The demographic composition in most of the princely states in the Indian subcontinent in the nineteenth and twentieth century was characterized by a plurality of religions and the multiplicity of ethnicities. The administrative structure in these princely states was such that the co-religionists of the ruler (even if they were in the minority) were almost always the stakeholders of power. The people (other than the co-religionists) in most of these states complained of discriminating against them in the avenues of administration or for that matter in other fields. This paper deals with the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and shall look at the Dogra governance in Kashmir, in the backdrop of their religious ideology, while making comparison, wherever possible, with the administrative policies of other princely states.
Index Terms: Kashmir, Dogras, Religion, State, Pandits, Governance
Territorially, one of the largest princely states of the subcontinent, enjoying 21-gun salutes, the state of Jammu and Kashmir occupied an important status among the princely states due to its geo-strategic position. Historically, geographically, and to a great extent culturally, the region has had a distinctive identity of accommodating diversified ethno-religious groups viz., Muslims, Dogras, Pandits, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians. Yet, communal harmony formed the basic characteristic of Kashmiri society, at least up to the early decades of the 20th century. Community-wise, Kashmir was overwhelmingly a Muslim region until the Treaty of Amritsar (16 March, 1846), which welded together Kashmir and Jammu provinces into what came to be known as the Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, other communities were thus added to the State population—the Dogras of Jammu, and the Buddhists of Ladakh. The State according to the census of 1901 had an overwhelming Muslims population of 74.16 per cent.1
The welding together of the communities to form a new State led to the emergence of a new elite group from amongst the co-religionists of the rulers i.e., the Hindus. This created a disgruntled situation between the communities in general and rulers and the ruled in particular over the basic issues which included, inter-alia, the administration, entitlements, Jagirs, education, taxation, and begar(forced labour). However, the most serious issue which seems to have created hostile feelings among the communities was the employment for government positions, irrespective of their rank in the hierarchy. This, among other things, led to the development of a phenomenon in which these ethno-religious communities were mobilized by their leaders—self-appointed or otherwise—only to find themselves constantly at each other’s throats. The newly Western-educated small section of the population, especially among Muslims, who were deprived of state entitlements sought and derived support from the corresponding larger groups. Donald E. Smith, while discussing about the use of religion by the educated elite in South Asia, for their own purposes, which subsequently paved the way for communalism, argues, ‘Appointments to government jobs directly affect only a tiny minority of the members of each community, but the competition increasingly became a question of communal interest and prestige. Religion provided the different communities with their distinctive socio-cultural identities, but the substantive interests at stake frequently had little to do with religion as such.’2 This argument may be found to be no less relevant in the case of Jammu and Kashmir.
II . Hindu Kingship and Community conflicts
The Treaty of Amritsar transformed Kashmir into a center of political activity. We have repeatedly been told that Kashmiris were treated as a ‘purchased’ entity, and possibly were conscious of this status, as is sometimes referred to in the contemporary sources. The ruling class being Hindus, popularly known as Dogras (Dogra being their ethnicity) has been accused by many contemporary and later authors of being autocratic, irresponsible and biased towards Muslims and giving a preferential treatment to their co-religionists—the Hindus of Jammu and Pandits of Kashmir. We are not, however, suggesting that all the co-religionists of the ruling class were pampered; there was of course a large section of rural Hindus, both in Kashmir and Jammu regions, who were in no way associated with the ruling lineage but were instead languishing in pauperism. That the deprived position of the masses was not the case particular to Kashmir; it would be apt to quote what Ian Copland writes regarding the position of the mass of co-religionists of the rulers of Hyderabad, ‘While a few thousand Muslim officials and jagir-holders lived in ostentatious luxury, tens of thousands of their co-religionists languished at the bottom end of the social spectrum in menial occupations such as domestic service, agricultural labouring, soldiering, and the peddling trade.’3
The new rulers, it appears needed a group of local but loyal people in the process of consolidation of their kingdom. This class, with its knowledge of local circumstances, would also be helpful in maintaining the hegemony of the ruling class over the people. The Pandit community, their co-religionists in Kashmir, was seen as a blessing per se and thus expediently became their most favoured allies in Kashmir whereas in Jammu region Rajputs held that place. Although constituting just five percent of the total population, the pandits formed the bulk of the educated populace.4 At the policy making level now the power was shared, as we shall see, by Dogras and the Pandits thus keeping the majority populace i.e., the Muslims without wealth and influence.
