Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Mermanjan, a Pashtun-Circassian girl who allegedly "ran away" to India with an English army officer in 1849. Critical examination of the account


Photo of Mermanjan, a Pashtun girl 'who ran away' to India with an English army officer Thomas Maughan in 1849. Source

Descendants of Thomas Maughan present it as a extraordinary intercultural love story but there are tell-signs in the account that the young girl was most likely abducted by the English army officer and he might very well have crafted this story to avoid being punished by his superiors for misconduct and immorality.

Victoria Schofield quotes Thomas Maughan and writes, "[Thomas] Maughan was with his regiment in pursuit of Sikh and Afghan forces during the second Sikh war . "The former being hotly pressed surrendered en mass" whilst the Afghans escaped to Kabul through the Khyber Pass "at the foot of which our Brigades assembled". "At this time i [Thomas Maughan] met one evening when riding, my own dear wife. She was then about sixteen and her national costume, in many respects much resembling the Albanian, set off to advantage as sweet a face and figure as I thought I had ever seen. She was mounted on a spirited black horse which she managed with ease and confidence, and was escorted by men who appeared to be her relatives. Love at first sight, a strong lasting never swerving devotion became our destiny from that moment." ["Afghan Frontier: Feuding and Fighting in Central Asia", p-200].

Then middle-aged Thomas Maughan claims and boasts that Mermanjan found him to be 'the most handsomest and most splendid figure of a man that she had ever seen, and childlike she turned to look after him as they passed and found that the officer also turned to look back at her'. He then writes that she arranged to ride out alone, and Thomas followed her at a distance. She led the way to a deserted orange garden.

Thomas Maughan claims that he secretly married her ["perhaps as morally binding as a marriage", he writes]. He left Afghan Frontier and returned to India. After few months Mermanjan (who did not understand his language as he admits) followed him on her "trusty black horse", claims Thomas Maughan . Eventually she accompanied him to England. Thomas Maughan already had a wife and Englishmen were not allowed to keep slaves so she was probably kept as mistress. She did not leave any children.

Felicia Line, whose grandmother wrote book on Mermanjan, informs us that she was a niece of Dost Muhammad Khan (the Amir of Kabul). This strengthens my suspicion that the love story is made-up as there was another British officer Robert Warburton who also coincidentally 'ran away' with a niece of Dost Muhammad Khan during First Anglo-Afghan War.

Not surprisingly, and suspiciously, we dont know the name of her father and half-brothers [1]. According to Gertrude Dimmock, Mermanjan was the only daughter of an Afghan noble and a Circassian mother (a slave?).

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