History of the Jats:Dr Kanungo/Reign of Suraj Mal

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History of the Jats

Contribution to the History of Northern India (Upto the Death of Mirza Najaf Khan, 1782)

By Kalika Ranjan Qanungo. Edited and annotated by Vir Singh. Delhi, Originals, 2003, ISBN 81-7536-299-5.

Chapter VIII: Reign of Suraj Mal

Reign of Suraj Mal

Suraj Mal's conquest of Haryana

[Page 85] The battle of Panipat was followed by a comparative calm - a quiet of exhaustion; Northern India at least ceased for some time to be the battle-field of the Afghan and the Maratha. The rapidly rising Sikh commonwealth served as a break-war to the Abdali invasion, while in the south Haidar Ali and the Nizam kept the Marathas busy. An interregnum, if not anarchy, prevailed in the empire. At Delhi Najibdaula watched over an empty throne and a widowed capital. The Emperor Shah Alam II was an exile in his own dominion, a protege and pensioner of Shuja-ud-daula. The ruler of Oudh had his eye upon the suba of Bihar and was busy in intrigues with Mr Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal who was preparing for a manly struggle to throw off the English yoke. The victorious Muslim coalition broke up owing to the irreconcilable enmity between Shuja-ud-daula and the Ruhela chiefs. Panipat had only shattered the extravagant dream of the Maratha but brought no permanent peace to Islam. The moment the Maratha was overthrown, the Jat came in and challenged her victorious champion who, weary and exhausted , shank from the contest and retire beyond the Indus. The stubborn Jat courage revived confidence in the prostrated Hindu mind, and Islam was again thrown on the defensive.

"Suraj Mal wanted to seize these few moments of his enemies respite for carrying out his two-fold object which he had long in view; first to interpose a solid block of a Jat Confederacy between the Abdali and the Ruhelas, extending from the Ravi to the Jamuna; secondly to expel Najib-ud-

[Page 86] daula from Delhi, restore his protege the ex-wazir Ghaziiud-din to his former position and power, and through him control the policy of the empire. But he decided not to attack Delhi first but simply cover it during his contemplated campaign. The tract of Haryana dominated by powerful Muslim jagirdars presented a dangerous gap between the Sikh commonwealth and his own principality. Barred in the south and west by the Rajput predominance and in the east[l] by the Ruhela power, he sought the expansion of his dominion in this tract and the districts around Delhi, mainly inhabited by the Jats.

This was a move in the right direction for more reasons than one. The Jats of the Jamuna were being drawn as if by racial instinct towards the Jats of the Five Rivers. The two branches of one mighty stream which had bifurcated at Sindh in the dim days of hoary antiquity, now turned to meet again moved by the impulse of common blood as well as common political and religious interests. The Jat ruler was alive to the danger which was sure to arise from the consolidation of the Ruhela ascendancy at Delhi and the consequent growth of another Rohilkhand on his northern frontier (Mewat), driving a mortal wedge between it and the Sikh territory. The possession of this tract would, above all, enable both the Jat and the Sikh to make a firm stand with their backs upon one another, and fight confidently against the Ruhela and the Abdali. Suraj Mal sent his eldest Jawahar Singh to conquer Haryana while another arrmy was sent under his youngest son Nahar Singh to establish his authority in the Doab, and watch the movement of the eastern Ruhela chiefs. Jawahar directed his attack upon

1. Suraj Mal's territory in the east touched the possessions of the Ruhelas, the districts of Koel (Aligarh), Jaleswar and Etah formed part of his kingdom. "On this side of the Jamuna from the gates of Delhi to the Chambal, there was no other government than his own, and towards the Ganges the condition was almost the same. After the reduction of Agra fort, he had not more to do for the extension of his dominion on the south. He then turned his thoughts to west of Delhi. He had also destined that country (Haryana) to be made a kingdom for his son Jawahar Singh" (Wendel, 45, 48).

[Page 87] Farrukhnagar, held by a powerful Baloch chief, Musavi Khan. But he having failed to capture it, Suraj Mal himself came with all his forces and big artillery and laid siege to it. Two months passed away and Musavi Khan being hard pressed, consented to surrender it "if Suraj Mal would take an oath on the Ganges water not to hinder his departure:"[2] But the Jat on this occasion made the same unscrupulous use of the sanctity of the Ganges as that of the Quran by some Muslim rulers.

The Baloch chief was made a prisoner and sent to Bharatpur. Sin prospered for a while only to make the retribution more terrible and shocking. Rewari, Garhi Harsaru and Rohtak had already fallen into the hands of Suraj Mal.[3] He now turned his arms against Bahadurgarh, about 12 kos to the west of Delhi, the strong-hold of another powerful Baloch chief Bahadur Khan. In his distress the Baloch chief appealed for help to Najib-ud-daula, who, however Judged it inexpedient to provoke a war with Suraj Mal, before the arrival of the Abdali.

2. Wendel 49, the. Waqa (p.198) make entries which tell us that Najib Khan was coming to relieve Musavi Khan. But on the 19th Jamada 1, 1177 A.H. (Nov. 25, 1763 A.D.), news reached him at Safdar Jang that Suraj Mal Jat, having deceitfully (aj-rah-i-dagha) imprisoned Musavi Khan Baloch, captured Farrukhnagar by forcing the garrison to evacuate it." This seems to suggest that Musavi Khan was seized before the capture of the fort- perhaps during negotiations.
3. All these places remained possessions of his house till they were reovered for the Emperor Shah Alam II, by "Mirza Najaf Khan' after defeating Raja Nawal Singh Jat. Their positions, Rohtak, lat.' 28° -55', long. 76°-35'; Rewari, 28°-10',76°-40'; Garhi Harsaru 28"-35' 76°-55' about 8 miles east of Farrukhnagar. It is said that in an assault upon Garhi Harsaru, Suraj Mal's elephant, urged against the huge wooden gate of the fort turned back exhausted and unsuccessful. Sardar Sitaram, the Jat Ajax, seeing this, rushed forward. with an axe and hewed down the gate with great intrepidity. This is one of his numerous feats of strength remembered by his descendants, still living in the ruined castle of his, Kolman.

