COUNCIL OF REGENCY. To govern the State of the Punjab during the minority of Maharaja Duleep Singh, two successive councils of regency were set up at Lahore the first functioning from 1844-46 and the second from 1846-49. After the assassination of Maharaja Sher Singh on 15 September 1843, Raja Hira Singh had won over the Khalsa army and established himself in the office of prime minister with the minor Duleep Singh as the new sovereign. But his rule was short lived, and he, along with his favourite and deputy, Pandit Jalla, was killed by the Army on 21 December 1844. MaharaniJind Kaur, who had an active hand in overthrowing Hira Singh, now cast off her veil and assumed full powers as regent in the name of her minor son, Duleep Singh.

To run the administration, she constituted a Council of Regency on 22 December 1844, composed ofJawahar Singh, Raja Lal Singh, Bhai Ram Singh, Bakhshi Bhagat Ram, Diwan DinaNath, Atar Singh Kaliarivala, Sham Singh Atarivala, General Mahtab Singh Majithia, General Meva Singh Majithia and General Lal Singh Morarivala. The composition of this Council represented a combination of elder statesmen of the Darbar and army generals.Maharani Jind Kaur acted with determination and courage in transacting public business.The Council nullified the enhanced taxes and burdens imposed by Raja Hira Singh, restored to the feudatory sardar sjagirs and fiefs resumed by him and enhanced the pay of the soldiery.

It also quelled the revolts of Karivar Kashmira Singh and Karivar Pashaura Singh and sent a force 35,000 strong to Jammu to crush the rebellious activities of Raja Gulab Singh, who was brought to Lahore and arraigned on a charge of treachery against his sovereign.After the first Anglo Sikh war, under article 5 of the Agreement concluded between tlie British government and the Lahore Darbar at Bharoval C16 December 1846), Henry Lawrence was appointed resident with “full authority to direct and control all matters in every department of the State” and a new eight member Council of Regency was constituted, the members being Raja Tej Singh, Sher Singh Atarivala, Diwan Dina Nath, Faqir Nur udDin, Ranjodh Singh Majithia, Bhai Nidhan Singh, Atar Singh Kaliarivala and Shamsher Singh Sandharivalia. The Treaty of Bharoval had changed the entire complexion of the Council of Regency.Its members could only hold office during the pleasure of the British resident.

MaharaniJind Kaur was pensioned off, and the British government became the guardian of the minor Maharaja of the Punjab. A British garrison was stationed at Lahore^ and the entire civil and military administration of the country was vested in the British resident. The Council of Regency ceased to exist as a sovereign political body. It was more an instrument for sub serving British interests as it did, for instance, in acquiescing in the removal of the Maharani from the capital in August 1847 and her final expulsion from the Punjab in June 1848; in forcing Diwan Mul Raj to resign the governorship of Multan in December 1847; and in meekly accepting the blame of the Multan revolt under Resident Frederick Currie`s pressure.

In directing the course of events leading to the second Anglo Sikh war, the Council of Regency had no voice at all. None of its members spoke to contradict British accusations that the whole Sikh nation was involved in a general resurrection to reestablish the Khalsa Raj. The Council`s last dismal act was the signing on behalf of the minor sovereign the Instrument of deposition and annexation of the Punjab to the British empire on 29 March 1849, which spelt the end of the dynasty of Ranjit Singh.

References :

1. Cunningham,J.D., A History of the Sikhs. London, 1849
2. Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, vol. 2. Princeton, 1966
3. Hasrat, B.J., Anglo-Sikh Relations. Hoshiarpur, 1968