Via: Kashmir Reader

During 1830 the British East India Company’s government wanted to push its western frontier from river Sutlej to beyond Peshawar. They wanted Peshawar for themselves (p.316 ‘The Pathans’ by Olaf Caroe). But across Sutlej there lay the mighty Sikh empire with its capital at Lahore. The British also wanted to set up a puppet regime in Afghanistan, which they could use against Russians. The reason for this was that they fancied that Russia intended to invade India, which was impractical at that time given the presence of Sikh territory, Afghanistan, and western Turkistan as buffer states in between.

British plan was to remove Amir Dost Khan from Kabul throne and set up Shah Shuja in his place. Shuja was the ex-king of Afghanistan and the grandson of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the founder of Afghan State. The British and Shuja asked Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore to lend assistance for the execution of this scheme. Maharaja Ranjit agreed on a condition that his title over various erstwhile Afghan provinces like Peshawar, Kashmir, Derajat of Indus, be confirmed.

In June 1839 a tripartite alliance was secretly created (p. 190 ‘The Great Game’ by Peter Hopkirk). By the end of the year Shuja marched at the head of a British force through Sindh, Bolan, and Quetta into Kandahar. In January 1839 the force provided by Lahore state (Ranjit Singh was by now terminally ill) proceeded under Prince Naunihal Singh by a direct route to Kabul via Peshawar. Prince Timoor, son of Shuja, and a British agent Colonel Claude Wade accompanied Naunihal.

The British captured Amir Dost Khan and brought him to Delhi in January 1841. On the arrest of his father, Prince Akbar Khan launched an insurgency movement against the British occupation forces and their protégé Shah Shuja. This movement culminated in the killing of Shuja on April 5, 1842 in Kabul and a disastrous rout of British troops. In January 1843 the British government released Dost Khan from custody and sent him back to Kabul via Lahore.

Following the death of Ranjit Singh in June 1839, his son Kharrak Singh and grandson Naunihal Singh also died within a short span of time. The British lay in wait for an opportune movement to strike against the Sikh state, their ally. It was at this point of time that marked the emergence of Gulab Singh of Jammu as a major international player in this part of the world.

Gulab Singh had joined Ranjit Singh’s army as a Sawar, cavalryman, in 1810. In a few years his father Kishore Singh, and his brothers Dhian Singh and Sucheet Singh became important personages in Lahore Darbar. In 1820 Ranjit Singh granted Jammu as jagir to this Dogra family subject to the condition that they would liquidate Dogra freedom fighter Mian Dido (p.152 & 167 ‘A Short History of Jammu’ by Raj Sukhdev Singh Charak); and punish the King of Kishtwar, Raja Mohammad Tegh Singh, for sheltering Shah Shuja (in 1815), the fugitive Afghan king and the owner of Kohinoor diamond.

In 1821 Gulab Singh attacked Kishtwar, took its Raja prisoner and sent him to Lahore where Ranjit slew him. Kishtwar eventually served Gulab Singh as a springboard to launch his Ladakh campaign. A year later in 1822 Gulab Singh’s army surprised Mian Dido in Trikota hills in the compound of Vaishnodevi shrine and killed him there. Ranjit Singh was so happy with him that he came to Akhnoor in June 1822 to perform raj tilak (marking of forehead as a sign of princehood) of Gulab Singh. Thus Gulab Singh became Prince of Jammu. His influence in Lahore was sky high.

Read the rest of the article Here: Dogra King Steals Kashmir From Sikh Empire. 

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