"We will perform their last rites with the respect and honour that they deserve, Sarkaria said."
Chandigarh, June 14 - The remains of 282 martyrs from the First War of Independence in 1857, which were dug up from a well in Punjab's Ajnala town earlier this year, will be given a formal send-off Aug 1.

The remains were dug up from the Kalian wala khu (well of the blacks), now referred to as the shaheedan wala khu (well of the martyrs) at Ajnala near Amritsar. These people, mostly Indian soldiers in the British Army who had rebelled, were mercilessly pushed into the well and killed after being covered with soil by British troops.

The venue from where the remains will be sent-off has not been decided, nor has it been decided where and how the remains will be interred. Historians and members of the Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj here will take a call on this.

The remains of 282 martyrs were recovered from the well, historian Surendra Kochhar, who was actively engaged with the digging process February this year, said.

After digging for over three days, the volunteers recovered 90 skulls, 170 jaws, over 5,000 teeth and hundreds of bones.

Scores of volunteers, including men, women, children and even elderly, were engaged in the digging.

Other things recovered included coins of the British times, gold items and medals.

The digging of the well, located inside the premises of Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj at Ajnala, was preceded by Sikh, Hindu and Muslim prayers.

These were our freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives during the First War of Independence in 1857. The British authorities pushed them into the well here and let them die, Amarjit Singh Sarkaria, president of Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj, said earlier.

The gurdwara had come up at the site as a tribute to the martyrs.

The martyrs were Indians troops of the 26th Bengal Native Infantry posted at Mian Mir cantonment near Lahore who revolted against the British and marched towards Ajnala after they heard reports of the mutiny in Meerut and other places in 1857.

These soldiers, numbering about 500, had dared to challenge the British Empire by killing two British officers near Lahore.

The then British deputy commissioner of Amritsar, Fredrick Cooper, ordered action against the troops. While many were killed, 282 were captured and brought to Ajnala. Many of them were killed and thrown into the well while others were pushed into it alive. A 10-foot layer of soil was put on them to cover the well.

We will perform their last rites with the respect and honour that they deserve, Sarkaria said.

The gurdwara committee and others involved in the excavation said that a suitable memorial and a museum will be built at the site to honour those who laid down their lives for the country.


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