By Sam Saam Ali Advocate
Many villages in Chitral are known for their natural beauty, historical significance and cultural, poetic sophistication of its inhabitants, but there are also some that raised voice against injustices in society. Though scenic and captivating too, Dizg (pronounced Deezg) can be bracketed in the latter category of villages.
LOCATION: Dizg is located at a distance of about 30 kilometres in the north of Mastuj town in upper Chitral. There are about 85 houses and its population is estimated at about 500 to 600 people. Though with a very fertile soil, this village till the very recent past remained almost devoid of good flora and agricultural production, perhaps due to lack of water. There is a well-known saying “Dizga taarbat ma kara neki”, testifying the poor economic condition of the village in the past. However, a big mound of soil called Raash Duq somehow also indicates that the village was once famous for its agricultural products. According to oral history, a poor man while passing through the village saw a farmer preparing to take home a huge collection of wheat after the day’s threshing. He stopped and asked the owner to give him some grain. The farmer, however, turned the man away saying there was already not a handful of wheat. And within seconds, the collection of wheat turned into a mound of soil in front of them. (See photo).
Dizg is surrounded by River Yarkhun in the east, Hindu Kush mountains in the west, Khruzg village in the north and north-east and Khotan Lasht desert in the south and south-west. The people of the village belong to different ethnicities. Though it is not for sure which of the current tribes settled in the village first, their geographical placement shows that Khojasaney were the one who came here first. The majority of the people in this village belong to the Rizakhel tribe followed by Khoshwakhtey, Khojasaney, Syed etc. Dizg was one of the ancient inhabited villages even before Islam came to the region. Its geographical significance also lies in its location at the confluence of crucial highways that were used by ancient traders from Central Asia and China using the Silk Route. Besides being located on the Yarkhun-Chitral road, Dizg is also the resting point for the travellrs on the Khot Aan pass connecting the Yarkhun valley and Mastuj with Torkhow. Till about 1960s, there was a big stone at Khotan Lasht near Dizg at which the passersby used to spit as a mark of condemnation. Though there is no written history, people of the area say the stone was catapulted from the top of the Gollash pass in Khot Aaan connecting the Yarkhun valley with Torkhow by the fleeing forces of Baaman e Kohistani after they fought a war with the army of Amir Hamza (AS) at Khotan Lasht. Later, people of Dizg and nearby villages threw the stone into the Yarkhun River because they considered it brought bad luck to the area.
KHOTAN LASHT: The vast Khotan Lasht desert was once considered to be a property of the Mehtar of Torkhow, as its name still indicates, who also used to receive an annual tax from the people of the area for using it as their grazing ground. However, Mohammad Ghaus Lal of Dizg got this tax waived through the Mehtar of Chitral in the late 18th century.
Khotan Lasht, otherwise a fertile land spreading over thousands of acres, still remains a barren because efforts made in the past even by different NGOs could not succeed to bring water for its utilization. It is interesting that a big perennial stream passes through the desert but except ruining watermills of the village it cannot be utilized for irrigation or even drinking purposes as it burns whatever comes on its way. Laboratory tests on samples taken from the water have showed the presence of sulphuric acid in it. Archaeological research is needed to shed light on many of the untouched caves in the nearby mountains and ancient graves in the village.
Education: In the 1940s, Subedar Ali Hurmat Khan of Dizg got a bridge constructed over River Yarkhun on a self-help basis through the people of Dizg to facilitate their children to get education from the lone middle school in Brep which had also been set up by his initiative. This school in Brep has produced a large number of people who are now serving in different fields of life in prominent positions. Dizg also has the distinction of having the first primary school of the Yarkhun valley. As a result, the literacy rate in the village is now almost over 90 per cent. Today, there are one government middle and one primary schools for boys and one primary school for girls besides a private primary school in Dizg. The students of the village go to Brep, at a distance of about six kilometers, after passing their middle level exams.
Saint’s village: Mehtar Qalamdar, a saint from Awi, who wondered around different areas in Chitral finally came to Dizg and remained a disciple of Mohammad Ghaus Lal, a well-known religious scholar of the time, and selected Dizg to be his last resting place. During his lifetime, the people of Dizg got a beautiful house constructed for the saint where he lived and was laid to rest after his death. Today, a large number of devotees come to his tomb and pray for fulfillment of their wishes and dreams. It may be noted that the saint’s teacher, Mohammad Ghaus Lal, had got education from Samarkand Bukhara (Uzbekistan). He was a son of Hakim Mohammad Azam Khan, who ruled upper Chitral from Burenis to Boroghil.
POLITICAL ACTIVISM: Dizg has always been in the forefront of political movements upper Chitral has seen. During all the agitations, people of Yarkhun used to gather in Dizg and took out processions to force the rulers of the day to accept their demands. It is said that the mass movement against Ushr in upper Chitral also originated from Dizg and was spearheaded by Afzal Khan Lal. After Bulbul Shah of Chuinj, the main leader of the agitation, was exiled and his property confiscated, the Mehtar of the day was informed that it was actually Afzal Khan who had ignited the fire against the Mehtar. He was charged with plotting to overthrow the Mehtar and install the Khushwaqt rule in the area. It is also said that during one of the public gatherings in Dizg, an old political activist from Brep popularly known as Kalkoreni Bap warned the Mehtar that they would stop the flow of River Yarkhun to Chitral and sell the water to Kabul. This showed the strategic acumen and geographical knowledge of the people of the area even at a time when there was lack of education and communication resources.
Sam Saam Ali Khan is a Karachi-based senior lawyer from Dizg, Chitral. Having good knowledge of Chitral’s history, culture and traditions he wrote this article on the Dizg village for our Deh ba Deh series. (Published on Sept 22, 2013.)–Editor