The Afghan-Maratha conflict and Haryana

The Afghan-Maratha conflict

 

The Durrani Invasions {114S, 1750, 1751)

 

These anarchical conditions of India specially of Panjab and Haryana greatly facilitated the ambitious scheme of Ahmad Shah, an Afghan chief of the Abdali clan who rose to power in Afghanistan after the assassination of Nadir Shah in 1747, He was styled by the darvish Shah Muhammad Sabir as Durrani Padishah or ‘Pearl among kings’ and his dan henceforth came to be known as Durrani. Earlier, while accompanying Nadir Shah to India, he was acquainted with the weakness and imbecility of the central administration of the Mughals. After consolidating his position at home Ahmad Shah now planned a series of expeditions into India. The expeditions, not mere predatory raids, were an indication of the revival of the Afghans as formidable rivals to the Hindu forces especially to the Marathas, making a fresh bid for supremacy on the ruins of the Mughal Empire.

 

After having conquered Qandhar, Kabul and Peshawar Ahmad Shah invaded India for the first time in 1748 with 12000 chosen horsemen. To oppose him Muhammad Shah, the Mughal Emperor, sent an army under Qamruddin Khan (the Wazir) with Safdar Jang {Subahdar of Oudh), Iswari Singh (The Raja of Jaipur and Nasir Khan (former Governor of Kabul) as his assistants. The party followed the root via Narela (here the news of the fall of Lahore was received) and was overtaken by Prince Ahmad at Sonepat who then took over the supreme command of the imperial arm At Karnal the Sarhind faujdar Ali Muhammad Ruhela’s desertion was known. The imperial army left Sarhind on 27th February and advanced further north. On March 2 Ahmad Shah Abdali succeeded in capturing Sarhind. Even after the fall of Lahore and Sarhind the imperial army continued its advance. The wazir Qamruddin lost his life but the struggle was continued by his worthy son Muin-ul-mulk who, in the serious encounter at Manupur, defeated the Afghans and forced Ahmad Shah Abdali to retreat. Consequently Muin was appointed governor of the Punjab but before he could settle down, Ahmad Shah invaded the Punjab for the second time in 1750 and succeeded in occupying it. Unsupported by the Delhi court, the Punjab governor found all resistance futile and submitted to the invader. Abdali invaded India for the third time in 1751, again defeated Muin, conquered Kashmir and forced the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah to cede him the subahs of Lahore and Multan. Muin was now left as the Abdali’s governor in Lahore with the promise to send to the victor the surplus revenue of the Panjab and not to transact important matters without final orders from him.

 

The Abdali invasion gave an opportunity between December 1751 to March 1752 to the Sikhs to renew their plundering raids. Adina Beg, the artful governor of the Jullundhur Doaby enlisted their help, collected them in large number and succeeded in carrying an extensive raids in the adjoining regions of the Punjab and Haryana. Perhaps never before in the history of India ‘Might is Right’ ground down people as mercilessly as then. The Mughal authority was tottering, Alamgir II and his wazir Imad-ul-mulk tried to assert the authority of the government, but in vain.

 

The Time of Trouble: Durani Invasion (1756-57)

 

The first rebel to be attacked was Qutb Shah, who had obtained an imperial grant for some lands in the Saharanpur and Mirat districts. Since after some time the wazir (Imad) transferred these grants to the Marathas, Qutb was forced to try his luck elsewhere. He crossed the Jamuna, entered the Sarhind district and began to seize villages. The wazir’s Sindagh regiment, although primarily sent to drive away Qutb Shah, started plundering innocent people of Panipat and other towns in course of their advance. At last they attacked Qutb near Kamal (March 11, 1755) and were on the point of victory due to their numbers when the sudden outburst of a sand-storm spread confusion in the Turk army forcing it to flee in panic to Sonepat and thus abandoning their baggage and tents to plunder. The victorious Qutb Shah laden with spoil marched towards Thanesar, putting a strong garrison in Karnal and receiving tributes from the richer villages on the way. Before Qutb reached Sarhind, Sadiq Beg Khan, the faujdar, who was deserted by his Afghan troops, fled to Adina Beg in the Panjab. Qutb took possession of the city alongwith the surrounding districts. He administered the newly acquired territory well. ‘He did not molest the poor, but repressed the strong refractory men, so that within his jurisdiction the roads became safe and his followers were held back from practicing oppression’. He next crossed the Satlej and attacked Adina Beg but was signally defeated. It was now Adina Beg’s turn to make the move. Accordingly he advanced to the east of the Sutlej and took over the administration of the Sarhind district as far as Thanesar, Mustafabad and Ghuram. The wazir recognized Adina Beg’s rule in this area in return for a tribute. It is difficult to guess how much tribute was exacted from the poor and oppressed inhabiting this area.

