Today in Sikh History – 12th September
Sara Garhi episode took place. The Sikh solidiers continued to hold the picket until their last breath. All in all 21 men gave their lives.
==> SARA GARHI – Location, Sarhadhi village in Kohaat Dist. which is one and half miles from the Lockhart fort. This place had a small establishment of Indian Government. During the war of Sept. 12, 1897, one of the most moving episodes in the annals of our military history, took place at Saragarhi.In this little outpost 21 Indian Jawans fought back a lashkar of 10,000 tribesman. And died to a man without surrendering their outpost. Saragarhi was, as the name signifies, a tiny fortress in no-man’s land in the Hindkush and Sulaiman ranges. The region was inhabited by fierce, lawless tribes whom both the Afghan and the British governments paid a sort of black-mail tax to keep them peaceful. The Afghan government exploited Pakhtoon rationalist sentiment and religious fanaticism of the tribesmen against the English who had introduced idolatrous Hindus and the hated Sikhs into the homelands of the Pathans.
This was known as the prickly hedge policy’ of turning the tribesmen against the British so that they did not give the Afghans any trouble. It paid handsome dividends as the tribesmen kept harassing British-Indian troops while leaving the Afghans alone.
British policy wavered between aggressive inroads into tribal territory and buying peace by regular payments to villagers to guard caravan routes. In 1879 the British Jed an expedition into Orakzai territory. The Orakzai retaliated by ambushing isolated British units wherever and whenever they could. This undeclared war went on for 11 years.
In January 1891, Brigadier General-Sir William Lockhart took a punitive expedition through Orakzai territory and destroyed many villagers in the Khanki valley. The Orakzais capitulated and agreed to let the British build three fortified posts on Samaria Ridge and link them to the neighboring Morangai Valley by road. Two months later they changed their minds and decided to have another go at the British-Indian forces. On 24th March they suddenly attacked an escort party of the 29th Punjabis and the 3rd Sikh Frontier Force, killed 14 men and wounded seven.
The next day they rushed picquets at Sangar and Gulistan. All the victims of the surprise attack on Gulistan were Sikh soldiers. The tribesmen drove a herd of cows to the post. The Sikhs abstained from firing on the cows and fell victim to the ruse practiced on them.
A full-scale war began with tribal lashkars attacking British-Indian outposts all over the NWF Province. Samana Ridge, Kohat and the Khurram valley were defended by the 36th Sikhs,a unit raised from Ferozepur in 1887. Three fortresses which came under heavy attack from Orakzais and the Afridis were Fort Lockhart, Gulistan and Saragarhi. Of these Saragarhi was only a picquet with a signal tower which maintained heliographic communication with the other two. All about the three was thorny scrub littered with large boulders which provided cover for the besieging tribesmen. The garrison in Saragarhi consisted of 21 men under the command of Havaldar Ishar Singh. The tower was manned by a solitary signaller Gurmukh Singh.
The tribesmen came on with full force and killed most of the 21 defenders. The defenders ran out of ammunition. The six who remained decided to make their last stand in the mess. Tribesmen threw burning faggots of bushwood into the mess and set it on fire. The six men fixed bayonets on their rifles, rushed out and were killed to a man. Only Signaller, Gurmukh Singh, remained in the tower.
The last message from Saragarhi which flashed across with the sunbeams was People say one’s brothers are like one’s own arms. If you were our brothers, you would have seen our plight and helped us with ammunition. But it was beyond your power: the enemy has blocked all the roads. Brothers, we have served our Guru and our Emperor and now we take leave of you for ever.
Gurmukh Singh asked for permission to close the signal post. The permission was flashed back from Fort Lockhart. Gurmukh Singh dismounted his helosgraph equipment, packed it in a leather case and fixed his bayonet on his rifle. The tribesmen did not want to lose more men in hand to hand fighting and set fire to the tower. Gurmukh Singh perished in the flames shouting at top of his voice, Boley so nihal, Sat Sri Akal.
Though vastly outnumbered, the Sikhs held their post and killed over 200 and wounded thousands before accepting Shaheedi. Each demonstrated an exemplary courage and valor fit for an Amritdhari Sikh. In the memory of these sikhs the government erected KiratMandirs at fort Lockhart, Amritsar and Firozpur.
-Taken from The Saga of Saragarhi by Khuswant Singh published in Sept. 1992 issue of Sikh Review
Master Tara Singh resigned from Congress because of Gandhi’s communal attitude.
==> MASTER TARA SINGH: Master Tara Singh was born on 24 June, 1885, in Haryal in Rawalpindi district of North Western Province of undivided India. His mother, Moolan Devi, was a pious lady and his father, Bakshi Gopi Chand, was a patwari of the village and was a well known and respected person. Tara Singh’s original name was Nanak Chand. In 1902 Nanak Chand embraced Sikhism and came to be called Tara Singh.
Tara Singh had a bright educational career and was a scholarship holder almost at all stages of his education. In 1907 he passed his B. A. examination from Khalsa College, Amritsar. Later Tara Singh joined as headmaster of Khalsa High School, Lyallpur, at an honorarium of Rs. 15 per month. Since then he came to be known as Master Tara Singh. His career as a teacher ended in 1921, following the Nankana tragedy.
He also edited two Akali newspapers, Akali (Udru) and Akali te Pardesi (Grumukhi) in which he forcefully put forward the aims and objectives of the Akali Dal.
He took an active part in national politics till his death on 22 November 1967.
-Ref. Master Tara Singh, by Verinder Grover, Deep & Deep Publications Delhi, 1995.
Sikh students massacred in Bidar, Karnatka.
Seven Sikh students of the Guru Nanak Engineering Institute in Bidar were massarced and more than 70 injured by the state-sponsored Hindu mobs There was a total black out of the news of this massarce in the Indian news media. No Hindu was ever punished for the killings of the Sikh students. Instead, a few Sikh students were arrested on trivial charges so that the Sikhs would understand that they have to obey the patterns of their Hindu masters and learn to live like slaves and not talk of justice or of rights.
-Ref. The Sikhs’ Struggle for Sovereignity – An Historical Perspective. by Harjinder Singh Dilgeer and Awtar Singh Sekhon, 1992.