Ghazi Dilasa Khan, Muhammad Shafi Sabir
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)
Publishing Date: Friday, September 16 2005
Ghazi Dilasa Khan hailed from Bannu. He spent almost his entire life fighting against the British and the Sikhs. The sacrifices he made for this cause are unmatchable in praise. Ghazi Dilasa Khan was an offspring of an influential family.
His fathers name was Khattak Khan, his grandfather was Alam Khan and his great grandfather was Ghazi Khan. He was from the family line of Daud Shah. According to famous historian; Sarfaraz Khan Khattak Advocate, the family tree of Daud Shah is Daud Shah bin Khozak bin Paahak bin Surani bin Shitak.
There is also a village named after Daud Shah in Bannu named Tapa Daud Shah. In other words, Ghazi Dilasa Khan was an honorary figure of the area by birth and by lineage. Maybe this was the reason that he had all the qualities of a good leader.
According to another historian; Uqab Khattak, Dilasa was born in the year 1777 AD. He saw the rule of the Sikhs when he was still young. The Sikhs had taken over Dera Ismail Khan and had come to Bannu; which fell to them without any resistance. However, their control of Bannu was by name only. The Bannu political scene from 1823 to 1847 was all chaos. There was no centralized government. Every village was home to a fort and every village's Khan was the undisputed King.
Sikh tax collectors would roam around from village to village collecting taxes. They would be accompanied by small army units. In the name of taxes, they would basically collect anything of value they could get their hands on. The economic condition of the people was very bad. If they were unable to give anything of value as taxes the Sikhs would burn their houses down, destroy their crops, kill the elder males and imprison young boys and girls who would then be forced into laborious work.
And this would only be done in cases taxes were not collected. The Sikhs would also try to humiliate the Muslims in whichever way possible. They would not allow anybody to call the Azan, pray, or give sacrifices of cows and bulls whenever they would be present in a village.
A palatial employee of the Khalsa Darbar; Muhammad Hayat writes about the narrow mindedness of a Sikh General Sardar Sucheet Singh that:
"One day Sucheet Singh was on a visit to a village Tapa Manda Khel in Moza' Allah Dari when a local of the area gave a sacrifice of a cow. As soon as the Sikh got word of it he immediately ordered his soldiers to go there and chop the heads off everybody in the village and if there is any old people then chop their hands and noses only."
When Ghazi Dilasa Khan would hear stories like this happening to his people, his blood would boil. Although he was not considered as big a Malik (Khan) as others in the area and he also was owner of only 1/4th the land in Tapa Daud Shah but the people still gave him respect and included him in the decision making process because of his leadership skills.
The Sikhs had fixed a Qalang/Tax of 5000 rupees per annum on his village Gala Khan Noorai.
Although everybody was sick and tired of being under constant humiliation and from the injustices made by the Sikhs but still nobody would dare ask for a confrontation because the Sikhs happened to be a very organized, strong and efficient army. Furthermore, they were trained by French, Italian and British Generals. There were only a few who had the resources and the ability to face such armies and Ghazi Dilasa Khan was one of them.
To collect taxes, a Sikh Kanwar Karhak Singh came to Bannu in 1826. He was accompanied by Commander Fateh Singh. They camped at that area which nowadays is known as Qilla Dilip Garh. Due to the nature of their mission they were always ready for hit and run attacks by the locals. Despite the heavy numbers of the Sikhs, Dilasa Khan and his men attacked them. They fought bravely but there was no outcome from the fight as the Sikhs were organised efficiently, hence they fled back to the mountains.
In 1834, one of Ranjid Singh's main henchman; Tara Chand came to Bannu with an army to collect taxes from the villages. First he started with looting villages in Marwat Lands. Anybody resisting there was killed. After finishing with Marwat, he headed towards Bannu and camped at Akra in Moza' Kaki Barath. After setting camp, he sent men to the local areas to gather intelligence. He was then informed that Dilasa Khan and his men have no intention to give any taxes. Tara Chand then set foot again and camped again at Mamash Khel; which was closer to the positions of Dilasa Khan.