 

The warir received the news of the rout of his troops against Qutb at Delhi. He pressed the Emperor to start with him at once against the rebals. Basically a coward, the wazir discussed plans for recovery of lost territories without fighting although advised demonstration of force by both Kamgar Khan and Najib Khan against the rebels, but in vain. At last when he reached Fakhru garden, outside Sonepat, he learnt of Qutb’s defeat at the hands of Adina Beg and them moved on with the Emperor to Panipat to deal with a worst mutiny of his unpaid soldiers. His Badakhashi captains, censured for their disgraceful performance against Qutb, were recalled from Delhi to Panipat and were ordered to bring their troops ‘to the muster and receive payment according to the actual number of men under arms.’ As this was meant to stop their dishonest gains they resisted. They mobbed the wazir put him to all sorts of insult and abuse, paraded him through the streets and insisted that their salaries should be paid immediately. They did not even listen to the advice of the Emperor. Somehow getting himself out of the clutches of the mutineers, the wazir with the help of the contingents of Najib and Bahadur Khan Baluch severely punished the Badakhshis also confiscating of their officers.

 

Towards the close of 1755, Imad marched to the Punjab following the route via Luni, Shamli, Kairana and Ramraghat. From the last place orders demanding tribute from Najabat Khan, the zamindar of Kunjpura, were sent. The wazir along with Ali Gauhar crossed the Jamuna and passing Panipat and Ambala reached Sarhind on February 7, 1756. In the meantime his ally Adina Beg took possession of Lahore after driving Abdali’s agents there. Completely srccessful in his Punjab expedition the wazir reached Delhi at the end of Ji ne, 1756.

 

Afterthe death of Muin in November 1753, and that of his infant sen and successor Muhammad Amin Khan in May, 1754, the province of Panjab fell into disorder and anarchy, largely due to the wilfulness and caprice of the regent mother Mughlani Begam. As stated above Imad-ul-mulk marched to Panjab and brought it under his authority. He appointed Mir Mumin Khan ‘the leading nobleman of Lahore’, subahdar of the province.

 

Enraged at this change in the administrative set up made by him, Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India for the fourth time in November, 1756 with greater determination and arrived before Delhi on January 23, 1757. The Abdali had marched from Attock to Delhi without any resistance only suggests the extent of the degradation of the imperial aiithority. The first opposition which he met came from Antaji Manakeshwar, the commander of a Maratha contingent of 5000 troops. Summoned by the emperor to check the progress of the invader, Antaji marched along the road to Karnal. The Afghan advance guard under Jahan Khan in numerous batches was advancing upon the capital from all directions, and one such batch came into conflict with Antaji at Narcla. Antaji was pushed back losing about one hundred men and horses. As he was also attacked by Najib on his way back, Antaji finally took shelter at Faridabad, a slightly fortified place of Surajmal. A Durrani force which was sent to besiege the town was slain by the combined Maratha-Jat army. Thereupon Abdali sent Jahan Khan at the head of 20,000 troopers. After giving a tough fight the Jats and the Marathas retreated to Mathura and finally to Kumbher fort. Consequently Abdali’s wrath fell upon the Jats also who were not ready to submit so easily. Faridabad was destroyed by fire. Surajmal, the Jat leader, offered only diplomatic submission while his son Jawahar Singh routed an Afghan party foreging near Faridabad and seized nearly 150 of their horses. Abdali now ordered Abdus Samad to meet the situation. Abdus Samad earned execrable massacre of the Jat country — Bulandshahar, Mathuia, Ballabhgarh, Brindaban, Gokul and Agra. When the government of the country failed in its duty nature came to the rescue of the unfortunate inhabitants. The flow of the Jamuna was choked with dead bodies and its polluled water led to the outbreak of cholera in the Afghan army carrying a heavy toll of life every day.

 

Abdali decided to return. We had already plundered the imperial city and again subjected its unhappy people to pillage. He obtained from the Mughal Emperor the formal cession of the Panjab, Kashmir, Sind and the Sarhind. With the inclusion of Sarhind Subah the eastern boundary of Abdali’s kingdom now extended to the river Jamuna up to the neighbourhood of Panipat. This was placed in charge of Abdus Samad Khan. From Najabat Khan, the zamindar of Kunjapura, a sum of 20 lakhs was also obtained Abdali departed from India in April, 1757, with immense booty and many captives, leaving his son Timur Shah, as his viceroy at Lahore, with Jahan Khan, the able Afghan general as the latter’s wazir, AH Gauhar in Southern Haryana : Ahmad Shah Abdali before returning from India had confirmed Alamgir II in his office and had earlier appointed for sometime the latter’s son Ali Gauhar (entitled Shah Alam 11) Chancellor of the Empire. The ablest son of the Emperor, Ali Gauhar would have probably restored tlie dignity of his house if he could have had an army and treasury of his own and got a free hand in reforming the administration. But the disloyal and selfish wazir did not provide him any of these and instead pursued him with deadly hostility and finally driven him out of Delhi. We shall only relate here Gauhar’s wanderings in southeast Haryana which are relevant to our subject.

