EVENTS AT THE COURT OF RANJIT SINGH (1810-1817), edited by H.L.O. Garrett and G.L. Chopṛā, is a rendition in English of Persian newsletters comprising 193 loose sheets and forming only a small part of a large collection preserved in the Alienation Office, Pune. This material was brought to the notice of the editors by Dr Muhammad Nāzim, an officer of the Archaeological Survey of India. Events at the Court of Ranjit Singh was first published in 1935 by the Punjab Government Records Office, Lahore, as their monograph No.17, and reprinted, in 1970, by the Languages Department, Punjab, Paṭiālā.
The newsletters, entitled "Akhbār Deoṛhī Sardār Raṇjīt Siṅgh Bahādur" cover the period from 1 November 1810 to 8 August 1817, with a sprinkling of a few supplementary ones written up to 2 September 1817 from Shāhpur, Multān, Amritsar and Rāwalpiṇḍī. Additionally, there is one brief piece which bears the date 10 June 1822. The newswriter lived in Lahore and his informant was one Khushāl Siṅgh whom the editors identify as Jamādār Khushāl Siṅgh, the chief chamberlain or deoṛhī officer at the court of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh. Probably written for the Peshavā's daftar which secured and recorded news from several different Indian courts, this set of newsletters from the Sikh court at Lahore is an important source of information on the early period of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh's career and provides intimate glimpses into his civil, military and judicial administration. What comes out strikingly from these papers is the efficient intelligence service the Lahore Darbār had established. The Darbār sent out special messengers to Kashmīr, Kābul, Sindh, Ludhiāṇā, and the cis-Sutlej, British-protected principalities of Paṭiālā, Nābhā, Jīnd, Kaithal and Kalsīā. These messengers, called jauṛīs or pairs, brought daily reports from newswriters stationed in those places.
The newsletters relate to a period when Multān had not yet been conquerred, nor had been Kashmīr and Peshāwar. The newsletter dated 19 September 1813 reports that Sardār Fateh Khān Wazīr had left Kābul with sufficient troops intent on proceeding towards Multān. It also mentions that he was hatching, through correspondence, a conspiracy with Nawāb Muzaffar Khān of Multān. News was received that Hazrat Muhmūd Shāh, marching from Jalālābad, was expected to enter Peshāwar. Raṇjīt Siṅgh forestalled the move and was able to stem the Afghān advance. These reports however do not contain any account of the impending Sikh-Afghān struggle for supremacy in the north which culminated in the battle of Haidarū in 1813 in which the Sikhs routed the Afghāns.
Raṇjīt Siṅgh's own designs to expand the limits of his kingdom unfold tellingly. Muzaffar Khān, Nawāb of Multān, was liable to an annual tribute of Rs 80,000. Plans were set in motion for the conquest of Multān. Likewise, for that of Kashmīr. No account is forthcoming of the successive Sikh invasions of Multān in 1810, 1816, and 1817. Similarly, these papers tell little about the joint Sikh-Afghān campaign against Kashmīr in 1812 which aborted or about Raṇjīt Siṅgh's even more disastrous expedition of 1814. There are, nevertheless, some interesting sidelights. A newsletter, for instance, relates that Phūlā Siṅgh Akālī was levying contributions --- 1,000 rupees and a horse --- on the Akālīs of the Darbār Sāhib at Amritsar. The Koh-i-Nūr diamond wrested from Shāh Shujā' ul-Mulk was evaluated by the jewellers who reported : "It was found in weight equal to three hundred and a few more "Surakhs" and in value it was declared priceless as no other similar jewel existed anywhere else." References occur to the Mahārājā's administration of justice. A daroghā-i-adālat or judge, charged with harshness, was warned to administer justice in accordance with the principles of religion and equity. Rāmā Nand Sāhū of Amritsar held charge of justice within his area for an annual payment of "rupees thirteen lakhs" but he was under warning to administer it with mercy and honesty.
Muslims enjoyed full freedom of worship. The newsletter of 9 January 1811 relates how they were exhorted by beat of drum to offer Eid-day prayers at the Royal Mosque, Lahore. Lawlessness and dacoity were not tolerated. Those in charge of police stations were warned that failure to apprehend culprits within a reasonable time would discredit them. On Eid-day, men were posted in the streets and bylanes of Lahore to watch for anyone misbehaving or intimidating others. Totally, this Persian intelligence record is of much historical and sociological value.
B. J. Hasrat