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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Between Sistanis and Afghans under British protection


The

Russians are advancing very fast, and their influence is already beginning to be felt in no slight degree. The Sistanis may or may not be relied upon. They are not perfectly Europeanised like peoples of certain parts of Western Persia, nor are they quite so amenable to reason as could be wished. They can easily be led, or misled, and bribed, and are by no means easy folks to deal with. For a few tomans one can have people assassinated, the Afghan frontier so close at hand being a guarantee of impunity for murderers, and fights between the townspeople and the Afghans or Beluch, in which many people are injured and killed, are not uncommon.

[Illustration: The Sar-tip.]

One of these fights, between Sistanis and Afghans (under British protection), took place when I was in Sistan, and I think it is only right that it should be related, as it proves very forcibly that, as I have continually urged in this book, calm and tact, gentleness and fairness, have a greater and more lasting control over Persians than outward pomp and red-tape.

The Consul and I, after calling on the Amir, proceeded to visit the Sar-tip, the Amir's first son by his legal wife. The Sar-tip is the head of a force of cavalry, and inhabits a country house, the Chahar Bagh, in a garden to the north outside the city. He is a bright and intelligent youth, who had travelled with Dr. Golam Jelami to India--from which

country he had recently returned, and where he had gone to consult specialists about his sadly-failing eyesight.

The Sar-tip, of whom a portrait is here given, received us most kindly and detained us till dark. Being Ramzam-time we then bade him good-bye, and were riding home when, as we neared the Consulate gate, a man who seemed much excited rushed to the Consul and handed him a note from the Belgian Customs officer. As I was still convalescent--this was my first outing--and not allowed out after dusk, Major Benn asked me to go back to the Consulate as he was called to the Customs caravanserai on business. I suspected nothing until a messenger came to the Consulate with news. A crowd of some 300 Sistanis had attacked some fifteen Afghan camel men, who had come over with a caravan of tea from Quetta. These camel drivers had been paid several thousand rupees for their services on being dismissed, and some money quarrel had arisen.

On the arrival of the Consul the fight was in full swing, and he found a crowd of howling Sistanis throwing stones and bricks at the Afghans. At Major Benn's appearance, notwithstanding that their blood was up and their temper, one would think, beyond control, the Sistanis immediately opened a way for him, some even temporarily stopping fighting to make a courteous salaam. This will show in what respect our Consul is held.

The Afghans, having by this time realised that they had been insulted, and having, furthermore, discovered the loss of some money--which they only detected when they went for their rifles and swords, which they kept together in a safe place with their treasure--formed up in line and, with drawn swords, made a rush on the Sistanis.


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