Fund shortage delays DNA testing of Ajnala martyrs’ remains

Amritsar, Punjab: The DNA testing of martyrs of the 1857 mutiny, whose remains were dug out from the historic Kallianwala Khu near Ajnala in March this year, has been delayed due to lack of financial support from the state government.

A committee comprising members of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Punjab’s Cultural Affairs Department and Panjab University’s experts on forensic science and anthropology had visited Ajnala in April and taken the mortal remains into their possession.

Talking to The Tribune, Dr JS Sherawat, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Panjab University, said: “The mortal remains are lying in two boxes with the Department of Cultural Affairs as the work on DNA profiling could not take off due to lack of funds and space.”

He said though the university had made it clear that it was ready to provide proper space for the work, the state government was yet to grant funds for the same.

He said the government had not even paid remuneration to research scholars who had visited Ajnala as a part of the expert team on April 30. He said two more boxes containing the mortal remains of martyrs were lying at the site in Ajnala. Though the remains kept in Chandigarh were safe, the ones at the site might get deteriorated with the passage of time, he said.

The experts, who had visited the site, were not happy with the way the mortal remains were dug out as they felt that the “unscientific excavation” had damaged a majority of the remains. Two boxes of bones and teeths, which were in somewhat good condition, were preserved and deposited with the Department of Cultural Affairs.

The DNA testing of the remains is likely to establish age, gender and physique of the martyrs who laid down their lives during the uprising. Navjotpal Singh Randhawa, Director, Cultural Affairs, Museums, Archives and Archaeology, refused to comment.

Amarjit Singh Sarkaria, president, Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj Committee, said they still had big bones in their possession which they intended to preserve and showcase in the museum that they planned to raise at the historic site.

He said they would perform the last rites of the remains in Ajnala on August 1 for which the state government had provided them land. It was the gurdwara committee which along with researcher Surinder Kochhar had excavated these remains from the historic well early this year.

Historical facts:

Sources said around 500 soldiers raised a banner of revolt at Mian Mir Cantonment in Lahore as a part of the 1857 uprising and swam across the Ravi to reach Ajnala. Out of them, 218 were killed by the British at Dadian Sofian village, near here, while the remaining 282 were incarcerated in a cage-like room where many of them died of asphyxiation. Following the orders from the then British Deputy Commissioner Fredrick Cooper, the rest were shot dead before their bodies were thrown in a well which later came to be known as Kallianwala Khu as the British used to call Indians kale (black).

Recoveries made:

At least 90 skulls, 170 intact jaws, 26 skeletons joined with skulls and more than 5,000 teeth have been recovered from the historic well. Besides, the excavating team also recovered 70 Re 1 coins of the East India Company dating back to 1830-40, two British medals, gold beads, three gold amulets, four rings, four bangles, a few bullets and other articles were also found from the well

Source: The Tribune

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