Kashmir Needs Freedom: Historical Perspective


In 1846, the then British government in India, who were not the owners of Kashmir, made a deal with Gulab singh Dogra, a feudatory of the Sikh kingdom in Punjab. His official and moral duty was to support the Sikhs in their war against British. But instead of doing his duty, he was trying to cultivate a relationship with the then British government in India. He was in secret friendship with them and they also valued his friendship. Having refused to do his official and moral duty, he played the role of what we call as collaborator in common terminology. He played the role of an intermediary rather than of an arbitrator in the conflict. He sent a secret note through his agent Anant Ram to Henry Lawrence, a personal friend of Gulab Singh Dogra, a British Soldier and a statesman in India who died later in 1857 in the siege of Lucknow in Indian rebellion against British. In response to that secret note, Gulab Singh Dogra was assured of British support and was given secret promises through his agent Anant ram. When the bargain was settled, he received the following note from Henry Lawrence which reads as:

Receive my regard and let be known to you that I want to say a word which will be to your utmost good. So, I hope, you will manage to hear it personally. Do this please and do it without delay. I hope you will remember me with your friendly letter (Source: Kashmir Misgovernment, Robert thorp, page number 7-8).

This note from Henry Lawrence sealed the fate of Sikh Kingdom of Punjab and consequently Gulab Singh Dogra discussed the terms with Henry Lawrence. It was 1841, when Gulab Singh Dogra intrigued with the British to bring about the liquidation of Sikh kingdom in Punjab. In November, 1845, Anglo-Sikh war broke out and British won that war through treachery of Gulab singh Dogra and other stooges. The road to Lahore was opened for the British. The British at that point of time decided to reduce the kingdom of Punjab to the state of Lahore, so that it might not become the source of danger for them. Further the new state was rendered very weak in financial and economic resources. This treaty of Lahore, dated March 9, 1846, resulted in the fall of Punjab with British now controlling the internal and external policy. This was a great service rendered to British by Gulab Singh Dogra.

Initially, the Sikh kingdom gave tough time to British. They resisted them but due to the help of Gulab singh Dogra, they managed to capture Lahore, if not whole of Punjab at that time. One of the points mentioned in the Treaty of Lahore was that Gulab Singh should be given the price of the services that he rendered to the then British government in India and novel feature of the treaty was recognition of Gulab Singh Dogra as sovereign of such territories in consideration of his services. This clearly reveals the existence of an early understanding between Gulab singh Dogra and British.

Let us pause for a minute and ponder over this event. Gulab singh Dogra had no public support, but he was projected as a big figure due to his services. He helped them to get into Punjab which otherwise British were finding very difficult. That point of time, Gulab Singh Dogra betrayed the people of Punjab. People of Punjab were completely unaware of secret relationship between Gulab Singh Dogra and British. Once the British captured Lahore, now was the turn of Gulab Singh Dogra. Only seven days later, Gulab Singh became the Maharaja of Kashmir (including Tibet) by an infamous treaty known as treaty of Amritsar which was concluded on March 16, 1846. The East India company made this decision in consideration of price, which is said to have been fixed at one crore rupees and later on reduced to 75 Lakhs. The deal was done and Kashmir was sold to Gulab Singh Dogra. This shameful transaction was made by the British in a highly immoral way. The poor Kashmiris were sold and at what a cost. Thus a petty Raja became the Maharaja of Kashmir as a result of services rendered to him by British.

It is important to note that British were not in active possession of Kashmir and as such that had no right to transfer or sell anything which did not belong to them. Kashmir was held at that time by Shaikh Ghulam Mohi-ud-din, the governor of Sikh kingdom of Punjab. Since Sikh Kingdom was destroyed, Kashmiris were asked to care of their country. The Shaikh died in April 1846, and was succeeded by his son shaikh Imam-ud-din, who declared his Independence and started a campaign against the illegal invasion of Kashmir by Gulab singh Dogra. As he failed to take possession of Kashmir, Gulab Singh Dogra deputed few regiments under Mathra Daas to defeat the sheikh, but the Dogra soldiers along with their commander were defeated. Gulab Singh Dogra got alarmed and he started the three front offensive against Kashmir. Finally, with the help of British, Shaikh was arrested and Gulab singh Dogra accompanied by Col. Lawrence entered Kashmir on Nov, 9, 1846. The British did everything for him to settle affairs in Kashmir but still there was resistance that never died. Thus by the middle of 19thcentury, British created state of Jammu & Kashmir through very immoral and unholy transaction.

Right from the day Gulab singh occupied Kashmir, there has been resistance and that resistance is going on till date to achieve freedom. This Dogra Rule continued till 1947. During that period there were lots of atrocities committed especially on Kashmiri Muslims. Taxes were raised and labourers were treated very badly and dissent was crushed with brute force. The worst was that Gulab singh Dogra declared himself as the owner of all lands in Kashmir and did not allow property rights to the owners. Kashmiris were dying of hunger but Gulab singh Dogra would not allow them to cross over to Punjab. Thousands of Kashmiris perished in this way on the mountain passes, but some succeeded in reaching Sialkote, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Lahore. The news about the destruction of Kashmiris spread like fire in the Punjab. Many protest meetings were held in sympathy for the Muslims of Kashmir. Fredrick Henry Cooper and even Lord Bishop of Calcutta visited Kashmir to observe the situation. It was Robert Thorp, who wrote numerous articles for English newspapers about the plight of Kashmiris. He remarked that all these atrocities were the creation of British which installed Gulab singh Dogra there. Robert thorp was the first British who accepted that British have done great injustice to Kashmiris. The British had sold the Kashmiris into slavery and strange enough that slavery continues till date and British is unmindful of these atrocities and do not care to play a role to end that slavery.

To cut it short, this slavery continues today as India took over Kashmir from Dogra rule again in an unholy and shameful way without taking Kashmiris into considerations and Kashmiris were never allowed to decide their fate. In the present scenario, right from 1989 to 2016, more than 100,000 people lost their lives, thousands became orphans, thousand became widows and many became half widows, a term unique to Kashmir. Their husbands were taken by security forces and till date we don’t know whether they are alive or dead. Hundreds of women raped, exodus of Kashmiri pandits and much more. Kashmir is in real humanitarian crisis. Over the last few weeks, more than 70 are dead, more than 5000 injured and worst is that more than 100 lost their eyesight partially or completely by the use of brutal weapon called as Pellet gun. Internet and phone services were suspended. Ban on local media and what not.

I as a Kashmiri appeal to the people of India and around the world to play their part and help in resolving the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir. Even UN resolution agreed upon by India and Pakistan, has promised us the right to self determination but nobody cares. Now I fear that day will come and dead will come out of their graves and cry. But it is my hope, before that day people will hold the trial of all those criminals who are responsible for bringing atrocities on Kashmiris and help us to get that freedom that we do not want but we desperately need.

Nissar Ul Ashraf, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids, University of Alberta


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