General Zorawar Singh —Is it a case of historical negationism?

Col Satish Singh
”He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past-George Orwell’
The professionalization of history from the 18/`19th and 20th century was so closely related to the construction of nation state that national histories came to be seen as the only objective form of historical writing. National historians regard the Nation state as the primary unit of historical analysis and socio economic re-engineering, that are morally judgmental and teleological. Specific periods of history are judged -in all sense of the term according to the degree to which they advance or retard the national cause. One such specific period in the Indian context which advanced the national cause is associated with the so called ‘Napoleon of India’, General Zorawar Singh who epitomized the proverbial ‘Sword arm of northern India’ striking terror deep inside the Tibetan plateau only to meet his heroic death at ‘Toyo’on 12th December 1841. With the date of his birth anniversary 13th April having been just celebrated with equal gusto befitting his stature all over Jammu and Kashmir and even in the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh there are certain questions which go a begging and need to be addressed in the right earnest. These questions pertain primarily to his date of birth as also his direct lineage in the genealogical order of his extended family that show lots of gaps.
The above query brings me to the main topic of my write up—-Historical negationism with reference to the great Dogra warrior General Zorawar Singh . Historical negationism is also called as ‘Denialism’ or falsification or distortion of historical records. In fact ‘Historical negationism’ should not be confused with ‘Historical revisionism’, which is a much broader term that extends to newly evidenced, fairly reasoned academic reinterpretations of history. Often the stated aims of historical negation is to achieve a national, political aim by transforming the war guilt, demonizing the enemy, providing an illusion of victory or preserving a friendship. In the instant case of General Zorawar Singh’s birth anniversary which was celebrated on 13 th April do any of the stated aims as enumerated above fall into its ambit so as to falsify the actual date of birth /year which falls in the month of September every year and not in April as is evident from various authenticated official sources and books of repute to which I will adduce later on in the course of my article? For the readers of this article, I have primarily dwelled upon three (3) very important facets of the Dogra warrior’s life history and shown how down the ages ,distortions have become part and parcel of this ‘Napoleon of India’s fait accompli. These distortions I have focused from the prism of the following —-
* His purported date of birth which has been interpreted as being 13 th April 1784 contrary to the official version in the ‘Gaulabnama’ written by Diwan Kirpa Ram as also in the seminal book by Dr SDS Charak going by the name ‘General Zorawar Singh’. The former being the official biography of the employer (read Maharaja Gulab Singh) of General Zorawar Singh and the latter being the official version as adopted by the ministry of information and broadcasting Government of India way back in 1983 . Both of these versions depict the birth month and year as September 1784 that stands trial to the testimony of various time lines of that period and are true. Will the official biographer of Maharaja have the temerity to fudge the dates of birth of one of the greatest Generals under the Maharaja’s command? In the similar vein will the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, GOI peddle the book of Dr SDS Charak as an extension of official version and lend its stamp of approval ?
* The exact lineage of General Zorawar Singh which has bred a lot of distortions leading to a web of confusions that spreads even to this day and time.
* The primacy of facts and figures as given in the official version by Diwan Kirpa Ram in his biography ‘Gulabnama’ pertaining to Maharaja Gulab Singh written in 1876 AD vis-à-vis the revenue records of the family of General Zorawar Singh as made available to in the ancestral village of ‘Ansar’ in district Hamirpur of HP as also in village Bijaypur of district Reasi in Jammu and Kashmir where the family later shifted to. The revenue records of the villages show the discrepancy in the lineage and the direct line to Zorawar Singh and further down the genealogical order.
* The names of the immediate family members in the genealogical order as found in the land records (revenue) of the said General both at village ‘Ansar’ in HP and in Bijaypur of District Reasi of Jammu and Kashmir record the same details. The revenue records of village Ansar depicts Teja Singh and Chatar Singh sons of Inder Singh again son of Zorawar Singh as land holders of about 170 kanals of land. But when juxtaposed with the details of the family members as recorded in the biography of Maharaja Gulab Singh by Diwan Kirpa Ram and also in the seminal book written by Dr SDS Charak and endorsed by the Ministry of Information and broadcasting ,GOI ,the direct lineage of General Zorawar Singh ends with him with none of his three wives having borne with his son. Nowhere does the name of Inder Singh crop up as son of General Zorawar Singh.
