Despite promises, Saragarhi Memorial in state of neglect - Mandi Gobindgarh News

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Monday, September 9, 2019

Despite promises, Saragarhi Memorial in state of neglect


Despite promises, Saragarhi Memorial in state of neglect

Anirudh Gupta

Ferozepur, September 8

Notwithstanding umpteen promises and commitments, the state government has failed to release funds for the development and beautification of the Saragarhi Memorial which depicts the saga of unparallel chivalry in the history of military warfare. The memorial was set up to pay tribute to the 22 valiant soldiers of the 36th Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army who attained martyrdom fighting against the might of over 10,000 Afridis during the battle of Saragarhi on this day in 1897 in North West Frontier Province.

Last year, during the state-level function held here to commemorate its 121st anniversary, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh had announced several projects to commemorate the day, including an institute for competitive studies, Saragarhi club, centre for rehabilitation of drug-addicts besides Rs 1 crore for the existing memorial in the border town. Ironically, the CM has himself authored an outstanding book on the battle of Saragarhi, and this memorial is close to his heart.

Capt had promised to make this memorial as one of the iconic monuments in the country. Even two Bollywood movies were released last year on the epic battle which did extremely well at the box office. However, the memorial stands isolated with no effort being made to make it a place of international tourist attraction.

As per information, even the proposal to start a light and sound show was conceived by the administration, but the same remains only on paper.

It is pertinent to mention that the military action that took place at Saragarhi 122 years ago is taught to students in several countries, particularly in France. However, it has not been made part of the school curriculum in India. Now, the state education board has introduced a poem on the Sargarhi war in its curriculum.

Even the Union Government has agreed to spend Rs 4 crore for the historic memorial, but to no avail. The then state tourism and cultural affairs minister Navjot Sidhu had announced funds for this memorial in 2017, however no amount has been received by the district administration so far, confirmed Deputy Commissioner Chander Gaind.

Also no effort has been made to improve the condition of other historical places which include National Martyrs Memorial Hussainiwala, Anglo Sikh War Memorials and the secret hideout of Bhagat Singh and his comrades. Even during the previous SAD-BJP regime also, the then CM Parkash Singh Badal had announced Rs 13.50 crore for the beautification of the these memorials, however the project is yet to see the light of day.

Notwithstanding intervention of the High Court, even the secret hideout of Shahid Bhagat Singh and his revolutionary comrades situated in the city, which is believed to have been the headquarters of the ‘Krantikari Party’, continues to remain in a dilapidated condition. The Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs had in 20015 notified the site as a protected monument under the Punjab Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1964, but the ground situation has remained unchanged. The Anglo-Sikh War Museum, constructed in memory of valiant Sikh soldiers who died during the Anglo-Sikh wars of 1845-46, also portrays a picture of apathy and neglect. Located on the banks of twin canals on NH-95, this memorial stands alone on the actual war site where the two Anglo Sikh wars were fought. Same is the case with other Anglo-Sikh war memorials in Ferozshah, Mudki and Sabraon.

Former IAS officer Kulbir Singh Sidhu, who remained posted here as commissioner, said it was unfortunate that the successive governments had not evinced keen interest in upkeep and development of the memorials. “I had taken up the matter with the Archaeological Survey of India to notify these sites as monuments of national importance. After my transfer, the issue was brushed under the carpet,” he said. “Visiting these monuments is no less than any pilgrimage” said Rakesh Kumar, who has authored several books on the martyrs. “It’s sad to see them becoming victims of government apathy,” he added.

Saluting valour

  • The memorial was set up to pay tribute to the 22 valiant soldiers of the 36th Sikh Regiment of the British Indian Army who attained martyrdom fighting against the might of over 10,000 Afridis during the battle of Saragarhi in 1897 in North West Frontier Province 
  • Last year, during the state-level function held to commemorate 121st anniversary of the battle, the CM had announced several projects, including an institute for competitive studies, Saragarhi club, centre for rehabilitation of drug-addicts, besides Rs 1 crore for the existing memorial in the border town. Ironically, the CM has himself authored a book on the battle, and this memorial is close to his heart

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