At the time of the establishment of the Dogra rule many Muslim Jagirdars, Dharmarth holders and Kardars were shaken off of their power and these jagirs were awarded to the closest kinsmen and the non-Muslims who subsequently formed the core group of the bureaucracy.5 There is, however, a dearth of sources related to the early period of the Dogra rule but here we have tried to gather whatever information we could from the available contemporary accounts and records. Thus, for instance, in 1860, out of 45 Jagirdars in Kashmir 40 were Hindus and 5 were Muslims.6 Besides allotting Jagirs to the closest kinsmen , the Maharajas were also keen to bestow the higher offices on certain specific families. For instance, in 1863 the high officials under the Maharaja of Kashmir belonged mostly to the family of DewanJawalaSahai, a Hindu of Goojranwala district of Lahore Division.7 This was not the case with the distribution of jagirs and high offices only; the situation was similar in other departments of the government as well. During late 1860s the number of Pandits working as clerks in different departments was 5572, whereas no single Muslim was employed in on those positions.8 Although this seems to be an exaggeration, yet there is ample evidence to show the favours bestowed on Pandits. The Pandits who lived in the city, most of whom, belonged to Karkunclass regarded pen as their natural destiny and preferred to spend their lives as clerks and would not prefer to take to agriculture or for that that matter any other occupation besides government employment.9
These alliances for consolidating the newly created state were made not only with the Pandits but also with the Hindu Dogras from the Jammu region. However, the latter could be trusted more than the Pandits, for they belonged to the Maharaja’s homeland and were often from the same stock. L.B. Bowring, a British civil servant, while on a vacation in Kashmir, noted that ‘Gulab Singh’s practice [was] to appoint a DograRajpoot of his own clan to exercise authority in his name, while this official was checked in all his acting by a CashmeriPandit. The former was the most trustworthy, but was as a rule uneducated, and could not do his work without the aid of the shrewd Brahman [Pandit] of the country.’10 A sort of acrimonious struggle for power developed between the Kashmiris (especially Pandits) and the natives of Jammu. However, since the Pandits were quite good in number and were more learned, they eventually overshadowed the Dogra Hindus of Jammu division: some of them rose to the positions of authority and responsibility while others worked as clerks in the Government offices.11 The Pandits due to their long tradition of literacy had always formed a core group in the administration of any regime in power in Kashmir.12 At the time when Afghans took the control of Kashmir an opportunity was created for the local collaborators. A few Pandits thus became instruments of the Afghans, especially the Dhar family and the Tikoos who occupied high positions in the Afghan administration.13 So much were they entrenched into the revenue administration of Kashmir that it is said that Zaman Shah, the Afghan governor of Kashmir in 1793, had to close down the revenue and settlement departments and forbid them from learning Persian.14 Thus the pampering of Pandits by the Dogras is not surprising since administration was their traditional sphere. Whatever the Government policy, the Kashmiri Muslims, it would be seen, were always at the receiving end. At the onset of the Dogra rule ‘unlike Sikhs, Gulab Singh was unwilling to associate Kashmiri Muslims with the upper echelons of his administration and went so far as to let go of Muslim officials in the revenue department.’15 Francis Younghusband in a similar tone states that, ‘the majority of the inhabitants [were] Muslims, very few Muhammedans [were] employed in high positions.’16 This was despite the fact that the Muslims formed the majority populace and were the largest revenue paying community but a ‘Muslim peasant presented the appearance rather of a starving beggar than of one who filled the coffers of the State. He worked laboriously in the fields during the six months of the summer to pay the State its revenues and taxes, the officials their rasum and the money-lender his interest.’17 It seems Kashmiri Muslims were not the only subject population who witnessed biased treatment at the hands of the rulers. The condition of subjects other than the co-religionists in princely state of Hyderabad and Bhopal seem to be more or less similar. Ian Copland while discussing the condition of Hindus under the Nizams of Hyderabad says that ‘there are good grounds for thinking that Nizam’s rule affected Hindus more adversely than Muslims’18 Similarly the Maharaja of Bhopal who being a Muslim has been accused of a biased attitude towards the Hindu subjects in the matters of employment, religious freedom, and education, etc.19
