Sham Singh Atariwala
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Sham Singh Attariwala was born in 1790's in the house of well known Sikh farmers in the town of Attari (Few km from the border of Indian and Pakistan punjab in India) . As a child he was educated in Gurmukhi and Persian. When Ranjit singh became maharaja of Punjab he got himself at his disposal. Ranjit singh knowing his qualities and fighting abilities made him a jathedar of 5000 horsemen. He participated actively in many campaigns, notably like the campaign of Multan, campaign of Kashmir, Campaign of the frontier province. For a period of 3 years he was made governor of Kashmir by Maharaja Ranjit singh. Later, because he was a trusted aid Maharaja Ranjit singh recalled him to Lahore, the Maharaja likely was balancing the intrigues of thr dogras. It is said that Sham Singh Attari and Maharaja Ranjit singh were good friends. Sham Singh Attari could be called truly, one of the unofficial ministers of Ranjit Singh's court. Later, he educated himself to read and write English. Lord William Bentick's meeting with Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Ropar, on the bank of the Sutlej, in the spring of 1831 October 15 was an occasion of a immpressive ceremony and display. Both sides met on the either side of Satluj with their full forces. Sham Singh Attariwala was in the forefront everywhere. Kharak Singh was declared the heir apparent of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Kharak Singh's son Nau Nihal Singh was sixteen years old in 1837 when Sham Singh Attariwala proposed the marriage of his daughter to Nau Nihal Singh. With the Maharaja's agreement the marriage was held at Amritsar in the month of April. It was a gala event attended by almost all the rulers of India, as well as those of Kabul, Iran, etc. The two days of festivity and and merriment is still remembered by the people of Amritsar and Lahore. In honour of Nau Nihal Singh's wedding, Ranjit Singh started an Order of Merit which was known as Kaukab-i-Iqbal-i-Punjab (Star of the Prosperity of Punjab). But, it seems, all was not well. Maharaja Ranjit Singh died two years later, in June 1839. The powerful Dogras from Jammu, Gulab, Dhian and Suchet Singh played a subtle role and put into motion a chain of proceedings which brought about the demolition of Sikh power. At the time of the Sikh ruler's death. Dhian singh was prime minister of Punjab to Maharaja Kharak Singh, Ranjit Singh's eldest son. Gulab Singh and Suchet singh held offices under Dhian Singh Dogra. They were not content with this for they had their eyes on the throne itself and the main object of their grand strategy was to crown Dhian Singh's son, Hira Singh, king of the Punjab. One night, Suchet singh led his men into Maharaja Kharak Singh's chamber and killed his trusted aide and tutor, Chet Singh Bajwa.
The new Maharaja slowly poisoned
Kharak singh was removed from the Fort and remained virtually a prisoner in the hands of Dhian Singh. Sham SinghAttariwala and other good officers were soon posted to far places like Kashmir, North West frontier provinces, just like Nau Nihal singh. Nau Nihal singh knew about the treacherous dogras. But he remained far came to Lahore until the day his father Kharak Singh, died due to slow poisoning by Dogra brothers. On the same day of his father's cremation, a huge piece of concrete fell from an old archway on Nau Nihal Singh's way from his father's cremation. He was locked away from the nobles of the Court, at the orders of the Dogras. Later, he was found dead. It is said that this conspiracy was hatched by Dogra brothers. An English doctor of Lahore who operated on the prince, later reported that the prince was alive and well after his injury but mysteriously next day his skull was found crushed. Dhian singh then openly suggested that Maharani Chand Kaur adopt his son and declare him the Maharaja of Punjab, however, she refused and was put in house arrest. She soon died suspiciously as a piece of stone fell from above and struck her head, her maid servants were suspected. Gulab Singh meanwhile made off with wagonloads of treasure, from the Toshkhana (treasury) . Next the other son of Ranjit Singh, Maharaja Sher singh and his son was put to death by the Sandhawalia sardars, who also had Dhian Singh Dogra killed, but soon the Khalsa army under Hira Singh, Dian Singh son hunted down the Sandhawalias and killed them. Shortly after, Hira Singh captured the Fort of Lahore and on 16 September 1845, the army proclaimed the minor Prince Duleep singh, the youngest son of Ranjit Singh, the sovereign of the Sarkar Khalsaji State (The Sikh Kingdom). Hira Singh was appointed his wazir. Maharani Jind Kaur fearing her son would soon be killed, Jind Kaur mobilized opinion at the Darbar against the dominance of the Dogras. She and her brother,Jawahar Singh, pleaded with the army panchayats (regimental committees) to banish Pandit Jalla, Hira Singh's advisor, and protect the rights of her son Duleep Singh. "Who is the real sovereign," she angrily asked the regimental committees assembled in council "Duleep Singh or Hira Singh?” If they truly intended the kingdom to be ruled by the last son of Ranjit Singh, then the Khalsa should ensure that he was not a ruler with an empty title.
