Dissensions Regarding the Succession to the Cherra Raj – A typical British Report on a Tribal Kingdom

On my arrival at Cherra Poonjee I found that violent dissensions were raging between Rajah Ram Sing, of Cherra Poonjee, and almost all the principal Sirdars of his district. The last Rajah, Soubah Sing, died on the 5th of June 1856, and Rajah Ram Sing, who is the eldest nephew of the deceased, represented to the Principal Assistant Commissioner, that he had succeeded his uncle. The succession was reported to the Supreme Government, and the Right Hon’ble the Governor General in Council was pleased to sanction the succession of Rajah Ram Sing to the Raj of Cherra Poonjee. Rajah Ram Sing, however, had not been elected, according to the custom of the country, by the Heads of the twelve tribes or clans in whom the power of election is vested, and in consequence a great many of the most influential people refused to acknowledge him as the lawful ruler of Cherra Poonjee. As the performance of the funeral ceremonies of the late Rajah, by Rajah Ram Sing, would, according to the usage of the country, have beon conclusive in regard to the succession, the opposition party would not permit the dead body of Soubah Sing to be burnt, and in consequence it was kept in the village for nearly a year. After I had given the Heads of the twelve tribes an assurance that the Government would maintain the just and ancient rights of both parties, the representatives of the twelve tribes withdrew their opposition, and the funeral ceremonies of the late Rajah were celebrated in the usual manner on the 4th of May 1857, without any disturbance.

It is, I think, beyond dispute that Rajah Ram Sing has succeeded to the Cherra Raj in an irregular manner and that he has not been elected, as all his predecessors have been, by the representatives of the twelve tribes or clans, who, by immemorial usage, have the right of election. The local authorities, I think, ought to have taken care that Rajah Ram Sing had been duly elected before they reported his succession for the sanction of Government. As he had been recognized as Chieftain by the Supreme Government, and was not personally disqualified for the office, it appeared to me inexpedient to listen to the request of the representatives of the twelve tribes to be allowed to elect a Chieftain. An election when the passions of both parties were inflamed, and during the critical period of July and August 1857, might have been attended with untoward consequences; under these circumstances I thought it advisable to settle the matter amicably at once. The representatives of the twelve tribes were not unreasonable; they held a durbar, by invitation, at my office. I represented to them that the appointment of Ram Sing had been sanctioned by the Government, and that it was inexpedient to reopen that question, and I gave them an assurance in writing that the succession of Ram Sing should not be taken as a precedent, but that in all future successions the ancient and established usages of the country should be strictly abided by and faithfully observed. With this compromise both parties appeared to be satisfied, and the dispute-regarding the succession has been settled; the result, however, might have been different, had the disputed succession occurred in one of the distant states where the people are more wild and bigoted than those of Cherra Punjee ; the Cossyahs are very touchy about their political rights; and the district officer should see that they are respected. In this instance Rajah Ram Sing was clearly in the wrong throughout; he is a head-strong, arbitrary and unpopular Chieftain, and I took this opportunity of intimating to him quietly that he must not expect the Government to support him in any encroachments on the liberties of his people.

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