Although we do not have a great deal of statistical data available for 19 th century Kashmir, the sources pertaining to this period almost always point to the similar treatment of the Muslim population throughout the period under study. As a result of this, by the second decade of the 20 th century Muslims had started demanding a share in the administration. Their demands almost always evoked the same response from the government: that they were not qualified enough to be employed at such responsible posts. Whenever an enquiry was made into the matter it was dodged by stating that the educated Muslims were not forthcoming. A question that arises and needs to be answered is, if the educated Muslims were not forthcoming for the posts why would they submit memorandums and launch agitations. That the Muslims were kept away from the administration only due to lack of education is, however, a matter of debate which needs to be seen in the light of the government policy towards the majority community during the inaugural period of the Dogra regime as well as the subsequent periods.
By the end of the twenties of the 20 th century many Muslims had acquired qualifications not only in the local institutions but in the British Indian Universities as well.20 The State however, maneuvered to keep them at arm’s length as Hindus were in full occupation of government departments.21 The educated members of the Muslim community who felt marginalised started pressing the government for a more favourable treatment. In 1924 some Muslims lodged complaints of prejudiced and biased recruitment policy followed by many departments, with the senior member of the council and urged him to make an enquiry. The departments refused that any deliberate prejudiced policy was at work but the statistical information they furnished speaks otherwise. In the Customs and Excise duty department Kashmir province no Muslim was appointed on the post of Inspector, Deputy Inspector or Assistant Inspector; there were only 6 Muslim mahaldars and 1 clerk.22 No wonder then the above mentioned department in the Jammu province employed only 12 Muslims out of 149 employees.23 The statistical data of the state forest department for year 1924 is even more revealing; out of total 414 employees ranging from superior service to clerical staff Kashmiri Pandits were 149, Hindus 143 and the Muslims were only 56. The rest of the posts were occupied by other communities. Uncertainty and fear characterised the Kashmiri response to this attitude of government and the Muslim leaders tried to miss no opportunity to press the Government in any possible way. Again, in 1924, a memorandum was submitted by some Muslim leaders to Lord Reading.24 This memorandum while showing the inadequate representation of Muslims demanded, among other things, a larger share of Muslim in State services and if not available locally, Muslims from outside Kashmir be appointed;25 that the Governor of Kashmir should be a Muslim or some Englishmen may be appointed to the post; the memorandum also demanded improvement in Mohammedan education.26 Instead of addressing the grievances of people, those who had presented the Memorandum were severely dealt with. Some of them lost their jobs and Jagirs while others were forced to leave the state.27 The demand for the appointment of Muslims from outside state clearly points towards the resentment against the Pandit officials ‘who were notorious for their rapaciousness, short-sightedness and cruel treatment which hit hard the Muslim subjects.’28 Charles Girdlestone in his memorandum draws a picture of peculation and embezzlements as practiced by the Pandit officials.29 This embezzlement was but continuity from the Afghan and Sikh regimes; Pandits only increased its magnitude since they ‘valued a post not for its pay but rather for its perquisites.’30
