FIRST SIKH WAR (1845-1846)
Introduction. The death of Ranjit Singh led to the disruption of the Sikh State of the Panjab which had been established after many adventures and hardships in his life-time. There prevailed anarchy and disorder within the empire on account of the weak successors and the despotic character of the Government. Kharak Singh, Naunihal Singh and Sher Singh came to the throne one after the other but none of them could enjoy a peaceful reign. Dalip Singh, a minor son of Ranjit Singh was next brought to the throne with Rani Jindan as the Regent and Lal Singh as the Prime Minister. The country, however, had no peace. The power of the army had greatly increased. The Royal Court was a hot-bed of seditions and conspiracies and at any moment was expected an internal revolution.
Q. What were the causes of the outbreak of the First Auglo-Sikh War. Or
Was the Anglo-Sikh war of 1845-46 a defensive action forced on the Sikhs ? Or
Discuss the causes, main events and results of the First Sikh War.
Ans.—(1) British policy of Encirclement. The British had been following a policy of encirclement since 1830. The Sikhs had occupied Shikarpur and the British had forced the Maharaja to with-draw his troops from there. The Amirs of Sind were forced to have a British Resident at Hyderabad in 1838. Thus a barrier had been created against Sikh expansion in Sind. The British were following the policy of encirclement from Punjab side also. They occupied Ferozepore in 1835 and established a cantonment there in 1838. The Sikhs felt that this policy of encirclement was being followed by the British with the ultimate idea of conquering Punjab.
(2) British Military Preparations. The British thought of taking advantage of anarchy in the Punjab after the death of Ranjit Singh and began to increase’ the strength of their forces near the Sutlej River. They increased the number of their forces from 2,500 in 1836 to 14,000 in 1843. They began to prepare boats at Bombay which could be used for making pontoon bridges across the Sutlej. The Sikhs resented these military preparations of the British.
(3) The British wanted to recover prestige. The British had suffered Setbacks in the First Afghan War, though they had recovered their position later. The spell of their invincibility had been shattered. They wanted to re-establish their military prestige. The conquest of Panjab could serve the desired purpose. The task had become easier in view of the fact that their troops and their convoys had passed through Punjab during the First Afghan War, and they had become familiar with the geography of the Punjab.
(4) Annexation of Sind (1843). The British had annexed Sind in 1843. The Sikhs began to fear that their next target would be Punjab itself. Even strategic considerations would induce them to attempt its conquest, because Sind could not be effectively controlled without the occupation of the Punjab. The Sikhs began to fear the designs of the British all the more after the annexation of Sind.
(5) Appointment of Broadfoot at Ludhiana. Clark was succeeded by Major Broadfoot as the British Resident at Ludhiana. He was a hot-headed man and declared that the territories of the Sikhs on the left bank of the Sutlej were under the protection of the Company. The Sikhs were irritated and felt that war with the British was inevitable.
(6) Anarchy in the Punjab and the policy of Sikh Durbar. There was anarchy in the Punjab after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839. He was succeeded by his son, Kharak Singh. He died in 1840 and was succeeded by his son, Nau-nihal Singh. He was ‘;,crushed as a result of the fall of a gateway of Lahore fort within five days. There was some difficulty regarding succession to the throne and ultimately it was decided that Mai Chand Kaur (widow of Kharak Singh) should become the regent for the expected son of Naunihal Singh. Sher Singh, another son of Ranjit Singh, got the throne with the help of the Khalsa army and got Chand Kaur murdered. Wazir Dhyan Singh also met the same fate. It was during the time of Sher Singh that the British troops and convoys were permitted to pass through Punjab to Afghanistan. Sher Singh was shot dead in 1843 by Nit Singh, one of the supporters of late Mai Chand Kaur. Dalip Singh, youngest son of Ranjit Singh, then became the ruler and his mother Rani Jindan was appointed guardian. Lal Singh and Teja Singh became ministers. The Khalsa army had become very powerful and Lahore Durbar feared it. The Sikh Sardars incited it against the English. They thought that the victory of Khalsa army would mean expansion of territory and also its attention would be-diverted from politics. In case of defeat, its strength would be reduced and it would become less dangerous.The Khalsa army, encouraged by Lahore Durbar, crossed the River Sutlej near Kasur. Thereupon, Lord Hardinge declared war and proclaimed the annexation of Sikh territories on the left bank of the Sutlej.
