Tombs of English officers at Guzerat
The Illustrated London
News - 27/8/1864
The pain and horror of
war must always be avoided at all costs, to briefly examine
the question whether crossing of the Sutlej by the Sikhs
did constitute an actual invasion of the British Territory
in India. The scope of this narration does not permit a
detailed examination and we may therefore only quote the
opinions of a few British Officers then closely connected
with Punjab affairs..
Major G. Carmichael Smyth of the North Western Agency wrote
"Regarding the Punjab war, I am neither of the opinion
that the Sikhs made an unprovoked attack, nor that we have
acted towards them with great forbearance. If the Sikhs
were to be considered entirely an independent state in no
way answerable to us, we should not have provoked them-for
to assert that the bridge of boats brought from Bombay,
was not a causa belli, but merely a defensive measure, is
absurd; besides the Sikhs had a translation of Sir Charles
Napier's speech (as it appeared in the Delhi Gazette) stating
that we were going to war with them; and as all European
powers would have done under such circumstances, the Sikhs
thought it as well to be first in the field. Moreover they
were not encamped in our territory, but their own."
"......and I only ask, had we not departed from the
rules of friendship first ? The year before the war broke
out we kept the island between Ferozepur and the Punjab,
though it belonged to the Sikhs, owing to the deep water
being between us and the island."
"......But if on the other hand the treaty of 1809
is said to have been binding between the two governments,
then the simple question is, who first departed from the
rules of friendship ? I am decidedly of the opinion that
Even more emphatic on the subject is Sir George Campbell,
who was then posted at Kaithel (a Sikh state escheated by
the British). He wrote:
"It is recorded in the annals of history, or what is
called history, which will go down to posterity, that the
Sikh army invaded British Territory in pursuance of a determination
to attack us. And most people will be very much surprised
to hear that they did nothing of the kind. They made no
attack on our outlying cantonments nor set foot in our territory.
What they did do was to cross the river and to entrench
themselves in their own territory". Memoirs of my Indian
Career, p. 78.
Even Cust, Personal Assistant to Major Broadfoot, the British
Agent at Ludhiana at the time of break of hostilities, refers
to the advance of the British force as "the first British
invasion of the independent kingdom of the Punjab."
Linguistic and Oriental Essays, v, 46-47.
Ganda Singh, The British
Occupation of the Punjab, Sikh History Society, Amritsar-Patiala,
1955. pp. 76-77.