Thursday, December 14, 2017
Gateway to Sikhism

THE SIKH RULE AND RANJIT SINGH

GURDASHAN SINGH DHILLON

The reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh has been the subject of abiding interest for scholars and historians but, by and large, they have concentrated their attention on the military and political achievements of the Maharaja. No doubt, he was a great military genius. His political objectives could not have been achieved with out his military genius. But this is an incomplete epithet to describe him adequately. For considering the times, the Indian background and the historical circumstances in which he appeared, the great edifice which he created and the manner in which he fostered it was, we believe, primarily due to the religious background, approach and tolerance and the catholicity of Sikh ethos in which Ranjit Singh was born and brought up. Otherwise he would have remained a mere war-lord and an adventurer. Nurtured in the Sikh tradition and unequalled for the daring and originality of his many-sided genius, the Maharaja gave the Punjab four decades of peace, prosperity and progress, the benefits of which were enjoyed equally by all the communities. This paper is an endeavour to study the salient features of the Khalsa Raj under Ranjit Singh and to evaluate his place in the history of this region.

The character and the nature of his polity is a subject of controversy among scholars. Many writers like J.D. Cunningham1 and Sita Ram Kohli2 ascribe to Ranjit Singh high and noble objectives on the basis of which he carved out his kingdom, which became the source of power and pride for the Sikhs. Many others like Prinsep3 and N.K. Sinha4 have characterised his polity as absolute despotism, which was just the outcome of his military enterprise.

Kingdoms and empires have almost invariably been founded and maintained on the strength of arms. Ranjit Singh had as good a right to crave out a kingdom for himself through the exercise of arms as any other ruler before or after him. In the ultimate analysis, the fundamental criterion to measure a ruler's greatness should be the manner in which he wields his authority. To what end does he use his power, for the furtherance of his own personal ambitions or for the welfare of his subjects through the projection of eternal values of truth, goodness, justice and freedom? This is the fundamental criterion which we shall use and which we feel should be the only criterion for any kind of modern historiography. In short, our test should be not how an Ashoka or a Changez Khan gets his power but how he uses it and the net results which he achieves.

Both Carlyle5 and Macaulay6 lodged their protest against history being made a mere record of 'court and camp', of royal intrigue and state rivalry, of pageants or processions or chivalric encounters. According to Carlyle the essence of history does not lie in laws, Senate houses or battle-fields but in the tide of thought and action-the world of existence that brightens, glooms, blossoms and fades. What gives meaning to history is not merely the exploits and aggressive enterprises of the conquerors and kings, but how the victorious sword is used during the time of peace A ruler's greatness lies in the vision he projects for the future, the message he leaves for posterity, the direction and dimension that he imparts to history. What mankind needs is peace, progress, prosperity and a harmonious social order. A ruler can best be judged in terms of Arnold Toynbee's well known historical formula of 'Challenge and response'.7 The correct measure of a ruler is the vision in terms of initiative, depth and sincerity that he has in responding to the need of times i.e. whether he is an Ashoka or a Changez Khan, a Lenin or a Stalin.

In view of the above criterion we shall explain in this study how Ranjit Singh employed his power and how other rulers of his times, great or small, directed that power to different ends. For this purpose we shall also indicate very briefly the ideological background which threw him up, shaped his character and governed his perceptions and personality. According to Lepel Griffin,"Ranjit Singh was so completely a product of the Sikh theocracy and so embodied the spirit of the Khalsa, that no account of his character and career would be complete without a description of the religious system of the Sikhs.

Ideological Background: Sikhism arose in the sixteenth century as a new revolutionary ideology, opposed in its fundamentals to the contemporary and earlier religions. On the one hand, it challenged the fanaticism and religious hypocrisy of the priestly class9 and on the other hand the religio-political oppression of the contemporary rulers.10 Guru Nanak's rejection of the Varna Ashram Dharma and of the cult of gods and goddesses11 and his emphasis on the unity of mankind12 and Oneness of God13 constituted a daring and a glaring departure from orthodox Hinduism. He challenged the conventional yardsticks of religion and society of his times by denouncing asceticism,14 idolatry,15 ceremonialism and the role of the intermediary agency between God and man16. He exhorted people not to shun the battle of life, not to renounce their hearths and homes, not to retreat to the private solitude of the hills and caves but to live the life of full blooded householders. He introduced a conspicuous note of world and life-affirmation in his teachings by bridging the gulf between the spiritual and the empirical realms of human existence.17 The significance of the Guru's message lies in emphasising the role of religion as an instrument of liberation, personal as well as social. In the integrated vision of the Guru, religion became a potential basis of freedom for man-freedom from tyranny, freedom from injustice and freedom form ruthless religious conversion. The Guru thus laid the foundations of a catholic or liberal religion, which was not a mere system of philosophy or a set of abstract ideas, concerning God and the mystery of life and death. It was a discipline, a way of life which infused spiritual and social vitality in its followers and brought about a far-reaching trasformation in their outlook. The Gurus believed that religion could be an effective vehicle of promoting the values of social harmony, love, equality; freedom and brotherhood of man. They aimed at a social revolution that would lead to the emergence of an egalitarian, forward-looking and just social order.18

