Raja Tej Singh

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Raja Tej Singh (1799-1862)

Raja Tej Singh (1799 - 1862), son of Misr Niddha, a Hindu Gaur Brahman of Meerut district, Uttar Pradesh, in India was born in 1799. His original name was Tej Ram, he was a nephew of Jamadar Khushal Singh, a dignitary of the Sikh kingdom. He took up service at the court in 1812. In 1816, he received the rites of Khalsa and was named Tej Singh. He proved his worth as a soldier and made rapid progress in the army cadre, becoming a general in 1818. He served in all the three Kashmir expeditions of 1813, 1814 and 1819, and took a leading part in reducing Mankera, Leh and the Derajat. He was a divisional commander in the Peshawar campaign of 1823 and fought in the battle of Teri, on the banks of river Attock. In 1831, he had under his command twentytwo battalions of the regular Sikh army. In 1839, he was sent to Peshawar with other army generals to help Colonel Wade's contingent to force the Khaibar Pass for an invasion of Afghanistan. Tej Singh acquired great influence over Kanvar Nau Nihal Singh.

He supported the cause of Rani Chand Kaur, when, after the death of Nau Nihal Singh, she staked her claim to regency. He was among those who signed the agreement of 27 November 1840 proclaiming Chand Kaur as Regent. On the eve of the Anglo Sikh war of 1845-46, Tej Singh was appointed commander Chief of the Sikh army. His conduct during this war and during the one following was however marked by duplicity. He established secret liaison with the British and desired their victory rather than that of the army he led. Two divisions under his command hovered around Firozpur when that strategic town could have been stormed and the small British garrison destroyed. At the fiercely fought battle of Ferozeshah (21 December.1845), he kept his army away from the battlefield. When the action was over, he appeared with his army on the morning of 22 December and drove straight into the shattered British cavalry lines. But suddenly his guns ceased to fire. He abandoned the field and took the road to Lahore. At Sabhraon (10 Feburary 1846), he advised the brave Sikh general, Sham Singh Atarivala, to leave the battlefield. The latter continued the battle determined to fight to the end, but Tej Singh and Commander Lal Singh fled hastily even as the contest hung in the balance.

As the batde went in favour of the British, Tej Singh cut out the retreat of the Sikh army by sinking the bridge of boats and the tete de pont constructed in front of it. At the end of the war, he made an offer of Rs. 25,00,000 to Lord Hardinge to buy for himself an independent kingdom like Gulab Singh had done. However, he retained his position of preeminence in the new setup. He was nominated president of the council of Regency in December 1846, and was allowed to continue as commanderinchief of the Sikh army. He was created Raja of Sialkot in August 1847.

At the time of the annexation of the Punjab to Britain, in 1849 he was guaranteed the enjoyment of all the privileges and rights which he possessed under the Sikh government. He was invested with the full powers of a magistrate in his estate and along with other Sikh Sardars, he was to was nominated as a member of the committee for the management of the Darbar Sahib, Amritsar. During the uprising of 1857, he raised Sikh cavalry regiments to aid the British. His scattered Jagirs were consolidated and he received the new title Raja of Batala. He died on 4 December 1862 and was succeeded by his adopted son Harbans Singh (his brother whom he had adopted before the birth of his son, Narindar Singh).

* Sikhan da Raj Kiven Gya - Gyani Lal Singh Sangrur