(1) Battle of Mudki. According to A.C. Banerjee the Khalsa army was between 35,000 and 40,000 while the English forces were about 11,000. The Khalsa army threatened Ferozepore and the British forces under Hugh Gough advanced from Ludhiana to save Ferozepore. They unexpectedly came in contact with the Sikh army at night
after a march of about 20 miles. The battle was fought at Mudki. Teja Singh left the Sikh forces at a critical time and the English were victorious.
(2) Battle of Ferozeshah. The division of Sir John Litter joined Sir Hugh Gough and a terrible battle was fought at Feroze, shah. The British Commander-in-Chief, Sir Hugh Gough said, “During that night we were in a critical and perilous state.” The Sikhs were again defeated due to the treachery of their commanders. Malleson says, “Had a guiding mind directed the movements of the Sikh army, nothing could have saved tho exhausted British,’
(3) Battle of Aliwal. A Sikh army under Ranjit Singh Majithia crossed the Sutlej and dashed towards Ludhiana. The English suffered a setback in a skirmish at Buddewal but soon they got reinforcements and, defeated the Sikh army in the battle of Aliwal. The Sikhs fled across the Sutlej and many of them were drowned.
(4) Battle of Subraon. Another Sikh army crossed the Sutlej under Teja Singh and constructed a bridge of boats to retreat in case of defeat. The Sikh commanders, with the exception of Sham Singh Atariwala, did not properly lead the Sikhs. Cunningham has rightly remarked, “Hearts to dare and hands to execute were numerous, but there was no mind to guide and animate the whole.” The Sikhs were defeated and the bridge of boats collapsed as they were retreating. Many of them were drowned and many more were shot dead by the British forces. The English forces crossed the Sutlej after a few days and occupied Lahore. Malleson says, “The Sikhs fought with the valour of heroes, the enthusiasm of crusaders and the desperation of zealots.”
TREATY OF LAHORE (1846)
The war came to an end by the Treaty of Lahore which was signed on 9th March, 1846. Its terms were :—
(1) The Maharaja renounced all claims to the Sikh territories on the left bank of the River Sutlej.
(2) The English were given all the territory lying between the Sutlej and the Beas rivers.
(3) Lahore Durbar was to pay an indemnity of one and a half crores of rupees. The Sikhs had only fifty lakhs of rupees. They gave the State of Jammu and Kashmir to Maharaja Gulab Singh for one crore of rupees.
(4) A limit was placed on Khalsa army. It was not to exceed 22,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry. The Sikhs had to surrender all the guns used by them against the English.
(5) The Lahore government was not to employ any European without the consent of the English.
(6) The British troops were to be given passage through the Punjab whenever required.
(7) A British force was to remain at Lahore till the end of the year. Henry Lawrence was appointed Resident at Lahore. Things did not work smoothly after the Treaty of Lahore. Lal Singh and other Sikh leaders were opposed to the handing over of Jammu and Kashmir to Gulab Singh. They encouraged its Muslim Governor, Sheikh Imamud-din, to rise against Gulab Singh. The revolt was put down by the British forces. Lal Singh was removed from ministership and deported to Banaras, Thus Gulab Singh got the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
TREATY OF BHA1ROWAL (1846)
The Sikh Durbar feared that there would be anarchy again after the withdrawal of British troops. In this connection Lord Hardinge wrote a letter saying, “The coyness of the Durbar is very natural. But it is very important that the proposals should originate with them and in any document proceeding from them this admission must be stated in clear and unqualified terms. Our reluctance to undertake a heavy responsibility cannot be set forth.” Hence it made the treaty of Bhairowal with the British Government in December, 1846. Its clauses were :—
(1) A council consisting of 8 pro-British Sikh chiefs was to administer the affairs of Lahore Kingdom during the minority of Dalip Singh. It was to act under the advice of the British Resident.
(2) A British force was to be kept at Lahore and the Sikh Government was to pay Rs. 22 lakhs a year for its expenses. The arrangement was to continue till 1854 when Maharaja Dalip Singh was to become a major.
This treaty made the English virtually masters of the Punjab. Criticising the Treaty Mahajan says, “In the Bhairowal Treaty the duplicity practised by the British Government in India registered another great triumph since the anxious desire of the Governor-General was adroitly manouvred to have the appearance of a request emanating from the leading Sardars of the realm.