On the one hand, the ‘Hindu officials deliberately discouraged the employment of Muslims and endeavored to keep them in ignorance of any vacancies that would occur in the Government Departments’ as complained by the Muslims before the Glancy commission.31 On the other hand, the Muslims, it appears were ‘not interested in education because of their abject poverty and the indifferent and discouraging attitude of the rulers. If a relatively well-to-do family decided to educate its children, it usually sent them to the maktab(seminary), where they were taught Persian texts [Gulistan, Bostan, Pindnamaetc.] and Arabic.’32 Thus, besides the State policy of keeping the Muslims aloof, even the circumstances were in favour of Hindus. As a result of this, Muslims would usually fall short of the merit requirements needed for particular jobs while Hindus got the advantage of it as they were the only community who had the long tradition of being educated were far ahead of Muslims in terms of education
Taking advantage of the merit, in 1929, out of 12 scholarships for higher education only one could be given to a Muslim as Hindus grabbed them by dint of their superior merit.33 Though, the state provided for the special Mohammedan scholarships yet it was not given due consideration as was alleged by Glancy Commission.34 Not surprisingly, in the year 1931, scholarships for training in Normal schools numbered 205 out of which Muslims received 73 while the Hindus got 132.35 Maharaja Ranbir Singh spent most of his funds on the propagation of Sanskrit which was confined only to the Pandit class36 and to spread classical Hindu learning among his Dogra subjects. ‘Education, as envisaged by him [Ranbir Singh], was to be the sole preserve of the ruling class and religious elite.’37 Keeping intact the policy of patronizing their co-religionists, Civil Service Recruitment Rules it seems, were deliberately formulated by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1930 in such a way as to discourage educated Muslims from claiming any employment under Government. The upper age limit was kept 22 years; Hindi and Sanskrit were given the position of optional languages whereas Arabic, Urdu and Persian, in which most of the educated Muslims were proficient, were deleted.38 Besides all this the aspirants’ ‘noble background’ was made a prerequisite.39 It is also interesting to point out that almost the entire group of unemployed Muslim graduates or double graduates were already above 22 years of age, and therefore, clearly stood debarred’.40
A few weak attempts were made by the state after the intervention of British and the Christian missionaries in the state to expand educational institutions by increasing the number of primary schools from 8 to 31 during 1891-2.41 Similarly the Note on Education for the year 1910-11 claimed the existence of 2 colleges, 5 high schools, 24 middle schools, 172 primary schools, 8 girls’ schools and 1 teachers’ training school in the state.42 Continuous pressure from the Kashmiri Muslim community urged British government to appoint a commission under Mr. Sharp in 1916. The Commission emphasized the need for the appointment of Special Mohammedan Inspector to take care of Education.43 However, the recommendations made by the Commission were seldom followed by the concerned authorities.44
This policy of the State of keeping Muslims aloof from the bureaucratic setup continued till 1930s. Eventually, Muslims made complaints before the Glancy Commission in 1931 (appointed to look into the grievances of the Maharaja’s subjects) about the inadequate representation in the Government services. They also provided a list to the commission showing the number of unemployed Muslim graduates and matriculates in the Kashmir province as 12 and 133 respectively.45 The commission liberally admitted that Muslims who formed the majority of the population were certainly not given their due share in the state employment and admitted that a large number of qualified Muslims were available for such posts.46 The commission also urged that the minimum qualification to seek a Government job should not be pitched unnecessarily high and that all vacancies should be effectively advertised and similar action should be taken as regards all scholarships intended to provide equipment for Government Service.
