Hari Singh cannot be a hero of Jammu

Ameer Tarin   September 25, 2022

MAHARAJA HARI SINGH

All Dogra rulers have taken liberties with Kashmir’s Muslim majority population and apart from routine inhuman (begaar) conscription rules, Hari Singh, like his predecessors, would stick to the tradition of bullying, harassing and humiliating the local Muslim population in order to rule over them with comfort. Hari Singh was forced by India to sign the doubtful instrument of accession on Oct 26th, 1947. In 1951 Hari Singh’s rule was terminated by Government of India and banished to live in exile for rest of his life. He died in Bombay on April 26th, 1961. He was succeeded by his only son, heir apparent with the title of Yuvraj Karan Singhji Bahadur.

In order to create a fear psychosis and terror, Hari Singh followed the tradition of humiliating people, a routine matter, and his tactics were slightly different from his ancestors. He would, very frequently, order his infantry battalion, known as Risaldar mounted on horsebacks, to march through the main business hub Maharaj Ganj in downtown Srinagar and pick and choose a few healthy Kashmiri Muslim shop keepers to receive a number of lashes for no fault or crime, depending on the forbearance of a particular person. This kind of treatment had made Kashmiris timid, cowards and tolerant to face and endure hardships.

British Government received complaints against misrule of Hari Singh which was termed as oppressive. The government of Hari Singh was corrupt to the hilt, and always at its peak. The Muslim majority community suffered at the hands of these Dogra rulers who treated people like animals and would get a thrill by humiliating them, which the rulers did on daily basis. To give an example, a Muslim would be sent to gallows for killing a cow compared to a Hindu who would be accorded a minor sentence for a similar offence or for killing a Muslim.

Talking about Muslim rulers, a special mention of Sultan Sikandar (1389-1413) is made, who banned gambling, drinking of wine, dancing of women and the practice of Sati (self immolation of widows) among the Hindus. In matters of religion also, Shah Mir and most of the successors were perfectly tolerant, and made no distinction between their Hindu and Muslim subjects.

K.D. Sethi, a veteran political stalwart from Jammu writes: How can an autocrat, a despot be a hero? I consider Mian Dido, Raja Sultan, Bali Khan and Wali Khan as the heroes of Jammu who fought against Dogra suppression and were murdered by Gulab Singh in cold blood. This family of the erstwhile maharajas rose to power only by fighting against its own people. Sethi further mentions that Hari Singh or his ancestors were as ruthless in Jammu as they were in Kashmir.

In 1931 when the resistance re-emerged, this time from Jammu, it spread tension across the state. It was a sepoy of the Maharaja who ordered the Imam to stop the Khutba (sermon) in Jammu mosque that triggered tensions. There was massive resistance in Mirpur and Hari Singh hanged to death some of the resistance leaders there. Soon after, he, his wife Tara Devi, his brother in law, and two members of his regime Keth Ram Chopra and Udhay Chand were directly involved in the massacres that took place in Jammu. Maharaja and his family were directly involved in the massacres.

It is interesting to understand why the BJP is now seen as pushing the family’s agenda. The cause is rooted in history. In 1947, the upper caste families being the main beneficiaries of Hari Singh’s exploitative rule were desperate to have him retained in whatever form, especially after the National Conference (NC) took over.

Shyama Prasad Mukhrejee, a known racist and fascist, was a minister in Nehru’s cabinet and a member of India’s constituent assembly. He was part of the session that passed the Article 370. But then, he came out and created Jana Sangh (Master Balraj Madhok, another fascist, in the driving seat) into which the Praja Parishad merged later. That was the earlier avatar of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). That is why the BJP is re-packing Hari Singh as a Hero. “He was never a hero. Why should we have a holiday in his name? We fought against him. Why should we celebrate him now?”

BIRTH OF A TRAGEDY

Alastair Lamb writes: In Jammu Maharaja (Hari Singh) was engaged in a series of massacres of Muslims which some observers have considered to have been the nastiest of all in that wave of atrocities which followed immediately upon the transfer of power: conservative estimates suggest over 600,000 deaths here between August and December 1947. The majority population of Muslims was converted into minority reducing the percentage to just 6% and a few lucky ones fled to the areas of Muslim dominated areas now in Azad Kashmir. In spite of all this Kashmir valley remained peaceful and there was not even a single case of a backlash.

HORROR STORY

A painful story to remember is when Maharaja Hari Singh fled Srinagar he was followed by a group of Hindus who came down to Srinagar from different areas and hired Muslim TONGAWALAS to carry them to Jammu along with their possessions. Tongawalas obliged and carried them to Jammu and upon reaching their destination; these Tongawalas were butchered one by one for the services rendered. Muslims of Kashmir were paid measure by measure for maintaining human-rights, secularism and good human relations. The sadists were not satisfied even after butchering six hundred thousand Muslims of Jammu and the adjacent areas.

