Jherruk and the Ismailis during the British rule (Part-I)

Charles Napier posted the Aga Khan at Jherruk at the end of February, 1843 to secure communications as well as restore peace between Karachi and Hyderabad

The historic town of Jherruk is located between Hyderabad and Thatta in Sindh, where wheat, rice, sugar-cane, cotton, vegetables and some fruits are grown in abundance.

From Ismaili Net 

Hasan Ali Shah, the Aga Khan I (1817-1881), the 46th Imam or Spiritual Leader of the Shiite Ismaili Muslims, left Iran and trekked from Girishk to Kandhar in Afghanistan after having adventured on a long perilous journey. On August 6, 1841, the intelligence from Girishk reached Major Henry Rawlinson (1810-1895), reporting the arrival of the Aga Khan and his hundred horsemen. After his arrival in Kandhar, the Aga Khan sent a letter on October 21, 1841 to Sir William MacNaghten (1839-1891), the British envoy at Kabul, in which he explained his reasons for leaving Iran. This historical migration marked an end of the longer Iranian period of Ismaili Imamate. Naoroji M. Dumasia writes in “The Aga Khan and his Ancestors” (Bombay, 1939, pp. 27-8) that, “His exile from Persia was a loss to that country, but Persia’s loss was the gain of the British empire, and his comradeship in arms with the British army cemented the ties of friendship….The part which the Aga Khan played as an ally of the British in that disastrous war was in every way worthy of the heroic deeds of the great martyrs of Islam whose blood flowed in his veins.”

The British had grown to be a paramount power in India in the course of the 18th and 19th century. About the time that the Aga Khan was having troubles in Iran, the British were deeply involved in Afghanistan, and their efforts were aimed at establishing in Kabul a rule that would be friendly to Britain, and prevent the Russian influence penetrating the borders of India, that would possibly threaten the existence of British empire. The Aga Khan extended his support and assistance to the British in Afghanistan. The British troops eventually failed to dominate Afghanistan and evacuated Kandhar at first on August 9, 1882 for Quetta. The Aga Khan however stayed on in Kandhar for about six weeks with Sardar Sherdil Khan. Major Rawlinson, who sympathized with him, had advised him to retreat to India. Thus, the Imam came to Quetta on October 5, 1842 and then stayed with the Khan of Kalat, Mir Shahnawaz Khan. When he left Quetta, he was given a letter of recommendation by MacNaghten addressed to Sir Charles Napier (1782-1853), who had been commissioned supreme civil, political and military control of both upper and lower Sind.

If Sind had not fallen to the Company, it must have been either annexed by Afghanistan or absorbed with Lahore by Ranjit Singh

Different accounts are advanced to indicate the routes of the Aga Khan from Quetta to Sind. It is said that he went to Sialkot and thence headed towards Sind, which seems doubtful. When he was in Quetta, the Aga Khan appears to have decided to enter Sind through Sukkur, which was also reported to the British officers. Thus, the British records suggest that he reached Sukkur from Quetta and then arrived in Hyderabad. Thanks to the new evidence in this context, shrouded behind an impenetrable veil for over a century, that the Aga Khan had changed his program after leaving Quetta and had paid a flying visit to Sonmiani in Lasbela State. This tradition, if carries truth, it means that the Aga Khan had arrived in Quetta on October 5, 1842, and then went to stay with the Khan of Kalat, Mir Shahnawaz Khan for a month. He then proceeded to Sonmiani after crossing the hilly tracks of Baluchistan during the rule of Jam Mir Khan II (1830-1888).

Sonmiani is the only seaport of the province of Lus. The natives generally called the town of Sonmiani, Miani. Lt. Forbes Gordon Sullivan (1820-1893), the British agent at Sonmiani had submitted his report to the government in 1841 and 1842 and writes that, “Sonmeeanee is the only seaport of the province. It is a small village, containing about two hundred mean houses, with a population scarcely amounting to nine hundred inhabitants. Of these, between three and four hundred are Hindoos, some of whom are engaged in trade, whilst others find employment as mechanics. The Mianis, or fishermen, form the remaining portion of the population.” Charles W. Montriou (d. 1857), the British officer of Indian Navy also submitted a report on June 25, 1842 that, “The town or village of Sonmeeanee is situated on the northern side of the harbor, on a low range of sandhills. It is without any defence, and the houses consist of an assemblage of mud huts, having ventilators on the roofs, placed towards the prevailing winds. The inhabitants appear to be wretchedly poor, with the exception of a few Hindoos, in whom all the trade of the place centers.”

