I: Chapter 22
the Mughal empire declining and in doldrums, two prominent Muslims Mir
Muquim Kanth and Khawaja Zahir Didamari repeated the role-model of Yaqub
Sarfi and Baba Dawood Khaki by begging of Ahmad Shah Abdali to aggress
Kashmir with a view to annexing it to Kabul. It was an 'Islamic invitation'
extended to Abdali, who was deemed a saviour sans minding and evaluating
the havoc he was wreaking on north of India. Abdali was not so impolitic
as to miss the opportunity and without prevarication and dither despatched
his troops under the command of Abdullah Khan Ishk Aqasi to capture Kashmir
for Kabul. After a fierce battle for a fortnight, Ishk Aqasi vanquished
his opponent and marched into Kashmir triumphantly and the entire Muslim
population hailed him as a victor.
in their essential traits and characteristics were tribals, ferocious,
cruel and inhuman and it did not take them long to reveal their visage
of savagery and ferocity. According to Walter Lawrence, "when we pass from
the Mughal period to the period of Shahani Durani, we pass to a time of
brutal tyranny, unrelieved by good works, chivalry and honour". As they
were wantonly cruel and insatiably avaricious, the dreams and visions of
Kashmiri Muslims punctured like a balloon when Ishk Aqasi in complicity
with Mir Muquim Kanth applied red-hot iron-bars to a Muslim business-man
to extort a huge sum of money from him. It virtually shell-shocked them
and visas contrary to what they had expected. The Afghans though Muslims
did not spare them when they started on their looting bouts by the imposition
of enormous tax-burdens on the Kashmiri populace. So, the Muslims viscerally
hated them and nick-named all breeds of Afghans as Kakad Khans, foolish
and low in intelligence, an epithet which the Kashmiri Pandits had sarcastically
coined for them. Had the Afghans directed and utilised all the weapons
in their arsenal of barbarity and brutality against the Pandits, that would
have dizzied them into an ecstasy and given them an unbounded satisfaction.
It is axiomatically
known world over that the extirpation of Kufra (infidelity) is a divine
mission with every Muslim, original or convert, and the Afghan savages
embarked upon the same mission. The Kashmiri Pandits harbouring a non-Islamic
faith were the declared enemies of Islam and as a matter of religious duty
and obligation were to be subjected to brute force and harsh coercion.
The mix-deeds that the Afghans indulged in and the tyrannies that they
perpetrated have earned them the sobriquet of 'butchers'. The Pandits were
looted, plundered and killed with impunity. They were mercilessly hurled
into the waters of Dal Lake to meet their watery grave. The obstreperous
Bomba tribals and brigands were hired to harass and brutalise them and
coerce them to join the fold of Islam. They burnt them alive in their own
houses. They killed them and their butchered remnants, stinking and smelling,
littered over the streets of Srinagar for days on end with ravenous crows
prying over them and the relatives of the butchered Pandits shrieking and
screaming with none to soothe them and alleviate their sufferings. The
Pandits known for their love of learning were not permitted to put their
scholars to any form of schooling and educative processes. They were divested
of their jobs, and thus were deprived of their livelihood. Their women-folk
were subjected to all forms of dishonour and ignominy. Lifting them and
exporting them to Kabul was a usual occurrence. To protect them from such
atrocities, the young budding beauties were disfigured and defaced by the
flecking and mutilation of their body-parts and were married off before
the onset of puberty.
Pandits were subjected to cruel taxes, levies and punitive exactions. The
hated Jazia (poll tax) was imposed on them. A separate capitation tax to
the tune of Rs.12,500 per annum had to be paid by every Pandit to the ruler
at Kabul. An amazing punitive tax known as Smoketax (Zari-Dood) was laid
on them. In case their failed to pay it, they were intimidated, tortured
and put to flashing swords.
Records Tyndale Bisco, "It is said that during the Afghan rule in Kashmir (1752-1819) the
Afghans were in the habit of riding into the Kashmiri houses on their horse-back,
stabling their horses in the lower portion and occupying the rest for themselves.
The Kashmiris were unable to check these outrages by force. They devised
therefore the plan of having so low doors that not only the intruder had
to dismount, but also to bow his head on entry. As the Afghans were haughty
and no one of them was willing to make obeisance to a local person, they
were forced to remain outside."
Lawrence, "The Pandits, who formerly wore moustaches, were forced to grow
beards, turbans and shoes were forbidden and the tika or fore-head mark
records, "The Jazia or poll-tax on Hindus was revived and many Brahmans
either fled the country, were killed or were converted to Islam."
- A Savage
a class oppressor, boasted that the savage Nadir Shah was his prototype.
Walter Lawrence records about his atrocities on Hindus "It was his practice
to tie up the Pandits, two in grass sacks and sink them in the Dal Lake.
As an amusement, a pitcher filled with odure would be placed on a Pandit's
head and the Musalmans would pelt the pitcher with stones till it broke,
the unfortunate Hindu being blinded with filth.
Forster, "Asad Khan stands in the foremost rank of tyrants". Concurs
Fergusson, "Asad Khan gave an unchecked expression to his sadistic tendencies. The
Hindu Pandits as Kafirs or infidels were naturally the first objects of
his persecution. The atrocities of Asad Khan included tying up Pandits
by their hands back to back and throwing them into the lake. The hated Jazia, a tax on Hindus, was re-imposed and numerous disabilities were placed
on the Pandits and their religion."
- A Fiend
Lawrence, "Mir Hazar was another fiend who used leather bags instead of
grass sacks for the drowning of Brahmans. He drowned Shias and Brahmans
Khan - A Psychopath
about Ata Mohammad Khan, "Women rather than torture were his reigning passion
and beautiful Hindu girls had their features defaced by their parents rather
than that they should attract the attention of the agents of this insatiable
Lawrence, "Ata Mohammad Khan was a ferocious libertine and his agent, an
old woman Koshib, was the terror of the Brahman parents, who rather than
allow the degradation of their daughters destroyed their beauty by shaving
their heads or cutting their nose."
Dad Khan - A Looter
Records P.N.K. Bamzai, "He purposely kept the tax gatherers Aslam and
Babu, in hinding
accusing the Pandit community of their murder. He collected their leading
members and keeping them in close confinement, subjected them to suffocating
fumes from cow dung. They implored, they importunated, but the heartless
Haji would not release them until they agreed to pay an annual tax (known
as Zari Dood or Smoke Tax) of 50,000 rupees."
Giving an estimate
of the Afghan rule, Walter Lawrence pithily puts, "Pathan rulers are only
remembered for their brutality and cruelty and it is said that they thought
no more of cutting heads than of plucking a flower."
In the same
vein, Forster laconically records, "They rarely issued an order without
showing the side of their hatchet, a common weapon of the Afghans."