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Punjabi Resistance Against the British

Updated: May 16, 2023


Punjabi Resistance Against the British

British raided the village of Jhamra to take a political prisoner. He was absent, so they arrested women and children instead. Word of the incident reached Ahmad Khan Kharral across the Ravi. For the Jatts, taking women hostage was a red line. Women were kept out of the disputes of men for two reasons:

  1. An attack on the weaker sex was an insult to the manhood of the perpetrator.

  2. It was an attack on honor.

The Wattoo tribe suggested an attack on a police post in Sayyedwala, but Ahmed Khan ruled it out. With the British on their heel, Punjabi tribal leaders gathered at Nooray Dee Dall, including the Qureshi, Wattoo, Makhdoom, and Gardezi. In his battle for autonomy, few sided with Ahmad Khan, whilst others advised caution.

Sarfraz Khan Kharral, a Sardar from Kamalia, was taken down on Lord Berkley II’s orders by a cavalry party led by Captain Blake. As Lord Berkley went to Gashkori woods, Ahmad Khan readied his men for battle.

The Jatts fought with unmatched chivalry and pushed on the British artillery-supported squadron more than two miles. When the dust settled, the squadron had already been routed, and Ahmad Khan stood up for Zuhr prayers. A Punjabi soldier pointed out Ahmad Khan to Lord Berkley, who ordered them to open fire on Ahmad Khan. It may have been Gulab Singh Bedi, or Dhara Singh is said to have fired that first shot.

The historical account then fades into legend. Ahmad Khan Kharral is believed to have fallen on the 10th of Muharram. The British placed his head under an armed guard at Gogera Jail. Legend has it that Ahmad Khan haunted the dreams of one of the sentries for three nights in a row before he took the head and buried it in a pitcher near Ahmad Khan’s grave. The British allegedly planned to take it to London to display as a war trophy in a museum.

Lord Berkley’s advisors pushed him to execute the rebel’s family. However, Ahmad Khan’s wife acted immediately upon hearing of her husband's death. She had sent her children away to the neighboring village of Murad Fatyana, asking him to take care of the children. Murad Fatyana, too, proceeded to join the fight against the British and instructed his wife to raise the children as her own should he not return.

To celebrate victory, the British troops set Jhamra on fire. They also burnt the villages of Wattoo and Pindi Sheikh Musa to aid the resistance. Historical accounts from British records say Lord Berkley II died drowning in the Ravi. Punjabi legends, however, claim that Murad’s spear made its way into his heart, causing him to drown.

 

This blog has been written by Komal Salman.

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