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Jerruk and the Ismailis during the British rule in India

Hasan Ali Shah, the Aga Khan I (1817-1881), the 46th Imam or Spiritual Leader of the Shiite Ismaili Muslims, left Iran and trekked from Girishk to Kandhar in Afghanistan after having adventured on a long perilous journey. On August 6, 1841, the intelligence from Girishk reached Major Henry Rawlinson (1810-1895), reporting the arrival of the Aga Khan and his hundred horsemen. After his arrival in Kandhar, the Aga Khan sent a letter on October 21, 1841 to Sir William MacNaghten (1839-1891), the British envoy at Kabul, in which he explained his reasons for leaving Iran. This historical migration marked an end of the longer Iranian period of Ismaili Imamate. Naoroji M. Dumasia writes in "The Aga Khan and his Ancestors" (Bombay, 1939, pp. 27-8) that, "His exile from Persia was a loss to that country, but Persia's loss was the gain of the British empire, and his comradeship in arms with the British army cemented the ties of friendship….The part which the Aga Khan played as an ally of the British in that disastrous war was in every way worthy of the heroic deeds of the great martyrs of Islam whose blood flowed in his veins."

The British had grown to be a paramount power in India in the course of the 18th and 19th century. About the time that the Aga Khan was having troubles in Iran, the British were deeply involved in Afghanistan, and their efforts were aimed at establishing in Kabul a rule that would be friendly to Britain, and prevent the Russian influence penetrating the borders of India, that would possibly threaten the existence of British empire. The Aga Khan extended his support and assistance to the British in Afghanistan. The British troops eventually failed to dominate Afghanistan and evacuated Kandhar at first on August 9, 1882 for Quetta. The Aga Khan however stayed on in Kandhar for about six weeks with Sardar Sherdil Khan. Major Rawlinson, who sympathized with him, had advised him to retreat to India. Thus, the Imam came to Quetta on October 5, 1842 and then stayed with the Khan of Kalat, Mir Shahnawaz Khan. When he left Quetta, he was given a letter of recommendation by MacNaghten addressed to Sir Charles Napier (1782-1853), who had been commissioned supreme civil, political and military control of both upper and lower Sind.

Different accounts are advanced to indicate the routes of the Aga Khan from Quetta to Sind. It is said that he went to Sialkot and thence headed towards Sind, which seems doubtful. When he was in Quetta, the Aga Khan appears to have decided to enter Sind through Sukkur, which was also reported to the British officers. Thus, the British records suggest that he reached Sukkur from Quetta and then arrived in Hyderabad. Thanks to the new evidence in this context, shrouded behind an impenetrable veil for over a century, that the Aga Khan had changed his programme after leaving Quetta and had paid a flying visit to Sonmiani in Lasbela State. This tradition, if carries truth, it means that the Aga Khan had arrived in Quetta on October 5, 1842, and then went to stay with the Khan of Kalat, Mir Shahnawaz Khan for a month. He then proceeded to Sonmiani after crossing the hilly tracks of Baluchistan during the rule of Jam Mir Khan II (1830-1888).

Sonmiani is the only seaport of the province of Lus. The natives generally called the town of Sonmiani, Miani. Lt. Forbes Gordon Sullivan (1820-1893), the British agent at Sonmiani had submitted his report to the government in 1841 and 1842 and writes that, "Sonmeeanee is the only seaport of the province. It is a small village, containing about two hundred mean houses, with a population scarcely amounting to nine hundred inhabitants. Of these, between three and four hundred are Hindoos, some of whom are engaged in trade, whilst others find employment as mechanics. The Mianis, or fishermen, form the remaining portion of the population." Charles W. Montriou (d. 1857), the British officer of Indian Navy also submitted a report on June 25, 1842 that, "The town or village of Sonmeeanee is situated on the northern side of the harbour, on a low range of sandhills. It is without any defence, and the houses consist of an assemblage of mud huts, having ventilators on the roofs, placed towards the prevailing winds. The inhabitants appear to be wretchedly poor, with the exception of a few Hindoos, in whom all the trade of the place centres."

The province of Lus in Baluchistan is about 100 miles long and broad by 80 miles and is bounded to the south by the sea, to the north by the Jahlawan Hills, and to the east and west by ranges of high mountains, which descend from the great mass occupying Baluchistan, and separate it from Sind and Makran. The deers were frequently seen in the eastern side of Lus, therefore, the tradition further attests that the Aga Khan had launched a hunting expedition and is said to have stayed at the residence of a certain Ismaili, called Khatau. He hailed from Kutchh and was a rich and influential merchant in Sonmiani, exporting wool, ghee, gum and oil of different kinds. The Imam invested him the title of Varas, and he became the first to be titled on Indian soil.

Meanwhile, the Governor General Lord Ellenborough (1790-1871) wrote a letter to Sir Charles Napier on November 11, 1842 to discover the whereabouts of the Aga Khan. Napier however informed Ellenborough that the Aga Khan was expected to reach Sukkur in November, 1842. In the meantime, Sir Charles Napier traced out the whereabouts of the Aga Khan in Sonmiani. He sent his urgent message, insisting him to come to Hyderabad and hold negotiations on behalf of the British with the Mirs, the rulers of Sind. The Aga Khan started immediately and after a ride of 50 miles, reached Karachi, where he made a short stay of two days. He visited the old Jamatkhana in Kagzi Bazar (old Kadhu Bazar) in Kharadhar, Karachi and gave didar to the jamat at the humble request of Mukhi Alarakhia Sajan.

He left Karachi for Hyderabad with his entourage. Adequate protocol was accorded by Sir Charles Napier to the Aga Khan on board his steamboat, Fateh Mubarik. In Hyderabad, the Aga Khan held several meetings with the Mirs and tried to explain the weakness of their position. It is also probable that the Aga Khan attended the Darbar when all the Mirs except Mir Nasir Khan of Khairpur were present and signed and fixed their seals to the treaty in open Darbar with the British in presence of Major James Outram on February 12, 1843.

It must be known that the Aga Khan had tried to convince Nasir Khan, the Talpur amir of Kalat, to cede Karachi to the British. Nasir Khan refused it; therefore, the Aga Khan disclosed his battle plan to Major James Outram. As a result, the British camp was saved from a night attack. The Aga Khan had also placed his cavalry at the disposal of the British. For his valuable services in Afghanistan and Sind, the Aga Khan was granted an annual pension of 2000 pounds with an honorific title of His Highness.

The Baluchis, now completely out of hand, declared that they had nothing to do with the treaty between the Mirs and British and determined to fight with or without their leaders. Born down by their chieftains, threatened to be engulfed in this raging flood of opinion, the Mirs were compelled in sheer-defence, to cast away the scabbard and lead their Baluchis. In the afternoon of the 14th February, 1843, four Hyderabad Mirs, Nasir Khan, Sobdar, Shahdad and Hussain Ali informed to their governor at Karachi that they had resolved on taking field. At 9.00 a.m. on the following morning, the 15th February, 1843, an immense mass of Baluchi soldiers, 8000 advanced out of Hyderabad and attacked the British Residency at the Fulailee river. On February 17, 1843, Sir Charles Napier marched with his forces on Hyderabad from his headquarters at New Hala and defeated the Mirs of Hyderabad and Khairpur in the battle of Miani. The Mirs of upper and lower Sind surrendered except Mir Sher Muhammad Khan of Mirpur. On March 24, 1843, at the battle of Dubba, Napier defeated the Mir and the annexation of Sind to the British territories was formally announced on August, 1843.

The services rendered by the Aga Khan in Sind were politically speaking of no less importance than those he rendered at Kandhar, since Sind was regarded as the gateway to India and through it, the foreign conquerors have from time immemorial poured into India. Sir William Lee-Warner has pointed out in "The Protected Princes of India" that, "If Sind had not fallen to the Company, it must have been either annexed by Afghanistan or absorbed with Lahore by Ranjit Singh." Soon after the conquest, the Aga Khan again tried to pacify the Mirs and won most of them over to the British side. Sir Charles Napier found in the Aga Khan "a good and brave soldier" and entertained a very high opinion of his political sagacity and chivalry as a leader and soldier.

In those days, the route between Karachi and Hyderabad was controlled mostly by the Jokia tribe and it was difficult for Col. Boileau, who was commanding a British regiment to communicate with Charles Napier. The Jokias and other tribes had created conditions of complete lawlessness and disorder on the outskirts of Karachi. Communication with the outside world was absolutely paralyzed. A detachment of troops which was going from Karachi to Hyderabad to join Charles Napier was attacked at Gujjo by Jokias in 1843 under the leadership of Chakar Khan. Naomul Hotchand (1804-1878) writes in "Memoirs of Seth Naomul Hotchand" (London, 1915, p. 129) that, "The depredations of the Kalmatis, Numries, and of the Jokhias on the outskirts and in the vicinity of Karachi struck terror in the hearts of the people, and all intercourse and communication with the outside world was cut off." H.T. Lambrick also writes in his "Sir Charles Napier and Sind" (London, 1952, p. 157) that, "Bands of Baluchis had plundered most of the wood and coal stations on the Indus, interrupted the mail route to Bombay via Cutch, and also the direct road to Karachi, whence supplies and artillery had been ordered up. With a view to reopening communications with Karachi, Sir Charles sent the Agha Khan to take post at Jherruk with his followers, some 130 horsemen."

In sum, plunders and violence and consequent fear of unsafety to person or property, did not cease. Sir Charles Napier, therefore, posted the Aga Khan at Jerruk at the end of February, 1843 to secure communications as well as restore peace between Karachi and Hyderabad. Napier also wrote to Ellenborough on February 25, 1843 that, "As it is a matter of considerable importance to prevent marauding, and as he (the Aga Khan) is not only a brave man, as head of the religious sect, has much influence and numerous followers, I have desired him to do so till I have your Lordship's decision." Napier also informed Col. Boileau, the officer commanding at Karachi, about the posting of the Aga Khan and his responsibility for guarding the post between Hyderabad and Karachi in Jerruk.

Sir Charles Napier wrote in his diary on February 29, 1843 that, "I have sent the Persian Prince Agha Khan to Jherruk, on the right bank of the Indus. His influence is great and he will with his own followers secure our communication with Karachi. He is the lineal chief of Ismailians, who still exist as a sect and are spread all over the interior of Asia."

Jiraq, Jhirak, Jherruck or Jerruk (25 degree 3' north latitude and 68 degree 18' east longitude), a town in the Kotri Taluka, is situated close to the Indus, at an elevation above it of 150 feet, on the range of limestone hills that runs along its right bank south of Kotri. The Jirakia tribe of lower Sind is reported to have settled in this locality, making it known as Jerruk. The old town of Manchaturi or Manjabari as reported by the Arab historians like Istakhri of the 10th century and Idrisi of the 12th century, appears to have been situated in the neighbourhood of Jerruk.

The early history of Jerruk has been but little, if at all, investigated and is involved in the greatest obscurity. There is a ruined site in the neighbourhood of Jerruk, which is called by the local people as Kafir Kot and is supposed to have been built by Raja Manjira. This site also contains remains of Buddhist and Hindu structures with a very curious inscription in old Indian character. It suggests that the existence of Jerruk goes back to the time of Raja Manjira. From its situation, commanding the river as well as the roads from Karachi and Thatta, Sir Charles Napier, who made it a Military Depot, considered it a position of some importance. Afterwards it was an outpost garrisoned by a company of sepoys. It was also the headquarters of the Deputy Collector. For many years it had been a Missionary Station. It had a Municipality, but that was abolished in 1878. On a hill to the north of the Kotri road and close to the town is the grave of an Assistant Surgeon Robert Hussey, who died here in 1850, and in another spot lie the remains of the Reverend C. Huntingdon, Chaplain of Hyderabad, who died here on his way to Karachi on May 27, 1856. It was here that W. Cole once Collector of Customs in Karachi, found some Buddhist bricks which were afterwards deposited in the Karachi Museum. It is also learnt that the first Sindhi Primary School in Jerruk was established in 1873. In the Indian Museum, Calcutta, there is a flint scraper reported to have been found by Dr. Fedden of the Geological Survey, on the surface at Jerruk in 1876.

Jerruk occupied an irregular space of seven furlongs in circumference, about 150 feet above the river level. It is spread on 5087 acres. It is on an abrupt rocky tableland, having two hills close to the town, which covered the approaches by land and by water. The historic town of Jerruk is located between Hyderabad and Thatta in Sind, where wheat, rice, sugar-cane, cotton, vegetables and some fruits are grown in abundance. Supplies were abundant, much cheaper than at Karachi. There were in the market 200 shops and the street, which contained them, was covered over with matting from side to side. Jerruk is at an altitude of about 500 feet and a very fine picturesque place. It has a healthy climate and was used as a healing station in Sind for many years. It will be interesting to know that a big hanging lamp was installed on the main gate of the fort of Hyderabad, whose light was clearly visible in Jerruk at night. At Jerruk on both sides of the river, we have perhaps the thickest riverine forest in Pakistan. The zoological genera of Jerruk are but little known. It is however a habitat for gazelle, wild boar, wild cat, hare, crocodile, etc. The Aga Khan liked its pleasant climate and the hunting ground. Captain T. Postans had completed his "Personal Observations on Sind" (Karachi, 1973, p. 27) on April, 1843 and wrote that, "Jerruk, situated above Tatta, on the same bank of the river, is a neat town, and its effect from the river is remarkably pleasing, in consequence of the abundance of foliage around it, in the form of shikargahs: it also occupies a commanding site on a ledge of rocky hills overlooking the streams."

We have good authority for interring that the Ismailis had settled in Jerruk before the period of Sayed Fateh Ali Shamsi (1733-1798), who hailed from the Kadiwala family. He was a famous vakil and with his indescribable efforts, a large proselytism had been resulted in lower Sind by leaps and bounds. He died in 1798 and his shrine exists near Jerruk. In 1829, Bibi Sarcar Mata Salamat (1744-1832), the mother of Imam Hasan Ali Shah, the Aga Khan I had visited India with Mir Abul Kassim (d. 1880). She made a brief stay in Jerruk before going to Bombay. Jerruk was also famous for the Akhund families of Kutchh. In those days, most of them were learned and transcribed the ginans (religious hymns) by hands. They usually visited the villages in district Thatta and Shah Bandar and sold the copies as a mean of livelihood.

The Aga Khan rode out of Hyderabad and reached Jerruk after a travel of 20 miles on March 1, 1843, where about 1000 Ismailis had thronged from Sind, Kutchh, Kathiawar, Gujrat and Muscat to behold their Imam. The Ismailis were warmly hosted and repasted daily by Vesso, Vali and Datoo, the sons of Seth Merali of Jerruk .

Soon after his arrival, the Aga Khan and his horsemen whose number had risen to two hundred took up their post near Jerruk and helped to safe guard the post from Karachi and also to make speedy delivery of letters and supplies for the British forces in Hyderabad. The mail between Karachi and Hyderabad was very irregular before the Aga Khan took over the charge. It seems that he spread his soldiers around Jerruk and Thatta to monitor over the situation. While guarding the road between Karachi and Hyderabad, the Aga Khan also recovered the British property which had been plundered from the camp of Thatta by the Baluchis. When Sher Muhammad Khan advanced with his army on Hyderabad, the Aga Khan wrote letter to all the Baluchis, inviting them to become subject of the British government. He also addressed to Sher Muhammad Khan not to risk an action through a letter. The Hindu clerk, Kundahri carrying the letter and two other servants, accompanying him, were killed by Sher Muhammad.

The neighbouring bigoted tribes of Jokia, Numeri and Kalmati who had joined Sher Muhammad Khan, threatened the Aga Khan and his followers with death, on account of their having joined the British. The local tradition has it that the first group of the prisoners were taken on February 26, 1843 soon after the battle of Miani on February 17, 1843 and were sent to Calcutta. They were taken away from the fort of Hyderabad to the river and thence by a steamer, Nimrod, stirring from Hyderabad to Karachi and thence to Calcutta. When the steamer passed near Jerruk, it is attested in the tradition that a crowd of the people climbed on the hill to see the steamer carrying the prisoners. It is said that some Ismailis on the hill hailed and saluted the British soldiers, and condemned with hooting the action of the Mirs. This aroused hostility between the supporters of the Mirs and the Ismailis in Jerruk, resulting an attack upon the Ismailis. According to another tradition, the people belonging to the tribes of Numeri and Mallick, who hetched an animosity against the growing influence and affluence of Vesso or Vessar and Vali, the sons of Merali, joined hands with the enemies of the Ismailis, and it was more likely a bone of contention of the incident of Jerruk.

The Ismailis celebrated the occasion of Navroz with great pomp and jubilation for the first time with the Imam on Indian soil on March 21, 1843 in Jerruk, where few marriages were also performed in presence of the Imam. On the day of Navroz, the Imam declared Jerruk as his headquarters (darkhana) in India and reappointed Datoo, another son of Merali as the Mukhi of Jerruk Jamatkhana. It became a place of rendezvous of the Ismailis from Kutchh in south, Sind and Baluchistan in the west and the Punjab and the Frontier in the north.

Vesso and Vali were very rich and their reputation prompted the jealousy of their implacable enemies, who were in search of an opportune moment to strike them. In sum, the Ismailis in Jerruk lived at that time amidst the teeth of bitterest opposition and harsh storms.

The Jokia tribe originally the Summa tribe of Rajputs, resided in Gharo, near Thatta. Their chief, who was known as the Jam, ruled them. According to "Gazetteer of the Province of Sind" (Bombay, 1927, 1st vol., p. 8), "The Jokias infested the Delta two centuries ago, robbing merchants, and dominated the country about Karachi under the Mirs, enjoying lucrative privileges in return for the duty of furnishing a contingent of fighting men when required."

Most of the Abyssinian slaves in Sind were imported from Muscat and other harbours of the eastern coast of Arabia, known as the Nomeria, Lumria, Naumardi or Numeri. Some of them constituted a large part of the population of Las Bela and held most of the hills at the time of British conquest. In the large block of hill between Sehwan, Kotri and Karachi the principal inhabitants were the Numeris.

The Kalmatis, who are wrongly associated with the Karmatis, were the Baluchi tribe in Makran, where they lived for some time before coming to Sind. They penetrated into Mirpur Sakaro in district Thatta, where their chief obtained a jagir on the condition that he would muster his tribe for the defence of Thatta when required.

In the beginning of 1843, these three tribes, i.e., the Jokia commanded by Jam Meherali, Numeri led by Malik Ahmed Khan and Kalmati headed by Malik Ibrahim Khan; gathered together under the orders of the Mirs of Hyderabad to attack the British camp at Karachi, but they failed and retreated.

These three tribes, comprised of 4000 armed men, then proceeded from Thatta to Jerruk headed by Mir Sher Muhammad Khan upon the instructions from Hyderabad, while Muhammad Khan Khushak turned towards Thatta with 2000 soldiers. In the encounter, about 10 Ismailis are reported to have been killed near Thatta. He then joined the principal force of Sher Muhammad Khan to launch their hostile operations against Jerruk.

Hitherto, these tribes had threatened to attack Jerruk a dozen times or so, but failed. On the evening of March 23, 1843, the Aga Khan had just finished his dinner, and was preparing for a rest on a swing when all of a sudden, a faithful in immense fear rushed, bringing the intelligence that a large body of Numeris with the help of the Jam Jokia had arrived within a mile of Jerruk, that he himself had seen them, and hurried on to give the Imam news, lest he and his heroes should be attacked unawares. It is narrated that a group of the people belonging to the Mallick and Numeri, the deadly enemies of the Ismailis, also joined Sher Muhammad Khan, each among them was shouting, "Vesso, Vesso" and "Vali, Vali", indicating their overt hostility and derogatory designs for Vesso and Vali. Soon the enemies in the most ferocious and rapacious mood, dashed into the town.

On that occasion, about one thousand Ismailis, men, women and children are reported to have gathered from far and near in Jerruk. Vesso and his two brothers, Vali and Mukhi Datoo, fearing large massacre of the Ismailis, came out with Holy Koran on their heads, requesting the raiders not to kill the innocent people. Instead of showing mercy, the Baluchi chief Ahmed Khan Qajar came forward and beheaded the three brothers inhumanly and quenched the thirst of jealousy with their blood. According to another tradition, some enemies dismounted from their camels and horses and entered the town with unshielded swords, asking each one, "Where are Vesso and Vali?" It is also said that both Vesso and Vali kept themselves hidden into the heap of unginned cotton. When the enemies found their whereabouts, Ahmed Khan Qajar set it on fire at once. Mukhi Datoo is said to have rushed to extinguish it, but the enemies killed him brutally. In sum, Vesso, Vali and Datoo became the first victims. Looking an overwhelm fire, the morale of the people fell. It spread so much terror and panic that no one knew what was actually happening, and the people began to flee in this chaos.

Some enemies mounted at night on the hill behind the residence of the Ismailis and sent forth a murderous rain of arrows wildly on the town to cause havoc. Soon afterwards, they launched a nocturnal assault from two sides and began to kill the innocent Ismailis indiscriminately. The stalwarts of the small force of the Imam came out to fight with the large army and subdued their attack. At that very moment, the Imam is reported to have predicted that, "The Mirs will no longer remain the rulers of Sind."

The Aga Khan spurred his fleet horse and advanced briskly at full gallop, penetrating the front ranks of the enemies and fought against overwhelming odds. He was dressed only in a cotton shirt without any protective armour. In this skirmish the handful Ismaili champions forced the enemies to retreat to their fort. The Imam soon wheeled his small squadron and launched a reinforced attack on the fort, not too far from Jerruk. In pursuit, his horse all of a sudden skidded and he also fell on the ground. He was lying swooned on the ground with four teeth broken. The Ismailis quickly hurled themselves into the fray and shielded their master. They are reported to have said to the Imam to give up the fighting and go to Hyderabad for necessary treatment and they would fight and repulse the invaders. Some thirty Ismailis found however difficulties, but managed to escape the battlefield and brought the Imam safely in Hyderabad. H.T. Lambrick writes in "Sir Charles Napier and Sind" (London, 1952, p. 157) that, "The Agha Khan soon afterwards surprised at Jherruk by a body of Baluchis, and had some difficulty in escaping to Hyderabad with a handful of his men." Before leaving the battlefield, the Aga Khan ordered his cousin, Muhammad Jafar Khan and a certain Mirza Ahmed to rush back to the town alongwith the message of assurance and treat those who were injured.

Remnants of the Ismaili cavalry that had survived at the fort, were grouped into a fighting force afresh and gave a tough resistance against the large hosts. Equipped with abundant stamina and vitality with daring and chivalric advance, they eventually turned back the attack. When the enemies took to their heels, they returned to the town, where they found fires everywhere and the dead bodies. The attacking tribes had also gone away. This marked an end of the Battle of Jerruk. It is related that the local people had closed their business for three days, and the atmosphere of the town remained as tense as ever.

It should be noted that the skirmish took place at the outskirts of Jerruk with three principal tribes, while the Numeri and Mallick tribes plundered the town, and snatched forcibly what they found from the guest Ismailis. Soon afterwards, the Jokias also joined and pillaged the house of the Aga Khan and took away a cash money of twenty lac of rupees and the boxes of gold and silver, valuing three lac rupees. The Imam did not mind over the loss of his wealth and sent no person in its pursuit. It is further related that they had plundered the house of Vesso and Vali and carried off 20 kg. gold and a large deposit of silver on bullock carts.

