Jammu and Kashmir through the ages : From early to accession


By Dr. Rajkumar Singh 4 October 2019

The problem of the State of Jammu and Kashmir had plagued India’s relations with Pakistan in the Post-independence era. At the time of independence it was one of the princely states of India who failed to decide whether to join the Union of India or Pakistan before 15 August 1947. Pakistan despite Standstill Agreement with the State of Jammu and Kashmir could not fulfil its promises to supply consumer goods to the State and having found the State helpless attacked on its territories with the help of tribes.  The development was alarming enough and compelled Hari Singh, the then Maharaja of State, to seek military and other supports from the Indian government. Hence the State was not a part of Indian territory the latter was advised by Lord Mountbatten first to get accession of the state completed. Acting on his advice hectic arrangements were made and Indian military forces landed there to get vacate the occupied territory of State.

Political history    

The history of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is a record of constant impulses of immigration from the north-west, west, south and east directions. The alien races, ethnic groups and various religions have influenced the cultural ethos and mode of life of people of this region. In the process of peopling of the region, the Dards in the north-west, the Ladakhis in the east, the Gujjars and Rajputs in the south and Paharis in the south-east have closely influenced the existing ethnicity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The racial composition of the State was also influenced by the immigrants from the territories of Turkmenia, Tadzkistan, Uzbaikistan, Kazakistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. It too had a close bearing of the Indo-Aryans on the racial composition of the people of state.

The political history of Kashmir begins, according to Kalhana, with Asoka, the great Buddhist emperor who erected several Buddhist temples and statues and founded Srinagari, the present Srinagar, as its capital. In afterwards, the successors of Asoka introduced a complete system of administration and during the period Buddhism attained a new horizon. Among the other Hindu rulers were Lalitaditya (724-760 A.D.), Avantivarman (855-883 A.D.), Samkaravarman (883-902 A.D.), Harsa (1089-1101 A.D.) Uccala (1101-11 A.D.). The last Hindu ruler of Kashmir in ancient period was Kota Rani, who assumed power after the death of her husband, Udyanadeva. The general condition of the people under Hindu rulers remained good and irrigation canals found later on testify that the Rajas did not spend all money on temples only. Gradually Hindu kings became weak and helpless and about 1346 A.D. Muslim rulers began to reign in Kashmir.

British dealings with Kashmir rulers

Important among Muslim rulers were Sikandar who succeeded Shams-ud-Din, the first Salatan-I-Kashmir and earned for himself the nickname of Butshikan or the idol breaker. He was enemy of Hindu temples, books of Hindu learning. He left worshipping people with three options – death, conversion or exile. However his son Zain-ul-Abdin was quite different from him and expressed a practical zeal in state’s developmental works. From 1586-87 the valley passed from the period of the Sultans of Kashmir into the hands of the Moghul Emperors. Moghul Emperors set the revenue of the state and made it a pleasant place through planting and gardening. The period following from 1756 the rule of valley was passed into the hands of Afghans who proved the cruellest masters the valley had ever seen. The people of Kashmir were so vexed with the brute rulers and turned with hope to the rising power of Ranjit Singh. He was the Sikh monarch of Punjab and acquired Kashmir in 1819. His rule was an improvement for the people of the State.

By the time the power of the British in India expanded and they began to chalk out an strategy for annexation of Kashmir as a buffer state in the region. In 1830 Lord Hastings, the then Governor-General of India, visited Kashmir and gave Raja Gulab Singh a certificate of merit for his excellent arrangements during the tour. They both came into contact and Gulab Singh had visualised that in order to achieve his aims the British could be a powerful master. Death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839 followed the collapse of the central authority thereby opening the field for the British to act.

Treachery and internal dissension led to the signing of the treaties of Lahore and Amritsar. These treaties made Raja Gulab Singh the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. The British did not care to ascertain the wishes of the people of Kashmir while bringing the territory under the subjugation of Gulab Singh. With the signing of the treaties British interference in the affairs of the state started and gradually the ruler became weak and helpless.  After the death of Gulab Singh in 1857, his third son Ranbir Singh assumed power who maintained the traditions of his father and remained loyal to the British. He also helped the latter in suppressing the revolt of 1857 in various regions. He was succeeded by Pratap Singh who came to the throne on September 25, 1885. From the first day he was eager to show extreme loyalty to the British and lived in the shadow of fear.  During his reign the British completed the reorganisation of civil administration and reorganised all departments. Meagre developments were made in the field of communication due to Anglo-Russian rivalry but largely the territory remained backward in sphere of education, trade and everything that could bring an enhanced way of life in the valley.

  Accession to the Union of India

The last king before the British withdrawal was Maharaja Hari Singh who took over in 1925. The people of the State were not happy in his reign and the king had no control over administration. Public resentment and resistance against the autocratic rule of Maharaja generated disappointments in the masses that led to the formation of a political organisation in 1932. The entire political organisation in the valley was reconstituted in 1938 led by Sheikh Abdullah in the name of National Conference. The new force had a mass-base and it united the state against the oppressive policies of Maharaja to form a responsible government in the state.

After the lapse of British paramountcy over Indian territory the State of Jammu and Kashmir became an independent one like the other Princely States of India. As it could not make choice regarding accession before independence, in post-independence phase it became a bone of contention between India and Pakistan following the British withdrawal. The new state made a situational accession with the Union of India on being forced by Pakistani attack. Signing of the Instrument of Accession by Hari Singh, the then Maharaja of State, made India its legal heir while the Government of Pakistan termed the Instrument based on fraud and violence. The accession of the state was made disputed by Lord Mountbatten who wrote a letter, in addition to  the Instrument, expressing the wish to have a decision in reference to the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. On January 1, 1948, India took the matter to the UN in the hope of solving the problem to the satisfaction of the parties concerned. The first war that occurred in 1947-48 proved helpless in making a just solution.