M L KAPUR

In his book the history of Jammu & Kashmir mentions the Maharaja in the following words:

To quell the rebellion in Poonch and Chibbhal territory, returning from Peshawar Gulab Singh after some desultory warfare, the rebels were completely routed. Many of them were captured, and treated with vengeance; their hands and feet were severed by axes, while skins of Mali Sabaz Ali, and two of the close accomplices of Shams-ud-Din, were peeled off their bodies. Their heads were hung on gallows in a crossing as a warning to others. Hands were ultimately laid on the chief rebel as well, and his head was cut off.

Gulab Singh as a treacherous and licentious person generally applauded by panchas and the talks with Jammu Raja which went for a week were entertained with abundance of food, sweetmeats, drinks and women.

YUVRAJ KARAN SINGH

Karan Singh was appointed by Government of India as the Sadri-Riyasat on November 1, 1956 and lasted as Sadr-e-Riyasat till 1965. He was later appointed as Governor of J&K till March 15, 1967. Thereafter he joined politics and became a cabinet minister in Government of India. Nowadays, keeping a low-profile, for unknown reasons, is detached from active political life.

Tara Devi, Son Dr.Karan Singh who exiled his own father, wife Lakshmi, daughter Jyotsna, and son Vikramaditya

The heir apparent Yuvraj Karan Singh, of the last Dogra ruler Hari Singh, in his biography throws some light on the plight of Kashmiris saying:

The condition of the people of the state at the advent of Dogra rule was deplorable. In Kashmir, for instance, almost everything was taxed heavily. After paying their dues to the government, gratifying the illegal demands of the corrupt officials, the cultivators were hardly left with a third of their produce. Security of life and property had disappeared.

And while defending the first Dogra ruler, his ancestor, he continues: Despite these measures, the British authorities in India received some complaints against Gulab Singh’s government, which was termed as oppressive. Though some of the British officers had earlier paid short visits to Kashmir and submitted their reports;  British authorities contemplated sending one of their officers (A Resident to oversee the running of the government) to stay at Srinagar for three to four months in order to make detailed inquiries about the condition of its people.

Karan Singh, while highlighting the achievements of his father, points out various outstanding feats performed which, according to him, were unheard of during earlier Dogra rulers. In 1877 the state government carried out the first land settlement (No historical evidence). As a result, the rights of the agriculturists were clearly defined and the state’s demand was fixed for ten years. Begaar or forced labour in its most objectionable form was abolished.

While making special reference to Hindu population of Jammu province he mentions that female infanticide, child marriage, traffic in women, untouchability and other social evils were common among the people, and steps were taken to control these evils. Simultaneously, he took up the matter of child marriage and promulgated an ordinance in which the age of marriage of boys and girls was raised to 18 and 14 respectively.

A commission was appointed to inquire into the grievances of the Muslims and other communities. Chief recommendations of the commission included a fair and adequate representation in the services to all the communities, grant of freedom of press and platform, return of the confiscated religious sites and establishment of a representative Assembly.

DEMOGRAPHY CHANGED IN JAMMU

The Maharani, fourth wife of Hari Singh, will go down in the history of Kashmir as being instrumental for changing the demographic character of Jammu province. As is said, when Dogra forces suffered heavy casualties fighting freedom fighters from Poonch, Rajouri and Muslim dominated areas, Maharaja along with his Maharani fled from the valley with all their possessions and reached Jammu.

Upon reaching the main bazaar in Jammu, wailing Maharani demonstrated to the people on the streets that they had escaped murder, mayhem and humiliation at the hands of Muslims in Kashmir. This sparked off anti-Muslim feelings and people joined by Maharaja’s army went on a murder hunt and a massacre started killing Muslims wherever they could find them.

TOWARDS THE END

Hari Singh toying with the idea of an independent Kashmir had developed an understanding with Maharaja Yadavindra Singh of Patiala to stay sovereign and not become part of India. Pandit Nehru, Vallabhai Patel and MK Gandhi had sensed the ‘intrigue’ and thought of a different plan. Patiala was tackled by the trio with little resistance but State of Kashmir posed a threat because Pakistan’s intention to claim the Muslim majority State sent the alarm bells.

THE DISTRIBUTION OF WORK

Hari Singh, who hated Nehru’s guts, now an eyesore needed to be tackled head-on and Nehru cleverly roped in naive Sheikh Abdullah and brainwashed him to rise against Maharaja offering him full support. (Quit Kashmir mischief). Later to coerce, subdue and bully Maharaja, the services of British trained bureaucrats VP Menon and Mehr Chand Mahajan were used to extract the purported instrument of accession.

Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi, whose non-violence always ended in violence, played the pivotal role to annex Kashmir. Mr Gandhi chose to visit Sheikh Abdullah’s house in Soura, downtown Srinagar to keep Begum Jehan Ara and rest of the family in good stead. Thus Gandhi put a firm seal on the crime of occupation.

It is true the Dogra Royal family still commands some respect and support from Dogra population of rural areas but for the last seventy four years, Hindus of the urban Jammu under a plan migrated from Punjab and other places of India to settle allowing them to change the demographic character of Kashmir’s Jammu Province.