Author: Khan Barmazid
1- Sikhs and other Indians have made a claim, that "Ten Thousands or 14,000" Afghans attacked the Saragarhi post where 21 Soldiers were stationed from 36th Regiment. Perhaps its based on some estimate by British author, but British military reports of 1897-98 have never made such claim. The fact is , the numbers of Pashtun attackers on Saragarhi fort can never be determined and any estimation by British, e.g 'Pathans as numerous as ants and locusts", should be taken with a pinch of salt, this is sparsely populated region . Sikhs, and other Indians, are running the titles "21 vs 10000" or 21 vs 14,000" , "Sparta style last stand" on their numerous websites . Numerous books by Sardarjis have also the same stories. (Some of their sites and books are even claiming it to be 20,000 vs 21). British reports on the assessment of fighting strength of Afridi and other tribes were never reliable nor believable. For example in one report they assessed the fighting strength of the Afridis to be 227,000 while the total population of Khyber agency in 1981 census was 284,256.
2- The only known and confirmed fact is, that small garrison in the fort was killed to the last man and the fort was leveled to the ground. Afridis and Orakzais had no artillery and were actually at serious disadvantage. Sikhs were firing at them from the high ground. It did not take long for tribesmen to overrun the Saragarhi fort. British claims that Saragarhi fort was reduced in seven and a half hour.
3- Why Sikhs did not surrender? Sikh soldiers are mentioned in British reports to be torturing and mutilating the Pashtun captives so Pashtuns would not take Sikhs as prisoners. Sikh soldiers at Saragarhi post knew very well that they have no option of surrendering or negotiating with besiegers , so they fought desperately to the last man , while waiting for the arrival of reinforcements. Woosnam Milles has remarked ,"When these two (Sikhs and Pathans) meet , there is no quarter asked and none given".
4- Sikhs claim that more than 600 Afghans were killed but British documents have never reported such casualties of Afghans. British sources say that Rabia Khel clan of Orakzais , who had remained loyal to the British Government, disclosed to General Lockhart that one eighty to 200 tribesmen were killed in the entire affair of Saragarhi. While this is one-sided and unreliable claim and can be dismissed. Yet it is believable. As mentioned earlier, Afridis and Orakzais were at serious disadvantage and did not possess any artillery, and were climbing the hill while facing the firing from the height. Pashtun tribesmen also suffered heavy casualties from the artillery of the Fort Cavagnari . So if Sikh soldiers from the heights with artillery, inflicted heavy casualties on the Pashtuns, its not so surprising. Judging from the Photographs, there were no proper covers for the tribesmen to take and they had assaulted the fort in broad day light (from nine o clock in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon). In fact, few years earlier, in 1891, Orakzais are said to have lost 200 men due to fire from British artillery at Saragarhi post, when the former attempted to take it.
4- Sikhs , as well as other Indians (who copy such stuff from their sites), are telling a big lie that "the Battle at Saragarhi is one of eight stories of collective bravery published by UNESCO". To make the lie believable, they have included "Battle of Thermopylae" in the list of eight stories of collective bravery. UNESCO has never published such stories with such title. Thats why only two entries in this false list are known, people can not (and wont) find the names of other six battles despite of extensive search on web and on books. Britain's parliamentary standing ovation , in response to narration of Saragarhi story, is also a lie and fabrication. It is also a lie that this battle is taught to school children in France.
5- Sikh story tellers have not bothered with the accuracy about the location of Saragarhi village. Some assign it to be in Tirah of Khyber and Orakzai agencies , some even says its in Waziristan. Its actually in Hangu district ( once part of Kohat district ) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is held by the Babi Khel, a section of the Rabia Khel Orakzais.
6- Lastly in the so called "heroic stand of all times", these Sikhs were nothing more than fodder and fuel for ambitions of British imperialism and the ones painted as villains in this story, the Afridis and Orakzais, were fighting and dying for the freedom of their lands from the foreign occupation.
1- History of the Pathans, Volume-IV, by Haroon Rashid
2- The Pathan Revolt in North West India by H.Woosnam Mills
3- Imperial Gazetteer of India, Volume-20, provincial series
4- A Concise History of Afghanistan in 25 Volumes
5- War in Afghanistan By Kevin James Baker
|Ruins of Saragarhi fort, after destruction on 12th September 1897|
|British Monument commemorating Sikh stand-off in Hangu. The fort served as a signalling station between Fort Lockhart on the eastern edge and Fort Cavagnari (or Gulistan Fort) on the west.|