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WAQI A-I-JANG-I-SIKKHAN

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WAQI`AIJANGISIKKHAN, by Diwan Ajudhia Parshad, is a chronicle in Persian prose of the events of the first Anglo Sikh war (1845-46). The narratives of the battles of Pherushahr and Sabhraon have in fact been taken from two separate manuscripts. The work was translated into English by V.S. Suri and published under the tide Waqiai Jangi Sikkhan. was first published in the journal of the Panjab University Historical Society, vol. VIII, April 1944, Lahore, and later reproduced in The Panjab Past and Present, Punjabi University, Patiala, vol. XVIII, April 1984. A copy of the Persian manuscript is preserved at the Khalsa College, Amritsar.

Diwan Ajudhia Parshad (d.,1870) had served the Sikh State both as soldier and civilian since the days of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Though the author has not recorded the date, it is evident from internal evidence that the book came to be written soon after the actual happenings sometime in 1846. As, he himself tells us, his account of Pherusha.hr and Sabhraon battles was mainly based on his. personal knowledge and on reports of notable persons who were present at the scene of action. In contrast to the style of chronicles in Persian, the text is free from literary or dedicatory embellishments.

In the account of the battle of Pherushahr, the writer records that on receipt of news of the British East India Company strengthening the frontier with additional troops, the Sikh soldiers apprehended danger. They also suspected that those at the helm of affairs at Lahore were in league with the British. Their chosen leaders decided, against the advice and warning of their officers, to cross the Sutlej and attack the British cantonment of Firozpur. Three brigades of the FaujiKhas were ferried across on 14 and 15 December 1945. They were followed by other regular and irregular troops.

On 18 December, it was learnt that the British Governor General was advancing with large reinforcements by way of Mudki to Firozpur. It was, therefore, decided that the FaujiKhas and others who had already crossed the river should straightway advance to Pherushahr and Mudki while the Commander in Chief Tej Singh with the remaining force still on their way to cross would stay at Pherushahr for the purpose of attacking Firozpur. The British met the Sikh advance a few kilometres north of Mudki. "The Sikhs opened fire first and the British guns replied. Some riderless horses from a British regiment opposite the Sikh cavalry got out of control and galloped into the Sikh lines killing some of the Sikhs but the others fired thinking that British cavalry were charging [at] them."

In the confusion which followed they fell into panic and fled firing in all directions. In reply the British sent over shells of various kinds...When night fell, the British troops still held their ground. The Sikhs retired from the field abandoning some of their guns and withdrew to Pherushahr." The battle at Pherushahr took place on 21 and 22 December 1845. Tej Singh who was bringing reinforcements had not yet reached Pherushahr when the British attacked this position with artillery. Tej Singh found the following morning that the Sikhs had already been defeated and dispersed. "An artillery battle from a distance ensued between the guns attached to the British cavalry and Sardar Tej Singh`s brigade," after which these troops also withdrew and recrossing the Sutlej went towards Sabhraori.

The battle of Sabhraon was also fought at the insistence of the soldiery and against the advice of officers and Sardars who had counselled, "...there was some chance of placating the British government from this side of the Sutlej. It would not be surprising, since the British government was the paramount power, if the Governor General, knowing that the Punjab was the home of the Sikhs, and learning the true state of affairs from reliable reports should hear and accept their apology." Instead, writes the author, "the Singhs deputed by the various brigades of the army met on the bank of the river and discussed what the officers liad told them and their own ambitions and plans." Tej Singh had also opened negotiations with the British.

A bridge of boats was constructed and the Sikhs crossing the river opposite Sabhraon established a bridgehead with a big breastwork of sand and mud and a trench dug around it. On 10 February 1846, a little before dawn, the British opened the attack with artillery fire followed by advance by their main force. "The British guns wrought havoc among the ghorcharhas and the infantry, so wars, howitzers and guns which were with the ghorcharhas in the morcha. It was said that the howitzers fired only one round and then their crews fled, but the ghorcharhas stood their ground for some time.

Ultimately they too turned and fled from the battlefield, but most of them were killed or wounded. ...Wounded or unwounded they fell back towards the river, many towards the bridge, which became crowded with fugitives and gave way.. . The Sikh troops under the command of Sardar Sham Singh continued the fight as long as they could, but even they could not withstand the onslaught of the British troops and all suffered defeat." In the list of deras appended to the manuscript Sardar Sham Singh Atarivala has been shown as a cavalry officer in the FaujiGhairA`in, i.e. irregular army.

The account given by Ajudhia Parshad is clearly pro British. While he writes approvingly that "on that day the. truth had been revealed, the strength and valour t)f the British army had been proved," there is not a single word in the manuscript about the matchless bravery of the Sikh soldiers or about the shameless betrayal by their commanders, the facts appreciatively noticed even by contemporary British writers. Nor does he account for the utter inefficiency and cowardice of the officers in facing and controlling the men placed under their command.

References :

1. Kirpal Singh, A Catalog-ue of Persian and Sanskrit Manuscripts. Amritsar, 1962
2. Suri, Sohan Lal, `Umdat ut-Twarikh. Lahore, 1885-89

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