Kashmir: Dismembering the Maharaja’s Creation!

kashmir dogra

(The setting up of a third territorial division in the erstwhile State of J & K created by Maharaja Gulab Singhmay result in its finaldismemberment!)

For past sometime there has been demand of some people for converting Ladakh into a union territory and the Jammu people too have sometimes raised a similar demand. The recent order creating Ladakh as a full-fledged separate division of the state like other two divisions which should have normally been issued by an elected government as demanded by constitutional and legal propriety may be the beginning of the ultimate dismemberment of the once famous and widely known vast Dogra Empire!Maharaja Gulab Singh was the founder of the Dogra Empire which was known till 1947 as Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh wa Tibet Ha!

Col JP Singh describes the rise of Gulab Singh in the Defence Review. “Gulab Singh had at the age of 16 distinguished himself in the “battle of Gumat”. He had blunted the Sikh advance. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was very much impressed by his courage, bravery and swordsmanship and appointed him as a cavalry man. On 17 June 1822, Gulab Singh was anointed as Raja of Jammu at Jia Pota Akhnoor by Maharaja Ranjit Singh himself by applying Tilak at his forehead. History of Jammu and Kashmir, as would be seen, took a new turn thereafter and is practically the history of vision of one man, Gulab Singh. By virtue of his vision, abilities and valour, he went on to make an empire of his own as ‘Jammu & Kashmir’ by extending its borders to Tibet, China, Russia, Central Asia & NWFP”.

“After becoming Raja of Jammu, he and his legendary commander-in-chief, General Zorawar Singh embarked an ambitious campaign of conquests that opened a window far into the heartland of Central Asia. (Gen Zorawar Singh ranks as one of the greatest military leaders, not only in India, but possibly in the world and his exploits and invasions over Himalayas and Karakoram outclasses the achievements of legendary Hannibal). As per Gulab Singh’s plans, Gen Zorawar Singh led State forces into breath-taking invasions of Ladakh, Hunza, Chitral, Gilgit-Baltistan and Western Tibet. In a series of defeats inflicted upon the Sino-Tibetan forces, he reached the Holy Mansarowar Lake and captured Mantalai”.

The partition and subsequent entanglement of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in a war between the two newly created countries started the real dismemberment of the Dogra Empire. Half the state came under the control of Pakistan including Gilgit-Baltistan. Kashmir had never become the part of the empire voluntarily. Kashmiris had been sold like cattle by the British to Maharaja Gulab Singh. They had started a movement for their emancipation in 1931 which in different forms continues till present. Had there been no partition, Kashmiris may have achieved their ultimate freedom after four centuries of external slavery. However, the events of 1947 tied them in a Gordian knot out of which they are unable to come out but they have not given up the struggle and it continues in one form or other. In spite of various cultural and other differences the three units of the State had been getting along well. There are business and other relations between the people living in three regions. Irritants if any have been always created by the Central Government!

The creation of a full-fledged Ladakh Division with the aim of providing more administrative and other powers is not a bad idea and this had been demanded by these people for a long time. However, merely, creating a separate administrative and a revenue division would not satisfy their aspirations. Leh people have been already agitating for a Union Territory status. If the aim is to provide equal distribution of administrative and other powers to all regions of the State, the ideal thing would have been to grant Regional Autonomy to all the three Regions. Late Balraj Puri had been agitating for Regional Autonomy for the three regions of the State all his life. With all the three Regions getting equal share of resources and powers, there would be no heart burning. Srinagar could be the permanent capital of the state with abolishing of the Royal Durbar Move. Ultimately, the division or dismemberment of the state would be to the disadvantage of the Dogras of Jammu if they opt out of the State by demanding Union Territory or a Separate State.They would totally lose their unique identity and other privileges in the vast ocean of the Indianmainland!

The order of the creation of a separate division for Ladakh has already created resentment and unrest in Kargil. The Kargilites refuse to be under the sway of Leh. They want the headquarter of the new division to be shared between Leh and Kargil. In fact, in the case of Hill Council also initially there was only one headquartered at Leh. However, subsequently, a separate Hill Council had to be created for Kargil. Already, the Chenab and Pir Panchal people have started demanding full-fledged divisions for their areas. In view of these possible repercussions and problems it would have been advisable to leave the decision of creating new divisions to an elected government. If all these newDivisions get created, then Kashmir reverts back to the historical Kashmir consisting of the valley with its Kashmiri speaking periphery also known as the Greater Kashmir which historically has been an independent and a sovereign country for centuries. Interestingly, the BJP had started a movement for fully integrating the State of Jammu & Kashmir into the Indian mainland. They may end up by disintegrating it and by default give Kashmiris total freedom which they desire and have been clamouring for all these years even before the partition of the sub-continent!

Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired) (Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir)


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