The valour and sacrifice of 21 Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army who fought the Afghans in 1897 is now part of the school curriculum. The Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) has included a poem on the historic battle in chapter 20 in the Class-5 Punjabi textbook.
On September 12, 1897, 21 soldiers of the 36th Sikh had fought to the last man against nearly 10,000 Afghans. So far, this tale of bravery had not been included in school history books in India, while Britain had already included it in their school curriculum.
Chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh declared holiday on September 12 last year on the day the battle was fought. The 12-line poem with pictures of the battle is on page number 138 of the textbook.
The last lines of the poem state that the soldiers fought with utmost bravery and courage and died at their posts while defending the fort of Saragarhi. In a separate column with the poem “things to remember” the chapter reads the 21 Sikh non-commissioned officers and soldiers of other ranks of the battle of Saragarhi, now in Pakistan, were awarded the Indian Order of Merit, the highest gallantry award of that time.
Board chairman Manohar Kant Kalohia said: “Keeping in mind Punjab’s historical events, the board has included ‘Saragarhi ki Ladai’ poem in the Class-5 Punjabi textbook. We have reviewed all the textbooks of the Class 1 to 5 and made efforts in making the required changes in the textbooks. We hope that both teachers and students will like these textbooks and feel proud that they are aware about the Punjab’s history.”