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Ahead of Akshay Kumar’s Kesari, here’s the true story of Battle of Saragarhi

As Akshay Kumar gears up for the release of his film, Kesari, based on the battle of Saragarhi, we bring you the true story of the exceptional bravery of 21 Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army.

bollywood Updated: Mar 19, 2019 10:30 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Akshay Kumar plays the lead role in Kesari.
Akshay Kumar plays the lead role in Kesari.
         

Come Holi, Akshay Kumar-starrer Kesari will hit the screens. The Dharma Production film will tell the story of the exceptional bravery of 21 Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army who took on the might of an estimated 10000-strong army of Pashtun fighters to defend the fort of Saragarhi in modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan.

21 Jat Sikhs of 36 Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army were stationed at Saragarhi as part of Tirah campaign. This was an Indian frontier war, fought in 1897-98 in an attempt by the British to subdue the wild western frontier of the British Empire. These men were led by Havildar Ishar Singh and Akshay Kumar will be seen in this role.

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In a recent interview, Akshay said it was sad that Indians don’t know about Battle of Saragarhi. “It is sad that though the British celebrate Saragarhi Day, remembering the martyrs of the war, but we Indians do not know much about it. It is sad how an incident like this has got lost in the pages of history. It is hard to imagine how 21 Sikh soldiers stood strong inside a fort, knowing that 10,000 Afghan soldiers were waiting outside to kill them. Knowing that death is inevitable and continuing the fight requires a lot of bravery. That war was a pure example of that,” the actor said.

The Battle of Saragarhi will definitely go down as one of the fiercest last-stands in history. A last-stand is when a defensive army holds on to a fort against an opposing army in much bigger numbers.

The British had taken control of forts, originally built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, dotting the hilly terrain. These included Fort Gulistan and Fort Lockhart in the Kohat region of frontier province. Since, these two forts were miles apart, Saragarhi fort was built in between which also served as heliographic communications centre.

Between August and September that year, a general uprising of Pashtuns took place, wherein they attacked Fort Gulistan respectively which was repulsed. On September 12, an estimated 10000 strong force of Pashtun tribesmen attacked Fort Saragarhi.

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Despite repeated communications sent to Fort Lockhart for reinforcements, none arrived. There were attempts to break open the gate but they were unsuccessful. Later, one of the walls was breached. What followed thereafter is considered by many as one of the fiercest hand-to-hand combat.

At the end of it, all 21 Sikh soldiers were killed and an approximate 180 Pathans lay dead. However, in two days, the fort was recaptured by the British, after the Pathans came under heavy artillery fire. Post recapturing, as many as 600 bodies were counted.

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First Published: Mar 19, 2019 10:25 IST

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