WHETHER CROSSING THE SUTLEJ CONSTITUTED INVASION OF BRITISH TERRITORY
|Line up of Sikh Army guns: drawn by horse, bullock, camel and elephant.|
We may now briefly examine the question whether crossing of the Sutlej by the Sikhs did constitute an actual invasion of the British Territory in India. The scope of this narration does not permit a detailed examination and we may therefore only quote the opinions of a few British Officers then closely connected with Punjab affairs Major G. Carmichael Smyth of the North Western Agency wrote
.1 Even more emphatic on the subject is Sir George Campbell, who was then posted at Kaithel (a Sikh states cheated by the British). He wrote
. Memoirs of my Indian Career, p. 78.
Even Cust, Personal Assistant to Major Broadfoot, the British Agent at Ludhiana at the time of break of hostilities, refers to the advance of the British force as Linguistic and Oriental Essays, v, 46-47.
THE REGIMENTAL PANCHAYATS
It is significant to state that after the death of Maharaja Kharak Singh and Naunihal Singh in November, 1840, and the dispute for the throne between Sher Singh and Chand Kaur having been resolved, the relation of the army to the state, according to Cunningham had become wholly altered by the middle of 1841. .1
An example of how these 'Regimental Panchayats' acted when things went wrong may be quoted with advantage. During the period Hira Singh (son of Dhian Singh Dogra) was the minister at Lahore (September 1843-December 1844) with Missar Jalla as his Chief advisor, great harassment was caused to princes Peshaura Singh and Kashmira Singh (sons of Maharaja Ranjit Singh) besides many other Darbar dignitaries opposed to the Dogra hegemony. This aroused the Khalsa against the Dogras. 'Army Panchayats' held meeting on 21st-23rd March, 1844, when Hira Singh's administration was subjected to a searching examination. They decided, therefore, that unless Hira Singh conceded certain demands he must be forced to resign. Four representatives of these Panchayats appeared before him in the open darbar and claimed they had come on behalf of the Sarbat Khalsa and conveyed to him the 'Hukam'. It said that he must release Jawahar Singh (brother of Maharani Jindan) remove the guard placed on the house of Missar Beli Ram, set free his relations and dependents, raise the siege of Sialkot and Kuryanwala, both garrisons of princes Peshaura Singh and Kashmira Singh and give an undertaking that the princes will not be ill-treated in future. They also demanded the surrender of Missar Jalla, Sheikh Imam-ud-Din and Lal Singh. the delegates added, .2
Hira Singh judging from the language and temper of the message and the firm manner in which it was conveyed in the open Darbar, readily promised compliance. But using his superb cunning and tact, accompanied of course with the gold at his disposal, Hira Singh manoeuvred to get a breather which postponed his doom for a while.
Again, when Maharani Jindan collected a number of articles of gold and silver to give in charity on the first day of the new month (Shangrat) 12 December, 1844, as was the custom, Missar Jalla questioned her right for such charitable actions. He is said to have even used abusive language for her. The Maharani thus extremely troubled at heart, appealed to the Khalsa for protection. Besides this, Hira Singh and Missar Jalla's actions had offended the Sikh psyche beyond toleration in more than one way, such as the brutal massacre of the highly venerated Sikh Saint Bhai Bir Singh and his devoted associates in thousands in May 1844, when the Saint was reciting the holy scripture, which brought matters to a speedy climax. Accordingly, some of the Khalsa regiments moved out of the cantonment to open space near the fort. Once more they demanded the surrender of Jalla. This was refused. Instead, according to Sohan Lal Suri, the court chronicler, . The news was flashed to the military lines and a body of 6000 troopers led by Sham Singh Attari went in pursuit. They overtook the fugitives. Hira Singh and his companions put up a fight but the odds against them were heavy. Among the one thousand slain were Hira Singh, Jalla, Mian Sohan Singh son of Gulab Singh Dogra, Mian Labh Singh and many others .3
According to Cunningham,
:Anglo-Sikh Wars and its Inside Tale - Karnail Singh