Fraction and crisis within Dogra Raj

BY PANKAJ KHAJURIA                                                                                                Raja Dhyan Singh’s son Hira Singh faced difficulties as a Prime Minister. The forces and action of Dogras Raj had been segregated at Lahore Darbar. At one side Hira Singh supported Duleep Singh as a Maharaja and on other side Raja Suchet Singh(Raja Gulab Singh younger brother), who was jealous of the power of Hira singh, declared himself in favour of Peshwara Singh and Kashmira Singh, who refused to acknowledge Duleep Singh as king. Kashmira Singh, who held Sailkote as Jagir, continued in his rebellious attitude and Gulab Singh was ordered to subdue him. The Sikh soldiers would not fight against Kashmira Singh as he was a son of the Great Ranjit Singh; but Gulab Singh with the help of Dogra forces , captured the city, through he allowed the Princes to escape.
Here Raja Suchet singh had promised support to the rebellion and the relation between uncle and nephew became strained. In March 1844, Suchet Singh who knew that the army was discontented, suddenly made his appearance in Lahore and tried to rise a rebellion. But his effort did not succeed. Hira Singh acted with vigour. Suchet Singh left his forces at shahdara and crossed the Ravi with only 400 men. But when he came to Lahore the regiments which had invited him refused to rise and the next day Hira Singh surrounded his camp and he was overcome but died in battle.
Successful against Suchet Singh and others, Hira Singh tried to place himself in opposition to Gulab Singh. The immediate occasion was the claim to the property of Suchet Singh, which Gulab Singh had taken possession of on the latter’s death. To proceed against Gulab Singh required some courage but Hira Singh, whatever his other faults, did not lack that quality. Besides, he could claim that the properties of suchet Singh were forfeit to Lahore owing to his rebellion. Gulab singh in taking possession of them had proceeded on the ground that suchet singh who was childless, had adopted Ranbir singh when latter was still a child and that therefore the dead Raja’s property was vested in him by right. Hira Singh also claimed that he was the legal heir. On Gulab Singh’s refusal to yield, Hira Singh ordered that the towns and grants held by Gulab Singh in the Punjab on contract be forfeited and he decided, further, to attack Jammu itself. Gulab Singh was prepared for this. But as a quarrel was likely to cause weakness to both, by showing a maturity, Gulab Singh agreed to give half of the Suchet Singh property to Hira Singh and thereupon the towns and villages which had been taken away from him were restored.
Hira Singh could legitimately claim that within a short time he had restored order, suppressed all rebellions and had the authority of Lahore recognized even by Gulab singh. But his star was on the wane. The dissolute Rani Jindan and her closed associated Lal singh, turned to Jawahar Singh, the brother of the Rani, who was a man of some capacity, for help against the Power of Hira Singh. Jawahar Singh took the boy Maharaja to the Amry and asked them to get ride Hira Singh in order to make Duleep their real Sovereign. The army demurred to this, as Hira Singh was popular with them, but agreed to request him surrender Julla, his favourite. Refusing to surrender and realizing the danger that surrounded him, Hira singh left Lahore on his famous horse, Burchi Bahadur. But on the way the party was overtaken. Hira Singh died, fighting to the last, 21 Dec 1844.                 (The Author is a Columnist, Ex-serviceman, Economist and Dogra Activist)