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Mutilating Heritage:
Hari Singh Nalwa‘s Harkishan Garh Fort

MUHAMMAD SADAQAT

 

 

 

Haripur, Hazara, Pakistan

Spread over an area of approximately 70 kanals, the historic fort was built during 1822-23 by the then governor of Hazara, Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa. The Sikhs had made their way to the valley of Hazara after annexing Kashmir in 1818, after having faced a tough fight from the locals.

According to Hazara Gazetteer 1883-84, Governor Hari Singh founded Harkishan Garh Fort and Haripur town on the advice of Mukadam Musharraf, the chief of the Gujjar tribe, to maintain the Sikhs’ conquest of Hazara.

Subsequently, the strategic fort was used as a base for further advances and served as a key defence position.

After the British annexed Punjab in 1848, the fort was turned into the district headquarters of the British administration from 1849-53, before Major James Abbott relocated the headquarters to Abbottabad.

WHAT REMAINS TODAY

Not yet completely defeated by time and official neglect, the fort stands tall, a proud remnant of a bygone era. Built with the purpose of keeping its garrisoned forces safe, the Harkishan’s 12-feet thick and 48-ft high carved stone walls also represent the magnificent masonry of Sikhs.

As an additional security measure adopted by security forces of that time, the fort is also encircled by a 20-feet-deep and 60-feet-wide moat.

With time, the stone walls have crumbled at several places but the eastern and northern walls are still standing. Even though no maintenance work has been carried out on the fort for over a century.

The wooden gates installed by the Sikhs to protect the fort’s inhabitants are conspicuous in their absence. These were presumably taken away by the police and revenue department officials who have been occupying the fort since the British era, or the many contractors who have carried out construction work on the site.

STATE-SPONSORED ENCROACHMENT

Such is the state of disregard for the historic fort that the district accounts department has started constructing a three-storey building on its eastern side endangering the stone boundary wall and has also filled the trench at two points, defacing the monument.

The site has been encroached by several government departments over the years.

The police took over the western side of the fort after the creation of Pakistan in 1947 and established a police station and police lines, while the revenue department occupied the eastern part.

The district accounts office occupies rooms at the southern entrance and was allotted land by the government in 2013 for the construction of new offices. At that time, District Accounts Officer Shahid Bhatti says, only an access road was being built in the moat/trench and that the main monument would remain unaffected.

According to local archaeologist Maseeullah, under the Antiquities Act 1997, altering, defacing or damaging any historical site is a crime.

“The government must take steps to preserve Harkishan Garh Fort,” said Maseehullah.

Haripur University’s Archaeology Department student Naeem Khan condemned the lack of preservation and the new construction at the historic site. He has demanded the provincial government allocate funds for it rehabilitation.

[Courtesy: Tribune (Pakistan). Edited for sikhchic.com]

November 14, 2014
 

Conversation about this article

1: Kaala Singh (Punjab), November 14, 2014, 10:44 AM.

Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, the only man history to tame the ferocious Afghans. The only man in history to defeat the battle-hardened and brutal Afghans in their own backyard, a feat nobody else has been able to achieve. The British, Russians, Americans and now Pakistan have all tried and failed. Even today, in the Afghan Pashtun dialect, mothers scare their kids by telling them, "Haria raagle"- Be quiet, Hari Singh is coming! Let us build a befitting memorial for this great Sikh in our homeland of Punjab. This is our glorious martial history. Hari Singh Nalwa should inspire the Sikhs to regain their lost military strength. 1984 would never have happened if someone like this great warrior had been around, or if we had remembered him and emulated his spirit.

2: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), November 14, 2014, 12:31 PM.

@2 Kaala ji: I can imagine a memorial for Hari Singh Nalwa being built in Sikh Punjab. It will be completely marble, no green spaces, maybe even a sticker of CM Badal's face slapped over a couple of paintings of Hari Singh Nalwa for good measure. This is of course assuming that after the politicians come for a photo op after laying down the foundation stone that the memorial actually gets built. Sikhs have an amazing, if not the best, military history in the world. We cannot worry about how others treat our heritage and memory if we refuse to honor our own.

3: Kaala Singh (Punjab), November 16, 2014, 11:04 AM.

With the establishment of a hegemonic Hindu regime in India, we suddenly see a spurt in the activities of RSS and other extremist Hindu outfits in India. We are again hearing the age-old nonsense used to befool Sikhs, that Sikhs are Hindus, that Sikhs are part of Hindu society, etc, etc. And suddenly reading about Hari Singh Nalwa, a lot of thoughts come to mind. Hari Singh Nalwa plugged the Khyber pass and put an end to Islamic invasions in India and saved the Hindus from extinction. Sardar Hari Singh and other Sikh warriors rescued many thousands of Hindu women abducted by these invaders and restored them back to their families with honour. Guru Tegh Bahadar sacrificed his life so that Hindus could practice their faith. Fast forward to 1984, tell me one Hindu who stood for the Sikhs in their hour of need. They watched from their balconies when Sikhs were being burnt alive on the streets of Delhi and their women were being violated right on the streets of Delhi and elsewhere. And this, I believe, is the real difference between Hindus and Sikhs. These Hindus will never know the real meaning of bravery, valour and honour. I cannot resist making a comparison here, these Hindus got three days in Delhi and elsewhere in November 1984 and we all know what they did. Sikh resistance fighters virtually controlled Punjab for 10 years from 1986 to 1996, tell me of one Hindu woman who was violated in Punjab and tell me of one Hindu man who was killed or persecuted in Punjab. [The reports of some Hindus being singled out and killed from buses were soon thereafter proved false in that the crimes were carried out by Indian govt operatives.] Now I can now safely say that this is another glaring fact that proves that our ethos and values are different and we are NOT Hindus.

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