(A) NATURE OF GOVERNMENT
Ans: Ranjit Singh conquered the territory from the Sutlej to the Khyber Pass, and from the borders of Tibet to Sindh. He set up an efficient system of Government. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a benevolent despot. He had great powers but he used these for the welfare of the people. He had imposed his authority on all the people. No chief could claim equality with him. He declared war and made peace. All officers were appointed by him either personally or he authorised others to appoint them in his name. He was the highest judicial authority and the supreme commander of the army,
Ranjit Singh was a despot in theory but there were certain checks on him in practice. Firstly, his ministers exercised in-fluence over him. Faqir Aziz-ud-Din, the Foreign Minister, was to a great to extent responsible for persuading the Maharaja to make the Treaty of Amritsar. The appointment of Hari Singh Nalua as governor of Kashmir was also cancelled at his suggestion. Secondly, every Sikh was a soldier and the Maharaja could not ignore this fact. Thirdly, the Akalis considered themselves as the armed guardians of Sikh religion and the Maharaja had to consider this also. Sinha says “Though Ranjit Singh had the power but he dare not crush the power of Akalis, who regarded themselves as the armed guardians of Khalsa community. Fourthly, Ranjit Singh considered himself the servant of the Khalsa community and could not go against the collective will of the Khalsa community.”
(B) CENTRAL GOVERNMENT
The Maharaja was assisted in the work of administration by five ministers, The most important of them was Prime Minister. This office was held for a long time by Raja Dhian Singh. The next important office was of Foreign Minister. It was held for a long time by Faqir Aziz-ud-Din. The third office was of Defence Minister. This was held by Mohkam Chand. Misr Diwan Chand and Hari Singh Nalua successively. The fourth office was of Finance Minister and was held by persons like Bhiwani Das and Dina Nath in turn. The fifth minister was Sardar-Deori (Lord Chamberlain). This office had been held for some time by Raja Dhian Singh and later on by Khushal Singh. There were twelve departments of the Central Government.
The most important of these were the following four :—
(1) Daftar-i-Abwab-al-Mal–It kept account of the income of State from different sources.
(2) Daftar-i-Tauzihat—It kept account of expenditure.
(3) Daftar-i-Mawajah—It kept account of salaries of army personnel and civil servants.
(4) Daftar-i-Roznameba Kharach—It kept account of the daily expenses of the Maharaja
(C) PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
The kingdom was divided into four provinces. These were Lahore, Multan, Kashmir, and Peshawar. The head of the pro-vince was called Nazim and only trusted persons were appointed to this office. Normally princes or special favourites of Ranjit Singh were appointed to these places. The Nazim maintained peace and order in the province and heard appeals in certain cases. The province was divided into Parganas or Districts. The head of the District was known as Kardar. He was responsible for its administration and had wide powers. He administered civil and criminal justice, heard appeals, maintained peace and was in charge of revenue collection. The district was further divided into talups, each of which had from 50 to 100 mauzas or villages. The smallest unit of administration was mauza or village. There was a panchayat in each village. Great importance was attached to these bodies. It decided cases by arbitration. Appeal could be taken to the court of Kardar. Every village was self-sufficient.
(D) FINANCIAL ADMINISTRATION
The financial structure was simple. The expenses were adjusted according to income. The total income of the State was about 3 crore rupees. The following were the most important sources of income :—
(1) Land Revenue.—It was the principal source of income of the State. The annual land revenue collection was about two crores of rupees. There was no uniform rate of land revenue for the whole kingdom. Different methods of assessment prevailed in each State. At first batai system was introduced. According to it assessment was made after the harvest had been gathered. The State claimed its share in kind. The great defect of this system was that a large staff had to be employed so that the cultivator may not be able to remove a part of the crop before assessment. This system continued till 1823. Kankut system was introduced in 1824. According to it, assessment was made on the standing crop. Its defect was that it was not possible to make a correct estimate of the yield beforehand. Hence after 1835 sometimes the land was farmed out for revenue collection to the highest bidder for a period ranging from three to six years. The assessment was made either on per bigha or per plough or per well basis. These three different systems prevailed at different places. Kardar in the district was responsible for revenue collection. He collected it through Muqaddams or village headmen.
(2) Customs and Excise.—Customs and excise were another important source of income. The annual revenue from this source was about Rs. 16 lakhs a year. The duties were levied on luxuries as well as necessities.
(3) Jagirs.—The jagirs were another source of income and yielded about 87 lakhs of rupees a year.
(4) Monopolies,—Monopolies were another source of in-come. The most important of these was salt monopoly.
(5) Mobrana.—It was income from judicial proceedings.
(6) Abwabs.—These were small cesses levied by the State and collected with land revenue.
