Prince Burhan-ud-Din of Chitral and the Indian National Army

Prince Burhan-ud-Din of Chitral was born in about 1915 and died five years ago of a blunderbuss wound in his own home in Delamuth, Chitral.

He was by far the most famous Chitrali as a result of his service in the Indian National Army during World War II.

I have been hearing stories about this for years but just now have finally seen it is writing. The incident is described in "The Forgotten Army" by Peter Ward Fay, pages 454 to 498.

Prince Burhan-ud-Din was the brother of the Ruler of Chitral. In 1944, he was one of three IOC's of the Indian National Army. The Indian National Army was formed from Indian soldiers who were fighting for the British against the Japanese. They were captured by the Japanese and taken to Singapore. They were given a choice: Join the workers who were building the Death Railway including the Bridge Over the River Kwai, or take up arms and fight against the British on the side of the Japanese.

Prince Burhan-ud-Din became one of the commanders of the group who opted not to build the Bridge Over the River Kwai.

When Rangoon fell to the British on May 3, 1945, Prince Burhan-ud-Din was captured the same day and placed under arrest. He was charged with a wartime atrocity. Many men under his command had often left their posts to go into Rangoon in search of women, often not to return for several days. Prince Burhan-ud-Din, a deeply religious man, was offended by this practice, so he had five of his soldiers rounded up in Rangoon, brought back, and flogged as deserters. One of them, whose name was Joga Singh, died during the flogging. When the British captured the Indian National Army they were naturally anxious to put some of their leaders on trial. Prince Burhan-ud-Din was tried, convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison in 1946. Three other members of the Indian National Army were also convicted but they received lesser sentences.

However, in 1947, India got its independence from England. Burhan-ud-Din and the others were let out of jail and he became a national hero.

I knew him well. Dignitaries coming to Chitral often wanted to meet "The Prince". Although there were one hundred princes of Chitral, when someone spoke of "The Prince" it was known that he was speaking of Prince Burhan-ud-Din.

In 1984, I was in Japan and I read in the Japan Times that Prince Burhan-ud-Din was coming to Japan. I found out that he was staying at the New Otani Hotel, considered the finest hotel in Japan, so I went there and saw him walking through the hotel lobby surrounded by a crush of Japanese dignitaries. I managed to get into the same elevator with him and with all these Japanese officials but I did not say anything.

Through all the crowd in the elevator, I was surprised when he said "There is Ismail Sloan."

The Prince invited me to his hotel room, introduced me to the others and told me to my surprise that this was his first visit to Japan.

However, Prince Burhan-ud-Din was not universally popular in Chitral. When a riot broke out in Chitral in 1982, he was nearly killed by the rioters. Even the circumstances of his death in 1996 are controversial. There is no agreement whether the gunshot wound which killed him in 1997 was an accident, self-inflicted or if somebody shot him.

Unlike most other princes of Chitral, Burhan-ud-Din had only one wife and only one son. His son died at an early age and Prince Burhan-ud-Din was survived only by a beautiful grand-daughter who I met by accident in Mastuj in 1981

Ismail Sloan

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