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Maharaja Dalip Singh Cheated Out

A Review by Dr Sardar Singh*

Author : Sardar Avtar Singh Gill
Publisher : Jaswant Printers
Pages : 256
Price : Rs 300/-

Sardar Avtar Singh Gill has written extensively after in-depth search for factual details on the period that spelled doom and, ultimately, demise of the Khalsa raj. His interest has been in Maharaja Ranjit Singh (The Lion of Punjab), Kohinoor, Maharani Jindan and Maharaja Duleep Singh. This volume, fourth in the series, is highly informative in its details and touching in its nature. The war scenes, courage and valor of the Khalsa and individual Sikh soldiers and other warriors are described in such details and so vividly that if one removes the inverted commas of the quotes he listed, one cannot help develop the feeling as if the writer was all the time there in different battle-fields and situations and moving along-side the character described and watching every happening of the unfolding history with his own eyes. For instance, the touching taunts and curses of the mother of Diwan Mool Raj not to accept subjugation to the British Generals and the command of Lahore Durbar under the control of the firangis and instead protect his and Khalsa’s honour and show his valor, which prompted, rather compelled Diwan Mool Raj of Multan to fight against the Hindustani forces, rakes up the slumbering patriotism in the reader. How the two British Generals were killed by Nihang Godar Singh and how their bodies were disposed of is a shocking scene of anger against the attacking forces. Again, the battle of Gujrat where the valor of Khalsa forces facing the mighty enemy with swords, catching hold of their bayonets with left hand and attacking with swords in right hand, is so touching that one puts down the book and tries to absorb the unparalleled bravery and self esteem of the Sikh warriors. Surrender of the Khalsa Fauj after defeat in Gujrat again depicts not-to-be-subjugated spirit, but a spite on the British commanders personified by the manner in which the arms were laid down by individual warriors, rather thrown on the heap of arms.

The theme of this volume is the cheating out on Maharaja Duleep Singh by the India office and indifference of the authorities in command at the time, when the Maharaja claimed his right to the restoration of his Sovereignty of Punjab, and short of that, demanded the value of the assets and property appropriated by the British rulers in violation of the treaty signed by his Durbar and the British resident guardians. The pecuniary squeeze he underwent and humiliation suffered by him coupled with his anxiety to provide for his family and later his return to the Sikh faith, turned him into a rebel unreconciled. His travel to Aden, denial of permission to enter India and virtual imprisonment in the ship in extreme hot weather and his escape to France, Germany and Russia is a very interesting trail that this book uncovers. The Maharaja’s return to Sikh faith, his humiliation and cheating out on his allowances, property and sovereignty, ill treatment at the hands of India Office and his desire and burning zeal to liberate not only Punjab, but the whole of India from the subjugation and clutches of the British Raj made him such a rebel that he started dreaming and scheming of attacking with Russian forces and later with European forces from North West with the hope and misplaced faith that there will be a spontaneous uprising in India through various rulers of small states, defection of Sikhs from British forces and refusal of other Hindustani soldiers employed in the British forces to fight. His plans failed, expectations belied and Russian Czar not giving him audience even, he returned to Paris where he ultimately breathed his last.

The details of his two marriages, five daughters and three sons (three daughters and three sons (besides one infant son died a day after birth) from first wife Maharani Bamba and two daughters from second wife Maharani Ada) and how he was devoted to his wives and children and ultimately dedicating himself to the retrieving of sovereignty of Punjab and independence of India, dispatching his family back to England and himself moving in Europe and Russia makes an interesting and invigorating reading of the mind of a Maharaja coming of age and revolting like a proud sovereign without caring for the consequences in case of his failure. He expressed his preference for dying as a patriot rather than a man in servitude. His letters of defiance to Governor General of India, India Office and to the Queen and Lady Login are a testimony to his patriotism, self-esteem, concern for the country and Punjab and his rediscovered faith in Sikh religion. It is “a redeeming feature that his eldest daughter, Bamba Duleep Singh, could bring the ashes of Maharani Jindan from Panchvati and consign the same by the samadh of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Maharaja Duleep Singh did not, however, had that luck. He was consigned to the grave beside the grave of his wife in England. It is again an irony of fate that none of the sons and daughters of Maharaja Duleep Singh had any child and the dynasty of Maharaja Ranjit Singh came to an end with Bamba Sutherland, the eldest daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh, breathing her last, yet redeeming, not before she could see the Union Jack coming down and removed on 15th August, 1947 from the sovereign state of her grandfather, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, as well as from the country India before her eyes.

I congratulate Sardar Gill, the writer of this volume, for his highly successful endeavor in catching the true essence of Khalsa Raj, fighting back of Khalsa, and dynasty of Maharaja Ranjit Singh acquitting themselves well in their feelings and actions for restoring the sovereignty of Punjab and India as a whole. The writer has proved himself as researcher par excellence and investigator with deep commitment. I recommend this book for serious readers and also for those who are interested in knowing the cross currents underlying the devastating developments that led to fall of the Khalsa Raj and subsequent happenings relating to the Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s successors, particularly Maharaja Duleep Singh.

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ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2007, All rights reserved.