A nemesis called Kashmir – a sin of Hari Singh and we pay the price !

The blue sky, green valley & white snow........Kashmir was always an irresistible temptation for India,China & Pakistan...Photo by author

Like every baby born in this side of the border I was being told & taught from my childhood that India’s claim on Kashmir is very legitimate & it is the mistake of Jawaharlal Neheru who failed to lead the nation on this issue & made this mess.Needless to mention that the devil role of Pakistan since 1947  has also been  told like folk lore.No wonder every child born on the other side of boundary gets an equally reverse version of this story.I am sure in every household of Lahore, Karachi,Multan or Islamabad children grow up hearing that Pakistan is the legitimate claimer of Kashmir & India the monster is doing all wrong things with innocent people of Kashmir for last 65 years.

As I read more & more on Kashmir( many online materials as well ), I get more & more perplexed on the issue.So I have recently started thinking differently.Was it only an ego clash between India & Pakistan that made an endless  bleeding for years or the internal bleeding & gradual debacle of Kashmir was already there when it was under the rule of Dogra dynasty ? Was this sacred land which was once  predominantly populated by Hindus really ruled well by her Hindu rulers at the end of 18th century ?

Both history and  mythology speak about a saga which vouches the fact that Kashmir was a sacred land of hindu kingdom from time beyond recollection.The mythology refers that it was land founded by Maharishi Kashyap the grand son of Bramha .Kashmir is believed to be the home of Devi Saraswati. Even today at the time of worshiping devi Saraswati priests in south Indfa face on north & chant ”  namaste sarada devi kashmirmandalavasini  “.

The modern Kashmiri language in which today’s people speak in the valley has more than 60% words which are originated from Sanskrit.In 1211 when Delhi was already under muslim rulers, Kashmir was still a hindu kingdom.It is not before 1320  when the last hindu king was vanquished & muslim invaders from west captured the land.Ever since the soil of Kashmir was washed by the blood of hindus for many many years.Every time muslim invaders entered India from west their sword & lust robbed Kashmir.They converted the mass to islam  & most of it’s great temples were destroyed or gradually deserted .The majestic ruins of Markandaya Surya temple at Martan on the way to Pahelgaon is still a burning testimony of hindu rules in Kashmir.In 1753 the land was won by Afgans & then it came in the hands of Sikhs on 16th March 1846 after a treaty instituted between British East India Company & Sikh ruler Gulab Singh .It was the darkest era in Kashmir.In 1856 after the last Sikh war it came in the hand of Dogra king.

Dogras of Kashmir was just like any other ruler of Indian subcontinent.

Their lives were full of limitless luxury & spending on wine, women,tiger hunting, Rolls Royce cars supplemented by prolong stay in Europe’s most expensive hotels for months at the tax payers money. More than RS 25  lakhs was spent in the coronation function of Hari Singh the last hindu king of Kashmir in 1926 where an American motion picture team was hired to do video recordings.The king was generous enough to clad his horse & elephant with gems & gold.

In 1931 he visited London for round table conference with his pregnant wife & took her to France where his only son Karan was born in 1932.It was life in king size for him. With all these there was a royal scandal in Paris hotel in 1924 with a white woman that cost Maharaja the earth.The scandal made  such a mayhem that Time magazine took the pleasure of covering almost every single details.It was found to be a deep rooted conspiracy of fooling an Indian prince by a group of imposters among whom his lady love Mrs Robinson was a key figure. Hari Singh with many eggs on his face came back to Kashmir & his angry uncle sent him for a penance to purify his soul.Married for four times & finally divorced from the last wife this man named Hari Singh  is good enough for any Bollywood movie where love, sex & dhoka will have equal shares in frame.

Hari Singh's summer palace at Jammu - Luxury at it's best - photo by author

His summer palace in Jammu was a master piece &  furnished with the most extra ordinary furniture & electrical gadgets of that era.The palace now a museum has very little to exhibit as most of the articles were shifted to Bombay with him where finally he died as an unknown, unwanted & broken man in 1961.