REASONS FOR NOT ANNEXING PUNJAB Lord Hardinge did not annex Punjab due to four reasons :—
(1) The existence of a Hindu State between Afghanistan and British India would have been advantageous to the Company.
(2) A lot or money was required for spending on the newly-acquired province.
(3) Lord Hardinge doubted the strength of the English to occupy and keep under control the whole of the Punjab at this stage.
(4) The English had some regard for the memory of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who had been faithful throughout. Mahajan says, “It was not clemency that made the British shrink from the annexation of the Province but expediency.” In the same connection Edwards says, “The annexation of the country was, with the force at our disposal, out of the question.
SECOND ANGLO-SIKH WAR
Q. Describe the causes, events and results of the Second Sikh War (1848-49)
Ans. This war was fought in the time of Lord Dalhousie.
(1) Humiliation of First Sikh War. The Sikhs considered their defeat in the First Sikh War a great humilation. They had
been accustomed to win victories in the time of Ranjit Singh and this defeat gave a rude shock to their mentality. The Sikhs wanted to restore the fallen fortunes of their kingdom.
(2) Desire of Sikh soldiers to wipe off the disgrace of defeat. The Sikh soldiers had not reconciled to their defeat. They considered it a great humiliation and attributed it to the treachery of their leaders. A great part of Sikh forces had been disbanded and the demobilised soldiers had no work to do. They moved from village to village and were taunted by the people with the remark, “Tusi Khalsa ji Puria ba aye”. The Sikh soldiers wanted to ex-change arms with the British once more.
(3) Treatment meted out to Rani Jindan. Maharani Jindan was suspected of having intrigued against the British at Lahore. Even without levelling charges and without a trial, she was sent to her country palace of Sheikhupura. She was not capable of creating any serious mischief at her new place, but even then she was not allowed to stay there for a long time and was exiled to Banaras. By the Treaty of Bhairowal, she was to get an annuity of one and a half lakh of rupees. On her removal to Sheikhupura, it was reduced to Rs. 48,000. When she was exiled to Banaras, it was further reduced to Rs. 12,000. Besides, she was dispossessed of much of her jewellery. The number of her attendants was reduced and a strict watch was kept on her movements.’ This was resented to by the Sikhs. Even Amir Dost Muhammad of Kabul remarked, “Such a treatment is objectionable to all creeds, and both high and low prefer death.”
(4) Revolt of Mulraj. Mulraj became the Governor of Multan after the death of his father, Sawan Mal in 1844. He was asked by the Lahore Durbar to pay the succession duty of one crore of rupees. He expressed his inability to pay that amount and was then asked to pay 18 lahks of rupees. Mulraj avoided this payment during the First Sikh War and was now asked to pay 19 lakh rupees. The payment was not made immediately and he was ordered to pay Rs. 20 lakhs as well as give one-third of his territory. His annual tribute of Rs. 12 lakhs was raised to Rs. 18 lakhs. Lahore Durbar was interfering in the internal affairs of Multan. Mulraj expressed his willingness to resign. provided no charges were levelled against him and he was asked to render account for one year only. The new British Resident, Curie, refused to accept these demands and asked him to resign unconditionally and render account for 10 years. The demand for ten years account was absurd because Mulraj had not been Governor for more than four years. A new Governor, Kahan . Singh, was sent with two British officers, Vans Agnew and Lt. Anderson, to take charge of Multan. Mulraj handed over the fort on 19th April, 1848. The soldiers at Multan could not tolerate the presence of British officers and murdered them the very next day. Mulraj regained possession of the fort. British troops were not immediately sent. The reason given by Hugh Gough was that operations would be difficult in summer at Multan. Moreover, he wanted to be sure before sending the army whether the rising at Multan was a local rising or there was to be a general rising of the Sikhs. It is sometimes said that the real idea of the British in not immediately putting down the rebel-lion was to let it spread so that they may annex Punjab. Lt. Edwards on his own responsibility besieged Multan with a small force. Mahajan says, “The outbreak was essentially the work of Multan soldiery against anticipated English domination at Multan.”
(5) Revolt of Sher Singh. Sher Singh, son of Chattar Singh of Hazara, was sent by Lahore Durbar to put down the rebellion but he also revolted. The veterans of the First Sikh War joined him. Thus the general rising of the Sikhs started. Lord Dalhousie declared war on them. He remarked, “Unwarned by precedents, uninfluenced by example, the Sikh nation has called for war and on my word, Sirs, they shall have it with a vengeance.”
