UK historian want skull of Indian soldier killed in 1857 revolt to be buried near River Ravi at Pakistan border


LONDON - 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 and buried where he participated in his last battle.

Dr Kim Wagner, Senior Lecturer in British Imperial History at Queen Mary College in London, believes the time is right for Havildar Alum Bheg — a principle leader of the revolt, which the British characterise as a sepoy mutiny — 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 a pub in the eastern English coastal town of Walmer in Kent.

“His 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, the author of ‘The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857’, which was released recently.

“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 of Alum Bheg to what was once his homeland so that he can be put to rest — 160 years after he died,” he adds.

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 researching and writing the book on the 1857 revolt 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.