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Bhai Maharaj Singh - Book By M L Ahluwalia

Foreword To The Book 'Bhai Maharaj Singh' By M L Ahluwalia

During the quarter of a century since India attained her Independence, a sizable amount of historical literature has been published both in India and abroad, analysing the various phases and facets of the struggle for freedom which the Indians had launched in various periods of history to achieve that goal. Their studies have been based, to a large extent, on the hitherto not known source-material available in the public archives of various countries as well as in the private papers of the statesmen, administrators and soldiers and public men who were involved in this thrilling saga of our times. These researhes have more or less established-that before the concept of one Indian nation emerged towards the later half of the nineteenth century, Indians had been relentlessly opposing the imposition of foreign rule on them whether by the Portuguese, the British or the French. India may have then lacked a single political entity, but the fact remains that the people inhabiting the Indian sub-continent were conscious of their unique cultural affinity as also of long common socio-religious traditions. These factors, among other things, inspired some great Indians in various periods of its history to stand up against foreign aggressions. And howsoever grim and prolonged, might have been their struggle, and whatsoever the price they had to pay, they were always conscious of the righteousness of their cause, and they drew their strength from it.                                           

It is really unfortunate that an attempt has been made by most of the contemporary European historians and by most of the contemporary European historians and administrators to, create I an impression that the early rebellions against their rule were either reactionary or feudal in character. An impression was also created that the common man rather welcomed the foreign rule, which was more just and enlightened than the one it had replaced. The latest researches have proved the hollowness of these interested Anglo-Indian authorities, although none would deny that the European powers having by then gone quite ahead in the process of modernization, as a result of the agricultural and industrial revolutions, the system of government which they established in India was, to some extent, in tune with their modern outlook. But, it cannot also be denied that till the late nineteenth century, they were attempting to deal with the Indian situation in the same old-fashioned imperial traditions.

The time, I believe, has come to submit the established and biased accounts to a critical scrutiny. The Indian historians should accordingly study all the anti-imperial movements and rebellions launched by Indians in the various periods and regions of the country dispassionately and thoroughly, i.e., in depth and with utmost detachment. They should analyse their causes; study the reasons for their failure and also take into account their impact on the future course of the struggle.

In this small monograph, Shri M. L. Ahluwalia has studied one such anti-British movement, launched in the Punjab by Bhai Nihal Singh, popularly known as Maharaj  Singh, soon after the British had established their control over the Lahore Kingdom as a result of the First Anglo-Sikh War of 1845-46. This study was made possible as a result of the information dug out by Shri Ahluwalia from the records lying in the National Archives of  India and a few other places. Before his researches, very little was known about the political and military exploits of Maharaj Singh. The monograph not only contains a revealing information on the life, and times of Maharaj Singh, but also on the nature of the freed6m struggle launched by him and others in the Punjab, and the impact left by it on the course of events to follow.

Bhai Maharaj Singh belongs to that class of saint revolutionaries of India who have left a deep imprint on our freedom struggle-a struggle free from bitterness or calumny or ill-will. He stuck to his principles even though he was subjected to all types of hardships and privations by the British. He was hounded from village to village and from house to house. Even price was fixed on his head. The way Maharaj Singh led his followers from various parts of the Punjab to Multan in the most difficult circumstances, and in the face of all the efforts made by the British authorities to checkmate his advance, brings to one's. mind the similar exploits of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the famous revolutionary of Italy when he led, against all odds, one thousand of his Red Shirt volunteers across Naples in 1860. On the occasion of the Silver Jubilee celebrations of Indian Independence, I commend this monograph of Shri M. L. Ahluwalia for study both by the scholars and the general public.

Punjabi University Patiala                                                                                                                   KIRPAL SINGH NARANO

August 11, 1972

 

 

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