Jherruk and the Ismailis during the British rule (Part-III)
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
Jokia commanded by Jam Meherali, Numeri led by Malik Ahmed Khan and Kalmati headed by Malik Ibrahim Khan; gathered together under the orders of the Mirs of Hyderabad to attack the British camp at Karachi, but they failed and retreated.
From Ismaili Net
The Ismailis celebrated the occasion of Navroz with great pomp and jubilation for the first time with the Imam on Indian soil on March 21, 1843 in Jerruk, where few marriages were also performed in presence of the Imam. On the day of Navroz, the Imam declared Jerruk as his headquarters (darkhana) in India and reappointed Datoo, another son of Merali as the Mukhi of Jerruk Jamatkhana. It became a place of rendezvous of the Ismailis from Kutchh in south, Sind and Baluchistan in the west and the Punjab and the Frontier in the north.
Vesso and Vali were very rich and their reputation prompted the jealousy of their implacable enemies, who were in search of an opportune moment to strike them. In sum, the Ismailis in Jerruk lived at that time amidst the teeth of bitterest opposition and harsh storms.
The Jokia tribe originally the Summa tribe of Rajputs, resided in Gharo, near Thatta. Their chief, who was known as the Jam, ruled them. According to “Gazetteer of the Province of Sindh” (Bombay, 1927, 1st vol., p. 8), “The Jokias infested the Delta two centuries ago, robbing merchants, and dominated the country about Karachi under the Mirs, enjoying lucrative privileges in return for the duty of furnishing a contingent of fighting men when required.”
The Kalmatis, who are wrongly associated with the Karmatis, were the Baluchi tribe in Makran, where they lived for some time before coming to Sindh
Most of the Abyssinian slaves in Sindh were imported from Muscat and other harbors of the eastern coast of Arabia, known as the Nomeria, Lumria, Naumardi or Numeri. Some of them constituted a large part of the population of Las Bela and held most of the hills at the time of British conquest. In the large block of hill between Sehwan, Kotri and Karachi the principal inhabitants were the Numeris.
The Kalmatis, who are wrongly associated with the Karmatis, were the Baluchi tribe in Makran, where they lived for some time before coming to Sindh. They penetrated into Mirpur Sakaro in district Thatta, where their chief obtained a jagir on the condition that he would muster his tribe for the defence of Thatta when required.
Most of the Abyssinian slaves in Sindh were imported from Muscat and other harbors of the eastern coast of Arabia, known as the Nomeria, Lumria, Naumardi or Numeri
In the beginning of 1843, these three tribes, i.e., the Jokia commanded by Jam Meherali, Numeri led by Malik Ahmed Khan and Kalmati headed by Malik Ibrahim Khan; gathered together under the orders of the Mirs of Hyderabad to attack the British camp at Karachi, but they failed and retreated.
These three tribes, comprised of 4000 armed men, then proceeded from Thatta to Jerruk headed by Mir Sher Muhammad Khan upon the instructions from Hyderabad, while Muhammad Khan Khushak turned towards Thatta with 2000 soldiers. In the encounter, about 10 Ismailis are reported to have been killed near Thatta. He then joined the principal force of Sher Muhammad Khan to launch their hostile operations against Jerruk.
Hitherto, these tribes had threatened to attack Jerruk a dozen times or so, but failed. On the evening of March 23, 1843, the Aga Khan had just finished his dinner, and was preparing for a rest on a swing when all of a sudden, a faithful in immense fear rushed, bringing the intelligence that a large body of Numeris with the help of the Jam Jokia had arrived within a mile of Jerruk, that he himself had seen them, and hurried on to give the Imam news, lest he and his heroes should be attacked unawares. It is narrated that a group of the people belonging to the Mallick and Numeri, the deadly enemies of the Ismailis, also joined Sher Muhammad Khan, each among them was shouting, “Vesso, Vesso” and “Vali, Vali”, indicating their overt hostility and derogatory designs for Vesso and Vali. Soon the enemies in the most ferocious and rapacious mood, dashed into the town.
Three tribes, comprising of 4000 armed men proceeded from Thatta to Jerruk headed by Mir Sher Muhammad Khan upon the instructions from Hyderabad and. Muhammad Khan Khushak turned towards Thatta with 2000 soldiers. In the encounter, about 10 Ismailis are reported killed near Thatta.
On that occasion, about one thousand Ismailis, men, women and children are reported to have gathered from far and near in Jerruk. Vesso and his two brothers, Vali and Mukhi Datoo, fearing large massacre of the Ismailis, came out with Holy Koran on their heads, requesting the raiders not to kill the innocent people. Instead of showing mercy, the Baluchi chief Ahmed Khan Qajar came forward and beheaded the three brothers inhumanly and quenched the thirst of jealousy with their blood. According to another tradition, some enemies dismounted from their camels and horses and entered the town with unshielded swords, asking each one, “Where are Vesso and Vali?” It is also said that both Vesso and Vali kept themselves hidden into the heap of unginned cotton. When the enemies found their whereabouts, Ahmed Khan Qajar set it on fire at once. Mukhi Datoo is said to have rushed to extinguish it, but the enemies killed him brutally. In sum, Vesso, Vali and Datoo became the first victims. Looking an overwhelm fire, the morale of the people fell. It spread so much terror and panic that no one knew what was actually happening, and the people began to flee in this chaos.
Some enemies mounted at night on the hill behind the residence of the Ismailis and sent forth a murderous rain of arrows wildly on the town to cause havoc. Soon afterwards, they launched a nocturnal assault from two sides and began to kill the innocent Ismailis indiscriminately. The stalwarts of the small force of the Imam came out to fight with the large army and subdued their attack. At that very moment, the Imam is reported to have predicted that, “The Mirs will no longer remain the rulers of Sind.”
The Aga Khan spurred his fleet horse and advanced briskly at full gallop, penetrating the front ranks of the enemies and fought against overwhelming odds. He was dressed only in a cotton shirt without any protective armour. In this skirmish the handful Ismaili champions forced the enemies to retreat to their fort. The Imam soon wheeled his small squadron and launched a reinforced attack on the fort, not too far from Jerruk. In pursuit, his horse all of a sudden skidded and he also fell on the ground. He was lying swooned on the ground with four teeth broken. The Ismailis quickly hurled themselves into the fray and shielded their master. They are reported to have said to the Imam to give up the fighting and go to Hyderabad for necessary treatment and they would fight and repulse the invaders. Some thirty Ismailis found however difficulties, but managed to escape the battlefield and brought the Imam safely in Hyderabad. H.T. Lambrick writes in “Sir Charles Napier and Sind” (London, 1952, p. 157) that, “The Agha Khan soon afterwards surprised at Jherruk by a body of Baluchis, and had some difficulty in escaping to Hyderabad with a handful of his men.” Before leaving the battlefield, the Aga Khan ordered his cousin, Muhammad Jafar Khan and a certain Mirza Ahmed to rush back to the town along with the message of assurance and treat those who were injured.
The skirmish took place at the outskirts of Jerruk with three principal tribes, while the Numeri and Mallick tribes plundered the town, and snatched forcibly what they found from the guest Ismailis. Soon afterwards, the Jokias also joined and pillaged the house of the Aga Khan
Remnants of the Ismaili cavalry that had survived at the fort, were grouped into a fighting force afresh and gave a tough resistance against the large hosts. Equipped with abundant stamina and vitality with daring and chivalric advance, they eventually turned back the attack. When the enemies took to their heels, they returned to the town, where they found fires everywhere and the dead bodies. The attacking tribes had also gone away. This marked an end of the Battle of Jerruk. It is related that the local people had closed their business for three days, and the atmosphere of the town remained as tense as ever.
It should be noted that the skirmish took place at the outskirts of Jerruk with three principal tribes, while the Numeri and Mallick tribes plundered the town, and snatched forcibly what they found from the guest Ismailis. Soon afterwards, the Jokias also joined and pillaged the house of the Aga Khan and took away a cash money of twenty lac of rupees and the boxes of gold and silver, valuing three lac rupees. The Imam did not mind over the loss of his wealth and sent no person in its pursuit. It is further related that they had plundered the house of Vesso and Vali and carried off 20 kg gold and a large deposit of silver on bullock carts.
