Another Browncast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!
In this episode, Prathamesh Godbole and Amit Paranjpe discuss the Maratha empire – spanning from its humble origins as a Jagir of Adilshahi to the largest power in the subcontinent before the British conquest. We discuss the great maratha rulers Shivaji Raje, Sambhaji Raje and the Peshwas.
Postscript (from Omar): At 1 hour 27 minutes on the youtube recording I was asked how they are perceived in Pakistan and i went on about their role against Tipu, but I should have mentioned Panipat first. THAT is, of course, taught as a great Muslim victory, but without too much background information.
Solstice at Panipat, Era of Bajirao, Epoch of Nanasaheb Peshwa, Mastery of Hindustan – Uday Kulkarni
A New History of Marathas, Volumes I-III by G.S Sardesai
Shivbharat – Shivaji Raje’s biography in Sanskrit by a court historian – has been translated to English
History of Marathas- Grant Duff
History of the Maratha People – Kincaid
Translations done by Prathamesh, of selected letters from multiple Marathi sources regarding battles, diplomatic exchanges and other military matters.
Its about ~300 pages equivalent, and covers 1720-1803.
Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!
In this episode of the history podcast, Omar and Jay discuss the period of Delhi Sultanate with Jay and Gaurav. We go over all the major dynasties and also discuss the religious, economic aspects of this time.
As Omar Ali puts it, the legacy of Delhi Sultanate is the legacy of Islam in the subcontinent.
1. The Emergence of the Delhi Sultanate, 1192-1286 by Sunil Kumar
2. The History and Culture of the Indian People: Volume 6: The Delhi Sultanate
3. India in the Persianate Age: 1000-1765 by Richard M. Eaton
4. Medieval India – Vol. 1 by Satish Chandra
5. Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India: Volume I by J L Mehta
6. A Comprehensive History of India: The Delhi Sultanat (A.D. 1206-1526), ed. by Mohammad Habib and Khaliq Ahmad Nizami
An old piece from Major Amin. A “must read” for anyone trying to understand the Pakistan army. From its peculiar combination of Jihad and British ideals to its performance in 1965 and 1971, to its full politicization under Zia.
Gen Tajammal Hussain Malik was an excellent officer (ie very good at his primary job of training and leading troops into battle), an asset to any army, but also a coup maker and a fanatic with very shallow ideas about nations and how they can (or cannot) function.. A great officer to have on your side in war, but in Pakistan the army does much more than fight wars, so there you have it… (It is a very long interview, so if you are in a hurry, just jump to the highlighted excerpts, you will get a flavor of the whole thing).
Major General tajammul hussain malik-Hero of Battle of Hilli and twice Coup maker
Agha H Amin
This is the man who was praised by Indians and they established a commission to study his masterpiece Battle of Hilli. He was praised by his Indian battle opponent in his book “Indian Sword penetrates East Pakistan” as a singularly brave man. He was miles above pygmies like Zia, Ayub and Musharraf. When we joined the army we were inspired by his battalion 3rd Baloch’s attempted coup of 23 March 1980 to wipe out despicable clown Zia and his dirty clique!
One good thing that General Beg did immediately after that glorious crash in 1988 was to restore Tajammul’s complete military honors and privileges. Tajammul was serving a sentence of 14 years RI for planning to liquidate all army generals and Zia on 23 March 1980 ,a brilliant scheme indeed!
We had to wait till glorious 17th August 1988 when that plane finally crashed right into the Hindu Shamshan Ghat on Basti Lal Kamal ! Tajammul has thrown light on Zia’s shallow personality in this interview !
May God Bless His Soul !
Major Agha H Amin (Retired)
Please tell us something about your early life, parents?
