“Durand’s Curse” —A line across Pathan Heart
In 1893, Mortimer Durand, an Englishman duped the Afghan Amir Abdur Rahman into signing blindly on a piece of paper. Consequently Afghanistan lost 40,000 square miles of its territory, first to Britain and then to Pakistan. Yet, no one knows why this happened. Nor has anyone ever written about it.
Part of the reason for this neglect is the lack of historical record in Afghanistan, and British were guarded about this secret. Therefore in a huge effort, Ambassador Rajiv Dogra of India has spent hundreds of hours pouring over records that had remained locked up so far. That, plus the proceedings of 19th century British Parliamentry debates, enabled him to piece together a fascinating story. The result is a phenomenal book.
By early reports Rajiv Dogra’s “Durand’s Curse” reads like a thriller. He has certainly the right credentials for it. A vetrean diplomat, he has the background as a successful writer of both fiction and non-fiction. His magesterial work “Where Borders Bleed” is regarded as a magnum opus on India-Pakistan relations. Now with Durand’s Curse he should have the satisfaction of achieving a rare double in non-fiction. In sum therefore he has the exact mojo to write the fascinating book that Rupa Publishers promises it to be.
Unfortunately for Afghans, the line that Mortimer Durand drew across a small map in 1893 has bled the Pathan heart ever since. People on both sides of that line remain restless, they continue to ask the question, why did the Amir of Afghanistan sign the Durand agreement in 1893? Was he blackmailed into it? What forced him to do it? Why did he sign only the english text of the agreement-a language that he did not know?
These and many other questions have continued to haunt generations of Afghans. The account put together in the Durand’s Curse provides these answers and presents a tale of intrigue and whodunit. That it should be spell-binding read is only to be expected from the pen of a gifted writer like Rajiv Dogra. Hopefully, this will be the first step towards uniting the Pathan people and getting them their just due of a united Pashtunistan. The world owes it to them.
“Durand’s Curse” may also reveal a sensational new dimension to Nehru’s role. Was Nehru also responsible for Pathan misfortunes? September promises to be full of surprises with this book. We are told that this would be the first book in world on Durand Agreement and its consequences. The question that the book’s release will pose is this; will the Frontier now change forever? Will Afghanistan take its case to the United Nations? Will the world react to the 124 year old injustice to the Afghan people?