Friday, March 28, 2014

Ali Mohammad Khan Rohilla, The founder of Rohilkhand


Among Afghans who came to seek their fortunes in the India, two brothers named Shah Alam and Hussein Khan in the 1673 A.D, having forsaken their native mountains, settled in Kuttaher, where they procured some small employments under the officers of the Moghul government.

Hussein had three sons ; Dundy Khan, Niamat Khan, and Sillaubet Khan .The elder brother, (Shah Alam) had two sons,—the first named Daud Khan, and the second Rahmat Khan.

Daud chose a military life; and after the manner of other Afghan adventurers, he collected together some followers, offered himself and was admitted as a volunteer into an army sent by the vizier to oppose the incursions of the Marathas, who about this period had acquired a considerable degree of power, laying waste the country between Narwa and Gwalior.

On this expedition Daud distinguished himself by his bravery ; and being on a particular occasion, detached from the main army, had the address to surprise and cut off a party of the enemy, bringing in with him some elephants and other spoils. As a reward for this service, Daud, on the return of the royal forces, obtained a grant of a little district in the territory of Badain, which forms a part of Rohilkhund. There he recruited his little force, consisting of the first followers of his fortune, with a considerable body of his countrymen, and with these rendered many services to the neighboring Rajahs and Zamindars, who were happy to procure his support in their frequent disputes with each other.

The fame of this bold partisan soon reached reached the ears of the Rajah of Cummou (or Kummdoori) who invited Daud into his service, and in a little time after gave him the command of all his forces ;—in this situation Daud performed many services of considerable advantage to his master; not meeting however with those rewards to which he thought his merits and services entitled him, he was preparing to leave the Rajah's employ in disguise ; but in attempting to effect this he was seized ; and the Rajah cruelly ordered his feet to be cut off, and the sinews of his legs to be forcibly drawn out an operation which soon caused the parts to mortify, and caused his death.

Daud left two sons ; Mohammed, and Ali Mohammed.

Ali mohammad Khan

Daud had always indulged a strong partiality in favour of his younger son Ali Mohammed, and had him early instructed in every military exercise, and in all other accomplishments. When Daud first conceived his design of quitting the Rajah of Cummou's service, he took care previously to transmit the principal part of his property, under the charge of his favorite son, to Badain ; so that, upon his death, Ali Mohammed found himself at once considerable wealth, and supported by a numerous train of his father's adherents.

With these he entered into the service of Azmutullah Khan, a person of rank, who had been appointed from the court of Delhi Fowjdar of Moradabad. soon procured a renewal of the grant which had been bestowed on his father, and also obtained consignment of some villages, which he artfully procured for the support of his followers.

Rise to Power

Azmatulah being shortly after recalled to court, Ali Mohammed seized the opportunity to raise a strong force, and establish himself in the possession of those lands, the charge of which he had obtained through the favour of Azmutullah :—and as these parts of India have at all times (warmed with multitudes of vagrants (chiefly Afghans) who wander over the country in search of employment, and are ready to enlist under any standard that may be raised, or to fight in any cause that may offer, so he soon increased the number of his followers (which, at the time of his father's death had not exceeded three hundred in all) to such a degree , that when a successor to Azmutullah was appointed from Delhi, the Afghan found himself in a condition to make his own terms, and even to engage him , authorizing him to retain the charge of the lands already mentioned ; and also the gift of a small Jagir in addition to it.

Ali Mahummed thus raised to some degree of rank ,neglected no means in his power to strengthen his interest and enlarged his connections,—The Court of Delhi being, at this time, torn to pieces by the struggles of contending nobles, had left much of its power and influence ; so that Ali Mahummed, conscious of his strength, paid little attention to the imperial mandates, and delayed or avoided, any payment of revenue into the royal treasury, employing the income of his lands in raising troops, purchasing artillery and military stores, and he now only waited an opportunity to throw off the mask and openly alert his independence, as most of the governors in the more distant provinces had already done.

