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THE AMEERS OF SCINDE.
THE AMEERS OF SCINDE-APPOINTMENT OF SIR CHARLES NAPIER AS
COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF TAKING OF EMAUM-GHUR-BATTLE OF MELANEE-SHERE MOHAMMED-BATTLE OF DUBBARBANISHMENT OF THE AMEERS.
SOME allusion has already been made to the hostile feeling towards the English inanifested by the Ameers of Scinde at the commencement of the Afghan war. It will now be necessary to trace the full development of their designs, as well as to record the circumstances that led eventually to the annexation of their territory to the Company's dominions.
Scinde, called anciently Sindomania, comprises the regions situated near the mouths of the Indus, having Beloochistan for their western boundary, the Indian desert to the east, and the Punjaub, with Afghanistan, towards the north. The people were originally pagans ; but, since their subjugation, in the seventh or eighth century, by the Mohammedans of Damascus, they have professed the religion of their conquerors. About the close of the eighteenth century they became subject to chieftains of the Talpoora race, a powerful Belooch tribe, who, descending from the mountains, seized upon the more fertile plain country, which they eventually shared between them, assuming the title of Ameers, or Lords of Scinde. Hence arose two branches, one being that of the Kyrpoor Ameers, or rulers of Upper Scinde; while the others entitled themselves the Hyderabad Ameers, or chiefs of Lower Scinde. Of these the latter
were considered the most powerful ; and from their number was generally chosen the wearer of the Rais Puggree, or turban of rule, a dignity that conferred a species of precedence on the possessor.
Since 1775, occasional intercourse had taken place between the Ameers of Scinde, and their powerful neighbours, the English rulers of Hindoostan. The voyage of Sir Alexander Burnes up the Indus, rendered the country bordering that river better known ; and in 1832 and 1834 commercial treaties were negotiated with its governors by Colonel Pottinger, who, during the course of the last-mentioned year, had been appointed envoy to the Ameers of Scinde. The demands of the English, however, and their apparent anxiety to navigate the river, awakened the suspicions of these barbarian chiefs, who constantly endeavoured to impede the traffic in every possible way.
At the period of Colonel Pottinger's visit, the Ameers were anticipating a Sikh invasion, which rendered them less averse to connect themselves with the British Government, whose influence over Runjeet Singh they imagined might possibly prove useful. They accordingly agreed to receive a British agent at Hyderabad, to be accompanied, if necessary, by an escort of sepoys. Soon after, the Afghan war broke out; and the Ameers, being zealous Mohammedans, naturally felt disposed to side with their co-religionists against a nation whose creed they disliked, and whose political designs they suspected. The Persians laid siege to Herat, and Noor Mohammed, the chief of the Hyderabad Ameers, wrote to the Persian Government, while he entertained at his court a person of that nation who was suspected of being a secret political agent. Moreover, these princes felt greatly indignant at the tripartite treaty between Shah Sujah, the Seikhs, and the English, in pursuance with which the latter demanded from them extensive pecuniary assistance on behalf of the rightful sovereign of 1842.) ARRIVAL OF SIR CHARLES NAPIER. 385 Afghanistan. For these reasons inimical feelings existed on both sides; and the Ameers, learning that they would soon be attacked by the Bombay army in its way to Afghanistan, raised a levy of 20,000 Beloochees, and prepared to defend themselves to the last extremity.
But their valour was not proof against the approach of Sir John Keane ; and they finally consented to support a subsidiary force; to furnish a sum of 200,0001. towards the expenses of Shah Sujah ; to abolish all tolls on the Indus; and even, if called upon, to supply auxiliaries for the purpose of co-operating with the allies in the Afghan war. The unfortunate issue of the Cabool expedition subsequently excited in the minds of the Ameers a hope that the time was come when they might emancipate themselves from conditions which they regarded as unwarrantably stringent and severe. Too feeble, or too timid, to declare open war against the English, they commenced a series of intrigues and annoyances, the hostile character of which was sufficiently patent, though not tangible enough to justify a formal invasion of their territory. When the English agents remonstrated, the Scindian chiefs equivocated, shuffled, and made fair-sounding promises, endeavouring, by falsehood and flattery, to avert present danger, though without the slightest intention of removing the grievances brought before their notice. Two of the number, however, Sobdar and Ali Moorad, proved themselves honourable exceptions to the general behaviour of their family.
