of Dogra Rule
Dogra rule which lasted for exactly one hundred and one years from November
1846 to October 1947, was one of the most peaceful and progressive periods
in the long history of the Kashmir valley and other constituent parts of
the Jammu and Kashmir State. The credit for opening much of this far flung
mountainous territory of snow covered peaks, deep ravines, extensive valleys
and arid Himalayan plateaus to modern civilization and social and political
influence, of which the present Kashmir problem is a direct result, goes
to its Dogra rulers. The Kashmir valley which is the most celebrated and
coveted part of the State is particularly indebted to them. They lavished
their attention and resources on it even at the cost of their homeland
- Jammu, in order to make it an attractive tourist resort.
The first task
of Gulab Singh after having obtained de- jure possession of Kashmir and
its surrounding territories was to consolidate them and give them an effective
and efficient administration.
From the point
of view of consolidation, Gilgit was the only area over which his grip
was still not very firm. There took place a serious uprising in Gilgit
in 1851 with the help of the Rajas of Yasin, Hunza and Nagar as a result
of which the entire Dogra garrison there was cut to pieces. Only a Gurkha
woman swam across the Indus to tell the story of this disaster. It was
a great blow to the prestige of Gulab Singh who was then in failing health.
For the time being he had to accept the Indus as frontier between his kingdom
and Gilgit proper. Even though he could not recapture Gilgit in his lifetime,
he laid the foundations of a sound and stable administration in the rest
of his territories which enabled his son, Ranbir Singh, to reconquer Gilgit
and its adjoining areas. He divided the State into two provinces, each
under a Governor, and two frontier areas each under a 'Thanedar'.
covered the entire territory from the Ravi to the Jhelum lying south of
the Pir Panchal range. It included the whole of Dugar region together with
Mirpur area of the western Punjabi speaking belt.
included the whole of Kashmir valley and the western district of Muzaffarabad.
The valley was divided into two districts - Anantnag which included the
city of Srinagar and the strategic roads linking the valley with Jamrnu
and Laddakh and Baramula which covered north-western parts of the valley
adjoining Muzaffarabad and Poonch. Srinagar was made the summer capital
of the State; which until then was governed from Jammu.
region of Laddakh was put under the charge of a Thanedar. A number of efficient
and capable Thanedars like Magna, Mehta Basti Ram and Mehta Mangal gave
modern administration to Laddakh for the first time. They built the fort
and bazar of Leh, laid plantations for a perennial supply of fuel, built
and repaired bridle roads linking Leh with Srinagar, Lahaul, Yarkand and Gartok, surveyed the traditional
Laddakh-Tibet frontier and made a land
settlement for the first time. Baltistan with its main town of Askardu
was put under the charge of another Thanedar. Later, both Laddakh and Baltistan
were joined together and put under the charge of one administrator who
had his headquarters at Leh in summer and Askardu in Winter.
when reconquered in 1860 was made a separate administrative unit with its
headquarters in the town of Gilgit. This administrative set up continued
right until the end of Dogra rule in 1947.
As a compromise
settlement with the Raja of Chamba who claimed Bhadarwah as a part of his
possessions, he was allowed to transfer his allegiance to the British instead
of the Dogra King in return for renunciation of any claim on Bhadarwah.
No wonder that the people of Bhadarwah continue to yearn for reunion with
Chamba through unification of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu region.
as has been said above, handed over Kashmir to Gulab Singh in 1846 because
they had no alternative at that time. But after the annexation of Punjab,
a number of British officials began to have second thoughts regarding the
Treaty of Amritsar. Pressure began to be put on Gulab Singh to accept a
British Resident like other Indian States and give some other concessions
to the British. But Gulab Singh took a firm stand on the Treaty of 1846
and refused to yield in the matter. The British though frustrated in their
attempt continued to look for an opportunity to bring down Jammu and Kashmir
to the level of other Indian States.
Singh died in 1858 and was succeeded by Ranbir Singh whom he had installed
on the throne with his own hands in 1856. He had himself functioned as
Governor of Kashmir province during the last two years of his life.
