22 JULY 1843, Page 14


Immo. Personal Observations on Sindh. the Manners and Customs of its Inhabitants, and its Productive Capabilities: with a sketch. of its History, a Narrative of recent Events, and an account or the Connexion of the British Government with that country to the present period. By T. Postans, M.R.A.S., Bt. Captain. Bombay Army, and late Assistant to the Political Agent in Siudh and Biluchistau

MUCELIANFoUE LITERATURE. Longmm and Co Correspondence of John Fourth Duke of Bedford : selected from the Originals at Woburn Abbey. With an Introduction, by Lord John Russell. Vol. II. Mimicries. Longntan and Co. Some Account of the African Remittent Fever which occurred on board her Majesty's Steam-ship Wilberforce, in the River Niger. and whilst engaged on Service on the Western Cunt of Africa; comprising au Inquiry into the Causes of Disease in Tropical Climates. By Morris Pritchett, M.D., Ste., late Surgeon of H. M. Ship Wilberforce Churchill.


Tars work resembles what was formerly called a memoir,—that is, a descriptive and disquisitional essay on a subject, in which its principal features were successively brought forward and ex- hibited ; a course that is followed pretty accurately by the late Assistant to the Political Agent in Sindh, except that his volume on the country in which he was employed is more bulky than the older "memoirs?'

The leading subjects treated of by Captain POSTANS are numerous, and tolerably exhaustive of Sindh. He commences his book with a geographical description of the country, not only as regards its position, climate, and physical character, but its features as in- fluenced by the population—as the absence of roads, the appear- ance of its towns and buiidings. He next reviews the inhabitants of Sindh in their different classes; for, being a conquered country, it has several distinct races, and, as the people are excessively ignorant, there is an influx of adventurers of various kinds. The productive capabilities of Sindh compared with its actual pro- duce are then considered, and its industry is described. The river Indus and its native modes of navigation, with an acccount of the introduction of steam, and a rather overrated estimate, as we fancy, of its commercial advantages, follow ; the remainder and rather the larger portion of the book being devoted to a survey of the history of Sindh, including a full account of its diplomatic connexion with the Indian Government, and of the circumstances, so far as they are known, which led to the late invasion and the downfal of the Ameers.

In form, and to some extent as regards matter, the book is a species of compilation,—that is, derived from books, or other sources of collected materials. But the information has been acquired by Captain POSTANS rather in consequence of his position than with immediate views of bookcraft ; so that it has much more of a fresh and entire character, and is throughout the descriptive parts animated by the results of personal observation. Indeed, some of the sections, and very many particular passages, are sketches of scenery or manners as fresh and complete as if the author threw his knowledge into the form of travels instead of statistics. We quote a few examples.


The whole surface of Sindh for a greater portion of its extent being cut up into canals and water-courses, its traffic during the inundation of the river is confined to the stream.

There are few roads, and the ordinary land-routes are completely impeded during the floods. The poorer natives journeying, therefore, from the upper portion of the river to the lower, are in the habit of committing themselves to the stream, securing their safety by a closed earthern vessel, which they strap round their loins : in this way the Sindhians may be often seen during the height of the inundations, making their way from village to village. It should be remarked, however, that the Mianis and tribes living near the river are as much at home in the water as out of it: they may really be termed amphibious, for with an inflated goat-skin or a common eartbern jar they MSS the stream during its most turbulent season or at its greatest breadth.


The navigation of the Indus is carried on by the Miani ; and, passing his life on the river, he is the only pilot to be trusted iu its intricate channel. Con- nected with this people, the Pullah fishery, for which the Indus is so celebrated, deserves particular notice. First placing on the water a large earthen vessel, and commending it to the care of Allah, the fisherman casts himself on it in such a manner that the mouth of the vessel is completely closed by the pres- sure of his stomach ; he then paddles himself by means of the action of his hands and feet into the centre of the stream, holding deep in the water a forked pole about fifteen feet in length, to which is attached a large net ; in his girdle he carries a small spear, and a check-string attached to the net indicates the moment when a fish is entangled. The spear is used to kill the fish when drawn up after capture, and the jar receives the spoil.


