The true narrative: Gilgit, Baltistan and Hunza – when they were part of J&K

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Ramesh Tamiri, who is a scholar and expert on Kashmir affairs and history, has responded to a facebook post by the Himalayan History Group to set the record straight vis-a-vis the “History of Gilgit, Baltistan and Hunza when they were part of Kammu and Kashmir”.

Tamiri writes:

There are glaring inaccuracies in this long piece. It is also highly opinionated. There are no references either. Sweeping opinions have been given. We have sufficient material on the region- accounts of Major Brown, Brig. Ghansar Singh, memoir of Mirza Hassan Jarral and book on northern areas by Pakistani historian Prof. AH Dani. The author should have consulted these. I had also an opportunity to record testimonies of many people from Kashmir and Jammu who were trapped in Gilgit in 1947. I will raise only three points here:

  1. Why was Major Brown arrested twice by Major Mirza Hasan Jarral. Why was Major Brown given highest award by Pakistan govt. And Mirza Hassan Jarral arrested in Rawalpindi conspiracy case?
  2. Did not Raja of Punial come to help Brig. Ghansar Singh.
  3. How were non- Muslim civilians saved in Gilgit unlike Skardu and elsewhere if people of Gilgit were hostile.

I will be writing a separate piece soon to put events of October- November 1947 in perspective.

Himalayan History group is a credible group. It needs to crosscheck information before publishing historically sensitive content – Ramesh Tamiri

We reproduce below the Facebook post


Photograph of Kharpocho Fort also known as Skurdu Fort taken in late 1934 by Lt.Col. David Lorimer. The name of this fort means THE KING OF FORTS. It was built by King Ali Sher Khan Anchan (1575-1624 AD).

The Gilgit region i.e., Hunza, Nagar, Greater Yasin including Koh Ghizer, Punial, Mastuj and Ishkoman were ruled by Mirs and Rajas assisted by Wazirs. The Baltistan region was divided into eight principalities namely: Rondeu, Astore, Skardu, Shigar, Kiris, Khaplu, Tolti and Kharmang. Makpon Amacha and Yabgo were the ruling elites and Raja of Skardu was the actual ruler who held sway over others in external and internal affairs. The Gilgit Baltistan, owing to its geographical location and trade routes passing through it linking the subcontinent to Chinaand Central Asia , had become lucrative to Sikhs of Punjab and Dogras of Jammu.
In November 1839, Dogra commander Zorawar Singh, whose allegiance was to Raja Gulab Singh, started his campaign against Baltistan. By 1840 he conquered Skardu and captured its ruler, Ahmad Shah. Ahmad Shah was then forced to accompany Zorawar Singh on his raid into Western Tibet. Meanwhile, Baghwan Singh was appointed as administrator (Thanadar) in Skardu. But in the following year, Ali Khan of Rondu, Haidar Khan of Shigar and Daulat Ali Khan from Khaplu led a successful uprising against the Dogras in Baltistan and captured the Dogra commander Baghwan Singh in Skardu.
In 1842, Dogra Commander Wazir Lakhpat, with the active support of Ali Sher Khan from Kartaksho, conquered Baltistan for the second time. There was a violent capture of the fortress of Kharphocho. Haidar Khan from Shigar, one of the leaders of the uprising against the Dogras, was imprisoned and died in captivity. Gosaun was appointed as administrator (Thanadar) of Baltistan and till 1860, the entire region of Gilgit-Baltistan was under the Dogras.
After the defeat of the Sikhs in the First Anglo-Sikh War, the region became a part of the princely state called Jammu and Kashmir which since 1846 remained under the rule of the Dogras.
In 1935 under an agreement, the Kashmir Government leased out the region west of river Indus to the British for a period of 60 years. This lease was, however, terminated in July 1947 and an era of struggle for freedom began with the partition of the sub-continent. The Gilgit revolution was a reaction to the centuries long tyranny of foreign rulers, the British and Maharaja of Kashmir. The revolution was a joint struggle of the patriotic officers of Gilgit scouts, the Muslim officers group of 6 J&K Infantry Battalion and the local inhabitants of different ethnic identities. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan got freedom from the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir on November 1, 1947 through their own resources, they established a new state of their own, Raja Shah Rais Khan became the President while Mirza Hassan Khan the Commander-in-Chief of the Gilgit scouts. The region had run its own government for 15 days and then offered Pakistan to take over the administration.
This write up contains photographs of Places, Rulers & People of this region from 1880’s to 1930’s.

Photograph taken in 1933 by Lt. Col David Lorimer showing view of Baltit Fort in Hunza Valley near town of Karimabad. This was built in 8th Century CE and is on UN Heritage list. Mirs of Hunza abandoned the fort in 1945 and moved to a new Palace down the hill . Restoration was takenup by Royal Geographic _ Society supported by Aga Khan Trust. Restoration work was completed in 1966

Note: As we are not much conversant about exact facts of the region and very little information is available online. As such discrepancies which might have inadvertently occurred may please be pointed out so that the necessary corrections are made.


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