Maharaja Hari Singh’s Birthday; declaration of holiday & its ramifications

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Adv Rameshwar Singh Jamwal

Maharaja Hari Singh has been painted with a tainted brush in Kashmir. His departing from Srinagar was under compulsion of circumstances, beyond his control. Even foreign authors, were made to believe the fiction laden narrative against him as is evident from this quote in a piece of work on Kashmir, “The immediate effect was the disintegration of power of Maharaja Hari Singh, who hurriedly abandoned the summer capital of Srinagar, as tribesmen advanced swiftly from the Jhelum valley. Without a gesture towards protecting his capital or people, he fled from his palace at four in the morning with all his relatives” (Brecher,M. 1953). According to D K Khajuria, former President of J&K High Court Bar Association and having a deep knowledge of events for the past around hundred years of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh had no other option but to leave Srinagar in a jiffy. Khajuria’s brother in law, Col. Hira Nand Dubey was heading 1st Bn in Poonch. It is this family which gave three Generals to Indian Army and this is the first hand account of a person, holding charge in one of the most sensitive parts of the state. British had authorized the state to have only nine battalions (Around nine thousand men) to defend this huge state. One battalion had already been disbanded by him prior to 1947, due to some reasons and in 1947; there were only 8000 men available with him to defend the state from the marauding Pakistan army and the tribals, coming from all directions. 4th Battalion had already seen the massacre of around 350 of its personnel from their own colleagues, all due to communal frenzy. He had only few men to defend him and if Maharaja Hari Singh had fallen in the hands of Pakistani forces, who were heading towards Srinagar, the geography and fate of the state and that of India would have been different. It is in these circumstances, that he ordered his Chief of Army Staff, Brigadier Rajinder Singh to fight till the last man and this may also be one of unique cases where the serving Chief of Army, was killed in action, while defending the people, with just a handful of colleagues at his disposal. Even Christopher Sneeden acknowledges that some sectors were organized in Poonch for fighting the Dogras, but mostly the anti-maharaja struggle consisted of the uncoordinated efforts of each village, with its own band of guerrillas, taking care of the immediate military requirements. These small, distant and often disparate ‘village bands’ were frequently commanded by all-powerful, self-promoting local leaders who, in some cases, promoted themselves up to the rank of field marshal. In early September one Sardar Ibrahim and others began to form a unified command post in Murree to direct these various irregular people’s forces. This nearby hill station was strategically, and safely, located in Pakistani Punjab on the main Rawalpindi-Srinagar road, part of which bordered Poonch. Ibrahim and his organizers received help from a number of sources including sympathetic Muslim soldiers in the J&K Army; ex-Indian National Army officers; ex-Indian Army officers; and, as the Maharaja had long suspected, members of Pakistan’s army and its bureaucracy and other Pakistani volunteers. Once fully organized, this motivated military force would pose the Maharaja, then India, significant problems (Sneeden, C). The father of the author, was a close confidant of Maharaja Hari Singh, as he and son of Hari Singh, Dr. Karan Singh, a former Union Minister and Sadr-e-Riyasat of J&K had entered into a religious bonding called ‘Mitri’ in Dogri, by which the friendship thread and a friendship bond used to be created by a sacred ‘Janeu’ ceremony. Jagdish Singh, father of the author was called ‘Jaggo’ by Mahraja Hari Singh and used to represent Maharaja Hari Singh in many private parties of princes and always accompanied him in his many tours of France and other western countries and this closeness with Maharaja Hari Singh was resented by other employees, who conspired against him and created differences due to which Jagdish Singh left Mumbai but was called again and on the day he had to board the train to Mumbai, came the news about the death of Maharaja Hari Singh and after his death in Mumbai in 1961, the same employees did not allow the news to come out for full three hours, obviously for oblique purposes. The father of author was given this first hand information by Mahraja Hari Singh and then it came to the author, who had been told about the circumstances, under which Maharaja Hari Singh had to leave Srinagar. According to father of the author, Maharaja Hari Singh was a secularist to the core, very forwarding looking and had no malice towards anyone, including those who had conspired and plotted against him. Maharaja Hari Singh did not sign the instrument of accession at the time other princely states were signing the same. He signed it on 26th October 1947 due to certain reasons. He had to deal with many forces at the same time. J&K was Muslim majority state, with a Hindu King and Pakistan, a nation with an idea that Muslims cannot live with Hindus and Sikhs in the same country, had come up, with hundreds of kilometers of boundary, adjoining Jammu and Kashmir. There were thousands of Dogras in Kashmir and given the kind of antipathy towards Dogras as aroused by call to leave Kashmir, and the communal frenzy, which was engulfing the whole of North India, he had to save their lives. Jinnah considered Kashmir in his pocket as India had very little physical access to Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan had direct stake in annexing this state, unlike other parts of India, where it had limited access. Hostile political atmosphere, due to personal animosity was one more such reason. A lot of Maharaja Hari Singh’s army, around 8000 in total, was planning to join Pakistan and he wanted to tackle all such problems along with the signing of the instrument of accession. As suspected, Pakistan sent its forces, in the guise of tribal raiders and his falling into their hand would have meant disastrous consequences for India and repercussions for Muslims of Jammu, as Muslims of Jammu had already started conspiring against him and joined hands with Sheikh Abdullah.
First Round Table Conference gave an opportunity to the British to conspire against Hari Singh, as he could have become a rallying point for Indian princely states to join forces against the British. The British helped in formation of Kashmir Muslim Conference, which was instrumental in organization of rebellion against Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah was their choice to lead these forces against Hari Singh. Initially they organized in a group called Reading Room Party and then with the help of Mir Waiz Yusuf Shah, started addressing huge religious gatherings (Rai R, 2003, P-275), one Abdul Qadir, had made his journey from kitchen to the Reading room group, was inciting the people of Kashmir to raze the royal place to the ground by raising a relentless war and Sheikh Abdullah was asking Kashmiris to be ready for any kind of sacrifice for the cause of Islam (Saxena, Dr H L,1975). Abdul Qadir was arrested but thousands of people were mobilized to throng the Court premises during his trial.
(To be continued…..).