Monday, September 26, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism


The proposals of Henry Lawrence at Peshawar to entice some Sikh Chiefs and the negotiations of Sir George Clerk at Lahore served a double purpose of the British. They secured active support of the Sikh Government for operations in Afghanistan and bound Gulab Singh and Avitabile to their own political interests in the Punjab. They also drove a wedge between the Ruler (Sher Singh) and his Chiefs. The seeds of division and dismemberment of the Lahore Kingdom were thus sown with the Dogras already dreaming of the accession of their family to the throne of Lahore. This ultimately led to the murder of Maharaja Sher Singh, his son Pratap Singh and Dhian Singh Dogra on the same day (September 15, 1843) at the hands of Sandhanwalia Sardars. According to Sita Ram Kohli's Sunset of the Sikh Empire (page-41) 'Dhian Singh was responsible for a policy whereby the more violent elements in the army, very often Sikhs, were transferred from important military stations to others where scope for making trouble was slighter, and of recruiting new men, mostly non-Sikhs, from Jammu and the other Punjab hills. Between the months of June 1841 and February 1842, some six thousand of these hillmen were formed into 8 battalions of infantry and 3 units of light artillery. This, very naturally, aroused suspicion of him, both as disciplinarian and a Dogra'. This version is also supported by Dr. Ganda Singh in his, Maharaja Duleep Singh, Correspondence, (pages 18--19), when he writes, This has been confirmed by the Memories of Alexander Gardner, edited by Major Hugh Pearse, 1898. Gardner was a confidant of Raja Dhian Singh who had given to him a wife out of his own house. Through her and living always among the Dogas he knew and had he and a great deal about the intrigues then afoot. According to his Memoirs, pp. 212-13

'This dream was that Hira Singh, the heir of their family, or at least the most promising of its rising generation, might eventually succeed to the throne of Ranjit Singh. Those to be swept away were the male members of the Maharaja's family, and all those ministers, advisers and chiefs who would not join the Dogra partyAll these murders were brought about directly or indirectly by the Dogra brothers, Dhian Singh and Gulab Singh, for the eventual aggrandisement of their family in the person of Hira Singh'.

It is thus crystal clear that rather than resolve to try their hand at the British territory after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in June, 1839', Maharaja Sher Singh, true to the treaty of friendship with the British, provided 15,000 Darbar troops to avenge the Afghan treachery and to force open the Khyber pass at a time when their position in Afghanistan was critical, when they could not relieve their besieged personnel at various places in the Afghan heartland without the active support of the Sikhs and when the 'repute of European arms was deeply smitten and the massacre resounded throughout the peninsula'. It is equally clear that while receiving active support of Sikhs in men and material in 're-deeming their name', the British were simultaneously planning intrigues and treachery to subjugate the empire of their saviors (the Sikhs) in Afghanistan.
Let us quote a few authorities in this respect

(a) Henry Lawrence wrote to Mr. J.C. Marshman on April 11, 1842
The Sikhs were only bound to employ a contingent of 6000 men, but they did the work with not less than 15,000. * Life of Henry Lawrence by Edwardes and Merivale, P. 363.

(b) Writing to Queen Victoria from Benares, on 21-4-1842 Governor General Ellenborough Said,
The Sikh Army cooperated with that of India by a second pass leading to Ali Masjid and there is no reason to doubt the good faith of the Sikh Government. 1

(c) In the official notification of April 19, 1842, the Governor General wrote
The Governor-General deems it to be due to the troops of the Maharaja Sher Singh to express his entire satisfaction with their conduct as reported to him and to inform the army that the loss sustained by the Sikhs in the assault of the pass, which was forced by them, is understood to have been equal to that sustained by the troops of Her Majesty and of the Government of India. The Governor General has instructed his agent at the court of the Maharaja to offer his congratulations on this occasion, so honourable to the Sikh arms.2

(d) General Pollock, in his despatch of 14th September, says,
The Lahore contingent under the able direction of Captain Lawrence has invariably given the most cheerful assistance, dragging the guns, occupying the heights and covering the rearguard. While ascending the Huft Kohtal, and at Tezeen, their long jezails told effectively in keeping the ground.
Life of Henry Lawrence, Edwardes and Merivale, p. 407.

