Tibit 84: Sham Constitution

On 7 September, 1939 the Maharaja came up with a new constitution which was drafted by Sir Tej Bahadur Saproo , non-official advisor of the Maharaja. Saproo was a leading practicing lawyer in Allahabad High Court. In the renewed and reshaped Constitution, out of 75 Assembly seats the number of ‘elected’ seats were enhanced from 30 to 40. The intention was to display that the Assembly was broad based as per aspirations of the people. Furthermore the nominated seven seats were catogarised as special quota for a) Chieftains (headmen) b) landlords of Poonch and Chinani and c) Kashmir Valley and border Districts. The individual eligibility was fixed at minimum Rs 250/- per month revenue towards the Maharaja. The Maharaja retained the selection and approval with him. However GILGIT, Ladakh and Baltistan continued to remain deprived to elect their Representatives. The Maharaja, as per the Constitution, was given inherent powers to nominate individuals to represent the people and make amendments in the provisions of the Constitution. The sham provisions of the Constitution expressly gave sweeping powers to the Ruler vide Section 5.

The Constitution, apart from above, gave vital authority to the Maharaja as indicated below:

  1. Maharaja could ammend the Constitution at his sweet will
  2. According to section 24 the Maharaja was solely authorized to administer, control and decide about treaties, memorandums and agreements with rulers outside the State
  3. matters relating to defence forces
  4. mutual relations between the ruler and Jagirdars (landlords) which included Poonch and Chinani, frontier areas and Ladakh,
  5. department of internal affairs, and
  6. administration of Dharmarth Trust, etc

Under section 28 any person who was convicted for a period of six months or more and those who had submitted a surety bond for good conduct shall be deemed to be ineligible to be a member of the Assembly. Additionally, sitting members who fall in the above mentioned category during their tenure shall be straight away dismissed. It was under this law that Moulana Masoodi and Allah Rakha Sagar were sacked from the Assembly as both the members had been convicted for six months in 1938. Out of the two, one vacancy was promptly occupied by Mohammed Abdullah (father of Qudrat-u-llah Shohab, the only Muslim I.C.S officer from J&K and author of “Shohab Nama” in Urdu.

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Proem – 2019

This blog completed one year on 13 January 2019. Using Facebook platform, these Tales of Kashmir are richer by 83 posts and counting. Comments and reactions from friends and readers remained a big source of inspiration and motivation in this journey. I offer profound thanks and gratitude to each one of them. Write ups revealing stories of men and matters and anecdotes shall continue, InshaAllah.

Javid Mukhdoomi

Titbit 83: Desperation

While dealing with anecdotal history of Kashmir relating to all important twentieth century I glanced over a few important and interesting pages of a book titled ” The Many Faces of Kashmiri Nationalism —From The Cold War to The Present Day ” written by Nandita Haksar (ISBN 978-93-85288-18-0). The book revolves around a few persons most of whom are Kashmiris. Notably the author has mentioned Sampat Prakash, a Kashmiri Pandit and Communist trade union leader and Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri Muslim who became active in the early days of Kashmir insurgency. The book is multilayered and the author has woven men and matters of contemporary Kashmir to make it an interesting read.

The author has referred to some important developments and evolving situation during G.M.Sadiq’s time (1967) when Kashmiri Pandits demonstrated thier anger and outburst in the wake of a love story of a Pandit girl namely Parmeshwari Handoo and Ghulam Rasool Kanth, both working in a cooperative store, a busy outlet located in uptown ground floor of Lalarukh hotel near K.M.D bus stand, Amira Kadal. The agitation was designed to look like a political issue which factually was not. It was all about retaining monoply of govt jobs by Kashmiri Pandits. (A detailed write up will come up about interfaith/intercaste marriages of kashmir which marginally impacted political situation at the given time). While referring to Sampat Prakash the author asserts that the real reason for K.P’s anger was that they felt theatened by the fact that Kashmiri Muslims were seeking education and trainings which made them eligible for govt jobs that Pandits had all along monopolized. Thier fear and apprehensions got further augmented due to job quotas introduced by G.M.Sadiq as Chief Minister to protect aspirations of Muslims.

In this backdrop the author writes about a significant and historically important occurrence which is reproduced below in chapter and verse (page 50):

“…During the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh (1857-85) many Kashmiri Muslims had asked to be converted back to Hinduism because they had been been forcibly converted to Islam. The Maharaja sought the guidance of Swami Dyanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj. The Swami advised him that they could be taken back into the Hindu fold only after certain rites and rituals had been performed.

However, the Kashmiri Pandits tried to dissuade the Maharaja from taking such a step because they didn’t want any competition for jobs. But when they found that the Maharaja was determined to go ahead with the re conversion, they resorted to subterfuge. They filled up a few boats with stones and brought them mid-stream before the Maharaja’s palace on the Jehlum, and threatened to commit suicide by drowning alongwith the sinking boats as a protest against his decesion. If the Maharaja allowed them to drown, he would be guilty of ‘ Brahm Hatya’, the murder of Brahmins. The Maharaja naturally didn’t want to commit such a sin”. 

