O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks: They will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin: Rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths: What their hearts conceal is far worse. We have made plain to you the Signs, if ye have wisdom.
The Noble Qur’an (Surah Al-Imran 3:118)
The Historical Fort of Hyderabad, Sindh
Picture of the Fort
The City of Hyderabad was built in 1768 by Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro, then the ruler of Sindh, on the site of ancient town of ‘Nerun-Kot’. He also constructed the historical ‘Royal Fort of Hyderabad’, popularly known as ‘Pucca Qila’. The Fort covered about 30 acres of land and is built with backed bricks. There is only one main entrance (gate) opening to the North, towards Shahi Bazar of Hyderabad.
In 1789 after the fall of the Kalhora dynasty, the Amir’s of Talpur occupied both the city and the Fort of Hyderabad. The city of Hyderabad and the Fort were completed and flourished during the rule of the Talpur Amir’s. When the Amir’s were defeated in 1843 at the battle of Miani and Duba, by the forces of General Charles Napier, both the city and Fort of Hyderabad passed to the British Government and Sindh was acceded to the British Empire.
It ought to be mentioned here that after partition of India (1947), people who migrated from India occupied the Fort of Hyderabad and since then they have totally inhabited the Fort.
Sindh underTalpur Balochs
“We obtained this country by the sword, if it is to pass from us.
It shall not do so without the sword”.
Mir Mohammad Nasir Khan Talpur: 1843, Sindh
Amir Fateh Ali khan Talpur Baloch &The Mission of Nathan Crow
“The beginning of the end of the rule of Talpur Balochs of the valley of Sind”
The first contact of the British Government began with the TalpurAmir’s in Sindh about 1799 when Mr. Nathan Crow, a civil servant of Bombay government, was sent to Hyderabad, Sindh. On his arrival at Karachi, Seth Daryano Mal, a prominent and a shrewd business man of Karachi had doubts upon the intentions of his arrival and he immediately warned the Talpur rulers about the real intention of the British;
“British to use the city and port of Karachi for commercial purposes, was a lie and their actual aim was political”
Seth Daryano Mal, 1799
However, Amir Fateh Ali Khan Talpur, the founder of Talpur dynasty,signed Treaty No.111in 1799 by granting him permissionto reopen the factories which were already closed by Mian Sarfraz Kalhora.Thus, Mr. Crow of the East India Company re-opened the two factories, one at Thatta and another at Karachi.Thiswas the first Treaty between the Amir’s of Sindh and the British Government.
Later on in1800, when his activities were suspected, he was expelled from Sindh with the closure of the factories.The expulsion of Mr. Nathan Crow was, no doubt, a big insult and grave blowwhichshocked the British Government. Such insult and great loss were tolerated but secretly they kept trapping the Amir’s of Sindh with determination to occupy Sindh.
Note: In fact, the occupation of Manhora Sea Port and Karachi city in 1839 proved the prediction of Seth Daryano Mal.Thus, it was inthe beginning of 1800 when the evil paw of the British Empire was set in the fertile valley of Sindh after the end of the Kalhora’s dynasty.
Amir Ghulam AliTalpurBaloch: ‘Treaty with the Ameers of Sindh’ No. IV, 1809
Amir Ghulam Ali khan Talpur, after the death of his brother, sent his agent to Bombay in order toestablish a friendlyrelation with British government,but it was rejected in 1806 bySir GeorgeBarlow, the Governor General of India (1805-1807)with the remarks;
“Neither just nor expedient to have recourse to hostile measures for the purpose of avenging the insult offered to the British Government by the expulsion of Mr Crow”
However, after theTreaty of Alliance in Titlist in 1807between France and Russia,the British governmentbegan to feel that Russia was expanding her influence in Central Asia and North-West of India.Under such circumstances the British Government changed its policy towards Sindh.
Thus,in 1809 the British government senta delegation underCaptain David Seton to the Sindh rulers. Meanwhile, the Supreme Government refused to ratify it. However, a new delegation was sent under Nicholas Hackney Smith to Hyderabad, but he failedto make a new treaty
Arrival of Dr. James Burnes in 1827 &The First Step to the Occupation of Sindh
After the death of his brother Amir Kuram Ali Khan Talpur concluded the Treaty No: V in November 9, 1822 where it was agreed to “The eternal friendship, interchange of friendly diplomats and the exclusion of Europeans and Americans from Sindh”. Further, the Amir of Sindh asked the Governor of Bombay to send a doctor for the medical treatment of his brother Amir Murad Ali Khan Talpur.
As per his request Dr James Burnes was sent in 1827 to Hyderabad Sindh. His arrival marked a turning point in the history of British relations with the Amir’s of Sindh.Being a doctor with special privileges he succeeded to collect important information regardingthe, politics, manners, traditions, people, land, arms, army and specially the mighty River Indus.In fact he was a spy more than a doctor.The Mir’s were shocked when they saw that Dr.Burnes had detailed maps of Sindh and so the Amir’s realized that even a British physician would be a British agent.
