CAUSES OF ANGLO SIKH WAR
Punjab After the Death of Ranjit Singh
After the downfall of the Mughal empire, the Sikhs, taking advantage of the confused situation, carved out independent states of their own in Punjab. It was Ranjit Singh who united these states into a powerful kingdom in the Punjab during the nineteenth century. He established military rule in Punjab. After Ranjit Singh’s death, the military set-up exploded and slowly the real power passed into the hands of the Khalsa army.
Ranjit Singh had left an army of 40,000 soldiers. This increased three-fold within five years of his death thus taking the large share of resources of the State. Unable to get their salaries, the soldiers got out of control and often interfered in political decisions. They formed their own panchayats and decided their own actions. The army assumed the role of “king-makers”. The history of the Punjab in the years following the death of Ranjit Singh was thus the history of plots and counter plots, murders and assassinations, desertions and treachery — all undermining the stability of the State.
Weak Successors of Ranjit Singh
One weak ruler after another came in succession. Ranjit Singh died in 1839. His successors were unable to hold the vast Sikh kingdom for a long time. Ranjit Singh was succeeded by his son Kharak Singh. Dhian Singh continued to hold the post of Wazir. Kharak Singh was not an able ruler. Taking advantage of this the powerful chiefs of the Sindhanwalia (Chet Singh, Atar Singh, Lehna Singh and Ajit Singh) and the Dogra brothers (Dhian Singh, Golab Singh and Suchet Singh) brought anarchy and confusion in Punjab. On October 8, 1839, Dhian Singh murdered Chet Singh in front of the king Kharak Singh and then the king was put behind the bars. Kharak Singh’s son Noanihal Singh was proclaimed the king of the Punjab and Dhian Singh as a Wazir.
Noanihal Singh was an able ruler. He restored law and order in Punjab. He even sent an army to capture Ladhak and parts of Balistan. He kept a strict watch on the move of the British. However, fortune did not favour Punjab. On November 5, 1840 Kharak Singh died in the prison and on the same day the reign of Noanihal came to an end. He was hurt by the archway of the Lahore fort when he was returning back from the cemetery. He did not survive long after the accident.
Death of Dhian Singh
The Dogras and the Sindhanwalias assumed the role of the “king-makers” after the death of the king. There was conflict between these two. The Sindhanwalias supported Noanihal Singh’s mother, Mai Chand Kaur, to govern the state on behalf of her deceased son. While the Dogras supported Sher Singh, another son of Ranjit Singh. In January 1841, Sher Singh was proclaimed the king of the Punjab with the help of the Sikh army and again Dhian Singh became the wazir. Hurt by the Dogras, the Sindhanwalias took refuge with the British. In September 1843, Ajit Singh Sindhanwalia killed the king as well as Dhian Singh. Dhian Singh took the post of his father and avenged his father’s death by putting to death Sindhanwalia Sirdars, Lehna Singh and Ajit Singh.
In September 1843, Dalip Singh, minor son of Ranjit Singh, became the king and Rani Jindhan as regent. Hira Singh Dogra became the new wazir. But Hira Singh was murdered on December 21, 1844. Jawahar Singh, brother of Rani Jindan, became the new wazir. But he could not please the army and thus was put to death. In September 1845, Lal Singh, lover of Rani Jindan, became the new wazir and soon won over the army on his side. Teja Singh took over command of the army.
:Anglo-Sikh Wars and its Inside Tale – Karnail Singh