Gorkha invasion- its nature and consequences, Treaty of Segauli

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The majority of Gorkhas who are living in Himachal Pradesh were till recently a part of Punjab. One of the oldest associations of gorkhas in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh is the Himachal Punjab Gorkha Association, which was established on October 29, 1916. Its first president was Madho Singh Rana (Magan Pathik, Hamro Sanstha Pachattari Barsa, Himachal Punjab Gorkha Association, page 11). The settlement of Gorkhas in Himachal Pradesh has a long history of nearly 200 years. In this context, Sat Mahajan, former Parliamentarian and ex‐minister of Himachal Pradesh , wrote: “The first regular settlement of Dharamshala is known to have taken place sometime between 1879 and 1882, when the pensioners’ lines, some are in pine groves known as “Chilghari” was earmarked for poor pensionsers”. Even earlier, the Gorkhas had settled near Sahura village in Kangra during the siege of Kangra fort (1805‐1809). In this context, Khushwant Singh has written that Sansar Chand Katoch, ruler of Kangra had approached Maharaja Ranjit Singh for help against the Gorkha invasion.

 

Ranjit Singh had no love for Sansar Chand but feared the Gorkhas were a threat to Punjab, especially if they succeeded in taking Kangra fort.  General Amar Singh Thapa of the Nepal Army had also approached Ranjit Singh, but the Sikh leader had spurned him. Gorkha troops suffered badly in an outbreak of cholera and could not withstand the Sikh forces for long. The Gorkhas retired to Mandi in Himachal Pradesh , swearing vengeance against Ranjit Singh. They freed the king of Mandi from the rule of Sansar Chand. Later, in the famous battle at Malaun fort (April 14‐16, 1815), under the brave commander Bhakti Thapa, who was 70 years old at the time, the Gorkhas inflicted heavy casualty on British forces but succumbed to the superior weapon and artillery power of the enemy. The Gorkhas surrendered on May 15, 1815. By then a treaty was in the offing and one was concluded at Sugauli.

 

On April 24 that year, the first Nusseree (Friendship) battalion was raised at Subathu in Himachal Pradesh , which later became the 1st Gorkha Rifles. General Amar Singh was considered the “crownless king of states” (Khushwant Singh, History of the Sikhs). The Gorkhas fought with British forces at Nahan, Subathu, Maulan, Taragarh, Nalagarh, Kangra and Jatok. Maharaja Ranjit Singh suffered reverses in his expedition to west Kashmir against the Afghans in July 1814. He lost his commander Main Ghausa and the Afghan Army pushed the Sikhs from the hills. This unsuccessful campaign compelled Ranjit Singh to recruit Gorkhas in the Khalsa Army because he knew the Gorkhas were unparalleled in hill warfare. Gorkhas went to Lahore, Ranjit Singh’s capital, for recruitment and Gorkha soldiers have since been called Lahures. However, during the Anglo‐Sikh war of 1846, the British Gorkhas faced a battalion or two of Sikh Army Gorkhas. This occasion seems to reinforce the belief that the Gorkhas serve their motherland and their master faithfully, irrespective of their temporary affiliation.

 

In March 1823, in the battle of Namshera, the renowned Sikh General Phula Singh and Gorkha commander Bal Bhadra Thapa died (Khushwant Singh, History of the Sikhs). Himachal Pradesh is very rich in Gorkha heritage, culture and customs and has many place names that betray their Gorkha background, such as Chandmari, Cheelghari, etc. Himachal Pradesh has the unique privilege of associating with martyrs Durga Malla and Dal Bahadur Thapa of the INA, musician Ram Singh Thakur, singer Mitrasen Thapa and Master Dalip Singh (who accompanied Mitrasen on the harmonium). Gorkhas who had settled in the areas around Malaun fort comprise the forefathers of one of the prominent families of Arjun Singh Bist, who was a former legislator from Nalagarh. The Gorkhas of Himachal Pradesh have assimilated well the culture, customs and dialect of Himachal Pradesh without losing their own distinct mother tongue, culture and identity.

 

Sugauli Treaty (1815)

The Sugauli Treaty (also spelled Segowlee and Segqulee) was signed on December 2, 1815 and ratified by March 4, 1816, between the British East India Company and Nepal, which was a kingdom during that era. This ended the second British invasion of the Himalayan kingdom during the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–1816). The signatory for Nepal was Raj Guru Gajaraj Mishra aided by Chandra Sekher Upadhyaya and the signatory for the Company was Lieutenant-Colonel Paris Bradshaw. The treaty called for territorial concessions in which parts of Nepal will be given to British India, the establishment of a British representative in Kathmandu, and allowed Britain to recruit Gurkhas for military service. Nepal also lost the right to deploy any American or European employee in its service (earlier several French commanders had been deployed to train the Nepali army).