In the meantime, the British army inflicted defeat to Sher Muhammad Khan in Hyderabad, who fled from the battlefield. Soon after his recovery, the Aga Khan came in the British camp and stayed with Sir Charles Napier for few days as his guest. Sir Charles Napier was aggrieved on the tragedy of Jerruk and demonstrated his heartfelt sympathy and paid rich tributes to the martyrs. He also offered to bear the loss, but the Imam refused it and said that he had no intention to take revenge. The Aga Khan returned to Jerruk very soon. When the awe-stricken followers beheld their spiritual master in the town, they crowded around him reverently and drew a breath of immense relief.
The incident of Jerruk took a heavy toll of lives and materials of the Ismailis. The dead bodies were buried in a mass-grave in the heart of Jerruk, known as Ganji Shahidan, near the residence of the Imam. The Imam offered Fatiha and paid a glowing and well-deserved tributes to the martyrs and said, “These heroes are like the martyrs of Karbala and their memory shall ever remain green, even their flesh shall never decay.”
According to “Athar-i Muhammadi” (p. 136), the Imam also recited the following touching couplets in Persian on that occasion:-
Gardad chu kharab tan chigam jan bashad,
Viran chi shaud hubab aman bashad.
“No affliction should prevail when a body perished, because the soul exists (as if) the bubbles are smashed, but the ocean exists.”
Darushud ishq zianish sud ast,
Gar jan biruvad che baak janan bashad.
“Love became a medicine, whose deficit is a profit for me. Doesn’t matter if a body is perished, but one who gives life is in existence.” According to the report of “Sind Observer” (Karachi, April 3, 1949), “Seventy dead bodies of Khojas buried 107 years ago at Imam Bara in Jherruck town, 94 miles by road north-east of Karachi, were found to be fresh on being exhumed recently in the course of digging the foundation for a new mosque for the locality, a Sind government official disclosed. The bodies which lay in a common grave was again interred another site selected for the mosque. The Khojas were believed to have been murdered in a local feud 107 years ago according to local tradition in Jherruck.”
Seventy dead bodies of Khojas buried 107 years ago at Imam Bara in Jherruck town, 94 miles by road north-east of Karachi, were found to be fresh on being exhumed in the course of digging the foundation for a new mosque for the locality
It seems that the Ismailis, who had been present in Jerruk, took no serious notice of the incident and most of them seem to have related the tragedy, but a little in their native places. Not being inclined to perpetuate the struggle and thereby causing further bloodshed, the Imam most possibly seems to have advised his followers not to reckon the incident a serious matter.
The Imam is also said to have awarded sword to each Ismaili warrior who fought with desperate valour. The Imam was highly surprised with their fidelity and devotion. Among them, the best known persons were Khalikdina and his son, Rehmatullah of Gwadar, Count Subazi’ali (ov), Alidina and Baledina, the sons of Assa, etc.
Due to the paucity of historical evidence, it is difficult to ascertain the casualties of the Ismailis in Jerruk. Vesso and his brothers, Vali and Datoo were the first to be martyred. The famous Ismaili merchant of Hyderabad, called Assa had also sent his five sons, and three among them were killed in the encounter, whose names are not known. It is also reported that when the Aga Khan left Iran in 1842, skirting the rocky tracts of Baluchistan, a rumour spread in Gwadar that some Baluchi chiefs near Turbat intended to obstruct the Imam’s caravan. Thus, a group of the young Ismailis rapidly came forward and joined the Imam’s caravan near Turbat as the security guards as far as Jerruk. In the ensuing battle of Jerruk, a young Ismaili of Gwadar, called Thanvar was martyred and his brother, Sayan and another Ismaili, Meru Jindani were wounded. Meru Jindani got his thumb cut and became known as Meru Mundh in Gwadar. It appears that most of the martyrs belonged to Mulla Katiar, about 32 miles from Jerruk and Kutchh, who had come for Imam’s didar. Some members of Akhund family were also killed in the battle. It must be learnt that an Ismaili of Syria, known as Bawa or Baba in Iran had settled in Shahr-i Babak in Kirman, most possibly in the period of Ismaili Imam Abul Hasan Ali (1730-1792). He and his descendant taught Arabic to the family members of the Imams. Among them, Pasand Ali Bawa and his son Muhammad Ali Bawa also migrated with the Aga Khan from Iran and had been in Jerruk.
Courtesy: Ismaili Net
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