Hill Chiefs Find A Pretext For War : Guru Gobind Singh Ji

One day Raja Bhim Chand, Ruler of Kahloor, heard the thunder of theGuru’s drum near his capital. He asked his minister whose drum itwas. The minister, who “was a true and God-fearing man, and hadleanings towards the Sikh faith, replied that Guru Gobind Singh wasenjoying a hunting expedition. The minister then spoke very highly ofthe Guru’s spiritual powers, the magnificence of his darbar and thestrength of his army. He advised the Raja to be on good terms withthe Guru.

Raja Bhim Chand haa, no doubt, often heard much of the Guru,but had never visited him. So, he despatched his minister to him inorder to arrange for an interview. The Guru gave the minister a robeof honour and told him that all were welcome at the Guru’s house.

Raja Bhim Chand came and was received with honour. At his resquest,the Guru showed him the Kabuli tent as well as the presents from theRaja of Assam. The hill-chief was dumb with amazement at the splendourof the tent and at the skill displayed by the elephant. The magnificenceof the Guru’s darbar dazzled his eyes, turned his head, and burnt hisheart. As he returned, he revolved plans for taking possession of atleast the elephant. War or stratagem, he would employ any means forthe fulfilment of his desire.

On reaching home, he disclosed his designs to his minister. It wasultimately decided to ask the Guru for a loan of the elephant on theoccasion of the betrothal ceremony of his son, Ajmer Chand. Theminister himsetf went to ask for the loan. The Guru saw clearly thatthe Raja did not mean to return the animal, when once he had gotpossession of it. Moreover, he remembered the prayer of the Raja ofAssam and his own promise made to him in this connetion. So, heinformed the minister that, at the time of presenting the animal andother offerings, the Raja of Assam had wished, and he had promised,that they were ever to remain in the Guru’s service. All offerings weremade by the Sikhs not to him in person but to the Guru’s gaddi. Soit was not in him to go against the wishes of his Sikhs in order toplease the Raja. If he liked, he could have his pick of the other elephantswhich the Guru had himself purchased.

When Bhim Chand heard of the Guru’s refusal, he was greatlyincensed. The minister tried to calm him by saying. ‘The Guru is notan ordinary man. He has great spiritual powers. If we had gone to himwith pure hearts, he might have acceded to our prayers. If you becomehis Sikh with a true heart, he will give you anything that you maywish you.’

Raja Bhim Chand did not relish his counsel. ‘How can I’, saidhe, ‘forsake my idols and gods and bow before one who is never wearyof scoffing at them ? People will say that I abjured my ancient faithfor the sake of the elephant. Moreover, how can I, a Rajput by descent,agree to mingle with the peasants, barbers, washermen, cobblers, andthe low miscellaneous rabble that form the Guru’s followers ? No,minister, I shall take by force what has been refused to me by peacefulmeans. I know what views the Emperor has regarding him. He hasnothing to gain by offending me. He is yet a lad and needs chastisement.

He will have it from me and will then come to his senses.’

Saying this, he gave orders that preparations for war shouldbegin.The minister pleaded for another effort at persuasion, Accordingly,a very clever man, called Chatru, was sent to the Guru’s darbar. Hehad a very sweet and persuasive tongue. But all his craft could notdeceive the Gum, who said, ‘Well friend, here you say that the elephantwill be returned; but your counsel to your Raja was far different’.

Chatru soon found that no deceit could succeed with the Guru andreturned.

Bhim Chand’s wrath knew no bounds and he got ready for war.

His queen, however, advised him not to spoil the nuptial rejoicings,but to wait till the betrothal and the marriage of prince Ajmer Chandwere over. Her brother, Kesari Singh of Jaswal, proposed to make alast request to the Guru. But the latter was firm. Kesari Singh returnedand vowed eternal vengeance against the Guru.

It was known far and near that Raja Bhim Chand had been refusedthe loan of the elephant. All the hill-chiefs held a meeting and agreedthat his prestige and dignity demanded that not only the animal butalso the tent must be obtained by force. The following letter wasaddressed to the Guru : — ‘We have refrained from molesting youso far on the consideration that you occupy the gaddi of Guru Nanak.

But we cannot tolerate your ways any longer. If you wish to live atAnandpur, you should behave as a loyal subject. We call upon youto readily surrender whatever we may desire to have, and to beg ourpardon for your past deeds. Otherwise, leave our territory. If you refuse,war and its consequences will follow.’

The Masands and other pacifists were greatly perturbed when theyleamt of the contents of Raja Bhim Chand’s letter. They again went tothe Guru’s mother and begged her to advise him to return a soft answer,and not to provoke war. She repeated her old arguments that a man ofreligion should devote himself to peaceful observance of the rules ofreligion, to calm meditation on God, and to performance of acts ofpiety and charity. The Guru humbly, but strongly, repeated what he hadsaid on the previous occasion and added, “The hill-chiefs are determinedto fall upon us. They are spoiling for a fight. To live as subject peopleof Bhim Chand will be to lower the dignity and honour of Guru Nanak’sgaddi. I do them no harm; I mean them no harm. I wish to live as agood neighbour. But their hearts are .replete with evil. They are sureto start an open conflict. The only way for me to avert it would be toforget the Divine orders and to make an abject surrender. This I cannotand will not do, come what may. I must do my duty towards man andGod, fearlessly, unmindful of the consequences. To sit idle in suchtimes would not only be the height of irreligious impiety, an act ofunpardonable cowardice, but also a demonstration of inexcusable lackof foresight and discretion.’

