George Scott Robertson.

The Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; online

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now lived anyhow in Kamdesh, so as to be near the


object of his aflfectious. She, unhappily, was in tlie power
of Chandlu Astan, the famous Jast of the Utahdari clan,
because her father had died in his debt, and she was
the pledge or security for the payment of the money.
Chandlu Astan would not allow Lutkar to take away the
woman until he had paid the whole sum due upon her ;
an impossible condition, for Lutkar was poor. The lovers
had made up their minds to run away together to Chitral,
and the idea was that if I adopted Lutkar as my son, they
might be safe from Chandlu Asian's vengeance. The
sequel of the story may be here related. Lutkar went to
Mehtar Jao Ghulam at Aiun, and became a Musalman.
He then returned and ran away with the young woman,
and after that deed dare not show his face again in Kam-
desli country ; but in the Katir country we met again.
He was then the strictest of strict Musalmans in all the
ceremonials connected with the killing of animals, but
had not learned the customary prayers. Lie was full of
tlie kindness which had been shown him by the C'hitnili
prince, and especially delighted in referring to a beautiful
pair of trousers which his wife had received from tluit
magnate; for this not only showed how favoured tiny
had been, but explained, without further words, that tlie
woman had turned Musalman also. At a still later inter-
view I found that Lutkar, in spite of the protection he
had received at Aiun, and the high favour in which he
stood with Mehtar Jao Ghulam, had been obliged to make
peace, and, with the help of his patron, had ])ai(l C'liaiKllu
Astan everything the latter demanded. This is only one
of many instances of the caution displayed by Chitnilis
of even the highest rank in doing nothing to incur the
resentment of headmen in K;itirist;iu.


Liitkar, liaving finished his story at Agatsi, remarked
that his personal devotion to me was so great, that while
I remained in the country he intended never to leave me,
for he delighted in being my servant. Two days later,
after wasting many of my precious cartridges in missing
sitting birds, he got thoroughly bored, and left me without
a word. This had been the result of all my former
attempts to get Kafirs to remain in my service, and was
obviously a national characteristic ; so I made no more
efforts in that direction.

The 3rd of February was the Viron festival, but the snow
was so heavy that we did not attempt to climb the Kam-
desh hill for the occasion; but on the nth, in reply to
most urgent messages, we all went up to help at Utah's
apotheosis as one of the Jast. On the way to my house
we rested for a time at Utah's house, and admired the
garments which were being got ready for the great man
to wear in the evening. It was then suggested to me
that it was the privilege of a brother on such occasions
to provide a "kuUah," a peaked Afghan cap. This was
particularly insisted upon by Shahru, the soothsayer, but
the only article of the kind which could be produced
belonged to my servant Mir Alam, from whom I purchased
it. It was sent down to Utah, who was delighted until
he heard how much Mir Alam had received for it, when
he returned the cap, declaring it was not suitable for his
purpose. It seems that, handsome as he thought the head-
dress, he yet thought it more desirable to get the some-
what heavy price I had given for it than to possess the
article itself. He came over to partake of tea at five
o'clock, but rushed off in a hurry to dress, although his
entertainment did not begin till eight o'clock. About


that time his sou-in-law, NiUra, came for me with an
urgent request that for this occasion I would weai* my
best clothes. Accordingly, in the admired black suit, a
striped flannel shirt, and a khaki-coloured turban, 1 went
to witness the strange ceremony.

During the months of March and April 1891, my rela-
tions with the Kafirs continued steadily to improve. The
spring festivals kept them fairly employed, and although
the populous upper village left me rather severely alone,
there were no more individual attempts to worry me.
Of course there were various small unpleasantnesses to
be undergone. The Kafirs, for instance, were unremitting
in their endeavours to corrupt the loyalty of my fol-
lowers, and their efforts were not without some measure
of success, except in the case of the Baltis, whose un-
swerving fidelity neither threats nor promises could afiect
in any way. Sayed Shah did succumb to these sinister
influences. He maintained close friendly relations with
Mian Gul, and caused me considerable annoyance. He
became very ill, and from the date of his recovery, gradu-
ally detaching himself from me, fell completely into the
hands of Mian Gul and the intriguing Kafirs. He then
became frightened out of his wits at his new friends, and
secretly left the house of the chief man of Kamu, with
w^hom he was staying for the benefit of his health, the
climate of that village being considerably warmer than
that of Kamdesh. He was at once followed, and, as if
he had been a prisoner instead of a guest, was severely
beaten and robbed. My influence, however, was suffi-
cient to enable me to recover all the stolen property.
Shortly afterwards Sayed Shah was sent oft' to India.
He had proved in the end a bad bargain. His natural


timidity had increased with age, and he fell an easy prey to
the intriguers by whom he was surrounded. As he in-
variably refused to accompany me on any of my short
journeys, declaring that he was too old and too unwell to
leave Kamdesh, there was small opportunity of my exert-
ing continuous personal influence over him.

