The Kashmiri Helen of Troy who started the Anglo Afghan wars and burnt Kabul down || by Rakesh Kaul || LIVE IMAGE

Illustration from hotel in Pahalgam

The Kashmiri Helen of Troy who started the Anglo Afghan wars and burnt Kabul down
It was well known that the British commanding officers in Kabul all had Kashmiri consorts. Major Leach, Sir Alexander Burnes, his brother Charles Burnes and their subordinates are named by Mohan Lal Kashmiri. 

The Afghan tribal chiefs had their own but there was a problem. Their Kashmirian companions kept jumping over to the British officers. Understandable since Kashmiri girls were used to being free. Matters reached a head when the Kashmiri girl who had been made a slave of Ghazi Abdullah Khan Achakzai reputedly ran over to the house of Burnes in November 1841.

Achakzai was greatly angered and the first to assemble the tribal chiefs and call for Jihad against the occupying British forces. They attacked Burnes and beheaded him, hanging his body on a meat hook in the bazaar. It was the beginning of the first Anglo Afghan wars. This Kashmiri beauty must have been something special.

The Afghans led by Abdullah attacked the fort. He is killed but the British surrender. There were four thousand and five hundred troops who begin the retreat accompanied by twelve thousand camp followers, a total of eighteen thousand in all. 

Only one person survived to report the carnage and the biggest defeat that the British had suffered. But the British were made of different stuff. They came back with the ‘Force of Retribution” and burnt down Kabul including the fabled Char Chatta bazaar. They cut down every tree, they burnt every field, they unroofed every house. They destroyed Kabul the way the Greeks destroyed Troy.

They did this even though the entire contingent of murdered Europeans was only seven hundred men. The rest were all Indians/Hindustanis, more than seventeen-thousand of them shed their blood. The few that survived the bitter snowstorms did so by practicing cannibalism. 

Five thousand ended up as slaves in the markets of Bukhara. As Dalrymple writes from historical sources similar to what I had written in Kota Rani, the Uzbek slave masters sew a horsehair rope through the clavicle of their captives and attach the other end to their saddle. They then tie the captives' hands behind their back, and you have to run behind the horse to keep up; otherwise, your whole chest frame is wretched open.

The British remember their Afghan history. Indians do not. There are other brave and extraordinary Kashmiri women and men who had great impact in Afghanistan. More on them later.

 By- Rakesh Kaul 
 Chairman at Spherenomics


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