Friday, November 24, 2017
Gateway to Sikhism

Maharaja Ranjit Singh:The Treaty of Amritsar (British and Sarkar Khalsa)

In 1807, Ranjit Singh had taken over the territory of Tara Singh Gheba, who had died earlier. His widow was ousted and the estate attached without any resistance. It was a severe blow to the authority of the Sardars who were still dreaming of retaining their petty estates. It caused alarm among the Malwa chiefs, who were convinced that the Maharaja was now bent upon reducing them to the position of tributaries.

Ranjit Singh's General, Dewan Mukham Chand crossed the Sutlej and captured Wadni, near Ferozepur, and proceeded towards Anandpur. This created further stir among the Malwa chiefs and they conspired against the Lahore darbar and turned their eyes towards the British who could help them in retaining their territories. They found in the British their savior.

The Malwa chiefs held a meeting and met Seton, the British Resident at Delhi. They appealed to the resident to give them protection against the designs of Ranjit Singh. They argued that the Cis-Sutlej territory had always been protected by the Government at Delhi and now that the British were in possession of Delhi, they should extend them protection. The resident gave them patient hearing, but could not help them at that stage.

In March 1808, Lord Minto, the Governor-General, wrote, "Although as a principle, we cordially recognize the wisdom and the justice of abstaining from all interference's in the contests, disputes, and concerns of states with which we are unconnected by the obligations of alliance, and are fully convinced of the embarrassment and inconvenience of extending

our protection to petty chieftains, who are unable to protect their territories from the aggressions of more powerful neighbors, yet we are disposed to think that cases may occur in which temporary deviation from those general principles may be a measure of defensive policy, the neglect of which might be productive of much more danger and embarrassment than the persecution of it, and that the certain resolution of the Raja of Lahore to subjugate the states situated between the Sutlej and the frontier of our dominion would, under other circumstances than the present, constitute a case on which, on grounds of self defense, the interposition of the British power for the purpose of preventing the execution of such a project would be equally just and prudent.

The British, however, did not harm their relations with Ranjit Singh. Though, "the Resident held out no hopes to the deputies of the confederate Sikh chiefs of direct British interference in their relations with the Lahore ruler, but nevertheless they were led to hope that they had the best sympathies of the British authorities, and that, when the time came, a helping hand would not be denied to them. The reply, though encouraging, was not decisive, and by no means sufficient to save the chiefs concerned from eventual ruin.

Thus, the British agent "gave the hint to the Cis-Sutle; chiefs that in emergency they would not be deserted. However, "the reply to the deputation, though straightforward, was cautious and vague. It practically amounted to this: We can promise nothing definite; but you have our sympathy, and we will do what we can.

This did not satisfy the Cis-Sutlej chiefs. They thought of further means to save themselves from the expansionist designs of Ranjit Singh. However, Ranjit Singh played a diplomatic game. He sent his emissaries to Cis-Sutlej's chiefs to calm down their feelings.

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