Chapters :
  • CONQUEST OF SIND (1843) – 01
  • FIRST SIKH WAR (1845-46)
  • SECOND SIKH WAR (1848-49)

CONQUEST OF SIND (1843) – 01

In September 1842. Sir Charles Napier was sent to Sind as commander of the British forces with full civil, political and military powers. He told the Amirs that he was convinced that the charges of disloyalty against them during the Afghan War were well founded. The treaty with them must be revised, and that would mean cession of territory, provision of fuel for steamers on the Indus, and the loss of the right of coinage. Before the Amirs could indicate their assent to these terms, Napier acted as if they had refused them. He razed the fortress of Imamgarh to the ground. Under the threat of war, the Amirs hastened to accept the demands. But their patience was exhausted, and they rose in revolt. Defeated at Miani on February 17, 1843, they were exiled, and Sind was annexed. The British treatment of the Amirs was high-handed. Outram condemned it so did the Court of Directors. Even Napier and frankly admitted  ….We have to right to seize Sind, yet we shall do so and a very advantageous, useful humane piece of rascality it will be…”

PUNJAB Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh kingdom of the Punjab, was a capable ruler and a great statesman. He had seized Lahore in 1799 and made it his capital, and from that point he had extended his conquests to Multan in the south, Peshawar in the west and Kashmir in the north. He died on June 27, 1839, he left no successor capable of wielding his sceptre.  The process of disintegration of the kingdom started when Kharak Singh, the successor of Ranjit Singh and his only son Naunihal Singh were killed in 1840. There followed a disputed succession to the throne. 

CHAND KAUR, widow of Kharak Singh, was helped by teh Sandhanwalia chiefs, while price Sher Singh, a reputed son of Ranjit Singh, was supported by the powerful minister  Dhyan Singh. Both parties sought the help of the British Government promising in return valuable territory.  The Sandhanwalia Chiefs staged a coup  murdered Sher Singh and Dhyan Singh in 1843, but they in their turn were exterminated by Hira Singh, the son of Dhyan Singh. Hira Singh, who had seized power by lavish inducements to the army, failed to make good his promises. He lost his life on December 21, 1844, in a conspiracy orgainzed by Jawahar Singh, brother of Rani Jindan the widow of Ranjit Singh. The Rani now ruled the Punjab with the help of her brother and her advisers Lal Singh and Tej Singh. But the real ruling authority was the army. The army and the civil government were working at cross-purposes.  The army favoured the claims of price Peshawara Singh as against those of Dalip Singh, the infant son of Rani Jindan. Jawahar Singh, here brother, brought about the murder of Peshawara Singh, the result was that he was tried by the military panchayats and executed or September 21, 1845.

FIRST SIKH WAR (1845-46) The First Sikh War with the British began in December 1845, the Khalsa army under Tej Singh crossed the Sutlej and swung into position for an attack on the small, isolated British force under Littler at Ferozepore.  The other British detachments were still far away, at Ludhana and Ambala respectively. A vigorous offensive would have yielded good results. The Sikhs fought bravely but they lacked good leadership, and were defeated at Mudki (December 18, 1845), Feroze shah (December 21, 1845), Aliwal (January 28, 1846), and Sobraon (February 10, 1846).

TREATY OF LAHORE The Treaty of Lahore(March, 1846) Dalip Singh, the infant son of Ranjit Singh, was recognized as Raja, the Jullundur Doab, or tract between the Sutlej and the Beas, was added to British territory; the Sikh army was limited to a specified number a British Resident was appointed to assist the Sikh ‘Council or Regency’ at Lahore with Rani Jindan as Regent and Lal Singh as Wazir, a British force was sent to garrison the Punjab on behalf of the child-Raja, and a heavy war indemnity of one and half crores of rupees was imposed on the Lahore durbar. The Jammu and Kashmir state was handed over to Gulab Singh in return for 75 lakhs of rupees. The Governor of Kashmir refused to surrender the territory, but the revolt was put down. 

TREATY OF BHIROWAL A few months later by the Treaty of Bhirowal(December, 1846) Rani Jindan was deprived of all power and the administration was to be carried on by a ‘Council of Regency’ composed of eight leading chiefs under the virtual dictatorship of the British Resident.

