Maharaja Hari Singh: My religion is Justice – Bhim Singh

Bhim Singh“The Maharaja proved his conviction as a democrat and nationalist when he drove by himself with the Maharani and his son Yuvraj Karan Singh from Srinagar to Jammu to sign the Instrument of Accession. Mr. V.P. Menon had requested the Maharaja to come to Jammu to sign the Accession. Several historians and politicians have blamed the Maharaja for having delayed his decision to sign the Instrument of Accession before 14 August 1947. Had the Maharaja signed the Instrument Accession at that time, the same critics would have blamed him for hastening the process!” – Bhim Singh

Hari Singh BahadurSince time immemorial, there have been many kings and crowns. Many of them ruled with grace and dignity, yet not a single ruler in any part of the world had courage to declare his religion as justice. On 9 July 1925, immediately after being crowned as Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh declared, “My religion is justice”. This might have annoyed several religious persons, yet Hari Singh stood by his commitment. In 1927, Maharaja Hari Singh issued a Royal Decree introducing a great revolutionary legislation, State Subject, which now has been renamed as ‘Permanent Resident’.

What a great imagination the King of Kashmir had at a time when there was no religious conflict or inner tension in the state though 86% of the population fraternity from Gilgit to Kashmir belonged to the Muslim. This concept shows the unique farsightedness of Maharaja Hari Singh to save not only the land and properties of the residents of J&K, but also put in place a permanent mechanism to save the identities of the Ladakhis, Kashmiris, Baltis, Dogras, and others. Had there been no such legislation, the Kashmiris in particular would have lost not only their land but their cultural identity too.

It is a misunderstanding that the identity and the land of the residents of J&K are protected under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. This is totally incorrect. The identity and property stand protected under the unique law enacted by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1927.

Seal of Maharaja Hari Singh on the cover of the Civil ListThe High Court of J&K was established by another Royal Decree by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1928. The protection of civil and political rights of the residents of J&K was guaranteed by the Maharaja, authorizing the High Court and even Sessions Judges to issue writs, including the writ of habeas corpus, in J&K way back in 1928.

J&K was perhaps the first Princely state in India which enacted laws opening all public places, temples, wells etc. for every citizen, including the members of the depressed classes (Scheduled Castes). Maharaja Hari Singh declared the practice of untouchability as an offence and banned child marriage, prostitution, and use of drugs. The Maharaja issued an Ordinance putting a strict ban on the transfer of females from Baltistan to other areas.

Maharaja Hari Singh introduced the parliamentary system by holding election to the State Parliament called as ‘Praja Sabha’ in 1934. Great legal luminaries and political activists like Mirza Afzal Beg were introduced in his cabinet. J&K was the first state under the leadership of Maharaja Hari Singh which evolved an independent constitution which introduced the concept of elected representatives, members of Praja Sabha, and established an independent judiciary.

Jammu & Kashmir State in India.It was Maharaja Hari Singh who brought Kashmir on the map of world tourism. It was he who developed Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Dachigam for international tourism. Students of history may agree that not a single spot has been developed for world tourism in Kashmir since 1947.

The Maharaja having absolute power at his command ensured that his opponents were not harassed or harmed by the administration or police. Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah, Mirza Afzal Beg and several others who were agitating against the Maharaja were not harmed or subjected to any kind of oppression by the administration. There was not a single instance of custodial killing during the time of Maharaja Hari Singh or any other Dogra ruler during 101 years of their rule from 1846 to 1947.

In 1931, the police resorted to firing on an angry mob of protesters in Kashmir resulting in death of several people. The Maharaja suo moto ordered a probe under a British officer – the Glancy Commission. The recommendations of the Commission were implemented within a couple of months and the guilty policemen brought to justice. Can anybody compare the justice delivery system of the Maharaja with the rule of the so-called democrats today?

