Skeletons In Ajnala Are Of 1857 Gangetic Plain Martyrs; 246 Indian Soldiers Were Killed: Study

As per the study by Dr JS Sehrawat, Forensic Anthropologist and a faculty member from the Department of Anthropology, Panjab University, published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics on Thursday, a large number of human skeletons excavated from an old well in Ajnala town of Punjab represent residents of the Gangetic plain region. The study identified the individual remains as belonging to that of soldiers of the 26th Native Bengal Infantry regiment of the British Indian Army.

The study was carried out in collaboration with the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, Birbal Sahni Institute, Lucknow, and Benaras Hindu University (BHU) to establish the roots of these martyrs using DNA and isotope analyses, which has been published in the journal “Frontiers in Genetics”.

Latest DNA-based evidence confirm the human remains found dumped in an abandoned well in the Ajnala town of Punjab’s Amritsar belonged to 246 young Indian soldiers who were brutally killed after they revolted against the British during the 1857 Indian uprising and belonged to the Gangetic plains.

Archaeologists have called the site the largest possessing skeletal remains linked to any single event during the 1857 Indian rebellion.

In the abandoned well which turned into a dumping site, underneath the present-day religious structure in Ajnala, a detailed mention in a textbook authored by a British official has been found. The book, written by the then serving deputy commissioner of Amritsar in 1857, narrated how British officers forcing the use of beef and pork-greased cartridges met with strong opposition from the Indian soldiers stationed at Mian Mir cantonment (currently Lahore in Pakistan). After killing some British officers, a few hundred Indian soldiers fled toward Punjab (India) but were eventually captured, imprisoned, and later killed near Ajnala. The book stated that as many as 282 Indian soldiers were killed.

However, the identity and the geographic origins of these soldiers have been under intense debate due to lack of scientific evidence. Researchers have used 50 samples for DNA analysis and 85 specimens for isotope analysis. “The results from this research are consistent with the historical evidence that the 26th Native Bengal Infantry Battalion consisted of people from the eastern part of Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh,” said Dr Sehrawat, the first author of this study.

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