PROCLAMATION (1849), declaring that the kingdom of the Punjab had ceased to be and that all the territories of Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh had become part of the British dominions in India, was issued on 29 March 1849 by Governor-General Lord Dalhousie. Earlier in the day a darbār was held in the palace inside the Fort at Lahore by Henry M.Elliot, the foreign secretary, under the orders of the Governor-General. It was attended by the minor Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh, seated for the last time on the throne of his father, Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, surrounded by the British troops and his helpless sardārs. Amidst deep silence, the proclamation was read out aloud in English, Persian and Hindustānī. In the equally deep silence which followed, a paper was handed over by Rājā Tej Siṅgh to the Mahārājā containing the conditions on which he and his chiefs might assure themselves of generous treatment at the hands of their conquerors. The young Duleep Siṅgh affixed his signatures to the document which deprived him of his crown and kingdom. Immediately after the document granting terms to Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh had been signed, Elliot read out in the darbār the Proclamation issued by Lord Dalhousie to justify his policy and action. It was a most artful statement which, inter alia, said that whereas the British had faithfully kept their word and had scrupulously observed every obligation under the treaties made with the Sikhs, the latter had, on their part, grossly and faithlessly violated the agreements. The claim of Lord Dalhousie and his accusations against the Sikh government were not sustainable factually. There was severe criticism in both India and England of his action. Even the British resident at Lahore, Sir Henry Lawrence, described the annexation of the Punjab and the deposition of young Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh as unjust and impolitic. John Sullivan, a member of the Madrās Council commenting on the whole transaction in his Are We Bound by Our Treaties, said:
This is perhaps the first instance on record in which a guardian has visited his own misdeeds upon his ward. The British Government was the self constituted guardian of the Rajah (Maharaja Duleep Singh), and the regent of his kingdom: a rebellion was provoked by the agents of the guardian; it was acknowledged by the guardian to be a rebellion against the government of his ward, and the guardian punished that Ward by confiscating his dominions and his diamonds.
B. J. Hasrat