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What Akshay Kumar’s Kesari won’t tell you: The real military account of Battle of Saragarhi

The battle is recorded in the Digest of Service of 36 Sikh (now 4 Sikh) and I was its custodian for two years as the Adjutant.

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The Battle of Saragarhi of 12 September 1897, recently dramatised in Akshay Kumar-starrer Kesari, is one of the greatest ‘last stands’ in military history.

The account of the battle is recorded in the Digest of Service of 36 Sikh (now 4 Sikh) and I was its custodian for two years from 1971 to 1972 as the Adjutant. The battle is also described in the personal letters of Lt Col John Haughton, who was the commanding officer of the unit, as reproduced in his biography The Life of Lieut.Col. John Haughton.

The battle saw one non-commissioned officer, Havildar Ishar Singh (played by Akshay Kumar in the movie), 20 other ranks and one ‘follower’ (civilian employed for menial tasks), Daad, of 36 Sikh fighting the Pashtuns till the ‘last man last round’.

But as it often happens, many myths come to be associated with great ‘last stands’, and the Battle of Saragarhi is no exception.

Here is what really happened in the Battle of Saragarhi.

Also read: Kesari sees Akshay Kumar’s rebirth as an action hero as the actor dies

Events leading up to the battle

The Battle of Saragarhi was fought between two sub-nationalities of the subcontinent – the Sikhs, who were in the service of the British, and the Pashtuns, who were fighting for their freedom.

The Sikh-Pashtun rivalry went back 150 years, beginning with the first invasion of Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1748. For the next 50 years, a bitter struggle ensued for the control of Punjab. By 1800, the Sikhs had prevailed and over the next 30 years, they had pushed the Afghans to the later-era Durand Line (1893), which forms the present western boundary of Pakistan. These were the boundaries that the British inherited after they defeated the Khalsa Army in 1849.

In 1893, the Durand Line to demarcate the border between British India and Afghanistan was created, dividing the Pashtun heartland. This led to a simmering discontent among the tribes whose homeland had been divided. Apart from garrisoning the area, the British had to send military expeditions to quell the tribal rebellion.

In January 1897, half of 36 Sikh was deployed on the Samana Ridge. The battalion headquarters and one company plus a platoon, 168 all ranks, occupied Fort Lockhart at the eastern end. One company plus a platoon, 175 all ranks, were located at Fort Gulistan, 5.2 km to the west.

But the two forts lacked inter-visibility, and therefore, a post was set up at Saragarhi, named after the destroyed Pashtun village of Saragarh, which acted as a heliograph (signalling device using sunlight and reflectors) communication post.

Also read: As Indians watch Uri, time for Army to talk about other daring and unsung operations

Three more posts – Dhar, Sangar, Sartop with 37, 44, and 21 all ranks respectively – were occupied to guard the flanks of Fort Lockhart. Rest of the battalion was deployed 80 km further west, in the area of Parachinar.

In August 1897, the Mulla of Hadda gave a call for ‘Jehad’ against the British and the Afridis, Orakzais and Shinwaris, the Pashtuns of the Tirah region, rose up in rebellion. While the British Indian Army was building up its force in Kohat (garrison town), the Orakzais and Afridis focused their attention on the Samana ridge.

The Tirah region had an estimated 20,000-25,000 Afridis and Orakzais. Of them, nearly 10,000 started surrounding the forts on the Samana Ridge held by 36 Sikh. Between 28 August and 11 September, Fort Gulistan and the outposts around Fort Lockhart were attacked a number of times without success.

The battle & many accounts

On the morning of 12 September, a part of the Pashtun rebels invested the vulnerable small fort at Saragarhi. The battle began at 9 am and ended a little after 3:30 pm with the entire garrison killed in action. Since there was no survivor, little is known of what actually happened at Saragarhi.

The military account is based on the visual observations made with binoculars/telescope from Fort Gulistan and Fort Lockhart, 2.8 km and 2.4 km away respectively from Saragarhi.

Many accounts give a minute-by-minute description of the battle by signaller Sepoy Gurmukh Singh through the heliograph. The official accounts mention only two such messages – one at 12 noon, giving a factual report, and the other just after 3 pm, seeking permission to close the heliograph and join the battle.

There is no record of any Pashtun account of the battle. Hence, most non-military accounts of the Battle of Saragarhi are imaginary and speculative.

However, since it was a literal ‘last man, last round’ battle, which lasted six-and-a-half hours, there should be no doubt that all that can be imagined in terms of individual and collective bravery and human emotions would have been on display.

Also read: How I captured and saved India’s first prisoner of war in 1971

What military account says

I have read and re-read the Digest of Service of 36/4 Sikh and most accounts of the battle written in the last 122 years. The actual Pashtun force that attacked the Saragarhi post comprised 1,000-1,500 rebels.

Saragarhi had a cliff facing towards the south and a narrow spur linking it to the ridge. It was not practical for more than 80-100 men to attack at one time, but adequate reserves were available for repeated attacks. Rest of the Pashtuns were cutting/blocking the route to Lockhart and Gulistan and also investing Gulistan and other forts.

