21. Martyrdom or Last Battle

The Dogras in the cabinet of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh were working secretly with the British and the King of Kabul to bring down the Khalsa Sarkar. These traitors, Gulab Singh and Dhyan Singh, finally succeeded. They obtained the rule of Kashmir and handed over the Punjab to the British in 1849. Kabul would have never dared to attack Peshawar during the lifetime of Hari Singh Nalwa. The mention of the name of the general would scare the Pathans. If they wanted to silence their crying children, they would say, “Be silent. Hari is coming.” The Dogras knew every secret of the army and its deployment. Being in charge of the government, they were in a position to misinform the Maharaja. In 1837, the Peshawar army was back at Lahore for the wedding of Kanwar Naunihal Singh, the son of the Maharaja. General Nalwa was tired and exhausted, lying sick in bed. No senior person was in Peshawar to guide the Sikh soldiers. All of this information was sent to Kabul by the Dogras and the Afghans were told to attack Peshawar. Such a message was very encouraging to the Afghans and the king of Kabul immediately sent his army to drive the Sikhs out of Peshawar. After crossing the Khyber Pass, they attacked Jamrud. It was here that Bibi Harsharan Kaur (Sharnagat Kaur) played a heroic role by walking from Jamrud to Peshawar and reporting the attack on Jamrud. Nalwa, though sick, repulsed the attack, losing his own life due to the treachery of the Dogras. It was Nalwa’s presence which resulted in the Sikh victory; otherwise, the small Sikh army numbering only a few thousand, was no match for the 30,000 Afghan army supported by civilian fanatics. During this time, Hari Singh Nalwa sent to Maharaja Ranjeet Singh three letters, all of which were kept by the Dogras. They did not let the Maharaja know of them. Recent research has shown that the Afghans and Dogras connived to murder the General. This is evidenced by the fact that the person who shot Nalwa from very close range, was wearing a Sikh soldier’s uniform. By the time help arrived from Lahore, the battle had been won by the Sikhs. Peshawar was thus retained in the Khalsa raj, the credit for this going to Bibi Harsharan Kaur and General Nalwa’s bravery. General Hari Singh Nalwa was an eloquent statesman and an able administrator. He was instrumental in bringing Kashmir under Sikh control and brought peace and prosperity to the people as the Governor of the state. Peshawar, a region of Punjab which had been partitioned from it for eight centuries, was again made a part of it due to the bravery of Nalwa. He has since been known as the “Hero of Peshawar” and was rated as the greatest general of his time. The forts he built there to stop invaders from looting Punjab and Delhi, were effective long after his death. A large part of his successes can be attributed to his being a kind and devoted Sikh, committed to his people and possessing a keen sense of duty and responsibility.