(1) Battle of Ramnagar. Sir Hugh Gough crossed the River Ravi and the first battle was fought at Ramnagar in November, 1848. It was not decisive.
(2) Battle of Chillianwala. It was fought in January, 1849. Both sides claimed victory but the losses of the English were very heavy. Hugh Gough was criticised in England for his strategy and it was decided to send Sir Charles Napier to supersede him.
(3) Capture of Multan. Multan was captured by the English in January, 1849, and the British troops from there marched to join Sir Hugh Gough.
(4) Battle of Gujrat. Sir Hugh Gough decided to give the Sikhs one more battle before Sir Charles Napier could arrive to supersede him. Both sides made full preparations. The British forces, after capturing Multan, joined Sir Hugh Gough. Chattar Singh, Governor of Hazara, with his troops joined Sher Singh.
The Sikhs even purchased the help of Afghans by offering Peshawar to them and a body of Afghan troops joined them under Akram Khan, son of Dost Muhammad. The decisive battle was fought at Gujrat. The Sikhs had about 40,000 troops with 60 guns while the English had 25,000 soldiers with 100 guns. Both sides made great use of artillery and that is why this battle is popularly called ‘the battle of the guns’. The Sikh army was defeated and it surrendered near Rawalpindi. The Afghans were pursued up to Khyber Pass.
ANNEXATION OF PANJAB
The complete defeat of the Sikhs sealed the fate of their kingdom. Lord Dalhousie on his own responsibility annexed Punjab on 29th March, 1849. There were three other courses the restoration of former relations with Lahore Darbar after the punishment of guilty persons, or annexation of Multan only, or the retention of the nominal sovereignty of Maharaja under greater British control. Lord Dalhousie was not prepared to accept any of these three solutions. He decided for annexation. Dalip Singh was granted a pension of £ 50,000 a year. He was sent to England with his mother, Rani Jindan. He later on turned a Christian and lived the life of an English landlord on his estate in Norfolk.
In Defence of Annexation. Lord Dalhousie’s annexation of the Punjab has been defended only by a few writers and generally it has been condemned on various grounds. It has been defended by the Duke of Argyle ,and Marshman on two grounds. Firstly, the Sikhs had flagrantly violated the obligations to which they had agreed by the Treaties of Lahore and Bhairowal—They had agreed to submit to the authority of the British Resident. The Sikhs had broken the peace. Secondly, the rising was not directed against the Maharaja but against the British. The rebellious Sardars repeatedly declared their fidelity to the Maharaja.
The annexation of Punjab has been bitterly criticised by Trotter, Bell and others on several grounds :—
(1) The English permitted the rebellion to spread. The English did not try to check the Multan rebellion at the very out-set and permitted it to become a general rising of the Sikhs. Lord Dalhousie probably wanted it to become widespread so that he could get an excuse to annex the Punjab.
(2) Lahore Durbar did not participate in the rising. Lahore Durbar did not take part in the rising. It did not show any signs of disloyalty, Lal Singh and Rani Jindan, who were suspected of carrying on intrigues, had been removed from position before the rising at Multan. It was not right to annex Punjab in view of the loyalty of Lahore Durbar.
(3) The British responsible for the Revolt. The British were to a great extent responsible for the rising of the Sikhs. It was unjust to ask Mulraj to render account for ten years because he had been Governor only for four years. The attitude of Abbot had driven Chattar Singh and his son Sher Singh to revolt. The treatment meted out to Rani Jindan was not proper and it annoyed the Sikh soldiers. Since the rising was to a great extent a provoked one, there was no moral justification for annexation.
(4) Murder of British officers no justification for Annexation. The apologists of Lord Dalhousie say that two British officers had been murdered at Multan. This should not have been made the occasion for the annexation of the kingdom. Only the guilty persons should have been punished.
(5) Dalip Singh was a minor. Maharaja Dalip Singh was a minor and the English were only acting as his guardians. The Treaty of Bhairowal had not made them masters of Panjab. It was their duty to protect the kingdom on his behalf during his minority and they had no right to annex it. Annexation was opposed even by Henry Lawrence and Major Edwards. Bell has rightly called it “A violent breach of trust”.