Dr Jaqmes Burnes reporting;
“The Amir’s are, I believe, perfectly aware of the utter hopelessness of any defence they could make, in the event of an invasion by our government…many circumstances proved to me that ‘the magic of our name linked with success. The British must obtain the benefits of the Indus River and Sindh to use as a buffer state to the northwest of Indian possessions and valuable route to the North-west of Afghanistan. The high way of the Indus came to be regarded as a channel of the military as well as commercial traffic.TheRiver Indus might once more become the channel of communication and wealth, between the interior of Asia and the Peninsula of India, While Sindh herself, equally interesting to us from classic association and from sympathy with her present sufferings, would rise renewed to claim a due importance in the scale of nations and to profit by the benefits which nature has bestowed upon her….. Sindh would be a fair field for English quackery to flourish”
A Visit to the Court of Sindh, 1827
Note: In fact, the account of Dr. Burnes, played a major role in the occupation of Sindh.
Arrival of Alexander Burnes 1831 & Survey of the River Indus.
“The Evil Is Done, You Have Seen Our Country; 1831”
In 1831 Lord William Cavendish Bentinck, theGovernor-General of India (1828-1835) decided to send Lieutenant (Sir)Alexander Burnes to Sindh under secret instructions to survey the Indus River.
Remarked a Sindhi Sayyid“Alas!’,Sindh has now gone, since the English has seen the river which is the route to our occupation…….
The Evil is done he came unarmed, which is the road to its conquest”
Alexander Burnes Travels. Vol: III, p.18
According toSir Charles Metcalfe,member of the Supreme Council;
“The scheme for surveying the Indus under the pretence of sending a present to Raja Ranjit Singh seems to be highly objectionable. It is a trick, in my opinion unworthy of our government, which cannot fail when detected, as most probably it will be, to excite the jealousy and indignation of the powers on whom, we play it. It is just such a trick, as we are often falsely suspected and accused of by the Native Powers of India, and this confirmation of their suspicions, generally unjust, will do us more injury by furnishing the ground of merited reproach than any advantage to be gained by the measure can compensate.”
Amir Rustam Ali KhanTalpur of Khairpur& Eye of Covetousness
“River Indus- The Jewel of Sindh”
On April 4, 1832 Treaty No.VI was concluded between Amir Rustam Ali Khan Talpur of Upper Sindh and Lord William Cavendish Bentinck, Governor-General of India; a section reads:-
“There shall be eternal friendship between the two states and the both contracting governments bind themselves from generation to generation never to look with ‘eye of covetousness on the possession of each other”.
He further agreed to use the Indus River for navigation under the condition of the approval of Hyderabad.
Subsequently,it wasconfirmed as per treaty No.VII, on April 24, 1832by theAmir’s of Hyderabad.Notably permission was grantedfor the passage of tradersvia the River Indus and roads in Sindh subject to the fixed duties, however, no armed vessels or military stores should be conveyed by these routes and that the British merchants should not settle in Sindh.
It must be remembered that the British government wanted to establish River Indus for navigation. Thus, by the virtue of the above treaties of 1832, the British government now gained the passage through Sindh and the use of the Indus River for their merchants and traders.The Indus Steam navigation Company was formed in England and trading began.In 1834 the above Treaty was modified by another treaty No. VIII, which added duty on goods.
In 1835, as a good gesture of friendship, the Amir’s of Sindh granted permission to survey the sea coast of Sindh and delta of the Indus. For the first time a steamboatwas despatched to the celebrated river. In1836 a Provisional Engagement No. IX was concluded with the Hyderabad Amir’s for opening the trade on Indus and stationing a British agent at Shikarpur.
Amir Noor Muhammad Khan TalpurBaloch&The First Afghan War of 1838
The first Afghan War of 1838 was the beginning of the Sindh chief’s ruin.
J. A. Norris, the author of ‘The First Afghan War (1838-1842) mentioned that;
“The days of Sindh’s isolation now begin to be numbered, and already the stage is set for the triumphs and tragedies…. the year 1838 was a beginning of sorrows for the Sindh Amir’s”
In 1838 the political and military developmentstook a new phase when Persia, with the help of Russia, had advanced into Western Afghanistan and Herat was Besieged. This situation forced the British government to change the Indian foreign policy to concentrate onCentral Asia. Under the circumstances George Auckland the Governor-General of India (1836 to 1842)immediately sent Alexander Burnes to Kabulon a commercial mission; in fact his mission was purely politicalin nature. Meanwhile a Russian agent also arrived at the court of Amir Dost Mohammad who expelled Shah Shuja, the king of Afghanistan. After the failure of Alexander Burne’s trip to Kabul, the British Government then preferred to replace Shah Shuja, hencethe famous ‘Tripartite Treaty’was concluded on June 26, 1838 among Shah Shuja, Raja Ranjit Singh and the British Government. It was agreed that the British troops were to pass to Afghanistan, through Sindh via the Bolan Pass,Baluchistan, instead via the Khyber Pass; and there be a military base in Sindh.
