Hazro Town is 1.5 hours’ drive from Islamabad. It was originally called ‘Takht Hazara’ or the lower Hazara in the 6th century. The town is protected from the North and West by the River Indus that curves westwards close to the town. This makes the ground very fertile for cultivation and the inhabitants very rich. No wonder Mahmoud Ghaznavi sacked the town in 1008 AD and slaughtered 20,000 people.
Even when I went about meeting people, I found the residents, exceedingly fair complexioned, and light-eyed like Pathans. This is unusual for a rural town in Pakistan.
The rollback one day reached Hazro town that was destroyed by Ranjit Singh’s troops in 1813 as a spring board to reach deep into Fateh Khan Durrani’s Afghanistan. It was after winning this battle with their superior cannons and nod from the British, that Ranjit Singh realized he can have the pie (Kashmir) and eat it too (Afghanistan).
When Ranjit Singh, fell ill in 1826, The British sent their military surgeon to look after his health because he was considered to be a ‘friendly native’. On hearing of Ranjit Singh’s ill health, rebellious Yousafzai, crossed the Indus and attacked the fortification of Hazro killing the garrison. The non-muslim people of the town were spared as Hari Singh Nalwa arrived with his troops to protect them.
Hazro is also the birth place of the KuKa sect of Sikh religion, formed by Bhagat Jawar Mal & Bhai Balak Singh in 1840, the founders of Namdhari Sikhs. His successor Ram Singh was banished by the British to Andaman Islands for being a threat to the crown. This sect taught its disciples not to discriminate on caste and race, stop consuming alcohol, drugs and meat and to avoid overtly Hindu customs. They believed Guru Gobind to be the true Guru. Kukas recited the scriptures in a peculiarly shrill voice, hence the ‘Kook’ name. Their Gurdwara in Hazro is now a flatten surface of brick. Alas! History lost.
Before 1947, most of the land around Hazro was owned by two Hindu brothers Gokal Shah and Makan Shah. Gokal Shah converted to Islam, probably to save his considerable holding.
The prominent Hindu family of Hazro called themselves Maharaja, for some reason that I couldn’t correlate. They were known to be exceedingly philanthropics for the local desperately poor Muslims. All the shops in the central market belonged to Hindus. Muslims mostly dealt in ‘Naswaar’ (tobacco). The desperately poor Muslims burnt all the shops of the powerful non-muslim elite in the communal riots of 1947.
One of the descendants of these rich Hindus came back from India several years back and took back their gold that they had hiding in a secret chamber under their staircase. The resident of the house died in shock.
Every old haveli in the Hindu mohallas had a secret chamber or basement to keep their residents safe in case mobs attacked them.
I visited the Hari Temple and the Shiva Temple of Shahbaz Mohalla. Both were quite run down and all the frescos were painted over. Hari temple was built in 1928, as inscribed on a plate in Urdu.
It’s the richly decorated façade on the old hindu havelis that captured my attention.
Hazro town Centre had four doorways of entry only. All the Hindus lived within the walls. Not too many people died in the partition riots.
Our next stop would be Attock Fort.
Coming back from Hazro I realized how miniscule my existence is in the whole timeline of events around Indus River and its ‘Sindhu’ people.
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