Two campaigns fought between the Sikhs and the British. They resulted in the conquest and annexation by the British of the Punjab in northwestern India. The first war was precipitated by mutual suspicions and the turbulence of the Sikh army. These wars lay the founding stone of Modern India which is very much part of UPSC mains GS paper 1
- First Anglo Sikh war
- Second Anglo Sikh war
The first Anglo-Sikh war was fought between the British forces and the Sikh Empire in 1845-46 in Punjab.
MAHARAJA RANJIT SINGH (REIGN: 1801 – 1839)
- Born in 1780 to the leader of the Sukerchakia misl of the Sikh confederacies in Pakistani Punjab.
- United 12 Sikh misls and subjugated other local kingdoms to become the ‘Maharaja of Punjab’ in 1801.
- Successfully resisted many Afghan invasions and also captured areas under them like Lahore, Peshawar and Multan.
- Earned the title ‘Sher-i-Punjab’ (Lion of Punjab).
- After occupying Lahore in 1799, it became his capital.
- His Sikh Empire included lands to the north of the Sutlej River and South of the north-western Himalayas. His Empire included major towns like Lahore, Multan, Srinagar (Kashmir), Attock, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Jammu, Sialkot, Amritsar and Kangra.
- He maintained friendly relations with the British.
- He had men from different races and religions in his army.
- His maintained an army very efficient in warfare, logistics and infrastructure.
- After his death in 1839, there was a struggle for succession among his many relatives. This marked the process of disintegration of the Empire.
- He was succeeded by his eldest legitimate son Kharak Singh.
FIRST ANGLO SIKH WAR
- Major Broad was placed in Amritsar as the East India Company’s agent in 1843.
- The British were closely watching the developments in the Punjab political front and had territorial ambitions there as in other parts of the subcontinent.
- The Sikh forces crossed the Sutlej in December 1845 and took offensive positions against the English forces.
- Subsequently, battles were fought in different places and the English victory at Sobraon led to the signing of the Lahore Treaty in 1846 which ended the war.
Treaty of Lahore, 1846
- Maharaja Duleep Singh, who was the ruler of Punjab was to remain its ruler with his mother Jindan Kaur as regent.
- The Sikhs had to cede the Jalandhar Doab to the British.
- The Sikhs were also asked to pay a very huge war indemnity to the English. But since they could not pay all of it, part of it was paid and to make up for the remaining, Kashmir, Hazarah and all territories between the Beas and the Indus Rivers were given to the English.
- The Sikhs were to limit their army to a certain number.
- Also, a British Resident, Sir Henry Lawrence was appointed to the Sikh court.
SECOND ANGLO SIKH WAR
CAUSES OF THE SECOND ANGLO-SIKH WAR
- The humiliation caused by the first Anglo-Sikh war wherein the Sikh Empire had lost some territories to the British East India Company.
- The Sikh regent, Maharani Jindan Kaur was not treated properly by the British.
- She was removed from Lahore on conspiracy charges against the British resident in Lahore.
- Multan was a part of the Sikh Empire when Maharaja Ranjit Singh had captured it in 1818.
- Multan was governed by Dewan Mulraj. He resented the Lahore Court’s (capital of the Sikh Empire but controlled by the British resident since the first Anglo-Sikh war) demand for increased tax assessment and revenues.
- The British Resident at that time was Sir Frederick Currie. He undermined Mulraj and imposed another governor Sardar Kahan Singh along with a British agent Patrick Vans Agnew.
- In 1848, Vans Agnew and another officer who arrived in Multan to take charge were murdered by Mulraj’s troops.
- This news led to unrest in Punjab and many Sikh soldiers joined the rebel forces against the British.
COURSE OF THE SECOND ANGLO-SIKH WAR
- Battles were fought in Ramnagar and Chilianwala.
- The battle at Ramnagar was indecisive whereas the Sikhs won at Chilianwala.
- The final battle was fought at Gujrat near Chenab (not the present Indian state Gujarat) in 1849. This was won by the British forces.
- The Afghan forces under Dost Mohammad Khan had joined the Sikhs’ side.
RESULTS OF SECOND ANGLO SIKH WAR
- Punjab was annexed by the British in March 1849 (under Lord Dalhousie) as per the Treaty of Lahore.
- The eleven-year-old Maharaja, Duleep Singh was pensioned off to England.
- Jind Kaur was separated from her son the Maharaja and taken to Firozpur. Her allowance was reduced to a meagre amount and her jewels and money confiscated.
- Sir John Lawrence was appointed as the first Chief Commissioner of Punjab to take care of the administration.
- Dalhousie was recognised for his role in the annexation of Punjab to the British and was made a Marquis.
- The famous Koh-i-Noor diamond went into British hands. It was in possession of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who had willed it to the Puri Jagannath Temple of Odisha but his will was not executed by the British. They say it was acquired as part of the Treaty of Lahore after the second Anglo-Sikh war.
The First Anglo-Sikh War was fought between the Sikh Empire and the East India Company in 1845 and 1846 in and around the Ferozepur district of Punjab. It resulted in partial subjugation of the Sikh kingdom and cession of Jammu and Kashmir as a separate princely state under British suzerainty. To read more articles on Modern India History click here