Kashmir: A forgotten tragedy

October 29, 2009

“Kashmir calls back, its pull stronger than ever, its whispers its fairy magic to the ear and its memory disturbs the mind.”
-Jawaharlal Nehru

During Maharaja Ranjit Singh reign, three brothers, Gulab Singh, Suchet Singh and Dhian Singh acquired powerful influence at his court and Dhian Singh became his principal advisor and Sikh Durbar in Lahore rewarded them for their services to the empire. Jammu was given to Gulab Singh in 1920 as a fief (jagir); Dhian Singh was awarded with Poonch and small surrounding hilly states of Bhimber and Mirpur, as Alastair Lamb notes that the areas which fell in the Poonch state, “Coincides very closely with what in late 1947 was to become Azad Kashmir.”

During the First Anglo-Sikh war of 1845, Gulab Singh remained neutral and later by the Treaty of Amritsar March 16, 1846; British sold Kashmir (areas to the eastward of the river Indus and westward of the river Ravi) to the Maharaja Gulab Singh for around Rs 7.5 million.

The state at that time was stretched over an area of 84,471 square miles and Gulab Singh bought it at the rate of Rs 155 per square mile while he paid seven and half rupees for every inhabitant of the state. (SHAHB NAMA)

Gulab Singh was succeeded by his son Ranbir Singh in 1858 and Partap Singh followed him but he had no direct heir to the throne and during his last days his brother Amar Singh was serving as the chief minister while the state was under direct British supervision.

Maharaja Partap Singh considered Jagatdev Singh, son of his great granduncle Dhian Singh, the Poonch Raja, as ‘Spiritual Heir to Kashmir,’ but his brother Amar Singh, who was his chief minister at that time with the connivance of British nominated his son Hari Singh in 1925 as the new ruler of the state. The British had once rescued Hari Singh from blackmailing when he was in Landon and according to Alastair Lamb, “Partap Singh despite the approval of Chamber of Princes was overruled by the Political Department, which thought that Hari Singh, whose disreputable background might make him easier to manipulate, would prove a more amenable Maharaja.”

Thus began the most decisive period in the history of Indo-Pak and on October 26, 1947 Hari Singh singed the Instrument of Accession with Indian Union and on October 27, Indian troops entered Kashmir and a war broke out in 1948. The countries also fought two more wars in 1965 and 71 and a constant war posture as in 1990s the Kashmiris launched a guerilla movement to win their independence from India with Pakistan’s active backing and around 100,000 died during the resistance movement.

The situation radically changed after the 9/11 and Pakistan started to distance her from the Jihadi groups. The Kashmir almost disappeared from the government’s agenda as Jihadis and government lost their good terms under the intense US pressure. Pakistan honeymoon with the Kashmiri resistance groups has ended and so the rhetoric of political and moral support for their right to self-determination. President Musharraf’s eagerness to resolve the dispute also played an important role in boosting Indian position while his defensive attitude and internal problems made the Kashmir’s issue a forgotten tragedy.