Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Ango-Sikh War memorial restoration project stalls

War memorial restoration held up
* Shortage of funds *
*Contractor awarded Rs 10 lakh project not paid by govt

Efforts by the Punjab Heritage & Tourism Promotion Board to renovate the monument erected in memory of the last Anglo-Sikh War in Aliwal village near here has hit a roadblock with the contractor assigned the project not having received payment for the work.

Work on the Rs 10 lakh project was begun in January and a boundary wall with grills has already been erected.

The renovation of the monument, known as ‘Flame of Memory’, built by the British in memory of the battle of Aliwal, will be taken up only after the contractor receives the funds.

The British had erected the monument near this village more than 158 years ago to honour the bravery of their soldiers as well as to remember the scores of Sikh soldiers who had displayed exemplary courage before losing to a much stronger British army. Unfortunately, the monument fell into neglect after India gained independence.

“I had submitted the first bill some time ago but am yet to receive the payment. Otherwise the work should have been finished by now. If they release the payment tomorrow we’ll finish the work within two months, ’’ said Yash Pal Jain, the contractor.

Despite repeated attempts Rahul Sharma, general manager (projects), Punjab Heritage & Tourism Promotion Board, could not be reached.

The war memorial was declared a protected monument in 1964 under the Punjab Ancient, Historical Monuments, Archaeological Sites & Remains Act but has been in ruins all these years. Even though the monument stands as a reminiscence of the high standards of chivalry of the Sikhs, which was recognized in a way by the British through this memorial, the monument could not attract similar care all these decades after independence.

Anglo-Sikh War

The Ludhiana Gazetteer has a small reference to its history. After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839 the Sikh forces were divided. The British, sensing a golden chance, began marching towards the erstwhile Punjab to wrest the territory and complete their dominance of the whole of India. They were, however, not aware of the might of the Sikh forces who under the spirited guidance of several generals held the territory as long as they could. One such general was Ranjodh Singh Majithia, who led his forces at Baddowal to defeat the British comprehensively in January, 1846.

He raised the strength of his army to 15,000. While he was gaining strength here, the British, under the command of Gen Harry Smith, who was smarting from the defeat at the hands of the Sikhs at Baddowal, were also bringing reinforcements. Finally the British moved to capture Aliwal. The Sikh guns were well-served but Aliwal was held by inferior troops who could not put up a spirited fight, but the Khalsa troops made a most determined stand near Bhundri village. The most gallant action was the charge by the 16th lancers of the Sikh Infantry. Three times the Sikhs were ridden over, but they reformed on each occasion. It was not till the whole strength of the British army was brought to fight that the Sikhs were defeated.

The Sikhs were either driven across the river or dispersed over the uplands. The British loss was also very heavy, amounting to more than 400 men killed or wounded. As the battle marked the annexation of a major territory of Punjab by the British, a memorial in the form of the monument was erected. It was especially dedicated to the soldiers killed.

Society to protect monument
 Activists of the Desh Bhagat Yadgari Society, led by Jagdev Singh Jassowal and KK Bawa visited the memorial today. Jassowal said they would protect the monument by organising resources. ‘‘It’s a matter of shame that the memorial has not been looked after,’’ he added.

Kanchan Vasdev, tribune news service, Ludhiana, May 16


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