Review the rich history of J&K, writes Karan Singh – analysis
In all discussions and writings on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the Dogra factor is almost always neglected or overlooked. The fact is that the state of J&K would not have existed had it not been for the formidable combination of diplomacy and value shown by the Dogras under Maharaja Gulab Singh (1792-1858). A favorite general in the armies of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, acted bravely in several of the Sikh wars in Afghanistan. As a result, Maharaja Ranjit Singh granted him the title of Raja of Jammu with a personal Raj Tilak, on the banks of the Chenab in 1822.
Even during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Gulab Singh had consolidated the Jammu region and Dogra’s arrival in the Himalayas began. After the death of the great King Punjab, the Treaty of Amritsar in 1846 gave Maharaja Gulab Singh the title over the Kashmir Valley. It was not vacant, and the Muslim governor there opposed strong resistance to the Dogras. At the same time, there were notable trans-Himalayan military expeditions by Dogra soldiers from Jammu and Himachal Pradesh, who fought high-pitched battlefields. The great general Dogra, Zorawar Singh, known as one of the most notable military commanders in world history, conquered Ladakh after strong resistance from the local kingdom. Simultaneously, General Baj Singh, Mehta Basti Ram and other Dogra generals conquered Gilgit-Baltisan. In the process, the Dogras suffered heavy casualties, but managed to establish the J&K Dogra empire, which emerged as the largest princely state in British India. Gulab Singh’s successor, Maharaja Ranbir Singh, added Hunza and Nagar as tributaries of what the Dogra empire was. The unique multiregional, multilingual, multireligious and multicultural state of J&K was, therefore, the work of the Dogras, who have not received adequate attention or credit from historians.
In addition to founding the state, the Dogras were able to successfully administer it for exactly one century from 1846 to 1947, when my father signed the Instrument of Accession to India on October 20. This period saw four rulers: Maharaja Gulab Singh, Maharaja Ranbir Singh, Maharaja Pratap Singh and Maharaja Hari Singh. Despite the fact that the state had a Muslim population of 80%, it is remarkable how the Dogras were able to hold the state together, with the help of administrators mainly from the talented community of Kashmir Pandit, but also from prominent people outside the state. Among them, Sir Vijahat Hussain and Sir Gopalaswamy Iyengar, prime minister (prime minister) for six years, from 1933 to 1939. Sir BN Rao, chief editor of the Constitution of India, was also prime minister for a brief period.
During the Dogra government, many progressive and far-reaching social reforms were instituted, especially by my father Maharaja Hari Singh, who ascended the throne in 1925. It is unfortunate that he is generally remembered only during the last months of his government during which the Tribal invasion, accession and subsequent warfare took place. This has overshadowed the remarkable reforms it instituted, such as the abolition of Begar (forced labor), the opening of all temples to Harijans / Dalits in 1929, the institution of the Jabri schools that Muslim girls had to attend at a time when This was not known in any other part of India, and the institution of state regulations subject to safeguarding land ownership and employment service for permanent residents of the state against the attack of the most powerful and wealthy parts of the outside. It was my historical role and privilege to lead the transition from feudalism to democracy, as well as Sadar-e-Riyasat elected as Minister of the Cabinet of the Union.
The Dogra factor in the creation and maintenance of the J&K state cannot, therefore, be minimized. This, apart from its outstanding continuous role in the Indian army, and its cultural contribution through traditional dance, music and, of course, world-famous schools of pahari painting including Basohli, Guler and the Kangra Miniatures The Dogri language has also been included in the eighth calendar of the Constitution, and the dogras, although numerically small, play a notable role in many spheres of public life.
Despite the radical restructuring of the former state of J&K recently, the Jammu and Kashmir regions remain united, although in a Union Territory (UT). In many ways, the economy of the two regions support each other. Most tourists to the sacred cave in Amarnath invariably travel through Jammu, while much of Kashmir’s horticultural and artisanal products pass through Jammu’s markets. The fact that both regions have been reduced to a joint UT is not welcome in any of the regions. The cashmere believe that, by enjoying a special status and constitution, they have now been reduced to an even lower category than other Indian states, while the dogras consider that, taking into account the contribution they have made to extend and consolidate the Northern Indian borders can at least expect the state of a complete state along with regional autonomy for both units.
In Kashmir, the prolonged denial of Internet connectivity and the detention of many political leaders, including three former chief ministers who have now entered their sixth month, are having a devastating psychological impact on people. In the wider national interest, it is important that normal political activity and Internet be restored as soon as possible. In addition, it is only after the UT has been compensated for the large losses that have occurred in the billions of rupees that have been incurred since August 2019, that the multiple benefits that we have ensured will flow from the restructuring will begin to arrive to the people of the old state of Dogra.
Karan Singh is an important leader of Congress and son of former ruler of Jammu and Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh. He has been a member of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
The opinions expressed are personal.