Mon. Apr 22nd, 2019

[Letter to DAWN] ‘The Hunza campaign’

I RECENTLY went through an article by a German professor of geography, Dr Hermann Kruetzmann, under the heading ‘The Karakoram Highway: The Impact of Road Construction on Mountain Societies’, published by Cambridge University Press in 1991. In it, the author has self-termed the war of 1891 fought in the Nagar Valley, Hunza-Nagar district in Gilgit-Baltistan, now part of Pakistan, between the British and locals as ‘The Hunza Campaign, 1891’.

Taking into account the historical context of Hunza and Nagar as two equal neighbouring principalities, I disagree with the author on the following three points:

(a) In 1891, the war between the British and locals was fought at Nilt Fort in a place called Jamila Mo Har, a narrow gully between the villages of Nilt and Thole, in Nagar rather than in Hunza.

(b) In a direct confrontation with the British-backed army of the Maharaja of Kashmir, it was the fighters of Nagar who lost many personnel and still have a historic graveyard in the Thole village in Nagar sub-division. However, one cannot spot any similar memorial after the 1891 war in the Hunza region.

(c) The 1891 Nagar campaign is called jangire laei, meaning ‘The barrack of war’, in the Burushaski language, which remains unknown or almost unknown to the people of Hunza today.Keeping in view the above-mentioned points, calling the 1891 battle in the Nagar region as ‘the Hunza Campaign’ might not be justified.

SYED MUJAHID ALI SHAH
Greifswald
Germany

Source: DAWN

15 thoughts on “[Letter to DAWN] ‘The Hunza campaign’

  1. Mr Mujahid Ali Shah is right in saying that the battle was fought in Nilt.But the purpose of that battle was to defeat Hunza not nagar. That is why it is called Hunza campaign.Hunza was the only state which was not defeated by british .

  2. HIstory should be kept apart from biases, and it should be dealt with academicians trained as historians because in my opinion it is a special subject and should be left for the historians to discuss, research and opine.

    Hunza and Nagar being saperate principalities have coexisted for centuries with a common language, culture and tradition. Unfortunately the history that these two states have in common has been ignored. A few personal accounts have although been published but their credibility is questionable as these were based on their personal biases.

    If someone like Professor Dr. Hermann Kruetzmann, has written about this, I am sure he is a neutral, highly respected researcher in his field and may have written based on facts and research and without bias, as he is not a relative of Hunzukutc.

    I know Dr. Hermann, who knows much more then we, the natives of the region know about our geography, history, languages, culture and traditions.I would like our youth to read his books and articles about our regions.

    Sher

  3. Dear Riaz,
    In fact after the Hunza-Nagar Compaign 1891 both kings,Raja Safdar Ali Khan of Hunza and Azur Khan of Nagar fled to China,so both were defeated.

  4. Openness of mind and magnanimity of heart is a perennial human. So we are prepared to listen to what Syed Mujahid Ali Shah has to say with regards to the famous Anglo-Hunza war.

    I hope what he says is not ‘ideologically’ driven in the sense that he is feeling a sense of historical marginalization of Nagar in the writings of scholars, historians, and journalists. To begin with there is always some prejudice in all kinds of historical writings because the historian has to choose a certain analytical framework and sift through the massive data to find material to fit his mental map. Now I am not sure why Dr Kuertzman has choose to term the so called war as Hunza Campaign. My sense is that British forces were actually looking to conquer Hunza and thus gain the essential geo-political link with Central Asia and China so their primary concern was liquidating the state of Hunza as opposed to that of Nagar.

    If what he says is right and historical evidence could be shown to prove his point than than it is up to historians to decide as to what they will do. In the end we would echo CP Scott who said that ‘facts are sacred but comment is free..’ So Syed sahip is entitled to his commentary and we would urge that things should be seen in their proper context not in political terms or more dangerously in ideological terms.

  5. Dear gbpost
    I am thankful to you that you correctly depicted my thought behind writing these lines-thats just a reading of mine-and a question as student to the writer as a teacher- like we often use to ask in a class room-I also admit that I am not a very intelligent student of such a class-But we should ask questions-that is the only way we can improve our readings-
    Mujahid

  6. The comments by gbpost is very correct and comprehensive. I would like to add only one historical fact. The British had problems with Mir Safdar Ali Khan as he would not allow their mail to Kshghar and also not leave their soldiers pass through Hunza. The British wanted free travel through Hunza. Hence, the compaign was organised to remove Mir Safdar and replace him with his half brother who was more amenable to the British. The events after the war prove this. The Mir of Nagar,however, joined the war in solidarity with the Mir of Hunza as wellas in fear of his own survival.

