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Thursday, May 5, 2011

History of Punjab

The Rule Of Sikhs

The Punjab presented a picture of chaos and confusion when Ranjit Singh took the control of Sukerchakias misalthis was achieved through delegation as the sikhs were unable to take the moghuls out. The edifice of Ahmed Shah Abdali's empire in India had crumbled. Afghanistan was dismembered. Peshawar and Kashmir though under the suzerainty of Afghanistan had attained de facto independence. The Barakzais were now masters of these lands. Attock was ruled by Wazrikhels and Jhang lay at the feet of Sials. The Pashtuns ruled Kasur. Multan had thrown off the yoke and Nawab Muzaffar Khan was now ruler.

Both Punjab and Sind had been under Afghan rule since 1757 when Ahmed Shah Abdali was granted suzerainty over these provinces. However, the Sikhs were now a rising power in Punjab. Taimur Khan, a local Governor, was able to expel the Sikhs from Amritsar and raze the fort of Ram Rauni. His control was short-lived, however, and the Sikh misal joined to defeat Taimur Shah and his Chief minister Jalal Khan. The Afghans were forced to retreat and Lahore was occupied by the Sikhs in 1758. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia proclaimed the Sikh's sovereignty and assumed leadership, striking coins to commemorate his victory.

While Ahmed Shah Abdali was engaged in a campaign against the Marathas at Panipat in 1761, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia plundered Sirhind and Dialpur, seized towns in the Ferozepur district, and took possession of Jagraon and Kot Isa Khan on the opposite bank of the Sutlej. He captured Hoshiarpur and Naraingarh in Ambala and levied tribute from the chief of Kapurthala. He then marched towards Jhang. The Sial chief offered stout resistance. However, when Ahmad Shah left in February 1761, Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia again attacked Sirhind and extended his territory as far as Tarn Taran. When he crossed the Bias and captured Sultanpur in 1762, Ahmad Shah again appeared and a fierce battle took place. The ensuing holocaust was called Ghalughara. Following the rout of Sikh forces, Nawab Jassa Singh fled to the Kangra hills. After the departure of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia again attacked Sirhind, razing it and killiing the Afghan Governor Zen Khan. This was a great victory for the Sikhs who now ruled all of the territory around the Sirhind.

Ahmad Shah died in June 1773. After his death the power of the Afghans declined in the Punjab. Taimur Shah ascended the throne at Kabul. By then the Misls were well established in the Punjab. They controlled territory as far as Saharnpur in the east, Attock in the west, Kangra Jammu in the north and Multan in the south. Efforts were made by Afghan rulers to dislodge the Sikhs from their citadels. Taimur Shah attacked Multan and temporarily defeated the Dhillon Sardars of the Bhangi misl. The Dhillon Sardars controlled the Dhillon principality and the powerful Bhangi misl army (the most powerful of all the misl at this time), Lehna Singh, and Sobha Singh were driven out of Lahore in 1767 by the Abdali, but soon reoccupied it. They remained in power in Lahore until 1793 the year when Shah Zaman acceded to the throne of Kabul.

The first attempt at conquest by Shah Zaman was in 1793. He came to Hasan Abdal from which he sent an army of 7000 cavalry under Ahmad Shah Shahnachi but the Sikhs routed them. It was a great setback to Shah Zaman, but in 1795 he reorganized forces and again attacked Hasan Abdal, This time he snatched Rohtas from the Sukerchikias, whose leader was Ranjit Singh. Singh suffered at Shah Zaman's hands but did not lose courage. However, Shah Zaman had to return to Kabul as an invasion of his country from the west was apprehended. When he returned, Ranjit Singh dislodged the Afghans from Rohtas.

Shah Zaman did not sit idle. In 1796 he crossed the Indus for the third time and planned to capture Delhi. His ambition knew no bounds. By now he had raised an Afghan army of 3000 men. He was confident a large number of Indians would join him. Nawab of Kasur had already assured him help. Sahib Singh of Patiala betrayed his countrymen and declared his intentions of helping Shah Zaman. Shah Zaman was also assured of help by the Rohillas, Wazir of Oudh, and Tipu Sultan of Mysore. The news of Shah Zaman's invasion spread quickly and people began fleeing to the hills for safety. Heads of Misals, though bound to give protection to the people as they were collecting Rakhi tax from them, were the first to leave the people in lurch. By December Shah Zaman occupied territory up to Jhelum. When he reached Gujarat, Sahib Singh Bhangi panicked and left the place.