Omda al Mullk, who was at this period Meer Bakhshy of the Empire, and possessed a considerable share of influence at court, held the districts of Owdah and Minnownah in Jageer from the King.—These districts bordered close upon the lands in the possession of Ali Mahummed ; and the paymaster had dispatched a favorite confidential servant to collect: the rents : whether this person had received any particular instructions with regard to the Afghan is not certainly known ; but, very soon after his arrival, he gave occasion for a quarrel, by collecting the rents of some villages to which Ali Mahammad laid claim, but which the deputy insisted lay within the bounds of his Master's Jageer.—An encroachment of this nature the high spirited afghan would by no means submit to ; and after various disputes, and ineffectual negotiations, the deputy tried to attempt executing his designs by force ; and, as his power was supported by the name and countenance of the royal authority, he vainly flattered himself that no troops would venture to oppose him :—the event showed, however, how much he was mistaken in his conjecture, as, in an engagement that ensued he himself was slain, and his troops totally routed.

In this exploit Ali Mahummed strengthened himself with all the stores and numerous artillery of the enemy : but this was not the only advantage he derived from it; the boldness of his actions had already acquired him some degree of credit with his countrymen, when the fame of this victory raised his character so high among them, that multitudes of Afghans immediately came from every part of the country to offer their services ; and as he attached them strongly to his interest by making over to them almost the whole of the revenues of his districts, those vagrants soon became enthusiasts in his cause, and were ready to support him in any attempt, however desperate.

Ali Mahummed, after his victory over the deputy of Omdat-al-Moolk, seized the latter's Jagheer, and converted the revenues arising from it to his own use.

Rajah Hir-Nund, a Hindoo of some eminence, was appointed by the Vizier to the "Fowjdarrey of Moradabad. the new Fowjdar had particular instructions to look narrowly into the conduct of Ali Mahummed. He was also directed to make requisition of the proportion due to government from the rents of the Afghan's lands, which were comprehended within the jurisdiction of the Moradabad Fowjdarrey ; , he was accompanied by a considerable body of horse, and a respectable train of artillery. Hir-Nund, on his arrival at his government, expressed his desire of an interview with Ali Mahummed but the latter declined. Ali mohammad began to collect his numerous followers, and straightened his defenses. At length presumption on the one hand and disgust upon the other urged both parties to action. the Fowjdar made some movements with his troops which seemed to indicate a design of seizing on a number of small forts within the country of Ali Mahummed ; but, if he had any such intentions, they were frustrated by the valor of his adversary, who attacked the army of Hir Nund at morning by surprise, and gave them a total overthrow, seizing on all their treasure, artillery, and camp equipage ;—and the body of the unfortunate Rajah was found, after the engagement, in his tent.

The Vizier was by no means pleased with the business, in which he had been considerably injured in his own property, as the greatest part of the artillery and stores belonged to him ;—and he also resented the death of the Rajah, who was an old confidential servant, and his particular favorite.—He therefore dispatched his son, Mir Munnoo, with a considerable force, to demand satisfaction for the injury which the imperial authority had sustained . Meer Munno proceeded with his troops to Secuiiderabad, and from thence to the banks of theGangcs opposite to Daranagurr, at which place the river is fordable in the dry season, but by a long winding paslage, in so much that it would be very difficult for any army to cross over there in that manner if oppossed by an enemy ;—here he saw the Afghan chief encamped on the opposite more with a force so superior to his own, In this situation the armies lay in fight of each other for some time, 'till at length the two commanders came to a proper understanding, and a negotiation took place, in the course of which Ali Mahummed found means not only to make his peace, but also greatly to reinforce his interest with the Vizier by bestowing a daughter in marriage upon one of the sons of that minister with a considerable dowry ; and (probably in consequence of this politick measure) procured a grant of the lands formerly occupied by Hir-Nund, which he henceforth included within the circle of his possessions, and out of which he engaged to pay a stipulated annual rent into the royal treasury.—As Ali Mahummed, and the greatest part of the followers by whose assistance he had been enabled to rife, were of the tribe of Afghans denominated Rohees, or Rohillas, which in the Pashto dialect signifies a mountainous country. it was about this period that the district of kuttaher began to be distinguished by the name of Rohilkhund.