His only son Karan is a scholar & highly respected for his profound knowledge on various contemporary issues.His vocal cord is so enrich that even The Gramophone Company of India ( HMV ) hired him many a time for English voice over of their many unforgettable products.One such product I remember was ” The Voice of Freedom ” released in 1997 .The collection had rare voice recordings of people like Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Neheru, Subhash Chandra Bose, BR Ambedkar, Krishna Menon etc.Karan Singh read an excellent commentary in that connecting all these great speeches.I do not know why HMV has discontinued this marvelous piece from the market.A statesman with an rich experience ,a foreign diplomat & minister in central at various capacity Karan Singh is also an activist working for wild life. Have done his Phd on  Rishi Aravinda ( once a firebrand lead of Congress in early 1900s ) of Pondichery Karan Singh  writes serious articles in major newspapers.  Known to be very close to Birla & Gandhi family Karan Singh was last in  news when he unsuccessfully contested as a Congress candidate against Atal Vehari Vajpayee  from Lucknow.

Let us come back to Hari Singh & his time.

All the above facts told about him was normal & very commonly found in almost every princely state of India under Raj.Some of the examples are even worse.So history does not blame Hari Singh for his kingly gestures rather history recorded some of his remarkable initiatives which have no matches.

Compare to his time Hari Singh was no doubt a progressive man in his social outlook.It is astonishing to find that this man made education compulsory for girls and  allowed hindu widows to remarry.He introduced seven years imprisonment  & lashes for abducting Kashmiri girls & Time magazine reported that in the brothels of Calcutta & Madras  this action  increased the price for Kashmiri girls by several times as suddenly their supply was less than their too high demand.It was he who established Jammu & Kahmir Bank & Kashmir Emporium.He also abolished forced labor & prostitution.The most audacious thing that he did  was to allow low caste hindus in every temple.

Can you ignore such a man ? Never.

Hari Singh - the last hindu king of Kashmir- photo from internet

At the end of 2nd world war when it was the pack up time for Brits from all it’s colonies India was a very very special case.Nowhere in the world Brits stayed so long as ruler & particularly never ruled such a vast diverse population.” Two nation theory ” was accepted & it was on card to divide India on the basis of religions. At that point inclusion of 570  princely states was a matter to discuss.The most complex divorce in the history of mankind was indeed a gargantuan task.

Very naturally  princely states where hindu & sikhs are in majority came to India subject to the geographical proximity.Some exception like Junagar & Hydrabad where muslim rulers were  keen of joining Pakistan.Both the cases were nipped in bud by Sardar Patel.In Junagarh Indian force marched & helped the nawab to catch his flight to Pakistan with his countless number of wives where as in Hydrabadi Nizam’s private soldiers were razed by the end of September 1947.In both the cases it was a cake walk for Sardar Patel the man responsible for merging princely states to Indian republic.

When every prince in Indian princely state finalised the fate of their people only exception was Hari Singh who did the biggest blunder of his life & his people.

The impractical day dreamer was influenced by a god man called Santadev who while staying & enjoying royal hospitality at his palace told that Hari Singh the great maharaja is destined to rule from ” Lahore to Ladak”. This made Hari Singh mad, blind & adamant.

Hari Singh was not in a position to realise that in modern world a land locked state like one of his own can not sustain.When Lord Mountbatten personally visited him in May 1947  & tabled the paper of ” instrument of Accession ” under Indian Independence Act 1947  Hari Singh gave no consent. A hindu King with 97% muslim subject was still day dreaming of an independent state like Nizam of Hydrabad.

A disgusted Mountbatten even told him to join Pakistan to cut the case chort & that was also not acceptable. Md Ali Jinnah wanted to meet him through the excuse of visiting the beautiful valley to recover his lost health.A state with such a vast muslim population makes clear point to come in Pakistan & Jinnah was over sure about this. His shock found no limit when he knew  that Hari Singh does not want him in Kashmir  even as a tourist.