The most outstanding
achievement of Ranbir Singh who is considered to be the greatest of the
Dogra rulers, was the reconquest of Gilgit and subjugation of the frontier
states of Hunza and Nagar. He organized a big expedition to which almost
every Dogra family contributed a soldier in 1860 under the command of Colonel
Devi Singh. It inflicted a crushing defeat on the recalitrant Rajas and
thus avenged the earlier Dogra defeat. Chitral also accepted his sovereignty
thus re-established the prestige of the Dogra army, he turned his attention
to internal reforms. The Ranbir 'Dand-Vidhi', the code of laws, both civil
and criminal, which he got prepared, established his reputation as a law-giver.
He reorganized his army on the European model but with Sanskrit terms of
of independence and the originality and initiative he displayed in the
organization of his civil and military administration were not to the liking
of the British. They, therefore, made another attempt to force a British
Resident on Jammu and Kashmir in 1873. But like Gulab Singh, Ranbir Singh
too refused to yield in the matter on the plea that there was no provision
in the Treaty of 1846 giving authority to the British Government to appoint
felt very much chagrined and took resort to other methods for achieving
their objective. Taking advantage of mutual bickerings between Pratap Singh,
the eldest son of Ranbir Singh, and his two younger brothers, Ram Singh
and Amar Singh, they made acceptance of a British Resident a pre-condition
for giving recognition to his successor after his death in 1885.
A major event
of Maharaja Ranbir Singh's reign which could have changed the whole course
of history of Kashmir was the collective approach of Kashmir Muslims to
him for being taken back into the Hindu fold. They pleaded that they had
been focibly converted to Islam against their will and were longing to
re-embrace their ancestral faith.
sought the guidance of Swamy Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj,
in the matter. Swami Dayand advised him that he could take them back in
Hinduism after performing certain rites.
return of Kashmiri Muslims to their original faith was not to the liking
of short sighted Kashmiri Pundits who were having a hey day since the return
of Dogra Hindu rule. They tried to dissuade the Maharaja. When they found
him adamant they took to a subterfuge. They filled some boats with stones
and brought them midstream before Maharaja's palace on the Jhelum. They
threatened him that they would commit suicide by drowning along with the
sinking boats as a protest against his decision to take back Muslims into
Hindu fold and that he would be then guilty of "Brahm Hatya" i.e. murder
was a brave soldier. But he could not muster courage to face the crafty
Brahmins, who were out to misinterpret the Vedic "dharma" for their selfish
ends. The plan of return of Kashmiri Muslims to Hinduism thus fell through.
in Kashmir culminating in the en masse forced exodus of Kashmir pundits
from the valley appears like the nemesis which has hit them for their un-Brahmin
and myopic attitude at that crucial juncture of Kashmir's history.
a Resident appointed which eventually brought down Jammu and Kashmir to
the level of other Indian States like Hyderabad and Gwalior, the British
now made a determined bid to have a more direct control over the State
The Maharaja was charged with conspiring with Russia against the British
and was forced to hand over all his powers to a five members State Council
which ran the administration under the guidance of the British Resident
for many years. In the meantime, the British interest in the Pamirs and
the frontier states of Chitral, Hunza was aroused by the continued advance
of Czarist Russia in Central Asia. As a result, the British decided to
have a more effective control over the Mehtar of Chitral. The military
campaign launched for the purpcse between 1889 and 1895 was eonducted by
the State forces but under the command of British officers. After the successful
termination of the campaign, Chitral passed under direct control of the
British in practice. But in theory it continued to be a feudatory of Maharaja
of Jammu and Kashmir.
brought the strategic importance of Gilgit region to the notice of the
British. The publication of White's book "WHERE THREE EMPIRES MEET" which
gave a graphic account of this campaign and the valor of Dogra troops put
Gilgit on the map of the world. The result was a concerted effort on the
part of the British Government to bring the whole of Gilgit area under
its direct control. For the moment a British political agent was stationed
at Gilgit to watch British interests though administrative control remained
in the hands of the State Government.
