Sepoy mutiny bravehearts’ tombs in wilderness in Indo-Bangla border

Guwahati: As the nation salutes it martyrs on Independence Day, a bunch of brave-hearts from the Sepoy Mutiny are lying unsung and uncelebrated at a burial ground, tugged between India and Bangladesh on southern Assam border.

A burial ground with tombs of at least 26 Indian native soldiers and six colonial forces’ personnel, including their commandant, at Latu in Malegarh in Karimganj district of Assam remains unrecognised and unheeded even after the state government had initiated steps to develop it as a tourist spot.

Government’s apathy, coupled with indifference from other organisations and historians, had almost led to Malegarh being fenced out of India; though timely intervention and awareness campaigns by few conscious citizens ensured that India retained the historic site but only to let in leave it to wilderness.

The Malegarh burial site has the bodies of 26 soldiers of third and fourth companies of 34 Native Infantry of Chittagong, who were among 300-odd native soldiers who had revolted against the British in present Bangladesh, looted arms and ammunition, cash and elephants from Chittagong on November 18, 1857, and left for Manipur, via Tripura, that very night.

Five soldiers of the Sylhet Light Infantry were killed, along with 26 natives, in the battle on December 18, 1857, and though the body count was higher for the natives, they were successful in pushing behind the British and marching forward.

However, the troupe of the native soldiers and their families could not survive the arduous trek, constantly being hunted by the British with 185 soldiers being killed in battles and hunger, fatigue and diseases also claiming its share of prey.

With history books mostly silent on the Malegarh episode, the details of the mutiny in Chittagong and the native soldiers’ brave trek towards Manipur via Malegarh can be found in accounts of the then-superintendent of police of Cachar Robert Stuart.

Among the few details available are that the rebel soldiers were led by Ayodhya Prasad Singh, Rizbul Khan, Sher Khan and Samser Khan and that most were from Orrisa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of northern India.

A few relics, including a pistol, a sword, one shoe and some ammunition, have also been found at the site, though the government is yet to take these into its possession.

A bunch of young professionals, Patkai Trekkers, have now taken up the cause of highlighting the Malegarh burial ground and the bravery of the soldiers and their colleagues buried there.

‘The state government had taken up some conservation work in 2006-07, but the work remained mostly unfinished and the burial ground remains deserted and abandoned,’ Mriganka Gogoi said.

As the nation once again pays homage to its freedom fighters, the demand for preserving Malegarh as a war memorial has once more gained momentum.

The Border Security Force has taken some steps to preserve the burial ground, but awareness regarding these brave freedom fighters is still scant even in the state. (UNI)

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