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Deciphering Kashmir Part 1

Understanding the conflict in Kashmir


Since 1947, the Kashmir dispute has paralyzed relations between India and Pakistan. There was a recognition, the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was a single and inseparable body capable of being offered to either India or Pakistan in its entirety.

Assumed perceptions soon failed, following the departure of the British presence. 

Methods employed back then to decolonize other princely states in the country, expected and presumed rulers alone had the authority to ascend with either India or Pakistan. 

Almost every princely king was persuaded by the British to recognize regional variables and decide accordingly.

Although there were no legal ramifications, the rulers mostly ignored the desires of their subjects, even though the partition along the religious lines was officially discouraged by all parties.

It was expected that the Raja will have the final say and all his subjects would, along with the Raja, peacefully join the nation of choice.

Dogra rulers were among the first to fabricate this perception of complaisance. Deluded by the paramount support of the British, Maharajas never considered the emanation that would follow.


In reality, Jammu and Kashmir was never a unified and indivisible entity, it was insurmountable and unreasonable to believe that the artificial state could have been served on a platter to either India or Pakistan.


How Kashmir came to be?


Maharaja Ranjit Singh, born in 1780, appropriated the ruler-ship of his father’s empire from his mother in 1797. East India Company had established river Sutlej as the southern boundary of Lahore Durbar, swaying him towards Jammu, Sind, Kangra, Multan, and Peshawar.

Gulab Singh Jamwal had traveled to Lahore in 1809 to serve Maharaja Ranjit Singh and was appointed command of a small regiment.

Gulab Singh captured the attention of Lahore Darbar with his efforts against the Afghan incursion. Thereby securing the trust of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Mian Dido – a local warlord used to terrorize Jammu province, and naturally, Ranjit Singh tried to dispose of him but could not succeed.




The energetic Gulab Singh was dispatched to liquidate Mian Dido and succeeded in doing so. Maharaja, overjoyed, handed him the Jammu province in 1820 as Jagir who was authorized to sustain his army for peacekeeping.

Eventually, Gulab Singh engulfed Kashmir from all frontiers when he conquered Kishtawar in 1821, Ladakh in 1834, and Baltistan in 1841.


He indirectly started influencing the Kashmiri economy by controlling the trade of wool commodities and handicrafts.

The death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, left a power vacuum.

Bloodshed persisted and anarchy prevailed for years due to the lack of a legitimate heir to the throne.

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After the British defeat in the First Anglo-Afghan War, Lord Harding, governor-general of India, did not tolerate the growing influence of Sikhs. He waged war against Lahore Darbar in October 1845. The Sikhs fought valiantly but eventually suffered defeat.

The Sikhs were forced to sign the treaty of Lahore on March 9, 1846, and they were unable to pay 1.5 crore rupees in cash as war indemnity.

Unable to pay the complete amount, Sikhs had to cede the province of Kashmir and Hazara and recognize the independent sovereignty of Gulab Singh.


Time Toast


Treaty of Amritsar 1846


British after annexing Kulu Valley decided to sell the territory of Kashmir and Hazara to Gulab Singh for Rs 75 lakh, one horse, twelve goats of approved breed (six male six female), and three pairs of Kashmiri shawls.

Maharaja Gulab Singh had to acknowledge British supremacy and provide a defensive alliance with the whole of his military Force.

The British Government had sent a force under Sir Hennery Lawrence to help Gulab Singh organize rule in Kashmir. Upon receiving intelligence about the British intervention, Sheik Imam-ud-din, Governor of Kashmir appointed by the former Sikh rulers, fled the region together with his forces.

Treaty of Amritsar validated the control of Dogra Ruler of Jammu Gulab Singh in the region of Kashmir, Laddakh, and Baltistan.

The new State was established with the Maharaja Gulab Singh on its throne, restraining three distinct communities in three separate regions; Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh.




Reign of Dogra Rulers


The adult life expectancy in 1891-1892 was considerably low, males were expected to live up to 24-25 years and female expectancy was 20-21 years.
During the early Dogra rule, nearly half of all children died soon after birth, and those who by some stroke of fortune survived, 1/3 died within the first few years.
Financially weak parents had to bear the painful loss of life on a regular basis with devastating consequences

Sir Walter Lawrence described Kashmir in 1887 as an absolute monarchy and when he traveled to the region in 1889, he found the rural natives suspicious, sullen and desperate.
They had learned to be serfs, without any rights and were called Zulum Parasts or worshippers of tyranny after being subjected to years of Dogra Brutality.
Soldiers would force them to tend private fields and would drag them away to carry the traveling load.
The peasants were overworked, starved, subjected to verbal abuse while the aristocrats in cities were being pampered and showered with luxuries.
Rural migration was common as peasants moved around in search of sustenance and freedom from tyranny.




Gulab Singh (1846–1856)



Ranbir Singh (1856–1885)




Pratap Singh (1885–1925)




Hari Singh (1925–1952)





Also read :

Nomads of Kashmir are on the edge of a knife: Gujjars-Bakarwals face existential crisis

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