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Sikhs history - Colonial Era

The sons and advisers of Maharaja Ranjit Singh started fighting among themselves after his death and many of them were killed. The British bought the Generals of the Army and then attacked the Sikh kingdom. So the Sikh kingdom era ended in 1849, and the British annexed Punjab with the rest of India, where they were already ruling.

The British knew that Sikhs are great warriors so they rewarded the Sikhs with jobs in their army and won over them. The Sikhs proved to very beneficial to the British in many wars that they fought in. The British also gave lands to the Sikhs who retired from the Army. This induced more Sikhs into the army. By the time British left India and the country became independent, Sikhs constituted about 80 percent of the Army.

The British sent Sikhs to many battles far and near. The Sikhs fought for the British in the two world wars at places like Germany, Belgium, Italy, North Africa, Iraq, Burma, Singapore and China. 83,000 Sikh soldiers died and 146,000 were wounded while fighting in the 2 world wars. Some Sikhs were decorated with the "Victoria Cross Medal" -- the highest war time medal. Sikh soldiers were also part of the victory parade in London after the second world war.

Punjab made a lot of progress during the colonial era. Many cities were connected by railroads and by paved roads. Schools were opened in all the towns, where English was also taught, which helped Sikhs when they started immigrating to western countries. The big cities had colleges also. The British generally tried not to interfere in the Sikhs' religious affairs.

The Indians' struggle for independence started in the 1920s and continued till 1947, when the British left India. The Sikhs were at the forefront of the independence struggle also. The British tried many freedom fighters, and hanged hundreds of them. They sent thousands to lifetime imprisonments at a prison on an island thousands of miles in the ocean. The vast majority of them (80 to 90 percent) were Sikhs.

Ultimately, the British left India in 1947. But they divided the country into two parts before leaving. The Muslim majority area became Pakistan and the Sikh and Hindu majority area became India. Punjab also got divided. The West portion was included in Pakistan and the east portion became part of India. Religious riots broke out immediately and there was a mass migration of the population. About one million people lost their lives in the next two months. Millions more were displaced and were left without homes.