FATUHAT NAMAH-I-SAMADI, an unpublished Persian manuscript preserved in the British Library, London, under No. Or. 1870, is an account of the victories of `Abd us-Samad Khan. Nawab Saifud Daulah `Abd usSamad Khan Bahadur Diler Jang was appointed governor of the Punjab by the Mughal Emperor Farrukh-SIyar on 22 February 1713, with the specific object of suppressing the Sikhs who had risen under Banda Singh commissioned by Guru Gobind Singh himself, shortly before his death, to chastise the tyrannical rulers of Punjab and Sirhind.

Abd us-Samad Khan immediately marched out and besieged Banda Singh in his stronghold of Lohgarh Fort, in the Sivalik foothills. The latter stood his ground for six months and then escaped into the hills in the beginning of October 1713. After destroying the Fort of Lohgarh, the Nawab turned his attention to the supression of the recalcitrant Kharal, Gondal, Bhatti and Rarijha tribes of the bar area [modern Faisalabad and Sheikhupura districts of Pakistan. He had hardly started his campaign, when Banda Singh reappeared in the plains and captured Pathankot and Gurdaspur. As he was operating around Batala, north of Amritsar, `Abd us-Samad Khan, with a 25,000 strong force sent from Delhi and Sirhind to reinforce him, set out against him.

`Abd usSamad`s son, Zakariya Khan, then faujdar of Jammu, advanced from the north. Their combined troops moved swiftly. Banda Singh, unable to retire to the Fort of Gurdaspur, which he had lately strengthened and provisioned, took up position in a haveli, or walled house, with a large compound at Gurdas Nangal, a village six kilometre west of Gurdaspur. The imperial army invested the house, blocking all possible routes of escape and cutting off all supplies of food and fodder. The siege continued for eight months, from April to early December 1715. Reduced to desperate straits, Banda Singh was captured on 7 December 1715.

The book also describes `Abd usSamad Khan`s campaigns against `Isa Khan Manjh, a minor chief to the south of the River Sutlej, and Husain Khan Keshgi of Kasur, and his part in the court intrigues at Delhi leading to the downfall of the kingmaking Sayyid brothers. The author of Fatuhdt Namah-i-Samadi, Ghulam Muhly ud-Din, who had taken part in the siege of Gurdas Nangal, gives an eye witness account of several such happenings covering the period 1713-22. The work, according to the chronogram given in the preface, is dated AH 1135/AD 1722-23. What makes the manuscript especially relevant to Sikh history is the space devoted in it to the last phase of Banda Singh`s struggle against the Mughals.

Excluding the 14 page preface, the first 117 pages of the 175 page document deal with the Sikhs. The author is no admirer, not even sympathizer, of the Sikhs. He is clearly hostile as is evident from his pejorative phraseology and invective. Yet the overall picture of Sikhs` character and of their political and social ideas and practices that emerges from his narrative is far from discreditable. Ghulam Mohiy ud-Din has not divided his narrative into chapters, but has given separate headings to the events narrated.

The introduction, consisting of 29 pages, from 14 to 42, furnishes a background to the rise of the Sikhs under Banda Singh Bahadur, highlighting the circumstances leading to the estrangement between the Sikhs and the Mughals during the life of Guru Gobind Singh. Further, some of the information provided by the author regarding the early victories of the Sikhs under Banda Singh over the Mughal officials is at once new and pertinent. “They expelled Wazir Khan`s garrisons from thanas everywhere,” writes the author, “and brought the entire countryside right up to the cities and towns of Sirhind under their control.”

Elated with the victory attained, they erected a khamba, or wooden tower, on the other side of the plain of Thanesar touching the north western boundary of the Delhi empire. “The implication of their claim [by setting up a khamba],” he explains, “was that if the Emperor of Hindustan with all his victorious armies and conquering hordes, chose to direct his attention to this part of the land, this tower should, like a cloud of dust,serve to remind him that he had to cry a halt to his march and that his jurisdiction ended there.”

The implication is clear that Banda Singh`s was not merely a predatory campaign, as some historians have tried to depict it; he clearly aimed at establishing a sovereign Sikh State. Another point the author makes is that while upper class urban Hindu population was by and large loyal and faithful to the Mughal government, the low caste Hindus, whom he terms as khas-o-khashak-i-hanud-i-jahanami-wajud, i.e. the dregs of the society of Hindus condemned to hell, volunteered to become Sikhs. Hindus even from distant Iran, Turan, Kabul, Qandahar and Multan embraced the faith in large numbers.

These people after joining the ranks of the “Nanak-prastan” or worshippers of Nanak, became so powerful that the author considers them a terrible calamity and exclaims: “Taqat-i-insani ba afat-i-asmani kuja hampanja shawad? (How could human power contend with calamity from the heavens?) In a poem inserted in the prose narrative, he praises the Sikhs for their mastery over the arts of archery and swordsmanship. At another point, he applauds their skill in manufacturing guns from hollowed trunks of trees. Moral values the Sikhs uphold are scarcely slurred by the contumelious epithets used for them by the author. To quote an instance, “They [Sikhs] are dirty, wretched, unclean and verily devils incarnate, a calamity on earth descending from the heavens, but they never take a woman except for a mother. “