Robert Groves Sandeman

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Robert Groves Sandeman
Sir Robert Sandeman.jpg
Born 1835
Died 1892

Sir Robert Groves Sandeman, KCSI (1835–1892), Colonial British Indian officer and administrator, was the son of General Robert Turnbull Sandeman, and was born on 25 February 1835. He was educated at Perth and University of St Andrews, and joined the 33rd Bengal Infantry in 1856. When that regiment was disarmed at Phillour by General John Nicholson during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, he took part in the final capture of Lucknow as adjutant of the IInd Bengal Lancers. After the suppression of the Mutiny he was appointed to the Punjab Commission by Sir John Lawrence.

1866[edit]

In 1866 he was appointed district officer of Dera Ghazi Khan, and there first showed his capacity in dealing with the Baluch tribes. He was the first to break through the close-border system of Lord Lawrence by extending British influence to the independent tribes beyond the border. In his hands this policy worked admirably, owing to his tact in managing the tribesmen and his genius for control.

1871[edit]

In February 1871, he was given the political control over the warring Marri, Bugti and Mazari tribes of Sulaiman Hills at the Mithankot(e) conference between the governments of Punjab and Sindh provinces.

1876[edit]

In 1876 he negotiated the treaty with the Help Of Nawab Sir Imam baksh Khan Mazari if Rojhan with the Khan of Kalat, which subsequently governed the relations between Kalat and the Indian government; and in 1877 he was made agent to the governor-general in Baluchistan, an office which he held until his death.

1878[edit]

During the Second Afghan War in 1878 his influence over the tribesmen was of the utmost importance, since it enabled him to keep intact the line of communications with Kandahar, and to control the tribes after the British disaster at Maiwand. For these services he was made K.C.S.I. in 1879. In 1889 he occupied the Zhob valley, a strategic advantage which opened the Gomal Pass through the Waziri country to caravan traffic. Sandeman's system was not so well suited to the Pashtun as to his Baluch neighbour. But in Baluchistan he was a pioneer, a pacificator and a successful administrator, who converted that country from a state of complete anarchy into a province as orderly as any in British India.

Recent scholarship in postcolonial studies and on colonial Balochistan has disputed this overtly laudatory account of Sandeman's life and career as explicated in books such as Tucker's "Sir Robert G. Sandeman: Peaceful Conqueror of Baluchistan" and Bruce's "The Forward Policy and its Results". At a conceptual level, the idea of colonial rulers bringing order to the colonized territory has been questioned by authors such as Edward Said and Nicholas Dirks who argue that this myth resulted from a misunderstanding of (mostly unwritten) local social and cultural norms. It was the product of an effort to make alien peoples and territories governable through the invention of categories of savage and civilized. In respect of colonial Balochistan, Simanti Dutta points out that Sandeman skillfully exploited an existing rift between the Baloch ruler, the Khan of Kalat, and his subordinate tribal chiefs to leverage his influence and project British power into a region which was strategically significant in the context of Anglo-Russian rivalry in Afghanistan. A careful examination of historical records suggests that there were a number of armed uprisings against British rule in Balochistan during and after Sandeman's tenure which had to be put down through the use of lethal force and imposition of crippling financial penalties on the defaulting tribes.

1892[edit]

Robert Sandeman died at Bela, the capital of Las Bela state, on 29 January 1892, and there he lies buried under a handsome tomb.

References[edit]

  • Tucker AP (1921) Sir Robert G. Sandeman, K.C.S.I., peaceful conqueror of Baluchistan.
  • Bruce, Richard Isaac (1900) The Forward Policy and its Results.
  • Said, Edward (1978) Orientalism.
  • Said, Edward (1993) Culture and Imperialism.
  • Dirks, Nicholas (1992) Colonialism and Culture.
  • Dutta, Simanti (2002) Imperical Mappings in Savage Spaces: Baluchistan and British India.
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
Government offices
Preceded by
New office
(Sir Oliver St John acting)
Chief Commissioner of Balochistan
1887–1889
Succeeded by
Sir Harry Prendergast
(acting)
Preceded by
Sir Harry Prendergast
(acting)
Chief Commissioner of Balochistan
1889–1891
Succeeded by
Sir Hugh Barnes
Preceded by
John Biddulph
(acting)
Chief Commissioner of Balochistan
1891–1892
Succeeded by
Sir Hugh Barnes
(acting)