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Sikh Museum Initiative presents the Anglo Sikh Treaties project

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Anglo Sikh Treaties Project

The Anglo Sikh treaties project has considered the various interactions and proclamations initiated between the British and the Sikhs. The British had been subjugating various areas of the India sub-continent and by the turn of the nineteenth century they were examining the strength of the Sikhs. Col. John Malcolm from the East India Company first initiated a treaty in 1806 with Maharaja Ranjit Singh asking for support against the Marhatta Chief, Rao Holkar, (Treaty of Lahore). This brought a period of mutual respect and understanding for a short period.

However it was the Treaty of Amritsar 1809 which halted Ranjit Singh`s ambitions at the Sutlej and prevented the unification of the Majha and Malwa Sikhs into a new commonwealth of the Khalsa, it gave the Sikh sovereign one clear advantage. Security on the southern frontier allowed him freely to consolidate his power in the Punjab, evolve a centralized system of government, build up a powerful army, and pursue unhampered his conquests in the north, northwest and southwest.

In 1832, a treaty was executed by Lord William Bentinck, the Governor General of India, through Col. C.M. Wade, with the Lahore Darbar concerning navigation through the Sutlej and the Indus rivers within the Khalsa territory. Another treaty on the subject was subsequently executed in 1834, fixing a duty on every mercantile boat, independent of its freight and of the nature of its merchandise. A third treaty was executed on this subject on the arrival of George Russell Clerk, agent to the Governor General, at the Sikh Darbar, in May 1839, adjusting the rate of duties on merchandise, according to quantity and kind.
In December 1845, the British sent a declaration charging the State of Lahore with violation of the treaty of friendship of 1809 and justified British preparations as merely precautionary measures for the protection of the Sutlej frontier. It was only a matter of time when the British and the Sikhs would meet in battle. In response to the British move, the Sikh army began crossing the Sutlej on 11 December 1845. The highly contested battles were fought at Mudki, Ferozshah, Aliwal and the final battle at Sobraon.

Anglo Sikh wars

A battle between British and Sikh forces © National Army Museum

The ending of the first Anglo Sikh War resulted in the Treaty of Lahore (9th March 1846), Sikhs were made to surrender the valuable region (the Jullundur Doab) between the Beas River and Sutlej River. The Lahore Durbar was also required to pay an indemnity of 15 million rupees. Because it could not readily raise this sum, it ceded Kashmir, Hazarah and all the forts, territories, rights and interests in the hill countries situated between the Rivers Beas and Indus to the East India Company. In a later separate arrangement (the Treaty of Amritsar), the Raja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, purchased Kashmir from the East India Company for a payment of 7.5 million rupees and was granted the title Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.
Maharaja Duleep Singh remained ruler of the Punjab and at first his mother, Maharani Jindan Kaur, remained as Regent. However, the Durbar later requested that the British presence remain until the Maharaja attained the age of 16. The British consented to this and on 16 December 1846, the Treaty of Bhyroval was enacted.

Treaty of Bhairowal

The signing of the Treaty of Bhairowal,  1846.© The Trustees of the British Museum

In 1848, the city of Multan was governed by the viceroy, Dewan Mulraj. He was required by the British-controlled Durbar in Lahore to pay an increased tax assessment and revenues which were in arrears. It was the relinquishing of the Multan Fort that brought about the death of two British officers, which effectively started the Second Anglo Sikh Wars. The fort was besieged by the British. The hard fought battles of Ramnagar, Chillianwala and eventually the final battle of Gujrat took place where the Sikhs were eventually defeated.

On the 29 March 1849 a Durbar was held in the palace inside the Lahore Fort and Maharaja Duleep Singh was called upon to affix his signature to the document of terms drawn up by the British divesting him of his crown and kingdom. This Treaty of Lahore in 1849 was effectively was the formal annexation of the Punjab. The terms included the Lahore Durbar giving up the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond.

Duleep Singh and Lord Hardinge

Mahahraja Duleep Singh presenting himself to Lord Hardinge.

Gurjit Singh from the Sikh Museum initiative (SMI) stated, ‘the different treaties and proclamations shed light on how the British and the Sikhs interacted in the nineteenth century. The project will be an invaluable resource for researchers as well as individuals keen to know more about Anglo Sikh history.’

See the Anglo Sikh Treaties on Projects Portfolio page

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