Upon dawn, Tara Chand broke upon Dilasa Khan's village. Dilasa Khan was aware that this attack might happen so his men had already taken up positions in strategic bunkers. They had also constructed tall wooden walls to ward off attackers. The Sikhs surrounded the village and started bombarding the defence positions of the village. As soon as a portion of the wall would be brought down, Dilasa Khan or his men would cut trees and fill up the void. However such tactics were not enough to ward off the mighty Sikh Army. It was thus not long before Dilasa Khan and his men themselves went out into forward positions and attacked the Sikh Cannonry and those handling them. Many died and even more cannons were rendered useless. With no cannonry, the Sikhs had no choice but to send in their foot soldiers to attack the village. Dilasa Khan's men first tried to ward off the foot soldiers by shooting them with their guns. As the Sikh soldiers swept in like a flood, the Bannuchis took out their swords and fought face to face with them. The village was also surrounded by towers as was a custom of all villages of the area and is still done today as well. These towers were manned by Ghazis who had excellent shooting skills. With this two-pronged attack, the Sikhs slowly started to fall down and it was not long before they were forced to run away. Such was the nervousness of the Sikhs that even when they reached their own camp, they had to dig up trenches around the camp out of fear that Dilasa Khan would attack there as well.
For 20 days the Sikhs stayed in their camps, looking for a right moment to attack again, but the Ghazis were well entrenched in their positions. Left with no choice, the Sikh army went back to where they had come from. With this campaign, the Sikhs only managed to collect some taxes from Isaki and Mandanrh whereas the rest of the villages throughout Bannu were part of the resistance.
For Ghazi Dilasa Khan, this victory was not just like any victory. Tara Chand had with him 8000 well equipped troops and 12 cannons. The commander of this army was a French General named Courte. The Sikhs had to pay the price of their campaign with the death of 200 horsemen, 500 injured, and the death of an important Sikh General by the name of Sardar Jay Singh Atari Wala. After reaching Bannu, Tara Chand sent a message to Ranjid Singh conveying the message that all the Bannuchi villages had rebelled. To ask for justification of this rebellion, Ranjid Singh called for all village heads and Maliks to report to the Sikh Darbar in Lahore. The Maliks were also told that anybody who is a devote of the Sikh Emperor should physically come to convey the well wishes to the emperor and that anybody not coming would be considered a rebel, thus punishable.
A delegation from Bannu started for Lahore to meet the Sikh emperor. This delegation comprised of renowned local Maliks like Malak Dakas Khan, Malak Mir Hawas Khan, Ja'far Khan, and Jangi Khan. Dilasa Khan personally did not like the idea of being part of the delegation therefore he sent his Hindu representative Megha Ram. This delegation met the emperor at Amritsar where they were asked for the reason why they refused to pay taxes. Malak Dakas Khan replied that under the tenure of previous Muslim rulers, the annual tax affixed on Bannu was 12,000 rupees whereas the Sikh Sardars, Shahzada Karhak Singh and Fateh Singh had affixed it to be 100,000 rupees. It is evident that the poor people cannot muster up this amount of money because of their poor financial conditions. Dakas Khan also said that it was the high-handedness and narrow mindedness of Tara Chand that led to the confrontation between Dilasa Khan and the Sikh regime. With this explanation, Ranjid Singh scolded Tara Chand for his wrong attitude that led to the death of hundreds of people and like this the whole issue was put to rest.
Later on, in 1934, Ranjid Singh sent his personal appointee to Bannu to collect taxes from the people. The Hindu representative was again faced with stiff resistance because none of the Bannuchi tribes would agree to paying any taxes at all. Therefore no taxes were collected for the next two years. In 1936, Kanwar Nonihal Singh and Raja Sucheet Singh were appointed by the Sikh Emperor to collect taxes yet again from the people of Bannu. They were accompanied by a large Sikh army to facilitate their task. In no time at all, the Sikh generals had the village of Ghazi Dilasa Khan put under siege again because this was considered the center of resistance. The siege lasted for days and the inhabitants of the village had to suffer from hunger. If any outsider would come for help, they would be punished and sent back. Other major villages were also held under siege this way. People were arrested, forcefully conscripted and tortured. With the lives of their families at stake, the Bannuchi had no choice but to pay taxes. In this manner, Sardar Sucheet Singh and his gang wreaked havoc on the lives and properties of the villagers.