 

In May 1757 Ali Gauhar went to the Baluch settlements in the southeast Haryana to get something out of his jagirs there. Hasan Ali Khan (a nephew of Kamgar) the zamindar of Jhajjar at first evaded payment of tribute to him but later following the example of Satbhami (the widow of the ate Sitararn Khazanchij of Kalina, agreed to pay. The prince’s further advance to the Hissar district did not yield any result because of the villagers’ flight to the hills and also because of the utter lack of provisions for the troops. The prince next moved to Kanod, put a small garrison there, and came to Narnaul which was vacated by the Jaipur Raja’s officers. But the plunder of the innocent populace excited much indignation of Jaipur troops who put an end to the prince’s outpost at Kanod and forced him to flee to Rewari and Farm- khnagar. He next attacked Auliya Khan Baluch of Dadri (in the Rohtak district) and secured from him a promise of 50 lakhs as tribute and then proceeded to Jhajjar to restore his outpost there. The news of these adventures reached the court and the wazir forced the Emperor to issue orders for recalling the prince. Emboldened by this, the Baluchs robbed the prince of his baggage outside Jhajjar while his soldiers plundered the villages around. The prince in the meantime bribed Vithal Shivdev, Raghunath Rao’s lieutenant, to support his cause. The wazir too, on the other hand, promised six lakhs to the latter as a reward for abandoning the cause of Ali Gauhar. But Vithal Shivdev did not leave Ali Gauhar and when after facing war’s attack in Delhi the latter escaped to the Maratha camp, full protection was provided.

 

The wazir, therefore, proclaimed the prince a rebel in arms against the lawful government. The latter accompanied by his Maratha ally Vithal Shivdev now decided to march to the Baluch settlements of the southwest Haryana. At Farrukhnagar they fought Mirza Khan and other relatives of the zamindar Musavi Khan Baluch and obtained a promise of Rs. 2,60,000 from them. At Pataiidi they received several gifts and provisions sent by Suraj Mai with his son Ratan Singh. During the first half of June 1758 the prince along with Vithal Shivdev thus wandered in Haryana — Farrukhnagar, Rewari, Nahra, Dadri — plundering the villages and levying contribution wherever he could Vithal Shivdeo, who had received orders from his chief Raghunath Rao (already won over by the wazir) to bring the prince alongwith him did not follow accordingly. He instead left a small escort for the prince under his own son and departed on June 16 from Dadri. Most of the prince’s followers had left him by this time. He, therefore, went to Hissar where the Raja of Bikaner at first refused to give him asylum but later agreed. The prince then gathered a small force, reached Kunjapura (July 31), and thereafter receiving the hospitality of Najib he finally went to Oudh.

 

The wazir, when informed of the departure of Vithal Shivdev, decided to oppose the prince also dragging the Emperor along with him. The Emperor reached Kot Kalan (near Jahjjar) and the wazir Bahadurgarh. After learning that the prince was already beyond Jamiina the wazir set himself to exacting tributes trom the villages and fighting them in case of default. He attacked Jhajjar, Dadri Kalina and other places on Rohtak-Gurgaon border, and collected over two lakhs of rupees till they reached Hissar where he met with stiff opposition of the sturdy villagers behind their mud walls which could be subdued only by turning artillery upon them. Taking advantage of the separation of the Emperor and his wazir, the people of Bhiwani shut their sovereign out of their villages while the local population looted the baggage of the imperial army. This was followed by the attack of the Bhattis of the Ghaggar region on the Delhi camp putting the imperialists to great sufferings and finally forcing them to abandon the project and return to the capital (November 22, 1758). The administration of Timur for one year (from May 1757 to April 1758) was a period of utter lawlessness and disorder. The Sikhs, infuriated by the maltreatment of their saint Sodhi Barbhag Singh of Kartarpur and the demolition of their holy shrine rose to rebellion from all sides. These fanatical outrages (committed by Jahan Khan) further led them to retaliatory actions for which they joined Adina Beg Khan who offered them heavy tribute besides share in the loot. Adina Beg who was already suspicious of Jahan Khan, avoided attending the latter’s court although showed willingness to undertake the administration of the Juliundhar doab. He along wuh his Sikh allies now decided to deal with the Afghans firmly. A clever diplomat, Adina Beg anticipated a fresh Durrani invasion for the restoration of hold over Panjab and also realised that the only power who could meet this challenge were the Marathas. A Maratha contingent under Raghunath Rao was then at Delhi contemplating conquest of the Punjab to secure their hold on the capital. In the first week of January, 1757 Adina Beg contacted Malhar Rao then touring in the Karnal district and also made repeated requests to Raghunath Rao to extend the Maratha dominions to the Khaibar Pass. He also promised to pay one lakh rupees for every day of marching and rupees fifty thousand for halting. Raghunath Rao accepted Adina Beg’s offer. A review of the circumstances leading to the Maratha entry into the politics of the Delhi and consequently their appearance in Haryana would not be out of place here.

 

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