Hindus are dispersed over the whole of Sindh : in the wildest fastnesses of the Biluchi mountains, in the deserts and smallest collection of huts in the jungles of the plains, a Hindu and his shop of tobacco, spices, groceries, or cloths, is sure to be found ; but their principal localities are in Northern Sindh at Shikarpur, and in Southern at the port of llarrachi. Thel'ormer has at all times held a prominent influence over the trade of the countries from the sea to the Caspian. The Hindu merchants or bankers have agents in the most remote parts of Central Asia; and could negotiate bills upon Candahar, Kilat, Cabal, Shiva, Hirat, Bokhara, or any other of the marts in that direction. These agents, in the pursuit of their calling, leave Sindh for many years, quitting their families to locate themselves among the most savage and in- tolerant tribes ; yet so essentially necessary are they to the wild Turkoman, rude Afghan, or bloodthirsty Biluchi, that they are, with trifling exceptions, generally protected. The smallest bargain even is never struck between two natives of these countries without the intervention of the Hindu filial or

broker. • • • •

The Hindu in Sindh is not the saute orderly and respectable individual out- wardly as his brother of the same faith in India: living in a state of society where he is only tolerated in proportion to his acceding to the customs of those about him, he has become half a Mahommedan in his habits and practices, as well as dirty and slovenly in his person, totally neglecting those rules of caste and religion which have in India the peculiar merit of raising the Hindu above the debauched Moslem. In one point, however, in Sindh does this otherwise degraded class stand preeminent above those about him; and that is in the good faith and integrity shown in his mercantile and money transactions, when met with confidence by his employer. In dealing with the chiefs and Government of Sindb, he is obliged to defeat indirect oppression by duplicity and double- dealing as his only chance of success or safeguard against violence; but this is by no means a fair criterion of his claims to a higher character fur business under different situations. It is proverbial, and a great proof of the honour of the Sindhian Soucars, that their bills are always considered as cash in every part of the vast countries to the North-west, and are recognized as such all over India.


Bang (hemp-seed mixed with water) is the favourite intoxicating beverage with all the lower classes, because it is cheap. The Sindhian takes his draught of this nauseous preparation with all the gusto that distinguishes an English- man and his glass of grog. Those who can afford it drink spirits distilled in the country from dates or sugar. The royal potation, however, is curagna, or any of the French liqueurs. On many occasions the Persia' shops, established on the Indus at the British military stations, were completely glutted of these articles, to answer the demands of some of the Amirs, so fond did they become of these more palateahle preparations. The Hindus are not a whit behind their Mahommedan neighbours in this vice, so unusual in the East. 'Yet it is very rare to see an intoxicated person : the effect is great excitement, and the Biluchis ere going into action are always stimulated by bang. A certain mad- ness then takes possession of them, and they become desperate, combining phrensy with fanaticism.


The leading feature in the character of the Talpur Amirs, however, was their absorbing passion for sport ; to the grat:fication of which they literally sacrificed a fine country, and to which every other consideration of any kind was completely subservient: even their ruling vice of avarice found no place where the chase was brought in question; and repeated instances are recorded where the Amirs have even razed villages and depopulated districts in the vicinity of their preserves to prevent any disturbance to the game. The stringency of forest-laws in Sindh can only he understood by a comparison to those of countries in the same stage of civilization such as "merrie Eng- land in the olden time"; but wo betide a Robin Hood or Little John who should have attempted to play their pranks in the Amirs' Shikargahe ! They were so strictly guarded, that it would have been easier to have gained access to their harems! Where all else was mean and penurious, here all was lavish: indefinite expense was incurred in maintenance of keepers and establishments: the enclosures, so often destroyed by the river, and of Immense extent, were as constantly kept in perfect order. The whole of the country on both banks of the river, from Schwan to below Tattab, a apace of nearly two hundred miles, presented little beyond a succession of dense forests of these preserves; and the value in money set by the Amirs upon each head of deer killed therein previously given, was corroborated by the express conditions which the chiefs stipulated in 1839 should be introduced as a clause in the treaties with the British Government providing for the inviolability of their Shikargahs, and which was secured by a promise on honour that such should be the case. " We value them," said the chief in addressing Colonel Pottinger, the able British representative then at their court, "as much as our wives and children." Under that gentleman's generous administration, and subsequently to this, the chiefs' inalienable right, as a question of power over their own property, to ap- propriate their country as they pleased, however much we may condemn the barbarous policy which prompted it, was strictly acknowledged.

Interwoven with the historical portion of the volume, is a very curious account of the feudal system of Sindh, and of the plan of taxation adopted throughout the country, together with a graphic sketch of the persons and manners of the Ameers. But the most immediately interesting part of the book, in a political sense, is the sketch of our later connexion with the rulers of the country, and of the unprincipled encroachments which led to the late invasion; grounded as they were upon no plea or pretence of right, but a mere naked demand of power in opposition to distinct pledges of

the public faith. Of course this Judgment rests upon the state- ment of Captain POSTANS; but there seems no grounds for doubt- ing his narrative. Much of it is notorious, some of it rests upon facts on which he probably had official knowledge, other parts of it are derived from native sources, and the whole dovetails with what is generally reported. The narrator himself, too, though be has a personal leaning to the Ameers, and cannot avoid the con- clusion that they have been unfairly treated, appears to be a poli- tical advocate of the war, and quite favourable to the idea of seizing the country of Sindh, in order to manage it better and develop its resources. Nay, he even adopts the fable of the Wolf and the Lamb, and seems to think the summary dismissal of Mr. CROW, a sort of Company's resident or factor, in 1800, a fair ground of quarrel.

In estimating the conduct of the Indian Government towards the unfortunate rulers of Sindh, it must be borne in mind that we sought their connexion, not they ours ; for from the first they appear to have been (but too properly) mistrustful of our motives and expectant of the ruin which has overtaken them. When Buenas, in 1830, first navigated the Indus, they offered a stre- nuous resistance : it was only by conjoint bullying and trickery that the passage was permitted. In 1832, a treaty was concluded; under Lord WILLAM BENTINCK'S Government, by the present Sir HENRY POTTING ER- " And provides for the ratification of all the former bonds of amity between the states, and that the same amicable alliance shall descend to the children and successors of Mir Murad Alli, from generation to generation. The con- tracting powers bind themselves not to look with the eyes of covetousness on the possessions of the other. The British Government requests a passage for the merchants and traders of Hindostan by the river and roads of Sindb, Sec., that they may transport their goods and merchandise from one country to another : and the Government of Hyderabad grants this request, on the con- ditions, that no description of military stores shall be conveyed by these means; that no armed boats shall ascend or descend the river; and thirdly, that no English merchants shall be allowed to settle in Sindh, hut having transacted their business, shall return to India."

In 1834, a further commercial treaty was effected; in which it was provided, that

" For the better settlement and adjusting of any differences which may arise, as also to realize the rates to be levied, it was agreed that a British agent, not a European,) under the authority of Colonel Pottinger, should reside at the month of the river: but the British Government is responsible that such agent does not interfere in any way with the fiscal or other officers of Sindh, nor en- gage in trade; the British Representative for the Court of Sindh having the power, on any occasion requiring it, of deputing one of his assistants to settle any discussions which may arise.,


This virtually brings matters down to the Afghan war ; when we asked a passage through their territories, which was unwillingly granted. The demands made upon them for supplies were not complied with : and here, perhaps, lay a cams belli ; but it was passed over as not convenient to enforce, and a new treaty was entered into in 1839, by which

"The British Government guarantees the possessions of the Sindh Amin; from all aggressions. The Amin to rule absolutely in their respective pos- sessions; and the British Government to abstain from any interference in their jurisdiction, or listen to or encourage complaints against the Amirs from their own subjects. In case of differences between the four Amirs, the British re- presentative in Sindh shall mediate between them. In case of the subjects of one Amir committing aggressions on the territories of another, assistance shall be rendered to repair or restrain the same, in ease of the Amir professing his in- ability to do so. The Amirs will not enter into negotiation with foreign courts unless with the sanction of the British Government. The British Government will cooperate with the Sindh Amirs for the purposes of defence ; the latter being in such cases subordinate to the former. "This treaty is binding on both parties, and their successors, for ever; all former stipulations not rescinded being in full force. " Ratified by the Right Honourable George Lord Auckland, G.C.B., Go- vernor-General of India, on the 11th March 1839.

"The guarantee of independence here is a new feature in the position of tbe Sindhian durbar ; for hitherto it was beyond a doubt a tributary to the Cabul throne, though it had long evaded the acknowledgment, nor had it been de- manded. Sindh paid a nominal respect by the despatch of vakils and inter- change of messages of friendship to the Barukzye chiefs, as also to the rulers of tbe Punjaub and Bhawalpur, but nothing more. " The subject of their game-preserves, or Shikargahs, was not introduced in the treaties, but the most formal assurances were given that they should be un- molested ; and orders were accordingly issued to our troops and followers throughout the country to prevent any infringement of the same."

During the subsequent disasters in Afghanistan, Captain Pos- TANS states that the Ameers remained faithful.

" Beyond the usual delays in the payment of the subsidy, there was no ostensible reason to complain of their conduct; at a period though, it should he remembered, when, if they had shown hostile feelings, they were powerful to do us material injury, if not to have crushed the few troops which the urgent calls for forces above the passes permitted us to keep in Sindh. Yet, beyond the usual petty intrigues which are essential elements of Eastern courts, it is not yet publicly announced that the Amirs of Sindh flew from their engage- mente, at a time, moreover, when all India was anxiously looked to as likely to catch the spark of rebellion, and strike a blow when it was thought we were too weak to ward it off. There seems, indeed, to lie every reason for con- cluding, that after the last treaty of 1839, the Amirs had given up all idea of opposing our power, which they contemplated as irresistible ; and being in the position of independent princes, with a guarantee for the cessation of all future tribute to the Cabul throne, they probably began to look upon the amount of subsidy (though they detest cash payments) as trifling compared to the ad- vantages possessed."

Things remained in this state till October 1842 ; when troops were assembled on the frontier, Sir CHARLES NAPIER was appointed to the command, and, so far as we have means of judging, the fol- lowing terms were abruptly submitted to the Ameers. "On the return of the British troops from beyond the Afghan passes, the affairs of Sindh and the whole Indus frontier appear to have attracted the par- ticular attention of Government ; for certain conditions were soon after pro- posed to the Amirs which were unexpected, and to which they could not readily, acquiesce. The new treaty thus presented to the Talpur chiefs, generally in- cluding both the Khyrpur and Hyderabad families, was considered to have for its leading features as an ultimatum, and in superceasion of all former arrange- ments, though why does not yet appear, the cession in perpetuity of the towns of Karrachi, Tattsh, Sukkur, Bukkur, and Rod, with a strip of land on each bank of the river ; the abolition of all tolls and transit-duties of every kind throughout the Sindhian territories, and the giving over to the neighbouring chief of Bhawalpur the whole of the Khyrpur territory eastward of the river, from Rori to Subzutkot, including those places, on condition of his also annul- ling all imposts on trade by the river through his territories. It will be seen that these measures were not calculated to be palatable to the Sindhian chiefs ; for, independent of the loss of revenue which the cession of such important ter- ritories as these must have occasioned, a portion being made over to a foreign and inferior power, the dignity of the whole Biluch faction was most vitally assailed; whilst a most important point to the Amirs was at length decided against them in the infringement of their game-preserves, an immediate result of our taking territory on both banks of the river. The abolition of the transit- duties was an inferior question, and would have come in probably with others which it is supposed were to be mooted for the still further advancement of trade, and other alterations, which were required to improve our relations with Sindh generally, before alluded to."

Put into English, these proposals were neither more nor less than the abrogation of the sovereignty of the country. Sindh has but one seaport, here spelt Kztrrachi ; the other four towns are the only places of any commercial consequences : the "annulling of all imposts on the trade of the river," was tantamount to a proposal from any foreign power to the entire abolition of our custom- duties ; the " strip of river boundary" was as bad as claiming Windsor Great Park and the banks of the Thames, after the public faith had been pledged to their retention ; and, either in wantonness or in ignorance, a claim of a still more offensive character was proposed, involving to the barbarous Beloochees something analogous to the abolition of our law of primogeniture.

" The great obstacles to the terms imposed on the Khyrpur branch of the family must here be introduced; and they appear, from various subsequent dis- cussions on the matter, to have been such demands as may be considered extra to the ultimate treaties proposed, and which were considered vitally to infringe the rights not only of the Amirs, but especially of the Biluchi Jahgirdars and feudatories of Upper Sindh, and such as considered as theirs, unalterably and inalienably, and to which they could not by any arguments be brought to sub- mit, even though the Amirs themselves might have consented. These demands are said to have consisted in making the Mir's younger brother, Ali Murad, as a reward, it is presumed, for his professed attachment to British interests, at once the Reis or head of the family, in supercession of the elder Mir, and ap- portioning one-fourth of the possessions of the whole of the remaining members of the family, seventeen heads of estates, tor the maintenance of the new head to he thus established. • " The Jahgirdars of the whole family of Khyrpur in such an arrangement were of course vitally interested. It deprived them at once of part, if not the whole of their possessions, as a primary canoe of discontent ; and secondly, interfered, as they imagined, with the prescriptive and long-established order of things, in superseding the head of a house, by placing a junior, and at no time a very popular chief, in his place; the previous demands having, it must be re- membered, deprived the Khyrpur family of one-third of their possessions. The other arrangements bore as much on the Lower as the Upper Sindh Amirs ; and though unexpected, and therefore considered stringent, were yet capable of accommodation, because the chiefs looked to the consideration of the Britisl? Government, and perhaps imagined that ultimately they might modify some portions of the conditions which were demanded. The interference with their Shikargahs, a point of all others on which they had, it will be seen, laid so much stress, from our first position in the country, was a point of import- ance principally to the Lower Sindh Amite, whose territory, particularly on the banks of the river, was thickly studded with their preserves, the destruction of which they could not readily be brought to contemplate. However, it will subsequently appear that these and all other considerations, however unpopular, were waived and the extra demands on the Upper Sindh Amirs, or rather Bi- luchis, was at length the only point of difficulty, which occasioned a war, so much to be deplored in its occasioning so great a loss of human life."

Notwithstanding this, Captain POSTANS thinks that the Ameers themselves were willing to submit to what they felt an inevitable

necessity, but that they were urged on by their feudal followers.

" The Amirs of Lower Sindh appear to have been bound in honour to plead the cause of the Upper Sindh members of their family, who had claimed their hospitality and intercession, having been sent to Hyderabad to await the ar- rival of Major Outram, and whose Biluchi feudatories were moat violent in their indignation at the extra terms proposed. The later delays in signing the treaties arose from an idea of the chiefs, that though the British representative could, in executing the difficult and defined negotiations intrusted to him, only assure the chiefs that he was not empowered to make soy promises whatever, for he was a mere servant of the state, performing a particular and distinct duty, the chiefs would yet receive some kind of promise from that gentleman, having first acceded to the treaties; that that act of obedience performed, their repre- sentations on the subject of the superceasion of Mir Rustum's claims would yet have the attention of higher authority, and if found just would be modified or rescinded. No assurances of his utter inability to make such promises appear to have bad any effect; and having signed the treaties under this delusion, and yet found that they stood without any promise of redress from the British re- presentative, who had no power to make such, though they entreated for the slightest hint of one to enable them to disperse the Biluchis, who would listen to no other argument whilst troops were advancing on the capital, the Amirs were no longer their own free agents, and thirty thousand Biluchis cried aloud for conflict. It was on the promulgation of the result of their conference with the British representative that the infuriated Biluchis determined to murder him and those who accompanied him on their return from the Hyderabad due- bar ; and the lives of these gentlemen were saved only by the Amirs them- selves directing a strong escort of the noblemen of their court and their own followers to provide for the safety of the party as far as the British Residency. On the same day, a formal deputation, and subsequently up to the 14th, re- peated messages were sent by the Amirs to the British representative, entreat- ing him to give them the means of dispersing their intractable followers by a slight promise, or failing it, to provide for the safety of himself and party, as they could not prevent the Biluchie from attacking him. Of course no promise could be given ; though the British representative still deferred to depart, as his doing so would close the door against accommodation, and at once bring on hostilities, which he was most anxious to avoid. At the latter date, confi- dential servants were sent from the chiefs individually, to warn Major Outram of his danger in delaying his departure, as they would be forced by their fol- lowers to accompany them in an attack on the Agency. On the 15th, this event took place. The published official document, describing the brilliant de- fence of the Agency, an enclosed building on the eastern bank of the river, by the British representative and his small band, against immense odds, will be found elsewhere. Major Outram not being reiotorced, and having performed all the task assigned him, effected an honourable retreat, and rejoined the force under Sir Charles Napier."

The rest is matter of Gazette history. And in all the story of British India, unscrupulous as many of our wars appear to have been, nothing seems so unscrupulous as this invasion of Sindh : the Rohilla war of WARREN HASTINGS was a reputable transac- tion compared with it.