Matters were in this doubtful position when Lord Ellenborough appointed Sir Charles Napier to direct the affairs of Scinde. That gallant veteran arrived at Hyderabad on the 19th of September, 1842, and immediately sought an interview with the princes of Lower Scinde. He was received with marked distinction, the royal palanquin being despatched for his use, while the younger members of the princely house advanced to meet him, at the distance of a quarter of a mile beyond
the city gates. In the court of the palace he found assembled a solemn Durbar or council, presided over by the Ameers themselves, who, covered with gorgeous robes and reclining on magnificent cushions, were awaiting the coming of their Feringhee guest. They showered upon him an abundance of those poetical compliments and urbane attentions in which even the most uneducated Orientals far surpass all other nations, while they watched eagerly for any indications of character that might hereafter be turned to account. Their visitor proved himself insensible to these delicate flatteries, and made known his sentiments in respect to the future with a degree of frankness which probably surprised his princely hosts.
He let them know that he had already fathomed their deceitful policy, and was prepared to counteract it if necessary by an appeal to arms. His sentiments, in fact, were the echo of Lord Ellenborough's intimation addressed to the Ameers during the same year: “I will confide in your fidelity and in your friendship, until I have proofs of your faithlessness and of your hostility in my hands; but be assured, if I should obtain such proofs, no consideration shall induce me to permit you to exercise any longer a power you will have abused. On the day on which you shall be faithless to the English Government, sovereignty will have passed from you; your dominions will be given to others, and in your destitution all India will see that the British Government will not pardon an injury received from one it believed to be its friend."
Sir Charles Napier proceeded from Hyderabad to Sukkur, where he subsequently obtained proofs that the majority of the Ameers had violated the treaty by impeding the navigation of the Indus, holding intercourse with foreign states, oppressing British subjects, and carrying on various secret intrigues inimical to their professed allies. The two eldest princes, Nusseer and Roostum, were accused of making arrangements to pro
THE AMEER ROOSTUM.
claim a religious war against the English, the object of which would be their total expulsion from the region of Scinde.
The Ameer Roostum was more than eighty years of age, and had reduced himself by habitual intoxication to a state of imbecility. As, however, he possessed the Rais Puggree, or turban of command, he exercised considerable influence over the other Ameers—but in all matters of importance, this influence was really wielded by his sons and his chief minister, a determined opponent to British interests. The aged prince, being fully aware that he was only the tool of others, manifested some disposition to seek the protection of the English, but his constant vacillation, and the bad faith of those around him, rendered fruitless every attempt at negotiation. On the other hand, his younger brother, Ali Moorad, proved faithful throughout to the engagements he had entered into a course of conduct which exempted him from the calamities that were shortly to overwhelm the other members of his family.
The Ameer Roostum and his brother were residing together in the fort of Dejee-Ka-Koti, while the former carried on negotiations with the English. He was said to have contemplated transferring to his own son, a turbulent and warlike chief, the turban of command, although by the law of Scinde Ali Moorad stood next in right of succession. The general opposed this arrangement, and pressed Roostum to detach himself from the intrigues of his family; but these exhortations proved unavailing, for the old Ameer finally abandoned his brother's castle, and placed all his influence at the disposal of the war party. Before his flight, however, he formally conferred upon Ali Moorad the Rais Puggree, and caused his abdication of this ensign of dignity to be witnessed and registered according to the customs of Mohammedan law. In the month of December 1842 the war faction, dis