Jawaharlal Neheru who was clever enough to play the card of his Kashmiri origin whenever needed to create zingoism was also not allowed to enter Srinagar in 1946 during the period of ” Quit Kashmir ” movement led by National Conference leader Shekh Abdullah. Soon Shekh the mass leader with a pro India attitude was jailed by Hari Singh.His popularity among his subjects specially to that of muslims was always below average.Surprisingly he never realised this in his life time.

Side by side there was practically no development work to eradicate poverty of common people or preventive measures to avoid annual flood.There was hardly any place with electricity beyond Srinagar till 1940s or there was hardly any college to match that of in Punjab or Delhi.However new golf courses & palaces were built to satisfy Dogra king’s pleasure.Kashmir was indeed a place where endless natural beauty were peacefully co-existing with endless poverty of common people.The popularity of Hari Singh was at the lowest of it’s low.

The day India  & Pakistan celebrated their first independence day common people of Kashmir were confused & under the shadow of panic by thinking their uncertain future.Fanatic muslims were thinking that they are going to be a part of Pakistan not because that it is the first country in the world created for muslims.Rather they all wanted to overcome misrule of Hari Singh.On the other hand Kashmiri hindus were overjoyed & confident that their hindu king will establish  an independent Kashmir & if that does not work out then one day India will come to kiss them.

In such an atmosphere on the other side of the border Pakistan was not sleeping as India was.The wounds Jinnah suffered was still bleeding & gambit to over throw Hari Singh was under process in Karachi.

Neheru visiting one of civilian women armed force of Kashmir in 1947 - photo by Ramchandra Mehta

On 22nd  October 1947 Pakistan army invaded Kashmir in an incognito of Pathan tribal & a gory phase again entered in the pages of history.It was loot, murder rape & abduction at it’s best by the invaders .On 24th October when Hari Singh was celebrating Dussera in his royal palace the only power station was burnt down & Srinagar dipped into darkness.A poor defense from Hari Singh’s private army  was reduced to rubble with no time.The common people & members of National Conference were in job to protect Srinagar from Pathans.Even girls & children took up arms & paraded on the street of Srinagar.

Hari Singh took little time to flee Srinagar. With a convoy of 85 cars carefully loaded with all that he can take away from deserted capital.

The salvaged treasures included his 3 living wives ( out of that 2 were childless ) & son Karan who was just back from Doon school with a broken leg after completing his senior Cambridge.The finest polo pony or even expensive ruby necklace valued Rs 1.25 lakhs in those days from the idol of their family temple  was also shifted.It is said that Rs 500 crore of wealth loaded in 8 trucks were taken to Jammu.

While he was in run for his life & pride Hari Singh did what he should have done in June of the same year.His office contacted New Delhi for help & rest what they say is not history but a blunder.

Sardar Patel the deputy prime minister of India was not a well read man like Jawaharlal but he understood his business better than anyone else of his time.A man with a strong hindu symmpathy he did not miss the opertunity to negotiate with Hari Singh.” Take help & join India ” was his simple message &  Hari Singh had no choice.This is what the entire Pakistan think along with that there was no invasion but only mutiny against Hindu king by locals.

However the Indian version says Hari Singh saw that mask falling from Jinnah’s face & with his sound mind agreed to sign the ” Instrument of Accession ” with a special condition that the agreement stands void & null if India does not help to save his people.

Close associates said when the broken man was finally arrived to his Jammu Palace he looked towards hill & cried saying ” we have lost Kashmir ” !!!!!!!

One that night before going to sleep he told his secretary that if roaring of Indian air force is not heard by morning he should shoot him in sleep.

Receiving upon the message from Kashmir Lord Mountbatten kept his word.Indian army air dashed Srinagar & prevent  further progress of Pakistan soldiers.

Hari Singh finally signed the instrument of accession on 26th October 1947 & wrote  a personal letter to Mountbatten which starts with “ I have to inform your Excellency that a grave emergency has arisen in my State and request immediate assistance of your Government.The same letter ended with “ I have accordingly decided to do so and I attach the Instrument of Accession for acceptance by your Government. The other alternative is to leave my State and my people to free-looters. On this basis no civilized Government can exist or be maintained. This alternative I will never allow to happen as long as I am Ruler of the State and I have life to defend my country.I am also to inform your Excellency’s Government that it is my intention at once to set up an interim Government and ask Sheikh Abdullah to carry the responsibilities in this emergency with my Prime Minister”.