The Maharaja proved his conviction as a democrat and nationalist when he drove by himself with the Maharani and his son Yuvraj Karan Singh from Srinagar to Jammu to sign the Instrument of Accession. Mr. V.P. Menon had requested the Maharaja to come to Jammu to sign the Accession. Several historians and politicians have blamed the Maharaja for having delayed his decision to sign the Instrument of Accession before 14 August 1947. Had the Maharaja signed the Instrument Accession at that time, the same critics would have blamed him for hastening the process!

Sheikh Abdullah, the leading politician and leader of Kashmiri Muslims, might have joined with Jinnah to counter the Maharaja. The situation would not have favoured the sentiments of the people of Kashmir nor would it have worked in favour of the Union of India. It is a great tragedy that Indian intellectuals, particularly historians, have not realized the great wisdom of Maharaja Hari Singh.

Brig. Rajinder SinghThe Government of Pakistan led by Jinnah signed a no-war pact (Stand Still Agreement) with the Maharaja on 16 August 1947. Yet it was Pakistan which invaded J&K in violation of its agreement to grab Kashmir. The people of J&K stood as one to oppose the aggression from the Pakistani side. Brig. Rajinder Singh, a Dogra hero, sacrificed his life with 125 Dogra soldiers at the outskirts of Baramullah on 26 October 1947. The Maharaja had to hasten the process of joining India to save the people of J&K from the wrath of the Pakistani raiders.

The greatness of the Maharaja and his commitment to the cause of India is demonstrated when he swallowed all insults and humiliations to which he and his family were subjected after signing the Instrument of Accession. The Maharaja was forced to go into exile from his home state, J&K. During 14 years of exile in Bombay, the Maharaja never uttered a word on the subject despite heavy provocations and unlimited temptations by the Anglo-American Bloc to denounce the Accession. He died at the age of 66 years in Bombay leaving a clear message to the people of J&K that our future lies with India. – Vijayvaani, 23 Sept. 2012

» The author is a Senior Advocate; Chairman of the National Panthers Party; and Member, National Integration Council

2 Responses

  1. Maharaja Hari Singh was suspicious of the anti-Hindu Nehru given his patronizing of the marxist Sheikh Abullah who was dreaming of maintaining Kashmir as his personal fiefdom. This was what preventing the Maharaja from acceding to India for he was sure that his future would be in peril once the cunning Sheikh Abdullah took control of Kashmir with Nehru’s blessings. It was only after Patel’s assurance that he was able to shed some his fear and anxiety with regard to Nehru. Patel’s letter to the Maharaja on 3 July 1947 gives idea as to the apprehensions of Hari Singh.

    “I am sorry to find that there is considerable misapprehension in your mind about the Congress. Allow me to assure your Highness that the Congress is not only not your enemy, as you happen to believe, but there are in the Congress many strong supporters of your state… Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru belongs to Kashmir. He is proud of it, and rest assured he can never by your enemy… as a sincere friend and well-wisher of the state, I wish to assure you that the interest of Kashmir lies in joining the Indian Union and its Constituent Assembly without any delay.”

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  2. India’s Marxist and secular historians have for the most part demonised the Rajas of pre-independent India. They are usually presented as eccentric, selfish profligates who had not interest in their subjects except to collect taxes. But the truth is somewhat different. Many of the Rajas were deeply concerned about the well-being of their subjects and did what they could in the circumstances to alleviate their hardships, introduced social reforms, and get a first generation of children educated.

    No Raja of pre-independent India can be said to have been as greedy and corrupt and disinterested in their subjects as the current political pretend rajas and ranis in Dilli today.

    When the Rajas surrendered their territories to a newly independent India, they should have been given a permanent seat in the Raja Sabha as recognition for the kingdoms they had surrendered to the new state. Instead they were pensioned-off and ignored by the new political elite, and in the 1970s were completely disenfranchised by Indira Gandhi who took away their titles and purses (except for the Prince of Arcot who still gets a title and pension from the Dilli Government).

    The Rajas played an very important role in traditional Hindu society. Their disenfranchisement is a great loss to Hindu culture and Hindu religion. A king or queen sitting in Rashtrapati Bhavan would have been a very prestigious and honourable addition to India’s national identity.

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