Next Shah Zaman marched on the territory of Ranjit Singh. Singh was alert and raised an army of 5000 horsemen. However, they were inadequately armed with only spears and muskets. The Afghans were equipped with heavy artillery. Ranjit Singh foresaw a strong, united fight against the invaders as he came to Amritsar. A congregation of Sarbat Khlasa was called and many Sikh sardars answered the call. There was general agreement that Shah Zaman's army should be allowed to enter the Punjab and that the Sikhs should retire to the hills.

Forces were reorganized under the command of Ranjit Singh and they marched towards Lahore. They gave the Afghans a crushing defeat in several villages and surrounded the city of Lahore. Sorties were made into the city at night in which they would kill a few Afghan soldiers and then leave under cover of darkness. Following this tactic they were able to dislodge Afghans from several places. In 1797 Shah Zaman suddenly left for Afghansistan as his brother Mahmud had revolted. Shahanchi khan remained at Lahore with a sizeable army. The Sikhs followed Shah Zaman to Jhelum and snatched many goods from him. In returning, the Sikhs were attacked by the army of Shahnachi khan near Ram Nagar. The Sikhs routed his army. It was the first major achievement of Ranjit Singh. He became the hero of the land of Five Rivers and his reputation spread far and wide.

Again in 1798 Shah Zaman attacked Punjab to avenge the defeat of 1797. The Sikh people took refuge in the hills. A Sarbat Khalsa was again called and Sada Kaur persuaded the Sikhs to fight once again to the last man. This time even Muslims were not spared by Shah Zaman's forces and he won Gujarat easily. Sada Kaur roused the Sikhs sense of national honour. If they were to again leave Amritsar, she would command the forces against the Afghans. She said that an Afghani soldier was no match for a Sikh soldier. In battle they would acquit themselves, and, by the grace of Sat Guru, would be successful. The Afghans plundered the towns and villages as they had vowed and declared that they would exterminate the Sikhs. However, it was the Muslims who suffered most as the Hindus and Sikhs had already left for the hills. The Muslims had thought that they would not be touched but their hopes were dashed and their provisions forcibly taken from them by the Afghans.

Shah Zaman requested that Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra refuse to give food or shelter to the Sikhs. This was agreed. Shah Zaman attacked Lahore and the Sikhs, surrounded as they were on all sides, had to fight a grim battle. The Afghans occupied Lahore in November 1798 and planned to attack Amritsar. Ranjit Singh collected his men and faced Shah's forces about eight kilometres from Amritsar. They were well-matched and the Afghans were, at last, forced to retire. Humiliated, they fled towards Lahore. Ranjit Singh pursued them and surrounded Lahore. Afghan supply lines were cut, crops were burnt and other provisions plundered so that they did not fall into Afghan's hands. It was a humiliating defeat for the Afghans. Nizam-ud.din of Kasur attacked the Sikhs near Shahdara on the banks of the Ravi, but his forces were no match for the Sikhs. Here too, it was the Muslims who suffered the most. The retreating Afghans and Nizam-ud-din forces plundered the town, antagonizing the local people.

The Afghans struggled hard to dislodge the Sikhs but in vain. The Sikh cordon was so strong that it was impossible for the Afghans to break it and proceed towards Delhi. Ranjit Singh terrorized the Afghans. The moment Zaman Shah left, Ranjit Singh pursued his forces and caught them unawares near Gujranwala. They were chased further up to Jhelum. Many Afghans were put to death and their weapons and supplies taken. The rest fled for their lives. Shah Zaman was overthrown by his brother and was blinded. He became a helpless creature, who, twelve years later, came to the Punjab to seek refuge in Ranjit Singh's darbar. Singh was now ruler of the land. Ranjit Singh combined with Sahib Singh of Gujrat (Punjab) and Milkha Singh Pindiwala and a large Sikh force. They fell upon the Afghan garrison while Shah Zaman was still in vicinity of Khyber Pass. The Afghan forces fled north after having been routed by the Sikhs, leaving behind their dead, including the Afghan deputy, at Gujarat." (Bikramjit Hasrat, Life and times of Ranjit Singh, p.36)

By this time the people of the country had become aware of the rising strength of Ranjit Singh. He was the most popular leader of the Punjab and was planning to enter Lahore. Victims of oppression, the people of Lahore were favorably disposed towards Singh who they saw as a potential liberator. Muslims joined Hindu and Sikh residents of Lahore in making an appeal to Singh to free them from the tyrannical rule. A petition was written and was signed by Mian Ashak Muhammad, Mian Mukkam Din, Mohammad Tahir, Mohammad Bakar, Hakim Rai, and Bhai Gurbaksh Singh. It was addressed to Ranjit singh, requesting him to free them from the Bhangi sardars. They begged Singh to liberate Lahore as soon as possible. He mobilised an Army of 25,000 and marched towards Lahore on July 6, 1799.

