Sunday, June 29, 2014

My thoughts on Battle of Saragarhi

In the absence of any written accounts from Pashtun side, all we have is an exaggerated and one-sided British account. Sardarjis have added their own masala to the story produced by their British masters, making it more incredible. We are told that 21 Sikh soldiers , who were fighting for the glory of their British masters, faced 10,000 Afghans or Pathans (some articles also give numbers of 14,000 and 20,000) and were able to kill more than 600 of them before succumbing to 'martyrdom' (for the noble cause of British colonialism), thus achieving greater feat than 300 Spartans of the Hollywood movie. Astonishingly 10,000 to 14,000 Afridis and Orakzais were available from sparsely populated Khyber and Orakzai agencies just for seige of picquet of Saraghari in an uprising of such great scale. The question arises how reliable and trustworthy were the British assessment of numbers of their foes ?. For example in one report they assessed the fighting strength of the Afridis to be 227,000  while the total population of Khyber agency after a century was 284,256 in 1981 census. So claim of Afridis and Orakzais being numerous as ants and locusts for siege of Saragarhi post, should be taken with a pinch of salt. Unlike British, Afridis and Orakzais did not keep written records of their exploits and they did not have any Newspapers.

Wikipedia says that military historians has declared it to be history's greatest last stand but interestingly every site which gives details about Battle of Saragarhi, is Indian. I am interested to know the names of those military historians and their credentials. I come across the claim that "the Battle at Saragarhi is one of eight stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO". I did not find any such statement on any website or book of UNESCO. The only sites and books which are reporting it are Sikh-Indian like "Sikh Studies", "The Sikh Review" etc.  If any one has proper reference from UNESCO then share it in comments section. The other battle that Sikhs-Indians are including in the "Eight stories of collective braver" is Battle of Thermopylae (the battle which is shown in the 300 Spartans movie of Hollywood). Despite of my exhaustive search, i could not find the names of other six battles included in the said list by UNESCO. Sikhs themselves are puzzled and are asking the names of other six battles in the list. It seems like made-up information. Sikhs also claim that the marvelous story of battle of Saragarhi is taught to school children in France. Only Sikh-Indian sites are reporting it, again seems to be made-up information.

What surprises me the most is the term "invaders" used by Sikh-Indian sites for Afridi-Orakzai tribesmen. The aggressors and villains in the story are clearly British and their Indian sepoys. Pashtuns were simply trying to get rid of the foreign boots on their soil. They should rather praise Afridi-Orakzai tribesmen who were bravely resisting British imperialism and colonialism.

Sikh troops of British army looting and destroying a village in the Swat Valley: Malakand Rising, 26th July to 22nd August 1897 on the North-West Frontier of India