LUDHIANA POLITICAL AGENCY
LUDHIANA POLITICAL AGENCY, renamed North-West Frontier Agency in 1835, was established in 1810 as tlie main official channel of Anglo-Sikh political and diplomatic communications. When, in February 1809, Lt. Col David Ochlerlony established a British military post at Ludhiana during Charles Metcalfe`s negotiations with Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the town belonged to Raja Bhag Singh of Jtnd. Ranjit Singh had seized Ludhiana from the ruling Muhammadan family during his Malva campaign of 1807 and bestowed it on Bhag Singh.
From April 1809 the Ludhiana military post served as a link with the Sikli government at Lahore, and Bhag Singh was allowed a compensation of Rs 500 per month for the temporary occupation of his territory. As commander of the post and performing both military and political functions, Ochterlony realized the strategic importance of Ludhiana, and he recommended to his government its retention on a permanent basis. In May 1809, the British decided to withdraw their military detachments from Ludhiana on moral as well as on political grounds.Lord Minio had given a personal assurance to Ranjit Singh that the treaty of friendship and alliance between the Siklis and the British had rendered the stationing of British troops on the Sutlcj frontier unnecessary.
Yet the post continued, mainly because of the strong pleadings of Ochterlony, Mctcaife and Scton, who maintained that its retention was essential for the security of British interests. But Lord Minto kept his word and the military post was withdrawn in April 1810, and Ludhiana was converted into a political agency.Lt.Col Ochterlony was appointed agent to the Governor General at Ludhiana, and stayed at the post until 1815. He had three assistants, Birch, Ross and Murray, to deal with the affairs of the protected Sikh chiefs and hill states between the Sutlej and the Yamuna. In 1815, (lie agent`s office was shifted to Kama! which was considered more central to the area the agency looked after.
In 1822, it was moved to Ambala. Ludhiana was reduced to a sub agency to deal with only the Lahore Darbar. Lieui Murray held charge of Ludhiana sub agency as political agent till 1823, when Claude Wade succeeded him.In his dealings with the Lahore Darbar, Wade discovered certain anomalies in the jurisdiction, function and authority of Ludhiana sub agency. It was directly under the control of the Delhi Residency, but had to take orders from the political agent at Ambala on many a matter, especially in relation to the Sikhs.
Moreover, llic Maharaja`s government suggested that, as Ludhiana was nearer Lahore, it was a more convenient channel of intercourse between the two governments. The point was also stressed that, since Ambala was concerned with safeguarding the interests of the protected states, Lahore government`s territorial disputes with them could not with propriety be entrusted to it.In 1827, while Ambala was given full jurisdiction over protected cis Sutlej states, Ludhiana was given full authority not only to deal with the disputed cis Sutlej territorial possessions of the Lahore government, but also to conduct all political and diplomatic relations with it.In 1832, Ludhiana regained the status of political agency, and Wade was authorized, as political agent, to deal with all British political affairs in relation to the Sikh Darbar, and to territories beyond the Sutlej and the Indus.
Three years later, the designation of the Ludhiana Political Agency was changed to North-West Frontier Agency.The political officers who held charge of the agency for over three and a half decades (1810-1845) were Ochtcrlony, Murray, Wade, Clerk, Richmond and Broad-foot. The sub-agencies at Ambala, Firozpur, Kaithal, Sabathu and Nahan were served by men like Cunningham, Nicholson, Henry Lawrence, Mackeson, Mills, Malville and Abbott. The Sikh government at Lahore did not have a counterpart of the Ludhiana political agency.
Its diplomatic representation was through its vakils or envoys stationed at Ludhiana (Rai Kishan Chand and two subordinate vakils, Rai GovindJas and Faqir Shah Din), at Firozpur Rai Ram Dayal, at Ambala and at Delhi Rai Anand Singh.While the Ludhiana political agency played an important role in the evolution of Anglo-Sikh diplomatic relations, the vast mass of its records of transactions arc, in spite of their bias and inaccuracies, our primary source of information on the political history of the Sikhs in the first half of the nineteenth century. These records were used by Murray, Wade, Prinscp, Mac Gregor, Edwardes, Cunningham and others in writing their books on Sikh history. The records of the Ludhiana agency are especially full and comprehensive.
Of particular interest are Lake`s transactions in the cis Sutlej region (1805-1806) in the wake of Holkar`s arrival in the Punjab, Minto Ranjt Singh correspondence relating to the Metcaife mission (1808-1809), and the despatches of Edmonstone, Ochtcrlony, Scion and Carey. Later Ludhiana agency records contain Anglo Sikh transactions from 1810-1845. They comprise documents on the Indus navigation scheme, the claims of the Sikh government in respect of 47 cis Sutlej territories, Anglo Sikh Afghan affairs, and the exchange of political and complimentary missions between the Sikhs and the British government.The transactions from 1834 onwards contain despatches of the North-West Frontier Agency and the correspondence of Wade, Clerk, Richmond and Broad-foot.
Documents abound on Burncs` mission to Kabul (1837-1838), Macnaghten`s mission to Lahore (1838) and the Tripartite treaty, Sikhs` role in the first Afghan war, and British policy towards the State of Lahore till the beginning of hostilities in December 1845. Another interesting category of documents pertains to periodical reports furnished by the British news writers from places such as Multan, Peshawar, Lahore and Kabul. BIBLIOGRAPHY
1. Hasnu, Bikram.i }il, A ng/o-Sihh. Relations. Hoshiarpm”, 1968
2. Bal, S.S., British Policy Towards the Punjab 1844-49.
3. Calciuia, 1971
4. Bliagnl Singli, Mnhnrnjn Rdnjil Singh and His Times. Delhi, 1990