I was born on 13th June 1924, in village Thanil Kamal, Tehsil Chakwal, then District Jhelum (now District Chakwal). I spent my childhood in rural atmosphere, which at that time was quite primitive. There was no electricity, no roads, no telephones and as far as I remember no one owned even a bicycle. Radio came much later. Men, women and children wore the same dress as their ancestors put on centuries ago. There was not much difference between the rich and the poor. There were no social barriers and the living style of all the inhabitants was almost alike. A village was a self-sustained compact unit. They produced their own wheat, meat, vegetable, rice, ghee, eggs and almost everything one needs for ones simple living. The village shopkeepers were Hindus or Sikhs. Almost all purchases from the shops were on barter system. The prices of agricultural and dairy products were very low: -Wheat was sold at 1 1/4 rupees a maund. (40 Kilo) Meat 1/4 rupee a seer ( Kilo) Milk – 10 seers for one rupee.Pure desi ghee – 1 1/4 seer for one rupee. Chicken weighing one seer for about four annas (1/4 rupee). These rates compared
favourably with the rates laid down in “Aaeen-i- Akbari” during the Mughal Emperor Jalal ud Din Akbar’s rule, more than four hundred years ago.
Both my father and mother were highly religious. I inherited my religious convictions from my parents.
Please tell us about your school / college days and any decisive influences on your personality formation / development of convictions ?
A common village boy living in rural atmosphere, as mentioned above, could not conceive any high ambitions. I had many relatives in the Army but the highest rank held by any one of them was that of a Subedar, (which was then called Viceroy Commission). In fact, as far as I remember, there was not even a single King’s Commission Officer in the whole of Tehsil Chakwal at that time. ( First IMA course passed out in 1934/35). From village school, I moved to Government High School Chakwal. Lieut General Abdul Majeed Malik and Maj General Nazar Hussain Shah were a class ahead of me. Brig Amir Gulistan Janjua, whose last appointment was Governor of NWFP, was my class fellow. I think if statistics are taken, that rural area High School produced more Brigadiers and Generals than Aitchison College and Burn Hall combined.
What were your perceptions as young man in pre-1947 India about the prevalent political conditions, Muslim League, Congress etc?
The British Indian army was a mercenary Army. Although occasionally we used to read about the political developments then taking place, yet at that time it never occurred to us that the Indian Army would be divided so soon and a new state of Pakistan would come into being as a homeland for the Muslims. It looked a fantasy. I vividly remember when I was a cadet, I had read an article in one of the magazines, perhaps the Military Digest, wherein, the then Commander-in-Chief Indian Army, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auckinleck, while addressing army personal at some station had said, “In ten years time, you would have all Indian Battalion Commanders, in fifteen years time you would have all Indian Division Commanders, and in twenty years time you would have an Indian Commander-in-Chief.” From this statement it would become evident that the division of Army was never visualised even at the highest level of military hierarchy, nor did theBritish officers ever think of vacating their biggest colony so soon. At the most one could say that India might get dominion status in due course of time, but complete independence was still being regarded as a dream.
Any memorable incidents, which left an indelible impression on your personality?
I cannot think of any particular instance, which left an indelible impression on my mind. However, by the time I was a Platoon Commander at PMA in 1954/55, my experiences, observations in life, extensive study of books of history, philosophy and religion particularly Iqbal’s book “Reconstruction of religious thought in Islam” and his Urdu poetry had convinced me of existence of God and all that is laid down in Quran. From then onwards I became a dedicated practicing Muslim and started praying regularly which continues till today. Islam is the guiding force for all my actions and reactions. Whether in peace or in war, I drew my aspirations from Islam. I pray to Almighty Allah that may He continue to guide me for the rest of my life.
TLDR: The British officers of the EIC army were a crucial force multiplier. The same regiments WITHOUT British officers were much less effective. I would add that by 1947, they seem to have figured out how to train Indians to be as good, at least at junior levels. But not yet at higher command levels?
