The Indian Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had specially gone to Amarakot ( now Umarkot in Sindh, Pakistan) to extend invitation to Rana Arjun Singh Sodha, the ruler of a small princely state, to get associated with Congress Party. Amarkot was once the capital of Sindh. The Rana of 48.6 sq.KM jagir having population of 12,000, mostly Hindu, declined the offer. He conveyed Nehru in no unclear words that there had been a long association with the Muslim rulers of India and he would prefer to be with the Muslim League. Rana Arjun Singh contested the decisive 1946 elections on All India Muslim League ticket, resisting all pressures by the Congress to join it on the basis of being Hindu. His jagir was as such surrounded by the proposed Pakistan. A long historical background also made him not to toe Congress line. The population of India was 400 km away across the desert. His forefather, Rana Prasad, had extended protection and assistance to the Mughal Emperor Humayun when he was escaping the Afghan usurper Sher Shah Suri. Amarkot is the birthplace of Padshahzada Akbar, future Emperor of Delhi.
Since the 24th Rana of Amarkot, Arjun Singh died in 1947, his son and the 25th Rana Chander Singh Sodha(1931-2009) merged his state with Pakistan. He never had to repent for since he was elected to the National Assembly seven times from Umarkot and was also the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Revenue. He was closed to Late President and PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as well as Benazir Bhutto. And was one of the founder member of Pakistan Peoples Party(PPP). Rana Chander Singh experimented a Pakistan Hindu Party(PHP) with a saffron flag bearing two ancient logos- Om and Trishool but had to give it up and returned to PPP fold. His son and the present 26th Rana Hamir Singh too was a Minister of Agriculture in Sindh Government. Hamir Singh married a lady from the Ajmer Royal family and has three daughters who are all married in Rajput clan in India.
While going through the booklet “ The Myth of Kashmir Problem” published by RSS front organization, Jammu Kashmir Study Centre, curiocity was generated by the para :
“Adjacent to Jodhpur and Jaisalmer of Rajsthan in India, there was a state called Amarkot, in today’s Sindh, Pakistan. Amarkot was 90 % Hindu during 1947 and still Hindu majority. Raja was Rana Chander Singh. Ruler was Hindu and State was also overwhelmingly Hindu majority. Amarkot was also the place where Mughal Emperor Akbar was born in 16th century.”
Even today Ranas of Amarkot have live matrimonial alliances with former Indian Princely States. The male members of Rana family marry in India and their daughters are also married in India. The last Royal marriage held at Jaipur was of Kunwar Karani Singh Sodha, the grandson of Late Rana Chander Singh, with Padmini Singh Rathore of Kanota. It was reported that Jaipur saw such a royal wedding after 250 years in February 2015. Nearly 500 guests from Pakistan came apart from local royal guests like the Chief Minister of Rajsthan “Maharani” Vasundhara Raje and her MP son Dushyant Singh attending it.
Bena Sarwar of the Times of India in the “Aman Ki Asha” series gives an interesting account of Amakot history. Amarkot was later re-named after Umar, king of the Soomro dynasty(Umar-Marvi folktale fame). Even present Rana Hamir Singh is proud of his ancient lineage, Sindhi roots, language(Dhatki or Thari), and Sufi heritage linked to the dargah at Ajmer Sharif.It is this heritage that the Ranas traditionally identify with more than their Hindu beliefs.The Ranas see themselves as representative not just of the upper caste Hindu Rajputs, but of all the people in Thar, whatever their religion, caste or creed. They have proved their loyalty to these ideals multiple times, not least with the sacrifice of their ancestor Rana Rattan Singh who fought to keep Sindh free from British colonialism. The British captured and executed him in his own fort at Amarkot in 1853, on top of a high platform constructed especially to make the hanging visible for miles around and serve as an example. Legend has it that at the gallows, his last wish was to give a twist to his magnificent moustache in a final gesture of defiance. The Sindhi folk song “Mor tor tillay Rana” is based on his heroism.
The story of Umar Marvi is also interesting. Marvi was a young Thari girl abducted by then ruler, Umar, who wanted to marry her because of her beauty. Upon her refusal she was imprisoned in the historic Umarkot Fort for several years. Because of her courage, Marvi is regarded as a symbol of love for one’s soil and homeland.
After the British victory, the Sodhas moved to Rana Jagir, 12 km from Umarkot to the sprawling single- storey rawla the family built where their descendents still live. The fort has since then been government property and is in ruins, with only one of the outer walls partially restored. Close to the site where Rana Rattan Singh was martyred is a modest museum containing various artifacts and books- including a Persian translation of the Mahabharat.
The present Rana Hamir Singh is rightly quoted saying : “ It was the late Rana Chander Singh who brokered the former Indian Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee’s historic trip to Lahore to meet Nawaz Sharif, his counterpart. Then a Member of the National Assembly as well as a SAARC Committee member, Rana used his family ties with Jaswant Singh, the member of Vajpayee Cabinet, to get him convey the message to Vajpayee and convince him to make the trip. Earlier it was the Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi who said let’s have people to people contact, trade, and other confidence building measures. It is through confidence building that other disputes will be solved.”
Rana Hamir Singh is bold enough to challenge his political rivals and is proud of his standing in Pakistan. He is not shy of speaking out in various interviews that without the presence of Muslims in his religious and other occasions, he is incomplete and vice versa. Rana recollects the railway line laid by Jodhpur Darbar up to Karachi and the flight service from Hyderabad of Sindh to Jodhpur in the past. He wants the relations between the people to be revived despite both countries being at loggerheads. He dreams of such confidence building measures where suspicion and enmity is faded out.
Next Column : Prithviraj : The Last Hindu King of India
( The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail : [email protected] )