Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Life and Times of General Sir James Browne
Chapter XXI - Afghanistan: 1888-96


FRONTIER ADMINISTRATION AND POLICY—PUNJAB AND BELOOCHISTAN CONTRASTED—LAST PHASE OF THE MULLAH EPISODE.

WE have now dealt fully with Browne’s relations with Khelat and British Beloochistan and the chief public ceremonials that were held in connection with them. It remains to describe his proceedings and attitude to the two neighbouring territories, Afghanistan and Scinde. There is no necessity to refer specially to any connection with the Punj’ab; but in a later part his own criticism will be given of the methods and practice prevalent in the Punjab as contrasted with those that had been adopted for Beloochistan.

To turn, then, to South Afghanistan. Apart from the various direct functions of his administrative post, Browne was occasionally troubled with political correspondence with neighbouring states across the borders, and thus had to deal with grievances of which the features became sometimes very unpleasant. One of these cases may be described, without mentioning the specific facts. A high Afghan official had, in connection with a tribal quarrel, raided into Beloochistan and carried off some families and prisoners who were obnoxious to the Ameer or his people. As usual in such raids, some murders and barbarities were committed. The raid had been made from a position where the Afghans had no business to be at all, and where they ostentatiously immured their captives in the local gaol. This deed caused much excitement, was widely known, and was regarded as a deliberate and wanton defiance by the Afghan authorities of the British Government. The matter had of course to be finally settled between the ruling powers, but in the meanwhile Browne stopped the carriage into Afghanistan of a large kafila of warlike stores then on its way for the Ameer through Beloochistan, and took some of the people as hostages, made some reprisals, and established a “ close border" on the southern frontier while on the other hand remaining most friendly on the northern. He desired to adopt this policy permanently, and urged it on the Government.

What he advocated was a system of direct local reprisals against the petty authorities actually implicated, as in contrast with the policy of spreading the origin of the wrong-doing and implicating higher authorities. “Arsenic in small doses” as contrasted with “large doses” was his symbol; and a specific point was the studious avoidance of allowing extraneous matters, such as Russian intrigue, being named, still more of dragging them into the question; on the principle that you may slap an elephant’s trunk when you do not think of stroking a tiger’s snout. Browne was strong on the view that the suppression of the local misdeeds of Afghans by local action was a sound practical policy and not beneath the diplomacy or the dignity of the great Government of India—practical because it tended to force the Ameer to recognise the fact that the local lieutenants of that Government were trusted to watch his, the Ameer’s, officers and check their misdeeds vigorously: to give sharp and decisive ripostes to acts of insolence. Browne was encouraged in his views and methods by his knowledge of their being in entire unison with those of his predecessor Sandeman.

One factor in our relations with Afghanistan that may be alluded to is the question of Seistan. Its importance lay in its geographical position at the junction of three empires, combined with the attraction it seemed to possess for Russian intrigues. But beyond the fact that he kept a keen watch on it, Browne did not—overtly at any rate—meddle with the questions connected with it.

During the regime of Sir James Browne’s distinguished predecessor, Sir Robert Sandeman, the relations between the authorities of Scinde and Beloochistan had unfortunately not been of a very cordial character, for originally the Commissioner in Scinde was also Political Agent for Beloochistan. Sir William Merewether was the last apostle of the old school, who believed not in meddling beyond the border, even to suppress tribal feuds or anarchy. He held that the policy of the British Government should be restricted to calling on the Khan of Khelat to keep order, and to sending the Scinde horse to coerce him, or to punish outlaws whenever they interfered with British subjects. Sir Robert Sandeman discovered a better way—at any rate, a way more pleasing to the Government of India. The policy of non-interference was abandoned, and the pacification of Beloochistan was placed in Sir Robert’s hands entirely. Such a change could not but create a feeling akin to soreness and jealousy in Scinde, which lasted more or less till Sir Robert Sandeman’s death. It was one of Sir James Browne’s achievements, by tact and the wonderful charm of his personality, to quench such feelings entirely. The Commissioner of Scinde on one side of the border soon took as much pleasure in supporting the Agent to the Governor-General as did the Agent to the Governor-General in backing the Commissioner in Scinde. This cordial relation between the chiefs quickly extended to the subordinates, and friction between the officers of Beloochistan and Scinde, which previously had been the cause of some injury to the public service, ceased at once and for ever.