British officer of East India Company the greatest force multiplier
sepoy perceptions about military effectiveness of english east india company Excerpts from Sepoy Rebellion of 1857- 59 Reinterpreted by Agha.H.Amin ,17 August 1998 Military effectiveness of British East India Company • May 2021 • DOI: • 10.13140/RG.2.2.35734.88648 •
Sepoy Perceptions about EEIC Military Effectiveness
The Bengal Army was the brain child of Lord Clive’s military genius. The Bengal sepoys related to each other by blood relationship and caste bonds had served the EEIC for some 100 years when they rebelled in 1857. These men had a very close contact with the British and had observed them from very close quarters. Any neutral and unbiased account of the events of 1857 clearly proves that the Britisher as an officer was never disliked by the sepoys. As an officer who served in Pakistan Army I can state with conviction that the British provided excellent leadership to the Indians. They definitely knew how to lead and inspire the Indian, leading them from the forefront which I am afraid few of at least our native post 1947 in Pakistan. People who rose to be Generals did not lead from the front, either in Burma or in 1965 or in 1971.
The sepoy admired and revered the British officer. In 1857 he was rebelling against the system instituted by the EEIC. Against policies formulated by men constituting a board of directors in far off England. The greasing of cartridges with pig or cow fat similarly was also an administrative decision. The sepoy perceived the British officer as a fair and brave leader and many British officers reciprocated these feelings. One of the British commanding officer committed suicide when his native infantry regiment was disbanded. Many others resisted disbandment of their units. One troop of 3rd Light Cavalry the most crucial unit of Bengal Army Sepoys as a matter of fact loyally fought for the British in 1857. It appears, however, that sepoy perceptions about EEIC military effectiveness changed from absolute faith in the invincibility of the EEIC as a military machine to skepticism from 1804 to 1857.
Before we proceed further we must state that the first major reverse or defeat which the EEIC suffered in India was in 1780 at the hands of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan who were heading forces whose opponents Hector Munro and Baillie in 1780 were defeated in a manner which was described by Fortescue the official historian of the British army in the following words, “The blunders had been flagrant and from a military point of view, Munro must be held solely responsible for one of the greatest calamities that has ever befallen the British arms”469. But this happened with the Madras Army.
The Bengal Army sepoy realized for the first time in 1804 that the that EEIC was not invincible. This happened while dealing with the Mahrattas and not the Afghans who came much later. In 1804 five battalions of sepoys and about 3000 irregular horse left by the C in C Bengal Army Lord Lake to keep the Mahratta Holkar in check under the command of Colonel Monsoon were forced to make a disastrous retreat from Central India to Agra470. The results of this reverse were short term since Lord Lake immediately assumed personal command and defeated the Mahrattas. However, the harm had been done and the myth of invincibility of the EEIC as far as the Bengal Army was concerned was challenged for the first time. Monsoon’s retreat was followed by a much more serious reverse which for many years shattered the EEIC myth of invincibility. This happened at Bhurtpore, the Hindu Jat fortress which is the only fort in British Indian history which a British army in India failed in a siege to capture. Leading the EEIC army in this case was a man of no less a stature than Lord Lake who had previously captured Delhi and destroyed Mahratta power in North India in battle of Laswari. (It must be remembered that Panipat – 1761 checked the Mahrattas, but this was temporary since within few years they recaptured Delhi. It was at Laswari on 01 Nov. 1803 that one European infantry regiment and a couple of Bengal Army Regiments composed of roughly 3/4 Hindu soldiers and 1/4 Hindustani Muslims destroyed the Mahratta Army) 471. In 1805 Lake failed to capture Bhurtpore. He made a first assault in January 1805 but failed to capture the fort. The British troops became so demoralised that the three European regiments i.e. HM 75 Foot, HM 76 Foot and the 1st Bengal Europeans refused orders to attack and withdrew 472! Almost a thousand casualties were suffered but repeated British assaults were repulsed. At last on 24 February Lord Lake withdrew his army from Bhurtpore. Subsequently, the Hindu Jat Raja sued for peace in 1805 due to reasons of political expediency; but the fact remained that militarily this Hindu Jat Raja had not been defeated! The EEIC never forgot this defeat and later on they did capture Bhurtpore but this was much later i.e. on 18 January 1826. Siege of Bhurtpore The force used at Bhurtpore this time was larger than the one the EEIC used to recapture Kabul in September 1842473 in the first Afghan War.
