Brief notes on the relation between Afaqis and the Deccanis

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Hasan, the founder of the Bahmani dynasty, continued to keep the four divisions into which the kingdom was divided by Muhammad Tughluq. Subsequently, they came to be known as tarafs.

The governors of these provinces of tarafs were known as tarafdars. They enjoyed enormous power but were kept in check as long as the Sultan at the centre was powerful.

But separatist tendencies manifested themselves under weaker rulers. These tendencies were further accentuated about the middle of the fifteenth century when the ruling nobility at the centre split itself into two hostile groups-the Deccanis or the Old Comers and the Afaqis or New Comers.

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P.M. Joshi calls the latter pardesis i.e., foreigners. Both were Muslims. Deccanis consisted of those Muslims who came to this region about a century earlier and had completely adapted themselves to the place. Their customs, manners, food, dress, etc. and even complexion had completely changed.

They were the natives of the land and had no extra-territorial interests. This class also included Hindu converts to Islam and all those who married Hindu women. On the other hand pardesis came to Deccan every year in search of fortune.

They were adventurist merchants and soldiers from various Islamic countries such as Central Asia, Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran. They were encouraged by the sultans at Delhi as well as the Bahmanis as they supplied fresh recruits to the services as well as the armies.

In the earlier stages these foreigners were few and created no problem. They intermarried with the Deccani Muslims and were ultimately merged with the local population. But with the passage of time their number increased and they formed a distinct group from the Old Comers.

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They were energetic and dynamic and worked hard to please their masters. They advanced the interest of their comrades and came to occupy high positions. This created an ill feeling between them and the Deccanis and there were intrigues and counter- intrigues against each other.

This animosity was further increased by their religious difference. Most of the paradesis were shias while the Deccanis were sunnis. The latter were also able to win over to their side the Abyssinians who were-looked down upon by the handsome and fair complexioned adventurists from Persia, Turkey and other countries.

Later they hatched a conspiracy when the Sultan was at Kondapalli, got a treasonable letter forged under the seal of the Khwaja addressed to the ruler of Orissa which they placed before the Sultan when he returned from the south.

Instead of holding an enquiry, the Sultan ordered that Khwaja should be beheaded. This great statesman and general who had built up the Bahmani Empire with his blood were executed on 5 April 1481. The Sultan realized his mistake few hours later but nothing could be done.

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The disappearance of Ghawan from the political scene of Deccan at this crucial stage proved fatal to the Bahmanis. He was the only person who could balance the forces which he had unleashed by his policy of divide and rule. The bitter struggle for power between the Afaqis and the locals undermined the very foundation of the Bahmani kingdom and encouraged the governors and jagirdars in the distant provinces to declare their independence.

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