The wild frontier of Scinde, with its frowning hills, is the home of fierce Beloochee and Brahui tribes, accustomed for generations to internecine feuds, varied by raids on the quiet, well-to-do plains of Scinde. Half a century of good management by wardens of the marches such as Frere, Jacob, and the brothers Green had contributed greatly to tame the Beloochees. Their razzias were repelled, and many were induced to take up the role of peaceful cultivators. But even after our occupation of Quetta the Old Adam still remained strong; and occasionally adventurers would trespass into Scinde and collect tribute, harry flocks of camels or sheep or goats, or take bloody revenge for some fancied wrong or in the pursuit of some old vendetta. On the other hand Scinde subjects would trespass beyond the boundary; or the Scinde police, feeling themselves protected by the omnipotent British Government, would go beyond their jurisdiction, exceed their powers, and collision between them and the tribes would be the result On one occasion the inspector of a body of Scinde Frontier Police, the chief of the tribe of Chuttos, actually marched with his men, servants of the British Government, to attack a rival chief, and wipe out some ancestral quarrel. Incidents of this kind were calculated to raise bad blood between the Agency and Scinde, more especially when the tribal levies were organised and entrusted with the duty of keeping order in Beloochistan. But, thanks to Sir James Browne’s influence, justice was always done to the Scindees so far as the circumstances admitted of justice—murderers were seized and handed over, stolen camels were restored, and the people on either side of the border felt that they could no longer play the authorities of Beloochistan against Scinde or of Scinde against Beloochistan; a kind of policy which even the most barbarous of Orientals are astute enough to use successfully, if the opportunity be given them. Scinde having been British territory for fifty years, its police organisation was better than in Beloochistan, where Sir James Browne had to depend on the chiefs of the tribes; so the Scinde authorities were perhaps able to do more for Sir James Browne than he could for Scinde. But his strong hand kept the Beloochistan tribes in order, and, taking it all round, the trouble which they gave to Scinde was not worth mentioning.

So long as women and camels and horses exist, so long must outrages from Beloochees be looked for. In illustration of the difference between the two countries of Scinde and Beloochistan, the treatment of the murderers of faithless wives may be instanced. The Beloochees pride themselves on the honour of their women, and can point with justifiable satisfaction to the fact that such a thing as a Beloochee public woman does not exist, and to maintain this high standard they fail not, often very harshly, to slaughter any woman whose chastity is even doubtful. Beloochee women are not kept behind the purdah, but are free as their English sisters. Yet a smile or even a glance at another man has often proved the death of a poor girl. A junta is formed of the two families—the husband’s and the wife’s : if ground for the smallest suspicion can be proved, she is condemned to death, and she either hangs herself in the presence of the family, or one of her own relations, her father or brother, acts as her executioner. Later on, the adulterer, or suspected adulterer, is searched for, and a favourable opportunity taken for hewing him to pieces with the sword.

In Scinde we are able to punish the murderers to a certain extent Trial under ordinary law would be useless, as no one would give evidence. But a jirgah, or conclave of chiefs, presided over by a British officer, is held, which, like the original Saxon jurors, finds a verdict according to the chiefs’ own knowledge of the case, and makes its recommendation, which may amount to a fine and the giving of a bride to the injured party. This sentence the British officer in Scinde may supplement by the imprisonment of the murderer for from one to even seven years. In Beloochistan proper, public opinion is not so far advanced, and Sir James Browne was compelled to leave murderers of this kind to be dealt with entirely by the tribal chiefs.

At Jacobabad, on the frontier of Upper Scinde, a great gathering takes place annually in the cold weather, the principal feature of which is a horse show. The Beloochee mares are famous, and Upper Scinde is one of the best breeding-grounds for young stock suitable for cavalry regiments. Consequently, to improve the breed, the Bombay Government long ago introduced a supply of foreign sires, principally English thoroughbreds; annual prizes for the mares and the young stock are given, and races are held at which the Beloochee chiefs eagerly compete. Sir James Browne and his staff used to come down from Sibi to attend the meet, and took part in the Commissioner’s durbar. Accompanying him were the great chiefs from the neighbouring hills, the Bhoogtees, the Murrees, the Jakranees, Dumbkees, Khosas, and others, some of them owning land in Scinde, and all of them with tribesmen and followers in that province.