The Pashtuns initially tried to rush to the post but were unsuccessful. They retreated and took cover behind the boulders and continued firing at the post.

As observed from the Gulistan Fort, two Pashtuns had stayed behind to dig under the fort wall to make it collapse to create a breach. Being at a dead angle, they could not be seen by the defenders at Saragarhi. Gulistan tried to warn the post, but the message never reached.

At 12 noon, the signaller reported that one sepoy had been killed, one non-commissioned officer wounded and three rifles damaged due to firing. Lt Col Haughton sent Lt George Munn with 12 soldiers to create a diversion by firing from a distance, but it had no effect. Between 12 noon and 3 pm, the Pashtuns made two more attacks with 80-100 men each, but were again repulsed with heavy losses.

At 3 pm, Lt Col Haughton with Lt Munn and 98 other ranks set out to create a diversion and ease the pressure on Saragarhi. He had barely moved a kilometre when part of Saragarhi’s wall collapsed due to the digging by the two Pashtun men who had stayed behind, and the final assault was launched.

Just after 3 pm, Sepoy Gurmukh Singh sent his last message seeking permission to join the battle. At 3.30 pm, it was all over.

A great saga of bravery had been enacted. Most ‘last stands’ are rarely literal as there are always some survivors. Saragarhi was literally and metaphorically a great ‘last stand’. Each of the 21 soldiers was awarded the Indian Order of Merit (IOM), the highest decoration awarded to the Indian soldiers by the British till 1911.

A 30-feet pyramidal cairn, using stones from the ruins, was constructed at Saragarhi and a more formal obelisk was built at Lockhart as memorials. Two gurdwaras, one each in Amritsar and Firozpur, were built in their honour.

Myth vs fact

Most writers estimate Pashtun casualties in the Battle of Saragarhi to be around 600 to 1,000.

Pashtuns/Pathans were masters of field craft and minor tactics and never indulged in foolhardy head-on attacks on well-defended positions. As per official assessment, Pashtun casualties on the Samana Ridge were 400 killed and 600 wounded, and of them, 180 died in the Battle of Saragarhi.

The IOM has been equated with the Victoria Cross by most writers. No doubt, it was the highest award given to Indian soldiers, but the fact that in addition to 21 IOMs for the Saragarhi braves, 36 Sikh was also awarded another 14 IOMs in the battle at Samana and for the Tirah campaign that followed dilutes the comparison.

Writer-filmmaker Jay Singh-Sohal in his book Saragarhi: The Forgotten Battle busts two more myths – that there was a standing ovation in British House of Commons for the Battle of Saragarhi, and it is listed by UNESCO as one of the seven epic battles. Sohal found no records for both these claims.

Also read: Have a slew of recent Bollywood films changed the way Indians view war?

According to the military account, soldiers of the Sikh Regiment did not have free-flowing beards but kept them rolled. They also did not carry kirpans (swords) into the battle as shown in movies and documentaries made on the event. Sikh Regiment soldiers of that era wore khaki turbans and not kesari turbans as shown in the movie Kesari. The Akshay Kumar-starrer film delves into the personality of Havildar Ishar Singh, but no such detailed records on him are available in the military account.

The number of men killed at Saragarhi was 22 and not 21. Most accounts are ignorant about ‘follower’ Daad’s presence. As the handyman of the post, he would have cooked for the soldiers and cleaned the fort on most days, but on the fateful day, he joined the battle – a tradition 36/4 Sikh still follows. He remains the unsung hero of Saragarhi.

Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal.

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  1. I am waiting for the print to publish how brave the pathans n afridis were. They can also add that there were no casulties on afghan side, one crow died and few trees uprooted. Your real masters will throw one more piece on bone to chew as the reward.

  2. I was holding my breath for the general to spill the ,’classified imperial secret’. And I am still holding it. That said I go by the movie’s yarn for now.😁

  3. R.D. …just for your knowledge, you should thank British for bringing all the states together and naming the country India. Before their invasion their was no India. So even if you want to claim that Indian soldiers were only part of british Army, then what’s wrong. Its better to fight for someone who brought the whole country together unlike the own. Indian kingdoms dividing each other apart. British also build hospitals, English teaching schools, railway tracks, parliamentary building and so on. The fact that you are able to write read and speak in English, thank the Britishers, otherwise sanskrit is all you would have spoken.

  4. It is good for all that different views and versions emerge and are expressed, so the cinematic version is not taken as the sole view of history. Who brings out what interpretation of the history is immaterial. Multiplicity of views is important because reality is never unilateral.

    For me, the British Indian Army was British Army in India and it was the occupying force in India. It never was and never will be Indian Army for me since Indians employed therein worked for the British throne and helped serving the British cause. They were not patriots fighting for the dignity of their motherland. It is fine for British to applaud and honour their contribution to further British interests. Indian fighters were brave and loyal…. to the queen and she rewarded them.

