On August 1, 1857, 282 unarmed ‘Native’ soldiers brutally mass slaughtered in Punjab’s Anjala town. It was a cold blooded moment, as the very act he ruthlessly presided over, to smother what India now regards as it’s war of independence.
August 1, 1857. It was the day of Bakrid (Id-ul-Fitr). Two hundred and eighty-two sepoys of the Indian army, who rebelled against the British colonial occupation of India, were massacred and dumped into a dry well 100 yards from the Ajnala police station in Amritsar district. The remains were dug out recently by the town people themselves, without any governmental help.
Fredrick henry Cooper’s records!
On this issue, Amrithsar Deputy commissioner Fredrick Henry Cooper’s descripted that, “Ten by ten, the sepoys were called forth. Their names having been taken down in succession, they were pinioned, linked together, and marched to execution: a firing party being in readiness…”
More than a century and a half later, over three days, the people in Ajnala exhumed the mortal remains of First Indian Independence fighters, rebvealing the hard evidence of the brutality that unfolded under the British System, premeditated mass murder, alike Jallianwala Bhag on April 13th, 1919.
Nearly, 30,000 residents volunteered to explore4 ‘Ignored monuments” in India and Punjab, took turns at carefully excavating the Kalianwala Khoo, a long forgotten, centuries-old, brick linked well in the township now fringing the present day expanse of Amrithsar City, persued doggled by Surindar Kocchar, an Amrithsar based history enthusiast.
The team had uncovered Skeletal remnants, 90 intact skulls, elements of 200 jaws, thousands of other precariously preserved bone fragments of the 282 men. These were the soldiers of East India Company‘s 26th native infantry, who had broken free to escape confinement at the Milan Mir cantonment, outside of Lahore on July 31, 1857.
Kocchar, who fought a five year battle alone, was desperately trying to cobble support for his conviction that the martyrs were buried there had said, ““They just had to be in there.”
“There was ample evidence”, he said, pointing to the massacre, including the chosen burial site in Cooper’s 1858 book, the crisis in the Punjab – from May 10 until the fall of Delhi. The Khalianwala Khoo also finds mention in all four editions of the Amrithsar District Gazetteer published between 1883 and 1947.
Coopers recorded 237 soldiers of all men from eastern uttar pradesh and Bihar, shot in batches ofd 10 by the firing party, gloatingly portrayed as “eager Sikh Levies”. Another 45 were allowed to suffocate, most of them died inside a stiflingly hot and humid bastion adjacent by the British posse, suffered death by being blown from the canon’s mouth at Lahore.
Frederick Cooper and his act of butchery in Ajnala drew wide condemnation in Britain. Northampton MP Charles Giplin’s blistering house of commons speech on march 14, 1859, described the executions as “Truly a cannibal affair”, and never been hint of remorse at the brutality in the name of British Crown.
“The problem was that no well was visible at the site indicated in Cooper’s book and other documents.“saidKocchhar, who believed that the burial site was under Gurudwara Shaheendganj, a shrine built around 1947.
But, the Shrine management, headed by Amarjith S9ingh sarkaria, agreed to undertake an exploratory dig supervised by the historian. “At less than 10 feet below the surface, we struck the curved wall of the well made from old Nanakshashi Bricks”, He recalled.
“Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal.”!
Entire Sikh crowd cried when they disovered the first remains on February 28th morning – a near complete skeleton with one arm raised, eight feet below the surface. “He must have still been alive and trying to crawl his way out from the heap of bodies.” Kocchar Opinionated.
When the team found entire mounting bodies two days later, itr left Ajnala’s residents in tears. Though satisfied that has been able to uncover the truth of Massacre, Kocchar yammered that forensic details may have been lost forever because he was forced to rely on untrained villagers to do the digging.
“No one was willing to support us.”, Kocchar said, recalling how the government as well as The Punjab’s director, archieves and archaeology, did not show up for the dig.
“Not one of them responded and even, they didn’t show concern to help.”, said Kocchar. “the historian and the Gurudwara management had sent over 180 registered letters to almost everyone in authority, including the Prime Minister of the period “Manmohan Singh.”, he recalled.
The team had found seventy one rupee gold coins minted by trhe East India Company, gallantry medals and pieces of personal jewellery, which often kept in Gurudwara till the decision of the constitutional members after the recovery.
“Over 48 hours between July 31 and August 1, 1857, each of the 500 indians in the 700 strong 26th NI was hunted down, destroyed, buried and forgotten over 150 years ago, the horrors failed to elicit response from India’s political leaders.”
We could not imagine how many lives might buried in every acres of India. We could not imagine how much of blood might soaked the soil of India. But, we still calls ‘Tragedy” as “Comedy”.