BY PANKAJ KHAJURIA Amid the Lahore Darbar cold war and Dogra Raj crisis Raja Gulab Singh lost his brothers Dhyan Singh, Suchet Singh and his nephew Hira Singh. Whereas the Lahore Darbar was not yet satisfied as the oldest and most powerful of the Jammu family, Gulab SIngh was still alive and well entrenched in his possessions.
To get him into their power was not an easy task. Lahore Darbar left no stone unturned to disturb Raja Gulab Singh. Therefore, a pretext for a quarrel was soon found. Hira Singh’s property was declared confiscated. Rani Jindan sent Lala Rattan Chand and Baba Mian Singh to Gulab singh with the demand that possessions of Raja Hira Singh should be surrendered to Lahore and that the Raja himself should pay a fine of three crore of rupees for his contumacious conduct. She also asked for the surrender of Mian Jawahir Singh, the son of Raja Dhyan Singh.
But Gulab Singh was unwilling to hand him over to those whose hands were still wet with the blood of Dogra brothers. He sent him at Jasrota, where Hira Singh had before death collected an army to attack Chamba. He ordered all his commanders to be ready with their forces mobilized for action. He recalled even Dewan Hari Chand, whose troops were at Uri and Wazir Lakhpat. The position had become hostile.
The Sikh Sardars who never trusted the Jammu Raja were ready to wreak vengeance on their supposed disloyalty to Lahore. False rumours were spread and revolt engineered among the Rajputs themselves. But Gulab Singh never lost heart. Sardar Chet Singh of Attari, who was at that time living in Jammu, where he had taken refuge from the hostility of Jindan and her Courtiers, tried to placate the Sikh soldiers but they were bent on attacking Jammu. The Sikh army attacked Jasrota first. Jawahir Singh, who was in charge there, was betrayed by his Dewan, who, with a portion of his army, joined the enemy. Jasrota fell into the hands of Sham Singh and Jawahir Singh retreated to Jammu.
The forces against Gulab Singh gathered strength every day. Faqir-Ullah of Rajouri threw in his lot with the Sikhs and sent a body of soldiers to conquer Poonch. The regiments of Raja Jawahir Singh at Nowshera mutinied and went over to the enemy. Raja Lal Singh, the Prime minister of Lahore, himself took command of the attack and the Sikh forces even occupied some of the Jagirs which had been granted to Gulab Singh. So far the fight had gone against him. The Raja, however, maintained his courage and put Dewan Hari Chand in charge of the defence of his place. Wazir Ratanu, who had earned fame in Ladakh and Jawahir Singh were given charge of the defence of Jammu, which was threatened by the Sikh Army under Lal Singh. A regiment of Sikhs was at Jasrota and a force marched down from Ramnagar. The Governor of Kashmir was also ordered by the Lahore Government to send his troops to Kishtwar and raise rebellion in that area. Thus surrounded by danger on all sides, a smaller man would have lost heart but Gulab Singh stood firm. Among those who stood loyally by his side were Dewan Jawala Sahai, his brother Dewan Hari Chand and Wazir Lakhpat.