Note No.1: According to some reliable sources Raja Ranjit Singh, refused the pass of the British army via Khyber Pass which was the safe and shortest route.
Note No.2: The decisionof sending an army to Afghanistan viathe Bolan Pass, in fact, determined the fate of Sindh and Balochistan.
After the Tripartite Treaty the British Government sent a special delegation to the Court of Sindh and demanded Amir Noor Mohammad KhanTalpur, then the ruler of Lower Sindh,as follow:
1) Free passage for the British army through Sindh,
2) Supplies of everydescription for a vast force,
3) A considerable sum in cash,
4) Annual tribute,
5) The cession ofthe most important military positions,
6) The perpetual residence of Political Agent at both the courts of Amir’s.
7) An acknowledgement of British sovereignty by their consenting to relinquish various privileges of independent Princes.
8) And much more…..
The consequence of a Friendship
Let us here quote Lieutenant Lecki,(member of British delegation);
“Amir Noor Muhammad Khan Talpur with a shock opened a box and showed the past treaties to the delegation. He then asked: “What is to become of all these? Since the day that Sindh has been connected with the English there has always been something new; your government is never satisfied; we are anxious for your friendship and we cannot be continually persecuted. We have given a road to your troops through our territories and now you wish to remain. This the Baloochees [Balochs] will never suffer. But still we might arrange this matter, were we certain that we should not be harassed with other demands. Is this a proof of friendship? We have failed in nothing; we have furnished camels, boats, grains, we have distressed ourselves to supply your wants. We ought never to have granted a road through our territories; that was my act alone, all the Baloochees [Baloches] predicted what would happen. This is the consequence of a want of friendship you have only to thank yourselves!”
However, the British government issued a severe warning. “Either they,(TheAmir’s of Sindh)obeythe order orbeready to face the consequences”.The Amir’ssigned Treaty X on 20th April 1838 and initially theypaid one million rupees for the First Afghan Warin addition to logistic support.
Note:It is rightto mention here that In1809 Lord Minto, the Governor-General of India(1807-1813)acknowledged that “the claims of the Afghans for tribute from Sindh were obsolete. It is true that he was now unable to enforce such demands without our aid, and the Amir’s, moreover, two releases from all future demands on this score, written in the Qur’an and sealed and signed by His Majesty”
Sindh Blue Book;
The Amir’s of Hyderabad rejected the above demands, but, afterward Treaties No. X dated 20th of April 1838 and XI,dated 24th of December 1838, the Amir’s of Hyderabad and Khairpur unwillingly and under pressure agreed to sign.
Sindh Blue Book1843
OCCUPATION OF MANHORA SEA-PORT AND CITY OF KARACHI; (1839)
‘I am a Baloch and will die first’
It was February 5, 1839,whenthe British Admiral Frederick Maitland, carrying the Bombay reserve force under Brigadier T. Valiant, reached close to Karachi Seaport of Manohra.
“I am a Baloch and will die first” said oneBaloch, who was commanding the garrison.Upon refusal to comply the British forceopened fire on the Fort. The Amir’s force resisted, but soon surrendered both the Karachi Seaport of Manhoraand then the city of Karachi to the English troops.
ADirect Blow to the Supreme Authority of the Talpur’s.
A delegation was sent to Hyderabad with a draft agreement, which was againstthe supreme authority of the ruling family of Talpur’s.The Amir’s told the members of delegation that “the unethical’ attack on Karachi was an injustice and against international law, and that the British should vacate Karachi”. The Lord William Auckland, Governor-General of India (1836-1842), however, did not agree and he sent another draft of fourteen articles. This new draft was harsher than the previous one. The Amir’s,according to the English phrase ‘by hook or by crook’,without their wish signed Treaty No.XIII of 1839,which marked a particular change in the form ofTalpur governance.
Note: Under the above mentioned treaty, the policy of British government inevitably sowed dissension among the Hyderabad rulers by isolating Amir Sobdar khan Talpur, whose family unity had been, for over fifty years, a wonder of the eastern world.
Amir Mohammad Nasir Khan Talpur 1840& Decision To Conquer Sindh
Itis pertinent to mention that a meeting of British high officials was held in 1841at London, and at the end of meeting they decided to get control of Sindh. TheIntellectuals, Politicians and Generals of the British were all agreed and decided to conquer Sindh.