It was a last day of Muharram when a big procession was to be held in the town in the memory of the two grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad who had been martyred on the battlefield. It was expected that the Bhangi sardars would also participate in the procession and mourn with their Shia brethren. By the time procession was over Ranjit Singh had reached the outskirts of city. In the early morning of July 7, 1799, Ranjit Singh's men took up their positions. Guns glistened and bugles were sounded. Rani Sada Kaur stood outside Delhi Gate and Ranjit Singh proceeded towards Anarkali. Ranjit Singh rode along the walls of the city setting mines. The wall was breached. This created panic and confusion. Mukkam Din, who was one of the signatories to the petition made a proclamation, accompanied by drumbeats, stating that he had taken over the town and was now in charge. He ordered the city gates to be opened. Ranjit Singh entered the city with his troops through the Lahori Gate. Sada Kaur and a detachment of cavalry entered through Delhi gate. Before the Bhangi sardars realized it, a part of the citadel had been occupied without resistance. Sahib Singh and Mohar Singh left the city and sought protection. Chet Singh was left to either to fight to defend the town or flee. He shut himself in Hazuri Bagh with 500 men. Ranjit Singh's cavalry surrounded Hazuri Bagh. Chet Singh surrendered and was given permission to leave the city along with his family.

Ranjit Singh was now well-entrenched. Immediately after taking possession of the city, he paid a visit to Badshahi Mosque. This gesture increased his prestige in the eyes of people. He won the hearts of his subjects, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh alike. It was July 7, 1799 when the victorious Ranjit Singh entered Lahore. Ranjit Singh ultimately acquired a kingdom in the Punjab which stretched from the Sutlej River in the east to Peshawar in the west, and from the junction of the Sutlej and the Indus in the south to Ladakh in the north. Ranjit died in 1839, and a succession struggle ensued. Two of his successor maharajas were assassinated by 1843.

Sikh Empire (1799-1849)

* Maharaja Ranjit Singh (b.1780, Crowned April 12, 1801, d.1839)

* Kharak Singh (b.1801, d.1840), Eldest son of Ranjit Singh.

* Nau Nihal Singh (b.1821, d.1840), Grandson of Ranjit Singh.

* Sher Singh (b.1807, d.1843), Son of Ranjit Singh.

* Duleep Singh (b.1838, Coronated 1843, d.1893), Youngest son of Ranjit Singh.

The British in Punjab

By 1845 the British had moved 32,000 troops to the Sutlej frontier, to secure their northernmost possessions against the succession struggles in the Punjab. In late 1845, British and Sikh troops engaged near Ferozepur, beginning the First Anglo-Sikh War. The war ended the following year, and the territory between the Sutlej and the Beas was ceded to Great Britain, along with Kashmir, which was sold to Gulab Singh, who ruled Kashmir as a British vassal.

As a condition of the peace treaty, some British troops, along with a resident political agent and other officials, were left in the Punjab to oversee the regency of Maharaja Dhalip Singh, a minor. The Sikh army was reduced greatly in size. In 1848, out-of-work Sikh troops in Multan revolted, and a British official was killed. Within a few months, the unrest had spread throughout the Punjab, and British troops once again invaded. The British prevailed in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, and under the Treaty of Lahore in 1849, the Punjab was annexed by the British East India Company, and Dhalip Singh was pensioned off. The Punjab became a province of British India, although a number of small states, most notably Patiala, retained local rulers who recognized British sovereignty. In every way, the Punjab was Great Britain's most important asset in colonial India. Its political and geographic predominance gave Britain a base from which to project its power over more than 500 princely states that made up India. Lahore was a center of learning and culture under British rule, and Rawalpindi became an important Army installation.

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919 occurred in Amritsar. In 1930, the Indian National Congress proclaimed independence from Lahore. The 1940 Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League to work for Pakistan, made Punjab the centerstage of a different, bloodier and dirtier struggle. In 1946, massive communal tensions and violence erupted between the majority Muslims of Punjab, and the Hindu and Sikh minorities. The Muslim League attacked the government of Unionist Punjabi Muslims, Sikh Akalis and the Congress, and led to its downfall. Unwilling to be cowed down, Sikhs and Hindus counter-attacked and the resulting bloodshed left the province in great disorder. Both Congress and League leaders agreed to partition Punjab upon religious lines, a precursor to the wider partition of the country. The British Punjab province, which includes present-day Punjab province of Pakistan, and the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, was partitioned in 1947 between the newly-independent states of India and Pakistan.

