Salvation after 157 years for 282 martyrs

  • Radhika Nagrath, Hindustan Times, Haridwar
  • Updated: Aug 26, 2014 17:59 IST

It was deliverance after 157 years for 282 martyrs of the First War of Independence when on Sunday morning their skeletal remains excavated in Punjab recently were immersed in holy river Ganga at Sati Ghat in the Kankhal area here.

The historical account of Frederic Cooper, who was Amritsar deputy commissioner in 1857, says the British soldiers had shot the disarmed sepoys in the uprising, dumped the bodies in a well and covered it with mud. Over the mound 42 years ago, the Indian government built a gurdwara.

Kalianwala Khuh (black men's well) at Ajnala in Amritsar district of Punjab was discovered based on the private research of eventual excavation leader Surinder Kochhar. The granthis (priests) of the gurdwara and a patriotic citizens' committee helped recover the remains from the site since renamed Shaheedanwala Khuh (martyrs' well).

The bigger bones, medals, coins from the excavation have been preserved for the memorial being raised in Amritsar, while the committee on Sunday immersed the other remains in Ganga according to Hindu rituals. The Uttarakhand unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) paid respects to the remains when these were brought to Sati Ghat for immersion. "The Punjab government has denied us land for a memorial next to the well," said unit secretary Dr Ashish Mittal, adding that the martyrs of the First War of Independence deserved better.

The communist workers raised slogans saying: "Throw out foreign companies, give martyrs their due." They were attacking the multinationals for "capturing Indian market and economy, and exploiting Indian workers", which they said was a throwback to the East India Company rule of 1857.

Purushottam Sharma, a Gandhian activist from Kankhal, facilitated the immersion of the remains into the Ganga. "It was a great satisfaction paying homage to the martyrs. Hindus believe there is no salvation until the holy water of the Ganga has touched the remains," he said.

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