Ali Mahummed having laid the foundation of independence in Rohilcund, resolved to use the present interval of tranquility, not only to establish himself in his new acquisitions, but to revenge the death of his father Daud, by attacking the Rajah of Kummaoon. AliMahummed settled the interior policy of his country, and put his finances under proper regulations. He then advanced towards the hills with a body of fifteen thousand veteran Afghans. Ali Mahummsd proceeded to Cofipur, a fortress on the borders of the northern Forests which fringe the skirts of the Cummow hills to the depth of several miles;—here he collected a large flock of provisions, and also carriages for as much grain and other necessities as would serve his little army for two months.

These measures occasioned some delay ; so that the Rajah was sufficiently aware of the Rohilla chiefs intentions, and prepared for his reception by fortifying all the ghautts or pafles over the mountains which led into his country.—Ali Mahummed had, some time before, employed his scouts to explore the woody region which runs along the foot of the Cummow hills, in hopes of being able to avoid the Rajah by pursuing an unexpected route.—Some of these messengers returned with an account of their having discovered a practicable passage by which (although their description of it was by no means encouraging) it was determined to to advance. The Afgans, accordingly,
boldly penetrated at once through the forests, and after a march of eighteen days, during which they suffred incredible hardships and fatigues, at length gained the upper country, and arrived at a village in Kummaoon) which was the first inhabited place they had seen for some time period.—The troops of Ali Mahummed here found themselves at every disadvantage, as they had no provisions but what they brought upon their backs, and had been obliged to abandon their artillery, and also to leave all
their heir horses and other cattle behind. The success of this bold attempt, however, so terrified the Rajah, that he never offered to oppose the Afghan troops, but fled his dominion, and took refuge in the neighboring country of Sirnagur.—Ali Mahummed thus making himself master of the territory without resistance, soon overran it, and acquired a prodigious booty ; and having rented the whole district: of Kummdoon to the Rajah of Sirnagurr for three lacks per annum, he returned with his plunder to his country.

Conflict with Safdar jang

Some of the Afgan chief's Rohilla retainers had a dispute with the servants of Sefdar Jung, Subadar of Owde, who had been sent by their master to cut timber which abound in the forests at the back of Kuttaher :—this produced a fray, in which several were killed on both fides; and the gumaihte (or agent) who commanded Sefdar Jung's people, was obliged to fly, leaving behind him all his effects, which, according to their usual custom, were seized as lawful spoil by the Rohillas.
The agent repaired immediately to Owde, and laid a complaint before the: Subadar, who, incensed at the treatment his servant had met with, and considering his own honour concerned to resent it, repaired immediately to Delhi, and represented to the sovereign (Mahummed Shah). the injurious insult he had sustained in such strong colours, that an
order was immediately dispatched to Ali Mahummed, directing him to recover and restore all the Gumashte's effects. Allee Mahummed returned an answer — " that he " would never suffer the Gumamtes of ' any man to come into his country with out his consent ; that he could not but " approve of what his people had done ; " and that he would neither restore the " effectss nor deliver up the plunderers, " who had received, in the insolence of " the Subadar's people, a provocation " which sufficiently justified their proceedings.'

This reply, which amounted to an explicit declaration of a vowed rebellion, the Emperor having at present no other object of greater moment to occupy ,his attention, resolved to root out the Afghans, and expel them entirely from Kuttaher. Sefdar Jung hoped that by the disgrace and overthrow of Ali muhummed , Rohilkund will be added to the extensive dominion he already held, which rwould render the whole of his possessionss perfeclly compact and easily defensible.

Although the treasury was, at this period, very low, yet, by the assisstance of Sefdar Jung and somc other nobles who hoped to share in the fruits of Alice Mahummed s ruin, the Emperor was enabled to levy a considerable army, at the head of which he marched towards Rohilkund in 1743 A.D. proclamations were issued throughout the neighboring country offering protection and reward to all such as should desert Ali Mahummed, and threatened his retainers with the severest punishments. Ali mohammad found himslef in a short time almost entirely deserted ; and to avoid immediate destruction, was under the necessity of taking refuge, with a few followers who still remained faithful to him, in the fort of Bangar, which was besieged by the royal army.—Here, when seemingly on the brink of inevitable ruin, his affairs were suddenly retrieved by the mediation of the Vizier and some other Amras, who, in opposition to the Subadar of Owde (whom they all feared and detested) joined in prevailing upon Mahummed Shah to be reconciled to the Afgan chief.—He was accordingly permitted to approach the presence and make his peace, on condition of relinquishing his country and attending the King to Delhi. In consequence of this compromise, Ali Mahummed and his garrison surrendered and were honourably treated, even though o Sefr dar Jung insisted on making an example of the Afghans.—But the Emperor's lenity was not the only disappointment the Subadar experienced on the present occasion, as he failed in his design of getting charge of Kutteher, which was entrusted to the government of Faridudeen Khan, the son of Azmutullah, formerly Fowjdar of Moradabad.