(7) Taxes on certain Professions.—There were taxes on certain professions. All artisans like blacksmiths and weavers had to pay a profession tax of one rupee per house per year. The inferior workmen paid at the rate of eight annas per house per year.
(8) Lapsed Jagirs.—Lapsed jagirs were another source of income. The jagirs were granted on personal merit and services only for life-time, These lapsed to the State after the death of a jagirdar. Expenditure.—The main head of expenditure was army. According to Shahmat Ali, Rs. 1,27,482 a year was spent on the army. The rest of the income was spent on civil administration,
(E) JUDICIAL SYSTEM
Organisation of Courts.—The judicial system was simple. The lowest court was the village Panchayat. It decided disputes of the people of the village by arbitration. It consisted of five persons who owned land and had some influence in the locality. The next higher court was of Kardar at the district head-quarters. He heard appeals against the decisions of panchyats. He also tried cases of Taluos and the city in the first instance. The next higher court was of Nazim at the provincial head-quarters. He heard appeals and tried cases in the first instance. If there was too much work, some important Kardar was asked to decide cases on his behalf. Sometimes special judges called Adaltis were appointed. There were Adaltis at Amritsar and Peshawar. The next higher court was Adalt-Ala at Lahore. It was the High Court and heard appeals.
The highest court of appeal was the Maharaja himself. He was the fountain-head of all justice. The Jagirdars themselves decided cases in their areas and the appeals were very-seldom taken against their decisions. Many defects were visible in the judicial system of Ranjit Singh and in the police system. However, it must be acknowledged that the robbing inclination of the Sikhs was kept under good control. If we believe Masson, Time was that a Sikh and a robber were synonymous terms, now few thefts are heard of and seldom or never those wholesale forays to which the chiefs were so much addicted.”
Features of Judicial System
(1) There were no written laws. The law was based on customs and usage of the people.
(2) No distinction was made between civil and criminal cases.
(3) The penal code was not veey severe. Capital punishment was rare. Imprisonment was not common. Fines were imposed in most cases.
(4) Justice was a source of income. The party which won the case paid the Nazrana while the party losing the case Jurmana. When stolen property was recovered, one-fourth had to be paid as Shukrana.
(F) SECULAR STATE
The state under Ranjit Singh was secular. The state did not interfere in religion. There was no discrimination in the matter of giving jobs. Most of the Ministers were non-Sikhs. His Foreign Minister, Faqir Aziz–ud-Din, was a Muslim. Even the head of the city police of Lahore was a Muslim. The Fort of Akalgarh was in the charge of a Muslim officer. Many Hindus like Mohkam Chand held important positions in the army.
Q. Discuss the military system of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Or
How did Ranjit Singh modernise his army ? Or
Review briefly the Army organisation of Ranjit Singh. What is your view about its efficiency ?
Ans. The creation of a strong army was the greatest achievement of Ranjit Singh. Before his time the army of the Misls was not properly trained, disciplined and drilled. Maharaja Ranjit Singh must be given credit for training and disciplining a large army on Western lines.
(A) CREATION OF A REGULAR FORCE
Writers, differ regarding,the year when Ranjit Singh decided to raise a regular force for the first time. Some writers think that he realised its necessity in 1805. Holkar, after suffering defeat at the hands of the English fled to the Punjab and net Ranjit Singh at Amritsar in 1805. He urged upon the Maharaja the desirability of having a full treasury, building strong forts and disciplining the forces, if he was to save his kingdom from the English. It was even said that Ranjit Singh visited General Lake’s camp in disguise and saw the drill of his forces. Other writers are of the opinion that in 1809 Sir Charles Metcalfe had gone to carry on negotiations with the Maharaja and Ran fit Singh was impressed by his disciplined bodyguard. Moreover, Ranjit Singh realised that treaty of Amritsar was his defeat from the diplomatic and military points of view. A strong disciplined army was necessary to avoid such set-backs in future,
(B) ORGANISATION OF ARMY
It was in 1815 Napoleon met his Waterloo. The officers of the French army moved towards different directions in order to seek a fortune. Some of them like Ventura, Court and Allard came to the Panjab and joined the service of Ranjit Singh. They completely overhauled his army and taught it new techniques of warfare. The army of Ranjit Singh was divided into Fauj-i-Aam or regular army and Fauj-i-be-qawaid or irregular force.
Fauj-i-Aam or Regular Army.—It consisted of Infantry, Cavalry and Aritillery. Osborne says, “The Sikh army can be easily moved-30,000 Sikh troops would move more easily than 3 company regiments.” Cunningham says “he found the military army of his country a mass of horsemen, brave indeed, but ignorant of war as an art and he left it mastering 50,000 disciplined soldiers, 50,000 well armed youngmen and militia and more than 300 pieces of Cannon for the field.”