    As a citizen of independent India, I do not take pride in my ancestors serving the British occupying forces for whatever reasons. I take pride in rebels and freedom fighters who were declared terrorists and enemies by the rulers and in Indian National Army which was fighting to free India from British rule.

    In any war or sport, you support one of the teams. I choose not to support the British team.

    Despite all the Indian obsession with the whites, the truth is that they have been the biggest occupying and genocidal force in the world- several times worse than Hitler. They were responsible for the ethnic annihilation of native citizens like Red Indians in U.S. and Aborigines in Australia, slave trading in Africa and the Great Bengal famine and partition back home.

    I choose not to honour people who played for their team and helped them accomplish their mission. Whatever be their compulsions, they can be pitied but not honoured because a soldier’s death is honourable only when he or she dies fighting for a noble and an honourable cause of greater good. Else he is just a skilled or unskilled fighter.

  5. Dear TJ, Lt. Gen Panang is a distinguished Sikh (ex) army man. But I agree with everything else you have written about the article, the “unbearable pain”, the myth-busting. I’d have expected Army Generals like him to extol the efforts of Akshay Kumar who is the son of a serviceman and has contributed with films like “Holiday- a soldier is never off duty”. Like you, I too marvel at the ability of The Print editors in pushing articles that stoke controversies. Much to Gen. Panag’s discomfiture the Akshay Kumar starrer Kesari has done more than 100 cr. business in ten days. With the details General Saheb has gone into, only a documentary could have been produced. Well done Akki, Singh is King.

    • Sadly that is a sentiment widely expressed by Lt Gen in articles on other sites. Links I posted somehow do not show in my responses (search for panag as authors on IDR website. Clearly those articles will never be published by print. We come to the print for keeping watch on contrarian threads and antics techniques of the day. More extreme is the wire. Thanks to all those contributors with alternative facts.

  6. Lt Gen Panag,
    Now that you endeavor to educate civies on military history., I wonder if you have a dispassionate response to some of the critical data backed feedback in this thread. I have read through your articles linked on IDR. The print demands a particular contrarian political attitude, so it may not permit a neutral stance. So IDR could be another forum.

  7. The print and Lt.gen Panag have brought disrepute to our golden history. They should apologize for spreading fake account of the real history just to satisfy their personal hatred towards sikh community.. Everyone knows The print is a mouthpiece of Congress party, the party responsible for the genocide of the Sikhs and nothing useful can be expected from such a mediahouse

  8. Everyone please stop justifying your claims. I personally do not agree with Mr. Panag’s report as he has not revealed the documents. And I don’t think they are viable source. Movie is dramatized to make the viewers engaged but then again all movies are whether in Hollywood or Bollywood. Take 300 for example. But keeping all that aside, 21 sikh soldiers vs 10000 is something no normal human can imagine. Reality is even more brutal and the fact that these 21 men knew they were going to fight till death and beyond bravery. Those who claim Pashtun were fighting for freedom, its false. Saragarhi was fort built by Ranjit Singh and the border was lined since then. Mr. Panag’s claim are false even if you read the accounts of British. Here is a very brief documentary because I know everyone has valuable things to do in life.

    • Pashtuns were fighting for freedom because sikhs were with British army the durrand line was manufactured by the british people will laugh at you if you claim 21 sikhs took on 10000 pashtun fighters lol the soviets couldnt deal with pashtuns and the americans couldnt deal with them even in Pakistan they have there own code and law

  9. Twitter response from Panag who claims to have seen the documents of 36 military accounts.
    rajendra bist



    Mar 21

    Replying to


    Woow – can you please share some of the account or atleast some key rememberences

    Lt Gen H S Panag(R)



    Mar 22

    Least you can do is just punch Saragarhi once on google. You will get 100s of articles documentaries

    So these are LT. Panag’s military document he claims hahaha 🙂


    The battle is considered worlds No 2 last stand. Ravi Aggarwal, the pashtuns were from the famous warrior tribes. Calling them inexperienced? Insane.

    Sepoy Gurmukh Singh, who communicated the battle to Haughton, was the last surviving Sikh defender. He is stated to have killed 20 Afghans, the Pashtuns having to set fire to the post to kill him. As he was dying, he was said to have yelled repeatedly the Sikh battle cry “Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!” (“One will be blessed eternally, who says that God is the ultimate truth!”).

    Having destroyed Saragarhi, the Afghans turned their attention to Fort Gulistan, but they had been delayed too long, and reinforcements arrived there in the night of 13–14 September, before the fort could be captured.[1] The Pashtuns later admitted that they had lost about 180 killed[15] and many more wounded[16] during the engagement against the 21 Sikh soldiers, but some 600 bodies[8] are said to have been seen around the ruined post when the relief party arrived 

  11. Forgot to add that when I say racist and hatred for other ethnic groups, Ravi Aggarwal is an example. It’s the report that is suiting your taste because of the hatred within you. Not me. I go by the source which is by the British accounts as they were the only ones there to witness it. Not jerks like Panag here.

