Hazarajat - History - 19th Century

19th Century

In the 18th and 19th centuries, as a sense of “Afghan-ness” developed among the Sunni Pashtuns, the Shia Hazara tribes began to coalesce. It has been suggested that in the 19th century there was an emerging awareness of ethnic and religious differences among the population of Kabul. This brought about divisions along “confessional lines” that became reflected in new “spatial boundaries”. During the reign of Dost Mohammad Khan, Mir Yazdanbakhsh, a diligent chief of the Behsud Hazaras, consolidated many of the and the districts they controlled. Mir Yazdanbakhsh collected revenues and safeguarded caravans traveling on the Hajigak route through Bamyan to Kabul from Shaikh Ali and Besud bandits. The consolidation of the Hazarajat thus increasingly made the region and its inhabitants a threat to the Durrani state based in Kabul. Until the late 19th century, the Hazarajat remained independent and only the authority of local leaders, khans or mirs, was obeyed. Joseph Pierre Ferrier, a French author who supposedly traveled through the region in the mid-19th century, described the inhabitants settled in the mountains near the rivers Balkh and Kholm in an orientalist vein, casting the Hazaras as savage criminals: “The Hazara population is ungovernable, and has no occupation but pillage; they will pillage and pillage only, and plunder from camp to camp”. Subsequent British travelers doubted whether Ferrier had ever actually left Herat to venture into Afghanistan’s central mountains and have suggested that his accounts of the region were based on hearsay, especially since very few people dared then to enter the Hazarajat; even Pashtun nomads would not take their flocks to graze there, and few caravans would pass through. Later in the early 1890s, the tribes of the Hazarajat were taxed and conscripted, while thousands were massacred. Pashtun nomads were moved into the Hazarajat, where they overran Hazara farmlands and pastures. Increasingly during summers, Pashtun nomads would camp in large numbers in the Hazarajat highlands.

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