While on a short visit to Shah-i-Mulk at Kila Drosh, I
discovered that that prince, with the full consent of his
father, the Mehtar, was desirous of erecting a fort at the
village of Nari or Narsut. He asked me to select an
appropriate site for the building, and to perform what is
the Chitrali equivalent to laying the foundation-stone.
The Mehtar's object was to create a general impression
amongst the surrounding tribes that the proposed fort
was being built by order of the Government of India.
This compelled me to excuse myself, as politely as possible,
from doing as was wished, and necessitated my hurrying
back to Kamdesh to be relieved from further importuni-
ties on the subject. During the short stay in the Kunar
Valley we ran short of supplies on more than one occa-
sion. Once, on the way to Kila Drosh from Arandii,
being entirely without food and almost starving, we were
compelled to take by force a goat which the owner re-
fused to sell me out of his flock. He was a fanatical-
looking Musalman, who admitted he was a subject of
Shah-i-Mulk. The incident was unpleasant, but happily
it was also unique. We were at the time in very great
straits. The man was eventually told that the whole
circumstances of the case should be related to Shah-i-
Mulk, and the value of the goat paid over to that prince.
On hearing this, he expressed a wish that the money
should be paid into his own hand. He was accordingly


given the price of the animal with a small addition, as
compensation for a buffet he had invited and had re-
ceived. ^^'e left him apparently quite contented. His
refusal to supply me with food was dictated hy pure
churlishness, and because he considered me a Kafir of
the worst type. This was the only instance of the kind
which occurred during my stay in these regions.

In April I paid another visit to the Kunar Valley,
going as far down it as Upper Baihlm, A Chitrali guard
accompanied me, in addition to my own Katir escort.
The Chitrali soldiers were a company of the regular
troops which the Mehtar was at that time forming. It
was a custom of this guard to stand round me with fixed
bayonets whenever we rested, even for an instant, guard-
ing my person with unnatural alertness until they became
wearied of the occupation, when they one and all would
march off and leave me. During one of tlic many inter-
vals in this spasmodic vigilance, a somewhat serious dis-
turbance broke out between the inhabitants of Arandii
and my followers. The villagers used as missiles the
smooth water-worn stones which they keep ready on tlie
house-tops for such purposes. We all had to turn out
and fight, until the lagging Chitrali guard came to our
help. There were a good many bruises and contusions,
but no one was seriously hurt. After the tumult was
suppressed, the leaders of the disturbance were bound
and delivered over to me for punishment, it being care-
fully explained that they might be dealt with in wliatever
manner seemed proper in my eyes. An inquiry, however,
elicited the unpleasant fact that the quarrel had been
undoubtedly caused by the high-handed behaviour of my
own Pathan servant. The prisoners were, therefore, at


once released, and the Patlian, who had suffered rather
severely in the fray, was suitably admonished. A short
time afterwards he had to be dismissed from my service
altogether. This unhappy incident was followed by no
bad result in the village in which it occuiTed, for the
people of that place were, from that time forward, in-
variably helpful and friendly to me. For any expedition
similar to mine it is most desirable that all followers
should be good-tempered men. This is, indeed, a far
more important qualification in selecting servants than
any other with which I am acquainted.

During this second visit to the Kunar Valley the fort
at Narsut was rapidly approaching completion. On my
return to Kamdesh on April 27th, the village seemed
nearly empty owing to so many men being away with
their flocks and herds ; but those who remained received
me with more than usual cordiality. Little crowds came
daily to see me, and many sick people were brought for
medicine, so that my time was fully occupied.

What may be called the bloodshed season opened in
1891 at the beginning of April, when the pass which
leads into the Dungul Valley from Kamdesh was suf-
ficiently clear of snow to allow the hardy Kafirs to
cross it.

On April 5, two Kashtan men returned in triumph,
after having committed a couple of murders in the Asmar
direction. The Kam men also had achieved some similar
small successes, which delighted the tribe, and these, in
conjunction with the Gish ceremonies, kept them all in
a high state of good-humour. There was daily practice
with bows and arrows, and much preparation of weapons
on the part of young men hungering for fame.

1'racticl: with 1!o\vs ani) arrows.

To face page 294.


In the prevailing general satisfaction 1 was especially
honoured, and Shahru, the individual who is temporarily
inspired during sacrifices and other religious functions,
took every opportunity of performing his antics before
me. He, no doubt, helped to increase my general popu-
larity, which at that time seemed considerable. Utah,
the priest, after many doubtings, had settled down as
my firm friend, and even my avowed opponents had
begun to abandon their intrigues against me, as hopeless
speculations. In short, the general aspect of things was
decidedly encouraging, and the only rift in the lute was
the dislike and impatience with which the Kam listened
to any suggestion of mine about visiting other tribes. So
long as I was content to remain with them, and never
speak even of other Kafirs, so long would a majority of
the Kam be delighted to have me with them ; but tlie
moment a w-ord was spoken of my wish to go to Lutdeh,
every brow lowered and every face grew sullenly angry.
The Kam people had no objection to my going to Chitnil
or to the Kunar Valley, both of them Musalman districts.
They reserved all their jealousy for their co-rcligionists
in Kafiristan.

For some time past, also, a cloud no bigger than a
man's hand had appeared on the horizon. It had in-
creased a little, but as yet gave no portent of a coming
storm. This was Umra Khan, the ruler of Jandul. lie
was engaged in making secret overtures to the Kiini, wh

Online LibraryGeorge Scott RobertsonThe Káfirs of the Hindu-Kush; → online text (page 18 of 38)