  12. All these above who support you Panag, they are ones misguided by people like you and obviously online racist individuals of other religions and other ethnic groups.
    I am a Gujrati and I have read the British accounts of the battle and it’s not consistent with LT Panag’s. It’s a shame that a retired LT of India is spreading non confirmed accounts of unknown military to his own fellow Indians to dignify the bravery of the great Sikh warriors. Yes the Sikhs were part of British army and fought many wars for them but this last stand was different. British accounts clearly states that the 21 Sikhs had all option to escape. Even the Afghans gave them the ultimatum to leave the form with no bullets shot but they didn’t. Why? Because they fight for not being considered coward. They fought for their pride. They fought for their honor. And we Indians should embrace and salute such bravery. LT Gen Panag is clearly a disgrace as he doesnt want to recognize these 21 Sikhs bravery because they were part of British Army. It’s a shame that LT like Panag is dividing the country and it’s people with such inaccurate accounts. You ever wonder why terrorists enter the country? It’s because of LT like him. LT Panag is one of those Indian Army LT who fights war behind a closed closet and comes out only when it’s over and takes retirement with healthy pension to sit back and write fake account articles like these. It’s a shame. And Shame on you LT General. Need real accounts, go read the British Military accounts that shows that Ishar Singh killed 28 in a hand to hand combat communicated through Gurumukh Singh. Gurmukh killed 20 before yelling the sikh pride slogan of Bole soh nihal which was heard by COL. Haughton himself. So like I said many times earlier, shame on you and being a disgraced LT of our country.

  13. Respected Lt General HS Panag. Please excuse us civies. Our Lily lowered vanity is too fragile to handle reality or discussion with data. We have never stared death in the face! Let alone as a career. Like children we count it, That’s how far we have learnt so far through media.
    Folks. We have the only army in the world where officers lead from the front. Yes be proud of it, for the right reasons, for they have the right mix of Josh in their heart yet realism in the head.

  14. Respected Lt General HS Panag. Please excuse is cities. Our Lily lowered vanity is too fragile to handle reality or discussion with data. We have never stared death in the face! Let alone as a career. Like children we count it, That’s how far we have learnt so far through media.

  15. The reality of war is frustrating fantasy of war. Whilfantasy inspires us… The reality teaches us. The numbers game and chest thumping always wins after the fact for couch potatoes., but it does not diminish anything for those who have killed, taken decisions to commit colleagues to be martyred, and live with aftermath. Check out records action during 1971 to kargil by said general, and vote? Who would you want leading your division! Yourself the critic or lt. General?

  16. Mr panag, I respect you because you were a part of our army. But this article is just a shame. If you were there at the saragarhi, you definitely chose to escape than to fight. It’s always the courage behind when you fight especially when you know that you are not going to survive this war. My heartiest salute to saragarhi martyrs and I think everybody is proud is to be. So Stop defaming our martyrs and use your writing skills to improve the present day situation of our country. Very disappointing after reading this..Our history is full of bravery because of the sacrifice of many more lives that we are living in this free India . Don’t ever defame their bravery and sacrifice . Expecting something positive and constructive next time Mr. Panag!!!

  17. First if all I would condemn the statements made by Jignesh Patel and others defaming a lieutenant general who served Indian Army for 40 years. You just don’t wanna accept this fact coz report isn’t suiting your taste. The skilled sikhmen killed unskilled pathans ,having no proper knowledge of any war. As always the lokkathas are like fairytales and movies exaggerated. They just wanna add masalas to their ideas as accounted in other biographies too. So I hope that if you don’t have any viable proof and if a ‘legal and solid’ proof is provided then your taste doesn’t matter at all.
    Saying the same thing 4-5 times won’t change the fact. If you think you’re right then provide its proof rather than debating and defaming armymen.

  18. Dear World famous historian panag
    The print and you both are a wonderful combination of the most bitter truth of Indian Media. I didn’t expect anything better than this from this duo. A new breed of Indians like you are busy counting dead bodies and the amount of damage done. This video game generation equates everything with their virtual encounters perhaps. Please visit the army camps and stay on the borders for a month. Your respect for army and all nationalistic people will rise in spite of all your vested interests. ” How to demean heroism” and “ask for proof” are two worst faces of few journalists. These are two self destructive strategies of a section of Indian media. We know why you are afraid of “hyper nationalism”. Hona bhi chahiye. Tum jaise logon ko yaad rakhna chahiye, nation first. Besides you are working on counter productive line. The more you write such nuisance, the more people will rise to oppose you. You under estimate India, not us.

  19. The point of the movie is to inspire. Much like the mythological studies in every culture,much of it is fact but there is certain sensationalization to increase the impact on the youth and breed some sense of patriotism and martyrdom among a generation that seems to be always talking against and doing nothing in favor of the national spirit. Even if it fails to achieve all this, it still serves as an entertainer against the preferred abusive and sexual humour people seem to prefer. Let the movie be what it is , a movie, and not treat it as a chapter of history because from what I understand all this would soon be water under the bridge.😉

  20. All those civies with Josh for our soldiers. Put it in practice. Salami… De.
    Lt Gen HS Panag, PVSM, AVSM (Retd.)
    served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal. As a soldier, he was known for his integrity, intellect and zeal for reforms.

