Man Behind Ranjit Singh Statue in Lahore Now Wants to Develop Saragarhi Memorial || SNE
By THE INDIAN EXPRESS .
Nov 28, 2019
The man behind the installation of a life-size statue of Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh at the Lahore Fort earlier this year is now pushing to develop Saragarhi memorial in Pakistan as a major tourist destination.
Sargarhi is among over a dozen sites that UK-based historian, author, and filmmaker Bobby Singh Bansal has zeroed in on for a proposed tourist trail in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The British had dedicated the Saragarhi memorial to the heroism and valour of 21 Sikh men who made the supreme sacrifice while defending the outpost when it came under attack from Orakzai tribesman on September 12, 1897.
Bansal, who last week visited Saragarhi – and which according to him was 80 km from Peshawar but a five hour drive due to tough terrain and bad condition of the roads – said it had tremendous tourism potential.
The 12-ft high memorial, built in grey stone, is located in Samana Range, a mountain ridge in Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region at a height of about 6300 feet above the sea level.
“Not many people visit this part of Pakistan. They go back from Panja Sahib. Many want to visit military historical sites in Pakistan. It is one such site, which, if properly developed, has a huge potential to bring in a lot of tourists. I had discussions with the authorities in Peshawar. I will go to Pakistan again in February next year and then we will plan on how to go about it and take it forward,” Bobby told over phone.
“Given the beauty and scenery of the area, it appears like a part of Austria or Switzerland,” Bobby said, adding that he had visiting the memorial after a gap of 28 years.
The historian said Saragarhi memorial was one among 12 to 15 historical sites, which have been identified for the tourism trail of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“In London, Saragarhi Day is celebrated in various ways at military college. Polo matches are held. But, no one has been to the memorial. When I go back to England, I am going to get the British regiment involved to take officers to Saragarhi in the near future. I have sent messages to some of my army friends who are very excited about visiting the memorial. We may also plan an annual pilgrimage for 20 to 30 soldiers every September,” said Bobby, who visited Pakistan to attend various cultural events such as Faiz Festival (November 14 to 17) where he participated in a session on “Sikhism in Punjab”.
He also meets government officials and organizations to promote religious Sikh tourism in Lahore, Gujarat, and Peshawar.
Asked about the condition of the memorial, Bobby said, “It is about 120 years old and still in good condition. Surrounding areas need to be cemented. The main structure is not brilliant but not bad too. It needs a facelift. The original plaque carrying names of 21 Sikh soldiers is still there.”
Saragarhi, Booby said, had military outposts of Gulistan on one side and Lockhart outpost on the other. A regiment of Pakistani army stationed at Gulistan outpost took care of the Saragarhi memorial.
The Battle of Saragarhi was fought between 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikhs of the British Indian Army and some 10,000 Afghan tribesmen on September 12, 1897. The Sikh soldiers, tasked with defending a British outpost at village Saragarhi in the Northwest Frontier Province, decided to stand their ground and fought nearly 10,000 Afghan tribesmen. Considered as one of history’s greatest last stands, it has been listed as one of the top eight battles of bravery by UNESCO. September 12 is commemorated as Saragarhi Day.