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Afghan revolt

March 31, 1841
Mohammed Abdulkarim
Bahadur Shah II 1837–1857



On the night of November 1, 1841, a group of Afghan chiefs gathered at the home of one of their own in Kabul to plan an uprising, which began the next morning. The spark that ignited the already volatile situation was provided unintentionally by Sir Alexander 'Sekundar' Burnes, the East India Company's second political officer. Burnes had taken in a Kashmiri slave girl who belonged to a Pashtun chief, Abdullah Khan Achakzai, and when Achakzai's men came to retrieve her, one of them was beaten. The violation of Pashtunwali, the traditional Pashtun code of conduct, led to a secret council of Pashtun chiefs where it was decided that they were justified in rebelling against the British. On November 2, 1841, the call to jihad was given from a mosque in Kabul, and the mob attacked Burnes's house, killing him, his family, aides, and sepoys. Despite being only five minutes away, the British forces took no action, which encouraged further revolt. Shuja, the ruler of Afghanistan, ordered one of his regiments to crush the riot, but the defenders had the advantage of the narrow, twisting streets of the old city of Kabul. The British situation worsened when Afghans stormed the poorly defended supply fort inside Kabul on November 9. The British commanders tried to negotiate with Akbar Khan, but their efforts were in vain. Macnaghten, one of the British commanders, secretly offered to make Akbar Afghanistan's vizier in exchange for allowing the British to stay while also attempting to have him assassinated. When Akbar Khan learned of the plot, he seized and killed Macnaghten and the three officers accompanying him. Elphinstone, another British commander, had already lost command of his troops, and his authority was further weakened by the incident. Overall, the British failed to anticipate the Afghan resistance and underestimated their ability to rebel. The events of November 1841 marked the beginning of a prolonged and bloody conflict between the British and the Afghans.

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