What was the Punjab’s polity before Autonomy?

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The weakness of the Mughal authority and the Afghan invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali had created general confusion and anarchy in the Punjab. Ahmad Shah Abdali claimed the Punjab as a part of his dominion although his governors exercised hardly any other function of government except collection of revenue. The successors of Ahmad Shah could not keep control over the Punjab and the province became a ‘no mans land’.

These political conditions were conducive to the rise to power of Sikh misls under Sikh chieftains which held extensive territories in the Punjab. The important misls numbered twelve and one of these was the Sukarchakyia misl which controlled the territory between the Ravi and the Chenab.

The disintegration of the Mughal Empire in the first half of 18th century was followed by the establishment of independent political authority in various provinces. In Bengal, Awadh and Hyderabad the provincial governors were successful in carrying of their independent dominions, but Punjab did not follow the same trend. Zakariya Khan who was the governor of Lahore had tried to strength his control over the province, but failed in the process of establishing an independent political system. The dominant forces in the Punjab polity during this period were:

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i. The struggle of the Sikhs for independent political authority,

ii. The foreign invasions, first the Persian and then Afghan,

iii. The Maratha incursion,

iv. The rivalry within the provincial administration.

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The Sikh movement in 18th century changed from a religious to a political movement and was directed mainly against the Mughal imperial authority. Guru Govind Singh’s death in the 18th century was followed by peasant revolt by Guru’s follower Banda Bahadur.

This was a very tough time for the Mughal authority to retain its hold over the province. Banda executed 1715 gave the Mughal’s respite only for the time being. The Sikhs organised themselves into numerous small and highly mobile bands, called Jathas and posed serious challenge to the Mughal imperial authority.

The Mughals were scatting and lose control over Bengal, Awadh and Hyderabad. Punjab also took advantage of this situation and established an autonomous state in the Punjab.

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