Infantry.—The infantry force was gradually created. The Sikhs did not consider it honourable to fight on foot. In the time of the Misls, the Sikhs used infantry only to garrison forts and protect women, property, etc. They fought on horseback.
The Sikhs were not prepared to join infantry when the Maharaja decided to create a regular infantry force. Ranjit Singh persisted and overcame their traditional prejudices. After 1818 people began to join infantry. In 1822 General Ventura joined the Sikh army. He had served under Napoleon and he trained infantry force very efficiently. Some other Napoleonic officers also joined the army of Ranjit Singh.
The lowest unit was the section consisting of about 25 soldiers. It was under a Havaldar who was assisted by a Naib. Four sections formed a company which consisted or about one hundred troops. Its officer was called Subedar. He was assisted by two Jamadars. Eight companies formed a battalion or Paltan. Its minimum strength was 800 soldiers. It was under a Commandant who was assisted by an Adjutant or a Major. A number of non-combatants like Munshi, Granthis were attached to it. A large organisation called Brigade was created towards the end of reign. A brigade usually consisted of four battalions of infantry, of a few cavalry regiments and a battery of eight or ten guns. A company of Beldars was generally attached to it.
Cavalry.—Ranjit Singh wanted to train his cavalry force on Western lines. The Western tactics consisted in the quick manoeuvring of horses and troops. The proud Ghurcharas regarded these as the tricks of dancing girls and were not prepared to learn these new methods. Hence Ranjit Singh was forced to raise new cavalry recruits. General Allard arrived in 1822 and the development of the cavalry was more rapid after that. The strength of the trained cavalry had increased four times within a few years of his arrival. The strength of a cavalry regiment varied from one hundred to five hundred. Large regiments were divided into Risalas. The pay in cavalry was higher than infantry.
Artillery.—In the beginning there was no separate artillery. Two guns were usually attached to each infantry battalion. A separate artillery corps was raised in 1810 and it was called Topkhana-i-Khas. It was commanded by Mian Ghuas Khan. These guns were distributed among battalions in 1814 and a new artillery corps was raised. It was divided into four classes.
(1) Top Khana Filli or elephant batteries.
(2) Top Khana Shutri or Camel swivels. It was also called Zarnb urkhanas.
(3) Top Khana Aspi or horse batteries.
(4) Top Khana Gawai or Bullock batteries.
The artillery was raised to a high pitch of efficiency by General Court and Col. Gardiner.
Fauj-e-Khas or French Legion.—It was the model brigade of the Sikh army and was raised in 1822 by General Ventura and General Allard. It consisted of four infantry battalions, two cavalry regiments and 2$ guns. It was the best trained brigade of Ranjit Singh’s army. The infantry battalions were Khas battalion, Gurkha battalion, Deva Singh’s battalion and Sham Sota’s battalion. The two cavalry regiments were Khas regiment and Dragoon regiment. Its artillery was called Corps of General Ilahi Baksh.
The flag of this special brigade was a tricolour one with an eagle and material Guru Gobind Singh embroidered on it. This model brigade was also called French Legion because it used French words of command.
Cunnigham says, “They were fortunate in having an excellent material to work with and like skilful officers they made a good use of their means and opportunities. They gave a moderate degree of precision and completeness to a system already introduced.” In the same connection Malleson says ” the rank and file of Sikh army became, under the training of the skilled officers, one of the finest in the world. They wanted but officers to be invincible.”
Fauj-i-be-qawaid or the irregular Army.—It mostly consisted of horsemen. These were of two kinds—Ghurcharas and Misldars. Ghurcharas were a single organisation and were generally recruited from among the landed gentry. They provided their own equipment. The Misldars were all the petty chiefs who had lost their possessions to Ranjit Singh and had agreed to join him with their horsemen. They were considered inferior to Ghurcharas. Their number increased with the passing of time.
(C) RECRUITMENT AND PAYMENT
There was no dearth of recruits. This was due to the martial traditions of the people, social prestige of fighting profession and Ranjit Singh’s patronisation of military career.
The troops in the days of Misls were paid out of plunder. Ranjit Singh felt that it was not a good system. He started giving them monthly salaries. The pay of the army was usually in arrears of three to four months. The idea was to check insubordination and desertions on the part of soldiers. The pay in the Cavalry was higher than in infantry, but the pay of infantry and artillery was practically the same. There was no system of pensions but sometimes jagirs were given. There was no provision for the widows and children of those who were killed on the battlefields.
Drill System.—Ranjit Singh also introduced drill system in his army. The Akalis objected to it and called it Raqas-e-Loulouan (Dance of the fools), but Ranjit Singh stuck to his guns and they had to do it.