical Places

Issue

The 124th anniversary of the Battle of Saragarhi was recently observed on September 12. The battle is considered one of the finest last stands.

 

Background

The battle has inspired a host of armies, books and films both in India as well as abroad.

 

Details

  • In the battle, twenty-one soldiers were pitted against over 8,000 Afridi and Orakzai tribals. They managed to hold the fort for seven hours.

  • The Sikhs were outnumbered heavily but they managed to kill 200 Afghan tribals and injure 600. The regiment of 36th Sikhs (now 4 Sikh), led by Havildar Ishar Singh, was involved in the battle.

  • Military historian and CM of Punjab, Capt. Amarinder Singh says that the soldiers knew that they were looking at a certain death but did not surrender.

 

Importance of Saragarhi

  • Saragarhi was a communication tower built between Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), now in Pakistan.

  • The post was usually manned by 40 soldier platoon but on the day of battle there were only 21 Sikhs and a non-combatant Pashtun.

  • The two forts were important for British security and had large number of troops, including family of commanding officer of 36th Sikh, Lt Col John Haughton.

 

Unfolding of events

  • The sentry at Saragarhi saw a thick haze of dust and knew it was caused due to a marching army of about 8,000-15,000 troops.

  • A message was sent through the Morse code to ask for reinforcement. The tribals wanted to cut off communication between the two forts by capturing Saragarhi.

 

Odds staked against the soldiers

The soldiers were outnumbered heavily. In addition, their ammunition was also limited with around 400 rounds per person.

 

Honours

  • The 21 martyrs were given Indian Order of Merit along with two ‘marabas’ (50 acres) and Rs 500 each. This was against the tradition of giving the award posthumously.

  • September 12 has been declared Saragarhi Day by the Punjab government in 2017. This day is declared a holiday.

  • Pakistani army mounts a guard at the Saragarhi memorial close to Fort Lockhart. The British built an obelisk for the martyrs using burnt bricks of Saragarhi.

  • Gurdwaras were commissioned at Amritsar and Ferozepur in the honour of the martyrs of the battle.