Surprising revelation: Archaeologists cast doubt over Colonel Canora’s origins

Says Sikh Artillery commander was an American mercenary, not a French national


Muhammad Sadaqat September 18, 2016
According to the author, Mulraja, the ruler of Multan, decided to oppose the British rule and requested assistance from Hazara-based Sikh forces. PHOTO: ILM

ABBOTABAD: Archaeologists and historians at Hazara University (HU) have cast doubt over information provided in a 133-year-old historical document about the origins of Colonel Canora, a foreign officer.

According to archaeologists and historians, information in Hazara Gazetteer 1883-1884 is incorrect as their research suggests Colonel Canora, a commandant of the Sikh Artillery Regiment, was an American mercenary, not a French national.

Origins of Colonel Canora

Published in 1884, the gazetteer states Colonel Canora commanded the Sikh Artillery at Haripur against the British forces during the last days of Sikh rule. According to the document, he was shot dead on July 6, 1848 on the orders of the Governor of Hazara Chattar Singh. He was buried in the old Zafar Park, which is now the Ladies and Children Park near Women and Children Hospital Haripur.

Correcting the misconception

Dr Shakirullah and Ihsanullah Jan, in their chapter titled ‘So-called Farangees (foreigners) of Sikh army and monumental grave of Col Canora in Haripur’, cites various references from history books – including the diary of Major James Abbott, the founder of Abbottabad – to show that Colonel Canora was an American Mercenary and not French national. The authors quote various academics to corroborate the fact that Canora’s real name was Kennedy and he was an American soldier. However, the article published in Pakistan Heritage, an annual research journal of HU, hardly carried any information whether Colonel Canora was military deserter of the East Indian Company.

In addition, the article did not contain any information about his secret contacts with Abbott, who served the British rule in Hazara.

In the research article, the authors believe Ranjeet Singh, the Sikh ruler of Punjab, wanted to build a strong Sikh army. As a result, he enlisted physically strong men and military deserters of East India Company and trained them.

Assassination of Colonel Canora

The article states Colonel Canora was posted in Haripur on the orders of the governor of Hazara, Chattar Singh.

“It was a time when Sikh rule greatly weakened after suffering defeats at the hands of British forces who appointed their own officers to assist Sikh Governors in different parts of country and James Abbott was one of them working in Hazara,” the article states.

According to the author, Mulraja, the ruler of Multan, decided to oppose the British rule and requested assistance from Hazara-based Sikh forces. As a result, Commander Raja Sher Singh, son of Governor Raja Chattar, prepared to leave for Multan. However, he was opposed and obstructed by Abbott. When Chattar Singh came to know about the designs of Abbott, he gathered the Sikh Army in Haripur and asked Canora to move towards Multan to Mulraja. However, he refused to obey.

The American mercenary’s refusal resulted in his murder by a Sikh soldier.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2016.

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