  7. Respected Dr.Sabit Rahim,
    Looking back History some following comments are given after your comment-

    The intention of British Emipre to remove King of Hunza Raja Safdar Ali Khan due to post delivary problem may be one reason,but you cannot neglect the internal poilitical dynamics in Royal family of the then Pricipality of Nagar.One of the big motivators to invade Nagar by British was Prince Sikandar of Nagar whoes father and real uncle were assisnated by his step uncle (step brother of the assasinated)- Prince Azur Khan (who was nephwe of Gohar Aman) He also has jailed his own father King Zafar Zahid Khan (grand father of Prince Sikandar) after killing his step brothers,depriving him his kingdom.So illegally Azur Khan became king of Nagar. And when King Azur Khan tried to assasinate, Prince Sikandar as well at a very younger age, who was an Usham in Chaprote Nagar – A wazir calld Sultan Ali from Chaprot make him fled Nagar and took him to the then State of Kashmir. Where the British Raj was asked to provide justice,by removing illegal thown of King Azur Khan.The British did so and made r his father King Zafar Zahid Khan died . Sikandar beame King of Nagar at a very early age after his fathers death.
    King Safdar Ali Khan of Hunza sipported King Azur Khan on two grounds,
    1- He has established already relations with Russains who gave him a Cannon which British knew already,so it was not possible for him to win faithfullnes of British again so he has to assist Nagar fight against British.This cannon was then given to King Azur Khan of Nagar where Ashdaro was dtailed to use it but it was not possible to run for along time because it needed sophisticated techniques to run which fighters of Nagar did not know well.so could not resist Maharaja forces.
    2- At that time,Hunza and Nagar though having many times bilatral cold warfare,always had shown solidarity whenever a foriegn force attacked.

    Refrences
    Broshal Ke Qabail-Syed Yahya Shah
    Shah Rais Khan Ki Tarishe Gilgit-Ahmad Hassn Dani
    Tarikh-e-Ehd Atiiq Riyasat Hunza by Haji Qudrarullah Baig Hunzai,

  8. In the all official British Official References this is called Hunza Compaign. I think Dr Hermman has indeed referred to the official references.
    The rest of the discussion is fine to transpire the other aspects of the event.

  9. Mujahid,
    Gr8 to hear from you, I am happy to see you interest in the history of Hunza-Nagar and the lessons for us all to making new history.

    As you well said, “Hunza and Nagar though having many times bilatral cold warfare,always had shown solidarity whenever a foriegn force attacked”, both H/N fighters played heroic role in the battle of Nilt, and yes it was fought on Nagar land, obviously the scar of Thole is more deep and Nagarkuts suffered more than Hunzukuts, as before the British entered Hunza, there was kind of a peace deal.
    However, it is perhaps also a fact that the British in their diaries called this ‘lashkari’, as we call it in Hunza-Gojal, as the Hunza campaign (refer to British sources, Col Durand el al. You may dig the original sources on this, i think Prof Hermann K has only quoted those sources).

    But let me tell one thing, there is a ‘Neo Hunza-Nagar Campaign’ going on silently, and this time it is NOT one colonial empire against the other ONLY, there are many players playing thier games.

    The Youth of Hunza-Nagar need to be careful, and show the same solidarity as was shown in the past.

    Long live Hunza Nagar youth.

  10. Respected Muzaffar Sir,

    It would be great if Sir,you could provide some refrences of Bristish official documents that can show us the term “Hunza Compaign” and my curiosity ends.

  11. Indebted of many thanks Amin Baig Sahb,Muzaffar Sahb,Dr Sabit R. Sahb and all for taking the piece in consideration-Mujahid

  12. Respected Muzaffar Sir,

    It would be great if Sir,you could provide some refrences of Bristish official documents that can show us the term “Hunza Compaign” and my curiosity ends.As for as I saw the official archive of Government of Britain says about the Victoria Cross given for the 1891 compaign as

    Description
    Medal listing of Aylmer, Fenton John
    Rank: Captain
    Regiment: Royal Engineers
    Date of Act Of Bravery: 02 December 1891
    Campaign: Gilgit Frontier, Hunza Nagar Country
    Locale: Nilt Fort
    Date 1864 Aug 16 – 1900 Jan 31
    Catalogue reference WO 98/4
    Dept Records created or inherited by the War Office, Armed Forces, Judge Advocate General, and related bodies
    Series War Office: Correspondence and Papers Concerning the Victoria Cross
    Piece Victoria Cross Register
    Image contains 1 document of many for this catalogue reference

    link:

    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/details-result.asp?queryType=1&resultcount=1&Edoc_Id=7499182

  13. Respected Muzaffar Sir,

    As for as I saw the official archive of Government of Britain says about the Victoria Cross given for the 1891 compaign as

    Description
    Medal listing of Aylmer, Fenton John
    Rank: Captain
    Regiment: Royal Engineers
    Date of Act Of Bravery: 02 December 1891
    Campaign: Gilgit Frontier, Hunza Nagar Country
    Locale: Nilt Fort
    Date 1864 Aug 16 – 1900 Jan 31
    Catalogue reference WO 98/4
    Dept Records created or inherited by the War Office, Armed Forces, Judge Advocate General, and related bodies
    Series War Office: Correspondence and Papers Concerning the Victoria Cross
    Piece Victoria Cross Register
    Image contains 1 document of many for this catalogue reference

    link:

    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/details-result.asp?queryType=1&resultcount=1&Edoc_Id=7499182

  14. All of the above comments and historical descriptions lead us to the dire conclusion that the states of Hunza/Nagar remained insignificant and ineffective in creating a genuine historical impact when they confronted the british forces in 1891. The prime reason for such a disappointing performance was the inner fuel of animosity and family feuds of the ruling class. The history could have been written in a different way only if the ruling lot were not cowards and conspirators in both the states.

    Historians my call it Hunza/Nagar compaign or you give it another name, but one thing is strikingly apparent that labelling different names to the 1891 episode will not change the nature and character of its people.

    More than one century after the 1891 incident, cannot we see that how the people of H/N are being kicked and punched embarassingly by the successive incompetent and mediorce governments and bureacracies of an equally ailing and dwindling state.

Comments are closed.

Instagram did not return a 200.
%d bloggers like this: