Fri. Dec 13th, 2019

128th Anniversary of the Anglo-Burusho War


By Zulfiqar Ali Khan and Farman Karim Baig

As the Anglo- Brusho War — which is locally known as Jangir-e-Lae— is completing 128 years, the District Administration Nagar in collaboration with Gilgit-Baltistan Tourism Department held an anniversary event to remember the valiant troops of Nagar.

Jangir-e-Lae was fought from December 1 to 23, 1891 between the troops of the British Raj and the combination of the people of former Nagar and Hunza states in defence of Nilt, Thole and Mayun forts.

This was the first-ever anniversary of this historical battle.

Secretary Tourism Fazal Khaliq was Chief Guest of the ceremony being held at Rakaposhi View Point. Member Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly Javed Hussain and District Commissioner Nagar were also present at the occasion.

MLA Javed Hussain announced to establish a museum in Nilt or Thole in order to display the story of Jangir-e-Lae and pay homage to the sacrifices of the people of Nagar during this historical battle.

Local artists performed traditional dances. The weapons used in Jangir-e-Lae were also displayed at the occasion.

Despite limited resources, the people of Nagar fought bravely under the command of Raja Azur Khan. Raja Azur was acting on behalf of his paralyzed father Raja Jafar Zahid Khan.

The troops of British Raj captured the Nilt Fort on December 2 after a brief battle. The troops faced intense resistance at Nilt Nallah— known as Jamila Mo Har— to capture Thole and Mayoon forts on December 20.

In this battle, over 100 people of Nagar lost their lives and 127 were imprisoned.

On the British India side, four British Officers and over 50 Dogra, Kashmiri and Puniali levies lost their lives.   The British commander Colonel Algernon George Arnold Durand also got serious injuries during the Nilt fort battle on December 2. The same day Mohammad Shah Wazir of Nagar also lost his life.

Meanwhile, the people of Hunza were defending the Mayun Fort across the Hunza River under the command of Mir Safdar Ali Khan. The British troop also had a failed attempt to capture the Mayun fort on the night of Dec 2 after getting intense resistance at Nilt Nallah.

British Officers Durand and E.F. Knight have highlighted a close alliance and coordination that existed between both Thole and Mayun forts during this battle.

Mir Safdar Ali Khan of Hunza was nephew of Raja Jaffar Khan of Nagar. The combine troops of both rulers had previously attempted to recapture Chalt and Chaprot Forts from the occupation of Kashmir garrison. They had also jointly failed the previous attack of Dogra troops to capture Hunza and Nagar.

Historically, this war was part of British India’s Hunza-Nagar campaign (1889-1892) which was led by Colonel Algernon Durand. The campaign was designed to check the influence of Russian and Chinese emperors in the region. The intention was to get allegiance of Nagar and Hunza states to the British Government and get free access to Nagar and Hunza territories by constructing military roads in order to make all requisite arrangements for holding the line of the frontier.

The Hunza Nagar campaign was so significant that three Victoria Crosses (VC), a number of Indian Orders of Merit (the equivalent of the VC) to the Native troops and other distinguished awards were given to the British India troops that fought this battle.

The British India army was comprised of over 1,000 regular troops, over 2,000 Balti coolies and about 200 Pathan labourers under Colonel Durand command whereas Raja Azur Khan was leading selected common people of Nagar with very few arm and supply to defend the forts.

There were 188 troops of the 5th Gurkhas, 661 Imperioal Service troop (257 1st Kashmir Infantry Regiment and 404 2nd Kashmir Rifles), 76 men of the Hazara Mounatin Battery, 7 Begals Sappers and Miners, 28 men of the 20th Punjab Infantry and seven-pounders of the Hazara mountain battery and 16 British Officers.

The irregular forces comprised of 160 Puniali levies, 2,000 Balti coolies for carrying the rations and other supplies and about 200 Pathan labourers to clear roads and bridges. The British Raj soldiers were very well equipped with heavy arms, ammunition and ration.

After the fall of Thole Fort, Raja Azur Khan of Nagar and Raja Azur Khan of Hunza fled to Chinese Turkestan without further resistance. The Baltit Fort was thus came under the control of British Raj on December 23.

The Hunza-Nagar campaign led the end the centuries old sovereignty of Nagar and Hunza states.

The British Raj later reinstated the paralyzed Raja of Nager Jaffar Khan with his younger and loyal son Sikandar Khan as heir apparent.

The commander of Jangir-e-Lae Raja Azur Khan was later arrested by the Chinese guards and handed over to the British troops. He was deported to Sri Nagar where he spent sometimes in prison and then remained in house arrest.

The government of British India installed Mir Nazim Khan, the half brother of Mir Safdar Ali Khan on the throne of Hunza with Durand’s exiled Wazir friend ex-Wazir Humayun as his Wazir.


References:

  • Broshaal Ke Qabail by Syed Yahya Shah, North News Agency
  • Forty-one years in India – From Subaltern To Commander-In-Chief, Lord Roberts of Kandahar – The Hunza-Nagar Campaign
  • Reporting from the Wars 1850 – 2015 The origins and evolution of the war correspondent Barry Turner, Daniel Barredo, Steven James Grattan (Eds.)
  • Tarikh-e-Ehd Atiiq Riyasat Hunza, Haji Qudrarullah Baig, S.T.Printers, Rawalpindi 1980, Pakistan
  • The Hunza campaign by Syed Mujahid Ali Shah, Dawn 2010
  • “The Hunza Nagar Expedition”, Making of a frontier: five years’ experiences and adventures in Gilgit, Hunza, Nagar, Chitral & the eastern Hindu-Kush by Algernon Durand 1900
  • The Friends at Gilgit, 1888-95: Algernon Durand and George Scott Robertson by Dorothy Anderson, Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Vol. 83, No. 333 (Spring 2005),
  • The Heart of a Continent by Francis Edward Younghusband Asian Educational Services, 1993
  • The Gilgit Game: The Explorers of the Western Himalayas 1865-95 (1994) by John Keay, Oxford University Press
  • The ‘Great Game’ in the Pamirs and the Hindu-Kush: The British Conquest of Hunza and Nagar by Robert A. Huttenback, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 9, No. 1 (1975)
  • The Autobiography of Sir Mohomed Nazim Khan, K.C.I.E., Mir of Hunza Unknown Binding – 1936 by Mohomed Nazim Khan (Author)
  • Tareekh-e-Jammu Wa Kashmir by Molvi Mohammad Hasmatullah
  • Where Three Empires Meet: A Narrative of Recent Travel in Kashmir, Western Tibet, Gilgit, and the Adjoining Countries by Edward Frederick Knight 1893
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