In the meantime, the British army inflicted defeat to Sher Muhammad Khan in Hyderabad, who fled from the battlefield. Soon after his recovery, the Aga Khan came in the British camp and stayed with Sir Charles Napier for few days as his guest. Sir Charles Napier was aggrieved on the tragedy of Jerruk and demonstrated his heartfelt sympathy and paid rich tributes to the martyrs. He also offered to bear the loss, but the Imam refused it and said that he had no intention to take revenge. The Aga Khan returned to Jerruk very soon. When the awe-stricken followers beheld their spiritual master in the town, they crowded around him reverently and drew a breath of immense relief.

The incident of Jerruk took a heavy toll of lives and materials of the Ismailis. The dead bodies were buried in a mass-grave in the heart of Jerruk, known as Ganji Shahidan, near the residence of the Imam. The Imam offered Fatiha and paid a glowing and well-deserved tributes to the martyrs and said, "These heroes are like the martyrs of Karbala and their memory shall ever remain green, even their flesh shall never decay."

According to "Athar-i Muhammadi" (p. 136), the Imam also recited the following touching couplets in Persian on that occasion:-

                                     Gardad  chu  kharab  tan  chigam  jan    bashad,
                                     Viran    chi     shaud    hubab    aman      bashad.
"No affliction should prevail when a body perished, because the soul exists (as if) the bubbles are smashed, but the ocean exists."
                                    Darushud        ishq       zianish     sud     ast,
                                    Gar jan biruvad  che  baak   janan  bashad.
"Love became a medicine, whose deficit is a profit for me. Doesn't matter if a body is perished, but one who gives life is in existence." According to the report of "Sind Observer" (Karachi, April 3, 1949), "Seventy dead bodies of Khojas buried 107 years ago at Imam Bara in Jherruck town, 94 miles by road north-east of Karachi, were found to be fresh on being exhumed recently in the course of digging the foundation for a new mosque for the locality, a Sind government official disclosed on Saturday. The bodies which lay in a common grave was again interred another site selected for the mosque. The Khojas were believed to have been murdered in a local feud 107 years ago according to local tradition in Jherruck."

It seems that the Ismailis, who had been present in Jerruk, took no serious notice of the incident and most of them seem to have related the tragedy, but a little in their native places. Not being inclined to perpetuate the struggle and thereby causing further bloodshed, the Imam most possibly seems to have advised his followers not to reckon the incident a serious matter.

The Imam is also said to have awarded sword to each Ismaili warrior who fought with desperate valour. The Imam was highly surprised with their fidelity and devotion. Among them, the best known persons were Khalikdina and his son, Rehmatullah of Gwadar, Count Subazi'ali (ov), Alidina and Baledina, the sons of Assa, etc..

Due to the paucity of historical evidence, it is difficult to ascertain the casualties of the Ismailis in Jerruk. Vesso and his brothers, Vali and Datoo were the first to be martyred. The famous Ismaili merchant of Hyderabad, called Assa had also sent his five sons, and three among them were killed in the encounter, whose names are not known. It is also reported that when the Aga Khan left Iran in 1842, skirting the rocky tracts of Baluchistan, a rumour spread in Gwadar that some Baluchi chiefs near Turbat intended to obstruct the Imam's caravan. Thus, a group of the young Ismailis rapidly came forward and joined the Imam's caravan near Turbat as the security guards as far as Jerruk. In the ensuing battle of Jerruk, a young Ismaili of Gwadar, called Thanvar was martyred and his brother, Sayan and another Ismaili, Meru Jindani were wounded. Meru Jindani got his thumb cut and became known as Meru Mundh in Gwadar. It appears that most of the martyrs belonged to Mulla Katiar, about 32 miles from Jerruk and Kutchh, who had come for Imam's didar. Some members of Akhund family were also killed in the battle. It must be learnt that an Ismaili of Syria, known as Bawa or Baba in Iran had settled in Shahr-i Babak in Kirman, most possibly in the period of Ismaili Imam Abul Hasan Ali (1730-1792). He and his descendant taught Arabic to the family members of the Imams. Among them, Pasand Ali Bawa and his son Muhammad Ali Bawa also migrated with the Aga Khan from Iran and had been in Jerruk.

There had been hardly 250 to 300 Ismailis in Jerruk, including those who were famous for their piety and services. The Ismailis resided in the series of houses down the hill. They had built a prayer-hall (jamatkhana) on 100 sq. yards inside the street facing the Mahallat. We are reviewing the period, suffering absolutely with historical documents, and therefore, many eminent characters in Jerruk have not been identified.

Merali Alidina, known as Aloo and his brother, Ghulam Hussain Haji, known as Gulu are however worthy of notice. Gulu commanded good control on the Persian, therefore, the Imam took him in Bombay as an interpreter. A certain Umaid Ali Bachal and Basaria, the father of Merali, Musa Danidina and Allana were also the residents of Jerruk. Sabzali of Tando Bagho is also reported to have come with his family in Jerruk. Bhagat Akhund was also a devout person, reciting the ginans in the prayer-hall in Jerruk, vide a facsimile of the ginans of Bhagat Akhund in Annexure E,"p. 31. Ramal and his son Bambo were also the residents of Jerruk, who daily procured water at the river for the house of the Imam.

Shireen, the mother of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was the daughter of Musa, the son of Juma. The father of Juma was Vali, who also came with the Aga Khan from Iran and had been also in Jerruk. It is also learnt that some Ismailis in Bhuj, Kutchh had decided to go to East Africa to accelerate their economy. They had to sail from the port of Mandavi for Zanzibar, but changed their programme. They first came in Jerruk via Ramki Bazar to see the Imam, and then they proceeded to Karachi and sailed for Zanzibar.

It has been added to our latest informations that Count Subazi'ali (ov), an Uzbek Ismaili leader from Central Asia had also joined the forces of the Aga Khan in 1842 . He is said to have confronted the Talpur commander Hosh Muhammad in Hyderabad. He led the Ismaili cavalry in the battle of Miani on February 17, 1843. He also joined the Imam in Jerruk and fought valiantly. He passed rest of his life in Mulla Katiar, where he died. He was however buried inside the shrine of Pir Tajuddin.

Returning the thread of our narrative, it is seen that different accounts are afforded both in oral and written traditions about the figure of the Ismailis who lost their lives in Jerruk. Boileau had received an intelligence and wrote in March 28, 1843 that the Baluchis plundered all the villages between Thatta and Jerruk and that all but 5 to 6 of the Aga Khan's men were killed. Captain A. Thomas reports on April 8, 1843 that 25 of Aga Khan's men had survived whom Napier employed at the fort of Hyderabad. It implies that 175 were killed out of 200 soldiers. William Napier writes in "Conquest of Sind" (London, 1845, p. 369) that the Baluchis attacked the Aga Khan's men in Jerruk and killed 179 of them. A.J. Chunara in his "Nurun Mubin" (Bombay, 1936, pp. 643, 660) gives the figure of 70 casualties in Jerruk. Sherali Alidina, in his book, "Tarikh-i Imamate" (Karachi, 1952, pp. 150, 331-333) writes on the authority of his parents, who related to him that their parents took part in the action and that the number of killed was 72.

We have referred to above that the Imam had given the status of the martyr (shahid) of Karbala to those who sacrificed their lives in Jerruk. It seems to have led the followers to cultivate an idea that 72 persons should have been killed in the encounter, since 72 persons had been killed at Karbala with Imam Hussain, the son of Hazrat Ali bin Abu Talib. Thus, the Ismailis tinged the figure with the incident and the theory of 70 or 72 martyrs, a bombastic figure had been fabricated in the oral traditions. Later on, it also reflected in the published sources after a hundred years. The question "How many persons had been actually killed in Jerruk?" remains yet unanswered.

On November 27, 1843, the Aga Khan wrote a letter to Sir Charles Napier (vide E.S.L.I., or the Enclosures to Secret Letters from India, 95, No. 10, No. 5 of January 20, 1844), in which he mentioned, "In Sind I have done good service. I lost nearly 150 men; I was also plundered of a large amount of property."

The scrutiny of the accessible records throw a flood of light that the Aga Khan was provided an unconfirmed report of 150 casualties. Later on, it was investigated that 150 in the given report actually represented the figure of the wounded, and not dead. The final figure was 43, comprised of 37 followers and 6 Persian soldiers and 150 were wounded. These figures had been quoted in a letter of March 22, 1848 to Lord Delhousie, the Governor General, the Aga Khan wrote from Calcutta that, "When I had only 20 Sowars with me at Jerruck and the rest of my followers were detached in parties of about 15 to 20 men at each stage between Kurrachee and Hyderabad, I was suddenly attacked by the Baluchis, six Persians and thirty seven of my disciples were killed and nearly one hundred and fifty wounded. Four of the troopers stationed at Naggar Thatta were killed and the rest dispersed, no loss was sustained by the other detachments, some of whom were at Kurrachee under Captain Preedy and the remainder employed on duty at Meerpoor." (vide "Board's Collections" III & No. 3 of 77 of September 27, 1848) This should be a conclusive figure till further discovery that 37 Ismailis and 6 Persian soldiers of the Imam were killed and 150 persons were injured in Jerruk. Among them, twenty had become the victims of the arrow-shooting, ten were killed at the outskirts of the town and seven servants of the Imam were put to death inside the town. It also infers from "Athar-i Muhammadi" that 37 Ismailis had been killed.

Soon after his arrival, the Aga Khan built his residency called the Mahallat in Jerruk on the site of 850 square yards. The residence still exists in Jerruk as an old monument of the Ismailis.

It seems likely that the Aga Khan with his 30 followers had joined Napier once again in the battle of Dubba. After the battle, Napier had again posted him for a short time near Gharo to secure the communication with Karachi.

In the meantime, Sir Charles Napier wrote to Sher Muhammad Khan on April 7, 1843 warning him to give back to the Aga Khan the plunder he took from Jerruk. Accordingly, he wrote that, "Chief! if you will give back to Aga Khan the plunder you took from Jerruck, and come in and make your salaam to me, I will pardon, and be your friend, and your jagirs shall be respected." He also wrote to Ellenborough on April 20, 1843 that he had occupied Jerruk with a company of the 15th Native Infantry, supported by the influence of the Aga Khan.

Before departure of the Aga Khan from Jerruk, Captain Preedy posted Munshi Lalchand of Thatta in Jerruk as a mukhtiyarkar, i.e., the local magistrate.

Soon afterwards, the Imam came in Karachi after getting what had been plundered by Sher Muhammad Khan. There had been three roads from Jerruk to Karachi. The first via Soonda, Thatta and Gharo (96 miles), the second via Khoodie, Halleji and Gharo (89 miles and 2 furlongs) and the third via Khoodie, Jim and Run Pitteani (84 miles and 1 furlong). The British army followed the first of these routes and it is probable that the Imam had travelled on that route and reached Karachi after six days on September, 1844 when the population of the town was about 8000 including 200 Ismailis.

He left Karachi on October 7, 1844 and proceeded to Kutchh by sea, which was his first marine trip. He travelled through Kathiawar and reached Bombay on December 16, 1845, and declared Bombay as his headquarters (darkhana).

During the visit to Jerruk on October 3, 1999, the author found that there were only three Ismailis in the town, viz. Dr. Nizar, Abdul Hussain and Amir Ali. The prayer-hall (jamatkhana) had been closed in the period of Mukhi Nazarali Datoo and Kamadia Akbarali Ghulam Hussain in 1990, when there were only four houses of the Ismailis.

It is worthwhile to ponder at a focal point that Jerruk had been announced as the headquarters (darkhana) on March 21, 1843. It enjoyed the esteem status for about 21 months till Bombay had been declared the next headquarters on December 16, 1845. When the Imam left Jerruk, it seems that Jerruk was virtually no more headquarters. There are however certain reasons to transfer the headquarters from Jerruk to Bombay, which are discussed briefly as under:-

It is much nearer to reasonable possibility to assert that the longer duration of the headquarters in Jerruk would have prompted the local Ismailis to wreak their revenge on their enemies, which had remedied nothing. It is also probable that the enemies had raided several times in presence of the Imam in his headquarters. Thus, the transfer of headquarters seems a wise decision.

The Imam had migrated from Iran to India to guide his followers, who were down trodden in economical and social fields. He was to enhance the welfare of his followers. He had to breathe a new life into the dead class of the Indian followers and bring them within the fold of the new educated community. He did not like to involve or engage in a trifling occurrence of Jerruk. He therefore, shifted his headquarters at Bombay, which proved far better nerve-centre for many years.

The Ismailis in Makran coast in Baluchistan State lived in the rocky regions, having fighting spirit. Jerruk was more near for them than Bombay. To this we must add the likelihood that some of them had taken revenge from the raiding tribes, who also belonged to Makran coast. Had the shifting not taken place, it is possible that the Makran coast had inherited the enmity of Jerruk. In other words, the hostility had spread from Sind to Baluchistan.

In the cultural tendency of the Indian Ismailis, the reverence to the shrines in most places was in vogue. In the locality of Jerruk, the veneration of Sayed Fateh Ali Shamsi would have also paved favourable field to the intense veneration of the martyrs of Jerruk had it exercised the status of the headquarters for a long period.

The more the people had visited Jerruk, the more clouds of traditions would have been thickened, tinged with folklore and legend. The followers in other regions had received its fragments and incorporated in their own traditions, resulting the historical facts shrouded, and it would have become difficult to brush them aside. In other words, the historicity of the incident would have been blanketed mistily in florid and bombastic style absolutely bereft of historical value. The event was yet in the cradle in its embryonic stage and before it took its root, the Imam had taken a timely decision to remove his headquarters.

It is possible that the writers and poets among the visiting class might have heard the bits and shreds of the tragedy from the local people and had endorsed the valour of the martyrs in the language of exaggerated admiration and that have become a source to excite the followers in other parts of India. The Imam did not like it, therefore, he changed his headquarters.

Let it be clearly understood the concluding and crowning point according to the landmark principle of Ismailism that once the Imam gazetted a person as a Shahid, who sacrificed his life for the cause of religion, the question of vengeance does not arise at all, and none is allowed to seethe for revenge. The transference of the headquarters itself indicates that the Ismailis are a tight knit and peaceful community under the guidance of the Imam in every age.

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