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Nationalism

When there was a price on every Sikh’s head

There are too many jokes on the Sardar. Not every Sikh was like Dr Manmohan Singh. Persian ruler Nadir Shah invaded India in 1738 from Kabul, Afghanistan and went on a rampage to Delhi. He was returning to Persia with the Kohinoor, women, slaves and artisans. Nadir Shah had looted India and his intention was to transfer everything to Persia. It was the summer of 1739 and to avoid the summer heat Shah & his convoy would travel during the night.

Since it was a case of extreme heat from 12 pm to 12 am, the convoy traveled after midnight. The Sikhs specialized in Guerrilla warfare and attacked Shah’s convoy right from the Punjab to the Indus. They started freeing women, slaves, artisans. Nadir Shah’s plans of taking home the looted wealth was ruined. The Sikhs were recognized as people who went berserk once the clock hit 12 am.

Zakariya Khan was one of the Muslim Governors who tried to inflict damage on the Sikhs. He was the son of Abd-us-Samad who was also the Governor of Lahore. Khan replaced his father as the Governor of Lahore in 1726. Prior to his Governor’s role in Lahore, he was the Governor of Jammu (1713-1720) and Governor of Kashmir (1720-1726). He took part in the operations against Sikh leader Banda Singh Bahadur. After Banda Singh and his companions were captured in December 1715 at Gurdas Nangal, Khan rounded up the Sikhs he could find in villages along the route.

As Khan approached the Mughal capital his caravan comprised of seven hundred bullock carts full of severed heads and over seven hundred captives. Zakariya Khan was called ‘khanu’ by the Sikhs. Khan terrorized the Sikhs and targeted the community once he became the Governor of Lahore in 1726.

But the Sikhs did not give up. They continued to fight Zakariya Khan & his evil plans. But, the Sikhs were under constant threat and hence took shelter in remote forests and hills. The Sikhs continued to attack the looted treasuries & caravans. Zakariya Khan’s loot was not able to meet its destination point. In 1735 he ordered his officials to capture the Sikhs and hand over them for execution.

Zakariya Khan had a scale of rewards that was laid down in a blanket for cutting off Sikh’s hair.

  • 10 Rupees paid to anyone revealing information leading to the capture of Sikhs.
  • 50 Rupees paid to deposit a decapitated Sikh head.
  • 100 Rupees for capturing a Sikh live.

Zakariya Khan specially recruited 20000 men for capturing Sikhs. Plundering Sikh homes was made legal. Anyone trying to protect the Sikhs or withholding information would be executed. Prominent & deeply respect Sikhs like Bhai Mani Singh & Bhai Taru Singh were captured alive. They were severely tortured and publicly beheaded at the Nakhas, the horse market of Lahore, which was later renamed as ‘Shahidganj’ in honor of the Martyrs.

Zakariya Khan’s wanted the Sikhs to accept defeat. He died in 1745, but the great Sikh Community continued its fight and did not give in to the severities of Khanu. Khan died at Lahore on 1st July 1945, dispirited. He had understood that the Sikhs were made of mettle. They were all about guts and glory. “Sar kata sakte hain lekin sar jhuka sakte nahi.”

Source & Credit: Sanskriti Magazine

Image Credit: Quora


Tony Joseph

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