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Dalhousie who arrived in India as the Governor General in 1848 made an attempt to integrate Indian princely states with the British Empire. He adopted Doctrine of Lapse policy whereby the adopted children of Indian Kings were refused of their right to throne.
According to this policy, “If any Indian ruler dies without children, their adopted children had no legal right over the throne”. And such state gets merged with the British Empire. Princely states like Satara, Nagpur, Sambalpur, Udaipur, Jhansi, Jaipur came under this policy. As the Governor General knew the conditions of these states, he used this policy as a political weapon.
With the severe implementation of this policy not only the princely families, even ordinary people who sympathetic to these kings rebelled against the Company. Their love for their Kings and the sense of loyalty fuelled this rebellion further. This finally resulted in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.
Ranjith Singh: Ranjith Singh was born in 1780 as the son of Malan Singh who headed Sukkarchakkia misl, one of the twelve Misls of Punjab. He lost his father by the age of ten. When JamanSha of Kabul invaded India, Ranjith Singh offered his services to him. JamanSha made him the governor of Lahore along with the title ‘Raja’. He was nineteen years old by then. From hereafter, he grew up in an amazing way. He aimed at achieving absolute power over all the Sikhs. He took control over all the Sikh Misls present to the West of Sutlej and established his own Sikh Kingdom. He entered ‘Continuous Agreement’ with the British in 1809 at Amritsar. He organised his army on the lines of European armies. His army included Gorkhas, Biharis, Pathans and even Muslims apart from Sikhs. He founded a Foundry Workshop at Lahore in order manufacture Canons. The army of Ranjith Singh was the best among all the Indian rulers of that time. He was secular in temperament and supported both Hindu and Muslim spiritual leaders. People from all religions held high offices in his regime. He was successful in protecting his state from the British by not having any enmity with them. Meanwhile, even the British wanted a strong Buffer State to protect them from invasions from the North West of India. In nutshell, Ranjith Singh founded an independent Sikh state and ruled it as an independent king till his death in 1839.
The British completed their agenda of ruling the entire India from 1818 to 1857. They occupied major states like Sindh, Awadh and many other smaller states.
Anglo-Sikh Wars: A political anarchy broke out in Punjab after the death of King Ranjith Singh in 1839. The British attempted to invade Punjab violating the Continuous Friendship Pact, they had with the erstwhile King. In December 1845, a war broke out between the British and Punjab. Sensing the danger from an outside force; Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims got together to defeat the British. Finally, they had to accept defeat due to few traitor leaders. They signed a humiliating Lahore Agreement in 1846. With the British Resident became the de facto ruler of Punjab. Like this, Punjab became the dependent state of East India Company.
The Sikh opposed the attempts by the British to rule Punjab directly. The opposition were led by ‘Chattar Singh Attariwala’ in Lahore and ‘Moolraj’ in Multan. Again the people of Punjab were defeated. Finally, Lord Dalhousie merged the state of Punjab with the British Empire.
The differences among the Maratha Chieftains was the reason for this war. An enmity broke out between Yeshwanth Rao of Holkar family and DaulthRao of Sindhia family along with Peshwa Balaji Rao II. In 1802, the army of Holkar defeated the army of Scindia and the Peshwa. The Peshwa appealed for help from the British. Lord Wellesley finally got an opportunity to meddle with the affairs of Marathas. The Peshwa entered the Subsidiary Alliance system by accepting the Treaty of Bassein. Other Maratha families like Holkar, Gwalior and Bhonsle formed an alliance opposing this treaty. Lord Wellesley defeated the armies of various Maratha families from 1803 to 1805. But, his battle thristiness increased the financial burden on the Company. On being criticised for this policy, Lord Wellesley resigned from his post and returned to England. This resulted in peace in the region.
Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818)
The Maratha families tried their best to protect their independence and honour. Even the Peshwa attempted to free himself from the clutches of the Company. The Peshwa attacked the British Residency in Poona and brunt it down. Appa Saheb of Nagapur and Malhar Rao Holkar rebelled against the British and were supressed ruthlessly. Finally, Peshwa Baji Rao II fought against the British at Koregaon and Ashti and later surrendered to the British. The British abolished the Peshwa post and granted a pension to BajiRao II. They installed Pratapa simha, the descendant of Shivaji as the ruler of Satara, a miniscule state, and named him as the traditional leader of Marathas and suppressed the Maratha resistance.
and the Subsidiary Alliance:
The expansion of the British Empire took place in a larger pace after the arrival of Lord Wellesley as the Governor General of India.
By this time, the powerful states of Marathas and Mysore had become weak and the expansion was easier. Lord Wellesley followed three policies to expand the British Empire in India. They were: Subsidiary Alliance, Waging war against new states and administering the states directly that were under the control of the British.
Lord Wellesley brought this policy into effect in 1798 in order bring the Indian states under control. This was basically a Military Protection agreement between the East India Company and the Indian State.
The Conditions of Subsidiary Alliance:
1. The Indian King had to keep the British Army in his kingdom.
2. The concerned state had to bear the expenses of the army and the wages of soldiers, and also had to give certain revenue lands as well.
3. The King has to have a British Resident in his Court.
4. The King could not appoint any other European without the permission of the British.
5. In order to enter any agreement or pact with any Indian Government, the permission of the Governor General was mandatory.
6. In return of all these services, the Company would offer protection to the state from any internal or external aggression.
The British could place Indian state under their control through this policy and the maintenance of the army became easy. The Indian states were subjected severe economic exploitation. The Hyderabad State was the first state to enter this agreement. Later, Mysore, Awadh, Tanjavore, Maratha, Poona, Birar, Gwalior and other states entered this agreement.
First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782)
The Marathas instilled Sha Alam-II back on the throne of Mughal Empire in Delhi. Sha Alam-II was under the care British after the defeat in Buxar war. Now, the Emperor gave Kora and Alahabad to Marathas, which he had earlier given them to the British. This resulted in the enmity between Marathas and the British.
During this period, the death of Maratha strong man Madhav Rao Peshwa was a major setback to Marathas. Though, his brother Narayanrao came to power, he was murdered by his uncle Raghobha (Ragunatha Rao). This resulted in the infighting for the Peshwa post. The Maratha federation brought MadhavRao II of NarayanaRao to the post of Peshwa. Upset with this development, Raghobha approached the British for support. The British thought of exploiting this situation in their favour.
A long war was waged from 1775 to 1782 between the Marathas and the British. Initially, though Marathas gained upper hand, later they had to lose Alahabad to the British. The Maratha federation unable to sustain the war with the British finally entered ‘Salbai Agreement’ and ended the war. Madhav Rao II was named as the Peshwa.
The Consolidation of the British power
No Succession rights for the adopted children
Through Carnatic wars, the English had made other Europeans countries not to challenge them in India.
They gained complete political control over Bengal through Plassey and Buxar battles. By 1765, they had gained control most of the eastern parts of India. Since, the Marathas and Mysore states were dominant in southern and western part of India; the hold of British was restricted to Bengal and Bombay regions only.
Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan of Mysore along with Peshwas of Marathas were the only impediments in the path of expansion for the British. The others were Sikhs in the North western region. Ranjith Singh who emerged in the later part of nineteenth century was a formidable opponent to the British. He was successful in organizing the Sikhs.
The British also waged repeated wars from the mid of eighteenth century to mid of nineteenth century to extend their empire in India. Apart from this, they also annexed various kingdoms with cunning policies like ‘Subsidiary Alliance’ and ‘Doctrine of Lapse’.
During this period, the British waged three Anglo-Maratha wars, four Anglo-Mysore wars and two Anglo-Sikh wars. Since the Anglo-Mysore wars discussed in unit 4, here we shall understand the wars of the British with Marathas and Sikhs.