Bannus first British governor, Sir Herbert Edwardes writes about Dilasa Khan that, "When Sikhs would come to Bannu with fear of Dilasa Khan, and they would go with bad memories."
With the push of the British colonists, the Sikhs found themselves at war with them. After a humiliating defeat at the hands of the British at the banks of River Sutlej, a treaty was signed between them. One clause of this treaty was that British officers be allowed to serve in the regime of Ranjid Singh. Hence many British were recruited in this manner. One such officer was Herbert Edwards. This is the same Edwardes in whose name lies a famous school and college in Peshawar cantonment. The Sikhs appointed Edwardes as governor of Bannu and also gave him responsibility to collect taxes from the Bannuchis on behalf of the Sikh Emperor.
Herbert Edwardes first came to Bannu on 15th of March 1947. One of his first steps after arrival was to invite Dilasa Khan for negotiations. Dilasa Khan arrived with 60 men on horseback. Ignoring the Sikh Generals, Dilasa Khan faced Herbert and told him that, "I came because you invited me, otherwise I have no faith in the Sikhs. You are from the people of the book (christians) and therefore I am sure that you will fulfil your word."
Edwardes treated Dilasa Khan well and on his return, even accompanied him to his village under the pretext that he is new to the area and wants to roam around the different places. Since hospitality was part of Pashtoon culture, therefore Dilasa Khan did not refuse to Edwardes wishes. Sardar Shamsheer Singh accompanied Edwardes on this trip to Dilasa Khan's village. Once inside the confounds of the village, Dilasa Khan noticed that Edwardes was taking very keen interest in the location of places; especially the fort. It struck Dilasa Khan immediately that Edwardes was playing a deception game and that in reality he would report to the Sikhs what he has seen. With their newly obtained knowledge, the Sikhs would most likely attack again in a much more efficient manner since they would know all the ins and outs of the village. Nothing could be done now after Dilasa Khan was duped. When the visitors went back, Dilasa Khan considered it feasible to move out. Hence he migrated west to Dawarh lands and wrote a letter to Edwardes conveying that even he was not a trustworthy person after what he did.
On the 8th of December 1947, Edwardes came to Bannu again and as he did in his previous visit, he again called for negotiations with all Tribal Maliks and elders. All of them accepted the invitation apart from Dilasa Khan.
Dilasa Khan arranged for many lashkars in the Tribal areas to attack the Sikhs but each time the plan was forfeited because of disastrous financial situation. In this regard, Amir Dost Muhammad Khan, the ruler of Afghanistan was approached for help via his son; Sardar Muhammad Akram Khan but even they couldn't help because Kabul was itself under a much worse turmoil due to civil war.
Years passed and Dilasa Khan's exile took length. After H. Edwardes, Major Taylor was appointed as the Assistant Resident of Bannu. Realising that Ghazi Dilasa Khan would be old by now and would not be able to put up resistance, he gave amnesty to Dilasa Khan immediately called for him to end his exile and come back to his home land. Dilasa Khan came back but due to his weakness he was constantly on bed. He would even find it difficult to talk to somebody or even sit in bed. Dilasa Khan left this world in this state and attained the ranks of Ghazis.
As expected, the Sikhs and the British had an open ground to play in once Ghazi Dilasa Khan was out of the scene. They started a joint campaign to destroy all the forts throughout Bannu lands which numbered no less than 400 because these were the places from where the Bannuchis were resisting. Bannu was named Dilip Garh after Prince Dilip Singh and a fort was constructed in Bannu from where all the canals passing through the lands could be controlled. After the Sikh Regime ended, Bannu was named Edwardesabad after H. Edwardes although the Bannuchis always called it by its ancestral name of Bannu.
Ghazi Dilasa Khan was buried with great dignity and honor at Khwaja Abdullah Baba Rahmatullah Alaihe's graveyard. In the south-east of the graveyard, one can still see a big, tall grave which is the abode of this great Mujahed.
Ghazi Dilasa Khan, Muhammad Shafi Sabir
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (http://www.khyber.org)