Humayun and Mirza Kamran

Mirza Kamran submits to Humayun. Akbarnama, artist Manohar, 1602-3, fol. 129r, British Library. Or.12988

Kamran was the younger brother through a wife of Babur who was of Mongol origin. Humayun’s mother had a Central Asian background. From their prince-hood days, relations between them were far from cordial. One may refer to the dispute that arose over Kabul in 1528. In that year, while Kamran was stationed at Qandahar, Humayun was made in charge for the wilayat of Kabul which was under Kamran’s charge. This demand was contested by Mirza Kamran and the dispute became acute. According to Babur, on account of the role of the members of the royal haram, in 1528, a tense situation was created at Kabul. Babur took Kabul in khalisa and compensated Kamran with the sarkar of Wilayat.

After his accession, Humayun seems to have wanted to exclude Kamran from Punjab altogether. Therefore, while transferring Kabul to Kamran’s charge, Humayun took away the sarkar of Multan from him. This naturally provoked Kamran as Multan was a much richer sarkar as compared to Kabul: This change meant a financial loss to him. Perhaps Humayun was also conscious that by taking away Multan, he was giving him a pretext for adopting a hostile attitude.

Thus we find that side by side with bringing this change, Humayun also wrote a letter to Kamran. The text of this letter is given only by Khawr Shah bin Qibad al-Husaini [the text has been translated by S.K. Veda in PIHC, in 1960’s].

In this letter in a very vague manner, Humayun held out prospects of increasing Kamran’s assignments at a later date. In fact, he asks Mirza Kamran: “Remove the veil of secrecy from desires”.

A later source, compiled in 18th C (Muntakhab ul Lubab) gives a curious information: Humayun also decided to add a few Afghan places to Kamran’s charge. If we accept this, then Humayun tried to ensure that Kamran had no foothold in the Punjab but keep him in good humour and persuad him to remain with two wilayats, Qandahar and Kabul. Humayun did not want to give him foot-hold to the east of Khaibar. And when he discovered that Kamran would not be happy, he wrote the letter reproduced by Khawr Shah.

Kamran was not prepared to accept the deal and soon descended into Punjab and occupied Lahore by force. He brought under his rule the whole territory of Punjab up to the river Sutlej.

Humayun had to acquiesce in this act with a show of grace. He pretended to being happy of occupation of Punjab and added some new territories and allowed him to rule.

This attitude of Humayun can be explained due to serious difficulties on the eastern front and his nobility. Humayun was trying to suppress the revolts of Muhammad Zaman Mirza and Bengal and Bihar.

The establishment of Kamran’s control over Punjab created a situation in which there were two centres of authority within the Mughal Empire: Agra with Humayun and Lahore with Mirza Kamran. This had quite serious consequences:

1) In times of emergency and crisis, it hampered the mobilization of resources of the Empire to face military threats. In 1530, after the Battle of Chausa, when Humayun tried to offer a battle at Qannauj to Sher Shah, he found a large chunk of forces of Kamran not available.

2) This situation also created a bad example for the other Mughal princes. If Kamran could be accepted as the de facto ruler of a territory, then Mirza Askari and Mirza Hindal could also think of getting established in other territories. Now no scruples for them were left.

In 1536-37, when Humayun left Askari in Gujarat, Askari was tempted to declare himself as the king of Gujarat. He was in fact advised by some of his lieutenants to do so.

Similarly in 1538-39, when Humayun was trapped in Bengal due to the collapse of the Mughal military control over the Eastern part of the Empire, Mirza Hindal was persuaded by some of the nobles to declare himself as a rival king at Agra. Again, if we believe Abu’l Fazl and Gulbadan, some of these nobles are reported to have threatened that if Hindal refused their advice, they would go over to Punjab under Kamran.

3) Then this assignment of dual centres at Agra & Lahore also contributed in further undermining the allegiance of the nobility towards Humayun: As in this situation, any noble, feeling aggrieved, had a choice of going over to Kamran.

In 1539, when a large number of senior nobles deserted Humayun at Bengal, and declared that they could not serve under Humayun as he had failed completely, they would rather serve Hindal, if he proclaimed himself, or go over to Kamran in Punjab.

• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi