Battle of Shaidu – 1827

An excerpt from Sayyid Ahmad Barailvi: His Movement and Legacy from the Pukhtun Perspective

From Altaf Qadir

Yar Muahammad Khan along with his brothers left Peshawar leading twenty thousand troops to confront the Sikhs in an open field. They informed Sayyid Ahmad of their arrival when they reached Pir Pai, a village located several miles to the west of Nowshera on the southern bank of the river Kabul-Sayyid Ahmad, accompanied by Fateh Khan of Panjtar, Ashraf Khan of Zaida, Khadi Khan of Hund, and about five hundred troops came to Call fo jihad. Migration to the Frontier, and Declaration of Imarat The formal oath of allegiance was rendered in the meeting, and various matters about the looming battle with the Sikhs were discussed before Sayyid Ahmad’s return to Hund.

Many Mujahidin were unable to join Sayyid Ahmad. Some were sick due to malnutrition while others had been injured in the battle at Akora Khattak. The sick Mujahidin were sent to Panjtar and the injured were left in Misri Banda as per previous arrangements. Sayyid Ahmad crossed the Kabul River near Nowshera, it was said, in the company of about eighty thousand tribesmen, and joined the Barakzai brothers encamped on the southern side of the river. 124 The Sikh army under Budh Singh was encamped in Shaidu, a village to the south of Akora.

Though Yar Muhammad Khan had pledged to fight against the Sikhs under the leadership of Sayyid Ahmad, the Barakzais subsequently felt threatened as to their existing status. They perhaps felt that Sayyid Ahmad treated them as subordinates instead of allies and they renewed contacts with the Sikhs. The Mujahidin proceeded to Shaidu and encamped near the Sikh force. The Sikh force, numbering about thirty thousand under Budh Singh, was numerically inferior to the Pukhtuns but superior in training and discipline. Upon the arrival of the Mujahidin, it was decided to attack the Sikh force the following day.

A story relates that Sayyid Ahmad was poisoned before the battle, by Nazar Muhammad, a cook of Yar Muhammad Khan, responsible for providing meals to Sayyid Ahmad. Sayyid Ahmad’s own statement reveals that he was given poison on the night before the battle. He fell ill on the night before the battle and was unable to participate, though Shah Ismail seated him on an elephant, and took him to the field. All the Hindustanis remained with Sayyid Ahmad except Shadil Khan Kanjwari who was sent to accompany Fateh Khan of Panjtar. As the battle began, initially the tribesmen and the Mujahidin gained an upper hand and many Sikhs were killed.

However, Yar Muhammad Khan reached some compromise with Budh Singh and deserted the Mujahidin without taking part in the battle. This proved fatal for Sayyid and his allies. The combined force of the Mujahidin was defeated, many were killed on the battlefield, and the rest fled. The battle of Shaidu was the last fight of the Pukhtuns against the Sikhs on an open battlefield. Masson’s account does not seem accurate in stat- that Budh Singh’s force in the sangar was besieged by the Mujahidin, the Sikhs starved, and at last Budh Singh decided to attack the besiegers either survive or perish.

Apart from the desertion of the Barakzai Sayyid Ahmad Barailvi chiefs, the absence of Sayyid Ahmad and Shah Ismail also contributed to the defeat. Sayyid Ahmad was seriously sick and Shah Ismail was taking care of him. Sayyid Ahmad himself gave a slight hint about tt defeat in one of his letters to Shah Yaqeenullah, though without a name. any individual responsible for the defeat. He wrote that the Mujahid suffered a defeat at the hands of the infidels due to the indifference of a few hypocrites. The defeat of the Mujahidin was a great success for the Sikhs on the Frontier front. The event was celebrated with great pomp.

Sohan Lai has written that Maharaja Ranjit Singh ordered the illumination of the whole city of Lahore and the firing of guns upon receiving the victory news. Another contemporary source has recorded that the event was not only celebrated by illuminating Lahore and other cities but a huge amount was distributed among the poor people of the Sikh domain. The defeat at the battle of Shaidu dispersed a large number of people who were gathered against the Sikhs in the Frontier. This proved the last time that such a large number of Muslims mobilized against the Sikhs.

There are different views about the desertion of Yar Muhammad Khan. One is that the Sikh commander Budh Singh threatened him that joining hands with Sayyid Ahmad would be disastrous for him and thus he left the field to change the apparent victory of the Mujahidin into a defeat. Another version suggested that the authoritarian nature of Sayyid Ahmad, treating his allies like subordinates, was the main factor responsible for the desertion of the Barakzai chiefs and especially Yar Muhammad Khan. The Indian writers do not agree with Masson’s opinion and have stated that the bai’at of Hund was for waging the jihad only and Sayyid Ahmad did not act like a ruler.

Yar Muhammad Khan had joined Sayyid Ahmad after the bai’at at Hund and Sayyid Ahmad was amir-e-jihad in the battle of Shaidu. Furthermore, Sayyid Ahmad’s rule could be better than that of Ranjit Singh which was a bad experience for the people. Olaf Caroe did not agree that Sayyid Ahmad assumed political authority over the tribes. Strangely, none of the narrators, contemporary or later, has mentioned the exact date of the battle. M. A. Bari said that the battle was fought in March IS—/. Ghulam Rasul Mihr has written 14 Phagan on the authority of Untdat-ul-Tawarikh.

We conclude that the battle of Shaidu was fought on 25 February 1827. The date 14 Phagan corresponds to 25 February; the baiat of jihad was taken on 10 January and then the Mujahidin would have taken a month or more for preparation. Moreover, the Waqai Sayyid Ahmad Shahid has narrated that the defeat was followed by a search for shelter in a season of severe cold and rain. The usual heavy rain tails in February up to recent times. Moreover, Sayyid Ahmad started his preaching tour in April, which corresponds to Ramadhan 1242 A.H., after a stay of about one month in Chinglai. This suggests that he arrived there in the first week of March. The period after the battle of Shaidu was one of the great difficulties for the Mujahidin.

There was a shortage of supplies from India in terms of men and money. Sayyid Ahmad had to abandon his previous center at Hund and search for a safe place. Shah Ismail and Ashraf Khan of Zaida took him across the Kabul River at Sar Ghat, where the river Swat and river Naguman join. They arrived at Babara and left after a night’s stay there. Sayyid Ahmad was taken to Bagh, via Dakay, Gujar Garhi, Mohib, and Surkh Dheri. Bagh is located at the entrance of a Pass, from where they went to Chinglai with the assistance of one Malik Faizullah Khan. 1 ’’ 6 The dispersed Mujahidin also gathered at Cninglai, reaching in groups during the next few days.

Some stayed in Toru and Panjtar due to their inability to travel. Sayyid Ahmad asked the Mujahidin at Toru and Panjtar to join him at Chinglai after their recovery from sickness. During this period of privation, Sayyid Ahmad, unhappy with the tribal chiefs, decided to start preaching directly among the tribes and get mass support for the Jihad Movement. In this connection, he visited many towns and villages of Swat and Buner, preached jihad, and was able to get support from the Pukhtun tribesmen against the Barakzais.

About nowshera

error: Content is protected !!