Diwan Mohkam Chand, a prominent military leader of the Sikh Empire, played a pivotal role in several significant conquests and battles during the early 19th century. Born into a Hindu Khatri family of Kochhar heritage in Kunjah near Gujrat, Mohkam Chand's journey from an accountant under Dal Singh Gill to becoming a revered diwan and military strategist is marked by intrigue and determination.
In 1812, he earned the titles of Diwan and Fateh Nasib, signifying his growing influence and importance within the Sikh Empire. However, it was his command in the Battle of Attock, a pivotal confrontation against the Durrani Afghans, that truly solidified his legacy.
With Maharaja Ranjit Singh's approval, Sikh forces launched an assault on the Afghans in Hazro in July 1813, in a battle often referred to as the Battle of Chhuchh. The combat was fierce, with heavy casualties on both sides and Afghans receiving reinforcements led by Dost Muhammad Khan. It was Diwan Mohkam Chand's strategic brilliance and personal leadership that turned the tide of the battle, resulting in a resounding victory for the Sikhs.
The Afghans suffered significant losses, with many taken prisoner, and the Sikhs seized their provisions. This triumph was a testament to Diwan Mohkam Chand's dynamic generalship and contributed to the Sikh Empire's expansion and consolidation of power.
Diwan Sahib's Remarkable Victories
Diwan Mohkam Chand, a key figure in the Khalsa kingdom, embarked on a series of victories, beginning with his successful campaigns in Muktsar, Kotakpura, and Dharamkot. His military prowess extended to Faridkot, where he returned to Lahore without encountering any resistance. It was during his reign that Ludhiana, Jandiala, Baddowal, Jagrawan, Kot Talwandi, and Sahnewal came under the influence of Khalsa Raj as they crossed the mighty Sutlej. Maharaja Ranjit Singh assigned portions of these territories to Raja Jind, some to Raja Jaswant Singh Nabha, and the remainder to his loyal friend Sardar Fateh Singh Ahluwalia. Delighted with Diwan Mohkam Chand's accomplishments, the Maharaja bestowed a Jagir upon him, consisting of 71 villages, with an annual income of 33,845 rupees. This generous allocation added to his yearly income of one and a half lakhs from another Jagir.
In March 1808, Diwan Sahib extended the Khalsa rule to an additional 15 villages, including Patoke, Badhani, and Himmatpure. These lands were later gifted to Sada Kaur by Maharaja Ranjit Singh as a sign of his appreciation.
Strengthening the Sutlej Banks
Following the 1809 treaty with the British, fortifying the banks of the Sutlej River became a necessity. Diwan Mohkam Chand was entrusted with this crucial task, as it was strategically located near the Ludhiana cantonment and the River Patna was vulnerable to enemy attacks. A grand fort was commissioned to replace an old inn.
The Triumphs and the Kohinoor Diamond
During his tenure, Mohkam Chand led an expedition into Kashmir, securing the release of Shah Shuja from imprisonment. In return, Wafa Begum pledged to hand over the Kohinoor diamond. After overcoming numerous obstacles, Diwan Sahib obtained the precious gem and presented it to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1813.
Attock's Integration into Khalsa State
Recognizing the strategic importance of Attock, often referred to as the "Gate of Punjab," Diwan Sahib played a pivotal role in the decision to reclaim it from the Afghans. Sardar Hari Singh Nalua joined forces with Mohkam Chand in this endeavor, and their fearless pursuit forced the Afghans to retreat without engaging in a significant battle. The fort of Attock fell into the hands of the Khalsa, solidifying their control over this vital territory.
The Steadfast Patriot
Diwan Mohkam Chand was a cherished asset of the Khalsa state. He harbored a deep-seated distrust of the British, especially in light of the 1809 treaty, which he saw as a betrayal of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. His animosity toward the British was evident when, during a visit to the fort of Lahore, he brandished his kirpan (sword) and declared that he would rather forfeit his life than allow any foreigner to set foot inside as long as he lived. The Maharaja, however, diffused the situation, stating that the Khalsa Raj was a collective effort, and he couldn't act unilaterally.
A Wise Conclusion
Colonel David Ochterlony, the British Resident, didn't find Diwan Mohkam Chand to be a friendly neighbor. The Diwan's animosity towards the British stemmed from his belief that they had hindered the flow of the Sutlej River through a treaty with Maharaja Ranjit Singh. According to Lapel Griffin, this action had caused considerable harm, as it prevented the Khalsa from expanding further across India.
The Legacy of a Great General
On October 16, 1814, this venerable warrior passed away in Phillaur and was laid to rest in the fort he had helped construct. It would be no exaggeration to say that Diwan Mohkam Chand played a pivotal role in shaping Maharaja Ranjit Singh's reign, laying the foundation for the Khalsa state, and paving the way for the ascent of other notable leaders within the Khalsa.
Reference: Excerpts from "Usraiya of Khalsa Raj" by Baba Prem Singh Mardan.