Death of Hira Singh Dogra
Raja Hira Singh and his deputy Pandit Jalla were killed by the Army on 21 December 1844. Maharani Jind Kaur, who had an active hand in overthrowing Hira Singh, now cast off her veil and assumed full powers as regent in the name of her minor son, Duleep Singh. To run the administration, she constituted a Council of Regency on 22 December 1844. She now assumed control of the government with the approval of the army generals. She became the symbol of the sovereignty of the Khalsa ruling the Punjab in the name of her son. She reviewed the troops and addressed them, held court and transacted state business in public. She reconstituted the supreme Khalsa Council by giving representation to the principal sardars and restored a working balance between the army panchayats and the civil administration. Numerous vexations soon confronted the Maharani. First, an alarm was created that an English force was accompanying Peshaura Singh to Lahore, and that he was being helped secretly by Gulab Singh. Secondly the troops clamoured for a raise in their pay and the feudatory chiefs demanded the restoration of their jagirs, remission of fines and reduction of enhanced taxes and burdens imposed upon them by Hira Singh. Finally, it appeared that the diminishing revenues of the State could not balance the increasing cost of the civil and military administration. Meanwhile, fearing the republican upsurge of the Khalsa Army units the British concentrated large forces on the Sutlej. Next the British seized Suchet Singh's treasure, and intrigued to break the loyalty of the Sikh governors of Kashmir and Multan. Then they rejected Lahore's claim to the village of Moran. Then the extraordinarily hostile conduct of Major George Broadfoot, the British Political Agent at the North-West Frontier Agency, towards the Sikhs, particularly his virtual seizure of the cis-Sutlej possessions of the Lahore Goverment ended in the British Army attacking.
Victory at first
Sham Singh Attariwala, who was more of a soldier than a politician, attempted to get the troops together, but he was not assigned as a general; only a small number of horsemen was put under his command. Generals Lal Singh and Tej Singh led the Khalsa forces. They did not attack the British at Ludhiana but waited until their reinforcements arrived from Delhi. On December 13, 1845 Governor General Lord Hardinge issued a proclamation, announcing war on the Sikhs. Lal Singh, the prime minister of Sikhs was in treasonable communication with Captain Peter Nicholson, the Assistant Political agent. He advised Lal singh to not to attack Ferozepur, at that point the Sikhs could have won it easily. The Sikhs came into contact with the British on December 18 1845 at Mudki, where Lal Singh who headed the Sikh attack, deserted his army and precipitantly fled the field while his soldiers stood firm in their positions, fighting in a resolute and determined manner. Their commander's action disturbed the ranks and the Sikhs finally retired with the loss of 17 cannons. In the battle, the British suffered heavy casualties of 872 dead. Among the dead was General Robert Sale, the defender of Jalalabad. Sham Singh Attariwala did not take part in this action, as he was deployed at another point. At the second battle of Mudki, it seemed that the Sikhs had won the battle easily. The British commander-in-chief acknowledged, "We were in a critical and perilous stage". But, once again Lal singh and Tej Singh came again to the rescue of the English. Deserting the Khalsa army, they left their soldiers leaderless; with their men waiting for orders the battle was lost, once the ammunition ran out. In the battle the British lost 1000 men with 1721 wounded; the Sikhs lost about 2000 men and another 73 pieces of artillery. Alarmed, a Sikh Sardar named Ranjodh Singh Majithia crossed the Satluj in full force along with another Sardar named Ajit Singh Ladwa. They marched to Ludhiana where they burned down the British cantonment. Sir Henry Smith who was sent to intercept them was defeated at Baddowal on January 11. Then the last battle of the Anglo-Sikh Wars was fought at Sobharaon. It was 'do or die' for the Sikh Sardars like Ranjodh Singh, Ajit Singh and Sham Singh Attariwala. Sham Singh Attariwala who was about 60 years of age vowed before the Guru Granth Sahib to die fighting in battle, rather than retire in defeat. But Lal Singh and Tej Singh had already given over to the British their positions of guns and Gulab Singh Dogra had stopped sending rations from Lahore. Tej Singh fled on the very first day of the action. Sham Singh and Ranjodh Singh led the forces. Sham Singh Attariwala the grey bearded hero, clad in white silks and riding a white steed, went unto the field of action, pledged to victory or death. He rallied the ranks depleted by the traitorous desertions. His courage inspired the Sikhs to make a determined bid to save the day, but the odds were against them. Sham Singh fell fighting in the foremost ranks. So did his dauntless comrades. Cunningham, who was present as an additional aid-de-camp to the Governor-General, vividly described the last scenes of battle, in his book the History of the Sikhs...although assailed on either side by squadrons of horse and battalions of foot, no Sikh offered to submit and no disciple of Guru Gobind Singh asked for quarter. They everywhere showed a front to the victors, and stalked slowly and sullenly away, while many rushed singly forth to meet assured death by contending with a multitude. The victors looked with stolid wonderment upon the indomitable courage of the vanquished..."
- Ahluwalia, M.L.; Singh, Kirpal (1963). Punjab Pioneer Freedom Fighters. New Delhi: Orient Longmans.
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