Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Chup sha, Hari Singh raghlay"


On twitter i saw Lahori/Punjabi writer Salman Rashid ((Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society) ) gloating over a bombast by his Sikh kinsmen ;




Salman Rashid is declaring it a "historical truth" in his tweets, claiming that he himself has heard it from mouths of Pashtun mothers. But it is just a metaphorical expression, just like "the wolf drinking at the same fountain as the goat" or "the lion lying down with the lamb". You will find this expression of mothers hushing their childern with names in literature all around the world ; for example
"In Palestine, which was the scene of Richard's greatest deeds, his name became a terror to all for ages. The Saracen mothers would hush their children into silence by raising the threatening finger and whispering, " Be still, King Richard will come." [Romance of Biography, Illustrated in the Lives of Historic Personages, 1855, p-299]
"It is said that his character [ Sir John Talbot] became far and wide so formidable to the French, owing to the constant success which attended his expeditions, that mothers used to hush their children into silence by pronouncing the name of the "great Doggc Talbot" ["History of Cheadle, in Staffordshire, and Neighboring Places", 1885, p-202]

You will find the usage of same metaphorical expression in several Mughal sources.. For example Zakhiratul Khawanin, a biographical dictionary of Mughal nobility of early 17th century says that a Turkman Quch Ali terrorized Panni Afghans of Sibi so much that their mothers used to utter "Qoje Ali raghle" to silence a crying child ;
"Quch Ali governed well in the hilly tract inhabited by Baluchis and Afghans; killed so many men that if a child were to cry, the Afghans would say (to him) in their dialect, Quch- ali raghali (i.e. Quch-ali has come); the child would immediately stop crying out of terror. He had two large iron pans (karah) filled with water and fire kindled beneath them. Any thief or a culprit, he would tie his hand and feet and throw him into that pan; he would immediately get roasted in that boiling water" ["The Dhakhiratul-khawanin", English translation, Vol-II, p-141]

But historical evidence shows that Panni Afghans were not exactly in awe and terror of Quch Ali. According to Tarikh Mazhar-i-Shah Jehani in the year 1610 AD, Panni Afghans rebelled against Quche Ali and besieged him in the Siwi fort. When the alarming news reached king Jehangir, he ordered Taj Khan , the jagirdar of Bakkar and Abdul Baqa, the feudatory of Gandawah, to rush to the aid of Quch Ali. This was done and the besieged Mughal feudatory was relieved. In 1617 AD, the Panni Afghans rebelled again, against Shaikh Bole, the Mughal governor of Siwi at that time, and killed him.

Sikhs also could not terrorize Pashtuns into subjugation. Pashtun tribesmen declined to pay any kind of taxes to them. Sikhs had to fight Pashtun villagers on regular basis to collect the revenues. They had to buy local chieftains to assist them in ruling Peshawar valley and fighting the turbulent and refractory chiefs. For example Sikhs gave in contract Daulatzai and Ismailzai tappas to Malik Mir Babu of Chargulai who promised to collect the Sikh revenue for them. The allowance enjoyed by Mir Babu amounted to Rs.2,000. When Mir Babu proceeded to Garhi Kapura to collect the revenues which were then due,  he was opposed by Hasan Khan and Nasrullah Khan. A couple of Sikh soldiers were slain in the encounter that took place ["Selections from the records of the government of the Punjab and its dependencies", 1875, p-14] . Hari Singh's European-trained army with Napoleonic officers shined against small rag tag bands of ill-equipped, untrained Pashtun villagers who had no discipline , did not possess any artillery and had no forts for defence in their plain areas. The only time Hari Singh Nalwa, as general, faced a regular army equipped with artillery, was at battle of Jamrud 1837 in which he was thoroughly defeated and lost his life. In fact this Hari Singh, claimed to be among "Top 10 greatest conquerors of the world" by Sikhs, was even struggling against small bands of Pashtun villagers of plain areas. In 1824 a small band of Mashwani and Saidkhani Pashtuns defeated Hari Singh and his 8,000 troops. The overconfident Hari Singh barely survived. According to Hazara Gazetter 1907 ;

"In 1824 A.D Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, the famous general of Ranjeet Singh, decided to chastise Muhammad Khan Tarin and a number of other recalcitrant chiefs who had taken refuge at Gandgar hills. In 1822 the Sikhs, after winning a hard-fought battle at Sari at the base of range, had been defeated in an endeavor to reduce Srikot, the village of Mashwani Afghans. They now in 1824, again made the attempt , and again failed. At Nara which stands at the mouth of a path leading up to Srikot, the Mashwanis and Saidkhani Utmanzais made a gallant stand, repulsed the Sikh force , which was 8,000 strong and sent it back to Haripur with a loss of 500 men. Hari Singh himself was struck down by a stone hurled from the walls of the village , and rolled into the ravine below , where he lay for a long time senseless and undiscovered. It was reported , indeed , that he was dead, but in short time , having recovered from his wounds, he confuted the rumour by surprising the village of Bagra, where number of rebels had collected , and putting to the sword every armed man that he found there."

From Farrukh Husain's book "Afghanistan in the Age of Empires: the great game for South and Central Asia" ;
"Peshawar was a quagmire for Runjeet Singh, but to give it up would be to admit defeat, in return for which the Sikhs had lost many able men and expended a great deal of money. It was the classic dilemma faced by those that occupy Afghan territory. Runjeet Singh himself called Peshawar a necklace of knives hung around my throat by Hari Singh. "


Hari Singh Nalwa