(e) And when the Sikh contingent, after covering 14 miles of rough mountains through a very much narrower defile reached Lala Chand on 6-4-1842, an hour or two later than the British contingent, who had followed the shorter and easier route and covered only seven miles, the Sikhs were accused, for political reasons, of
holding discreetly back. What holding discreetly back was there? asks Major General Sir Herbert Edwardes. What would have been the condition of the British Column if the Sikh force had not made a diversion in their favour and drawn off large numbers of the enemy? he asks again. Perhaps yet another massacre and disaster of bigger dimension.

(f) Writing about the help and friendship for the British, Cunningham says Lord Ellenborough (Governor-General) was also desirous of an interview with Sher Singh, and as gratitude was uppermost for the time, and added a grace even to success, it was proposed to thank the Maharaja in person for the proofs which he had afforded of his continued friendship. History of The Sikhs, page 229.

From the above, the part played by the Sikh forces in the second expedition to Afghanistan in 1842, that is, three years after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in avenging the Afghan treachery, is clear. How, then, did the Sikhs encouraged by the news from Afghanistan (Massacre of 1841) and restless after the death of their great leader, Ranjit Singh, resolve to try their hand at the territory of the East India Company ?

On the other hand the British plans for the occupation of Punjab, were long since in their mind. Sir Henry Fane, the British Commander-in-Chief, came to Lahore in March 1837, to attend the marriage of Prince Nau Nihal Singh. Writing about him Captain J.D. Cunningham, the illustrious Historian, who had held several important political posts from 1838 to 1846 and who had remained in close contact with Punjab affairs and who later had to pay with his blood for writing History of the Sikhs, says (page 193),
That able Commander (Sir Henry Fane) was ever a careful observer of military means and of soldierly qualities, he formed an estimate of the force which would be required for the complete subjugation of the Punjab.

Cunningham adds:
This visit to Lahore was perhaps mainly useful, in enabling Lieutenant Colonel Garden, the indefatigable Quarter-Master General of the Bengal Army to complete a detailed map of that part of the country, and which formed the ground work of all the maps used, when hostilities did at last break out with the Sikhs.

Mrs. Henry Lawrence wrote to Mrs. Cameran from Subathoo on 26-5-1941,
Wars and rumours of wars are on every side and there seems no doubt that next cold weather will decide the long suspended question of occupying the Punjab; Henry, both in his Civil and Military capacity, will probably be called to take part in whatever goes on.

And again on June 5 she wrote
Nothing is yet promulgated; but Henry supposes the army for the Punjab will be divided into three columns-the main body accompanied by Mr. Clerk, our Chief, and the other by Henry and Mr. Cunningham an officer of Engineers now acting at Ferozepur. Henry Lawrence by Edwardes and Marivale, pp. 216-17. John Ludlow writes

The British Agent on the Sutlej had proposed to march on Lahore with 12,000 men to restore order. The Calcutta papers teemed with plans for conquering the Punjab (British India, ii. 1841).

Within few days of his appointment as Governor-General, Lord Ellenborough, wrote to Duke of Wellington on 15-10-1841
I have requested Lord Fitzroy to employ him at once in obtaining all information he can with respect to the Punjab and making a memorandum upon the country for your consideration. I am most anxious to have your opinion as to the general principles upon which a campaign against that country should be conducted.3

Four days later, he again wrote to, the Duke
At present about 12,000 men are collected near Ferozepore to watch the Sikhs, and act if necessaryWhat I desired, therefore, was your opinion founded as far as it could be upon imperfect geographical information which could be given to you, as to best mode of attacking the Punjab.4

The Duke, in reply referring to an advanced post at Rani-KePul, wrote on 2-4-1842
This position would be an excellent one from which you could with facility move on offensive plan. I would recommend you to add to the equipment of the army pontoons for the formation of a bridge. It might be desirable to pass the river on a defensive plan of operations at short notice and it would be desirable to avoid the delay of collecting boats to form a bridge. 5

Writing to Lord Fitzgerald on 6-4-1842, when the Sikhs were forcing open the most difficult Khyber Pass for the British during the period of their second expedition to Afghanistan, the Duke of Willington said:
I am glad to see such good accounts of the Sikh Government. It must be very desirable to maintain its existence in the Punjab. But this I must say, if we are to maintain our positions in Afghanistan, we ought to have Peshawar, the Khyber Pass, Jalalabad and the passes between that post and Kabul.6