The cordial relations between Sir James Browne and the Scinde authorities could not fail to strike them, more particularly when the Commissioner was welcomed by the Agent to the Governor-General at Sibi, at the annual gathering of the councils of elders, a few weeks later. At this meeting numerous matters were discussed and settled amicably between the Agent to the Governor-General and the Commissioner —which would formerly have involved a prolonged and perhaps an acrimonious correspondence—both sides being animated by the sole desire to do what might be best and fairest for all parties.

Sir Robert Sandeman had founded a charming hill station at Ziarat in the Suliman range not far from the Hurnai railway station, on the Hurnai Valley line, a peaceful sort of spot, such as a stranger could hardly believe existed within twenty-four hours of Jacobabad, where the thermometer goes up in the shade to 128 Fahr. in the hot weather, and sometimes remains for days at 100 Fahr. both day and night. It was very desirable that the officers of Upper Scinde should have settlement there, in which they might occasionally find refuge from the scorching heat of the plains. So Sir James Browne was addressed, and he not only threw himself heartily into the scheme, but assigned a most excellent site for the purpose. He made his Engineers convey water to the site for the waterworks, and design and supervise the construction of the buildings.

Sir James Browne’s personal qualities had much to do with his commanding influence. His sturdy physique and giant strength were alone sufficient to command respect among the tribes who are themselves remarkable for physical beauty and vigour. In spite of his quiet, gentle manner, the flash of his eye sufficed to indicate the great force of character behind, and all, whether English or native, who had business to transact with him would recognise at once that they were face to face with a ruler of men. Strong and unyielding in regard to the principles that he felt were right, or the measures which he knew to be required, no man knew better than he did that all projects that were desirable were not necessarily practicable, owing, it may be, to financial or political considerations; and then he wisely rested content with what was feasible, although, as he used to say, his energy in pressing his views did not always make him too popular with the powers that be. “ In all the business which I had to transact with him personally,”—wrote a Scinde official—“ none, I am bound to say, of first-class importance (and that fact alone is proof of the general tranquillity which prevailed on the Scinde border under his rule), I never found him unreasonable, never obstinate. On the contrary he always seemed to try to look at things from my point of view, just as I endeavoured to do from his, and make allowances for difficulties, such as the hard-and-fast laws of the British districts and the financial impotence of the Commissioner in Scinde, and then to come to a fair and honest mutual settlement. It was a great relief to feel that on the border there was so strong and just a ruler who was anxious to help and determined to stand no nonsense either from petulant subordinates or from obstreperous chiefs. And as a personal friend and host none could be more hospitable and considerate.”

In the preceding pages Browne’s administration of his combined charge has been dealt with, and the several features and circumstances described. But apart from his actual proceedings, his work embraced not only the duties of Government, but the consideration of the controversies respecting the policy and the method for the control and the welfare of the province. He left voluminous papers on the subject, but their essential points only can be here dealt with, and these will now be shown.

It has to be borne in mind that the period of his rule was one of change and controversy, and that while his own views and policy were in disfavour and were set aside during the latter years of his own administration, they were adopted in toto a few years afterwards, and applied not only to Beloochistan, but to the whole of the transfrontier, which was entirely severed from the Punjab and constituted a separate province, on a thoroughly non-regulation system— the initial system adopted on the annexation of the Punjab, under which Sir Henry Lawrence ruled the province so wonderfully for two years—and precisely what Browne had so vehemently urged, from the very first.

Browne did not live to see this change, this reversion to the policy on which such districts were all originally started, but which it was the persistent aim of another school of rulers to subvert as speedily as possible. It remained for Lord Curzon to reintroduce the non-regulation policy, and to insist on a recognition of the wholly different circumstances— under which, respectively, government by regulations is necessary in the one case, and paternal government in the other. It is almost impossible to describe correctly the result of the introduction of administration by courts and regulations into the country of such a primitive race as the Beloochees then were—the feeling of utter helplessness, of utter darkness, as it were—and afterwards the contrasting result of the reversion to non-regulation, to open-air justice, to patriarchal rule, when the people had the most complete, unswerving, childlike trust in the wisdom and paternal care of the rulers set over them.

