After the fall of the Sikh Kingdom in 1849, the Sikhs were in very serious trouble. The Gurdwaras were in control of Mahants who had installed Hindu Idols and barred “low castes” from entering. British observers wrote that Amrit Sinchaars almost never took place. Sikh women lost their distinct appearance and no longer followed rehit or took amrit.
The British even began to photograph Sikhs as they believed this “fading sect” ought to be recorded in history and one day shown in museums as a part of India’s history.
The British also started a heavy mission of conversion amongst the Sikhs. Many notable Sikhs left the faith at this time. Raja Ranjit Singh’s general, Jowand Sikh Mokhal’s family embraced Islam, Beharwala Sardar Isher Singh became Muslim under the influence of a prostitute, Harnam Singh of the Kapurthala Royal family became Christian, Dayal Singh Majithia became a Brahmo Samajist and gave over the Daily Tribune, Dayal Singh College and a Library to the sect.
Big Sikh landlords Mangal Singh Virk and Charat Singh of Barhar became Muslims for Muslim women as well. In 1873, 4 Sikh boys Aya Singh, Attar Singh, Sadhu Singh and Santokh Singh announced they were converting to Christianity and prepared to cut their hair. Later they were convinced not to do this.
Harmandir Sahib was under the control of the British Government and they had appointed a Sikh manager, Mangal Singh to look after the site for them. The British had nefarious designs for the Sikhs. They had intended to make Sree Darbaar Sahib the main Diocese for the Christian Church and convert the complex into a giant church. Crucifixes were even put near the entrance of Sree Darbaar Sahib near the foot-wash area.
Sardar Mangal Singh heard these rumours and despite being pro-British, felt very upset. He met with Punjab’s Lt. Governor to ask about this issue and he did not give any reassurance but asked him to speak with the Viceroy.