Suleman Sardar is the volunteer caretaker of the Gora Kabristan - it translates very crudely as the white guys' graveyard - in the Dharampura district of Lahore. It's hidden away just off Infantry Road and as you can see is haphazardly maintained.
But this place, the British Infantry Graveyard as it is formally known, offers an elegiac take on the colonial era.
The cemetery was established more than 200 years ago as a burial place for British soldiers - there's an article about its history here. There are similar cemeteries across South Asia.
Some decades after independence the graveyard was brought back into use for Lahore's Christian community - in Pakistan, often a marginalised and non-privileged group. When I visited a few days ago, there had clearly been some recent interments.
Suleman Sardar - a Christian - describes himself as fighting an uphill battle, without funds or much in the way of support, to preserve the graves and stop encroachment. That may not be the full story - but at least this burial ground is not a complete wilderness as some others in the region are.
Some of the memorial stones reflect the huge loss of life - more often from illness and diseases than in conflict - sustained by British troops and their families while policing and defending the Empire.
The imperial project was wrong and cruel ... but that doesn't mean that we need show no compassion for those agents of Empire who lie buried in places such as Lahore's Gora Kabristan, close to what was once the Mian Mir cantonment.
The matter-of-fact inscriptions on the memorial stones disclose the human cost of imperialism - to the 'goras' as well as those under their yoke.
SACRED TO THE MEMORY
THE 42 OFFICERS N.C.O.s,
PRIVATES, WOMEN & CHILDREN
OF THE FIFTH FUSILIERS
WHO DIED IN THIS STATION
BETWEEN 1871 & 1893
WHO LIE BURIED IN THIS CEMETERY
ERECTED BY THEIR COMRADES OF
THE 2nd BN FIFTH FUSILIERS 1930
Lahore was once Rudyard Kipling's city, and in Something of Myself he wrote:
I got to know the soldiery of those days in my visits to Fort Lahore and, in a less degree, at Mian Mir Cantonments. My first and best loved Battalion was the 2nd Fifth Fusiliers, with whom I dined in awed silence a few weeks after I came out ...
So this graveyard is where the 'Tommies' who people Kipling's stories are laid to rest.
Nobody can provide services better than these fellows. Their co-operation for cleaning carpets is remarkable. Everyone knows that cleaning carpets by ourselves is a tough task and need to hire professionals for it. I will recommend you to contact them if you want them to assist you.
Hi,a relative of mine died in Lahore and I think she may be buried in that cemetery.How do I access burial records in Lahore or do they all still exist.Kind regards Damien Roe,
I live in Lahore and can go and personally look for the grave
Hi iam looking for my great Nan that was buried in Lahore 1933 December Winifred snell if any one could help please I would be very greatfull
Do you have any contact details for the caretaker. My grandfather K K Majumdar DFC is interred there and we wanted to try and organise a repair to his headstone.
I’m afraid not, but he lives in the graveyard. It might be worth contacting BACSA, the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia.
Hi Andrew. A chance internet search for Mian Mir cemetery has led me to your blog. I wonder if you could help me? I'm trying to find out where my great, great grandfather, James Morgan is buried. He was a driver in the Royal Artillery and died of heat stroke (like so many) at the Meean Meer garrison on 8th July 1886. All I know is that he was buried on the 9th July 1886 at Meean Meer. He was from Ireland and Roman Catholic. He left behind a wife who was two months pregnant and three young children, also with him at Meean Meer. Any thoughts on where he might possibly have been buried would be most appreciated. I doubt there would be a headstone for him? Kind regards, Debbie Turner
Hi Debbie, I'm afraid I don't know how best to pursue your search - but again I would suggest making contact with the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA), which has a good website. Good luck!
Leave a Reply.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
Welcome - read - comment - throw stones - pick up threads - and tell me how to do this better!