Sikh movement was not only an egalitarian social order; it was a plebeian political revolution as well but the pressure of circumstances prevented it from assuming spectacular dimensions. Nevertheless, the rise of the Khalsa, the martyrdom of the Gurus, the saga of Sikh resistance to the Mughals and Afghan invaders carried a new message of hope and kindled that spark in human nature that impelled men to seek out a better and saner path for mankind. People looked with eager eyes to the rise of a messiah who would finally deliver them from socio-political persecution of the contemporary rulers and tyranny and oppression of the invaders.

The first bid for establishing the Khalsa Raj was made by Banda Singh Bahadur but without much success. Banda had an indomitable spirit but, faced with the over-whelming might of the Mughal empire, he could not succeed in liberating the country from the oppressive rule. He and his 740 followers were tortured to death.19 However, Banda deserves credit for laying down the foundation of the political sovereignty of the Sikhs. On the Diwali day of October 27, 1761, the Sikhs assembled at Amritsar and passed a national resolution, called the Gurmatta, to liberate Punjab from the foreign invaders and seize all their strongholds.20

The Sikh Misls, which emerged on the scene, no doubt, had a great political potential but through their internecine quarrels, they had reduced each other to a state of political impotence. They were not properly organised to realise the dream of Khalsa Raj. George Forster, a traveller who has a keen observer of things remarked : "We may see some ambitious chief led on by his genius and success and absorbing the power of his associates display from the ruins of their common wealth the standard of monarchy."21

Ranjit Singh was a characteristic product of the Sikh tradition and also the messiah, who had come to deliver the goods. Thus the emergence of Khalsa Raj under him was neither miraculous nor a freak of history. It was a unique historical phenomenon, the outcome and the flowering of a prolonged struggle for capturing political power and must be understood in its true perspective. Bir Singh, a contemporary of Ranjit Singh in his poetical composition, Bara Maha Guru Gobind Singh Ji Ka, refers to the period of socio-political turmoil gone through by the peasant-soldiers or the Singhs, who had become Sardars (rulers) with the Guru's grace22

Ranjit Singh's Career : Ranjit Singh became the chief of the Sukerchakia Misl at the age of eleven years in 1791. In his young days, he was an excellent soldier and the beau-ideal of youth. One of his ancestors Budh Singh had been one of the Khalsas baptised by Guru Gobind Singh.23 He found the Punjab strife-ridden and chaotic, a loose confederacy of powerful Misl Chiefs, lacking the corporate spirit and indulging in petty intrigues and dissensions. In the absence of a strong central authority the state had become a prey to the Afghan invaders on the one hand and to the Marattha and the British designs on the other. Ranjit Singh brought the Misl chiefs into submission, fired his people with a corporate zeal and led them from victory to victory so as to galvanise a whole people with a sense of collective triumph. 'He avenged the innumerable defeats, humiliations and depredations suffered by India over the centuries at the hands of the Afghan invaders by conquering part of the Indian territory wrested by them and more than that, by being an arbiter in the fate of Afghanistan herself.24 He rose to be the ruler of a powerful state extending from Tibet to Sind and from Khyber pass to the Satluj. With his capture of Lahore he sealed the Khyber pass for ever, thus putting and end to the tyranny and oppression of the invaders. He was both feared and respected by the British, who ruled over the rest of the subcontinent. It has been acknowledged that in fulfilling his ambitions, Ranjit Singh used the barest minimum of force necessary. Baron Charles Hugel record, "Never perhaps was so large an empire founded by one man with so little criminality; and when we consider the country and the uncivilised people with whom he had to deal, his mild and prudent Government must be regarded with feeling of astonishment".25 Similarly Captain Murray says,"It is difficult to suppress admiration in contemplating the career of such a man, who, with so many disadvantages, succeeded, with so few crimes in elevating himself from a simple Sardar to be the sovereign of a large kingdom, including Hindus and Mohammadans as well as the Sikhs, the only state in India, not substantially under British dominion". 26 Even Henry T. Prinsep, who is a critic of Ranjit Singh, acknowledges that the Maharaja's career was "stained by no bloody executions and by much fewer crimes".27

The Sikh Raj : In Sikhism the inward and the outward, the spiritual and the empirical are inextricably interwoven. 28 The Gurus believed that a combination of religion and politics was essential to achieve the ethical ideals of human equality, freedom and justice. There was something positive and constructive in this combination which could abolish some of the worst evils of society and open new vistas of peace, progress and harmony. A sound social order could be built and preserved only through moral and ethical imperatives and by abiding values of tolerance, humility, charity and compassion that constitute Dharma.

Ranjit Singh built his rule on religious foundations. He referred to his Government as Sarkar-i-Khalsa, which derived its legitimacy from the Khalsa or the Commonwealth-the mystic entity in which resided all sovereign power pertaining to the Sikh Community. He referred to his Darbar as Darbar-i-Khalsa. He never arrogated to himself the title or powers of a despot. He never sat on a throne and never wore a crown. He attributed every success to the favour of God and he styled himself and the people collectively as the Khalsa or Commonwealth of Gobind. Everything was meant for the benefit of his subjects, including the Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims because the Khalsa aims at Sarbat da Bhala (welfare of entire humanity). His state salutation was Wahe-i-Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe-i-Guru Ji Ki Fateh (Khalsa belongs to God and its victory is the victory of God). He was often heard saying that he was nothing more than a mere Nagara (drum) of Guru Gobind Singh. He would say that while the literal meaning of Ranjit-the meaning which his father had apparently intended while choosing his name in preference to his original name, 'Budh Singh'- was victorious, its real significance to his mind lay in this that it had been the name of one of the drums of Guru Gobind Singh.29 Both the Guru's drum and he himself announced the victory of the Khalsa, but were in themselves nothing but instruments. On every Baisakhi, he would go to Amritsar and make his salutations at the spot, where the Guru had inspired his followers and had laid the foundations of the Sikh society.

His official seal bore the word- Akal Sahai (May God help). The term also indicated that the Khalsa did not owe its allegiance to any earthly power and acted in total devotion to Akal (The Timeless Reality). Similarly the coin of Ranjit Singh also did not mention any particular person or kind except Guru Nanak as the true Emperor of both the worlds, spiritual and empirical. His coinage which was called Nanak Shahi bore the inscription, "Hospitality, the sword, victory and conquest unfailing from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh". He struck no coins in his own name. He listened daily to the readings from the Guru Granth. On one occasion when the Akal Takhat took exception to a moral lapse on the part of the Maharaja, he humbly surrendered to the dictates of the Supreme Sikh authority, the Akal Takhat, and readily bared his back for receiving public flogging as chastisement for his un-Sikh like act.

Born and brought up in the Sikh faith, Ranjit Singh was fully conversant with the catholicity of the Sikh tradition, which left its visible impact on his outlook and policy. Religious bigotry, he knew was incompatible with Sikhism. The idea of unity of God, universal brotherhood and welfare of all (Sarbat da Bhala) which summed up the basic tenets of Sikhism, enabled him to restore complete religious harmony in his kingdom. Here it will be worthwhile to compare him with the great Maratha ruler Shivaji, who had directed his power to the defence of Brahmins, cows and caste and was known by the title of Gou Brahman Pritpalika (Defender of Orthodox Hindu faith and the Cow)30 All his ministers, except the Commander-in-Chief, belonged to the Brahmin caste. His reign marked the triumphant establishment of an aggressive Hindu Swarajya (militant political expression of orthodox Hinduism).31

Ranjit Singh did not proclaim Sikhism to be the state religion, nor did he make any conscious efforts to propagate his religion, His broad religious outlook was reflected in according due respect to all religions. This was fully in consonance with the principle of peaceful co-existence propounded by the Sikh Gurus. Sikhism did not have an ordained priestly class that could rule in the name of Sikh religion. But the religio-political views of the Gurus could be inferred from the Gurbani and the lives and deeds of the Gurus. In the vision of the Sikh Gurus, a sane human society was essentially a plural one in which each community was afforded the opportunity to work out his genius to the fullest possibilities and potentialities. The Sikh Gurus who suffered martyrdoms to uphold the religious liberties of the people laid repeated emphasis on the unity of mankind in their Bani. Ranjit Singh held fast to the values of justice, freedom and human dignity, not through any defined statements or religious vows or policy pronouncements but through stark deeds. There is no denying the fact that it was because of his Sikh religious background that he proved to be a more enlightened exponent of humanitarianism and tolerance than some of the other contemporary emperors and kings or the rulers of so-called secular or democratic states of modern times.

