By Lt Col BM Thapa (Retd)
Dehradun, 14 May: The 45th Raising Day of Balbhadra Khalinga Vikas Samiti (BKVS) was celebrated on 12 May at Sagartal near Nalapani under the aegis of Col DS Khadka (Retd), President, BKVS. This organisation was raised on 12 May, 1974, and great work done by its Executive Committee members under the leadership of Ram Singh Thapa and others for 45 years, with construction of historical monuments on the hilltop of Sagar Tal where the Nalapani Fort of General Balbhadra Thapa existed.
The Anglo-Gorkha War took place from 1814 to 1816. The Gorkhas, Garhwalis and Kumaonis participated in the war. The fort garrison was commanded by Gen Balbhadra Singh Thapa, while Major Gen Robert ‘Rollo’ Gillespie, who previously had fought in the battle of Java, was in charge of the attacking British troops. He was killed on the first day of the siege while rallying his men and despite considerable odds, both in terms of numbers and firepower, Gen Balbhadra and his 600 strong garrison of men, women and children successfully held out against more than 5000 British troops for over a month from 31 October to 30 November, 1814.
After two costly and unsuccessful attempts to seize the fort by direct attack, the Britishers changed their approach and sought to force the Garrison to surrender by cutting off the fort’s external water supply. Having suffered three days of thirst, on the last day of the siege, Gen Balbhadra refused to surrender and led the 70 surviving members of the Garrison in a charge against the besieging force. Fighting their way out of the fort, the survivors escaped into the nearby hills. Considering the time, effort and resources taken to capture the small fort, it was a pyrrhic victory for the British, more than any other battle of the War. The fighting around Nalapani established the Gorkhas’ reputation as great Warriors.
As a result, the Britishers, later, recruited Gorkhas to serve their Army in 1815 and the Gorkha Rifles and Regiments became the backbone of the British Indian forces. Also, the British in the year following the battle constructed two small obelisks that still stand. One was laid in honour of Gen Robert Rollo Gillespie, while another was dedicated with the inscription, “Our brave adversary Gen Balbhadra Singh Thapa and his brave men”. This Khalanga War Memorial was built by the British to commemorate their brave soldiers as well as Gorkha gallants whom they had defeated.
This memorial is located 5 kilometres from Doon city on the road to Sahastradhara. This memorial is a nationally protected monument and is being looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India. In Nepal, the story of the battle at Nalapani has gained legendary status and has become an important part of the national historical narrative, while Gen Balbhadra Singh Thapa is celebrated as a National Hero.
A large number of people from far flung areas attended the function on 12 May and spoke about the bravery of Gen Balbhadra and his men, and suggested converting this historic place as a tourist spot for the public through Ministry of Tourism by showing the entire operational battle to the public through a light and sound system, as at other forts of India.
Those who attended were Hira Singh Bist, Chief Patron, BKVS; MLA Umesh Sharma ‘Kau’; Lt Gen Shakti Gurung (Retd); TD Bhutia, President, Gorkha Kalyan Parishad; Col DS Khadka, President, BKVS; BM Thapa; BS Khatri; JK Chettri, President, Gorkha Parisangh; CB Thapa; Padam Singh Thapa, President, GSS; Pooja Subba, Vice President, GSS; Prabha Shah; Sanjay Mall; Surya Bikram Shahi; Binu Gurung, Vice President BKVS; Sub JS Khatri, Secretary, BKVS; and many others.