BROADFOOT, GEORGE (1807-1845) Joined service of the East India Company as a cadet in the Madras Native Infantry in 1826. In May 1841, he went to Kabul in command of the escort which accompanied the families of Shah Shuja` and Zaman Shah. He took part in the first Afghan war and distinguished himself in the Khaibar operations under General Pollock. In 1844, he was appointed Agent to the Governor General at the North-West Frontier Agency. The appointment was not liked by the Sikh Government. Major George Broadfoot was impulsive by nature and had a temperamental hostility towards the Sikhs.
While leading a caravan of the royal Afghan families through the Punjab, he had annoyed the Sikh escort provided by the Lahore Government for the protection of the convoy. He incited the Muslim population to rise and rescue him and requisitioned a British brigade from Jalalabad to save him from what he called the violent intentions of the Sikhs. His distrust of the Sikh escort, however, proved imaginary, but his conduct had given offence to the Sikh Darbar. Broad foot had come to the Sikh frontier with the set policy of inciting antagonisms against the Lahore kingdom and bringing about a full scale conflagration between the Sikhs and the British.
He endeavoured to win over Mul Raj, the governor of Multan, to his side. He gave open encouragement to Gulab Singh, who had made numerous proposals to the British for the destruction of the Sikh army and offered to assist them in the occupation of the Punjab in return for his being recognized as an independent sovereign of Jammu and the neighbouring hills. In March 1845, Broad foot challenged the right of the Sikh Government to administer its possessions to the south of the Sutlej. He arrested a party of Lahore officials, escorted by a cavalry force, proceeding to Kot Kapura to relieve State troops stationed there.
He prepared a case for the seizure of Lahore lands on the left bank of the Sutlej, arguing that, if the river was the boundary between the Sikhs and the British, the former could not possess territories to the south of it. Soon afterwards took place the Anandpur Makhoval incident. The Colebrooke Award of 1828 had accepted Lahore supremacy over the town, which was managed by the Sodhi priests, and the Sikh Darbar`s right so established had never been challenged. A dispute having arisen among the Sodhis in the spring of 1845, Broad foot took upon himself to settle it by force.
The Sikh forces, however, upset Broadfoot`s mediation and expelled both Lieutenant Cunningham and his assistant sent there by the British agent. These provocative acts on the part of Major Broad foot were among the chain of events which culminated in the first AngloSikh war. What Broad foot did was only in line with Lord Hardinge`s policy, and had the approval of the Home Government. Hardinge`s approbation was expressed in his cryptic comment: “Broad foot is in his element on the frontier.” Major Broad foot was killed in action on 21 December 1845 in the battle of Ferozeshah.
1. Gough, C., and A.D. Innes, The Sikhs and the Sikh Wars. London, 1897
2. Hasrat, B.J., Anglo-Sikh Relations. Hoshiarpur, 1968
3. Gupta, Hari Ram, Panjab on the Eve of First Sikh War. Chandigarh, 1956