    Check out Indian defence review publication.

  21. Lt Gen Panang has penchant for using negativity to gain attention and publicity. Battle of Saragrahi was a brave fight put up by a handful of Sikh soldiers against heavy odds. The movie is about celebrating the bravery of those soldiers and to bring it to every Indian. Who really cares if the turban they wore was khaki, orange, black, or any??

  22. The General has a habit to showing own brother soldiers down despite the fact that he himself has nothing to his credit. Maybe this is a way to feel good himself that he is worth something. It’s shameful.

  23. Those sympathizing with pashtuns as they were fighting for their freedom seem to forget that these same people tried to invade punjab many times but were never successful as per account of this Lt himself.
    So its only natural that the brave sikhs fought against them.

  24. Lt. Gen. H.S.Panag,
    Don’t you think that you are just a kid in front of this history ?? & naive !!

  25. I am a Gujrati and I have read the British accounts of the battle and it’s not consistent with LT Panag’s. It’s a shame that a retired LT of India is spreading non confirmed accounts of unknown military to his own fellow Indians to dignify the bravery of the great Sikh warriors. Yes the Sikhs were part of British army and fought many wars for them but this last stand was different. British accounts clearly states that the 21 Sikhs had all option to escape. Even the Afghans gave them the ultimatum to leave the form with no bullets shot but they didn’t. Why? Because they fight for not being considered coward. They fought for their pride. They fought for their honor. And we Indians should embrace and salute such bravery. LT Gen Panag is clearly a disgrace as he doesnt want to recognize these 21 Sikhs bravery because they were part of British Army. It’s a shame that LT like Panag is dividing the country and it’s people with such inaccurate accounts. You ever wonder why terrorists enter the country? It’s because of LT like him. LT Panag is one of those Indian Army LT who fights war behind a closed closet and comes out only when it’s over and takes retirement with healthy pension to sit back and write fake account articles like these. It’s a shame. And Shame on you LT General. Need real accounts, go read the British Military accounts that shows that Ishar Singh killed 28 in a hand to hand combat communicated through Gurumukh Singh. Gurmukh killed 20 before yelling the sikh pride slogan of Bole soh nihal which was heard by COL. Haughton himself. So like I said many times earlier, shame on you and being a disgraced LT of our country.

    • Patil! You are spreading lies on Quora also making this fake account. You’re telling your father that he is not. Respect this army man’s views. It seems you are a Pakistani agent.

  26. The main point to understand is Sikh Ardaas The true sikh when ever did ardaas to fight they fight till end. Mr Panag is writing as he was part of it. He 8s not a historian. All the historians confirm the history whch is being base less denied by the officer.

    He can not stand to his wrong description and has done a great disservice to the martyred soldiers

    Really in very bad shape. The Genreral is requested to reveal if anu thing he did and specify he is a pooran gursikh or a patit. Because the story of puran gurmukh can be understood only by puran gurmukh.

    All the historians are wrong and this gentleman is correct.

  27. Don’t go by the accounts of LT Panag. To get accurate history of Battle of Saragarhi, read the British version where Gurmukh Singh gave minute to minute account once the battle started. Even state that Ishar Singh was always feisty who was always ready for combat which caused problems between him and the British Col. Yes the Sikhs were part of British Army and have fought many wars for them but this last stand was for their pride, their honor. They had option to escape and even Afghanis gave them the ultimatum that they can all go free without any harm but the Sikhs didn’t. Why? Why they wanted to stay and fight Mr. so called LT Panag? You are no LT but just a coward who made his way out of Indian army relying on others to fight for you and now sitting home retired, writing accounts of history that you have no knowledge about. Shame on you.

  28. Interesting. I heard a colloquial and exaggerated account of this story when I was growing up as a primary school student in Amritsar. It made me awestruck. Anyways, Thank You Sir for a balanced account of the actual events that occurred. I have always been curious to know. And I know very well that a Bollywood movie is the LAST PLACE I should go to in order to satiate my curiosity(especially when it has a foreign citizen supporting the ruling party and trying to milk profit from his Indian origin.)

  29. The Gen just wants to earn some brownie points and is in habit of running down own brethren..this was not expected when each of the soldier at Saragarhi attained martyrdom…..The war digest under war conditions is written everyday…it is not assessment or study of the battle but mere reporting of the situation….The accounts of Commanding officer at Coy cdrs at the adjacent forts gave details about waves of the pashtuns nd other tribal warriors…and it was daytime….counted 10…14000.!
    The queen did send special message for the valiant action.
    The Sikh Regiment has kasari turbans as ceremonial dress…ofcourse in battle one wears battle dress

  30. Everyone has their own views. The battle happened in 1897 and LT Panag hasn’t done his research well. The movie was based on the accounts of COL. Haughton from the British history. British accounts mention that Ishar Singh killed 28 Pathans in a hand to hand combat and Gurmukh, the last standing, killed 20 before giving up his life. Indians make India history only to their satisfaction. And comments by all people here clearly shows how divided we are as Indians. Its embarassing.

