The Jammu and Kashmir administration has decided to declare Maharaja Hari Singh’s birth anniversary a public holiday. The announcement was made by lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha following his meeting with a delegation comprising prominent political leaders, members of the Yuva Rajput Sabha, civil society members, including head of J&K transport union.
What The LG Said:
The government has taken a decision to declare Maharaja Hari Singh Ji’s birthday as a public holiday. Maharaja Hari Singh was a great educationist, progressive thinker, social reformer and a towering man of ideas and ideals. The public holiday will be a fitting tribute to Maharaja Hari Singh Ji’s rich legacy,” the LG observed.
Pertinently, on the directions of LG, a four-member committee was constituted by the UT administration earlier this year to examine the public demand regarding holiday on the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh. Prominent political leaders including Member Parliament Jugal Kishore Sharma; former Dy CM, Dr Nirmal Singh; Devender Rana, Sat Sharma; Ajit Singh, president, All J&K Transport Union; Rajan Singh, president, Yuva Rajput Sabha and members of Yuva Rajput Sabha were present on the occasion.
Earlier, visibly elated BJP leaders from Jammu and Kashmir and Yuva Rajput Sabha president Rajan Singh Happy expressed their gratitude to the home minister Amit Shah, BJP’s central leadership and J&K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha for conceding a long pending demand of the people of Jammu region to announce public holiday on the birth anniversary of last Dogra king Maharaja Hari Singh.
About Maharaja Hari Singh:
Maharaja Singh, who is the last Dogra King, is undoubtedly the most known and remembered figure in the Valley owing to that fact that his actions were intertwined with Kashmir’s past, present and future.
Early life & his regime:
Born on 23 September 1895 in Jammu, Singh was the son of Raja Amar Singh Jamwal whose brother Pratap Singh was the king of the state. When Hari Singh’s father died in 1909, the British took a keen interest in his studies. After his basic education in Mayo College in Ajmer, Rajasthan, Singh went to the British-run Imperial Cadet Corps in Dehradun for military training. At the age of 30, Singh ascended the throne of the Maharaja of J&K when his uncle Pratap Singh passed away in 1925.
Dr M.Y. Ganie, a history professor and director of Srinagar-based Institute of Kashmir studies, told the arrival of Hari Singh marked a major change in the Dogra dynasty. His own uncle Ghulam Hasan Ganie served in the Dogra administration and the professor recalled how he would often talk about the accountability of institution under the Dogra regime. “There was a reason behind that. The Dogra dynasty was feudal in nature and did not care much about governance. It was only after the British intervention that the regime focused on improving governance here, but that too was limited,” professor Ganie said.
About His Governance:
“After Hari Singh ascended the throne, he took many measures. The Muslim population of the state was quite disenfranchised till his arrival. Hari Singh introduced rules under which children were forced to receive modern education in what came to be known as Jabri schools. Jabar means force,” he said. Among other reforms ushered by Hari Singh was strengthening the Jammu and Kashmir Tenancy Act 1923 introduced by the earlier administration. Singh, according to Ganie, ensured that the landless peasant population of Kashmir got their due.
Hari Singh also wanted to restructure the state bureaucracy to improve governance. With this purpose in mind, he started to import bureaucrats from other parts of British India especially Bengal. The British, too, were happy to see the reforms. However, Kashmiri Pandits, who at that time were more educated and had a better representation than their Muslim counterparts, resisted the move.
“The Kashmiri Pandits under the Dogra regime were highly educated and intellectually very strong. They knew that importing officials from Bengal would have long-term ramifications on governance and policy, hence they resisted,” Ganie said. “They compelled the Maharaja to introduce the State Subject law, which defined citizenship of Jammu and Kashmir. This according to me is the bedrock of J&K’s special status. The tussle within the services became the foundation for the movement to protect the state’s indigenous identity,” Ganie said, adding, the overall regime of Singh was commendable
Feudal regime And forgotten Singh’s initiatives:
Jammu-based journalist and political analyst Zafar Choudhary while speaking said history has not been fair to Hari Singh. Choudhary said while Hari Singh’s rule was no doubt feudal in nature but initiatives taken by him are mostly forgotten. “Whenever Maharaja Hari Singh is discussed, it is in the context of the events of 1947-48, which is unfortunate. History has not been fair to him,” he said.
Clearly Ganie and Choudhary and many others in the state tend to see the positives of the last Dogra king. These voices believe Hari Singh was, in fact, better in comparison to his predecessors. But, a vast majority of people in the Valley tend to disagree, often not taking the pain to compare Hari Singh with his predecessors or simply blaming him not only for the Kashmir stalemate, but also for his conduct before 1947.
Revolt against Singh:
A popular uprising against Hari Singh began in 1931 when Abdul Qadeer of Swat (Modern Day Pakistan), an employee of an English army officer, was put on trial for treason and conspiracy to overthrow the regime. Records suggested 24 Kashmiri people were killed in that summer. The uprising against Hari Singh had begun and till date July 13 is remembered as Martyrs’ Day across the Valley. Though Hari Singh largely contained the rebellions between 1931 and 1947, his real test came with the partition of British India. Hari Singh, backed by his administration, wanted J&K to remain an independent region, espoused by his Prime Minister Ram Chandra Kak, historians here said. But, according to the two-nation theory, the state, was supposed to join Pakistan on account of the princely state being a Muslim majority.
Hari Singh even signed a Stand Still agreement with Pakistan in order to maintain status quo till the final decision on Kashmir was agreed upon. India, however, did not sign the agreement. In the meantime, people from Chenab Valley’s Poonch region, in June 1947, raised arms against Hari Singh’s Dogra soldiers even as the subcontinent was engulfed with communal riots.
The rebellion was carried out mostly by former Muslim soldiers of the British Army who had returned from the First World War. The rebellion in Poonch region of J&K followed by a brutal crackdown by Singh’s forces gave the newly-created Pakistan a pretence to send over tribal militias. For long, the Indian state maintained that the tribal militias were Pakistani troopers. The intervention by Pakistan is now known as “Kabail raid” in local parlance.