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Kashmir then and now

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By Mohammed Younis

In the beginning of twentieth century, the Kashmiri Pandits raised the voice that “Kashmir is for the Kashmiris”. The voice was raised by them primarily with the object of getting more and more administrative jobs for the educated unemployed young men of their own community and also for securing high positions for highly qualified Pandits already in government service.
It was the brainchild of C. Eric Tyndale Biscoe, who after making several meetings with educated Kashmiri Pandits, who formed Hindu Reform Club at Srinagar (kisls 143).
Biscoe persuaded them to raise the voice for their rights as in India in those days according to him the Indians have also raised the same slogans that India is for Indians.
It was only after the support and the persuasion of these missionaries that Kashmiri Pandits managed to get the nerve to raise the voice that ‘Kashmir is for Kashmiris’.
The Jammu and Kashmir was founded by Maharaja Gulab Sigh on March 16, 1846, who first visited Kashmir in accompanying Maharaja Ranjit Singh in his victorious march to Kashmir in 1819.
After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Maharaja Gulab Sing visited Kashmir in the year of 1841 to quell the mutiny and placed a governor of his own. This time he became virtual master of the valley but it was March 16, 1846 when Maharaja Gulab Sing established his rule in Kashmir.
After the Dogras became the masters of the land, the British realized their blunder in losing the territory that was not only very beautiful but also contiguous with the three great empires-China, Russia and India –strategically very important.
The Europeans, particularly English, visitors were keen to know the country its fauna and flora. Missionaries were attracted to its pleasant climate its beautiful people its location promised it to be a great Christian centre amid China, Tibet, Yarkand, Samarkand and Bukhara.
Missionaries believed that the people of Kashmir would be converted easily as they converted from Hinduism to Buddhism and vice versa and finally to Islam in the 14th century.
These missionaries knew the deployable condition of the people of Kashmir there was illiteracy, ignorance, poverty, disease and how they were oppressed and tortured.
Though Maharaja Gulab Singh had good relations with the British yet he did not allow the Europeans to stay for winter in Kashmir. So the, British India had begun to make all the efforts to destabilize the Dogra rule.
Mike Davis in his book Late Victorian holocaust tells the story of famines that killed between 12 and 29 million Indians, these people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy but on the other hand British India and C.M.S had made efforts to gain the confidence of the people of Kashmir and win the trust of Maharaja and his officials. In this pursuit, the Church Missionary Society selected a scot Dr. Elmslie who arrived at Srinagar as the first medical missionary in the spring of 1864.

 

