MY UNPRETENTIOUS REGAL FRIEND

By Vincent Lyn

Sardar Nouman Azam here with his father Sardar Umrao Khan

Life is really astounding and as much as I am thrilled to have excelled in the skills and passions of my parents. My nomadic travels throughout the lonely planet has offered me the wonderful pleasure of getting to know some of the most amazing people on it. Sardar Nouman Azam Mughal is one of those, and one I can call a dear friend. Sardar Nouman is the son of Sardar Umrao Khan. A Duke of the sub-dynasty of the Mughal Empire from Azad Jammu Kashmir, whose fore-fathers served their entire lives for humanity and charity without differentiating in color, creed, culture or religion.

The Mughal Empire, was an early modern empire in South Asia. For some two centuries, the empire stretched from the outer fringes of the Indus Basin in the west, northern Afghanistan in the northwest, and Kashmir in the north, to the highlands of present-day Assam and Bangladesh in the east, and the uplands of the Deccan plateau in south India.

The Mughal empire is conventionally said to have been founded in 1526 by Babur, a warrior chieftain from what today is Uzbekistan, who employed aid from the neighboring Safavid and Ottoman empires, to defeat the Sultan of Delhi, Ibrahim Lodhi, in the First battle of Panipat, and to sweep down the plains of Upper India. The Mughal imperial structure, however, is sometimes dated to 1600, to the rule of Babur’s grandson, Akbar. This imperial structure lasted until 1720, until shortly after the death of the last major emperor, Aurangzeb, during whose reign the empire also achieved its maximum geographical extent. Reduced subsequently, especially during the East India Company Rule in India, to the region in and around Old Delhi, the empire was formally dissolved by the British Raj after the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Although the Mughal empire was created and sustained by military warfare, it did not vigorously suppress the cultures and peoples it came to rule, but balanced them by establishing new administrative practices, and incorporating diverse ruling elites, leading to more efficient, centralized, and standardized rule. The base of the empire’s collective wealth was agricultural taxes, instituted by the third Mughal emperor, Akbar. These taxes, which amounted to well over half the output of a peasant cultivator, were paid in the well-regulated silver currency, and caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets.

The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the 17th century was a factor in India’s economic expansion. Burgeoning European presence in the Indian ocean, and its increasing demand for Indian raw and finished products, created still greater wealth in the Mughal courts. There was more conspicuous consumption among the Mughal elite, resulting in greater patronage of painting, literary forms, textiles, and architecture, especially during the reign of Shah Jahan. Among the Mughal UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Asia are: Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Lahore Fort and Taj Mahal, which is described as the Jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”

Sardar’s family empire had ruled over the entire sub-continent from 1605–1857 AD. After 1806 due to hypocrisy and on-going trouble between the states, the Mughals started clashing with the British. The Mughals were no match for the British and during the Battle of Jhelum the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (also known as the Indian Mutiny) they eventually took over the entire sub-continent. They had close relations with the Royal Family of the United Kingdom and during this time they emigrated toward Kashmir. During this period Queen Victoria had been humiliated by the Sikhs who were then rulers of Kashmir. Maharaja Duleep Singh rejected Queen Victoria’s offer to make his sons hereditary peers of the British aristocracy in exchange for the loss of the Koh-i-noor and other famous jewels looted from the Punjab treasury. Queen Victoria’s aim at the time was to make Duleep Singh’s elder son, Victor, a Marquis, while the younger one, Freddie, would have been given earldom. These titles were among the several attempts made by the British government to placate the Maharaja and persuade him to remain a loyal subject of Queen Victoria.

Punjab ranked among the most glittering acquisitions of the British Empire and the Lahore treasury was said to be the richest in the world. It took two years to ransack it and sell it off in 11 separate auctions. Current estimates of the treasury’s value range from upwards of U.S. $100 billion. The sad story of Punjab’s conquest is recorded in the Queen’s personal journal. In an entry dated 2 May, 1849, she comments: “Delightful news that the entire Sikh army, including Chattar Singh and Sher Singh (military commanders of the Sikh army, who lost to the British in the Battle of Gujarat) has surrendered.”

