In a marble enclosure adjoining the dargah of Sufi saint Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki at Mehrauli, an empty grave or ‘Sardgah’ marks the site where Bahadur Shah Zafar had willed to be buried alongside his Mughal predecessors. Yet, the late emperor died when he was in exile in Yangon where he was transported to be lodged in a junior British officer’s garage and his remains continue to be across the border in Myanmar till today.

“Zafar had actually carved out the “two yards” for his burial near Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki’s shrine in Delhi’s Mehrauli. Bakhtiar Kaki was the principal disciple of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer and Guru of Baba Farid,” said senior journalist Saeed Naqvi. On Monday, a group led by Mr. Naqvi demanded that the late emperor’s mortal remains be brought back to India. “The King of Mandalay was transported to Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. Recently authorities in Myanmar suggested that the remains of their king be returned. It can be a grand gesture on both sides”.

With May 11 marking the 156 anniversary of the First War of Indian Independence and Bahadur Shah Zafar seen as a symbol of the people’s uprising against colonial rule and their attempt to take their destiny into their own hands, the group comprising people such as senior journalist Kuldip Nayar, Justice Rajinder Sachar and academician N.K. Bhattacharya is focused on commemorating the important event.

They believe this would kick-start a process that should be taken up each year to mark the day in 1857 on which soldiers of the British Indian Army marched towards Delhi after capturing Meerut and proclaimed Bahadur Shah Zafar their leader and emperor.

Mr. Naqvi recollected a high-level meeting held in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence within two years of the United Progressive Alliance rule to chalk out a plan of action to celebrate on a national scale the 150 anniversary of 1857, which was to fall the following year. The official briefing after the 2006 meeting dwelt on the suggestion that Pakistan and Bangladesh should be included in celebrating the First War of Indian Independence, 1857.

“Why then, this delay in commemorating 1857? After all there was unique consensus at the meeting in 2006 in New Delhi, cutting across ideological lines,” Mr. Naqvi said. To recapture the spirit of the 1857 mutiny, “we should first mobilise public opinion”, he declared.