The whole subject was one to which Browne gave the closest attention; of which the outcome may well be summarised at this stage, though incidentally a good many of its phases have been touched upon in previous chapters.

The point to note was the difference between the condition of affairs on the northern or Punjab frontier and that in the southern districts where Sandeman had been able to work with a free hand. Although the Punjab frontier had for some thirty years been governed by a succession of such grand officers as the Lawrences, Edwardes, Mackeson, John Nicholson, James, Cavagnari, and others, no British officer could venture to move about without an escort. Southwards, however, Sandeman’s personal influence and methods had in a short time led to the removal of all alien and unpleasant feeling, to a full and natural intercourse between the people and the British resident among them, and to the cessation of feuds among the tribes.

In part, no doubt, this was due to the fact that the southern tribes were for the most part the more genial Beloochees, whereas the northern were prevailingly Pathan; and to the Beloochee clan system of obedience to chiefs or Tumandars, as distinguished from the democratic equality of the members of Pathan tribes. To this may be added the condition of the northern borders at the time when British dominion was substituted for that of the Sikhs, with the attendant development of religious fanaticism then and afterwards.

Browne used to dwell on the absence of any bitter feeling in the Beloochees, whatever the feuds or quarrels might be. They were always ready to fight, but also always ready to cease fighting if properly approached. They were always inclined to give a jocular turn to their quarrels—as in the case of the abduction by the Lagharee chief of Captain Grey, a deputy commissioner, with whom he was at issue. Sandeman had realised thoroughly how they could be best conciliated and managed. His methods and measures with the Murrees and Bhoogtees were like a play. The last of this class to be brought into the friendly fold were the Bozdors, with whom our relations had been steadily improving ever since 1871.

But besides these explanations, Browne laid stress on defects in the Punjab system and methods which made them ill adapted for controlling and conciliating the tribesmen. First of these was the unsatisfactory manner in which military expeditions were habitually carried through; being always followed by immediate withdrawal, without the establishment of any permanent position from which the tribesmen could be held in check. Thus within his own personal experience was included an expedition against Kohat which ended in four days; whereas if it had lasted somewhat longer, so as to admit of the construction of works to command the end of the pass, the tribe would not have been able to worry and defy the British, as it did, for some forty years.

Secondly, there was the mischief of employing natives of the country, or members of the tribes, as middlemen between the British Government and the tribesmen. Instances where this custom has proved fatal are numerous, as in the case of Agror, the Eusufzais, the Khalil and Mohmand Arbabs, the Kohat Pass, Miranzai Valley, etc. On which head an extract may be quoted from a very able minute by H.E. Lord Lytton, Viceroy and Governor-General of India:

“Again, for the reasons given above, I think that the employment of Arbabs, or middlemen, should be discontinued as much as possible. I do not myself believe that it strengthens our hold even upon the small class we thus employ. For every man gratified by employment, a host of jealousies are raised against him and ourselves. There is some reason to fear that these personages are not altogether incapable of provoking or promoting difficulties on the frontier in the hope of increasing their own importance; and the police authorities at Peshawur have now ascertained that one of the Arbabs most trusted by the Punjab Government on that frontier was carrying on, a few months ago, a treasonable correspondence with persons in Cabul, which nothing but the man’s death enabled us to detect. I admit, however, that there are many occasions on which the services of Arbabs have been, and may again be, most valuable to us, especially in opening communication with frontier tribes; but I think that, whenever their services can be dispensed with, and direct communications opened or maintained by our own authorities, this should be done. Even if we could always depend upon the absolute loyalty of Arbabs, these men cannot convey to the native the same clear idea of our views and character that he would gain by personal intercourse with British officers.” (Para. 63 of Minute by the Viceroy of India, dated April 22nd, 1877.)