On 18 October 1842, Lord Ellen Borough, the Governor-General of India (1842-1844) wrote to Lord Peel, the British Prime Minister: “He wanted Karachi, Sukkur and Bakhar to be ceded to British. The advantages of Sukkur, as an emporium, and the usefulness of the Indus as a route not only for the movement of British manufacturers into India but also for the speedy transport of the troops and equipment. This is no more than what I looked forward to twelve years ago.”
According to the many observers;
“We have already observed that Ellen Borough looked forward to seeing the British Flag floating upon the waters of the Indus to the source of its tributary streamers. His words could be interpreted as a dream of a conquest or as a vision of processions of British merchant vessels flying the Red Ensign Flag. Whatever he meant, these were private thoughts in a public dispatch he must be more circumspect. It was enough to warn that the Sindh Amir’s must not be permitted to stand in the way of navigation on the Indus. Mainly he wished to fly the British flag on Indus River”.
The British presented new terms for a Treatyin 1842 to the Amir’s of Sindh. Amir Nasir Khan Talpur refused to accept it, as there were many unjust demands. The British wanted Karachi, Thatta and Bakhar permanently and the Mint to be closed and no taxation for their traders be charged.Towards the close of 1842,in order to enforce the demands,British troops were dispatched to Hyderabad. In the meantime the Amir’s of Hyderabad were ready to sign the treaty subject to the condition that the Amir Rustam Ali Khan Talpur of Khairpur to be restored to as ‘Chief’ of upper Sindh of which he had been deprived by his younger Brother Mir Ali Murad with the help of the British Government.
The arrival of General Charles Napier (1842)
‘ShiatankaBhai – The brother of Satan’(as named by the people of Sindh)
No doubt, Charles Napier was born a soldier. He was trained for war; he wasa lifelong professional soldier.During the Peninsular war(1807-1814) in Iberia, hecommanded the 50thRegiment of Foot against Napoleon Bonaparte.He was seriously wounded during the battle of Corunna and became lame for the rest of his life. In 1813 he took an important partin the American campaign. He served asthe Governor of the Greek island of Catalonia. He commanded the troubled North district of England during the Chartist agitation of 1839-41.
It must be borne in mind that after leaving the command of the North district of England, he was unemployed. After the death of his wife in 1833, he was under much stress; during this time he was offered a post in Canada, which he refused. In about January 1834 he was expecting the Governorship of a new colony in South Australia, but after some time he withdrew himself. He for the sake of the protection of his daughters he married an old friend Mrs. Alcock.
Long before, leaving for India, Charles Napier expressed his views about, the East India Company in “Dialogue on the poor laws a work on military law” as;
“Whereas, the object of the English Government was to enrich a parcel of shopkeepers, the ‘Shopcracy of England’ as it has been well termed, and more base and cruel tyranny never wielded the power of a great nation. Our object in conquering India, the object of our cruelties, was ’money-lucre’ a thousand millionssterling are said to have been squeezed out of India in the last sixty years. Every shilling of this has been picked out of blood, wiped, and put into the murderer’s pockets, but, wipe and wash the money as you will, the ‘dammed spot’ will not ‘out’. There it sticks for ever, and we shall yet suffer for the crime, as sure as there is a God in Heaven…in truth I prefer the despotic Napoleon to the despots of the East India Company… The East India Company or, rather the English ministers who controlled the destinies of
India under its name,”
Lights and Shadows of Military Life;p.322
Whenin 1841, the Directors of the East India Company offered him a job in India,and, as per his hatred of the East-India Company, he rejected their offer.However, due to his long years of poverty and unemployment, (he had never been rich), the future of his daughters,in contradiction to his remarks to the Directors ‘a parcel of shopkeepers’ and ‘the shopocracy’, he accepted the offer of the Company and embarked on one of the ‘most unjust of their wars’.
American writer Robert A. Huttenback described;
“Charles Napierarrived in Bombay on December 12th, 1841 with only a couple of pounds in his pocket. He was in his sixtieth year, and with a body lacerated by eight deep wounds, failing eyesight, and burdened with many minor infirmities; a lesser man might have preferred something easier than the campaigning discomforts of India. But Napier carried his scars lightly”.
On his arrival he was given the command of the Poona Division. Shortly after, he was told by the commander-in-chief at Bombay that he had been recommended for the command of Sindh.Hereplied with confidence that;
“To try me hand with an army is a longing not to be described, but he doubted his physical strength for an arduous campaign at sixty years age”.
On 26th August his command was gazetted in General Orders (Sindh Blue Book; 1843 No.362)
In his reply to his fellow officers, who congratulated him upon his appointment to Sindh;
“I am very rational, my wishes are only to barter a great lack of sovereigns in this country for a lac (One Hundred Thousand) of rupees in that! But I am too old for glory now. . . . If a man cannot catch glory when his knees are supple, he had better not to try when they grow stiff! All I want is to catch the rupees for my girls, and then die like a gentleman. I suppose if I survive six years I shall do this.
