History of Himachal Pradesh and its people will remain incomplete if no reference is made to the various movements launched by the hill folks for their liberation from colonial yoke and oppressive and undemocratic rule of the princely rulers, among whom this territory was divided and subdivided.
There were many young men and women who participated at the local and national level liberation movement in different parts of the state.
First opposition to the British in India was expressed on the day they landed on this soil. But struggle in organized form, started only with the setting up of the Indian National Congress (INC) on 28th December 1885 at Bombay.
It was a strange fact that the idea for the formation of INC was given by a retired British Civil Servant, Mr. A.O. Hume, from his residence Rothney Castle, Shimla.
A.O. Hume experienced an undercurrent of unrest among the people of India and formed Indian National Congress, which gave different direction for ensuing independence. (Freedom Struggle of Himachal Pradesh)
In the initial years, it was working as a ‘safety valve’ against anti-British feelings, but with the passage of time, INC emerged as the sole force to accumulate people of various shades of opinion under its umbrella to wage unified and aggressive fight against the mightiest empire on the earth.
The battle which was waged with the policy of political mendicacy ended with that ‘clarion call’‘Quit India’ and ‘Do or Die’ by the apostle of peace and nonviolence, Mahatma Gandhi. (Freedom Struggle of Himachal Pradesh)
In the initial years of his political life, Gandhiji had full faith in the fair play and justice of the British which eroded with that single incident of Jallianwala Bagh tragedy (1919) which shook the whole world.
Since then, Gandhiji threw his heart and soul into India’s struggle for freedom and took the reins of the Indian National Congress in his hands.
He became the national hero and launched a number of popular movements like Champaran movement (1917, Bihar), Ahmedabad Mill Workers strike (1918, Gujarat), Khilafat Non-Cooperation movement (1920), Civil Disobedience (Salt Non-Cooperation movement, 1920) and Quit India Movement (1942) against the colonial rule.
Interestingly Mahatma Gandhi visited Shimla in the years, 1921, 1931, 1939, 1945 and 1946. In 1945 he stayed at the residence of Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur in Manorville and in 1946 at Chadwick in Summer Hill.
Till 1915, every single leader was following the policy of Indian National congress but since then Congress started following Gandhiji.
How British entered into Himachal Hills
The rulers of Punjab hill states were tired of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’spolicy of annexation and extinction and now they were looking for an opportunity to get rid of the growing power of the Sikhs.
It came to them, after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the war which ensued between the Sikhs and the British in the autumn of 1845. (Freedom Struggle of Himachal Pradesh)
From Haripur fort, Sikhs were drove out by Raja Shamsher Singh of Guler. Bir Singh of Nurpur rallied his men and laid seize to the fort of Nurpur. ‘Raja Narain Pal of Kutlehr’ also expelled the Sikhs from Kotwalbah.
Ugar Sen of ‘Suket’ and Balbir Sen of ‘Mandi’ also joined hands to tendering their allegiance to the British Government for the expulsion of the Sikhs from hills. On 10th February 1846, Sikhs were defeated in the battle of ‘Sabraon’.
On 9th March 1846, a peace treaty was signed at ‘Lahore’ between the Sikhs and the British. After this treaty, British ceded all Sikh territories to the South of Satluj.
The Punjab hill chiefs, who had given their unconditional support to the British in the Anglo-Sikh war were under impression that their territories will be restored to them as it was done in the case of Shimla hill states on the conclusion of Anglo-Gurkha war in A.D. 1815. (Freedom Struggle of Himachal Pradesh)
But the hopes of most of the hill rulers were belied after the victory of the English in the first Anglo-Sikh war. British did not returned hill territories to their owners between the Ravi and the Satluj.
With the result, the hill states of Kangra, Guler, Jaswan, Datarpur, Nurpur, Suket, Mandi, Kullu (except the Jagir of Waziri Ruppi to which Thakur Singh was confirmed with sovereign powers), Lahaul-Spiti (though it fell under Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu, was exchanged with him for other territory) came under the direct control of the British.
Lahore Darbar was fined heavily (about 1.5 crore rupees) by British for war indemnity, 50 lakh in cash while remaining by territory between Beas and Indus including Kashmir. (Freedom Struggle of Himachal Pradesh)
The Chief of Mandi and Suket were provided separate Sanad due to their allegiance with British on 21 feb, 1846. They have to pay fixed tribute every 6 months.
In Bilaspur, Raja Jagat Chand was allowed to retain the possession of the territory held since A.D. 1809 and also exempted to pay tribute, but required to abolish transit duties in his country on British goods.
Raja Narain Singh of Kutlehr was provided Jagir of Rs 10,000 and also a life grant. He was forced to pay a nazrana of Rs. 1188.
At Amritsar, British signed a treaty with Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu. Under this treaty, all hilly area between the Ravi and the Indus were ceded to him.
In return, Maharaja had to pay Rs. 75,00,000 to the British Government.
As regards the Chamba, there cropped up a different type of problem with the transfer of territory to the Raja of Jammu. (Freedom Struggle of Himachal Pradesh)
Chamba was divided into two parts by the Ravi river. When Gulab Singh of Jammu acquired Lakhanpur, all claim to Bhadrawah was surrendered by Chamba.
This happened due to Wazir Bhaga’s success in gaining sympathy and support from Sir Henry Lawrence. If the provisions of 16th March treaty had been carried out Chamba have gone to Jammu states permanently.
On 6th April 1848, a sanad was granted to the Chamba Raja, restoring him full possession of the State, on the usual conditions of annual tribute of rupees twelve thousand and its allegiance to the British Government.
It was, after this treaty that anti-British feelings developed among the rulers of the hill states. They were all disappointed with the new conditions. Such an arrangement of ceded territory which deprived the hill rulers of the chance of restoration of their dominions came as a bolt from the blue.
That is why in the second Anglo-Sikh war (1848), the rulers of Kangra hill states decided to support the Sikhs, who had promised them restoration of their territories in the case of success after the war.
The hill rulers who revolted in 1848 were mainly from Nurpur, Kangra, Jaswan and Datarpur, A force was sent against them under Mr. Lawrence, the Commissioner, who secured easy surrender of them and revolt was suppressed.
They were all captured and transported to Almora as political prisoners, where they died.
However, Ram Singh, the wazir of Nurpur proved to be a difficult person to deal with.
It was after great difficulty that he was defeated at ‘Dalle Kee Dhar’. a rocky ridge of the Shivaliks area, North-West of Shahpur and overhanging the Ravi.
He was betrayed for gold by a Brahmin ‘Pahar Chand’, whom he usted as a friend. He was transported to Singapore where he died. For his undaunting courage, his exploits are sung by the hill bards. (Freedom Struggle of Himachal Pradesh)
In spite of the fact that Nurpur was first state to revolt, the British dealt generously with Jaswant Singh, the minor son of Raja Bir Singh of Nurpur.
Jaswant Singh was conferred the annual ‘Jagir’ of Rs. 5000 and Nurpur state was merged with the Kangra state.