Clear and prophetic words these; would that the Punjab had taken warning even when they were written, but it was deaf to all plain speaking. Again referring to Major James, Lord Lytton said:

“I have before me a minute by Major James, in which, as the result of thirteen years’ frontier experience, he expresses himself most strongly as to the absolute impossibility of combining a proper intercourse with the Border tribes with the execution of his civil duties, and this Major James I hear spoken of from all quarters as one of the ablest and most active administrators the frontier has known.”

Third, Browne noted:

“The failure of the Punjab system to win the tribesmen over, owing to our overworked European staff. No chance of the tribesmen getting any sympathy or being in touch with our officials; the centralisation of power in Lahore; and the fear of the district executive taking any responsibility. An officer once happily remarked that the Punjab is existing on the history made for it by a body of gallant officers who have long ago passed away from it. Very true; and just as Napoleon’s presence in the ranks of the French army was supposed to be equal to 40,000 men, so the halo of these officers of the Punjab has cast a glamour on the destinies of the model province which it had no right to share in—and as history proves the province has no claim to be groud now of the position which it at one time held. Beloochistan, on the contrary, is living on what Sandeman and his officials have done for it in the present generation, and we must wait and see what happens when he and his present officials have passed away from us, and whether the work they ave done and the position they have secured is likely to be continued to their successors. Let us hope it will.”

As special instances of the manner in which the officials of the Punjab were liable to overwork, Browne commented on:

1. The officialdom and heavy desk work introduced and the high court with its system and demands.

2. The especial overwork of the European staff— the work being gradually increased by an enormous accumulation of new functions, and returns, and duties; which all forced them to devote to desk work time which should have been spent in the district in personal contact with the villagers, peasantry, and native gentry.

3. The corresponding difficulty, on the part of the latter and of the tribesmen, in having access to their officers, getting into proper touch with them, or obtaining from them the sympathy which was the essence of the old success.

4. The centralisation of power at Lahore, and the fear and reluctance of the district executives to take personal responsibility without prior reference.

The requirements which Sandeman and Browne had so fully realised as essential, and had boldly carried out, were:

1. Personal control, with unwearied and unchecked accessibility.

2. The avoidance of undue laws and regulations.

3. The free and unchecked intercourse of the officials with the people.

4. The intercourse with the people being exhaustive as to area from the borders of the district at all points to its capital.

Now that Browne was back in Quetta, and in a conspicuous position, it was certain that his apparently mysterious identification with the Mullah of Mukkur should grow and spread, and we may note some of its latest and most marked phases. While on his journey to assume the charge of the Agency, he was waiting at the Bostan junction of the Quetta Railway, and there addressed three Afghans on the platform, who were evidently in search of some one. They said they wanted to see the new Agent, and so he said he was General Browne. They recognised him at once with effusion as their friend the Mullah at Mukkur, though changed by the loss of the beard. The spokesman’s name was Syud Allum, and he related that he was the son of another Mullah, named Jungoo, with whom he asserted Browne had lived for two years, and detailed his family history and present state, including the ladies of his family. Finally he promptly and laughingly quizzed Browne on the continuance of his old mistakes in grammar and pronunciation, as being unchanged from the days when they lived together! Browne asked him to relate fully the circumstances of those days, which he promised to do. Syud Allum then returned home, saying that possibly his mother would come back with him to Quetta to pay her respects to her old friend. Next September the Syud returned, without his mother, however, as being unfit for the journey, but with presents from her; and he then gave Browne the following narrative or statement which he had drawn up as promised.

“Statement of Syud Allum, Tajik of Uchterkheyl, a village of Nourozi- Vihul, district Mukkur, province of Ghuznee; and of his two brothers.

“Quetta, dated May 20th, 1892.

