UK historian wants 1857 revolt soldier's skull buried in India
(Sourced from PTI)
A British historian wants the skull of an Indian soldier who was among those executed after the revolt of 1857 against the East India Company to be repatriated to India and buried where he participated in his last battle. The historian is Dr. Kim Wagner, a Senior Lecturer in British Imperial History at Queen Mary College in London.
Dr. Wagner believes the time is right for Havildar Alum Bheg to be buried in his country of birth. His skull had been brought to England by Captain AR Costello, who was on duty when Alum Bheg was executed after the revolt in India. It was discovered years later in the eastern English coastal town of Walmer in Kent.
"His (Bheg's) regiment was originally raised at Kanpur, but my suggestion would be for his skull to be buried near the Ravi River, at the border between India and Pakistan, where we know Alum Bheg participated in the Battle of Trimmu Ghat," said Wagner. He's the author of recently released "The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857".
"I don't perceive of the repatriation of Alum Bheg's skull as a political PR exercise. My focus is simply on returning the remains...to what was once his homeland so that he can be put to rest 160 years after he died," Dr. Wagner said.
The historian has triggered "tentative discussions" on the issue with diplomats in India and the UK but acknowledges that these things take time and does not expect a resolution in the immediate future. His journey to writing the book around the story of Bheg's tragic killing began in 2014 when he was contacted by the family who had come into possession of the skull.
In 1963, the new owner of The Lord Clyde pub discovered the skull stowed away in a small storeroom. Inserted in the eye-socket was a handwritten note that outlined the skull's history. It revealed that the skull belonged to an Indian soldier in the service of the East India Company named Alum Bheg, who was accused of murdering an entire family of Scottish missionaries.
"My research revealed several surprising discoveries, not least of which was that Alum Bheg was most likely innocent of the crimes for which he was executed," said Wagner. The skull's history offers a disturbing narrative of life and death in British India that speaks directly to contemporary debates about the legacies of the Empire as well as the darker side of conflict, he said.
According to the note found inside his skull, Bheg was about 32 years of age, 5 feet 7 and a half inches tall, belonged to the 46th Bengal Infantry Regiment and was "by no means an ill-looking native".