Ali Mahummed, on his attending the Emperor to Delhi, left his family and most valuable effects at Budavon, on the borders of his late possession, where he hoped he might, some time or other, be able to re-inflate himself. .the Vizier gave him apartments in his palace, in which he remained confined as a sort of prisoner for several months. In the mean time, in order to avoid any disturbances which might be excited in favour of the Afghan chief, a Firman was issued, prohibiting Rohillas, and all other Pathans, of every description, who had formerly acted under Ali Mahummed from crossing the Ganges, or entering Delhi, under any pretence whatsoever.

The only step, however which could have effectually broken the Afghan confederacy, had been neglected.—When Ali Mahumimed surrendered, no precautions were taken for the expulsion of his friends and retainers from Kuttaher (as had been intended,) hence they still continued to hold a local consequence and strength ; and shortly after the Emperor's return to Delhi, a considerable number of them collected at Sumbhull (a city in the northern Rohilkund) «—and becoming impatient of the absence of their popular and successful chief, and perhaps ashamed of their late desertion of him, resolved to make an effort to release him from his present confinement, and set him again at their head. For this purpose upwards of four thousand of them, by the connivance of some Afghan commanders in the royal forces, eluding the vigilance of the guards at the forts, crossed the Ganges, and passing over the Doab province in separate parties under different disguises, assembled at a garden or villa in the suburbs of Delhi, from whence they issued in a body to the royal palace, and there came upon on thevery small force in Delhi ; a considerable part of those lately levied had been already disbanded ; some had been left under the command of Ferid-ud-deen, to secure the tranquillity of the countries beyond the Ganges; and the remainder had, marched under Meer Munoo, towards Lahore— thus the court was startled at this unexpected and alarming insurrecion ; and their ignorance of its origin, and extent increased the terror and perplexity of the King and his ministers.—There were, however some Afghan Amras in the mughal court who were in secret not much displeased at this sedition, and they determined to make use of it as an argument for the immediate release of Ali Mahummed, they urged the necessity of taking some step in his favour, in order to avert the gathering storm; because, being

exceedingly exceedingly popular with his countrymen, there was reason to apprehend that the present turmoil might extend to a general insurgency of all the Pathans in the northern provinces, which might cause serious consequences to mughal empire.

The present circumstances gave such weight to these arguments as at length induced the ministers to yield to the turbulent Ali Mahummed's adherents ; and the Vizier reluctantly to give way to the tide of general opinion. It would have been dangerous, in the present crisis, to suffer Ali Mahummed.
to return to his former possessions;—the collection of the country of Sirhind was therefore bestowed upon him, where, being at a distance from his original connections, it was presumed he would remain more amenable to the authority of the court :— Alli Mahummed accordingly proceeded to that place, leaving two of his children with the Vizier as hostages for his fidelity.

It was shortly after the appointment of Ali Mahummed to Sirhind that the famous Ahmed Shah Abdali invaded Hindostan.

Invasion of Ahmad Shah abdali

Meer Munnoo (the Vizier's son) was ordered to advance towards Lahore, with such forces as were then at Delhi, to Watch Ahmed Shah's motions and retard his progressions. the accounts of arriving of the nearer approach of the Abdali, the Vizier collected what remaining troops he could mutter from Rohilkund and other parts ; and being farther reinforced by a considerable body of horses under Sefdar Jung, proceeded to join his son, and oppose the invader.

