Are the remains of Lord Berkley missing?

Unidentified persons dig out remains from a British era grave in Okara District of Punjab

Atiqur Rehman Chaudhry February 08, 2019
Lord Berkley. PHOTO: Atiqur Rehman Chaudhry

OKARA: In an unfortunate incident, a British era burial site was desecrated and the remains that could potentially belong to either Lord Berkley, a colonial-era assistant commissioner or his companions, were exhumed in the Okara district of Punjab.

Officials from the archaeology department claimed that the remains missing from the grave in Gogera did not belong to Lord Berkley however people of the area do not entirely agree with them.


Photo: Atiqur Rehman Chaudhry Photo: Atiqur Rehman Chaudhry

Graves and garbage as far as the eye can see

In the middle of the 18th century, the town of Gogera served as a district headquarter and Lord Berkley was appointed as the assistant commissioner.

During the 1857 war of independence, the Kharals –largely concentrated in Gogera–Rai Ahmed Kharal managed to gather people from different ethnic groups to stand up against the British Raj. As a result, many local soldiers quit the British army and joined Rai Ahmed.

Some, including Sarfraz Khan Kharal of Kamalia, decided to side with the British Raj as well. In fact, it was Sarfaraz's very treachery that led to Rai Ahmed's martyrdom at the hands of Lord Berkley.


2 Photo: Atiqur Rehman Chaudhry

A group of freedom fighters later killed Lord Berkley and a number of his aides during the same movement.

The British Raj had allocated two acres of land for the burial of Lord Berkley and his companions. A caretaker was also appointed to look after the graves but that was then.

After years of neglect and a lack of heritage site status, the graves from the British era are barely distinguishable from the overgrown grass and trash littering the graveyard.

The lord whose reign was deemed one of terror, lays forgotten without a gravestone to mark his final resting abode nor an epitaph to mark his so-called former glory.

Photo: Atiqur Rehman Chaudhry

Photo: Atiqur Rehman Chaudhry

One can see the negligence of the archaeological department just by glancing at the boundary wall demarcating the two acres. The deteriorating yellow bricks seem more ghost-like than the occupants it tried to contain within its walls. As with any forgotten and dilapidated structure in Pakistan, the burial ground is now a haven for drug addicts and a trash dumping site for many.

Graveyard encroachment: Building homes on bones

Locals in Gogera, when asked about the state of the burial site and the missing remains informed the scribe that this piece of land has been under occupation by many influential names over the years. Unfortunately for Lord Berkley, all their influence could not save his or his companions' graves from desecration.

Meanwhile, an investigation has been launched to find the culprits and to ascertain whether the missing remains actually belonged to Lord Berkley or one of his companions.


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