Another reverse which the EEIC suffered was in the Nepal war of 1814-16. General Bal Bhadra,the indomitable Gurkha commander in Anglo Nepal War of 1814-16 Here their initial advance into Nepal was repulsed. Nepal was subsequently defeated using the Bengal Sepoys but again the harm had been done. The sepoy’s confidence in the British officer was a little shaken. The EEIC retreat from Kabul to Jalalabad in the first Afghan war was not a big disaster keeping in view the numbers involved. There were only 700 Europeans in some 5000 troops in the weak and starved brigade which withdrew from Kabul in January 1842 and which was destroyed by an overwhelming force of some 30,000 Afghans taking advantage of harsh weather and shortage of food in this EEIC force. The EEIC troops largely composed of Bengal sepoys did subsequently recapture Kabul in September 1842. But the human mind is not a computer and the net significant impression produced on the sepoy was that the EEIC had been forced to retreat.
The extremely tough resistance of the valiant Sikhs in the First and Second Sikh wars again produced a strong impression on the mind of the Bengal Army Sepoy. At Mudki the main British army survived just because the Sikh general Tej Singh did not attack them,474a otherwise their destruction was certain. Battle of Mudki This was a battle fought on absolutely plain land, unlike Afghanistan where the Afghans bravery had a deep connection with adverse mountainous terrain. The impressions of the Sikh wars were the deepest in convincing the sepoys that the British were not invincible. In Afghanistan the mountains, the adverse weather and the small numbers were an excuse; but at Chillianwala everything favoured the British and yet they failed! Tej Singh the Hindustani Hindu imported by Ranjit Singh from Meerut,UP in hope that a non Punjabi general would be reliable just as Nawaz thought in case of Musharraf. Tejh Singh turned out to be the traitor who betrayed Sikhs at Moodki All these disasters from 1804 till 1849 certainly had an influence on the mind of the Bengal sepoy and reinforced his decision to rebel in 1857. The sepoys felt in 1857 that they could meet the Europeans on the battlefield as an equal.
Their perceptions were however erroneous in one area. They did not realize that the principals force multiplier of sepoy efficiency was superior leadership of the British officer. Without British leadership the military effectiveness of the sepoy reduced by some 75%. Since the British suppressed the initial rebellions in Punjab they were able to use Punjab and Frontier’s manpower to create new regiments or in using comparatively new regiments raised in 1846-49 which were used with as much effect at Delhi as the Bengal sepoy units at Kabul or Ghazni or at Gujrat. The British officer of 1857 was the greatest force multiplier of military effectiveness by virtue of leadership which was far superior to be “Rebel” leadership in terms of “Resolution” “Tactical Efficiency” reinforced by an iron frame administrative organisation created by the EEIC during its 100 year rule in India and its eight year old rule in the Punjab.
This is a very interesting new addition to books on 1965 war. The writer gives very interesting background details to each relevant person or subject , though these did not interest this scribe as a military reviewer. Overall, a good effort but it does contain several errors:
The authors assertion on page-43 that 6 Infantry brigade was an independent brigade is not correct as this brigade was a part of 8 Division.
On page.99 the writers assertion that 19 Baluch (Special Services Group or SSG) was formed with 7/10 Baluch as nucleus is TOTALLY INCORRECT . 7/10 was renumbered 15 Baluch while 17/10 Baluch was later renumbered 19 Baluch or the SSG.
