A memorandum submitted by scores of very prominent social, educational, commercial, cultural and political organizations of Jammu region through the Joint Forum for Common Cause to the State Government demands that 23 September is declared State holiday to commemorate the birth anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh, the last of the Dogra ruling House of Jammu and Kashmir. Secondly, the memorandum also demands withdrawing of toll tax as it is a burden on the people of the State.
Almost all segments of Jammu civil society, besides the Chamber of Commerce, State Legislative Council, State BJP Jammu region, Jammu Bar Association and numerous other major organizations have strongly endorsed the demand for declaring 23 September a State holiday. No less a person than the Deputy Chief Minister has written to the CM explaining the sentiments of vast majority of the people in Jammu region. The demand for declaring 23 September a holiday is a clear expression of the aspirations and sentiments of the people of Jammu to show due respect to the outstanding son of the soil. Expression of these sentiments has become an imperative with the masses of people in Jammu region when they recollect that unjust and scurvy treatment was meted out to the late Maharaja by maligning and disparaging him and thanklessly derecognizing his progressive and reformatory measures aimed at amelioration of the life of people of his state without any discrimination. The time has come when historical record needs to be put straight and Maharaja Hari Singh’s contribution to reforming and modernizing the State in various sectors like compulsory education, panchyati raj, cooperative movement, revenue reforms, rule of law and total non-discrimination and promotion of cultural freedom has to be duly recognized. He had instituted Praja Sabha as the preliminary to a responsible government and treated his subjects with impartiality and equanimity. The people of the State owe him the gratitude of having formally acceded to a secular, democratic and egalitarian Indian Union on the clear premise that these values would be robustly upheld so that his subjects would draw maximum benefits out of these after the State got integrated into the Indian Union.
The history of the sub=continent will record in golden letters that Maharaja Hari Singh stands out as foremost among nationalists, an iconic symbol of nationalism, who could stand up among five hundred and odd representatives of Indian princely states and tell the British on their face that he was first an Indian national and then a subject of the British Raj. What a contrast it bears to some people of his erstwhile State now wanting to handover their land to Pakistan and to China on a platter.
The time has come when history has to be rewritten and the truth hitherto assiduously suppressed has to be revived. The late Maharaja remains a symbol of historical continuity of the State, particularly when post-August 1953 events fully vindicate his policy and position. With declaring 23 September his birthday as a State holiday, the State will play its role in retrieving the status of the late Maharaja as a person who has been more sinned against than sinning. No democratic regime should think of suppressing the popular sentiment that is intended to reincarnate its past glory.