The date was 12th September 1897, place was Saragarhi, when 21 Sikh soldiers were attacked by more than 10,000 Afghani soldiers. The normal thing would have been to surrender but Sikhs being the bravest and most fearless community in India refused to let go. They fought and refused to surrender, thus, creating history.
The battle was fought near the Tirah region of Northwest Frontier Province, now in Pakistan. Saragarhi was targeted because it was the center point between the important posts of Fort Lockhart and Fort Gulistan. Because of this the area was often under attacks. At that time the deployment at Saragarhi had 1 NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) and 20 ORs (Other Ranks). Commander Havildar Ishar Singh was the leader of this unit. When the Afghani soldiers attacked, our soldiers knew that they will not be able to sustain them,but they still fought on and even managed to push back the Afhganis.
They were however finally defeated but not before they had killed close to 1000 Afghani soldiers. The ratio of the Sikh soldiers to the Afghani soldiers was an unbelievable 1:476!
All the soldiers were awarded with the prestigious Indian Order of Merit Class III award, equivalent to today’s Param Vir Chakra. The British Parliament and the Queen gave these soldiers a standing ovation. Also it was the first time in history that each and every member of a unit was awarded with a gallantry award for a single fight. This battle has also featured in the Eight Stores of Collective Bravery published by UNESCO.
Owing to this massive achievement, 12th September is celebrated as the Saragarhi Day. People celebrate and honour the sacrifices that these brave soldiers made on this day. It is observed as the Sikh military commemoration day. Gurudwaras have also been erected to honor their sacrifice, one in Saragarhi, second in Firozpur and third in Amritsar.
These brave soldiers may not be with us anymore, but the sacrifices they made for our country and the fearlessness with which they fought, will surely ignite a fire in many hearts.