When Sikh warriors smashed jihadis in Balakot

In 1831, Syed Ahmed Barelvi wanted to establish a Caliphate in Kashmir. Then, he ran into Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army

It could be any other village in the mountains—terraced field with gentle slopes, a river cutting through it. But Balakot in Manshera district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has a dubious distinction. It has been chosen not once but at least twice by fundamentalists as the base to launch ‘jihad‘. And before the Indian Air Force struck on the morning of 26 February, it was Sikh warrior-king Ranjit Singh who did the job—smashing Islamic fundamentalists in a bloody battle way back in 1831.

Balakot: the original launchpad for militants

In the early 19th Century, a man named Syed Ahmed Barelvistarted rising to prominence in what today is northern India. Born into the Sufi faith in Rae Bareli (present-day Uttar Pradesh), Barelvi would soon veer towards the Sunni philosophy, eventually becoming one of the leaders of the Islamic Revivalist movement, also known as Wahhabism. He travelled across the region, preaching Islam and exhorting a return to its purist roots. His end goal: establish a Caliphate—a state governed by Islamic Sharia law. For Syed Ahmed Barelvi, the means to this end was jihad: the Holy War...

The attack on Balakot

According to some accounts, the Sikh army camped on a hilltop near Balakot. Barelvi played the waiting game—luring them into the open. He flooded the rice fields with water to slow them down, should they attack. For days, both sides waited for the other to make a move. Then, one day, in a tragi-comic sequence of events, one of Barelvi’s men lost his mind, and lured by an image of a ‘hoori’—a woman in red, charged down the hill! He was shot and the battle began—guns, swords and then hand-to-hand. Before the day was over, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s men had trounced the mujahidin. Barelvi, who wanted to conquer Kashmir and establish a Caliphate, was beheaded.

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