Although the British Indian government continually criticized and warned the Dogra government about its anti-Muslim policies and a general maladministration, when the matters actually came into their hands they apparently didn’t redress the grievances of the Muslims of the State. At the time of accession of Maharaja Pratap Singh to the throne in 1885, a Resident was thrust upon the state and barely after ruling for four years was deposed in 1889 on the pretext of maladministration in his state.47 A State Council, composed entirely of Indians from outside the state, but headed by Raja Amar Singh, with the Resident behind the scene, ruled the state till 1905.48 The Council began to take more interest in opening different bureaus to make the state administration look ‘modern’ and ‘civilized’. The Council followed a policy of recruiting Europeans and Punjabi Hindus to man the offices and boss the departments. These officials were lent by the British government to the Maharaja for a specified number of years and drew salaries from Rupees 1200 to 1500 a month.49
These outsiders complicated the already aggravated situation as P.N. Bazaz, the contemporary historian, while recording the events, writes, ‘Armies of outsiders trailed behind the officers from the plains with no more interest than to draw as much as they could, and then to depart leaving behind their kindred as successors to continue the drain; and thus was established a hierarchy in the services with the result that profits and wealth passed into the hands of the outsiders and the indigenous subjects lost enterprise and independence.’50 Robin Jeffrey puts forth a similar argument regarding the colonial policy followed in other princely states. He argues that, ‘If the part of the “modernization” programme included—as was often the case—encouragement of western style education, some members of these classes were soon in a position to seek the new posts. The outsiders in control naturally aimed to secure their own and their children’s futures, and did their best to parry the attempts of locally educated men to enter the education.’51 In Kashmir this was now done at the cost of the Pandits who had hitherto manned almost every Government department. The Pandits of Kashmir, being as educated and qualified as Punjabis, therefore, raised a cry of ‘Kashmir for Kashmiris’ with the object of getting more administrative jobs for educated unemployed men of their own community and thus demanded that only state-Subjects should be appointed to Government posts.52 In order to press the government for redressing their own grievances they did not hesitate to seek the co-operation of the Muslims.53
This type of policy was adopted by the Colonial government in some other princely states also where locals raised their voices: ‘Travancore for Travancoreans’, ‘Mysore for Mysorians’, ‘Kolhapur for the non-Brahmins’ and also the Mulki—non-mulki question of Hyderabad.54 Pressures from the Pandit community forced the British government to give a wider definition to the term state subject which became a law on 31 st January, 1927.55 According to this definition ‘All persons born and residing in the state before the commencement of the reign of Maharaja Gulab Singh Bahadur and also persons who settled therein before the commencement of Samvat 1942, and ha[d] been permanently residing’ were hereditary subjects of the state.56 Although by passing the law of State Subject ‘he somehow pacified the Pandits, a sort of Rajput oligarchy began to be formed under his shelter. Rajputs became heads of various Departments of the state. Provincial discrimination was chiefly followed; military was chiefly reserved for the DograRajputs, and more than 60 percent of the gazetted appointments went to them’.57 Similarly the Arms Act of 1940 disarmed the whole state but the Maharaja allowed his own community to possess one fire-arm with sufficient ammunition.58 This was but a clear case of class prejudice.
To counter the Dogra policies and to encourage fellow Muslims to learn education, a few prominent Kashmiris established the ‘Reading Room Party’ in Srinagar, the fore-runner of the Muslim Conference. Besides attempting to develop tastes of education among Kashmiri Muslims it also focused its attention on anti-Muslim appointment policy of the state.59By 1931, several incidents in Kashmir led to a greater resentment against the government and eventually Muslims organized themselves into different political ideologies which subsequently changed the course of history of Jammu and Kashmir.
Like the subjects of many other princely states, Kashmiri Muslimsalso bore the brunt of the biased policies of their rulers who in a bid to create a bureaucracy local and loyal ended up marginalizing the communities other than their co-religionists. This policy of early Dogra rulers especially Gulab Singh rendered many erstwhile Jagirdars estate less. These policies were also put into work in other administrative structures;the result being that the Hindus of Jammu and Pandits of Kashmir manned the administrative posts and Muslims who although being the majority community in the state could only, if at all, find themselves at the lower rungs. Kashmiri Muslims were particularly barred from entering the military services. These policies evoked a series of responses not only in the state but in British circles forcing rulers of Kashmir to revise their policies.The response that these policies evokedresulted in the formationofpolitical associations who submitted memorandums andlaunched political agitations.
Notes and References
Amir Sultan Lone
Doctoral Candidate, Center of Advanced Study, Department of History,
Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh