Unsung Heroes | History Corner | Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Ministry of Culture, Government of India

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Unsung Heroes Detail

Sher Ali Afridi

South Andaman, Andaman & Nicobar Islands

August 13, 2022

Sher Ali, 30 years of age, strong and well-built, a Khyberee of the Kookee Kheyl clan, came from Tirah valley of Khyber Agency (now a federally administered tribal area) of Kabul territory. Sher Ali worked for the British administration in the Punjab Mounted Police during the 1860s. He had served the British for some years as a cavalry trooper in Peshawar, first for Major Hugh James and then as mounted orderly for Reynell Taylor. In a family feud, he killed one of his relatives named Hydur at Peshawar and later he pleaded for his innocence but he was convicted on April 2, 1867, with a sentence of death, which was reduced to transportation for life to the Andaman Islands by Colonel Pollock, Commissioner of Peshawar. Sher Ali reached Andaman Penal Settlement in May 1869 via Karachi and Bombay. On the morning of 8 February 1872, Richard Southwell Bourke (1822-1872), 6 Earl of Mayo or say, Lord Mayo, Viceroy and Governor General of India accompanied by four steamboats arrived on the island. He visited Mount Harriet (now Mount Manipur) in the evening. While returning from Mount Harriet, many other officers were following him in his descent. After arriving at Hope Town, at the moment he reached the small boat, Sher Ali jumped out of the dark and with his knife so badly injured Lord Mayo that with deep wounds of his knife twice, Viceroy wobbling fell into the sea. Sher Ali was caught forthwith and the Viceroy was taken out of the shallow water. On the way back to Ross by Flagship Glasgow Viceroy died of excessive bleeding. The unexpected assassination shocked British India and Great Britain as well.

On March 11, 1872, Sher Ali was hanged to death at the Viper Gallows. After this assassination, the new Viceroy North Brook (1872-1876) now felt the need for ‘a detective police for political purposes and asked the Thugee and Dakaity Department to take up the job. The year 1872-73, with the murder of the Viceroy, became one of the most saddest and investigative years for the British in their imperial history. The event shocked British India. It was entirely unexpected for the rulers.

Viper Gallows where Sher Ali was hanged

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