The Vizier advanced to Sirhind, where he found Meer-Munnoo, who had not thought it to venture farther on account of the great superiority of the Durannis ; the united troops, having lodged all their heavy artillery and baggage in this place, pursued their route, and had proceeded three days march from thence, when they came within fight of the enemy at a place called Minoivra. Here the adverse armies strongly entrenched themselves, and began their operations against each other by a distant cannonade, which was continued for many days, at intervals---At length, it unfortunately happened that the Vizier was killed one evening by a random (hot, ill his tent,:---His body was wrapped up in shawls by the attendants, and it was determined, in a council of the chief commanders, to keep his death a secret, and to attack the enemy the very next morning, before a knowledge of this event would have disheartened the soldiers, who were known to place their chief dependence on . the approved valour and abilities of the Vizier. Accordingly, a general battle ensued next day, in which, after various success, the troops of Ahmed Abdali were at length repulsed, with the loss of a considerable part of their artillery, and driven several miles from the field of battle. Ahmed, a few days after, once more tried his fortune against the
Mogul forces, and was again defeated; but this able soldier, far from being dismayed by these failures, at the very point when his fortune seemed to be most desperate, suddenly turned the rear of the imperial army, and with a chosen body of cavalry puming to the eastward, nothing was heard of him for two days, and it was universally imagined that he had gone off towards kandahar, when he seemed to spring up out of the earth before Sirhind, which immediately surrendered to him. Having levied a hasty contribution in that place, and plundered the neighbouring country, he retired as rapidly as he had advanced, and passing within four miles of the Mogul army in the night, proceeded towards the Punjab, carrying with him Fyzulllah Khan and Abdullah Khan, the two sons of Ali Mahummed whom the Rohilla had left as hostages of his fidelity, on his appointment to Sirhind,— as before mentioned. These young men had accompanied the Vizier thus far, on his march to oppose Ahmed Abdali; and had been ordered to remain at Sirhind, by which means they fell into the invader's hands, who considered them as the most valuable part of his acquisition as, by his power over them, he would be able to secure the neutrality of Ali Mahummed (whose abilities and enterprising disposition he was well acquainted with)— and even to render him subservient to his future views upon Hiiidostan.

The old Sultan, Mahummed Shah, never recovered the shock which he sustained in the death of his favourite, the faithful Kummir-ad-deen ;—he died shortly after, and was succeeded in the imperial dignity by his son Ahmed, who appointed Sefdar Jung, the Subadar of Owdhe, to the high office of the Fizaret.

It has already been observed that Ali Mahummed still entertained hopes of being able, to recover the Jagheers and other tenures which he had possessed in Rohilkund.On his arrival at Sirhind, he immediately began to call together his scattered men, —he was, however, deterred from undertaking any thing openly, for the present, by the circumstance of Meer Munnoo being for some time encamped near Sirhind with the advanced division of the royal forces. When he heard that the Vizier was about to march from Delhi with the remainder, of the Mogul army, in order to form a junction with Munnoo, he withdrew to Gungapore, a town about sixteen miles distant from Sirhind, under pretence of collecting the rents of that Purgunna, but in reality to avoid an interview with the minister---and, as soon as he understood that the Vizier had patted Sirhind, he proceeded immediately to the Ganges, and crossing that river at Biceghaut, marched directly into the heart of Rohilkund ; and being there joined by the greatest. part of his old retainers,took control of all the countries which had formerly been in his hands, as well as the Jagheers of Kum-mir-ad-deen, Sefdar Jung, and others, comprehending almost the whole of Kuttaher.

As a great part of the royal forces had been withdrawn from these provinces to reinforce the main army under the Vizier, the few who were left never attempted any opposition to Ali Mahummed.—Some of the commanders he bought over to his interests ; others he drove away.
He, by contributions and other means, railed considerable sums, which he employed in levying troops, providing artillery-stores, building some forts and repairing others ; and made so rapid a progress in his schemes, that when the government at Delhi was restored to tranquility, he found himself able to make his own terms with the new Vizier; and in consequence of a private bargain with the minister, obtained from the Emperor, soon after his accession, grants of all those territories he had lately seized, including the Jagheer of Moradabad, belonging to Kummir-ad-deen, but which had been vacated by his death, that of the Nizam consisting of the district of Barelli, that of Sefdar Jung confiding of Dampur and Sheerkootch, together with other estates of many principal Amras ; so that in all, Ali Mahummed procured, as a subject of the Mogul government, a full and legal Authority over the whole of Kuttaher. All the petty Rajahs, who held tracts along the foot of the Cummow hills, he rooted out all those from whom he had any apprehensions, and drove them to the other fide of the Ganges, without any regard to their prior right in those lands, which had been the seats of their ancestors for many centuries. He deprived hindu Zimeendars of their lands, and the public officers of their employments, and filled the places thus vacated with his people ; so that in the space of a few months the country was put completely under a Pashtun government. and accordingly we do not find that, during the remainder of his life, any attempt was made to disturb or subvert the despotic authority of the Afghans in Rohilkund.

