A new docudrama detailing how 21 native Indian soldiers took a stand against a force of 10,000 Afghan tribesmen enjoyed a special Parliamentary launch and screening this week.
Saragarhi: The True Story, has been released to mark the 120th anniversary of the Battle of Saragarhi. Made by Captain J. Singh-Sohal, a British Army reservist and filmmaker, it centres on the fate of 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikh Regiment of Bengal Infantry who on 12th September 1897 found themselves surrounded by 10,000 enemy tribesmen during an uprising on the North West Frontier between colonial India and Afghanistan. With only limited ammunition, the soldiers fought for nearly seven hours to the last man.
The battle was commemorated by the British with memorials in India, a battle honour for the 36th Sikh regiment that fought (now the 4th Sikh Regiment in the Indian Army) and the issue of the Indian Order of Merit class III, the highest award of gallantry at that time given to native Indians on par with the Victoria Cross, which was awarded posthumously to the 21 men.
The documentary was filmed in India, Pakistan and the UK, and features never-before-seen images, stunning visual graphics and effects, and re-enactments. It received a special screening before MPs, members of the British Indian community and representatives of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces on Tuesday, at an event hosted by Shailesh Vara MP.
Mr Vara said: “This film rightly records the outstanding courage and bravery of Sikh soldiers fighting against the odds and paying the ultimate price. It is right that we remember these brave men in the Mother of Parliaments, and I congratulate Captain Jay Singh-Sohal for his commitment and dedication over many years in making this remarkable film.
“The film not only informs the public, but it will also be a valuable resource for historians in the years to come.”
According to Captain Singh-Sohal, the film will now begin a world tour. Screenings will take place across India, and the film will also be shown as part of the Sikh Arts and Film Festival in New York next month.
Speaking after Tuesday’s screening, Captain Singh-Sohal said: “It is a unique and fitting way to honour the memory of the men who fought at Saragarhi by remembering their bravery and valour in the very Parliament of Queen and country they were fighting for.
“This episode of British Indian history inspired many more Indians to serve during the first and second World Wars, shoulder-to-shoulder with the British and troops from all over the Commonwealth. And it inspires a new generation now to commit to defending our parliamentary democracy and the values it represents.
“Sharing their story in our Parliament is a tremendous honour for which I’d like to express my thanks to Mr Vara.”