Sunday, 7 June 2015

Historical Dagshai, Himachal Pradesh

Dagshai is one of the oldest cantonment towns & is situated in district Solan, Himachal at a hight of approx 5700 ft. It is 11 km from Solan & 65 km from Chandigarh. About 2 km away is Kumar Hatti railway station on Kalka-Shimla railway. Annual temperature ranges between 07 to 38 degrees. Dagshai has a Heritage Museum with lots of interesting exhibits. Adjacent to the museum is Dagshai jail which is also associated with interesting pieces of history.

* Legend has it that name Dagshai is derived from the word Dag-E-Shahi used in Moghul times. Moghuls used red hot iron rods to brand hard core criminals on their foreheads with royal mark - Dag-E-Shahi & ousted them to this place.

* In 1847 East India Company secured five villages free of cost from Maharaja Patiala Bhupinder Singh. These are Dabbi, Dagshai, Chunawad, Jawag & Badhtiala. Of these Dagshai was the largest & most strategically located overlooking Kalka-Simla Road hence the Dagshai Cantt.

* Dagshai Central Prison was constructed in 1849 at a cost of ₹ 72,873. It has 54 high security cells measuring 8 ft into 12 ft with 20 ft high ceiling. Of these 16 cells were meant for solitary confinement.

* In 1857 many Gorkha sepoys of Nasiri Regiment stationed around Shimla revolted. A number of them were caught & put in Dagshai jail.

* In 1914 Baba Gurditta Singh Sandhu of Hong Kong hired a Japanese ship Komagata Maru to take people from Punjab to Canada. Baba felt that: 'the visions of men are widened by travel and contacts with citizens of a free country will infuse a spirit of independence and foster yearnings for freedom in the minds of the emasculated subjects of alien rule'.
Passengers consisted of ex-army men from Punjab - 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims & 12 Hindus. The ship was not allowed to enter Vancouver, Canada. After two months of hectic activities of MPs, lawyers & media only 20 persons were allowed to land & the ship was pushed back. On 27 Sept 1914 the ship arrived in Calcutta but was diverted to Budge Budge.
Police went to arrest 'leaders' but they resisted & riot ensued. In police firing 19 passengers were killed. Several including Baba escaped & remaining imprisoned. 20 of them were brought to Dagshai & four of them were identified as having links with Ghadar Party. These four were hanged in Dagshai jail.

* In May 1913 at the instance of Ghadar Party there was unrest & 'revolt' in 23rd Cavalary ( Risala). Many sepoys were arrested & court marshalled. Subsequently 12 were awarded death sentence & executed by firing squad in Dagshai jail.

* In 1920 there was a large scale 'mutiny' of Irish Catholic soldiers of 1st Battalion of Connaught Rangers. This was in response to unrest in Ireland against the British. On 2nd Nov 1920 mutineer leader Private James Daly who was 21, was shot by firing squad in Dagshai Jail. He was buried in Dagshai graveyard. In 1970 his remains were taken to Ireland where he was given a funeral with military honours.

* Hearing about arrests of Irish soldiers Mahatma Gandhi visited Dagshai to assess the situation. He stayed for a day in a cell to show solidarity with Irish people. He was friend & admirer of Irish leader Eamon de Valera.

These are very short narratives of historical incidents but eye openers for me. Anger against Firangs was wide spread in 1857 & later on also than what I had thought previously. Lots of people rebelled in many parts of India & even abroad. They faced torture & were brutally crushed by Firangs. Their contribution to freedom from foreign rule is immense but finds lesser mention in text books, govt handouts & in media.

Hats off to these unsung heroes.

Heritage Museum was opened on Oct 13, 2011

Fire Hydrant made in 1865 in Scotland. Small knob on top left is rotated & water comes out from the side hole. In 2011 it was still working & it's antique value was assessed at ₹ 1.25 crores!
Entrance to the T shaped prison

Inside the prison. Notice the hight of the ceiling & just one small square barred window. Floor is made of termite proof Sagon wood which is one ft above the real floor. This helped the guards in getting to hear slightest movement of prisoners
Torture cell - behind the grill gate is heavy wooden door. Between the door & the grill prisoner could stand only as there is no space to sit 

Air pump in the Museum. This was occasionally used to pump fresh air in to the cells

Back side of the cells. Small windows having thick iron bars on the inner side & thick iron plates with a hole on the outer side. This hole was used to keep an eye as well as to pump fresh air in to the cell
One of the cells where Mahatma Gandhi stayed overnight
Prison as it looks from the outside having 20 ft high thick strong walls

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