DEHRADUN (INDIA), Nov11: Though it has hardly ever received attention from the government of Nepal and its people, the unique history of 1814 Anglo-Nepal war and the Khalanga Fort--which stands as a testimony to the historic battle among the high hills in Nalapani forest--continue to fascinate visitors from across the world.
Thanks to the consistent efforts of Nepali community in Dehradun, the government of the Indian state of Uttarakhand finally constructed a fine black-topped road to the fort at the cost of IRs 10 million and the Survey of India has identified the battlefield as one of the precious historical sites just two years ago, according to Surya Bikram Shahi, president of Gorkha Democratic Front and advisor to the Khalanga Development Committee (KDC).
“Not just the visitors from Nepal, even the tourists from across the world show a keen interest to explore the fort once they are told about its history. Among the most attracted are experts on war strategy, professors of history, writers and students. At least, 20 to 30 people reach the fort each day and the story of the gallant Nepali soldiers leaves them awestruck,” states Shahi.
“Similarly, it draws enough media attention when Nepalis in Dehradun gather here on November 25th every year to celebrate and pay tribute to the spirit of the warriors. The fair has helped to keep the history alive,” adds Shahi, resident of Dehradun.
During the reign of king Prithivi Narayan Shah, the founder of Shah Dynasty, the country was expanding its boarders to all sides, which eventually led to a battle with the East India Company. In that Anglo-Nepal war, just 600 Nepalis including women and children led by Captain Balabhadra Kunwar fought against 3500 well-equipped British troops and, surprisingly, managed to kill their commander Major General Robert Rollo Gillespie on 31 October, 1814.
Finding it impossible to defeat the Nepalis by military means, the British fighters blocked the only source of water to the fort knowing that their enemies would be compelled to surrender due to thirst.
Surprisingly, the gallant Nepalese fighters still refused to give up the fort. Meanwhile, an attempt was made to lure Kunwar with a promise of giving him the position of Governor of western Garhwal if he surrendered, as per the records preserved at KDC. Kunwar, of course, turned down the offer.
Finally, when the war could no more go on without food and water, Kunwar sent a courier to the British asking them to hand over his soldiers as he had handed over their dead and injured soldiers earlier. The British then replied that they would look after the injured Nepali soldiers themselves and they treated 180 injured soldiers at the Nalapani fort.
“There is hardly any other war in the history of the world where a rival fighters commanded that level of respect and recognition from their opponent. The vigor, honesty and patriotism displayed by the Nepalis is very inspiring and unique in the world history,” said Shahi.
With the financial support of the state government during the tenure of former CM Narayan Dutt Tiwari, the KDC also erected a stup at the fort in 2008, making it more remarkable and attractive. “Recently we built a boundary wall and a gate there. We are planning to inscribe the history of the war in summarized form on the front pillar,” Shahi informed.
Executive member of KDC Sansar Singh Thapa said had the Nepalis in Uttarakhand been negligent towards the fort, its history would have been forgotten and the monuments displaced by human settlements.
“It took immense effort to convince the Indian government to give this place the recognition it deserves. Today we feel so proud and emotional to see that the Khalanga stup standing tall and reminding people of its glorious history,” said Thapa, a resident of Nalapani.
“The visitors from Nepal feel emotional and connected to the fort and its history. However, no concern has ever been shown from by the Nepali government. Nobody cares about the annual meet held to mark the history. Isn´t it a significant part of Nepal´s history?” said Thapa sounding sad.