The spirit of forbearance and moderation displayed by Ranjit Singh was in sharp contrast with the inhuman practices of the Mughal rulers, their plunder, greed, devastations and forced conversions. The Muslim state in India, being entirely subordinate to the Church, had believed in waging a religious war (Jehad) against the infidels. It aimed at stamping out all forms of pluralism whether political, religious or social and demanded total conformism in faith, belief, form and action. The ideal of the Muslim state was the conversion of the entire population to Islam and the extinction of every form of dissent. Accordingly, non-Muslims were not looked upon as equal citizens of the State. In order to secure the right of exercising their religion, they had to suffer political and social disabilities and pay toll tax (Jazia). Under Aurangzeb there was large scale destruction of non-Muslim religious temples and other religious institutions in northern India.31

The Muslim rule in Europe was, without doubt, liberal compared to the contemporary Christian states but its limitation was that it had to abide by the strict rules of the Shariat which was sometimes interpreted arbitrarily by bigoted Mullas resulting in serious socio-political discrimination. Of course the imposition of Jazia on non-Muslims was an accepted principle under the Shariat. Their crusade or Jehad against the non-believers or non-Muslim states with a view to spreading Islam was also an accepted principle of Islamic polity.

In the pre-Muslim India, the four fold division of Hindu society was looked upon as divinely ordained. Manu desired that a king should zealously guard and uphold this caste-based division. As a result, Brahmins came to enjoy a special status and laid claim to various immunities from the workings of the common law, even in matters of taxation and justice. In addition to those immunities, they enjoyed the right to collect from the masses a regular tax called Brahman Avimasti, the only logic behind it being their claim to divine favour as a reward for their good deeds done in their past lives.32 Evidently, there was no equality before law. The state, too, became a party to the various discriminations made against the lower castes in the name of a divinely ordained caste system.33 Not only the perpetuation of acute and serious caste discrimination against the Sudhras and lower castes and maintenance of the supremacy of Brahmins as the sole interpreters of Dharma, was the primary duty of a Hindu king, but the manner in which the Buddhists were treated, involving their virtual elimination from the Indian sub-continent was a part of the history.34 It is very relevant to point out that in contemporary Europe of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Jewish ghetto, like discrimination against the untouchables, was an established institution. In the times just preceding the Muslim invasion of India, the Hindu orthodoxy was seen launching a religious crusade against the Buddhists. The holy Boddhi tree at Gaya was burnt.35A Hindu temple was erected on the ruin of a Buddhist monastery. A large scale massacre of Buddhists was ordered. Such a policy resulted in the alienation of the Buddhists from the Hindus and eventually led to their virtual disappearance from India.36

As against what we have stated about the Muslim rulers and Hindu kings, the most striking feature of the policy of Ranjit Singh was the equal respect shown to all faiths. He did not treat the Sikhs as a privileged class and did not place any disabilities on his non-Sikh subjects. Nor did he interfere with the religious and cultural life of other communities. They were allowed to freely practise their religions without payment of a special tax. There were no discriminating tariffs. His policy was free from bigotry or any kind of narrowness of outlook and racial arrogance, inherent in the traditional Hindu system of caste. His contemporary rulers, the Peshawas, could not be entirely free form the shackles of casteism and Brahmanical chauvinism. Between caste and caste they could not always maintain the balance evenly.37

Ranjit Singh gave complete freedom of expression and worship to all his subjects. Under him careers were thrown open to men talent, irrespective of their religion, caste or class. Even when he lavished his favours, he endeavoured to maintain an even balance among Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Far from demolishing the religious places of Muslims or Hindus, he was in fact generous in his endowments to the Hindu and the Muslim places of worship. He gave liberal grants to the learned Muslims and paid due respect to the fakirs and derveshs of his kingdom. He repaired the Muslim monuments. The Sunehri Masjid in Kashmiri Bazar of Lahore, which had been earlier in the possession of the no-Muslims was restored to the Muslims and the tombs of Hazrat Data Ganja and Monj-i-Darya were repaired at the State expense. A Muslim calligraphist, who had transcribed the Quran in an exquisite hand and did not find a buyer to pay the price of his life long labour and was ready to leave for Hyderabad to sell the Quran to the Nizam, was paid Rupees one lac by the Maharaja.