On page.106 and 107 the authors undue praise of then Brigadier Harbaksh Singh’s advance towards Muzaffarabad in the 1948 Kashmir war is highly disputable as per both Pakistani and Indian accounts. eg Pakistani official history published in 1970 stated that on reaching Tithwal, which was defended by a weak infantry company, Brigadier Harbaksh Singh ordered a two day halt and thus lost a golden chance to change history and possibly threaten Muzaffarabad. In these two days Pakistan Army reinforced Tithwal with a brigade. Colonel Achutan Singh of Indian Army in a recent article published in Indian Defence Review analysed in detail Harbaksh Singhs incompetent siting of Indian defences of the Chunj position as a result of which Indian Army lost they key Chunj ridge and was pushed on defensive at Tithwal and driven out of Pir Sahaba Ridge. Incidentally the Pakistani success in the attack on Chunj was thanks to the role played by Major Sloan, a British officer who managed to transport a medium gun over the river using a pulley, and who later died in action and was buried with full military honors in Pakistan. Continue reading Major Amin’s Review: 1965, A Western Sunrise. by Shiv Kunal Varma
The world is surprised, and now even memeing, about the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, the outside country most responsible for this (unless you count America and the stupidity of its occupation strategies as the most responsible) there have been broadly three camps on this. The majority feeling was one of awkwardness, trepidation and a calling of the equivalent of councils of war. In the Army Chief’s staff rooms, in the Prime Minister’s and Chief Ministers and political party heads’ secretariats and across media stations in Pakistan, the national security and Afghanistan experts were on display and they were giving their council to their respective audiences on what was happening with the fall of Kabul and what it meant.
A smaller minority was one that was sometimes part of this but also openly condemning the takeover of the Taliban. Honourable mention should go to the Women’s Democratic Front for openly condemning the takeover of Afghanistan and various branches of Pakistan’s new-on-the-scene Aurat March (Women’s March) parroted their view. Frankly, I am very happy for the Aurat Marchers to get an explicit foreign policy – that would be cool. The PPP, as far as I can tell did not explicitly condemn the Taliban takeover in Kabul and as far as I know, no Pashtun nationalist formation did either, although if the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement did, I am waiting for their views.
Lastly, I have to mention the Taliban supporters. From heads of religious groups, to Taliban and ’80’s Afghan Mujahideen fanboys in the Pakistani media, this was, I feel, an even smaller group, restricted by age, that was openly hailing the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. It really was/is a sight to behold to see men in the media, of or beyond retirement age, hailing the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban – a sick joke. My guess is younger fans of the Taliban were either intelligently hiding, or more likely taking part in either jihadi ops or doing propaganda or harassment for the Taliban. So the pro-Taliban crowd inside Pakistan might be quieter than its portrayed – a bit like Italy after it switched ides in WWII to join the Allies against Germany.
But that’s Pakistan. What about India? This is one time BP commenters are welcome. Sound off and tell us what the Indians thought about the Taliban, what were the camps inside the country and how large they are.
Postcript — The Pakistan government and establishment’s view:
The official Pakistan government view, of the foreign ministry, the part allegedly controlled by Imran Khan says that they will not stick their neck out as an individual country and will only recognise Taliban control of Afghanistan if a group of countries, likely Russia, China and Iran, all simultaneously recognise the Taliban’s control of Kabul. I used the word alleged, because the foreign ministry takes its marching orders from the Pakistan Army’s General Hear Quarters, Imran Khan is fine with that, and so the foreign ministry’s views are the Army and establishment’s views.
“The Tankies” is a set of three linked comics from Dead Reckoning Press about a crew of the Royal Tank Regiment (whose motto “From Mud, Through Blood, to the Green Fields Beyond.” gets regular play in the comic); in the first comic a British tank crew led by corporal Stiles in a Churchill tank fight their way out of Normandy on D-day, outgunned by German Tigers (who they outnumber many times over, but who are not going to give the Brits an easy victory). There is a great cast of characters, including a bird watching colonel, a priest who recovers bodies from destroyed tanks and will not let the tankies help him because he knows how terrible and demoralizing the sight of a tank crew roasted alive inside their tank can be, and corporal Stiles himself, the archetypical “old hand” who knows a trick or two and will not be beaten.
