Understanding the label "Mirpuri"

Historically Mirpur was one district out of 14 districts that made up the Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir. The actual founding of Mirpur predates the creation of the Princely State (16/03/1846; created through an Act of Treaty) and the emergence of the British Indian Empire in the region (09/03/1846; in the wake of the first Anglo-Sikh War) by some two hundred and fifty years. In either of these two cases, we are talking about a small settlement named after its founder, Mir Shah Ghazi in the middle of the 17th century CE which then grew and became a major conurbation in recent decades.

Whenever we speak of Mirpur within the context of ‘Kashmir State’, we are speaking about a small Hill Principality founded and settled by a tribe that would later be vanquished by other dominant tribal powers in the region. There is nothing especially remarkable or unique about the settlement of Mirpur, whether as a small tribal polity or a political sub-division of a larger territory to warrant its people a special status, good or bad in comparison with neighbouring hill principalities and hill communities.

As would be expected, there is no such thing as a Mirpuri people or a Mirpuri language and/or dialect sui generis. To use a modern analogy, to speak of Mirpuris in these terms by virtue of their regional origin or location is akin to speaking of regional communities in England seperate to or exclusive of the wider English people.

It is on this basis that it is wrong to categorise or think of the inhabitants of Mirpur as an ethnic community in their own right distinct from other communities in their vicinity in a wide area that includes the Pothohar Uplands and the Hazara Hills. Granted that the Mirpuri label is very recent in origin it is also misleading and value-laden. 

In recent years, the term has become very popular in British-Pakistani circles as a designation for British-Paharis. The district of Mirpur by virtue of its connection with Azad Jammu & Kashmir and the wider Kashmir conflict has a chequered past, creating dynamics that have pitied Pahari-Mirpuris against Pakistani officialdom and vice versa.

Mirpuris are Paharis and the language they speak is called Pahari. The region they occupy is part of the Pahari-cultural-sphere otherwise known in Pahari as the 'Pahari-Pothohari Ilaqa'.

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