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Annexation of the Punjab

Raja Ranjit Singh established an independent Sikh kingdom in Punjab. But after his death in 1839, the political turmoil and instability that visited Lahore watered the British appetite to expand into the Punjab. In the absence of any capable leadership, a situation existed that was highly vulnerable to interference from outside. As a result, two Anglo-Sikh wars were fought that sealed the fate of Sikh empire in the Punjab. Though very patriotic but less disciplined Sikh army could not withstand the onslaught of the British, the Punjab fell into the British hands and was annexed into the British empire in India. This annexation was not an isolated event but a sequel in the long chain of events following the death of Raja Ranjit Singh. It was, however, a demonstration of the deliberate act of wanton aggression on part of the British in India.


Marathas influence in the Punjab diminished to a great extent with Ahmad Shah Abdali’s invasions but those of Sikhs remained strong. Punjab comprised of 36 areas of which 12 were the Sikh principalities known as Misl. Ranjit Singh united 22 under his rule while the rest were recognized as the British protectorates. He concluded the Treaty of Amritsar also known as the Treaty of Perpetual Friendship in 1809 with the company accepting their right beyond Sutlej. However, after his death in 1839, the political instability prevailed in the Punjab and rapid change of governments was witnessed. Therefore, the British started looking across the river Sutlej irrespective of the fact that they had signed the treaty accepting each other’s spheres.


Ranjit Singh’s successors proved incapable to handle the state affairs. His son Kharak Singh was dethroned after a few months. His successor Kanwar Nau Nihal Singh also could not last long. In 1841, Sher Singh was installed but by that time Khalsa , the Sikh army, had ballooned and had also multiplied its influence. Sher Singh could not go well with Khalsa. He was murdered by an army officer. After that, Jind Kaur, the youngest widow of Ranjit Singh, became regent of her son Duleep Singh. Her brother, Jawaher Singh, became Vazir but he was also murdered in September during an army parade. Jind Kaur vowed publically to take revenge of her brother’s death.


These unstable conditions encouraged the British to take advantage. They enhanced their military presence on the other bank of Sutlej and also annexed Sind in 1843. As the tension grew, their diplomatic relations were also broken. The company started moving towards Ferozpur that was followed by Sikhs crossing the Sutlej in December 1845. An encounter took place at Ferozpur where the Sikh army was routed completely though they demonstrated great courage and bravery. The treaty of Lahore was signed in March 1846. The Sikh had to surrender huge territories and an indemnity of 15 mn rupees. Failing to pay this heavy amount was to be compensated by cessation of Kashnir, Hazara, and some other places between Indus and Beas to the company. Daleep Singh was to continue as the ruler of the Punjab and her mother as the regent. However, at request of the council the company officials signed another treaty known as the Treaty of Bhyroval. This treaty provided the maharani a pension of 150000 but she was to be replaced by a British resident in Lahore aided by a Regency council. This gave them an effective control over the government.


Henery Lawerence became the resident but he fell ill and left for London. He was replaced by Sir Frederick Corrie. He adopted a stiff policy because of which the relations turned quite strained. As a result, the second Anglo-Sikh war broke out. Sher Singh revolted at Multan on September 14, 1848. The Sikhs repelled a British attack in the battle of Ramnagar. The war continued for sometime but the final battle took place at Gujrat where the Sikhs were utterly defeated and their power was razed to ground. On March 30, Daleep Singh held his court for the last time at Lahore at which he signed away all claim to the rule of the Punjab. In this way annexation of the Punjab was accomplished.

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