Obviously this is historically an important development of the time and can’t be ignored. However details are sketchy. We have no dearth of highly competent historians, scholars, researchers and historiographers who may find out the reasons of desperation, context and circumstances which compelled ‘many’ Kashmiri Muslims to present themselves for conversion back to Hinduism.

Happy new year to all friends

Titbit 82 – Maharaja Hari Singh

Shifting focus on the other side, the Kashmir story remains incomplete without mention of Maharaja Hari Singh. His supporters and critiques have their own reasons in support or against. While some have painted him as a worst villain of the majority population yet the other school of thought, particularly Dogra Rajputs, continue to project him as a benevolent ruler, friend of poor masses and different from his predecessors. The royal family particularly Jamwals take pride even today to have ruled the State. The Dogra consider Jammu as their motherland and Kashmir as a conquered territory ruled with the help of all fair and unfair means. Hari Singh was an exception as he was western educated and he alone among the royal family had taken to western way of life. He had the distinction to have learnt Kashmiri language and abolished ‘ Purdah ‘ for ladies of his dynasty.

Some of the revolutionary steps taken by the Maharaja during his rule, as claimed by Rajputs, are mentioned as under:

  1. Maharaja Hari Singh made primary education compulsory.
  2. Maharaja stopped the practice of child marriage and actively promoted widow re-marriage
  3. ” Justice is my religion” was Maharaja’s first statement after assuming the high office in 1925
  4. Maharaja ruled the State of J&K from 1925 to 1948
  5. Maharaja established the High Court on March 26, 1928
  6. Maharaja made a formal proclamation by throwing open the doors of State Temples and places of worship to the Harijans in 1932
  7. The Maharaja addressed Round Table Conference in London in 1930 and strongly advocated for the independence of India
  8. Maharaja established the department of Rular Development in 1937
  9. In 1940 Maharaja proclaimed untouchability a cognisable offence
  10. Maharaja established the J&K Bank in 1938
  11. Maharaja abolished the practice of ” SATI “
  12. Maharaja enacted the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution of 1928
  13. Established SMGS hospital (Jammu) 6 May, 1940 at a cost of Rs 8 Lakhs
  14. SMHS hospital was established in the bigning of 1948 at a cost of Rs 15 Lakhs
  15. Improved cannals and irrigation system in Jammu. etc etc.

Titbit 81 – Pandits Agitate

After conversion of Muslim Conference into National Conference, S.M. Abdullah with active support of front line leadership started proactively a public awareness campaign in Shari Khas (down town), Srinagar. Principally the aim was to introduce naive, simple, gullible and innocent people to the idea of “Nationalism”. Simultaneously Muslim League, a formation of disenchanted members, started to offer resistance to S.M. Abdullah. on 10 June 1939 Abdullah publicly displayed congratulatory telegrams received from Mahatma Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru. In a changed political scenario and vitiated political atmosphere Muslim League projected itself legal and moral heirs of ‘Mujahid Manzil’. However on reaching Mujahid Manzil the M.L. members were beaten up as N.C. members and supporters out numbered them. In his speeches Abdullah attributed attempt at forcible take over of Party headquarters by M.L. supporters as a govt sponsored action.

During the summer of 1939 heightened activities of various religious, political, social groups were clearly noticed. It may be interesting to note that Kashmiri Pandits suddenly became hyper active. The reason being that during Maharaja Partap Singh’s rule a graveyard located at Durga Nag, Srinagar was forcibly occupied by the govt and made one ‘Mahant’ namely Shiv Rattan Gori as its custodian and caretaker.

The Mahant, over a period of time, raised a structure on the occupied land. On his death Kashmiri Pandits anointed a pandit to succeed the Mahant. The government made several attempts to eject Kashmiri Pandits but failed. On 2 August 1939 a large gathering of Kashmiri Pandits assembled at Durga Nag. The government forces made several attempts to disperse the gathering and resorted to lathicharge. Shiv Narayan Fotedar, President Youvak Sabha, and Kashap Bandhu etc resorted to sit-in at the spot. Kashmiri pandit students joined the agitation. Shops and business establishments belonging to Hindus were closed. The scene was shifted to Sheetal Nath and it was decided to offer arrests of five Pandits on daily basis. On 3 August while ‘ Satyagraha’ was on at Durga Nag, a large procession was taken out from Sheetal Nath. The procession on reaching near Durga Nag, the police resorted to severe lathicharge. Some Pandits in the melle jumped into the river who were rescued by boat-men located in the canal area (Dal gate). On 5 August, 1939 the govt in a press release held Kashmiri Pandits wholly and solely responsible to vitiate peaceful atmosphere. According to govt version the Pandits without any title or right created problems by forcibly occupying the land which was being looked after by Shiv Rattan Giri under the authority of Dharmarth Trust. The communique further said that pelting of stones was started by agitating pandits in which scores of govt officials including senior police officers were injured. More than 50 Pandits were arrested. Anti govt activities of Pandits were extended to a few other places including Hari Parbat temple. The pandit students were stuck off from schools and few among them were fined. The agitation continued till 18 August. It was suddenly announced that the government and Pandit leadership had resolved the issue. The case was referred to court of law and till delivery of judgement the police will protect the place.