My God! How humble I feel when I think! How exalted when I behold! I have worked my way to this great command and am grateful at having it, yet despise myself for being so gratified! I despise my worldliness. Am I not past sixty? A few years must kill me; a few days may! And yet I am so weak as to care for these things! No, I do not. I pray to do what is right and just. Alas I have not the strength! … He who takes command loves it”.
The life of Charles James Napier.Vol. IIp.266
“This day public orders give me command of the troops in Beloochistan (Balochostan), Upper and Lower Sindh”
Journal August 26th, 1842;p.187
Again in his Journal on August 27, 1842 he made a note:
“ And this day thirty two years ago I was shot through the head at Busaco, and am now, being past sixty, just lamed by the bursting of a rocket, and sailing up the Indus I command of an army! Wonderful are the vicissitudes of my life, and my escapes from danger within the last six weeks have been as great as ever!” p.200
On his new venture he left Bombay on 3rd September, 1842 for Sindh with resolute determination to conquer Sindh.
“Charles! Charles Napier!“Charles! Charles Napier! Take heed of your ambition for military glory; you had scotched that snake, but this high command will, unless you are careful, give it all its vigour again. Get thee behind me Satan!
Journal September3rd, 1842
Upon his arrival at Hyderabad he was received by the Amir’s of Hyderabad with respect and honour.His journal dated September 26, 1842reveals his real evil motive to conquer Sindh. He writes;
“Yesterday paid my visit to the Amir’s.They received me with the greatest honours, greater even than were paid to Lord Keane. The Talpur’s rule seems to beon the vane and possibly this may be the first and last independent reception they may give me as princes to a British General!”
On the subject of Military Intelligence, General Charles Napier once saidthat;
“A general taking the field should be ‘cautious, daring, active, deceitful, searching his enemy with spies in all directions…He should acquire accurate personal knowledge of the country, and make his staff departments do the same”
Such a way, it is believed that, General Napier obtained inside information throughintelligent agents. Among them he usedsome confidential secretaries and clerks of the Talpur’s themselves, who for a consideration were ready to disclose inside information. These men were almost exclusively, native merchants along with those who were sacked employees of the Mirs and some private servants and clerks of British officers specially,Mirza Ali Akbar.
“DIVIDE AND RULE”
Before the battle of Miani subsequent occupation of Sindh, General Charles Napier started a secret missionas per the universal phrase, ‘Divide and Rule’. Within a short span of time, he succeeded in his conspiracy by dividing the ruling Talpur Amir’s of Upper and Lower Sindh.It is true that‘an internal blood feud’ could lead to disintegration; there were already differences between them.However, General Charles Napier along with his gangs of ‘villains’, diplomatic and military agents and traitors, rubbed the salt upon uncured and the old wounds. In fact it was a well-planned conspiracy against the Amir’s of disuniting them first and then defeating them.
Firstly, he trapped Mir Ali Murad of Khairpur by offering his services, in order to make himthe sole ruler of Upper Sindh;even further, as the sole ruler of Sindh, He then started bullying and harassing Amir RustamAli Khan Talpur of Khairpur with the intention to divide the Talpur family of Upper Sindh.
After a short time, General Napier with troops and guns marched against Khairpur and he expelled Amir Rustam Ali Khan Talpur from his hereditary dominions andhewas driven out with his family into the desert. If that were not enough, the Fort of Imam garh was also attacked, destroyed and plundered.
The Duke of Wellington described the above event as; “Sir Charles Napier’s march upon Emaum Ghur is one of the most curiousmilitary feats which I have ever known to be performed….”
He further confiscated the whole territory from Rohri to Subzlekot, of Amir Rustam and Amir Nasir Khan as punishment for their alleged offences, (Sindh Blue Book, December 1st 1842)
“At one point Mir Rustam was so fed up with their demands that he said he couldn’t accept them, then, fled into the desert, pursued by Napier. . . ‘After all, he was a Baluch’. Napier forced Mir Rustam to go to Hyderabad. Mir sahib was old and ailing at that time. The Talpur’s and other Baluch’s were infuriated at this. To make the matters worse, Napier started his incursion towards Hyderabad to provoke the Baluch’s. The Baluch’s knew for certain that Napier would use the logic of the wolf that is bent upon devouring the sheep and not relent even if all his demands were met. ”
Dry Leaves from Young Egypt by Edward Backhouse Eastwick; Ex-Political Officer
It is true that he continued his provocations by words and deeds to push the Amir’s into a deadly war.Surly, in his opinion, any other injuries or insults would fail in exciting the Talpur’s, but the humiliation of the oldest and most respected member of their family would, at least, push them into resistance, which eventually could lead them either in to captivity or death.
