Sepoy mutiny martyrs to get honourable send off

Bodies of 282 soldiers to be exhumed for last rites

Sepoy mutiny martyrs to get honourable send off

 Nearly 160 years after the 1857 uprising, the remains of at least 282 Indian soldiers killed by the British troops after the mutiny and dumped unceremoniously in a deep well will be exhumed and given last rites.

Work to exhume the bodies from the brick-made, Mughal-era well located at Ajnala in Punjab will begin on February 28. Bodies of the soldiers remain at the 12-foot-deep well, whose depths are visible.

The management committee of the local Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj in Ajnala has taken the work on itself. In fact, the well remained sub-soil until the local shrine committee began excavating it recently. The well was discovered right beneath the Sikh shrine complex.

Amarjit Singh Sarkaria, head of the shrine committee, said excavation of the bodies would begin in the presence of historians, social activists and religious organisations. 

He also added that the bodies would be taken to the Ganga for ceremonial immersion as per rituals. The shrine committee began to excavate the area around the Gurdwara in December 2012, with the idea of locating the well and digging further. It could spot the well’s outer structure without much difficulty.

However, the excavation was put off since continuing with it would have brought down the shrine.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, District Tourism Officer Balraj Singh said the shrine is now shifted to a new location to enable continuation of the excavation work at the site.
Historian Surinder Kotchar, who has researched on the subject, told Deccan Herald that there is documentary evidence to establish that Indian soldiers were killed and dumped here.

“The trial record conducted by the British into the uprising by Indian soldiers bears testimony to this fact,” he said.

On July 30, 1857, around 500 soldiers revolted at Mian Mir Cantonment in Lahore following the uprising. They swam across the Ravi river to reach Ajnala. British soldiers killed 218 Indian soldiers at Dadian Sofian village near here while the remaining 282 were confined to a cell.

Historians, including Kotchar, say many died in the cell, while the rest were shot dead and their bodies were dumped in the well. He said the plan is to bring up a memorial at the well site as a tribute to the martyrs.

Claims that so many bodies of soldiers at the well has also been challenged by some historians. But Kotchar says they even used a long pipe a few days ago to remove the upper layer of the soil in the well.

“We saw a part of the skeleton from the top. Digging down further will bring to fore the magnitude of the tragedy,” he maintained.

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