The same crew (now in a Sherman Firefly) star in the second comic in February 1945 as the allies roll across Germany but continue to face more resistance than the circumstances would suggest. This one is a classic one-on-one tank duel as the British crew hunt a King Tiger led by a fanatical SS officer who is still shooting his own men if they refuse to fight on; but the biggest emotional impact comes when German civilians get caught in the middle and a child loses his mother to the British crew while collecting firewood.
The final comic has Stiles (now a Sergeant) commanding a Centurion (at last a tank better than the competition) in Korea as the Chinese attack in the battle of the Imjin river. There is no tank versus tank combat here, just masses of Chinese infantry swarming over the tanks trying to destroy them with primitive pole charges and sticky bombs while the tank crews hunker inside and “de-louse” neighboring tanks with their machine guns.
The comics are fabulously drawn and very well written. And there is an excellent afterword that gives more background about the battles where these comics are set and discusses how and why the Germans fought so hard so late in the war. It also describes the real life events that inspired some of the more unbelievable or strange things described in the comics (the colonel taking a walk in the open under fire, the priest who recovers bodies, the shell down the barrel, the swarming Chinese infantry being “de-loused” off tanks and suchlike). I had not read “war comics” since my teen years, but am thoroughly enjoying the ones I have seen from Dead Reckoning in the last few years. This set by Carlos Ezquerra (a late-great titan of the comics industry) and Garth Ennis captures the horrors of tank warfare in a way that mere prose rarely can. If you are interested in tanks, world war two or just a good war comic, this is well worth a look.
From Major Amin’s book on the history of the Pakistan army..
The First 1947-48 Indo-Pak War
The British started with a strategic plan having Britishers dominating the key posts in both the newly created countries! The war was fought largely by individuals on the Pakistani side and by the British Governor General and senior army commanders on the Indian side! Gilgit was won by Pakistan simply because the British officers of Gilgit scouts and the Gilgit Scouts VCOs acted with remarkable unison! No credit to the Pakistani Government, which had no clue about what was happening in Gilgit in September-October 1947. The Indians were doomed in this case since their Dogra Governor made plain his intentions to do away with the Gilgit Scouts! The VCOs of the Gilgit Scouts acted tactically but while doing so achieved a great strategic victory for Pakistan! It was a fairly even contest. There were two non- Muslim Companies in the 6 J and K at Bunji against two non-Muslim Companies! There was an airfield at Gilgit just like there was one at Sringar! The Indians lost the Northern Areas because of outright strategic incompetence! The Pakistanis have proved equally strategically barren! No statue at Islamabad commemorates what the VCOs of the Gilgit Scouts led by the indomitable Scott Major W.A Brown achieved for Pakistan in October November 1947! Without Gilgit or Baltistan what would have been Pakistan’s China policy! There was a Dogra Governor in Gilgit in 1947! Today the Northern Area still does not have a Gilgiti Muslim Governor! Continue reading Major Amin’s Summing up of the 3 Major Indo-Pak Wars
Many folks asked me about recent news item about conflict between two senior Indian army officers. It was simply personality clash & nothing significant. However, pedigree of both officers and some interesting historical facts were too tempting for the story teller like me.
Clash of Two Jats
Recently, conflict between General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of South- Western Command (Sapta Shakti) of Indian army Lieutenant General Alok Singh Kler and his Chief of Staff (COS) Lieutenant General Kamal Kumar Repswal became public. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General M. M. Naravane ordered a Court of Inquiry (COI) and Respwal was posted out as COS of Eastern Command. The nature of conflict is not clear, but some suggest that it relates to command decisions and administrative matters. There is no evidence that there was any financial irregularity or moral lapse. Continue reading Clash of two Jats in the Indian army