The Punjab of India and Pakistan

Eastern parts of Gurdaspur district in the northern point of the province adjoining Kashmir were given to India, with a small Muslim majority of 51% partitioned along the Ravi river leaving only Shakargarh sub-division on the Pakistani side, thus making the eastern half minority Muslims part of India. The state of Jammu and Kashmir had a land link with this part which according to some might have influenced that state's decision to join India. During the partition, over 1 million people were killed indiscrminately and with medieval brutality. Women were raped and murdered, children massacred and the elderly brutalized. No Muslim could walk freely in Amritsar or Delhi, the former seat of the Mughal Empire.

Sikhs demanded a Punjabi speaking East Punjab with autonomous control. Led by Master Tara Singh, Sikhs wanted to obtain a political voice in their state. In 1965, a fierce war broke out between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir, but owing to the treacherous geography of the state, and the open nature of hostilities, the fiercest fighting took place in Punjab. At a region called the Assal Uttar (Real North), thousands of Pakistani and Indian tanks fought terrifying battles. Thousands of Pakistani's lost their lives, the Indian forces directly threatened Lahore with mortar and artillery fire. Owing to the extreme proximity of Pakistan's most important city to the border, the Pakistani army concentrates its forces and strengths to the maximum in this thin stretch of land. In 1971 the Pakistani's were completely routed and surrendered to the Indian high command at Dacca. In 1966, owing to the tremendous bravery shown by thousands of Sikh officers and soldiers in the Indian Army, the Government divided the Punjab into a Sikh-majority state of the same name, and Hindu-majority Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Sikhs form about 60% of the population.

In the 1970s, the Green Revolution swept India. Punjab's agricultural production trebled, and so did the prosperity of its people. For such a small state to be called the bread-basket for a country of more than a billion people, is like a goldfish being classified a leviathan. Industrialization swept the state and the state remains the ones of the economic leaders of the entire country. Punjabi culture also predominates the national art, media, music and film industries. Punjabis, especially Sikhs, form a major part of the Armed Services. In the early 1980s, a small group of Sikh fundamentalists sought the Punjabi state to be made independent of India. Led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a young priest, small bands of militants began attacking policemen, military sites and government and army officials. In the Holy Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar, Bhindranwale broadcast and published his calls for independence. Bhindranwale was supported by Sikhs from all over the Punjab and Delhi, as well as Sikhs outside India. A vast majority of Sikhs in the Punjab and outside it supported the call for independence.

The Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had tried to use and manipulate Bhindranwale, authorized an Army take-over of the Harimandir Sahib area. In Operation Bluestar, executed in 1984, thousands of Indian soldiers raided the Temple to flush out thousands of militants holed up in it. During the action, major damage was inflicted to the temple complex. The militants were killed or arrested, but the Operation cost the lives of 300 soldiers and thousands of innocent civilians, many of whom were known to be innocent worshipers by the Indian army. The bloody and unpopular operation invited major criticism of the Gandhi government. The Gandhi government was the only country in modern times that had attacked a faiths most holiest of shrines. Outrage now broke lose in the mainstream of Sikh society. Outraged young Sikhs spread disorder around the Punjab and in Delhi. In October 1984, just two months after Bluestar, Indira Gandhi's own two Sikh bodyguards assassinated her in revenge for the attack on the Holy Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar. The Indian Army commander was similarly assassinated.

Bloodthirsty mobs took to the streets of Delhi following Gandhi's murder. For the first time in history, Hindus and Sikhs were involved in a feud against each other. More than 25,000 Sikhs were brutally murdered by mobs. The Government acted quickly, imposing martial law in the disturbed areas. Over the next three years, tough police action destroyed the insurgency, and fresh political overtures in the early 1990s did much to calm the state. Although some political suspicion still remains, Sikhs and Hindus have healed their common wounds and bridged the divides. The Sikh fundamentalists have either been driven out of the country or reduced to the margins of politics. However, little was done by the Indian government to redress the thousand of Sikhs killed and many more who lost their homes in the 1984 mob violence. Many of the politicians, police as well as Indian MPs are known to the government for helping anti-Sikh mobs kill innocent people, yet they have never been prosecuted or questioned.

The 1990s brought much prosperity to India's Punjab. In 2004, Dr. Manmohan Singh became the country's first Sikh Prime Minister.  The Wagah border post, is the chief crossing point between India and Pakistan. The Samjhauta (Understanding) Express runs between Atari, in Indian Punjab, to Lahore in Pakistan, as does the Delhi-Lahore bus. The Government of Pakistan allows small numbers of Sikhs to visit religious sites in Pakistani Punjab. The Indian Government allowed 3,000 Pakistani Sikhs to cross over recently, at the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Khalsa.

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