* As if the above was not enough ,Gulabnama records in 3rd line para 2 of page 254 as ‘Wazir Indaraju’ brother of Wazir Zorawaru as one of the Rajput warriors who got killed along with Raja Hira Singh and Mian Sohan Singh and pandit Jalla while fleeing from Lahore with the booty of Sikh toshakhana. Do we take this Wazir Indraju as Inder Singh as son of General Zorawar Singh to give credence to the revenue records ? If yes ,then either the official record being endorsed via the book of Dr SDS Charak and also the Gulabnama stands nullified or the revenue records in urdu are fudged to make sure some family members are benefitted by this purported perfidy.
* Dispelling the distortions as weaved by some non Dogra writers like Ramesh Kumar Sharma of HP who as part of his dissertation thesis claims to have met the family members of General Zorawar Singh in village Ansar.
* The personalities who were /are behind the change of date of birth of the Dogra warrior from April to September.
* The way forward to correct these historical distortions.
Reverting back to my first stated objective of this write up i.e the purported DOB of General Zorawar Singh as 13t h April 1784 and being accepted worldwide as such. A quick glance on the available data /historical records of that era show as September 1784 the birth month of the warrior having been born in a ‘Chndravanshi Rajput’ Kahluria family in village Ansar of Haripur tehsil in district Kangra (Gulabnama) . His father was Thakur Harji Singh who had two more sons by the name of Sardar Singh the eldest and Dilel Singh the youngest with Zorawar Singh as the middle one. Here again some non -Dogra writers claim his place of birth as Ansar village, Tehsil Nadaun district Hamirpur . Be that as it may, the book by Dr SDS Charak at page 14 gives the approximate age of the warrior as 57 when he was killed at Toyo in 1841 thus validating the birth year as 1784. Dr SDS Charak further in his seminal book writes that during those times Pandit Ganga Ram who had studied the horoscope of child Zorawar Singh had predicted that the child was born under very unusual circumstances and would leave his place of parentage foreboding at the same time killing of a close relative over property dispute. Page 13 of his book details Zorawar taking part in various martial arts training when he was about 20 years old. With the above details from Dr SDS Charak how did the date of 13 th April come to be known as the official DOB of the great Dogra warrior?
The second contention of mine in this write up is about the exact lineage of General Zorawar Singh which has been very aptly detailed in the book again by Dr SDS Charak writing that General Zorawar Singh was the second son of Thakur Harje Singh with sardar Singh and Dilel Singh as the eldest and the youngest respectively . But the present day descendants lay claim to his direct lineage which when seen under the prism of historical facts as enumerated in the book (page 126) para 2 appears suspect since the lines enunciate very clearly quote ‘ General Zorawar Singh had no son to perpetuate his line. He had three wives. The first one was from Langeh Rajput house of Ambgarotha village in jammu ,who died at an early age. The second and third wives were real sisters belonging to a Rajput family of Gai village near Pauni-Pahrakh. The third para of the same page says in so many words that the elder wife Lajwanti changed her mind of committing sati ,but the younger Asha Devi unable to withstand the pangs of separation immolated herself holding the turban of her husband in her lap. Moreover in the same page the author mentions specifically that Maharaja Gulab Singh sent his eldest son Udham Singh to dissuade the wives of General Zorawar Singh from self-immolation. If the facts as mentioned in the famous book by Dr SDS Charak are true then from where did the present descendants of the brave Dogra warrior come from?
It has been given to understand that the later day descendants laid claim to Zorawar’s lineage based on the revenue /land records as it existed both in HP and Jammu and Kashmir. To further confuse the issue a doctoral level thesis by one Rakesh Kumar Sharma has written that the revenue records of the year 1890-99 as available in village Ansar, tehsil Nadaun district Hamirpur says Teja Singh and Chatar Singh S/o Inder Singh S/o Zorawar Singh possessing about 170 kanals of land . A similar sort of description is found in village Bijaypur of district Reasi. The above contention falls flat when seen under the reasoning given by Dr SDS Charak that Zorawar Singh died childless. So from where did Inder Singh come from? Therefore in all probability this is a straight case of distortion of facts of one of the greatest generals of India and needs to be set right. Moreover who were the personalities that changed the DOB of the warrior? What will they gain from it? These are some of the questions which need an urgent resolution. Since who controls the past controls the future and who controls the present controls the past.
(The writer is a retired army officer)