UK Historian Wants Soldier's Skull, Taken As 'War Trophy', Buried In India

Havildar Alum Bheg's skull was brought to England by an Irish officer serving with the East India Company. It was discovered years later in a pub.

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UK Historian Wants Soldier's Skull, Taken As 'War Trophy', Buried In India

In 1963, the skull was discovered in a pub in the town of Walmer in Kent. (Representational image)

London:  The skull of an Indian soldier who was among those executed after the revolt of 1857 against the East India Company should be repatriated to India and buried where he participated in his last battle, said a British historian, associated with British Imperial History at Queen Mary College in London.

Dr Kim Wagner believes Havildar Alum Bheg deserves a final resting place as he was most "likely" falsely charged in the murder of an entire family of Scottish missionaries. The historian wants the remains of Havildar Alum Bheg to be buried near the Ravi River, at the border between India and Pakistan, where the soldier is believed to have participated in the Battle of Trimmu Ghat.

Havildar Alum Bheg's skull was brought to England by an Irish officer serving with the East India Company as a war trophy, news agency PTI said. It was discovered years later in a pub in the eastern English coastal town of Walmer in Kent.

"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," said Mr Wagner, the author of 'The Skull of Alum Bheg: The Life and Death of a Rebel of 1857', which was released recently.
 
book on alum bheg 1857 revolt soldier

Dr Kim Wagner authored the book on Alum Bheg.

Mr Wagner began research for the book 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 briefly outlined the skull's history. The note 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, news agency PTI reported.

Alum Bheg was executed by being blown from a cannon. His skull was brought to England by as a kind of war trophy but it eventually ended up in the pub in the coastal town of Deal remains unknown.

"What happened to the skull of one sepoy 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, past and present," he said.

In a post-Brexit era of "swelling imperial nostalgia and revisionism", the academic feels that given Bheg's innocence, his remains deserve a final resting place in his homeland.

Bheg was about 32 years of age, 5 feet 7 and a half inches high, and was a member of the 46th Bengal Infantry Regiment, according to the note found inside his skull.

The British High Commission in New Delhi, the Royal Asiatic Society and some non-governmental organisations in India are now reportedly in talks to find a way of returning the "native" to his homeland.

(with additional inputs from PTI)

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