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Change of Era – 3

The last dynasty that ruled over Kashmir, before it was amalgamated into the Bharatiya republic, was Dogra. There were four major rulers during the hundred-plus years of rule in the region: Gulab Singh ((1846 -1857), Ranveer Singh (1857 – 1885), Pratap Singh (1885 – 1925), and Hari Singh (1925 – 1952).

The forefather of the Dogra dynasty was the mighty and courageous Gulab Singh. He was born in 1792 and was the heir of the famous king Ranjit Dev (1742 – 1780) of Jammu.

As per the historical findings, Jammu was built by Raja Jammulochan around three thousand years ago. Jammulochan had a sibling Bahulochan, who had erected a fort on the banks of river Taavi. Recently, the excavation conducted near Akhnoor has established that the Jammu region was part of the Harappan civilization.

The residues of the Gupta, Kushan, and Maurya dynasties were also found in the Jammu region. There is mention of extirpation of Jammu, in Taimur’s memoirs in 1398-99. After the demolition of the Mughal dynasty, Ranjit Dev subaltern 22 marginal Dogra commanders. During his regime, the Duggar region expanded, and Jammu turned into the financial and commercial hub as well as one of the richest centers for business.

During the battle with Sikhs, a Sixteen years old youth Gulabsinh, displayed unmatched velour, while protecting Jammu. As soon as Maharaja Ranjit Singh acquired the news of his courage and dedication, Maharaja absorbed him in his service along with both his brothers, Dhyansinh and Suchetsinh.

Gulabsinh became a loyal commander in Ranjit Singh’s army and presented his exceptional allegiance, robustness, and administrative efficiency. Especially in defeating the Scheduled Tribes called Yusufjayi, during the beleaguering of Jalandhar and Multan in 1819, he exhibited unparalleled fortitude and it enabled Maharaja Ranjit Singh to acquire Peshawar under his rule.

As a mark of appreciation of Gulabsinh ‘s service and to form a subordinate army strength between Sikh and Afgan kingdoms, Ranjit Singh handed over several states, including Jammu to Gulabsinh and he was imprimatur to accumulate his army and was granted the status of king.

Gulabsinh’s brothers, Dhyansinh and Suchetsinh acquired significant positions in Ranjit Singh’s kingdom at Lahore. Dhyansinh was appointed as the Chief Minister.

Ranjit Singh had adopted the medieval era practice of forming several regions, to efficiently collect state revenue as well as to execute smooth administrative operations, and hence, Gulabsinh was awarded Riyaasi, Kishtwar, Rajouri, Chennai, and a few smaller areas.

The most distinguished accomplishment of Raja Gulabsinh was the annexure of Ladakh into Kashmir state. Using Ranjit Singh and East India Company’s tacit permission, he sent one of his most versatile commanders Jorawarsingh to win Ladakh. Ladakh has been an important defense venue, which crosses its border with China and Tibet. It was an important destination for the Wool trade in Central Asia.

It was an independent state under the Mahalama of Tibet. Ladakh, known as the “Rooftop of the World”, has been a small desert area, situated East of Kashmir valley and is 2,440 to 4,570 meters above sea level.

Jorawarsingh captured Jaansafar and Baaltistaan regions and in 1841, attempted an extremely parlous and adventurous army movement of acquiring Tibet. He managed to undertake Rudok, Gaaro, and Taklala forts but unfortunately was caught in the glacier hurricane. He fought fiercely at 15,000 feet but was destined to be defeated there, and thus was killed.

Post-Jorawarsingh’s demise, the second army troupe was sent under the command of Dewan Harichand.

Jorawarsingh lost his life but his gallantry did not go in vain. A reconciliation treaty was signed among all three sides – Dogra, Ladakh, and Tibet. The border between Ladakh and Tibet was finalized and drawn and Ladakh came under Gulabsinh ‘s Dogra regime and eventually became part of the Bharatiya republic.

It was the best tribute to the ferocious attempts of Jorawarsingh to win Ladakh.

If at all, there wouldn’t have been brawny warfare by Jorawarsingh, the Chinese claim over Tibet, would have extended till Ladakh.

In 1839, after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the Anglo-Sikh war Sikh dynasty ended. The Sikhs were completely defeated, in the Sobran war in 1845. Before that, the Chief Minister of Punjab’s Kingdom, Dhyaan Singh was killed and thus, Dogra supremacy in the Lahore court was diminished. The attempts were made to dismiss Gulabsinh, but he was an exceptionally witted and sagacious strategist, he turned this calamity into an opportunity.

When the battle between the Sikhs and the British was at its climax, Gulabsinh took the charge. He was the most prominent of Sikh Commanders, hence they needed his dutiful services. At the same time, it was essential for the British to demobilize and disintegrate their unity. Gulabsinh maintained amicable relations with both. He showcased affable relations with Sikhs but nurtured secret kinship with the British.

Post Ranjit Singh’s demise, mainly three strengths presided in North Western Bharat.

The British, Dogra, and Sikhs. The continual struggle prevailed among them to attain dominance.

The British were modern and technologically savvy, far-sighted, and visionary regarding Imperialism. The Dogras were laborious and ambitious. They were feudatory but we’re not as well equipped in their armed strength. Fortunately, they were blessed with a farseeing, intelligent, and sharp-witted balanced leader

The Sikhs were feral, courageous, and valiant but lacked discipline and their conduct was indiscreet and venomous. They were divided and did not have inspirational leadership.

