It seems to be a familiar theme — betrayal of foreign powers. It sounds like the story, rightly or wrongly, in everyone’s mind. But this is not a new story. In our history, especially that of Lahore Darbar, betrayal and plunder are familiar topics.
Last Sunday, in the market’s second-hand book stand, I bought a book on “The Sikhs” by the famous writer, the late Patwant Singh, journalist, researcher, historian and distinguished writer. The book has a very long chapter on the generals of the Sikh army under the theme “Grievous Betrayals”, which is a well documented description of the betrayal of the Sikh generals and how many battles won were deliberately lost in reality , in many cases with detailed battle plans. supplied to the British before a battle.
Remember that over time it was the betrayal of various Lahore governors (subedars) to many Afghan rulers that led to earlier invasions. Very few cities in the world have been invaded and looted like old Lahore. Yet the people’s inner strength is such that they regain their lost glory. The Mughals, themselves foreign invaders, were drained of their strength by betrayals. Ancient history is full of such events. The trend continues.
We see him as a strong charismatic leader with an attractive personality surrounded by wise advisers who overcome such a shortcoming. The names of Chandragupta Maurya, Akbar and Ranjit Singh stand out. Otherwise either the leader turns out to be a crook, and in the process, his supporters become millionaires. This is the case for governments and large organizations. Pakistan is replete with such examples with wealth stolen from the poor hidden away in distant paradises.
In this article, let us discuss the actions of Lal Singh, a Hindu trader from Sahgol village in Jhelum, who moved to Lahore, is said to have converted to Sikhism and, through his connections with Hindu Chief Minister Dogra Raja Dhian Singh Dogra, joined Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s darbar. He started in a low position and from there he went from strength to strength. The Maharajah’s death saw him shot and then he achieved two great undertakings.
The confusion over power in the Darbar of Lahore saw Lal Singh personally planning and executing the murders of two senior court officials, namely Beli Ram, who actually introduced him to the court in the first place, and Bhai Gukmukh Singh, son of a Sikh. scholar and guardian of the Sri Darbar Sahib of Amritsar. Beli Ram was none the less a scholar and when Maharajah Sher Singh came to power he was his chief adviser and in return he was gifted with huge jagirs.
But in the power struggle led by Raja Dhian Singh Dogra, we see Lal Singh being given such murderous tasks. The murder of Gurmukh Singh led leader Sher Singh to suspect Dhian Singh of the murder, which led to Sher Singh and his teenage son being killed during a military parade in Lahore, only for his followers to assassinate Dhian Singh and his brother in retaliation.
In this confused state, we see that Lal Singh had been promoted and appointed General of the Army, and it was here that his betrayals reached new heights leading to the eventual defeat and collapse of the Sikh Empire. The Darbar of Lahore before its collapse actually judged this traitor, condemned him, but then, through British maneuvers, allowed him to move to British India. He took all his wealth to this “foreign country” and even today his family is among the wealthiest in Indian Punjab. It is amazing how even today the families of so many traitors are the wealthiest.
During the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1845-1846, he personally led the Khalsa army, and while they seemed to be winning battles, his soldiers were unaware that he provided the British with all the battle plans. He managed a secret connection with Capt Peter Nicholson stationed in Ferozepur. He deliberately, according to the records of the East India Company in the British Museum Library, kept his army stationed at Ferozeshah as the British attacked Ferozepur.
At places where the Sikhs managed to surround the British and ready to attack, he mysteriously withdrew his army. His own army began to suspect him and he hid in a ditch, to later desert his personal guards and he returned to Lahore. The battle was simply handed over to the EIC.
In the Battle of Sobraon on February 10, 1846, Lahore Darbar’s army was about to crush the British, only for General Lal Singh to secretly hand over the full battle plans to Nicholson, only to keep his artillery and his cavalry away from the field, then in a mysterious move he returned with them to Lahore.
After the First Anglo-Sikh War, the British rewarded Lal Singh richly, confirmed him as the ‘Wazir’ of Lahore under Lord Lawrence and awarded him huge jagirs in the British part of Punjab. But then the Punjabi spies discovered that the new Wazir, the super traitor, had provided the British with plans and instructions to defeat Gulab Singh’s attempt to occupy the Kashmir valley, which the British had handed over to him anyway. under a treaty.
The Lahore Darbar tried and found him guilty, and the British issued a sentence sending him into exile at Agra with a pension of 12,000 rupees a year in 1846 value. He moved to one of his homes at Dera Doon and died in 1866 after the British had fully conquered the Punjab in 1849. Such were the rewards of being a traitor.
Another traitor was Gulab Singh, who had tried to prevent Ranjit Singh’s son, Maharajah Sher Singh, from taking the throne in January 1841. He seized the Lahore fort and left it only after an agreement to leave for Jammu with his army. and the wealth of the famous Toshakhana of Lahore. This made him the wealthiest raja north of the Sutlej.
During the Second Anglo-Sikh War of 1849, which led to the final collapse of Lahore Darbar and the Sikh Empire, Gulab Singh’s army had the option of deserting to fight with his army of origin or to side with the British. . It was a tactic that allowed him to keep the British at bay.
If one were to read Cunningham’s “History of the Sikhs”, a book which cost him his job in India, but which won him much academic praise, or “The Sikhs of the Punjab” by JS Grewal, the role of these two traitors appears very clearly. But General Lal Singh’s betrayal had surely done the most damage.
We know that in the Battle of Chillianwala near Mandi Bahauddin the British were stunned with 2,512 dead, as can be seen in the huge Commonwealth Cemetery. One of the commanders was Lal Singh, who converted a won battle into a defeat. The British had started to retreat but Lal Singh had other ideas. That’s another story that needs to be in our textbooks.
Thus, the role of betrayal and betrayal in all areas must be told in detail in our textbooks and media. After another betrayal at Gujrat, the Lahore Darbar army finally surrendered at Rawalpindi in March 1849. There, the British built their new army headquarters. There is still an army headquarters.
Posted in Dawn, August 28, 2022