Titbit 80 – Rough Road for “Nationalism”

It was not merely changing the name of Organisation which in about eight years of its existence had become a formidable force in Jammu & Kashmir State. It was a change of political ideology and historically important decision. S.M. Abdullah was at the center of this change. Indeed, it was not a cake-walk for him. There were dissenting voices, though few in number, yet could not be ignored. Was S.M. Abdullah espousing cause of Pandit Nehru will remain an important question political analysts, researchers and historians can throw light on. However, intriguing question remains that had Muslim Conference,, survived in its original form and strength till October, 1947 what would have been Kashmir’s political scenario?.

Abdullah’s justification for converting M.C into N.C was primarily for unity and broaden the base of the movement. But the results were quite contrary. Except for selected few Kashmiri Pandits namely D.P. Dhar, Janki Nath Zutshi, S.L.Saraf, Sri Kanth Raina, Shyam Lal Watt and Prem Nath Dhar, the community showed openly and publicly their disapproval particularly during June 1939 when Muslims were celebrating the Eid Milad. While the route of the Milad procession (9 June, 1939) was nicely decorated, but conspicuously Pandit dominated areas such as Ganpatyar to Bana Mohalla were giving a different look. This amply signified that ” Nationalism” continued to remain only a weak slogan.

Be that as it may, S.M. Abdullah immediately after formation of National Conference set up a religious body named ‘ AUQAF Committee’ to administer most revered shrine, Hazratbal and look after other properties. The arrangements to celebrate Milad was also given to the Committee. This was to the dislike of the Hindus. The criticism was taken to the public domain which resulted in generating mutual bitterness, writes Prem Nath Bazaz. Abdullah was again in the eye of the storm. But he grabbed the occasion and started organising celebrations for Milad coinciding 24 April, 1940. He untiringly and painstakingly worked for great success of the celebrations to belie growing popular belief against his person and demonstrate his unshakable devotion to Islam and commitment to Muslim interests. He remained unmoved when charges of establishing ” Muslim Raj ” were leveled against him. However Sheikh Abdullah was deeply angered and replied by saying that he was a ‘Muslim first and Muslim last’. (Ref: Inside Kashmir p 327).

(As an important development Kashmiri Pandits came on roads on 1 August, 1939 to protest against the govt. on Durga Nag land dispute. Details coming up in next write up).

Titbit 79 – N.C. Flag and Anthem

Continued from previous titbit

Only a handful of speakers namely Ch. Hameedullah Khan, Molvi Rafi-u-din, Gh. Haider Gori, Molvi Abdullah, Sheikh Ahmed Din Banhali and Ghulam Ahmed Ganai (Bhadarwah) opposed the resolution. The crux of the speeches remained that ” there can be no unity between the weak (Muslims) and strong (Hindus). Many Hindus in Jammu are money lenders and Muslims constitute poor peasantry. Rajputs pride themselves as rulers and do not need any unity. Kashmiri Pandits interest is confined to services alone. The speakers mentioned above loudly announced that change of organisational name will be an exercise in futility.

When the resolution was put to vote on 10 June, 1939, out of 176 delegates, only three voted against. It was in this session that the National Conference adopted its flag consisting of a red cloth in the background with the sign of a white plough inscribed at its centre. Basic design of the flag was prepared by one enthusiastic Kashmiri Pandit namely Prem Nath Dhar. After minor adjustments the flag was approved. The red background of the flag represented working class and the plough meant ingratiating and submissive majority. Only a few could visualize that one day this flag shall be seen hoisted on the Maharaja’s palace. Moulana Masoodi prepared the national anthem in Urdu:

Lahra Ai Kashmir ke Jhanday Tifl-o-jawan wa peer Kay Jhanday….

Those who were overtly and covertly opposing the proposal of converting Muslim Conference into National Conference got geared up. Moulana Masoodi and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed played a dubious role by sitting at the fence. (Ref: Aatish Chinar). However S.M. Abdullah remained convinced that this paradigm shift will prove a sustainable political change. Significantly Nehru failed to push Hindus into National Conference. Except a few leaders, most of the Hindus particularly Kashmiri Pandits seemed discontented with the N.C.

To be Continued.