The front page of Hindustan Times on 26th Oct 1947 - It was a celebration time for India.Photo from internet

Indian soldiers acted smart & speedy. Although many places were salvaged but a big part was lost to Pakistan.The war continued till end December & finally when Indian army was close to recover more places.It was a celebration time in India without knowing much what actually is happening in Kashmir. Jawaharlal suddenly announced seize fire on 31st Dec & took the issue to UN without making  any consultation to Patel who was home minister of India.

Hari Singh neither  a favored man to Mountbatten nor to  Jawaharlal found Bombay a better place than New Delhi.Bombay was selected  due to it’s race course, luxury hotels, elite clubs & polo ground which were  not that good in New Delhi.The vanquished king sent his son Karan to New York where he celebrated a memorable ( !!!!!! ) new year eve on 31st December 1947 & he ( the king ) made him busy to build a palace in Bombay where some new wall was regularly built & demolished.It was because Hari Singh used to believe that he will die the day this palace is completed.

If Hari Singh would have joined Pakistan by honoring two nation theory or if he would have taken a prompt decision to join India with support of National Conference whose leaders were all from mass back ground the history of this subcontinent would be different.Jinnah would feel honored if he got a chance to talk to Hari Singh across the table.Instead of doing right thing on right time Hari Singh trusted an uneducated God man & overestimated his administrative skills which finally culminated into a meaningless ego clash for 2 poor countries.

We still pay the price of an individual’s baseless ambition.

Let us be honest – let us be fair to fact.

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A city, a newspaper and few odd Englishmen : Story of The Statesman and it’s three “shaheeb” boss.

Ever since they found India as one of their most coveted ground for trading and business they started coming.

Some of them were exceptionally talented, extra ordinary in  nature but most of them were below average Brits who found no silver line of their career in their own land. India from mid of 17th century to mid of 1930s was overcrowded with such people who were in a land which was more of a myth than a reality to many of their native back home in England.

This country had some plus points to these not so talented mass – it had a robust population just experiencing the magic of modern education, a spiritual heritage that dates back more than 5000 years, enormous potential of commercial crops like tea  &  jute and last but not least is the magic of Himalaya a passion no Brit can ignore even today.

A morning habit over a century

A morning habit over a century - photo by author

So they came – mostly in Bombay, Calcutta & Madras where they formed their community closed within the walled compound of elite clubs & residency. With this they brought the culture of newspaper – an institution in which English educated  Indians gave them a fitting competition. The Pioneer from Allahabad, The Times of India from Bombay & The Statesman from Calcutta were the major brands dominated and circulated among Euro-American community while Indian managed newspaper such as Amrita Bazar Patrika from Calcutta,The Hindu from Madras,The Hindustan Times & National Herald from Delhi etc were considered pro Indian & vocal in support of Indian independence. Mahatma Gandhi was so impressed by Amrita Bazar’s nationalistic perspective that he went on saying ” Amrita Bazar is really amrita ( ambrosia )”.

Out of all these The Statesman was an amazing exception – one hand it was doing exactly what an English managed & English funded newspaper should do but on the other hand it was taking side of the Indian when it is mostly mattered. The Statesman editorial board did not think twice before deciding to publish a strong &  harsh letter written by Rabindranath Tagore to Viceroy of India informing his desire to disown the most coveted British title as a protest of Jaliwanala Bagh massacre in 1919.Management body of the paper did not find any audacity but a spirit of true patriotism in it. Before this in 1911 The Statesman did a  praising editorial on the occasion of  the historical victory of  Mohan Bagan football club over British military football team named East York in IFA shield final.In the same year it crticised the Govt ruthlessly on it’s decision of  removing capital from Calcutta to New Delhi.  The  steel of Statesman was visible from every corner.

