The long-awaited treatise on the so called ” Anglo-Sikh Wars ” Amarpal’s “The Second Anglo-Sikh War ” makes irresistible reading.These last nearly 170 years since the Sikh empire was effectively finished for ever there have been hundreds of books and in times to come there will be many more ..yet this one will continue to make a strong case for inclusion for its diversity of the narrative .
So far , particularly in recent times with the explosion of www and the wealth of information now available , no work has been as definitive as this one .Amarpal manages to weave the events as they happened across not only in the Punjab but as far away as in Calcutta and sometimes in London , places where the plans were laid for the Punjab’s annexation .
The tale is very absorbingly told with the role of the key figures revealed many in areas the reader would not have known .The spark is so lit in the mind that the reader finds this 500 page book difficult to keep down so interestingly are the thread of the story.A great many political and diplomatic exchanges make the narrative more lucid , many of which were not published at one place before.
Amarpal builds the story slowly from where he left when he wrote “The First Anglo-Sikh War ” two years ago. The writer rightly says the reasons for the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Sikh War are complex .Indeed since the first war the British were on look out for an excuse to annexe the Sikh kingdom.Through happenings in Multan and later in the North West Frontier two notables Deewan Mul Raj of Mooltan and Sardar Shere Singh Attariwala stand out as unwilling leaders who led in their own heroic way the resistance against the British .Two people so far away yet the British through their dubious endeavours wove them into a single tale the Second Anglo-Sikh War and Amarpal has succeeded in unraveling this tale so well.
In his foreword Field Marshal Sir John Lyon Chapel , GCE , OBE says , and I am in agreement with him , ” Most accounts to date have failed to convey both the political intrigue which precipitated the wars and also the scale of the gallantry displayed by the Sikhs .The book is a commendable interweaving of accounts from both whilst remaining objective .Perhaps this is because the author is a “British Sikh ” who has over time been imbued with a perspective which has hitherto eluded others .In any events this book is a welcome and a valuable addition yo a critical phase in our common history ” An unique feature of the book being the Global Positioning System giving the cor-ordinates of each and every landmarks of the battles for correct identifications for future historians beset as we are with the problems of urbanisation taking over our landmarks .
The Treaty’s that were forced on the Khalsa Durbar are given towards the end of the book in Appendix A-G .Given also are the references of published and unpublished works that Amarpal assiduously pursued over the years in writing the book in section Selected Bibliography . The scholarly work has also for the general reader as a researcher also many photographs some of them very rare some of the landmarks of the events covered. The encounters as they took place between the East India Company soldiers and the Sikhs or the forces of the Dewan Mul Raj have been well illustrated in several illustrations ..
Chronology of events since the Battle of Plassey in 1757 give the reader a ready reckoner .
By far this is the most insightful study of the last years of the Khalsa Raj .Dalhousie vowed , and accomplished as he wrote in his despatch to the Secret Committee on 7 April , 1849 ” We must resolve on the entire subjection of the Sikh people and on its extinction as an independent nation .” Go get your copy either from publishers Amberley Books or worldwide on Amazon to read the lucidly told tale of demise of the Sikh Kingdom. The book is priced for hardbound edition at GBP 25.00 plus postage .
Reviewed by Gurpreet Singh Anand