Gautam Guha: We have heard about many brave deeds of the Sikh community, for decades and over centuries. However, one such story is little known and is not taught in our school history textbooks. Like many other acts of heroism, this story had been forgotten because of ideologically-biased and politically-correct historical textbooks.
It is the story of a handful of bravehearts who placed duty before their own safety, despite being aware that death was inevitable. A fervent Sikh, Havildar Ishar Singh headed the command and his troops had full faith in his abilities and leadership. He had immense knowledge about the fighting ability of the Pathans along with their tactics. He was also well-acquainted with the terrain and topography of the area.
It was 12th September 1897. A troops of 10000 Afghans attacked on the Saragarhi fort. Only 21 Sikh soldiers was there including Ishar Singh. The Sikhs could have escaped the fort if they wished, yet they decided to fight for their lives.
As the Afghans approached the Saragarhi post, the Sikh soldiers took their positions in two lines– standing and squatting (ready to fire) positions. Havildar Ishar Singh chose not to order his soldiers to fire until the Afghan troops came within 250 metres of the post. When they did, he ordered the soldiers to fire, resulting in an extermination of the first line of the invaders. This triumph was, however, short-lived, as the Afghans attacked them in two groups, one at the main gate and the other at the gap of the fort, knowing they would outnumber the Sikhs easily in this manner. The first soldier of the Sikh contingent who was martyred was Sepoy Bhagwan Singh. By noon, the number of martyred soldiers rose to 11 with only 10 remaining to fight the battle. Their ammunition was running out, however, they were still unable to get any assistance from Fort Lockhart. The 21 Sikh soldiers who lost their lives fighting the Battle of Saragarhi bravely were posthumously awarded the Indian Order of Merit (equivalent to the Param Vir Chakra of the present day) which was the highest gallantry award an Indian soldier could receive at that time. All the soldiers belonged to the Majha region of Punjab.
A few months ago, a film called Kesari was released in memory of these soldiers. Akshay Kumar plays the roll of Ishar Singh in the movie.
The names of the soldiers of Saragarhi battle
Havildar Ishar Singh, Naik Lal Singh, Lance Naik Chanda Singh, Sepoy Sundar Singh, Sepoy Ram Singh, Sepoy Uttar Singh, Sepoy Sahib Singh, Sepoy Hira Singh, Sepoy Daya Singh, Sepoy Jivan Singh, Sepoy Bhola Singh, Sepoy Narayan Singh, Sepoy Gurmukh Singh, Sepoy Jivan Singh, Sepoy Gurmukh Singh, Sepoy Ram Singh, Sepoy Bhagwan Singh, Sepoy Bhagwan Singh, Sepoy Buta Singh, Sepoy Jivan Singh, Sepoy Nand Singh.