SS Channy (fourth from right), Principal Secretary, Cultural Affairs Department, looks at the remains of the martyrs in Ajnala on Saturday

Gurdwara panel without sangat support to preserve remains of Ajnala martyrs

Amritsar, Punjab:  Acceding to the demand of historians and others, the Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj Management Committee today decided to preserve the mortal remains of the 282 soldiers, who were part of the sepoy mutiny in 1857 and were buried by the British at the ‘Kalianwala Khu’ here.

Committee president Amarjit Singh Sarkaria and researcher Surinder Kochhar said, “We’ve decided to preserve and showcase in a museum the skulls and larger bones recovered from the historic well. However, we will perform the martyrs’ last rites with the smaller bones excavated from the site.”

They said the funeral would be conducted as per Hindu as well as Muslim rituals, as there were some Muslim soldiers too among the 282 dead. “A part of the mortal remains will be consigned to flames while the other part will be buried as per Muslim rituals,” they said, adding that they’ve already contacted some Muslim religious leaders in Malerkotla in this regard. They said they had also intimated the state government’s Cultural Affairs Department about their plan.

Meanwhile, in view of the fresh controversy, the state government seems to be treading with caution on the issue. SS Channy, Principal Secretary, Cultural Affairs and Archaeology Department, visited the historic site and said the government would decide on the future course of action after consulting the experts and all those concerned with the issue.

On the latest controversy about the martyrs being non-Sikhs, he said it was the job of historians to look into these aspects. On establishing the identity of the martyrs, he said the Union Government would take up the matter with the UK Government. He said they were also in touch with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in this regard.

In a related development, the Indian Workers Association (IWA), Great Britain, has assured the gurdwara management committee to make all the efforts possible in the UK to establish the identity of all the 282 martyrs.

Comrade Kulbir Singh Sanghera of IWA, members of Indo-Canadian Workers Association, along with Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee vice-president Ajmer Singh Samra visited the site today and lauded the efforts of the management committee.

All of them hit out against those politicising the issue on communal lines while stating that the martyrs have no religion. They said all of them should be declared national martyrs and a museum be raised in their memory. State CPM leader Mangat Ram Pasla also termed the move to “divide martyrs on communal lines” as unfortunate while urging Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to rein in the SAD leaders speaking on these lines.

Former state minister Laxmikanta Chawla today raised a strong objection to “humiliating and undesired” words being used by certain quarters for the martyrs of 1857 uprising by linking them to a particular community and state. She said martyrs didn’t have any religion and they were the ones who sacrificed their lives for the country. She urged the CM to act swiftly on the matter and raise a befitting memorial for the martyrs.

Source: The Tribune

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