The Statesman House , New Delhi

The Statesman House , New Delhi.Photo by author

By responding to an advertisement published in The Times London an young man  named Evan Charlton applied & selected as a trainee journalist for The Statesman.He sailed to India in early 1930s. The man did not know that he is going to mark his name in history for two reasons. This man later on will become the last Brit editor of this great newspaper & will be one of the fortunate man to work under legendary editor Ian Stephen.

Like him another young man also applied for a job by seeing the advertisement published in The Times. He was none other than Philip Crosland who later on become resident editor of The Statesman New Delhi edition and finally General Manager of the organisation. However the commercial success of The Statesman’s Delhi edition was never very impressive. It fall flat in competition from it’s Indian cousin Birla owned & Devdas Gandhi ( youngest son of Mahamta Gandhi ) edited The Hindustan Times which outplayed the former.During partition when Delhi became home of millions of Punjabi refugees from west Punjab &  Sindh , The Hindustan Times stood as a pillar of support for them to Nehru Govt.Offering discount to the the refugees even for matrimonial classified & others it won over a huge population by emotion – The Statesman never walked on this path. However legend goes that with his morning cup of tea Neheru used to pick The Statesman first , even before his own newspaper The National Herald.In India both of them were initially upset by it’s work culture, complex social & political gambit and climate. For Philip Delhi was little better than Calcutta but for Evan who spent more than 32 years in this country found it an amazing place.

Victim of Churchil's secret war

Victim of Churchill's secret war- photo from internet

Ian Stephen was there – when man made  famine rocked Bengal in 1943-44 killing more than ten lakh people out of starvation, Ian forgot that he is a Brit & works for a Brit managed newspaper.He was too audacious to recollect that earlier editor of this newspaper was fired by top management for opposing British line. Ian  exposed the nudity of Govt by publishing articles & bone chilling photographs showing how moving skeletons are dieing on the pavements of Calcutta documenting  a dark saga of British rule in India. In his book Monsoon Morning Ian wrote ” death by slaughter, say in a communal riot … you of course know about almost at once. You hear shouts, screams. Smoke from nearby buildings on fire stings your nostrils… But famine comes quietly. Even if you’ve been half-expecting it, there’s still no drama: nothing to hear, almost nothing characteristic at first to see, anyway in a city like Calcutta, notorious for its swarms of pitiable poor living in squalor near the margins of subsistence.”

A recent epoch making book named ” Churchill’s Secret War ” by Madhushree Mukherjee exposed the devils of 1943 Bengal famine. The positive contribution of Ian as an editor of The Statesman was  properly illustrated in that excellent book. Another world famous book ” Three Famine ” by Tom Keneally noted Australian author is a very good reference to know more about this.

Ian Stephen did not stop there. In 1946 August when the gory communal riot broke out in Calcutta it was he who first jumped among the crazy mass to save lives of innocent.Braving amid lawlessness & tumult Ian toured almost every riot effected corner of the town to salvage people.Many a place he toured in cycle without giving his identity.

The Statesman House of Calcutta was attacked on 16th August, 1946

The Statesman House of Calcutta was attacked on 16th August, 1946-photo from internet

This is not to be forgotten that the head office of the newspaper ” The Statesman House” located at 4 Chowringhee Square Calcutta was badly damaged by the riot monger mostly muslims on 16th August . Ian was fearless & honest. It was he who first termed the madness as “The great Calcutta Killing ” in his editorial. With articles, photographs & visiting almost every disturbed locality of Calcutta to calm people Ian Stephen did a job which is no way falls short of what Mahatma Gandhi did a year after.Later on Ian who always judged Jinnah a better statesman than Gandhi accepted a job in Pakistan Govt & became one of key historian of that nation.

Today hardly anyone knows who was Ian Stephen.Not a single place or institute is named after him in Bengal or elsewhere in India.There is no road named after him in city of Calcutta  although there is road in Park Circus named after Surawardhi  the Muslim League politician who is believed to be one of the master mind of this ugly dance of death that saw countless lives perish.If this man is good enough to be remembered  then why not Churchill ?

Not a bad idea Watson !!!!!!!

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