The Punjab government has taken over the gurdwara built in 1924 by the Britishers in Ferozepur in memory of the martyrs of the Battle of Saragarhi, by reversing the January 5 order of the previous Akali-BJP government to hand over its control to Baba Lakha Singh of ‘Nanaksar Samparday’. The government now plans to hand over the gurdwara to the Saragarhi Memorial Management Trust.
The Akali-BJP government’s order had come a day after the poll code of conduct came into effect.
The development has taken at a time when a book, ‘Saragarhi and the defence of Samana forts’, penned by chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh is scheduled to be released on April 8.
Sources in the government said the decision was the result of the personal intervention of the CM. The trust came into existence in August 2006 during the previous tenure of Capt Amarinder Singh as CM. The trust was dissolved two years later in 2008 when the Akali-BJP government took over and handed over the control of the gurdwara to the district administration.
In 2009, Baba Lakha Singh started building a serai on the 8-acre land attached with the gurwara. “I had raised a hue and cry then also, saying Babaji be given some other land to build a serai. Gurdwara is a symbol of bravery,” Capt Amarjeet Singh Jaijee told HT, who was in the same regiment, to which the Saragarhi martyrs belonged.
As per reports, now, the government is making a foolproof trust deed so that the memorial stays with it permanently. The government has asked advocate general, Punjab, to draft the deed.
Capt Jaijee said he requested Baba Lakha Singh to give up the control of the memorial gurdwara, but he refused. “I told him that with the serai coming up, the martyrs’ name will fade away, which we don’t want. Two such memorials in Pakistan are standing unaltered,” Jaijee said.
STORY OF VALOUR
The battle of Saragarhi has been recognised by the UNESCO as one of the fiercest battles ever fought. It was on September 12, 1897, that 21 soldiers of 36 Sikh Regiment (now 4th Sikh Batallion) laid down their lives fighting nearly 10,000 Afghan tribesmen in the North-West Frontier province, now Pakistan.
All the 21 soldiers were posthumously awarded the ‘Indian Order of Merit’, the highest gallantry award given by the then government and four memorials were built in their name — Saragarhi memorial gurdwara on Ferozepur-Hussainawala road, Darbar Sahib in Amritsar, and two in Pakistan, one on the Samana ridge where the battle was fought and another at Fort Lockhart in Baluchistan.
The memorial in Amritsar is managed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.