But his life was very hard and difficult as during that time no outsider Indian or Europeans were permitted to stay in Kashmir in the winter. Same is the case of Swami Vivekananda who visited Kashmir in the Month of September, October 1897, with the hope to find a suitable place for his ashram in Kashmir but he had to return empty handed, no room was given to him on rent so he stayed in a houseboat. However a site was granted by Maharaja Pratab Singh for the Mission Hospital at Rustum Gari in Durgjan.
During the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh, Jammu and Kashmir had marked the beginning of modern education and political awakening in the State. It was the time when Jammu and Kashmir made over all development in all the fields, as before 1895 there was not a single wheeled vehicle even the handcart in the valley.
There was no road for wheeled carriage the first wheel was introduced in Kashmir only when the most wonderful mountain road, the Jhelum Valley cart road was cut along the mountain sides from Domel to Baramulla a magnificent piece of engineering. This was completed about two years then was extended up to Srinagar.
Surveys for a railroad were made, a great scheme for draining the valley, reclaiming waste land, and preventing floods had been commenced it is because of the construction of this Spill channel Kashmir has sustained big deluges till September 2014.
State made endeavours to improve existing staples and introduce anything new which may prove productive in the country. For this purpose the Maharaja established a model farm, known as the Pratab Model Farm, today where presently SKUAST is situated to experiment with different varieties of grain and different methods of cultivation, and it is hoped that if new varieties prove specially productive they will be taken up by the cultivators. The farm was opened by Lord Minto in the autumn of 1906.
In such a country as Kashmir, with a great river flowing through it and with numerous mountain torrents and subsidiary streams running into that river there is obviously an immense amount of water power at hand. The idea of thus converting this vast amount of water power in Kashmir into electric power had of recent years since the development of electrical appliances, naturally occurred to but it did not take the definite shape till the Maharaja engaged the services of Major Alain de Lotbiniere R.E to carry out a scheme of harnessing the water of the Jhelum River which that officer had formulated, which has just been completed.
Administrative system during the rule of Maharaja Pratab Singh was that at the head was Maharaja, immediately responsible to him there were a group Indian officials mostly born, educated and trained in the British India and in the departments of the state where special technical knowledge was required, European and American specialists were employed under the ministers. The Maharaja realized, however, the necessity of educating and training his own subjects. Most of the smaller officials and many of the clerks in the offices were state subjects accordingly for the running these highly sophisticated institutions of the time in modern line then government of Jammu and Kashmir had acquired the services of European and the experts of other countries along with some leaned men of Punjab and Bengal.
However this appointment of outsiders in the Government had engaged the attention of Kashmiries for a long time, which gave rise to many socio-political and religious organizations in and around Srinagar city which among others includes Kumar Sabah of Rainawari, Dharam Sabah of Rugunath Mander Fateh Kadal, Yuvak Sabah of Zindar Mohalla, Fraternity Party at Ganpathyar and subsequently Ajumn I Nusrat ul Islam Raziwar, All Kashmir Muslim Uplift Association in 1925 at Kalamdanpora Feteh Kadal and Reading Room party of Sona Masjid Feteh Kadal Srinagar. All these organization were established with their main object and demand for grant of employment of their unemployed educated youth. In order to keep these outsider out of government jobs they demanded that only the subjects of the state should be appointed to the Government posts and consequently the Maharaja Partap Singh issued the orders directing his government that for the appointment of administrative departments subjects of the should be given preference.

In year 1922 a state council of Ministers was formed. Hari Singh the heir apparent to the throne and senior member of the council issued a circular which said: “The Maharaja Sahib Bhadur has been pleased to direct that in future no non state subject shall be appointed to any position without the express orders of his highness –in-council in each case. Each such proposal shall be accompanied by a full statement of reasons in writing as to why it is considered necessary to appoint a non-state subject, it being definitely stated weather there is no state subject qualified and available for the appointment proposed. In like manner no scholarships or training expenses should be granted to non-state subject. His Highness has also directed that any infringement of this order will be very seriously dealt with.”
Following the death of his uncle Sir Pratap Singh in 1925, his nephew Sir Maharaja Hari Singh ascended the throne of Jammu and Kashmir. He made primary education compulsory in the State, introduced laws prohibiting child marriage, banned all the prostitutes opened places of worship to the low castes, besides being the first person in subcontinent who banned the hoisting union jack in his country he made many reforms in the country. It was reported to him that a sinister British move was at foot to make Kashmir a ‘British Colony’. A state subject committee was already set up. It submitted its report in 1925 the year Hari Singh became Maharaja. He readily accepted its recommendations. A definition of “Hereditary state subject” was formulated and became law as from 31st of January 1927 in the form of notification dated 20 April 1927. Maharaja Hari Singh ‘made it impossible for the Englishmen, their Indian henchmen and bureaucrats from Punjab, to own land or to do business or to secure employment inside the State at the cost of the State-Subjects’.
It is not only during the Dogra rule that foreigners were not allowed to stay or visit into Kashmir, Nilmatta reports that if in the past it was the duty of the kings of the Kashmira to honour all the immigrants to Kashmira from all the quarters. Hiuen Tsang who visited Kashmir in the seventh century, says, that Kashmiri kings were very hospitable to foreigners. But by the end of tenth century things had changed. Alberuni informs that no foreigner except some Jews are allowed in the county even no Hindu from Hindustan are allowed in the country.
I would like to conclude with the sayings of Ghulam Nabi Gilkar who once said, “August 14 and 15 are auspicious days for the people of Pakistan and India, but for Kashmiris these days are most inauspicious”.
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