Accordingly, with the consent of Diwan Nand Chand and the SikhSangat, the following reply was sent :-

‘I do not live in your territory, but in a place which my fatherpurchased with gold on the clear condition that it would be exemptfrom all taxes collected from subjects and would be outside thebounds of the Raja s rule. So, do not flatter yourself by thinkingme to be your subject. I have told you that the wishes of my devotedfollowers are dearer to me than life itself. I cannot let the elephantgo into any other’s service. As for your threat of war, you mayplease yourself as you like. You will find me always ready to meetyou.’ Having despatched this reply to Bhim Chand, the Guru orderedDiwan Nand Chand to make due preparations for the imminent war.

On learning of the coritents of the Guru’s reply, the Rajas werered with rage. Bhim Chand burst out. “We shall have the marriagelater. We must first settle scores with the Guru.” But Raja Kirpal ofKatoch did not like the idea of getting involved in war jest then. Hewas, in reality, a double dealer. At the initial stage of the dispute, hehad written a letter to the Guru, saying, “Remain firm, don’t yield orbudge. Bhim Chand has no allies; no hill-chief will assist him againstyou. I myself shall fight on your side.’

At the same time, he had said to Bhim Chand, ‘Fear not andwaver not. There can be no real or lasting peace until the Guru is madeto go away bag and baggage. We all hill-chiefs are with you.’

In reality, Raja Kirpal was dancing to the tune set by EmperorAurangzeb. He was inciting the hill-chiefs against the Guru as a partof the game, which he had agreed to play in order to please the Emperor.

But, at the same time, he did not wish to involve himself in any war.

So he made the following suggestion, “All preparations for the marriagehave been made. All hill-chiefs will be joining the marriage party. Ourarmies will be with us. Raja Fateh Shah will also be there to join andadvise us. We shall seek and follow his advice. Let us not spoil thejoy of this auspicious occasion.”

The Rajas accepted this suggestion, and the idea of war with theGuru was given up for the time.

Such was the ostensible beginning of the Guru’s quarrels withhill-chiefs. The real cause was far deeper. One of these causes, whichwas given by the Guru himself in his letter to Aurangzeb, was thatthey were idol-worshippers,- while he was an idol-breaker. They resentedhis religious and social reforms. They could not relish his levelling ofall castes and raising of the Shudras to a position of equality with theBrahmins and Kashatriyas. If they could not fall in with the Guru’sreligious and social views, his political ambition was to them still morerepugnant. Long subjection had demoralized them and had reconciledthem to their fate. They were content to bear the galling yoke of theMughal rule for the sake of the pleasure and satisfaction which theyderived from their autocratic sway over the destinies of their ownpeople. They knew that Aurangzeb was anxious to annihilate the Sikhs.

He had thrown out several hints that he would much appreciate theservices of the hill-chiefs if they would fight against the Guru anddestroy him and his forces, or, better still, if they would bring him acaptive to the Emperor’s presence. Raja Bhim Chand was the leadingchief. He had, in his heart, the desire to win the pleasure of his godsas well as that of his Emperor. Hence he was bent upon war, andnothing but war. He did not have the foresight to see the consequencesof this suicidal policy. Most of the hill-chiefs were one with him onthis point. To strike a blow in the cause of their country’s freedomcould never enter their brains. They who live by tyrannizing over theweak and the downtrodden do not, for they dare not, countenance amovement calculatd to rouse and emancipate their victims. It was true,that the Guru had no intention to establish a kingdom for himself, thathis fight was against the system which crippled the people with mental,social and political bondage, and not against the hill-chiefs directly.

But, all the same, they were a part of the system which he wanted toend. The natural leaders of a people, the propertied and privilegedclasses, the capitalists and the aristocrats, have always sided against allsuch popular movements as are likely to interfere with their priviliges. 1The hill-chiefs too were actuated by such selfish motives and playedinto the hands of the common enemies, the Mughal rulers of the land.

If they had joined their forces with the Guru, and had accepted himas their guide and liberator, the subsequent history of at least the Panjaband its present day problems, would have been far different indeed.

The Mughal power would have been broken here as effectively and aseasily as it was destroyed in the South by the Mahrattas, and thelater-day atrocious deeds and the intensive conversion campaigns ofMir Mannu, Furrukhsiyar and others of that would have been impossible. Nay, there would have been no such holocausts and blood-bathsas we had in the West Panjab and Pakistan in 1946, 1947, and severaltimes more since then. Nor could the Pakistanis have taken away sucha big and valuable slice of our dear Panjab as they have done on thestrength of their numbers.

‘Again, though the ordinary Hindus were under a ban, and were excluded fromgovernment service, Hindus of position and rank were not wanting who had thrownin their lot with the government of the day, and in return for the protection andfavour they received or for merely being suffered to retain their tands, always sidedwith the government of the day, and, at the slightest disturbance of the peace, cameforward with declarations of loyalty and offers and active support. This means thatalthough the masses of the Hindus were bitter aganist the galling yoke of tyranny,the so-called natural leaders of the people were most officiously loyal to the throneand most bitterly hostile to all progressive movements, because they feared the lossof court favour and, ultimately, the loss of land and power which their neutralityas well as supposed complicity was sure to bring in its wake.’