  31. We are always looking for heroes who did something better than what we can imagine. We must respect these Sikh men but we must, in my opinion, also acknowledge the fact that Afghans were fighting for their independence. It was the British who were winning and successfully screwed up Asia for their benefits. As a reader, I must acknowledge efforts put by both parties for whatever cause they were fighting. Thank you for your review, Sir.

  32. Where were these ppl sleeping till today. Why don’t you make movie on facts of so much concerns u have. It’s common sense that after this war how many were killed by just very few Sikh regiment. U wanted to have camera or information every minute what was happening. Common have some ethics to appreciate one’s work and imagination to dedicate movie to brave soldiers. It’s easy to come out of Ur bedroom and say Ur opinion after Google.

  33. How come the Print always gets such negative articles only to publish…
    There is some basic defect in its constitution which only opts for negative publicity

  34. Thank you Lt Gen. While it takes nothing away from the courageous stand it does provide a more accurate account of what actually took place. Bollywood is anyway amateur, poorly made entertainment for the mostly Hindi speaking crowd.

  35. It was pashtuns (rebel) who were fighting for their freedom against British and their servants(Sikhs)… How can show them as a hero in kesari film? Is Akshay Kumar is a Mad man? Fake nationalist..
    Whatever the means… They only want to show Muslim as a traitor… Or in bad light.

  36. this is how brahmins have created false stories and some sikhs have also adopted the same propaganda tactics due to the casteist mentality of Brahmin culture. this movie promotes slavery of British.
    sikhs have been brave, every one knows. when British captured India the army of rajneet singh was one of the best armies in the world next only to the royal British army.
    as Sikhs, we should praise pashtuns for trying to secure their freedom. Sikhism as a religion and ideology stands for justice and freedom and not for slavery. British may have built gurdwara, but only to save their kingdom so that sikhs don’t revolt and continue to serve them as slaves. Our hero should be Bhagat Singh and lala lazpat rai and not the fake Akshay Kumar character. acting is one thing and fooling the young innocent mind is another. Akshay Kumar should be ashamed of this act. The bravery of sikhs should have been utilized by them to save Indian public from the slavery of British rule and not to divide Afghanistan.

  37. History should be respected,you can not take one or two record ,,,to exaggerate any truth .Yes,battle was fought with valour and bravery ,I think author’s point of view is correct..This is not the case of Bollywood ,even west and Hollywood overstates its history,, for eg, movies on Alexander the Great ,Greek and Persian army ratio is shown to be 1:5,but according to various historians,it was1:3…Movies are not actual depict of actual history ,they are always exaggerated in order to attract audience,,

  38. What a pathetic article. You are undermining the valour of your own people just to gain some cheap limelight. Can’t you see the commitment and bravery.

  39. Pathetic review by the Print.
    The movie is supposed to dramatize some events to make it interesting. There is nothing wrong in it.
    Why the Print is so biased.
    This is a movie, not a news report.

  40. Thanks for the article. I am not upset by it and it in no way reduces my esteem for the sikhs. I can see many comment which want to accept bollywood fiction as fact, I hope they realise that history and bollywood are different.

  41. To all people who are disgusted and aghast at the belittling of Sikh valour, I request you all to highlight the lines that supposedly denigrate the Sikhs in this article. From what I read, this article only espouses their bravery and courage, albeit in the correct order of facts available to the Indian Army. Are we so desperate now that the truth is no more palatable. More focussed on the garnish than the main course!

  42. In this movie they try to show the traitor those who were(pathans) fight for freedom and try to show the hero those are real (sikhs army man)traitor and flab toddler and servant of British government.don’t call a indian those served always British government and fight against karantikari.

  43. The General who is a Sikh & also from the same Unit, if quoting from the Digest of Service, has done a favour to those of us who are interested in clarity in Military History. Such articles should be welcomed.

  44. The writer has not watched the full movie. In trying to cover many topics nothing has been covered in detail.

  45. It is undisputed that the battle was between disproportionate sides with Sikhs being handful in numbers against thousands of Pashtun.. No person specially a soldier should dilute the bravery and valour of any soldier who fought till his last blood against a large and disproportionate number of enemy.. What the Sikh soldiers did was an act of enormous bravery and no one should dilute it atleast if they can’t applaud it..

  46. The battle was faught under the rule of maharaja Ranjit Singh who was king of Punjab at that time. Britishers could not defeat him, they gave him poisonous wine and he was killed. Punjab at that time was ruled 100 yrs after the rest of the India.

  47. Even i what u write is true, why pen down such an article which undermines valour of your fellow army men ? Isnt it against brotherhood spirit of any armed force? Find yourself another job or stay home jobless if armed forces tribunal is done with you. Real Shame. Disgraceful.