“I am a Syud, and a Tajik mullah (priest) of Uchterkheyl; and my father, Mullah Jungoo, who was even then {i.e. about sixteen or eighteen years before) “very old, was a man of much Teaming and piety, and had much influence in Mukkur. At that time Browne Sahib came to my father’s house, and they made a great friendship. My father at first thought he was a Syud and a fakeer (religious mendicant), and was mucn pleased at his great Koran knowledge, which he said he had learned as a Talib-i-ilm (pupil) in the Bokhara Madrisa (College). Browne Sanib was then a fakeer, and my father met him in the hujra (guest-house), and they used to read prayers in turns together in the mosque, and do all the work (connected with)-praying. After a short time Browne Sahib, having made my father swear on the Koran, told him that he was a Feringee (European), and had come from Peshawur through Cabul, but was become a Mussulman; that he would be returning to, and then be coming back from, Bokhara, after seeing the country, and would bring soldiers with him, and would establish a good government for Mahomedans. Was it not therefore advantageous to my father (to befriend him)? To my father this seemed befitting, and for two years Browne Sahib lived always in our house. Many friends and disciples came to him, and to his words; and it was arranged that many mallicks (chiefs) of the Ghilzyes and Tajiks, Tarukkis, Andars, Tokhis, Khotuks, Suleyman Kheyl, etc., would help when the time of fighting came.

“On many occasions my father vised to be troubled because Browne Sahib played with dogs, and teased them as sahibs do, which is not befitting a mullah, as dogs are unclean; and a tazi(greyhound) was always with him, even at times of prayer. We used to eat bread (dine) in our house together for many days, and my mother used to kiss the coat of Browne Sanib, and touch his beard for the giving of the nufs (holy breath) and prayers. One day a woman called Zvuika, who was a friend of my mother Gula, and often was remaining in our house, laughed because the touching of a dog was not becoming to a priest; and then Zulika questioned my mother, ana her own husband Agha, as to why this was. My father, having consulted with Browne Sahib, told Agha that in truth the mullah (priest) was a Feringee (European) to whom dogs are as friends, but was with nis heart a Mussulman. Agha and Zulika were thereafter very friendly to my father and Browne Sahib, who showed them many karamat (miracles), and told them their thoughts when he breathed on them, and the odour of musk resulted from his prayers.

“Many other persons who are still alive, though many others are dead—Heera, Zahib, Mullah Manommea Raza, Mullah Khan Suleymankheyl, Syud Ahmad of Mukkur, etc.—looked upon the Sahib as a peer murshid (spiritual teacher). Mahommed Aslum ToKhi, whom tne Ameer Sher Ali had banished, and who came afterwards to Browne Sahib at Khelat-i-Ghilzie with many of his tribe from the Suleymankheyl country, as also Sado Khan, the old chief of tne Khotuks, who was a world-seeing (jehan dida) man, and was also at Khelat when the Sahib came there afterwards, used to consult together. Much arrangement was made with them, and with other chiefs, and with Adam Khan, chief of the Tarukkis at Mukkur, for letting them know how to help Browne Sahib at time of need when there should be fighting, and when he should come back; and Sado Khan counted the Mullah Sahib to be a saint (peer), and so did many others. In those days there was enmity with the Ameer Sher Ali on the part of the Mukkur people, even as there is now with Ameer Abdul Rahman.

“After two years, owing to what the woman Zulika had said to her husband Agha about Browne Sahib playing with the dog, which is unbecoming, before praying, some of the mullahs(priests), having heard of tnis through the talking of women, made an excuse for enmity and quarrelled with the Sahib, and told some of tne Ameer’s officials. This was not through enmity of the woman Zulika or of Agha, but because of the talking of women about dogs becoming known, and also because of almsgiving (zakaf) which  did not please the mullahs, as Browne Sahib got much for prayers, but, being a fakeer, gave it all away, and did many incantations for sickness, and rites, for no reward. When the Ameer’shakim (governor) of Ghuznee began to make inquiries, my father told Browne Sahib that there would be safety in not going to Bokhara through Cabul, but by way of the haj (pilgrimage) to Mecca, through the road of Candahar and Quetta. He used also to breathe the nufs and put his hands on sick persons for nothing, and work talismans and charms, both to drink and to carry on the arm (bazuband), and to tie on turbans. So the Sahib left my father’s house by night and went to Quetta. When ne left he wore a turban like what the Khost and Bunnoo mullahs wear, which a mullah from Khost had given him.” (N.B.—These men wear peculiar reddish chocolate turbans.) “He used in these days, and when he left us, to wear a white, rough, sleeveless waistcoat with ribs ” (meaning evidently a sort of Bedford cord texture), “ ana CaubuR shoes worn down at the heels and twisted. So my father gave him three rupees for shoes, and also the Kalam Ulla (Koran) from the mosque in a stitched and boiled ’’ (probably meaning the process of softening leather by boiling for stamping and embossing) “leather case, for the hanging of the Koran round the neck.