In another entry dated 25 May, 1849, she describes receiving a letter from Governor-General Lord Dalhousie where he says that ‘the Punjab has been declared to be a portion of Your Majesty’s Empire in India and the Governor General will have the honor of transmitting to Your Majesty from Lahore the famous jewel of the Mughal Empire, the Koh-i-noor, the Mountain of Light (the largest diamond in the world) formerly set in the throne of the Emperors of Delhi.’ ‘It may be regarded as the Historical Emblem of conquest in India & the Governor General rejoices it has found its fitting resting place in Your Majesty’s crown.’

Sardar’s fore-father, his highness Sardar Feroz Khan’s humility and passivity to tradition gave way to Queen Victoria. She called Sardar Feroz Khan in Mumbai and gave him financial assistance to establish a tribal army and a committed war against Maharaja Harry Singh. It was a great honor and with it came an enormous responsibility. Eventually Maharaja Raja Harry Singh denounced his authority which gave way to him running away from half of Kashmir.

Muslim and Hindus were demanding freedom from the British and with it suddenly World War I began and the British Empire was embroiled in a global war. Kashmir, and whatever headway was made was left to its own devices. Though this did not stop the British from collecting revenue from India. In 1935, The Government of India Act was passed by British Parliament in August 1935. … This act ended the system of dyarchy introduced by the Government of India Act 1919, and provided for the establishment of a Federation of India to be made up of provinces of British India and some or all of the Princely states.

The British instituted huge restrictions and boundaries and with it a revolution was inevitable. The British army went so far to pack their bullets and munitions with pig and cow tallow. While the pig is unlawful in Islam, for Muslims the cow is unlawful for Hindus. War ensued through until post WWII with the British finally leaving the sub-continent in 1947 and subsequently on 14th August 1947 Pakistan became a sovereign nation. But Pakistan was financially broke and there were zero rupees to run the country. Sardar Summander Khan gave 2 crore rupees (equivalent to $280,000.00) to General Qauid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah for military and establishment structure modification and development. In 1948 Jinnah died .

During the partition in 1947 the priceless states of Junagadh and Kashmir were supposed to be fully a part of Pakistan and King George VI was in favor of it. At this time a serious relationship between Lord Mountbatten’s wife Edwina Mountbatten and Nehru began. She and Nehru, the new prime minister of India, became romantic with each other. Whether the romance was ever consummated is not known; however, their mutual fondness was evident and caused widespread speculation. She played a pivotal role in cheating the Kashmiris.

The Indo-Pakistan War of 1947–1948 sometimes known as the First Kashmir War, was fought between India and Pakistan over the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was the first of four Indo-Pakistan wars that was fought between the two newly independent nations. Pakistan precipitated the war a few weeks after its independence by launching tribal Lashkar (militias) from Waziristan, in an effort to capture Kashmir, the future of which hung in the balance. The inconclusive result of the war still affects the geopolitics of both countries.

The 1958 Pakistani coup d’état refers to the events between October 7, when the President of Pakistan Iskander Mirza abrogated the Constitution of Pakistan and declared martial law, and October 27, when Mirza himself was deposed by General Ayub Khan, the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army. In 1960 the general elections were postponed and in September 1961 Queen Elizabeth II visited Pakistan.

Sardar’s grandfather was the first person from Kashmir to discuss political matters of Kashmir with Queen Elizabeth II. But in 1962 the Sino-Indian War began, by some, Clash on the Roof of the World, was a war between China and India. A Chinese disputed Himalayan border was the main cause of the war. India never suspected that China would ever launch an attack, but it did. India was attacked on October 20, 1962. The belief of not ever being attacked by China did not let the Indian army prepare and the result was the standoff between 10,000–20,000 Indian troops and 80,000 Chinese troops. The war continued for about a month and ended on November 21, after China declared a ceasefire.

A few years later The Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 which took place between April 1965 and September 1965 between Pakistan and India. The conflict began following Pakistan’s move to infiltrate forces into Jammu and Kashmir to precipitate an insurgency against Indian rule. India retaliated by launching a full-scale military attack on West Pakistan. The seventeen-day war caused thousands of casualties on both sides and witnessed the largest engagement of armored vehicles and the largest tank battle since World War II. Hostilities between the two countries ended after a ceasefire was declared through a diplomatic intervention by the Soviet Union and the United States. The plans for a unified Kashmir were slowly slipping away and with the death of General Ayub Khan in 1969 so too did the hierarchy of Sardar’s family fall.