SECOND SIKH WAR (1848-49) The British now had a firm grip over the Punjab. It was only a question of time before even the semblance of independence of the Lahore durbar was wiped out Lord Dalhousie (1848-1856) had been barely six months in India when the Second Sikh War broke out. Events had moved fast towards a crisis.  Rani Jindan had been removed from Lahore to Shekhupura on a charge of conspiracy against the British Resident. The disbanded Sikh soldiers were restive. The leading chiefs, Chatar Singh, Governor of Hazara and his son Sher Singh, became hostile; this was due to the Resident’s reluctance to permit the marriage of Dalip Singh with the daughter of Chatar Singh. 

BATTLE OF CHILIANWALA Diwan Mluraj, Governor of Multan, failed to comply with the financial demands of the Lahore durbar and resigned. Two British officers, who accompanied Kahan Singh, the successor of Mulraj, were assassinated at Multan. The British army was not ready to act in the hot season. During this interim period the revolt at Multan assumed formidable  proportions, especially after Sher Singh who had been sent by the Resident with a large army to Multan left the British camp on September 14, 1848. The Khalsa army again came together and once more fought on even terms with the British. At the battle of Chilianwala (January 13, 1849), the Sikh soldiers covered themselves with glory. It was a drawn battle. The British claimed victory, having stormed the batteries and captured the guns.  The Sikhs claimed victory they had not only repulsed British attacks but compelled the enemy to abandon the battlefield. Before reinforcements could come over from England, with Sir Charles Napier as Commander-in-Chief, Lord Gough restored his reputation by the victory of Gujarat (February 21, 1849) which destroyed the Sikh army. Multan and already been captured on January 22, 1849, and the Afghan cavalry under Dost Muhammad, an ally of the Sikhs, had been chased back to their native hills. The Punjab, annexed by proclamation. (March, 29, 1849) became a British province a virgin field for the administrative talents of Dalhousie and the two Lawrences, Henry and John.

DOCTRINE OF LAPSE Lord Dalhousie followed vigorously the policy of annexing feudatory states by what is commonly known as the Doctrine of Lapse.

THE DOCTRINE : Lord Dalhousie convinced that British administration was better for the people than the rule of the Indian Rajas.  Accordingly he regarded them as anomalies, to be abolished by every possible means. He further believed that good faith must be kept with rulers on the throne and with their legitimate heirs while no sentiment should have the dynasties which had forfeited sympathy by generations of misrule nor preserve those that had no hereditary successor.  The Doctrine of Lapse was the outcome of these principles, complicated by the Hindu law and practice of adoption. Dalhousie held that the state of a ruler could not pass to a son adopted without the consent of the Queen. The Doctrine of Lapse, which had been recognized as early as 1834, thus became a powerful instrument in Dalhousie’s hands for hastening the process of political unification and administrative consolidation of the country under British rule.

  1. Satara was the first of the important states to the British Government in 1848. Dalhousie claimed that it had been created by Lord Hastings on the downfall of the Peswa in 1818, and therefore he declared that when the Raja of Satara, the last lineal representative of Sivaji died without a male heir in 1848, his deathbed adoption of a son without the consent of the British would not be accepted.
  2.  The independence of the Rajput state of Karauli was continued by the Court of Directors and the Board of Control, who drew a clear distinction between a depended principality and a protected ally and held that in Karauli ancient custom must continue.
  3. In 1853, Jhansi Nagpur (1854) suffered their same fate as Satara and when Baji Rao, the ex-Peswa, died his pension of Rs. 8,00,000 lapsed to the state. His adopted son, Nana Sahib, was not allowed to draw it. The Nawab of Carnatic died in the same year, his rank and pension were abolished as in the case of Thanjavur. The same principle was applied to Jaitpur, Sambalpur, Baghar and Udaipur between 1849-1852 Dalhousie further notified that on the death of emperor Bahadur Shah, his heir must quit Delhi and retire from power with a pension and an honorary title. 
  4. In 1853, British administration was extended to Berar which the Nizam of Hyderabad handed over temporarily to the British Government in lieu of the arrears of his subsidy as also for the expense of the Hyderabad subsidiary contingent. All these were extremely drastic measures and bound to recoil like a boomerang.
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