  48. This article is a mix between facts and again interpretation deliberately intended to undermine history. Please read Saragarhi Battalion Ashes to glory by Colonel Kamwaljit Singh and Ahluwalia

  49. Good article written with clarity, informative and as matter of fact. Anyone saying its anti sikh etc. should read it again and point how it is so. This happens when u keep harping on legends and fictionalized accounts rather than thinking rationally.

  50. Brothers. Forget they were Sikhs. They sided with the British just as the some Afridi Pathans or Pashtuns sided with them in the Tirah Campaign or expedition. If they were heroes the first people to recognize them would have been Indians first (BJP or Congress). Do they seriously celebrate this day even in Punjab. Do the Indians remember this day? Now when Akshay Kumar has reminded or taught them Saragarhi tale they in a new way they all are very excited as if every Sikh boy had partaken in the war.

    Do you know that Vaithiyam Khilji conquered Bengal with just 18 horsemen???

    It’s only the NRI Sikhs who refer to English documents to garner respect from them. They make blogs exeggerating the accounts and write books to rediscover it again and again.

    It’s the British who do it to show that Sikhs justified their rule. Although, the Britishers have the right to do so. It was every conquerers right to justify his rule and oppression to maintain his rule. There was no charter of human rights then.

    To relate it, for instance, do you know about Afridi brothers who got highest gallantry award by respectively both the Britishers and the Germans. One sided with the British and the other exposed British to the Germans in the World War. Afridi Pathans don’t celebrate them as their heroes.

    Here, nobody is questioning the royalty, power, or bravery of Sikhs of the great Ranjit Singh. Sikhs are brave and honest men. I saw hundreds of articles and videos being made on the Saragarhi event.

    It would be a sigh of magnanimity from you, a true Sikh, or Punjabi, Hindu or just as an Indian, if you could just write articles and celebrate the Great heroes of other communities as your own. First, decide whether you were fighting for the British or against them? Weren’t they the ones who fired at the innocent children and women and old ag the Jaliyawala Bagh?

    For instance, the Great Amir Khan of Tonk (Rajasthan). This Indian was the only Indian King who was able to badly defeat and pacify British forces, until the Britishers had a peaceful agreement with him.

    If you have the guts to do that you should show guts to exeggerate events like Saragarhi.

    To Quote a British authority word by word (now don’t say I’m copy pasting, it is called quoting and we do it as history scholars)-

    “With all his faults and follies, Amir Khan was then the only chief who could be relied upon to deliver India from its serfdom. Neither the Nizam, nor the Marathas, nor even “Ranjit Singh” possessed the courage and enterprise to undertake the job…”

    Reference: The Life and correspondence of Charles Metcalfe, Vol. 1. pp 209/11

  51. Amazing how many of those who have commented on this article by Gen. Panag do not like it. There is nothing to dislike or like in Gen. Panag’s account. He is a professional soldier, belonged to the very unit that fought at the battle and has actually seen the official record. His account is authentic and strictly factual. Neither is it in any way derogatory to the Sikhs. All he says is that nobody actually saw exactly what transpired (because there were no survivors and no accounts kept by the enemy) but also says that there can be no doubting the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers. In any case, why would the general be negative – he himself belongs to the 36/4 Sikh battalion and – although not that it matters in the Army – he himself is a Sikh. And a distinguished solider and chronicler of military events at that. He deserves praise for setting out this account. The critical comments by commentators – set out under the usual cowardly cover of anonymity – simply expose their dullness of intellect and hypersensitivity. The film makers would have done well to consult the authentic historical record, such as it is, and at least acknowledged what it holds, in the interest of veracity.

  52. For me this is still the greatest last stand in the history.Yes the movie was a bit bollywood-ized,but thats required because a common indian man cant watch a mil history movie without masala(which is shameful).But yeah by no means we can downplay the valour and courage.All those people calling it anti sikh article,let me tell you our organisation is a secular and an apolitical one,it would be the least to ask of you people to not drag us into it.
    @JS @Adi the author of this article is a sikh officer now that you have got religion in between and is a part of the same battalion which fought this battle.
    He is bound to give view as a part of this battalion if he sees someone playing with the history.
    Though i would have appreciated some more praise for the battalion in the article.

  53. Mr.Panag,
    Next time there is a battle to death.I shall carefully document the color of the turban,length of the beard,screwdrivers or nail clippers in their pocket and if they were wearing underwear or not.

  54. This article is piece of shit written by a negative minded person. Who is jealous of bravery of sikhs and no doubt not a proud Indian.

  55. Ladies and Gentelmen
    Although this is an elaborate state sponsored article to undermine the bravery of the Great 21 Sikhs, May i remind the writer that if he is doubting the count of Afghans killed or the fact that they could have left the post easily, I may remind that The great Khalsa empire existed when rest of India was a slave to the British empire, In the last 97 years The British were in Punjab there life was made hell by maximum sacrifices coming from Punjab consisting of Sikhs, Even when British were fighting World wars, They preferred the Sikhs in their army. Morover the article by Mr Panag seems to be from some deras, either from Beas , nirankaris or ram rahims, By every extent not a sikh.

