Dehgans (دیگان) are Dardic ethno-linguistic group of Afghanistan settled in the Kunar valley, and scattered also over the districts of Nangarhar and Laghman. In Nangarhar Dehgans are found principally in Pesh Bolak, Kandibagh, Hisarshahi, Deh -i-Tahir, Lawangapur, and Mast Ali, but the present home of the race is Kunar and in the Dara-i-Nur and some parts of Laghman. They seem once to have been spread over most of the north-east of Afghanistan.
The Dehgans are often confounded with the Tajiks by the people of the country, but they are quite distinct. While the Tajiks invariably speak Persian, the Dehgans have a peculiar language of their own, called Laghmani or Kohistani. The author of Hayat-i-Afghani writes,
“The Afghans, misled by the accidental similarity of the words “deh-kan” and “Degan”, commonly regard this people as identical with the Tajik. This is an error. The Tajiks came to Afghanistan after the promulgation of Islam, whereas the Degan were there during Hindi supremacy.”
Jenkyns, in 1878, from comparing their language with that of Nuristan, came to the conclusion that the Dehgans and Kafirs were one race. He says: – “The Dehgans are Kafirs converted to Muhammadanism, probably within the last three or four centuries. From intermarrying with the Tajiks and other races, their appearance is not now very different from the other inhabitants of the plains, except that they have no resemblance to the Afghans. They are wholly engaged in agriculture. Their Afghan neighbours affect to look down on them.”
McGregor says they form six divisions, viz., Dumeh, Chaguni, Kuli, Buzurg, Debazai, and Malikzai, and that the four last are found chiefly in Kunar and the Safi valleys.
Pashai, properly speaking, is the speech of the Dehgans of Laghman and of the country to the east of it as far as the Kunar. It is also called Laghmani, from the tract Laghmani, where it is spoken and Dehgani because most of its speakers belong to the Dehgan tribe.