Grave of a Historical Legend in Ramban

Robin Koul
Raja Sultan Khan Chib – He was the Last Independent King of Greater Bhimber and destiny brought him to get buried in the soil of Ramban. His grave can still be visited in the Chanderkote area of district Ramban.
Family Lineage: Son of Sher Jhang Khan, Raja Sultan Khan Chib was the descendant of royal Katoch family from Kangra who migrated around 13th Century to the present day Bhimber. An alliance was made when Chib Chand the oldest son of Partab Chand got married to the daughter of Raja Sripat of Thakyal Rajputs, who had no heir. And after a mutual decision between Thakyals and Katochs it was decided that Raja will follow the title of Chib with his name. In this way the principality was known as Chibal and future generations known as Chib Rajputs. Later the seventh Raja in the lineage of the Chib Chand line, Raja Dharam Chand Chib, embraced Islam. He was known as Shadaab Khan and later became famous as Hazrat Baba Shadi Shaheed.
Political Adventure: Raja Sultan Khan Chib was the last ruler of Chib dynasty who ruled from around 1800 to 1825. He fought many wars with Sikh rulers and heroically defeated the Sikh forces critically in many battles. Chibhalis were seen as a threat by Maharaja Ranjit Singh as they fiercely resisted the Sikh forces.
In A.D. 1810, when Raja Sultan Khan Chib was the ruler of Bhimber he was invited to attend the Court of Sikh Empire at their capital Lahore. Raja Sultan Khan did not obey, considering it as a trap to imprison him and to capture his territory. Maharaja Ranjit Singh got offended by this and dispatched two battalions under Faqir Aziz-ud-din to attack him. In the battle Aziz-ud-din had to face a heavy loss of 600 men by getting assaulted by the enemy force, taking them by surprise.
Knowing the consequences and apprehension of a larger military retaliation, Raja Sultan Khan retreated away into the higher reaches of mountains. Aziz-ud-din appointed Ismail Khan, brother of Sultan Khan, as the head of the government, and returned to Lahore. Earlier Ismail Khan had approached the court of Maharaja complaining against Raja Sultan Khan for seizing his territory. But very soon Raja Sultan Khan Chib returned and started annexing the surrounding areas from the local chieftains. After gaining power he defeated and executed Ismail Khan too and regained most of the lost territories and resumed his authority.
This infuriated the Sikh empire and again in March 1812, Maharaja Ranjit Singh under the command of his son Kharak Singh and Dewan Mokham Chand dispatched a force of four platoons of infantry, five hundred cavalrymen and one regiment of gunners to subdue Sultan Khan and to annex the territory of Bhimber.
Sultan Khan faced the Sikh army valiantly and defeated it. Sultan Khan and his men knew the hilly terrain very well. He led his forces to the hilltop, and taking advantage of the height and unaccustomed ways of fighting in mountainous terrain by opposing armies, Raja Sultan Khan held the upper hand in the battle. The battle continued for two days. On the third day, Sultan’s attack was so severe that the Sikh forces were compelled to retreat.
Sikh forces gathered again and arranged for more men and logistics. Diwan Mohkam Chand was well-known as a successful general. On ground he was the actual commander for this mission. He attacked Bhimber again without any surety of his victory. So he opened negotiations for a peaceful surrender. Raja Khan was assured that his country and authority would be restored back to him. Raja Khan, also knew somewhere that it was not prudent to resist the Sikh forces for a long run, he peacefully submitted, and accompanied the Diwan Mohkam Chand to Lahore accompanying a small bunch of his troops.
Ranjit Singh received him with great distinction. He was offered a chair by him, made a sirwarna (waving money over head and distributing in alms) of Rs. 525. It signified great honour shown to a high dignitary. He was granted an elephant with a silver howdah (elephant seat) and a horse with a golden saddle. He was given a mansion to live in with a handsome allowance and was made a regular durbari (courtier). After sometime Sultan Khan sent back his escort to Bhimber. Sultan Khan was at once imprisoned and his state and property was confiscated. Bhimber was then forever lost by the Chibs.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was keenly interested in annexing the territory of Kashmir to his kingdom. For that he had attempted some unsuccessful expeditions in the past. To get into the Kashmir valley, the help and cooperation of Bhimber and Rajouri Rajas was essential who knew the terrain and route very well and too could provide logistic support on the way.
For that purpose, against the promise of Sultan Khan Chib’s support for this expedition, in 1819 Sultan Khan was set free. The Raja was asked to accompany Misr Diwan Chand during his expedition to Kashmir and guided him through the mountains into the valley in which they led an expedition to Shopian in Kashmir region and conquered it from Durrani governor Jabbar Khan. And after the expedition some parts of his State were restored to Raja Chib.
Imprisonment by Dogras: But the ordeal in the life of the Raja Sultan Khan didn’t end up here. Dogra rulers had a certain dislike for Raja Sultan Khan Chib. In the early times of his career, Gulab Singh and his brother Dyan Singh were employed on a salary of three rupees per month and were put in charge of Throchi fort also known as Kotli Fort. Throchi fort is situated in Choroi Tehsil of District Kotli in POK and was under the command of Raja Sultan Khan Chib at that time. While in service he had some disputes with Raja Sultan Khan and he left the Throchi Fort to join the darbar (court) of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab in 1812.
Gulab Singh had an old rivalry with Raja Sultan Khan too. In the initial attempts of invasion by Maharaja Ranjit Singh towards Kashmir, Sultan Khan had betrayed Maharaja and revolted forcefully when the Punjabi force was moving towards Pir Pass. At that time Gulab Singh was one of the commanders of Maharaja’s force. Gulab Singh never forgot that incident. Also it is said that another cause of irritation was Khatoon Begum, the wife of Raja Sultan Khan who had abused Gulab Singh when he was an employee of Raja Sultan Khan.
In the course of events in history, Gulab Singh was crowned as Raja of Jammu by Maharaja Ranjit Singh on 17 June 1822. And at the first opportunity Gulab Singh imprisoned Sultan Khan Chib deceitfully. It may be too because to rule out any possibilities of future rebellion against his kingdom by a potent and audacious competitor Raja Sultan Khan Chib.
In 1825 Gulab Singh was returning from an expedition against Sayed Ahmed. With a mind to confine Sultan Khan and Rahmatulla Khan he brought both of them to Jammu on the pretext for discussion about some official matters. He detained both of them for two months in Royal Bahu fort. Rahmatulla Khan understood the plot of Gulab Singh and skipped to Rajouri somehow. Raja Gulab Singh turned furious on the news and arrested Raja Sultan Khan. From there he was sent to the infamous Gajpat prison located on the top of a mountain across River Chenab in Ramban. It is said that Raja Sultan Khan was kept blind there until in the year 1838 (year of death-1825 scripted on tombstone) when he died at that very prison. Raja was buried at Chanderkote.
It is said that a Hindu shopkeeper who was a friend of Raja Sultan Khan tried to construct a tomb on his grave. But as the news reached Raja Gulab Singh, he immediately warned him to stop the construction. And the tomb could never be constructed.
Raja Sultan Khan Chib, an important historical legend, is connected to the soil of Ramban. But his grave lies anonymous and distorted in the oblivion in Chanderkote town just below the newly constructed national highway. I request the authorities to pay some attention towards this historical grave of the great Raja of Bimber, so that this important piece of history may not disappear under the dust of time.