The Battle of Saragarhi History Movie Serial Cast Book
There are very few nations, which have an army that is more powerful than the Indian Military Forces. It is not only in recent times that Indian army has risen to such a high level. Even when the nation was under the rule of the British, they were quick to realize that the Indian soldiers could fight under every circumstance. Thus, the British started to recruit Indians in British Indian Army. Since then, the Sikh regiment was known for their bravery and fighting skills. They used to step on the battle filed with the motivation to kill the enemy or to lay down their lives in the service of motherland. The 36th Sikh battalion proved this once again, when they fought the Afghans in Saragarhi.
Date of the battle
The historic battle that made the Sikh regiment popular not only in India, but in other colonies, under the British, was fought on 12 September 1897. The military strike from the Afghan side started from the early hours on that fateful day, and after several hours, they were successful in killing the Sikh soldiers. But later discovers that they had lost many of their own soldiers as well.
Parties involved in the battle
The Battle of Saragarhi was fought between the British Indian soldiers and the hostile Afghan Afridi and Orakzai tribesmen. The fort of Saragarhi was under the leadership of Havildar Ishar Singh while the Afghans were led by Gul Badshah. It was mainly a territorial war between the Afghan tribes and the British, where the soldiers of 36th Sikh battalion fought.
Reason for the conflict
Land accusation disputes were the main reasons that triggered the conflict between the British and the Afghan tribes. The 36th Sikh regiment was a special branch that was created with the aim of manning the western frontier areas. During the beginning of 1897, the British Indian Army marched in these areas, and started occupying many forts and villages, which were originally under the control of Afghan tribes. Among many tribes, which lived in these areas, the Afridi and Orakzai tribes were known for their hostilities. They were furious with the British rule, and their religious leaders stirred up their sentiments. Thus, they attacked the forts and started to take them back. They wanted to cut off connection between Fort Lockhart and Gulistan. For this, they needed to eliminate Saragarhi fort. With this intention, around 12000 Pashtuns attacked the fort, which had only 21 Sikh soldiers.
Location of the battle
To protect the western parts of the nation, several forts and watch towers were erected by the then Sikh rulers. During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, several westward campaigns were started. To eliminate the Afghans from crossing the borders, he commissioned the construction of many forts, just like his ancestors. These were dotted along the Hindu Kush mountain ranges. Later on, the soldiers of British India took over these fortified castles. Two forts in particular, named Lockhart and Gulistan, occupied key areas. There was another fort, located between the two, which was more of a communication bridge. The name of this fort was Saragarhi. Soldiers stationed at this communication tower used to send message from Gulistan to Lockhart or vice-versa via heliograph. It was done by reflecting sun rays via mirrors. It was like a code. If it were not for this fort, the existence of Lockhart and Gulistan would be in great peril.
History of the battle
The Afghan tribes attacked the Saragarhi fort on 12 September 1897. The security of this fort was in the hands of 21 Sikh soldiers. Their leader was Havildar IsharSingh. When he and his associated went up to the watch tower, they were shocked to see that the fort was surrounded by around 12 thousand Pashtun soldiers. The situation was dire, and they immediately send the news to Lt Col Haughton, asking for help. When he got the news, he immediately sent the reply, stating that it was not possible for the British soldiers to reach the fort. He told the Sikh leader to hold the fort for as long as possible.
The Sikhs knew that they were outnumbered 1:450 and did not have enough fire power to stop the Afghans. Thus, they decided that they would resort to delay strategies. The Sikh soldiers shot the Afghans, and were able to strike terror into the enemy’s hearts. But the Afghans also had some tricks up their sleeves. They set fire to all the bushes and trees, which grew around the fort. It was supposed to lower the visibility of the Sikhs. As the Sikhs were unable to see the action of the tribes, they broke down a section of the wall. As soon as the wall and door gave in, the furious tribes charged in.
When ammunition ran out, all the Sikh soldiers left their post, and engaged with the Afghans in hand to hand combat. By the end of the day, only 4 Sikh soldiers were stood, and held their position. They had only one thing in mind – holding the army back for as long as possible. The youngest of all Sikh soldiers was Gurumukh Singh. He was only 19 years at that time, and was in charge of sending and receiving signals. The last communication that Fort Lockhart received was his request to leave his tower and engage with the Afghans. When his superiors granted the permission, he took a bayonet to fight with the army. He fought for as long as he could, and then succumbed to death.
After the Sikhs fell, the Afghans took charge of the fort, and destroyed several areas. They were eventually defeated by the reinforcement British soldiers. Later official records showed that these 21 Sikhs did something that was an impossible task. They not only faced 10,000 afghan tribesmen, but also managed to kill 450 to 600 with their limited man and firepower. The British government acknowledged their bravery and honored each Sikh soldier who lost his life on that day.
Outcome of the battle
Though the brave but under prepared Sikh soldiers fought till their last breathe, they were not able to resist the attack by the Afghan tribesmen. One might find it difficult to believe that these 21 men were able to hold on to the fort for so many hours, and also killed 200 enemy soldiers. Once the 21 brave hearts perished, the Afghan tribesmen took over the fort, only to be defeated by the reinforcements, which were sent from Fort Gulistan and Lockhart. General Yeatman-Biggs was able to take over several Afghan strong holds, with only 34000 men. The tribal Afghans were unable to hold on to the fort for long as the reinforcements surrounded it from all sided, and forced the hostile tribes to surrender. They surrendered at last, but put up a strong fight before that. With the fall of the Afghans, the British Indian Army registered its first major victory over the tribes.
Bollywood productions on this incident
The entire nation is looking forward to see the depiction of this memorable battle on the silver screen. As of now, two movies, both on the theme of Battle of Saragarhi, have been announced. They will be produced under different banners.
- Kesari – The first movie that will hit the cinema screens is named “Kesari.” The movie will be directed by the famous director Anurag Singh, and will see the collaboration of the Dharma Productions, Cape of Good Films, and Azure Entertainment. Anshul Choubey is responsible for handling the cinematography of Kesari. Akshay Kumar and Parineeti Chopra will be in lead roles. It is the first venture that will see the debut of Akshay Kumar as a producer as well. The movie is all set to see the light of day on the 21st of March, 2019.
- Battle Of Saragarhi – As the name suggests, this movie will be second movie that is based on the same subject. Though not much about this movie has been released, it is definite that the versatile actor Randeep Hooda will depict Havildar Ishar Singh’s actions on screen. This movie will be directed by Rajkumar Santoshi. The shooting has only started in November 2017, and the team is still to announce a release date.