Singh got back full powers in 1905 after an attempt to completely oust
him had been foiled by the timely revelation of the machinations of the
Political Department of the British Government of India in the "AMRIT BAZAR
PATRIKA" of Calcutta and raising of the issue in the British House of Commons
by some opposition members. He ruled for twenty years more till his death
of Jammu and Kashmir State began during the reign of Pratap Singh. Kashmir
was linked to Rawalpindi, Abbotabad and Sialkot by motorable roads, first
rate Arts and Science Colleges were opened in Jammu and Srinagar, foreign
administration was streamlined with the help of British experts, a hydro-
electric plant, among the first few of its kind in India, was set up at
Mehura near Baramula and new holiday resorts like Gulmarg and Pahalgam
were developed in the Valley.
of modernization of the State was accelerated by the succession to the
throne of his young, intelligent but impulsive nephew, Maharaja Hari Singh
in 1925. He had spent many years of his early life in England which had
created in him a strong urge to develop and modernise his State, particularly
the Kashmir Valley. This urge was partly the result of a new awareness
in his mind about the importance of his State and a distrust of the British
whose bullying attitude had Created a strong reaction in his young and
with the British Resident began from the very day of his coronation and
continued to grow in the succeeding years due to his spirit of independence.
The breaking point, however was brought by his speech at the first Round
Table Conference in London in 1930 in the course of which he said: "While
Indian Princes valued British connection, they had full sympathy for the
aspirations of their motherland for an equal and honorable place in the
comity of nations." This outspoken support to the "Seditious" demand for
independence by the foremost representative of Princely India, which had
been given a disproportionately high representation at the Round Table
Conference to counterbalance the popular representatives from British India,
came as a bomb shell to the British diehards in England and the Political
Department in India. The strategic importance of Jammu and Kashmir State
and the British plan to have a more direct control over Gilgit made this
spirit of independence and defiance in Hari Singh all the more galling
to them, so they decided to break him. To that end they had recourse to
the convenient method of building up popular "Muslim" pressure on communal
basis. This led to the beginning of a socio-religious movement in the State
which provided the religio- political background of the events which culminated
in the emergence of the Kashmir problem in its present form.
aim was achieved. The Gilgit region was ceded to the British by the Maharaja
on a sixty year lease in 1935. This brought the whole of Gilgit including
the frontier States of Hunza and Nagar directly under the control of the
British Political Agent stationed at Gilgit.
developments did not deter Hari Singh from pursuing his plans for the modernization
of Kashmir valley in which he took a special pride. Apart from the meager
resources of the State, he spent hugh sums from his accumulated family
treasures as well as his own privy purse to beautify the valley and equip
it with modern amenities for Indian and foreign tourists. It would be no
exaggeration to say that the modern embellishments which have made Kashmir
valley such a rage with foreign tourists are mainly his contribution to
this 'Paradise' on earth. Had he bestowed even a fraction of the interest
and money he lavished on Kashmir valley on his own homeland of Jammu which
also abounds in places of great natural beauty and is the richest part
of the State from the point of view of human, forest and mineral resources,
the present lop-sided importance of the valley which has diverted the attention
of the people, both inside and outside India, as also of international
forums like UNO from more important other regions of the state and aspirations
and problems of their people.
had to leave the state in 1949 under pressure of the Government of India
which was being blackmailed by Sheikh Abdullah. His son, Crown Prince Karan
Singh was made constitutional head of the state - "Sadar - i - Riyasat"
- under the new constitution of Jammu and Kashmir state. Hari Singh never
looked back. He died in Bombay in 1961.
With Hari Singh
ended the Dogra ruling dynasty as also the "House that Gulab Singh had
built." Jammu and Kashmir States as it existed till 1947 has ceased to
exist. It had been partitioned into Pak occupied areas and the areas under
Indian control and may be further divided in the days to come.
that Maharaja Hari Singh, who was a real patriot, got from rulers of free
India presents a poignant contrast with the treatment that they gave to
Nizam Osman Ali of Hyderabad, a real traitor, who had waged war against
India. This double standard and communal approach of Nehru Government played
the most important negative role in creating and shaping Kashmir problem.
Judged by the
standards accepted all over the world, Dogra rule over Jammu and Kashmir
was much more secular than Abdullah rule that followed it.
and forces which ended the Dogra rule over Jammu and Kashmir state and
the rise of Kashmir problem are closely interlinked. These were part of
the wide movement of national awakening and urge for freedom from foreign
rule and the British reaction to it.