conquest of sindh by british:- In the early 19th century, the English started to show an interest in Sindh where they enjoyed some trade facilities authorised by a farman of the Mughal Emperor in 1630. The farman provided the English with such privileges in the ports of Sindh which they enjoyed elsewhere.
conquest of sindh by british
Rise of Talpuras Amirs
In the eighteenth century, prior to the rule of Talpuras Amirs, Sindh was ruled by the Kallora chiefs. In 1758, an English factory was built at Thatta, owing to a parwana given by the Kallora prince, Ghulam Shah. In 1761, Ghulam Shah, on the arrival of an English resident in his court, not only ratified the earlier treaty, but also excluded other Europeans from trading there. This advantage was enjoyed by the English upto 1775 when a not-too-friendly ruler, Sarfraz Khan, made the English close their factory.
In the 1770s, a Baluch tribe called Talpuras, descended from the hills and settled in the plains of Sindh. They were excellent soldiers as well as adapted to hard life. They acquired great influence and soon usurped power in the new region. In 1783, the Talpuras, under the leadership of Mir Fath (Fatah) Ali Khan, established complete hold over Sindh and sent the Kallora prince into exile. The then Durrani monarch confirmed the claims of Mir Fath Khan and ordered the latter to share the country with his brothers (Mir’s brothers, popularly known as ‘Char Yar’). When Mir Fath died in 1800, the Char Yar divided the kingdom among themselves, calling themselves the Amirs or Lords of Sindh. These amirs extended their dominion on all sides. They conquered Amarkot from the Raja of Jodhpur, Karachi from the chief of Luz, Shaikarpur and Bukkar from the Afghans.
Gradual Ascendancy over Sindh
A common belief in the late 18th century was that Napoleon was conspiring with Tipu Sultan to invade India. In 1799 behind Lord Wellesley’s efforts to revive commercial relations with Sindh was the hidden aim to counteract the alliance of the French, Tipu Sultan and Shah Zaman, the Kabul monarch. Negotiations were opened with Fath Ali Khan. But under the influence of Tipu Sultan and the jealousy of the local traders, aided by the anti-British party at Hyderabad (Sindh), the amir in October 1800, ordered the British agent to quit Sindh within ten days. The British agent (Crow) left Sindh and the Company quietly suffered the insult.
Treaty of ‘Eternal Friendship’
In June 1807, the alliance of Tilsit with Alexander I of Russia was joined by Napoleon Bonaparte. The alliance had as one of its conditions a combined invasion of India by the land route. Now the British wanted to create a barrier between Russia and British India. To achieve this, Lord Minto sent three delegations under the leadership of various prominent persons to forge alliances. Accordingly, Metcalfe was sent
to Lahore, Elphinstone to Kabul and Malcolm to Teheran. Sindh was visited by Nicholas Smith who met the Amirs to conclude a defensive arrangement. After negotiations, the Amirs agreed to a treaty—their first-ever treaty with the English. After professing eternal friendship, both sides agreed to exclude the French from Sindh and to exchange agents at each other’s court. The treaty was renewed in 1820 with the addition of an article excluding the Americans and resolving some border disputes on the side of Kachch after the final defeat of the Maratha confederacy in 1818.
Treaty of 1832
In 1832, William Bentinck sent Colonel Pottinger to Sindh to sign a treaty with the Amirs. The provisions of the treaty were as follows:
- (i) Free passage through Sindh would be allowed to the English traders and travellers and the use of Indus for trading purposes; however, no warships would ply, nor any materials for war would be carried.
- (ii) No English merchant would settle down in Sindh, and passports would be needed for travellers.
- (iii) Tariff rates could be altered by the Amirs if found high and no military dues or tolls would be demanded.
- (iv) The Amirs would work with the Raja of Jodhpur to put down the robbers of Kachch.
- (v) The old treaties were confirmed and the parties would not be jealous of each other.
Lord Auckland and Sindh
Lord Auckland, who became the Governor-General in 1836, looked at Sindh from the perspective of saving India from a possible Russian invasion and wished to obtain a counteracting influence over the Afghans. Ranjit Singh in Punjab was strong enough to resist coercion in this regard, but the Amirs were not.
