Lal Singh, Raja
Traitor of the Sikh Army (D. 1866)
Son of Misr Jassa Mall, a Brahman shopkeeper of Sanghoi, in Jehlum district in West Punjab, entered the service of the Sikh Darbar in 1832 as a writer in the treasury. He enjoyed the patronage of the Dogra minister Dhian Singh and, when in 1839 Misr Beli Ram had displeased the latter because of his sympathy with Chet Singh Bajva, he was promoted in his place Daroghah-i-Toshakhana, which position he held until the reinstatement of the former.
Lal Singh rose to power during the heyday of Wazir Hira Singh Dogra’s authority when he was given a minor military command for the maintenance of which a few districts were leased out to him. Lal Singh increased his influence by winning the favour of those in power. To this end, he engineered, in 1843, the murder of Beli Ram, his own benefactor, and Bhai Gurmukh Singh, both disliked by the minister. He displayed similar ingratitude towards Raja Hira Singh who had throughout been well disposed towards him. Besides confirming him as the controller of the Toshakhana, Hira Singh had appointed him young Maharaja Duleep Singh’s tutor in place of Jawahar Singh and had also created him Raja with grants of jagirs at Rohtas. But when Maharani f ind Kaur turned against Hira Singh, he lost no time in joining hands with her and her brother, Jawahar Singh, to bring about his downfall.
By his beguiling manner Lal Singh won the confidence of Maharani Jind Kaur and became her closest adviser. In Decebmer 1844, he was appointed a member of the Council of Regency under her. He was made Wazir on 8 November 1845 after the assassination of Jawahar Singh. As Wazir and as a commander, Lal Singh proved disloyal to the Sikh Darbar in the Anglo-Sikh war of 1845-46. He in fact acted in conformity with the secret instructions received from the British officials. He supplied military information to Captain Peter Nicholson, at Firozpur, and two divisions of Sikh troops under his command remained entrenched at Ferozeshah without attacking Firozpur. Brigadier Littler’s garrison troops were thus allowed to escape from there and form junction with Lord Gough’s army at Ferozeshah. After the reverse at Ferozeshah, Lal Singh fled to Lahore and offered to the Council of the Khalsa to relinquish his office. He was relieved of the office of Wazir, but no change in the military command was made.
On the eve of battle of Sabhraon (10 February 1846), l.al Singh is alleged to have sent to Captain Nicholson a map of the Sikh entrenchments. During the battle, he kept his artillery battalions and the dreaded Ghorcharas away from the battlefield. He himself retired to Lahore. After the war, he was suitably rewarded by the British. He was confirmed as Wazir of the State of Lahore under the Resident, Henry Lawrence. He, however, lost British patronage when it came to light that he had sent written instructions to Shaikh Imam ud-Din, the governor of Kashmir, to thwart the occupation by Gulab Singh of the valley granted him by the British under a treaty signed on 16 March 1846. Lal Singh was tried by a Court of Inquiry and found guilty. He was removed from his high office and expelled from the Punjab with a pension of 12,000 rupees per annum. He was sent to Agra and then to Dehra Dun, where he died in 1866.