In a fresh twist to the reason behind the defeat of the Sikhs in the Anglo-Sikh wars after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the former Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, in his book “The Last Sunset” claims that the Maharaja’s wife Rani Jindan was behind the defeat of the Sikhs.
In a freewheeling interaction before the release of his book on the rise and fall of the Lahore Durbar here, Capt Amarinder Singh claimed that Rani Jindan contrived to make the Sikh army fight the British on unequal terms. He said the reason behind this was the increased importance taken on by the army after the death of Ranjit Singh. “The army, which had become republican in nature, had started dictating terms to the Durbar and this was not to Jindan’s liking,” he said.
Amarinder, in a conversation at Barnala legislator Kewal Singh Dhillon’s residence, claimed that Jindan felt she would come out on top irrespective of who was the victor. He said keeping this in mind, Jindan made two persons from central India - Tej Singh and Lal Singh - who were not sikhs, incharge of the campaign.
“Ironically all along the British knew about the exact positions of the Sikh army,” he added.
Analyzing the defeat of the Sikhs in the Anglo-Sikh wars, Amarinder said the Sikh army, which did not have strategic planners on its side, was engaged against British officers who had fought at Wellington against Napolean. He said, moreover, the Sikhs did not have any attacking strategy. “They knew how to defend and funnily always chose to have a river behind them which proved disastrous once they were encircled,” he added.
The writer also made it clear that the Dogras were also responsible for the ultimate defeat of the Lahore Durbar. “The Dogras withdrew whenever there was any confrontation but came back afterwards and this was also seen after the Sikhs received setbacks. Raja Gulab Singh was made Prime Minister but refused to fight and ultimately was successful in buying Kashmir from the Durbar for Rs 75 lakh.”
Amarinder has also touched upon Ranjit Singh’s nature in his book and while talking about it, said the Maharaja could be very possessive and vindictive in personal life but large-hearted as far as running his administration was concerned. He claimed the Maharaja murdered his mother, Mai Raj Kaur on grounds of infidelity. He hinted this was one reason why the Phulkian States did not get along with Ranjit (Raj Kaur was from the Jind royal family).
The writer while talking about his family’s experience with Ranjit Singh said the Maharaja came once to Patiala to ostensibly intercede in a quarrel between Patiala Maharaja Sahib Singh and his wife but really to access the “military might” of Patiala. He said the second time around Ranjit visited Patiala when the latter took over some villages from Nabha. “He (Ranjit) was all for taking us over and because of this the treaty of Samana whereby the cis Sutlej States accepted protectorate status from the British came about,” he added.
Jangveer Singh, Tribune News Service, Chandigarh, March 15