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SIKHS RELATIONS WITH NAWAB OF OUDH

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SIKHS` RELATIONS WITH NAWAB OF OUDH. For a whole decade prior to 1774, Sikhs had been regularly raiding and pillaging upper Ganga Yamuna Doab and Ruhilkhand bordering on Oudh. Yet they had not entered the territory of the Nawab, Shuja` udDaulah, who had become an ally of the British since his defeat in the battle of Buxar (22 October 1764). With British help he conquered Ruhilkhand in 1774, thus eliminating the buffer between himself and the Sikhs. Zabita Khan, the defeated Ruhila chief, invited the Sikhs in 1776 to join him in attacking the imperial domains.

Asaf udDaulah, who became Nawab of Oudh at the death, on 26 January 1775, of his father, Shuja` udDaulah, began wooing the Sikhs in order to win them over against Zabita Khan. The Sikhs were offered 7,00,00 rupees immediately for the alliance and a similar amount after the Ruhila chief had been expelled from his possessions in the Gang Doab. The Sikhs, however, decided not to betray their old friend, Zabita Khan. They carried out raids across the Ganga in the area of Bijnore, Najibabad and Anupshahr in 1778 and again in 1780.

Some skirmishes took place between them and the troops of Oudh. In the beginning of 1785, a 30,000 strong Sikh force under Baghel Singh, Gurdit Singh and Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, entered the Gang Doab and pillaging towns on their line of march crossed the Ganga into the country of Oudh. On 14 January 1785, they attacked Chandausi, a market town, and after plundering it for two days recrossed the Ganga at the news of the approach of Oudh troops reinforced by a British contingent of infantry, cavalry and artillery. They attempted further raids into Ruhilkhand on 29 January and again on 5 February, but failed in face of increased vigilance of the Oudh and British troops at all fords and ferries.

By a treaty concluded between Mahadji Scindia and the Sikhs on 9 May 1785, the latter agreed not to attack the territories of the Nawab of Oudh. Oudh was virtually a British protectorate controlled through the Residency at Lucknow. The British policy as regards the Sikhs was to repel them if they invaded Oudh territory, but to leave them alone otherwise. When on 3 January 1791, a British officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Stuart, fell into the hands of Sardar Bhanga Singh of Thanesar who demanded a large ransom for his release, the Nawab of Oudh volunteered help to Mahadji Scindia to checkmate the Sikhs, but his offer was ignored by both the British and the Marathas.

In 1794, a feud arose in the ruling family of Rampur in Ruhilkhand which had been allowed in 1774 to remain a separate state feudatory to the Nawab of Oudh. The Nawab wanted to recognize the usurper, Ghulam Muhammad, in consideration of a handsome bribe but was not permitted to do so by the British. Jassa Singh Ramgarhia offered to support Ghulam Muhammad with 30,000 Sikh soldiers for an appropriate amount. The Nawab, in order to counteract the move of the Ramgarhia chief, opened negotiations with some other Sikh Sardars who showed a willingness to help.

But he could not settle terms without the approval of the British and Ghulam Muhammad did not have enough money to attract Jassa Singh Ramgarhia. So nothing came out of these negotiations. In 1795, the Sikhs sought Nawab of Oudh`s permission to visit Nanak Mata, their holy shrine situated near Pilibhit. The British Resident at Lucknow, George Frederick Cherry, advised the Nawab to put off the Sikhs asking them to postpone the visit to the following year. That is the last known point of contact between the Sikhs and the Nawab.

References :

1. Bhangu, Ratan Singh, Prachin Panth Prakash. Amritsar, 1914
2. Gian Singh, Giani, Twarikh Guru Khalsa [Reprint]. Patiala, 1970
3. Kapur, Prithipal Singh, Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia. Amritsar, 1957
4. Gupta, Hari Ram, History of the Sikhs. Delhi, 1978-82
5. Gandhi, Surjit Singh, Struggle of the Sikhs for Sovereignty. Delhi, 1980

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