THIS is with reference to the letter ‘Talpurs in Sindh: the ‘other’ view’ (Nov 11) in response to my article ‘History: The British Conquest of Sindh’ (EOS, Oct 31). While discussing the conquest of Sindh, one of the most intriguing questions before the scholars has been that how an independent, vast and prosperous state like Sindh was lost by the Talpurs to the British in a battle of just three hours at Miani in February 1843. This happened despite Sindh’s army having 27,000 soldiers against just 2,700 sepoys of the British army.
And it was not a sudden or sporadic debacle for Talpur rulers. Four years earlier, in February 1839, they had already lost Karachi to the British forces. And after the Battle of Miani, too, in March 1843, fewer British forces were able to defeat much larger Talpur army at the Battle of Dubbo, sealing the fate of Sindh as a British colony.
Almost every scholar on Sindh’s history, whether indigenous or foreigner, has attributed Sindh’s weaknesses to the disunity within the ruling Talpur families, coupled with their archaic approach to weaponry and warfare. The division of Sindh into three parts, ruled by three different branches of the Talpur family, had aggravated the situation further.
Since the letter concerned has quoted Sorely, I would suggest a recent book, Talpurs in Sindh, by Dr Mumtaz Hussain Pathan, ably edited by Dr Sahib Khan Channa. The book has quoted Sorely as saying: “Talpur is composed of Thal and Bur, which means wood-cutter.” The Talpurs had “goatherds in the Mari hills and as they constantly cut branches of the trees to graze their flocks of goats, they obtained notoriety and were given the appellation Thalpur”, says Sorely as quoted in the book cited above.
Dr Pathan also states that the Talpurs, “before their arrival in Sindh, lived a savage life in the eastern portion of the Iranian plateau. They were summoned to Sindh from Seraiki region by the Kalhora rulers, their murshids, to be enlisted as their fighting force.” I am skipping here the detailed description of the ‘savage life’ as quoted in the book, which is not much different from the pen-picture drawn by Dr Hamida Khuhro.
Dr Muhammad Ali Shaikh
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2021