Amritsar, Aug 1 :
Exactly 157 years after they were pushed into a well by the British rulers, 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 this year were paid their last respects Friday.
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.
The victims, 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.
An all-faith prayer service was held to pay tributes to the martyrs at Ajnala town. Scores of people attended the event. These included historians, eminent locals and members of the Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj.
“Tributes were paid to the martyrs whose remains were recovered from the well,” said historian Surendra Kochhar, who was actively engaged with the digging process in February this year.
Following three days of digging, the volunteers recovered 90 skulls, 170 jaws, over 5,000 teeth and hundreds of bones.
Scores of volunteers, including men, women, children and even the elderly, were engaged in digging the well, located inside the premises of Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj at Ajnala.
Other things recovered included coins of the British times, gold items and medals.
The gurdwara had come up at the site as a tribute to the martyrs.
The martyrs were troops comprising Indians from the 26th Bengal Native Infantry posted at Mian Mir cantonment near Lahore who revolted against the British and were marching towards Ajnala after hearing 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. Here, many were killed and thrown into the well while others were pushed into it alive. A 10-foot layer of soil was put on them.
The gurdwara committee and others involved in the excavation said a suitable memorial and a museum would be built at the site to honour those who laid down their lives for the country.