The Amir’s had two choices.
At thisjuncture General Charles Napier sent a new draft to the Amir’s with warningthat they had justtwo choices left, either to accept the new draft or prepare for bloodshed. This was akin to the popular saying; ‘to drink the venom as a safe drug’.Meanwhile,the General had already made up his mind to attack Hyderabad and he advanced stage by stage towards Hyderabad. Actually the Amir’s had signed the treaty on 12th of December 1843,but he did not pay anyattention to the treaties andhe arrived near Hyderabad.
He noted in his Journal, 13th December 1843 “I neither can, nor will halt now. Their object is very clear and I will not be their dupe. I shall march to Hyderabad tomorrow and next to Hala attack every body of armed men I meet. If the treaty not signed on the 12th according to their promise of the 11th when the Ameers, knew that I had halted; their can remain no doubt of the fact that they have been using every trick to get over the Moharrum, as they could no sooner collect their troops. If men die in consequence of my delay their blood must be justly charged to my account…I am in full march on Hyderabad and will make no peace with Amir’s. I will attack them instantly whenever I come up to their troops, they need send no proposals, the time has passed and I will not receive their messengers, there must be no pledges made on any account.”
On February 16, 1843,the day before the battle of Miani, General Charles Napier wrote in his Journal; “It is my first battle as a commander, it may be last! At sixty that makes little difference, but as my feelings are it shall be ‘do or die’. Beaten I could not show my face, unless the fault of the troops. God bless my wife and precious girls, my hope is to live or die worthy of them.God bless my wife and precious girls, my hope is to live or die worthy of them” p.323
Battle of Miani February 17, 1843
The mother of young Hussain Ali clothed him in a coat of mail (a metal protective cover) and bade him…………..
“Fight for his race and his religion”
Sindh Blue Book,1843
It must be borne in mind that the Baloch tribal chiefs, along with their warriors, left Hyderabadwhilst under the impression that General Charles Napier had declared that there would be no war and subsequently left for Bombay.However, he abruptly took au-turn and marched with full speed towards Hyderabad determined to fight.
The Amir’s could not re-mobilise their army,hence were hardly able to raise a ⅓ of their military strength. The forces of Amir RustamAli KhanTalpur of Khairpur, under the treachery of Mir Ali Murad Khan Talpur,did not take part in battle, while Amir Sher Mohammad khan Talpur of MirpurKhas could not reach on time to join the battle. Amir’shad no choice left,butto fight,they therefore, marched to stop General Charles Napier outside the capital of Hyderabad with the battle slogan “we will die but not give up Sindh”.As such on 17thFebruary 1843 the two bitter enemies came face to face with each other at Miani, later on popularly called “The Battle of Miani”.
After the end of Battle, on the same evening, General Charles Napier wrote;
“We have fought a hard battle and won the victory, the enemy, has lost more than five thousand and we nearly three hundred, of whom nineteen are officers” (Journal 17th February, 1843. p.323)
He, at the same time further mentioned to Captain Kennedy,
“We beat them at Miani, the battle was bloody and terrible. I afterwards rode over the horrid field and questioned my conscience: ‘this blood is on Amir’s not on me!’ How, I escaped Heaven knows, I do not. We were foe three hours and a half, only one yard apart, man to man, fearful odds, and they fought like heroes. Covered by their shields, they run upon us sword in hand with disparate fury, but down they went under the musket and bayonet: all fought hand to hand.” (Ibid p.326)
General Charles Napier, admitted to John Jacob on the battle field;
”…Thus ended one of the hardest and most honestly fought battles ever recorded in history”
John Jacob of Jacobabad; p.87by H. T. Lambrick
Scene of the battle of Miani byWilliam(Sir) Napier the brother of General as;
“….Then rose thee British shout, the English guns were run forward into position. The BeloochsBalochis) having their matchlocks laid ready in rest along the summit, waited until the assailants were within fifteen yards are their volley was delivered; the rapid pace of the British, and the steepness of the slope on the inside, deceived their aim, and the execution was not great, but they (Balooches) staggered back in amazement at the forest of the swords waved in their front! Thick as standing corns, and gorgeous as field of flowers, stood the Beloochs (Baloches) in their many- coloured garments and turbans, they filled the broad deep bed of the Fullalii, they clustered on the both the banks, and covered the plain beyond, ‘Guarding their heads with their large dark shields, they shook their sharp swords beaming in the sun, their shouts rolled like a peel of thunder’and full against the front of the22nd dashed with the demonic strength and ferocity…..,
“…. Now the Beloochs closed their dense mass,and again they shouts and the rolling fire of musketry and the dreadful rush of the swordsmenwere heard and seen along the whole line, ‘and such a fight ensued as has seldom been known or told of the records of war. For ever the wild warriors came close up, swords and shields in advance, striving in all the fierceness of their valour to break into the opposite ranks; no fir of small arms, no push of bayonets, no sweeping dischargesof grapes from the guns, which were planted in one mass on the right could drive the gallant fellow back; They gave their breasts to the shot, they leaped upon the guns and were blown away by twenties at a time, their dead went down the steep slope by hundreds, but the gaps in their masses were continually filled up from the rear, the survivors of the front rank still pressed forward, with unabated fury, and the bayonet and the sword clashed in full and frequent conflicts…
….thus, they fought in their fearful struggle, never more than three yards apart, and often intermixed and several times the different regiments, and even the Europeans were violently forced backward and pushed from the line, overborne and staggering under, the might of the barbarian swordsmen. Nearly all European officers were now slain or wounded; and several times the sepoys, wanting leaders slowly receded, but the general, as skilful horseman and conspicuous, from his specular Head-Gear, a half helmet and turban, was always at the point of greatest pressure and then manfully the swarthy soldiers recovered the ground….
