PREMA PLOT, a conspiracy allegedly engineered by Maharani Jind Kaur with the help of some Sikh sardars to assassinate Sir Henry Lawrence, the first British Resident at Lahore, and the Sikh commander in chief, Tej Singh, and to topple the British control of the Punjab. One of the factors responsible for the general unrest was the treaty of Bharoval (December 1846) by which Maharani Jind Kaur had been deprived of all authority and the Resident had been invested with unrestricted powers.

The Maharani, who was opposed to the British assuming any concessions beyond stationing a few of their regiments at Lahore, chafed at the new treaty which conferred on them the right to remain in the Punjab up to the time Maharaja Duleep Singh attained the age of majority and which made them the virtual rulers. Prema, a Brahman desperado, who had been a soldier in Gulab Singh`s service, came to Lahore in February 1847 and set up a secret campaign against the British and started associating himself with the officers and sepoys of the Sikh army. He met Buta Singh, town to Maharani Jind Kaur, in the Lahore Fort in the presence of Bhai Budh Singh.

Later, he visited Amritsar and received the approbation of Bhai Maharaj Singh, who was widely revered for his piety and who at the time of the second Anglo Sikh war raised the standard of revolt against the British. The Bhai, it is said,, bestowed upon Prema a sword, a turban and a shawl, as a mark of his blessing. Amongst other covert helpers were Atar Singh Kalianvala, Sher Singh Atarivala, Ranjodh Singh and Mian Jawahar Singh, a nephew of Raja Gulab Singh. The prime motive of the plan was to restore the power of Maharani Jind Kaur as the Regent of the minor Maharaja Duleep Singh and terminate British control by assassinating the Resident and his subservient council of ministers.

Prema`s nephew, Nihal Chand, accompanied by nine others carrying swords and shields, entered the Shalamar Gardens on 12 February 1847 with a view to finishing off Sir Henry Lawrence and Sardar Tej Singh, who were then attending a fete. The band was playing and everyone was lost in merriment. But the plotters` hearts misgave them and they stealthily slunk away. The British authorities arrested eleven persons. After a trial in which twenty-five witnesses were examined, Prema and three others were sentenced to life imprisonment and deported out of the Punjab; four persons received imprisonment from 3 to 7 years and three were let off.

John Lawrence, who conducted the enquiry, found the evidence in the case `worthless` without any proof of the Maharani`s complicity. But he held that “there were grounds for suspecting her of being cognizant of the intrigue if not its instigator.” A sequel to the Prema plot was the unjustified removal of the Maharani from the capital of the Sikhs. The Resident`s council, chary of expelling her from the Punjab, decided to send her to Sheikh upura, 40 km away from Lahore. Her allowance was reduced from Rs 1,50,000 to Rs 48,000 annually.

References :

1. Chopra, Barkat Rai, Kingdom of the Punjab. Hoshiarpur, 1969
2. Innes.JJ.M.. Sir Henry M. Lawrence. Oxford, 1898
3. Nahar Singh, Documents Relating to Bhai Maharaj Singh. Karamsar, 1968
4. Ganda Singh, “Some New Light on the Treaty of Bharowal (December 16,1846)”, Proceedings Indian Historical Records Commission. 1940
5. Ahluwalia, M.L., Bhai Maharaj Singh. Patiala, 1972