Taking note of the prevailing disparity in circumstances, Gulabsinh opted for being subordinate to the British and thus, acquired a large kingdom, solely, unfettered from Lahore court, whereas Sikhs lost entire privileges and strength that they had obtained, in the last Fifty years.

Two separate treaties were signed, after Sikh’s defeat. The first ever treaty was signed on 9th March 1846, between Sikhs and the British. It is known as Lahore Treaty. After a week, on the 16th of March 1846, the Second treaty was signed between Gulab Singh and the British. It is known as the Amritsar treaty in history.

The British demanded One and a half crores as compensation but Sikhs, being unable to fulfill the demanded amount, decided to part with certain regions and handed them to the British as compensation.

In the second reconciliation, the British, instead of handing over Rs Seventy Five lakhs as compensation, the British decided to pass on the regions, acquired from the British, including Kashmir. Hence, Dogras became the legal owner of Kashmir as per the treaty.

The Five hundred plus years of Islamic rule had devastated the Kashmiri Hindu, largely with a few years exception, during the rule of Bud Shah.

When the Afghan rule ended, Sir Francis Younghusband noted in ‘Kashmir’: ” The Sikhs who succeeded the Afghans were not so barbarically cruel, but they were hard and tough masters.”

The policies of the new kingdom were marked by anti-Muslim disposition.

It is the human psyche to retaliate, when the one who suffers immensely, gets an upper hand. Such a reaction may have been done as vengeance or to create an atmosphere of supremacy and a wave of fear. I am no one to comment and pass judgment on this delicate issue but this has remained the mentality from time immortal.

After the first governor, Misr Dewan Chand had created the ripple, he was followed by Dewan Moti Ram. He came to give Muslims, a taste of what it meant to be on the receiving end of bigotry.

One of Moti Ram’s first decisions was, to shut down of Jama Masjid in Srinagar and the Azaan was forbidden. It was a humiliation for Muslims.

Phula Singh, an aggressive Sikh Commander, wanted to blow up the Shah Hamadan, as he believed it was constructed on the Hindu shrine. The last-minute intervention of Birbal Dhar prevented his outrage. Numerous such mosques, believed to be built on the Hindu shrine, were seized. Cow – slaughter was made a punishable crime.

The Dogra kingdom was staunch Hindu but was a largely imperialistic and devoted follower of kingship. The idea of good governance and welfare based administration system hardly prevailed, under their regime.

The British Government of Bharat had two primary goals, related to Jammu & Kashmir.

To keep a check over the growing impact of Maharaja on crucial army checkpoints of Ladakh and Gilgit, the Britishers decided to keep the strictest control over them.

Secondly, the Britishers intended to implement efficient and just administration, maintain law and order, and construct roads and infrastructure as it would control the dissatisfaction prevailing among the people, and as a result, their commercial self-interest, as well as defense strength, would ascend.

During the first war of independence, in 1857, the Dogras lent their support to the British Government. Hence, the Britishers were pleased and accepted the appointment of Ranveer Singh as the heir of Gulabsinh but they showed no intention of slackening their control.

In 1852, Maharaja was enforced to keep a British “officer on special duty”. In 1867, British Trade Agency was established in Leh and the business route for trade with Central Asia came under the control of Bharat’s British Government of Bharat. Later, in 1884, a Regent Political Agent was appointed in the capital city of Jammu.

After the appointment of Regent, the British began taking charge of administrative matters.

William Digby, a liberal-minded British parliamentarian, has mentioned an overview in his memoir, “Condemned Unheard” regarding false charges instilled on Maharaja Pratap Singh’s governance by the British administration.

He has narrated, ” In all substantial subjects, the Regent’s power is superlative. The truth is, that without his written permission, not a soul can step foot in the nation. His wish was law and he is the king. He has surrounded himself with his friends and services and the old loyal valets have been kicked out. No one dares to speak out and if any vulnerable, dares to voice his opinion, he is instructed to be prepared to bear the consequences.”

British Government’s continued interference in Kashmir’s administration, was a depiction of the fact that the entire period of Dogra rule was dominated by the British, directly or indirectly.

The Dogra kings were Hindus and for centuries, the Kashmiri Pandits who had excelled in fields of education and administration were in-charge of governance. The population of the state had turned Muslim, due to a history of forceful and dreadful religious conversion during barbarous and brutal Islamic rule of Five hundred plus years.

The British took full advantage of the disparity among the population and adopted the policy of divide and rule.

The Independence movement led by the Indian National Congress as well as revolutionaries in various parts of the nation was getting stronger. The Muslim League also came to the forefront. This atmosphere caused igniting effect on the youth of Kashmir, majorly the educated Muslim youth, from Aligarh and Lahore were influenced by the political maneuver, evolving in the surrounding.

Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah was one of them.



Sources of Information :

हमारी भूलोका स्मारक : धर्मांतरित कश्मीर: नरेन्द्र सहगल

कश्मीर : दहकते अंगारे: जगमोहन जी

जम्मू कश्मीर की अनकही कहानियां : कुलदीप चंद अग्निहोत्री

Kashmir: Behind The Vale: M J Akbar

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