Sunday, December 10, 2017

‘Had generals not betrayed Sikh army, British would have left in 1857... there would be no Pakistan’

The British may not have had such a long and free run of the country had the Sikh army not been betrayed by its own generals, and there would have been no Pakistan, said Amar Pal Sidhu, a British historian, at the Military Literature Festival here on Saturday. But well-known author William Dalrymple didn’t think it was so simple.
The fodder for discussion on the second day of the festival was the two Anglo-Sikh wars that ensued after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Sidhu, who has written two books on the subject, said that had the Sikhs won these closely-fought wars, the British would have lost the first war of independence in 1857. “They won it only because they had recruited a large number of soldiers from the disbanded Sikh army.”
Dalrymple, however, said, “The East India Company had huge resources at its disposal, both in terms of weapons and men.  Even if it had lost one battle, it had no dearth of backups.” The Sikh army, on the contrary, was a treacherously led force. The Lahore Durbar itself, he said, was facing factionalism. There was a Dogra faction, a Rani Jindan faction besides many other intrigues, he said.

Historians Amar Pal Sidhu, Mandeep Rai, Sukhmani Bal Riar and William Dalrymple in the session on Anglo-Sikh wars, at the Military Literature Festival in Chandigarh on Saturday. (Anil Dayal/HT)
Yet Mandeep Rai, a former bureaucrat and historian, maintained that had the Sikhs got an edge over the British, the results would have been different regardless of the resources. Maharaja Ranjit Singh had raised a very powerful and cosmopolitan army. “He had Muslim gunners who never fled the battlefield. Then there were Gurkhas, Sikhs and Hindus. It was a most cosmopolitan army of the brave,” said Rai.
But this army had a mind of its own and turned mutinous once the Maharaja passed away. Sidhu said, “Unable to govern it, politicians such as General Lal Singh, the vizir, and Tej Singh, the commander-in-chief, decided to destroy this army and ally with the British for the sake of stability.”
With thanks: Hindustan Times: LINK: for detailed news

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