“… Three hours and a half this storm of war continued withoutabatement and still the Beloochs undismayed at their number seeming to increasing, instead of decreasing. As the battle continued with unabated fury, sir Charles Napier…changed his strategy. He knew that the Beloochs could not be defeated in a frontal attack. So he devised a flanking movement on the right. This was lightly defended, and so the surprise move proved successful and the Beloochs, enveloped from the right, were confronted with an attack from the rear. And yet they fought ferocity.
…However the battle was lost and slowly the Beloochs began to retreat, yet not in depression nor with the marks of fear in heavy masses they moved keeping together with their broad shields slung over their backs, their heads half-turned and their eyes glaring with fury. The victors followed closely pouring in volley after volley until tired of slaughtering. Yet these stern implacable warriors still preserved their habitual swinging stride and would not quicken it to run, though the death was at heels….
“..Such was the battle of Miani fought on February 17; 1843.The front of the battle was a chain of single combat where no quarter was given. None expected; sepoys and Europeans and Beloochs were alike bloody and remorseless, taking life for life, giving death for death, the carnage horrible….”
He claimed that the number of killed in battle of Miani estimated to be 6,000,Beloochs and 200 British. No doubt, it was said the battle of Miani drowned the Baloch rule and sovereignty over Sindh in waves of blood”.
The above statements revealthat, the difference in military technology and tactics was Immense. British army was led by the well experienced and Professional General and trained British officers and troops and supported by modern artillery. In contrast, the army of Talpur Amir’s was irregular and comprised mostly on voluntarily bases with cavalry armed with spears and swords along with some guns. During the height of the battle the Baloches were mostly cut down, long before they could reach British lines, by rifle and artillery fire.
Later on he admitted;“Peccavi”, the Latin word for “I have sinned”, butthe British Government afterward justified the conquest of Sindh thus; “If this was a piece of rascality, it was a noble piece of rascality!”
The Amir’s were drawn into an unwinnable war, but by their bravery they also showed that it was not an un-fightable war. Napier had further ridiculed “their crazy artillery on camel-back” (Charles Napier).
GeneralCharles Napier generously and honourably calls his wild foes as;
“Brave Biliichis”(Baloches)…. “The proofs can no longer be wanting that they fought as men fighting for interests dearer to them than life; those who fell sealing their devotion to their chiefs with their blood, and, what is to be feared as a consequence, the survivors losing all that, in the East as elsewhere, renders life worth having station in society, their long cherished prescriptive rights, and the means of supporting themselves and families”.
In admiration to the Baloches General Charles Napier wrote to Sir George Arthur;
“I have swerved with the wild Indian, the wily Greeks, the brutal Turks; with Spaniards, Portuguese, and Italians, and amongst them were some redeeming qualities at least the Chiefs had some dignity of character. Amongst the Beloochees (Baloches) generally there is also nobleness much to be admired…”
Journal of 19th march 1843
Further he added; “How ignorant all the political agents were of these people. They thought and said the Beloochees were fools and cowards, but they are brave as Lions and have outwitted our political [politics] from first to last.”
The Governor-General of India titled him with “The Conqueror of Sindh” and remarked;
“The British army under Napier has twice beaten “The Bravest Enemy in Asia”, under the circumstances which would equally have obtained for the victory over the best troops in Europe.”
The Battle OfDuba; March 24, 1843
(MarsoonMarsoon, Sindh naDaisun” (“We will die…die, but won’t give Sindh)
General Hosh Muhammad Sheedi (Hoshu Sheedi)
On 24thMarch 1843, the second battle was fought between the forces of Amir Sher Muhammad Khan Talpur of Mirpur Khas and the forces General Charles Napier at a place called Duabo, about six miles from Hyderabad.. General Hosh Mohammad (HoshuSheedi), the supreme Commander of the Talpur army, jumped into battlefield with the above war slogan.