“Afterwards my father got two Persian letters fromv the Sahib at Quetta, asking him to let him know in' time of need. My father also heard by letters from Adam Khan Tarukki and other Ghilzies who went to Quetta, that the Sahib was at Quetta, and that he said the time was coming when they would need to help him. My father kept all these letters inside the stitched cover of a Koran during his lifetime. About six years ago (1886), however, and after his death, the Governor of Ghuznee, Khoja Mahommed Khan, attacked the men of Nawa and Mukkur, who were rebels. Our house was plundered, and the Koran fell into the Governor’s hands along with the letters, which he sent to the Ameer (Abdul Rahman), who thereupon for a time confiscated my mother’s property, but has since returned it to her, so that she is now well-to-do, and is not poor, and has some land.

“When Browne Sahib came back to Khelat-i-Ghilzie with an army after a year, he was dressed like Sahib, and he had many dealings with the Ghilzyes. My father and I used to hear much of his (probable) coming to Mukkur; but because of the Sahib’s going back to Candahar, my father, being an old man and being weak, was not able to travel so far, although many persons told him that, owing to hospitality, the Sahib would have received him as he did the others, with friendship, and because he had been my father’s guest. Then for some years after the war, many men who had known Browne Sahib at our house at Mukkur informed us of it, that he was making a railway; and that he used often to speak to them, although he was no more a mullah (priest), but was still acquainted with the Mussulman religion, and cut his moustache for fear of defilement, as ordered to Mussulmen.

“When, later on, my mother heard from travellers that Browne Sahib was becoming Lord of Beloochistan, she sent me and my two brothers for friendship—j-when we met you at Bostan, and did not recognise you, as your beard was not; but we know you now, as your shukkul-o-jubba (appearance and language) are not changed since you were in our father’s home. Our mother Gula is much pleased, and has sent many respects, and (inquiries) if you can accept any articles of that country as a present. The woman Zulika is still alive, although her husband Agha is dead, and she also is sending respects.”

Note by Sir James Browne

“The above represents in substance the account given by the sons of the reputed host at Mukkur. Most of the Sardars of Beloochistan and the present Khan were more or less acquainted with this story long before I heard it in detail. I was surprised, when at Jacobabad in January 1893, to hear substantially the same thing about myself from Sardar Harshim Khan, the cousin of the Ameer Abdul Rahman and a guest of Mr. James the Commissioner in Sindh. Apparently he fully believed it.

“As regards the nufs, or holy breathing, the laying on of hands, and the saintly odours, etc., with which I am so satisfactorily credited, much inquiry has convinced me that hypnotism, or mesmerism cum trickery, is largely practised amongst the Afghans, and is a great source of power amongst the priest-‘hood. The people, being entirely ignorant and very superstitious, lend themselves very readily to suggestion, and have unbounded powers of faith. In connection with this a certain very cynical and sceptical Persian mirea (scribe), who was at one time employed by the Indian Foreign Office to obtain information about the famous Akhoond of Swat, Abdul Ghaffur, and lived for a considerable time at his shrine, tells me a curious story. He says the Akhoond was a past-master in hypnotism and mesmerism, which were the backbone of his power, and that there were no limits to the delusions with which he would impress the ignorant tribesmen who visited him. The mirea informs me that the Akhoond used to rub the wooden walls of his house in places with camphor, musk, and suchlike spices, before an interview with a religious inquirer; and then by putting a cashmeeree brazier of hot coals within a hidden recess under the wall, he used to claim the odour gradually worked out of the wall by the heat as a manifestation of the Ruh-ul-Khuddas (the Holy Ghost)—the odour of sanctity due to his very potent prayer! The way for hypnotism, suggestion, etc., being thus generally paved, faith did the rest Doppelganger may very well have indulged in similar pastimes. But, whoever he may have been, and whatever his motives, he certainly never bargained for a total stranger and much less for an unbelieving Englishman being so like unto himself, physically and mentally, as to unwittingly and without an effort reap the fruit of his pious deceptions.”


Return to our Book Index Page


 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast