Mumbai/New Delhi: Almost 200 years before the IAF bombed the terror camps at Balakot, a man from Bareilly, Syed Ahmed Barelvi (1786-1831), used the place as a launch pad for what is considered by many to be the first “jihad” of the modern era.
Syed Ahmed, not to be confused with Syed Ahmed Khan, founder of MAO College which became Aligarh Muslim University in 1920, was called Syed Ahmed Barelvi as he was born in UP’s Bareilly.
A religious man, he dreamed of establishing puritanical Islamic rule in the subcontinent. He despaired the decline of Muslim power in India as Marathas, Sikhs and Jats had taken the vast territory of the Mughals, hollowing their influence, and the British had emerged as a formidable contender.
‘Barelvi moved from place to place before reaching Balakot in 1831’
Syed Ahmed Barelvi moved to North West Frontier Province (NWFP) or present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in Pakistan, thinking the people of KP and neighbouring Afghanistan would back him in his call to recover “Islamic lands” from the hands of “infidels.”
He was also banking on locals’ unhappiness with the Sikh rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Raising a 2,500-strong army of mujahideen comprising volunteers from as far as Patna, he reached Peshawar via Sindh, Quetta, Kandahar and Kabul.
According to Pakistani writer Aziz Ahmad, Barelvi moved from place to place in the Frontier province for five years before he reached Balakot in 1831. He was then 46 and had married a third woman.
In a letter to the Nawab of Tonk (Rajasthan), Barelvi hoped: “Since Balakot is located at a secure place, surrounded by hills on one side and bounded by the river on the other, God willing, the kuffars (infidels) will not be able to reach us.”
Hari Singh, governor of Kashmir and NWFP, represented Ranjit Singh, who ruled from Lahore. Hari Singh’s commander Sher Singh and his forces lay in wait for Barelvi and his mujahideen.
Some of Sher Singh’s forces occupied the hilltop overlooking the town of Balakot. Ahmed says Barelvi had the paddy fields between Balakot town and the hills flooded by channelling the river water into them and hoped that the Sikh army would advance and get mired in the muddy fields.
It didn’t happen that way, and on May 6, 1831, a Friday, the mujahideen and the Sikh forces met at Balakot. Narratives vary, but between 300 and 1,300 mujahideen, along with Barelvi and Shah Ismail were killed.
Courtesy: Times of India
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