The province of Lus in Baluchistan is about 100 miles long and broad by 80 miles and is bounded to the south by the sea, to the north by the Jahlawan Hills, and to the east and west by ranges of high mountains, which descend from the great mass occupying Baluchistan, and separate it from Sind and Makran. The deers were frequently seen in the eastern side of Lus, therefore, the tradition further attests that the Aga Khan had launched a hunting expedition and is said to have stayed at the residence of a certain Ismaili, called Khatau. He hailed from Kutchh and was a rich and influential merchant in Sonmiani, exporting wool, ghee, gum and oil of different kinds. The Imam invested him the title of Varas, and he became the first to be titled on Indian soil.

Meanwhile, the Governor General Lord Ellenborough (1790-1871) wrote a letter to Sir Charles Napier on November 11, 1842 to discover the whereabouts of the Aga Khan. Napier however informed Ellenborough that the Aga Khan was expected to reach Sukkur in November, 1842. In the meantime, Sir Charles Napier traced out the whereabouts of the Aga Khan in Sonmiani. He sent his urgent message, insisting him to come to Hyderabad and hold negotiations on behalf of the British with the Mirs, the rulers of Sind. The Aga Khan started immediately and after a ride of 50 miles, reached Karachi, where he made a short stay of two days. He visited the old Jamatkhana in Kagzi Bazar (old Kadhu Bazar) in Kharadhar, Karachi and gave didar to the jamat at the humble request of Mukhi Alarakhia Sajan.

He left Karachi for Hyderabad with his entourage. Adequate protocol was accorded by Sir Charles Napier to the Aga Khan on board his steamboat, Fateh Mubarik. In Hyderabad, the Aga Khan held several meetings with the Mirs and tried to explain the weakness of their position. It is also probable that the Aga Khan attended the Darbar when all the Mirs except Mir Nasir Khan of Khairpur were present and signed and fixed their seals to the treaty in open Darbar with the British in presence of Major James Outram on February 12, 1843.

It must be known that the Aga Khan had tried to convince Nasir Khan, the Talpur amir of Kalat, to cede Karachi to the British. Nasir Khan refused it; therefore, the Aga Khan disclosed his battle plan to Major James Outram. As a result, the British camp was saved from a night attack. The Aga Khan had also placed his cavalry at the disposal of the British. For his valuable services in Afghanistan and Sind, the Aga Khan was granted an annual pension of 2000 pounds with an honorific title of His Highness.

The Baluchis, now completely out of hand, declared that they had nothing to do with the treaty between the Mirs and British and determined to fight with or without their leaders. Born down by their chieftains, threatened to be engulfed in this raging flood of opinion, the Mirs were compelled in sheer-defence, to cast away the scabbard and lead their Baluchis. In the afternoon of the 14th February, 1843, four Hyderabad Mirs, Nasir Khan, Sobdar, Shahdad and Hussain Ali informed to their governor at Karachi that they had resolved on taking field. At 9.00 a.m. on the following morning, the 15th February, 1843, an immense mass of Baluchi soldiers, 8000 advanced out of Hyderabad and attacked the British Residency at the Fulailee River. On February 17, 1843, Sir Charles Napier marched with his forces on Hyderabad from his headquarters at New Hala and defeated the Mirs of Hyderabad and Khairpur in the battle of Miani. The Mirs of upper and lower Sind surrendered except Mir Sher Muhammad Khan of Mirpur. On March 24, 1843, at the battle of Dubba, Napier defeated the Mir and the annexation of Sind to the British territories was formally announced on August, 1843. (Continues)


Courtesy: Ismaili Net

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