Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sikh Communit & youth Services (UK) on General Hari Singh Nalwa

General Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa

Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa is regarded as one of the greatest of Punjabi-Sikh generals. During 1881, European newspapers wrote articles comparing him to the great European Generals such as Napoleon, Field-Marshal von Hindenburg and the Duke of Wellington. The British concluded that Sr Hari Singh Nalwa was the greatest of them all. With a limited force of men and materials, he freed not only Kashmir and Multan, but also the state of Peshawar and made them part of the Greater Punjab empire of His Majesty Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Sher-e-Punjab). All people lived in equality regardless of whether they were Hindu, Sikhs or Muslims under the Punjabi-Sikh rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Sardar Hari Singh was a courageous, devoted and farsighted general. He impressed the Governor General of India with his statesmanship when he met him at Shimla in 1831 as an emissary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Early life Hari Singh Uppal, born into a Jat Sikh family in 1791, was the son of Sardar Gurdial Singh Uppal of Gujranwala, West Punjab, now in Pakistan. His father died when he was only seven years old but his mother provided him a good religious education and trained him in martial arts. Observing his mastery in the use of arms, Maharaja Ranjit Singh recruited him to his army and he was made General within a short space of time. When on a hunting mission with the Maharaja, General Sr. Hari Singh Uppal was attacked by a tiger. He smartly defended himself and killed the tiger, this act gave him the title, Nalwa (tiger). General Sr
Hari Singh NalwaÂ’s first major battle was fought against the Nawab of Kasoor, West Punjab (now in Pakistan) who continually launched attacks on the Sikhs in Amritsar and Punjab during the 18th century. Later he participated in the battle against Multan to free the people from the Nawab of the region. General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa demonstrated his superb fighting skills during these battles. Releasing Shah Shuja General Sr Hari Singh NalwaÂ’s next expedition was to Kashmir. He joined two other famous Generals, Akali Phoola Singh and Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala, in obtaining the release of the imprisoned Shah Shuja, the king of Afghanistan. Shuja was ousted by his own brother and he had no alternative but to move to Punjab and seek the protection of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Later, when Shuja attempted to take over Kabul, he was defeated, imprisoned, and detained in Kashmir. His wife requested that the Maharaja once again free her husband. In return, she offered him the greatest and most famous of all diamonds, the Kohinoor. The success of the expedition to bring Shah Shuja safely from Kashmir to Lahore so enraged the ruler of Afghanistan, that he sent his army to take over the fort of Attock in 1813, and oust the Sikhs. General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa, however, led his army to victory against great odds and retained Sikh control over the area. Annexation of Multan The Nawab of Multan, who was governing that state on behalf of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, rebelled against the Punjabi-Sikh rule. General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa was deputed to bring him under control. General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa fought bravely and took over the strong fort of Multan.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh granted him the estate of Gujranwala as a reward for his accomplishment. In 1818, the Nawab again rebelled against Lahore. General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa had to fight a long bloody battle to annex Multan and make it a part of Punjab to resolve the problem forever. Freedom for Kashmiris In 1819, the Kashmiris sent a deputation to Lahore, asking Maharaja Ranjit Singh to free them from four centuries of foreign Muslim rule. Three famous Sikh Generals, including Sr Hari Singh Nalwa, were sent to Kashmir again. After defeating the ruler there, General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa was made the Administrator of Kashmir. He streamlined the whole administration and ensured justice for everyone, which made him very popular with the Kashmiri people. However, his stay there was short lived as he was recalled in 1821 to reassert Sikh control over the western regions.

Retaking Peshawar General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa could never be free from fighting the Pathans and Mughals of Afghanistan. Yar Mohd Khan, who had been appointed Governor of Peshawar, was the brother of the king of Afghanistan. He became disloyal to the Punjabi-Sikh rule and joined his brother, which necessitated sending another Sikh expedition to Peshawar. The Sikh army built a pontoon bridge over the river Attock and challenged the Pathans. At the height of the battle, a contingent of Pathans cut the bridge. When Maharaja Ranjit Singh and General Sr Akali Phoola Singh reached the scene, they found the bridge washed away. They could hear the fighting on the other side of the river. They had no other choice but to take the great risk of crossing the flooded river on horseback. The battle, however, had been won by General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa by the time the Maharaja reached there. The major battle for retaking Peshawar still lay ahead. Thousands of soldiers and Mujahideens (religious zealots) had gathered there to stop the Sikhs from reaching Peshawar. A bloody battle was fought, where both sides were determined to win at any cost. The Mughals and Pathans found the Sikh Army too powerful and beat a hasty retreat to Afghanistan. The Sikhs again took over Peshawar, although they paid a very high price for it. They lost their General Sr Akali Phoola Singh in battle. The Punjabi-Sikh rule was thus established over all the areas of the present Pakistan, Kashmir, and Punjab up to Kabul. General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa as the Governor of Peshawar General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa, as the Governor of Peshawar, relieved the Hindus of the tax which they had been paying since the 17th century. He managed the whole state effectively to bring peace, and stopped the looting of the people by Pathans and Afghans. To maintain order in the state, he established military posts all over the region and built forts at strategic places. The fort of Jamrud was the most famous and it blocked the Khyber Pass, not permitting any army to come across from Afghanistan. The king of Afghanistan, finding himself controlled by the chain of forts built by General Hari Singh Nalwa, was always devising plans to destroy the Sikh administration.

The last battle The Dogras knew every secret of the army and its deployment. Being in charge of the government, they were in a position to misinform Maharaja Ranjit Singh and they did so colluding with the Afghans and British. In 1837, the Peshawar army was back at Lahore for the wedding of Kanwar Nau-nihal Singh, the son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa was on leave due to illness, no senior person was in Peshawar to guide the Sikh soldiers. All of this information was sent to Kabul by the Dogras and the Afghans were told to attack Peshawar. Such a message was very encouraging to the Afghans and the king of Afghanistan immediately sent his army to drive the Sikhs out of Peshawar. After crossing the Khyber Pass, they attacked Jamrud. It was here that Bibi Harsharan Kaur (Sharnagat Kaur) played a heroic role by walking from Jamrud to Peshawar and reporting the attack on Jamrud. General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa, though ill, repulsed the attack, losing his own life due to the betrayal of the Dogras. It was General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa’s presence which resulted in the Sikh victory; otherwise, the small Sikh army numbering only a few thousand, was no match for the 30,000 Afghan army supported by civilian fanatics. During this time, General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa sent to Maharaja Ranjit Singh three letters, all of which were kept by the Dogras, they did not let Maharaja Ranjit Singh know of them. Recent research has shown that the Afghans and Dogras connived to murder General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa. This is evidenced by the fact that the person who shot General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa from very close range, was wearing a Sikh soldier’s uniform. By the time help arrived from Lahore, the battle had been won by the Sikhs. Peshawar was thus retained in the Punjabi-Sikh rule, the credit for this going to Bibi Harsharan Kaur and General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa’s bravery. General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa was an eloquent statesman and an able administrator. He was instrumental in bringing Kashmir into Greater Punjab under Sikh control and brought peace and prosperity to the people as the Governor of the state. Peshawar, a region of Punjab which had been partitioned from it for eight centuries, was again made a part of it due to the bravery of General Sr Hari Singh Nalwa. He has since been known as the “Hero of Peshawar” and was rated as the greatest general of his time. The forts he built there to stop invaders from looting Punjab and Delhi, were effective long after his death. A large part of his successes can be attributed to him being a kind and devoted Sikh, committed to his people and possessing a keen sense of duty and responsibility.

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