The Governor General thereupon started preparations and informed the Duke on 7-6-1842
I have after communicating with the Commander-in-Chief, issued an order for the assembling of an army of reserve in the division of Sirhind (that is, either at Karnal or Ferozepur) in November. It will consist of twelve regiments of infantry, of which four will be European, or five regiments of regular cavalry (including the 16th Lancers) and of 2 regiments of irregular cavalry. There will be four troops of horse artillery and three batteries of foot artillery. The total force will be 15,000 men. 7

Lord Ellenborough encouraged the Sikhs to occupy Jalalabad at the time of second expedition to Afghanistan in 1842, to which the Sikhs were a party, with a view to placing them in difficult position between the British on the East and Afghans on the West. He wrote
We shall have placed, an irreconcilable enemy to the Afghans (Sikhs) between them and us, and hold that enemy to the Afghans (Sikhs) occupied, as he must be, in defending himself against them, in entire subjugation to us by our position upon Sutlej, within a few marches of Amritsar and Lahore. They will be obliged to keep their principal force in that quarter, and Lahore and Amritsar will remain with insufficient garrison, within a few marches of the Sutlej on which I shall in twelve days, at any time, be able to assemble three European and eleven native battalions, one European regiment of cavalry, two regiments of native cavalry and two of irregular cavalry and twenty four guns. The State of the Punjab is therefore under my foot.8

According to Cunningham
It was generally held by the English in India that Major Broadfoot's appointment as Agent in Oct., 1844 greatly increased the probabilities of a war with the Sikhs, and the impression was equally strong, that had Mr. Clerk, for instance, remained as agent, there would have been no war.

George Campbell says
Several accounts agree that in the period immediately preceding the war when matters were becoming very serious and (Sikh) army had for the most part taken affairs into their own hands, they maintained for a while wonderful order at Lahore and through their punches exercised an almost puritanical discipline in the military republic. The immediate collision was, however, I think hastened by imprudence on the part of the British Frontier Agent Major Broadfoot. I knew of some things done by him which it would be difficult to defend. But he paid the penalty by his death in the actions which followed.

Cunningham again says, Had the shrewd committees of the (Sikh) armies observed no military preparation on the part of the English, they would not have heeded the insidious exhortations of such mercenary men as Lal Singh and Tej Singh, who goaded them to move to the Sutlej evidently with the knowledge, if not under the instructions, of Major Broadfoot. This view receives considerable strength from the letter of Captain Peter Nicholson, the Political Assistant at Ferozepore, addressed to his chief Major Broadfoot on November 23, 1845
Knowing that the (Lahore) Durbar and our Government were in friendly relation . at least, that I had never been told the contrary. and in spite of that relation finding the head of the Durbar (Prime Minister Lal Singh) consenting to a hostile march against its allies and those (Tej Singh and Gulab Singh) supposed to be friendly to us the most active in bringing that march about, the doubt did occur to one whether the Durbar might not be consenting to the march of the army against us with your knowledge.

It is thus obvious that it were the British who had planned the subjugation of the Punjab during the life time of Ranjit Singh and who manoeuvred and precipitated the Punjab crisis, after his death.

And the plans for occupation of the Punjab were based more on treachery and intrigue rather than chivalry or force of arms. Raja Gulab Singh Dogra had been detailed by Maharaja Sher Singh to help the British in the second expedition to Afghanistan in 1842. Meeting him on the other side of the Indus it occurred to Henry Lawrence in January, 1842 that
A consideration should be offered to the Dogra Rajas Dhyan Singh and Gulab Singh; for their assistance, they alone in the Punjab being now able to give aid. We need such men as the Rajahs and General Avitabile and should bind them to us by the only tie they recognise self-interest. The Rajahs secured in their territory, even with additions, General Avitabile guaranteed out aid in retiring with his property, and any other sirdars aiding us cordially, be specially and separately treated for. He proposed that on the terms of efficient support we assist Raja Gulab Singh to get possession of the valley of Jalalabad and endeavour to make some arrangement to secure it and Peshawar to his family. Life of Sir Henry Lawrence by Major General Sir Herbert Edwardes. Having completed the design of putting the Maharaja and the Dogra Chiefs against each other,

Lord Ellenborough, wrote in his letter of 11-5-1843
General Ventura is with the Maharaja Sher Singh and it is clear to me that, relying on his support the Maharaja will take the first occasion of cutting of his Minister Dhian Singh. This Dhian Singh knows, and is prepared for. The break up of the Punjab will probably begin with murder. 12

On 12-8-1843 he again wrote
The affairs of the Punjab will probably receive their denouement from the death of Sher Singh. 13

And yet again he wrote on 20-9-1843
The Maharaja of Lahore is pulling his house down upon his head; the catastrophe was nearly taking place three weeks ago, but it is deferred. 14 Maharaja Sher Singh, his son prince Pratap Singh and even Dhian Singh Dogra were all murdered on 15-9-1843, and the news must have been on their way to Calcutta, when Ellenborough wrote his last letter on 20-9-1843.