Death of Suraj Mal

[Page 88] But a breach between Suraj Mal and Naji-ud-daula was unavoidable.About this time another division of the Jat army under the command of Nahar Singh, (the youngest son of Suraj Mal), Balaram and other renowned commanders, was carrying on war in the Doab, wresting many remarkable places from the officials of the Mughal Government. Suraj Mal, knowing his chances of success greater, was eager to come at once to a reckoning with Najib-ud-daula while it was the policy of the latter to postpone the trial of issue till the Abdali would be in a position to come to his aid. The Ruhela chief dissemble an employed suppleness; but the shrewd Jat would not let this opportunity slip away, and determined to strike a decisive blow at his enemy at the moment of his weakness. "The Jat prince, finding from this cautious behaviour of Naib-ud-daula that he was afraid of a war, became the more daring and he demanded the faujdari of the Gird or Circuit (the governorship of the districts around the capital)." [Siyar, iv. 30].

Najib-ud-daula knew what it meant; it was like a demand for the surrender of the outer approaches of a stronghold to the enemy. With Suraj Mal[4] in possession of the Belt round the capital, Delhi would become only a spacious prison for him and the descendants of Timur.

The Afghan chief unwilling to see matters come to a rupture sent Yaqub Ali Khan (brother of shah Wali Khan, wazir of Ahmad Shah Abdali),- an envoy to-endeavour by mild words to bring matters to a pacification, so as to smoother the seeds of tumult and war." He took with him as a present two pieces of beautiful Multan chintz, painted in yellow and pink. If we are to believe the author of the Siyar, the present proved more acceptable than the message

4. Abdul Karim Kashmiri, author of the Bayan-o-Waqa, says; "After seizing the persons of Musavi Khan and other Baloch chiefs and sending them to Deeg, he sent words to Najib-ud-daula, telling him that he should leave the capital and cede to him the Mian Doab. Although Najib Khan compelled by necessity, offered to cede Sikandra(bad, ed.) and other parganas, Suraj Mal was not satisfied." [Bay an, MS., 302.]

[Page 89] of peace.[5] Yaqub Ali went to the Jat for negotiation on the 14th Jamad'a II, but returned unsuccessful after an absence of four days (17th Jamada II, 1177 A.H. = 23rd Dec. 1763 AD.; Waqa, p. 199).

Driven to hostilities by the unjust demands of the Jat, Najib-ud-dauIa, with an army of ten to twelve thousand horse and foot, and accompanied by his two sons Afzal Khan, Sabita Khan, and also by some other Ruhela leaders of note, such as Mahmud Khan Bangash (Siyar, iv. 31), crossed the Jamuna [19th Jamada II=24th Dec., 1763] to give battle to the "proud uncircumcised." Suraj Mal leaving his son Jawahar at Farrukhnagar to look after the recently conquered territories, had, several days before, crossed the Jamuna.

Both armies now took up positions on the banks of the Hindan (a small tributary of the Jamuna), about seven kos, east of Delhi. The Jat army entrenched themselves and planted their guns on the other [eastern] bank of the Hindan. In the earlier part of the day several petty engagements took place in which the Jats had the better of the encounter. Towards the closing hours of the day, Suraj Mal crossed the Hindan with six thousand troops and attacked the Muslim lines. An action took place in which about 1,000 men were slain on both sides. In the heat of action Suraj Mal Jat with thirty horsemen only fell upon the centre of the Mughals and Balohes and was slain" (Sunday, 19th Jamada II, 1777 A.H = Dec. 25, 1763 A.D. Waqa, p. 199). So admirable was discipline of the Jat army, that though the news of Suraj Mal's death spread through the ranks, not a single soldier was shaken. They stood on their ground as if nothing had happenea, while tile Musatrnan army broke and fled with to their camp. Afterwards the Jat army left the field with the mastery

5. According to the Siyar, Yaqub All was abruptly dismissed on the very day of his arrival, "with words that if he came for a pacification only he had better not come at all [Siyar, iv. 31]. There is no truth in it as is proved by the more definite and authentic entry in the Waqa. However there is no doubt that Suraj Mal's demand was extravagant and his attitude towards Najib-ud-daula was haughty and unyielding. Father Wendel briefly remarks "But Suraj Mal demanded war" .... (Orme MS., 49).

[Page 90] of victors [Siyar, iv. 32]. This was too great an event to be believed by the enemy. "His corpse did not come into their hands. The news of his death was not verified at that time. Najib Khan remained standing on his ground throughout the night for the Safety of his army. At midnight the Jats retreated from the opposite bank of the Hindan. Not a trace of the Jat army was to be found, and then only was the news of the death of Suraj Mal believed. [6] Najib Khan returned to the capital." [Bayan, MS. p. 303.]

A wise, politic, valiant and grand ruler

Raja Suraj Mal, "the eye and the shining taper of the Jat tribe - the most redoubtable prince in Hindustan for the last 15 years" - thus disappeared from the stage of life leaving his work half-done. His was a towering personality and a transcendental genius to which homage has been paid by every eighteenth century historian. "He was," says Father Wendel, "in one word, wise, politic, valiant and grand, above his birth and to the point of being admired and feared by foreigners." [Fr. MS. 51]

6. Najib Khan's caution is perhaps justified by the saying in the country-side "Don't believe a Jat to be dead till his thirteenth day [Shardhdha ceremony] is over!"

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