In 1982, Sardar’s grandfather died suddenly and decades of corruption and dishonor led to extremely difficult times. On October 8, 2005, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook the Kashmir region along with sections of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. More than 80,000 people perished as a result of the quake, while an estimated 4 million others were left homeless. The entire world came to the support of the Kashmiris. But Sardar’s family didn’t accept any revenue from any foreign country, in fact they donated the entire families wealth to the Kashmiris earthquake victims.

Sardar Nouman Azam with his cocker spaniel given to him by the former Major General for the United Nations Military Observer Group (UNMOGIP)

Prince Charles and Lady Camilla visited his residence in 2005 and after having lived the status of a privileged royal lifestyle they began living the life of the common man. Sardar’s father, Umrao Khan made an agreement with the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) to establish their inheritance of millions of dollars valued in the cedar forests they own. But as yet no money has been given. They receive a monthly income of one lakh rupees ($1,355) per six months in which 75,000 rupees ($1,018) is donated to an organization for betterment of the region. This consists of 15 schools and 4,700 students education and 338 widows are supported on a monthly basis. Sardar’s father has an agricultural business of trout farms, gardens of golden apples and apricots. Including a dairy farm, with also buffaloes, cows, sheep and goats. The money earned from these enterprises is able to support and aid the entire region of 12,000 people. All the money made by Sardar’s family is given back to the community. His father, Umrao Khan was given the opportunity to run in the elections. But when the Prime minister asked him to join him, his answer was unrelenting.

“Politics are nothing except hypocrisy, vanity and the fawning of others. Using others for your own advantage and their misery. I am afraid by Almighty and these inerrant people who’ve been with us for centuries robbing us of our rights, like you Mr. Prime minister.” Jokingly, Sardar who was sitting there listening asked the Prime minister if he had anymore questions? The Prime minister then quickly drank his cup of coffee and walked away. Till now he has not returned an answer.

Sardar firmly believes wealth is of no great concern when it come to greatness. He tells me of his own ideology and believes there are three kinds of greatness.

  1. Some are born great with great dreams
  2. Some achieve greatness through hard effort
  3. Some accidentally have greatness thrust upon them, though they are not deserving of it

Sardar told me that I am in Category 1 like his father, born great with great dreams and changing ones dreams to serve humanity and making it a reality. He tells me he is Category 2. He was born to see the terrible crisis and suffering of his people and through hard effort will hopefully make a difference securing a better future for the citizens of Kashmir.

“Maybe one day the world will care about us.” — Sardar

Sardar has written dozens of letters to various foreign leaders, heads of state and philanthropists for assistance and aid but only Prince Harry-Duke of Sussex replied. Oh, and Me!

Sardar has high hopes and dreams for his country. He wants to establish his region in AJK into tourism so that they can end unemployment. Secondly, he wants to upgrade the primary schools for girls education because females are playing a vital role in the country’s development. All these things are possible with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Disaster and Climate Resilience Improvement Project (DCRIP). I agree with Sardar they should invest in AJK, and with my support and his dream to serve and develop the people of his region we will find a way to make it happen.

Firstly, everyone needs to raise their voice vehemently against what India is doing in occupied Kashmir, and to take the voice of the oppressed Kashmiris to the international community. I know with all my heart that the State of Azad Jammu Kashmir and the people of Pakistan will continue their steadfast support for the people of Kashmir till the realization of their inalienable rights to self-determination in accordance with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

“Vincent you are a man that cares about us, you are not from Pakistan yet your humanity and spirit speaks volumes because you want to help us. To come to Jammu Kashmir to meet with us and speak with the women and children to witness the plight of our struggle and take our message back to the world.” — Sardar Nouman Azam.

“Sardar god bless you and keep your family safe and healthy. I will be with you soon and we will rejoice. Inshallah.” — Vincent Lyn

Vincent Lyn

CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children

Director of Creative Development

Economic & Social Council at United Nations

Middle East Correspondent at Wall Street News Agency

Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts

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Vincent Lyn

Vincent Lyn

CEO-We Can Save Children. Director Creative Development-African Views Organization, ECOSOC at United Nations. International Human Rights Commission (IHRC)