  56. I respect your analysis general panag , and dont worry about ‘sanju’ i only said it because i thought that you were just another
    Narrative setters ,but it seems that i was wrong and you are free to express you own views on these things .

  57. The movies are known to exaggerate and dramatize stories for obvious reasons. Still if we believe Bollywood stories and somebody comes up with details from any credible accounts, we should respect that as well. If what is told in this is truth then it is neither pro-sikh nor anti-sikh. I checked some details about this writer and it should be noted that the writer is a Sikh himself and retired Lt General from Indian army. Obviously, we do not need falsehoods and myths to respect and celebrate the undoubted valour of bravest Sikhs.

    • Very apt comments. People nowadays want to believe exaggeration. They are not ready to believe the truth. Digest of service are the most authentic historical records kept in battalions.

  58. I guess I have seen this person writing similar article on this so called news peddler website.

    I think being a reputed ex-military person he would have read and re-read the historical military records and fact checked it write a true account of what he read because he would have felt aghast at overt dramatization of one of the greatest last stand.

    I am also not going to attribute any colour to his supposedly myth busting article notwithstanding the article appearing in print with a clear and horrible leftist leaning that tries to use supposed facts when it suits the leftist agenda but uses raw emotions otherwise (again when it suits leftist agenda).

    But I just wonder how can this reputed ex-military person be so sure (as it appears from this article) that the military records are foolproof, that too British Military records of colonial era.

    Also suspect is the timing of the article with the obvious use of the full military titles trying to underscore an intention of provoking rightist and nationalist sentiments by saying that the author is telling the truth (because he is the authority on the subject) and everyone else is falling for the myths.

    Anyways, over the period of almost 25 years when I matured into a proud rightist and humanist from being a circumspect (not full blown) leftist-feminist, I have realised anything and everything in history will be a case fit for a different interpretation subject to the biases, sensitivity and subjectivity of the interpreter, no matter what, because facts can never be more certain than myth.

  59. Wow so now you cant even boast about the bravery of sikh soilders. I wish this writer was there to Buty myths when baseless accusation were put on soilders .

  60. Obnoxious and prejudiced
    Print , allowing anything.great with respect to hindhus/Sikhs or
    Have to ridicule and deride it.
    Illustrious past.

  61. But Hindus back-stabbed Sikhs in 1984. Had they shown the same valor in 1984 anti-Sikh riots, they wouldn’t have been massacred so mercilessly.

    • But that genocide was ordered by christoislamist family – the fake gandhi. It was executed by dynasty sycophants, not by ordinary Hindus, who helped many Sikhs. Why didn’t the Christian clergy & Christian take up to help the Sikhs then, b/c your agent sonia maino in 10jp was directing the genocide.

    • Well said Mr Joseph. I have Hindu relatives as well but after 1984 we have developed distrust with each other. Our Hindu relatives did not opposed word Sikh terrorist in 80s but they have problem with the word Hindu terrorists.

  62. I don’t know if it were anti Sikh or anything else. Let’s assume here the writer, don’t know much about him, tried to bust all the myths and put forth the true account. My question is, what is the reason behind this desperation to pen down such “truthful-myth-busting” article? There must have been something that caused the writer so unbearable pain that he could not stop himself from writing this “myth busting” article. Also about this media ‘ThePrint’ don’t know why they always publish such article which tries to downplay those India as a nation is proud of. I am not a Sikh but I don’t think anyone needs to bust any myth about the bravery of Sikh men and we have enough example of their exemplary bravery.

  63. I really hope some military historian will re-validate the ‘motivated’ account of retired brigadier.

  64. Whoever asked this Panag about his views and stories. The Sikhs have been the most prominent part of the Indian Armed Forces…..Sikhs have always been used by the so called people in power…. A very small religious community which still doesn’t leave a chance to serve mankind be it in any part of the world. So much for the selfless services of the Khalsa.

    • did you read who he was and what documents he had in his possession…or do they not teach that when you are prancing around in your brown chaddis?

  65. Thank you for an elaborate account.
    Though still the article smells like an anti-Sikh article from an Indian Government official.
    One pro Sikh movie smeared and cooked with Bollywood Tadka and whole anti-Sikh brigade jumps in to portray them as the British servants.

    Oh what HS Panag Kesari article won’t tell you: Punjab State Agency was an autonomous region under the suzerainty of the British crown from circa 1849-1947 CE. And the Sikh soldiers were defending the borders of the Punjab State Agency with full Sikh valour and bravery.

    • Why r u doubting the fact that 36 battalian of sikh were the soldiers of british india? They were not the soldiers of great maha raja ranjeet singh in 1897. But it should be praised that sikh soldiers of british indian government fought bravely against local tribal people of saragarhi.

      • All those civies with Josh for defence forces.
        So easy to character assassinate. Counter with data. Check out ” Indian defence review ” publication.
        Lt Gen HS Panag, PVSM, AVSM (Retd.)
        served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal. As a soldier, he was known for his integrity, intellect and zeal for reforms.

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