Lord Ellenborough again wrote to the Duke of Willington on 20-10-1843
Heera Singh (the son and successor of Dhian Singh) has no real authority. His best adviser has been Ventura, but he is threatened now. Gulab Singh remains in the Hills, either in sickness, in grief, or in policy. He is securing himself there. Heera Singh will probably soon fly to Jummoo. Then a pure Sikh Government will be formed in the plains and a Rajpoot Government in the Hills and Mooltan may perhaps break loose all connection with the Sikhs. Ventura anticipates a long anarchy, from which the only ultimate refuge will be in our protection. I agree with him. The time cannot be very distant when the Punjab will fall into our management and the question will be what we shall do as respects the Hills.

He however complained,
that there is, as there long has been, a great disposition, even in quarters not military, to disturb the game. 15
Though otherwise determined to attack and annex Punjab the British were doubtful about their justification in doing so. Sir Henry Hardinge now Governor General of India wrote to Ellenborough on 23-1-45
Even if we had a case for devouring OUR ALLY in adversity, we are not ready and could not be ready until the hot winds set in, and the Sutlej became a torrent. Moderation will do us no harm, if in the interval the hills and the plains weaken each other; but on what plea could we attack the Punjab, if this were the month of October and we had our army in readiness?

Self-preservation may require the dispersion of this Sikh army, the baneful influence of such an example is the evil most to be dreaded, but exclusive of this case, how are we to justify the seizure of our friend's territory who in our adversity assisted us to retrieve our affairs (in Afghanistan). 16

Even five days after the declaration of war by the British, the Governor General was not convinced of its moral justification. Robert writes
December 18th I rode behind the Governor General and we sat under a tree to, await the infantry. The Governor General remarked :
Will the people of England consider this (Crossing the Sutlej by the Sikhs) an actual invasion of our frontier and a justification of war? 17
But by now the die had been cast and they were already in the midst of a war with the Sikhs.

Besides aid in the form of soldiers, the Lahore Darbar had helped General Pollock and Brigadier Wilde in procuring a large quantity of supplies, provisions and draught cattle one item of many being somewhat more than 17,000 camels Cunningham,p.249, footnote
Ganda Singh, The British Occupation of the Punjab, Sikh History Society, Amritsar-Patiala, 1955, p30.
2 Ganda Singh (Ed.), History of the Freedom Movement of the Punjab (Vol. III), Maharaja Duleep Singh Correspondence, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1977, p. 16.
3 Ganda Singh (Ed.), History of the Freedom Movement of the Punjab (Vol. III), Maharaja Duleep Singh Correspondence, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1977, p. 19.
4 Ganda Singh (Ed.), History of the Freedom Movement of the Punjab (Vol. III), Maharaja Duleep Singh Correspondence, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1977, p. 19.
5 Ganda Singh, The British Occupation of the Punjab, Sikh History Society, Amritsar-Patiala, 1955, p35.
6 Ganda Singh, The British Occupation of the Punjab, Sikh History Society, Amritsar-Patiala, 1955, p35-36.
7 Ganda Singh, The British Occupation of the Punjab, Sikh History Society, Amritsar-Patiala, 1955, p36.
8 Ganda Singh, The British Occupation of the Punjab, Sikh History Society, Amritsar-Patiala, 1955, p36-37.
9 J.D. Cunningham, A History of the Sikhs, Ed. H.L.O. Garrett, S. Chand and Co., Delhi, 1955; p. 255.
10 Ganda Singh, The British Occupation of the Punjab, Sikh History Society, Amritsar-Patiala, 1955, p. 68
11 ibid., p. 70.
12 ibid., p. 40.
13 ibid., p. 41.
14 ibid., p. 41.
15 ibid., p. 42.
16 ibid., p. 60.
17 ibid., p. 70.

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