He got the holy books of the Muslims and the Hindus translated into other languages. He participated in the festivals of Id, Holi, Dussehra, Baisakhi and Basant with the same enthusiasm. His Hindu, Muslim and Sikh subjects reciprocated these gestures by praying for him on important occasions when he launched a new campaign, when he won a new victory, when he had a hair-breadth escape, when he was ill, or when he recovered from illness.

The minority status of the Sikh ruler was no handicap in commanding allegiance from his Muslim and Hindu subjects. Surjit Hans's argument that the Maharaja on account of his minority status per force had to strengthen his bonds with the Hindus and pacify the Muslims,38 is untenable. Invaders who come, too often, impose their minority rule through sheer force. In the background that the Sikhs had suffered immensely and immediately before the Sikh rule, and the community had gone through one of the worst prosecutions at the hands of the Muslim rulers, it is extremely creditable for the Maharaja not only to give equal treatment to his Muslim subjects but also fully to trust his Muslim employees manning the highest posts in his administration. In the medieval period monarchs were not dependent on the votes of their subjects and the question of majority minority was hardly relevant and the Muslim rulers when they chose could be cruelly intolerant and oppressive towards the majority of their subjects. In this context it is idle to indicate that Ranjit Singh's policies towards the Muslims were related to any consideration of pacification, as suggested by Surjit Hans, of the majority community39. Besides, fake postures towards the Muslims could never beget their trust in a manner and to the extent the policy of Ranjit Singh begot. The revolts of Muslim Generals during the Muslim history in India have been a common feature It, therefore, speaks volumes for the humanity of Ranjit Singh that none of his Muslim Generals or fallen foes revolted. In fact, they loyally fought for the Sikh kingdom to the last In this context the observation of Surjit Hans looks so meaningless and puerile. Ranjit Singh solved the problem of multiple faiths by a policy of large-hearted liberalism. This liberalism, it may be reiterated, had its roots in the Sikh faith itself. As a matter of fact, Ranjit Singh's faith and Sikh ethos guided him inevitably along this path.

During his reign, there were no outbursts of communal fanaticism, no forced conversions, no attempts at bloody revenge, no language tensions, no second class citizens, no repression, no bloodshed, no executions and no tortures. Punishments were humane There was no capital punishment which even the modern governments have not been able to abolish. It was not awarded even when there was an attempt on the life of the Maharaja himself. Such a thing is unknown in monarchical history, much less that of a despot. It is therefore both incorrect and unfair to call his rule autocratic, despotic, or personalised when it is seen that in modern India Mahatma Gandhi's assassin was hanged. W.G. Osborne says that "except in actual open warfare he has never been known to take life, though his own has been attempted more than once, and his reign will be found freer from any striking acts of cruelty and oppression than those of many more civilised monarchs."40 It is to his credit that during his reign of forty years he did not sentence even one person to death. He bore no rancour for his Muslim predecessors who were responsible for the persecution of the Sikh Gurus and had unleashed a reign of terror on the Sikh community. Being of a tolerant disposition, the Maharaja made peace with the Muslims.

Ranjit Singh's employment policy reflected the basic liberal and humanitarian teaching of Sikhism. The highest posts in his Government were as open to Muslims as to the Sikhs and the Hindus. Fakir Aziz-ud-Din was his most trusted minister. Fakir-ud-Din was the Governor of Lahore and was one of the closest confidants of the Maharaja. There were many Muslims occupying high positions as Governors of Provinces and forts, and commanders of the armies.41 Muslims on their part proved worthy of the trust. Poet Shah Mohammed shed tears over the fall of the Sikh kingdom.

Similarly, the Maharaja bore no malice towards the Hindus. He overlooked so many past instances of Hindu betrayal to the Sikhs, whether it be that of Chandu Shah, who had played a role in the persecution of Guru Arjan42 or Hill Rajput Rajas, who invited the Imperial forces to suppress Guru Gobind Singh and his followers43 or the role of Gangu in betraying the two younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh and passing them on to the custody of the ruler of Sirhind, execution of whom later invited the wrath of Banda Singh Bahadur involving the sack of Sirhind. The other instances of Hindu treachery were that of Diwan Lakhpat Rai, who along with Yahiyya Khan, was instrumental in the destruction of the Darbar Sahib44 and Kabli Mal, who in his capacity as Governor of Lahore had defiled the sanctity of the sacred tank of Darbar Sahib on the instructions of Ahmed Shah Abdali.45 The Sikhs had resented the hostility of the Pathans and the Mughals and the treason of the Hindus, who often became the willing partners of Imperial forces and invaders in suppressing and oppressing the Sikhs.

