It is a well known fact that Maharaja Ranjit Singh not only held great power in present day Punjab but also present day Pakistan and Kashmir. Here, we shall share how he annexed Kashmir from the Afghanis who ruled Kashmir for a brief period of time.
The Afghan Power in Kashmir – Background
Ahmed Shah Durrani who built Durrani Empire aka Afghan Empire invaded India taking control of Kashmir, Sindh and parts of Punjab as he expanded his power from modernday Afghanistan to Pakistan. He is infamous for his atrocities towards the Sikh and is responsible for mass murder of the Sikh people in large numbers.
After his death, his son Taimur Shah ruled who then left the Empire in the hands of his three sons – Zaman Shah, Mahmud Shah and Shah Shuja who ruled line by line defeating each other.
How Maharaja Ranjit Singh Captured Kashmir from the Afghans!
The Afghan rulers ruled Kashmir for 67 years. It was one of the most ruthless period for the Kashmiris. When Muhammad Azim Khan, the ruler of Kashmir went to Kabul, he made his younger brother Jabbar Khan as the governor. He was very cruel so much that people were fed up of his atrocities.
Next, his revenue minister Pandit Bir Dar somehow got out of Kashmir and came to Lahore, the capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to seek his help. He asked Maharaja to come with his forces to capture Kashmir from the Durrani army. In return, he offered him full support in the form of supplying information regarding defence and news relating to state that could help him greatly.
The preparation to conquer Kashmir started in early 1819 and by May, 1819, a large troop of the army assembled at Wazirabad to fight against the Afghanis. The entire army was divided into three mutiny – one led by Dewan Mokham Chand, one by Prince Kharak Singh and one by Maharaja himself.
The mutiny of Maharaja Ranjit Singh stayed at Wazirabad as a backup while the other two moved forward from Bhimbar, Rajauri towards Kashmir on May 1. Hearing about the Khalsa army, Agar Khan, the Raja of Rajauri forced a battle. Hari Singh Nalwa fought against his army. The Afghan army soon surrendered. Agar Khan was trying to escape, but he was captured. His brother Rahim Allah Khan surrendered and offered his services to help the Khalsa army. In return, he was appointed as the Raja of Rajauri.
The Khalsa army further regrouped at Surai Ali on the road to Shopian. On 3 July 1819, the battle began when the Sikh army was stopped by the Durrani army when they attempted to march to Srinagar through Shopian.
After a close fight which saw both the sides resorting to using daggers and swords, certain sections of the Durrani army began to retreat from the battle. Jabbar Khan tried escaping from the battlefield but was severly wounded. Though both the sides faced heavy losses, the battle was won by the Sikh army. The army peacefully entered Srinagar and Prince Kharak Singh ensured safety to its people.
The Sikh army didn’t find any major opposition in capturing entire Kashmir and thus Kashmir was annexed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1819 from the Afghanis. The Sikh rule lasted in Kashmir for 27 years after which the territory fell under the Dogra dynasty due to the rule of the East India Company.