Jaipur, Sep 25 (IANS) A hundred years ago, during the First World War, a gallant band of Indian soldiers of the 15th Cavalry Brigade fought off stiff resistance from Tutkish-German forces in the Battle of Haifa to liberate the city from over 400 years of rule by the Ottoman Turks. Very little of this was known till he published a book on it in 2016, says author Ravi Kumar, who is now planning a sequel.
“Had this battle been fought by the Germans, the British or Americans, it could have been among the course curriculum in all schools. However, it is sad that Indians are still unknown to this great battle story,” Kumar told IANS.
Even worse, not many people in are aware of the story behind the Teen Murti Memorial in the heart of the national capital that commemorates this epic battle that concluded on September 23, 1918.
As the book spoke of valour and bravery of Indian soldiers, Kumar had invited the then Defence Minister, Manohhar Parrikar to release the book but even here had to face sceptcism.
“Why and how should I believe that the facts represented in the book are correct,” Parrikar asked Kumar.
“This historic battle has been fought by Indian cavalry and its details can be sought from Jaipur (where records are maintained of the troops supplied by the Jodhpur and Mysore royal families). The Teen Murti Memorial also has the story inscribed on it about the battle,” Kumar replied.
The Defence Minister then inquired about the chain of events and after being fully convinced, released the book on September 23, 2016. The book sold like hot cakes in many languages, among them English, Hindu, Gujarati, Marathi and Telugu.
How did the book come about?
Kumar said that in 2012, he chanced upon an internet page on the soldier referred to as the Hero of Haifa, Major Dalpat Singh Shekhawat, when he was surfing net for details on military medals. Shekhawat was the warrior who led the Indian charge.
“That was the kick which prompted me to travel to Israel to bring back the story of Indian soldiers who fought with all their might 100 years back,” he said.
He met Israeli and Egyptian officials and back in India met Gaj Singh, the former maharaja of Jodhpur, which had also contributed troops to the Indian force. After four years of research, he penned the book in 2016.
There were many challenges along the way. Kumar said he found it quite tough to document the various incidents that took place during the battle. This is because the Indian soldiers were a part of the British Army, which had documented the stories of the valour of its men but not much about the bravery of the Indian soldiers: how they managed a victory over the Turks in just a two-day battle, what their tactics were and how they managed to fight against the modern equipment of their opponents.
One of the nuggets he unearthed: Abdu’l-Baha, the leader of the Baha’i faith, had been captured in Haifa by the Turks and was to be beheaded on September 23, 1918 at 6 pm. However, as Haifa was conquered at 3 pm on the same day, this was prevented.
Till date, the Baha’is the world gives credit to Indian soldiers for his release. They recently released a picture of Abdu’l-Baha with Indian soldiers. This picture is displayed in the Lotus Temple in New Delhi.
Kumar says there were major developments after the release of his book.
The Teen Murti Chowk was renamed Teen Murti Haifa Chowk during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit in January. Soon thereafter, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a historic visit to Israel.
As for the future, Kumar pointed out that in Rajasthan, there is a tradition of singing songs in praise of grand victories. There is also a song on Major Dalpat Singh.
“For my second book, I am in search of this song as it can throw up lot more stories of this brave man who left a mark in history with his undefeated valour,” Kumar said.
(Archana Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])