Ranjit Singh forgot all this and entrusted the talented Hindus with the highest responsibilities of the State. Misr Beli Ram was the Revenue Minister of the State, while Diwan Bhawani Das, Diwan Ganga Ram and Diwan Dina Nath were respectively pay Master General, Accountant General and Comptroller General of the Lahore Darbar. Hill Dogras Dhian Singh, Khushal Singh and Gulab Singh were appointed to the positions of supreme authority in the Civil apparatus of the Maharaja's government, Brahmins like Teja Singh and Lal Singh were granted such influence, which eventually raised them to the supreme command of the Sikh army Diwan Mokham Chand was made the commander of the Khalsa army; In fact historians have strongly criticised Ranjit singh's over indulgence towards or misplaced trust in the Hill Dogras or the Purbia Generals, who in crisis betrayed the Sikhs and became the principal cause of the fall of the Sikh Kingdom46

Treatment to Fallen Enemies: In dealing with his fallen enemies, Ranjit Singh displayed unexampled generosity. Not only the Sikh nobbles and Sardars but also the deposed Muslim and Hindu nobbles were provided with Jagirs and treated equally and generously. In fact. Maharaja's treatment of the fallen Muslim foes was unprecedented. The defeated Afghan Governor Sultan Mohammed Khan was given a Jagir of Rupees three lacs as revenues of the areas comprising Kohat and Hashat Nagar. When he conquered Kasur from Nawab Kutub-ud-Din, he gave him the jagir of Mamdot which brought a revenue of 190,000 rupees a year. In the same way, when he conquered Multan he granted big jagir in Sharkpur and Naulakhe to the Nawab's sons.47 He honoured the sentiments of his Muslim subjects and maintained the established Muslim tradition of State grants to Ulemas and holymen. There is an important entry in the Diary-News of Ranjit Singh's court 25th August, 1825"The Kazis, Sayads, Alamas and Fakirs of Peshawar were given good Khilats and each was given a jagir for his maintenance when the Maharaja annexed Peshawar."48 When the victory procession of the Maharaja passed through the streets of Peshawar, he issued strict instructions to his Sardars to observe ethical restraint in keeping with the Sikh tradition, not to damage any mosque, not to insult any woman and not to destroy and crops. The Muslim priests were so pleased that they blessed the victory.49 No wonder the Muslim Generals of the Maharaja were responsible for carrying his flag across the Punjab borders. In this connection observations made by Sir Henry Lawrence are noteworthy : "Members of the deposed ruling families may be seen in Delhi and Kabul in a state of penury; but in the Punjab there is not to be seen a single ruling family whose territories may have been conquered by Ranjit Singh and which may have been left unprovided by him. Not only the Sikh ruling houses, but those of other faiths, too were provided for by him with equal munificence."50 A similar observation is made by Lepel Griffin :"With all his capacity Ranjit Singh was not cruel or blood-thirsty. After the victory or the capture of a fortress he treated the vanquished with leniency and kindness, however stout their resistance might have been, and there were at his court many chiefs despoiled of their estates but to whom he had given suitable employ."51

Here it will not be out of place to compare Ranjit Singh with the Marathas who had allowed the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II to languish in his palace with a niggardly allowance. By propping up the Imperial edifice, the Marathas had derived considerable advantage but it was rather sad that they did not mitigate the king's pecuniary distress. This sordid policy had not only disgusted the royal house to Timur but had also roused the indignation of many Mohammedans in the country who did not approve of the treatment meted out to the Imperial family. It was therefore, not surprising that in September 1803, the hapless Mughal emperor welcomed the English as deliverers,52 Similarly, the treatment meted out by Governor-General Dalhousie to the royal house of Sikhs reflected no credit on the British. The minor Maharaja Dalip Singh was converted to Christianity, given a meagre pension of 13,000 per annum and after separating him from his mother, was sent to England. Maharani Jindan, called he 'mother of the Khalsa' was also treated very shabbily and was forced to leave the country. In pursuance of his imperial policies, Dalhousie abolished all military grants to the Sikh Sardars. Henry Lawrence, as head of the Board of Control, responsible for the administration of Punjab, recommended slight leniency towards the Sikh nobility. But Dalhousie insisted that Jagirdars deserved "little but maintenance'.53 Henry Lawrence tendered his resignation over this issue.

Among the notable

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