His war, like Baloches, gave a tough fight and hehimself also fought violently against the British till his last breath, but the modern weapons of the British defeated again the Talpur’s.In his fevered imagination, Napier even thought that the Sindh commander Hosh Mohammed was, in reality “Hosche”, a French general!
The defeat of Amir’s of Talpur Baloches in the battle at Duba consequently completed the British conquest of Sindh.
The above slogan became very popular being quoted till today. It will be interesting to mention here that even Mr BilawalZardari, the present Chairman of Pakistan People’s Party, has recently quoted this very same rallying cry as his own political catchphrase, but it is not fooling anyone who knows of the history of Sindh and, in particular, that of General Hosh Muhammad Sheedi.
The plains of Sindh thus have been drenched with the blood of thousands of its innocent inhabitants slaughtered on the fields of Miani and Duba. Naturally, the forts of Mirpurkhas, Umarkot and Naukot were then occupied.
E. B. Eastwick said;
“Finally,the English had gotten Sindh.Napier had got Sindh,but the high-handed manner, which it was seized, shocked decent Englishmen in India and England alike”
Dry Leaves from Young Egypt
According to the French witticism.
“The conquest of Sindh was not only a ‘CRIME’ but, even worse ‘POLITICAL BLUNDER’”.
Peter Hopkirk criticised the annexation of Sindh as:
“Following their humiliation in Afghanistan, they have seized Sindh, like a bully who has been kicked in the street and goes home to beat his wife in revenge”.
The Great Game, p.282
William Seymour commented that;
“The determination of Sir Charles Napier to uphold British interests in Sind led to coercion and eventual war. Much criticised for his high-handed approach, Napier nevertheless proved an efficient administrator for this conquered land”
General Charles Napier had remarked later to Burton that;
“The ‘traitor’ who had betrayed the Sindhi’s in the heat of battle had been approached and bribed by one Mirza Ali Akhbar, recently arrived from Persia. Mirza, did as much towards the conquest of Sind as a thousand men,for as a fellow Muslim he was able to enter the enemy camps and bribe some of their best forces to desert the battlefield.”
In fact, the British Government initially started with a trade treaty and then, using Sindh as a political ally, with the result, the British residents were installed at Hyderabad and Khairpur. Thus it gave a strong chance of Imperial Colonial Policy. Finally, they annexed Sindh, fully realizing its strategic, military and commercial importance.Finally General Charles Napier by his ‘Shiatani (Evil) wits, in1843, conquered the whole Sindh at the battle of Miani and then at Duba near Hyderabad Sindh.
Note: Suffice to say that the Talpur Balochs of Sindh were not defeated by the guns or swords of a British General, but, by the deceitful and shameful manner, and with the bribery of British agents who bribed those likeMirza Ali Akhbar, including other servants of the both the Courts of Amir’s at Hyderabad and Khairpur. No doubt the treachery of Mir Ali Murad Talpur of Khairpur, Mir Jafar of Bengal and Mir Sadique of Deccan disgraced their religion, race, nation and country.
Let us conclude with ’Appeal on behalf of Sindh’
“Are these the Chiefs to whom we sore eternal friendship, these monsters, with nothing human but their form, the rulers from whom we condescended to ask aid so often in the hour of emergency!But wherefore squanders precious moments in dwelling on extravagancies unparalleled save by the weakness of the cause they are meant to defend. We will not believe that the calm, deep-thinking, Christian, English public will be led by the glitter of sentences to neglect facts, or that it will suffer the laps of a few years to operate as a Lethem potion, and cause black injustice, the plundering’s and slaughters of the war in Sindh to be forgot. Time, and righteous Providence have brought facts to light which can no longer be thrust aside and none move a hand or utter a voice for one of our allies, to whose protection we were pledged by solemn and reiterated treaties! For victims, round whom was woven a web of cunning villainy, and who were trapped with falsehoods which now make day hideous by their revelation! Men of England! Think of your boasted freedom, and let your pulse beat quickly for those who died by your sword in defence of their own liberties and homes and for that smaller, but for more wretched, band, once for your friends, once aye! Your benefactors, now lingering out a miserable exile in a distant land, whose jailers you now pay, whose hospitality, whose alliance, you once thought! Women of England! Think of the mothers and sisters of princes, stripped of their ornaments, torn of their homes, driven to wander houseless and friendless in the wild jungles and poisonous swamps of Burdikah (Brodia)”
E. B. Eastwick; Dry Leaves from Young Egypt
© Johar Ali Bugtti, 2014
Excerpts from ‘Baloch the Victims of the British Empire’