Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Coercive Treaties of 1846 and the British Conquest of Punjab

by Dr. Jasneet Bedi

On this day in the year 1846, pivotal events transpired that marked the beginning of the end for the once formidable Sikh Empire. Following the decisive Battle of Sobraon on February 10, where the British emerged triumphant, Lahore, the capital of the Sikh Empire, fell under British control on February 20, 1846. However, it was in the subsequent days that the fate of Punjab and its people was sealed through coercive treaties imposed upon Maharaja Duleep Singh, the young ruler of the Sikh Empire.

The treaties signed on March 9 and 11 of 1846 effectively transferred control of the Sikh state to the British East India Company. Among the terms of these treaties was the disbandment of the Khalsa Army, a formidable force that had posed a significant challenge to British expansion in the region. Furthermore, control of Kashmir, a prized territory of the Sikh Empire, was handed over to the Dogra rulers, effectively fragmenting the Sikh territories and weakening their sovereignty.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of these treaties was the establishment of British oversight over the affairs of the Lahore Darbar, the Sikh ruling council. Decisions made by the council now required the approval of the British resident, effectively reducing the Maharaja and his councilors to mere figureheads in their own state. The once proud and independent Sikh Empire was now reduced to a puppet government, mirroring the fate of the neighboring Cis-Sutlej states under British suzerainty.

It’s important to note the tragic irony of these events. Maharaja Duleep Singh, the signatory to these treaties, was merely a child of seven and a half years at the time. His youth and inexperience were exploited by the British, who saw an opportunity to exert their dominance over the region with little resistance.

The repercussions of these treaties would reverberate through Sikh history for years to come. Though the Sarkar-i-Khalsa, the Sikh ruling council, nominally retained its existence, it operated under the shadow of British control until the culmination of the Second Anglo-Sikh Wars three years later. With the annexation of Punjab directly into British territory, the once glorious Sikh Empire ceased to exist, marking the end of an era for the Sikh people.

Dr. Jasneet Bedi

You may also like

Khalsa Vox

Khalsa Vox is a new-age online digest that brings to you the latest in Punjab politics, history, culture, heritage and more.

Latest Stories

Khalsa Vox, All Right Reserved.