 

Under the treaty, about one-third of Nepalese territory was lost, including Sikkim (whose Chogyals supported Britain in the Anglo-Nepalese War); territory to west of the Kali River like Kumaon (present Indian state of Uttarakhand), Garhwal (present Indian state of Uttarakhand); some territories to the west of the Sutlej River like Kangra (present day Himachal Pradesh); and much of the Terai Region. Some of the Terai Region was restored to Nepal in 1816 under a revision of the treaty and more territory was returned in 1865 to thank Nepal for helping to suppress the Indian rebellion of 1857.

 

The British representative in Kathmandu was the first Westerner allowed to live in the post -Malla Era Nepal. (It is to be noted that few Christian missionaries operating were deported by the Gurkhas after conquering Nepal during mid 18th century). The first representative was Edward Gardner, who was installed at a compound north of Kathmandu. That site is now called Lazimpat and is home to the British and Indian embassies. The Sugauli Treaty was superseded in December 1923 by a “treaty of perpetual peace and friendship,” which upgraded the British resident to an envoy. A separate treaty was signed with India (independent by now) in 1950 which restored fresh relations between the two as independent countries.

 

Terms of the Treaty

 

After the Anglo-Nepal war, a treaty of peace and friendship was signed between the government of Nepal and the East India company. It is popularly known as “The Treaty of Sugauli, 1815”. It was agreed upon on 2nd December 1815 by Gajraj Misra and Chandra Sekhar Upadhayay, on behalf of the government of Nepal, and Lt. Col P. Bradshaw, on behalf of the East India company. The signed copies of the treaty were exchanged on 4th March 1816 at Makawanpur by Chandra Sekhar Upadhayay and General Octorlony. The terms of the treaty were as follows:-

 

  1. There shall be perpetual peace and friendship between the East India company and the king of Nepal.
  2. The king of Nepal will renounce all claim to the lands which were the subject of discussion between the two States before the war; and will acknowledge the right of the company to the sovereignty of those lands.
  3. The king of Nepal will cede to the East India company in perpetuity all the under mentioned territories: i) The whole of low lands between the rivers Kali and Rapti. ii) The whole of low lands between Rapti and Gandaki, except Butwal. iii) The whole of low lands between Gandaki and Koshi in which the authority of the East India company has been established. iv) The whole of low lands between the rivers Mechi and Teesta. v) The whole of territories within the hills eastward of the Mechi river. The aforesaid territory shall be evacuated by the Gorkha troops within forty days from this date.
  4. With a view to indemnify the chiefs and Bhardars of Nepal, whose interest will suffer by the alienation of the lands ceded by the foregoing Article (No. 3 above), the East India company agrees to settle pensions to the aggregate amount of two lakhs of rupees per annum on such chiefs as may be decided by the king of Nepal.
  5. The king of Nepal renounces for himself, his heirs, and successors, all claim to the countries lying to the West of the River Kali, and engaged never to have any concern with those countries or the inhabitants thereof.
  6. The king of Nepal engages never to molest or disturb the king of Sikkim in the possession of his territories. If any difference shall arise between Nepal and Sikkim, it shall be referred to the arbitration of the East India company.
  7. The king of Nepal hereby engages never to take or retain in his service any British subject, nor the subject of any European or American State, without the consent of the British Government.
  8. In order to secure and improve the relations of amity and peace hereby established between Nepal and Britain (East India company), it is agreed that accredited Ministers from each shall reside at the court of the other.
  9. This treaty shall be ratified by the King of Nepal within 15 days from this date, and the ratification shall be delivered to Lt. Col. Bradshaw, who engages to obtain and deliver to the king the ratification of the Governor-General within 20 days, or sooner, if practicable.

 

In fact, this treaty of Suguali was in favour of the East India Company and Nepal had to suffer a heavy loss of her territory. So, a subsequent agreement was made in December 1816 according to which Nepal got all the low lands (Terai) from Mechi, in the east, to Mahakali, in the west. Therefore, the indemnity of two lakhs of rupees ceased to continue. A land survey was also proposed to fix the boundary between the two States.

 

Validity of the Treaty

 

  1. Article 9 of the treaty says that the treaty shall be approved by the King of Nepal, but records of the treaty being approved by King Girwana Yuddha Bikram Shah have not been conclusively traced.

 

  1. The British had feared that Nepal might not implement the treaty signed on March 4, 1816 by Chandrashekhar Upadhyaya. Therefore, Governor General David Octerloni, on behalf of the British Government, ratified the treaty the same day and the counterpart treaty was handed over to Upadhyaya.

 

  1. Some have argued that the treaty was signed between Nepal and the British and thus lacks the force to be implemented between Nepal and independent India.

 

 

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