Had the life of Ali Mahummed been prolonged, it is certain that he would have raised this country to a high degree of happiness and prosperity ; as, being altogether unmolested by other interference, he employed his whole time in making various wise and salutary regulations, placing his army on a respestable footing, and correcting and arranging the different departments of government with a skill which distinguished his character as much for his policy and prudence in the exercise of power, as his preceding actions, for the perseverance and enterprise by which that power was acquired.


Ali Mahummed had for some years been subject to periodical returns of deafness, ;—this disorder, about fourteen months after his reinstatement in Rohikund, returned upon him with uncommon violence, in so much that it is said he could not hear the report of a cannon ; he was at the same time seized with a dropsy which baffled the skill of the physicians; and finding that this last time has approached he was anxious to put affairs on such a footing as would secure the inheritance of his territories to his children.
As all his sons were still under age, Ali Mahummed was sufficiently aware that the transfer of the government into any one hand until their maturity would be likely to defeat his intention ;—but he hoped by a judicious partition of the whole power among a number of the principal individuals for that period, might eventually operate in favour of his heirs.

He therefore called together all the chief persons of the Rohilla pashtuns ; and it is on this occasion that the first mention is made of hafiz Rahmat Khan and Dundy Khan, the former of these was the uncle and the latter the cousin of Ali Mahummed :—he had bestowed upon them the charge of some of his most important districts in the territories of Barellee, and Biffoolee. He now constituted Hafiz chief Guardian of his children during their minority ; he like-wise joined Doondy Khan in the guardianship appointing him commandant of the troops. He in their presence executed a will, in which he directed that, until the return of his two eldest sons, Faizullah Khan and Abdullah Khan, (who had been carried off by Ahmed Abdali to kandahar) the supreme government should, under the direction and control of the guardians, be veiled in his third son, Saidullah Khan ; and he received from the guardians the most solemn promises and assurances of their inviolable attachment to all his children, which they ratified by oath upon the Koran. These men were, of course, to be necessarily entrusted with a principal share in the executive authority ;—but as a check on the dangerous influence with which they would hereby become vetted, he united with them his kins-men, Niamut Khan and Sillabut Khan, in. the general administration of affairs. He also created two principal officers of state ; —Fateh Khan, one of his most favorite retainers, who had invariably adhered to his interests in every change of his fortune, he nominated to the post of Khansa-man, ; and Sardar Khan to that of Bukhshy, or paymaster, to act immediately under the regents. To all these Ali Mahummed gave the government of different districts, which they receptively swore to hold in trust for his children. The whole were, upon every emergency, to consult together for the good of the general state ; and, in case of necessity, each was to lead his proportion officers into the field, and to pay a quota into the grand treasury under the Bakhshy for the disbursement of contingencies. Ali Mahummed's also distributed an advance among them to the amount of twenty-five lacks of rupees, taking an acknowledgement from every individual,

Ali Mahummed did not long survive the new arrangement of the Rohilla government ; .On the morning before his death, he was carried into the Durbar, where were assembled all the principal persons with whom he entrusted the management of his territories.—Here he publicly declared the particulars of his will, in which he had settled the different divisions of the country upon his sons, —and then he expired amidst the united murmurs of sorrow and applause, on the A.D. 1749 after acquiring a great and lasting reputation among his countrymen.

Ali Mahummed, at his death, left six sons, the two eldest of these were still with Ahmed Abdali at kandahar ; the remaining four, — Saidullah Khan, Mahummed Yar Khan, Allah Yar Khan, and Murtaza Khan, being yet infants, were in the charge of Futteh Khan, khansaman, and the guardians .
The death of Ali Mahummed opened the way for several attempts to overset the Afghan interests in Rohilkund, and to drive them from their possession