Thus the English view was that they had to consolidate their position in Sindh as a necessary first step for their plans on Afghanistan. They got an opportunity when Ranjit Singh captured a frontier town of Sindh, Rojhan, and Pottinger was sent to Hyderabad to sign a new treaty with the Amirs.
The treaty offered protection to the Amirs on the condition that the Company troops would be kept in the capital at the Amir’s expense or alternatively the English would be given suitable concessions in return. The Amirs initially refused but later agreed reluctantly to sign the treaty in 1838 when the possibility of Ranjit Singh getting help from others was pointed out to them.
The treaty permitted the English to intervene in the disputes between the Amirs and the Sikhs as also to establish the presence of a British resident who could go anywhere he liked escorted by English troops. Thus Sindh was turned into a British protectorate in 1838.
Tripartite Treaty of 1838
To address the Afghan problem (as the British imagined it) the Company resorted to further duplicity. Firstly, they persuaded Ranjit Singh to sign a tripartite treaty in June 1838 agreeing to British mediation in his disputes with the Amirs, and then made Emperor Shah Shuja give up his sovereign rights on Sindh, provided the arrears of tribute were paid. The exact amount of the tribute was to be determined by the English whose main objective was to obtain finances for the Afghan adventure and obtain so much of the Amirs’ territory as would secure a line of operation against Afghanistan through Sindh.
Under Auckland and his cabinet of secretaries British policy in
India had fallen to a lower level of unscrupulousness than ever
before and the plain fact is that the treatment of Sindh from
this time onward, however expedient politically, was morally
Sindh Accepts Subsidiary Alliance (1839)
The Company intended to persuade or compel the Amirs to pay the money and also to consent to the abrogation of that article in the treaty of 1832 which prohibited the movement of English troops in Sindh by land or by river. B.L. Grover writes: “Under threat of superior force, the Amirs accepted a treaty in February 1839 by which a British subsidiary force had to be stationed at Shikarpur and Bukkar and the Amirs
of Sindh were to pay Rs 3 lakh annually for the maintenance of the Company’s troops”. Henceforth, the Amirs were debarred from having any negotiations with foreign states without the knowledge of the Company. Further, they were to provide store-room at Karachi for the Company’s military supplies, besides abolishing all tolls on the Indus, and furnishing an auxiliary force for the Afghan war if called upon
to do so.
Capitulation of Sindh
The first Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42), fought on the soil of Sindh, was never liked by the Amirs of Sindh; neither did they like the presence of the British troops in their region. However, under the treaty they were asked to pay for all this, which they did. They were not rewarded or thanked for their services, but were charged with hostility and disaffection against the British government. The Amirs were charged with treasonable activities against the British, and Ellenborough, placed in a precarious position due to the Afghan war reverses, sent Outram to Sindh to negotiate a new treaty. Under this treaty, the Amirs were required to cede important provinces as the price of their past transgressions, to supply fuel to the Company’s steamers plying on the Indus, and to stop minting coins. Furthermore, in a succession dispute, the English intervened through Napier, and started a war when the Amirs rose in revolt. The whole of Sindh capitulated within a short time, and the Amirs were made captives and banished from Sindh. In 1843, under Governor-General Ellenborough, Sindh was merged into the British Empire and Charles Napier was appointed its first governor.
We have no right to seize Sindh, yet we shall do so, and a
very advantageous, useful, humane piece of rascality it will be.
…to remove such brutal tyrants (the Amirs) was worthy of
England’s greatness. The conquest of Sindh is therefore no
I am sick of your policy; I will not say yours is the best, but
it is undoubtedly the shortest, that of the sword…
—James Outram, Deputy of Napier at the time of annexation of Sindh.
Criticisms of the Conquest of Sindh
Historians generally condemn the acquisition of Sindh by the British in strong words. The causes for annexation were deliberately manufactured. Like many episodes in the British conquest of India, the Afghan war is also a tale of bullying tactics and deceit. However, in the instance of the First Afghan War, the English suffered terribly at the hands of the Afghans with a corresponding loss of prestige. To compensate for this, they annexed Sindh which prompted Elphinstone to comment: “Coming from Afghanistan it put one in mind of
a bully who has been knocked in the street and went home to beat his wife in revenge.”