Maj Gen Goverdhan Singh Jamwal, Col J P Singh
Maharaja Hari Singh was born on 23rd September 1895, in Amar Mahal Jammu which is a museum of world fame and most popular tourist attraction in Jammu. Coincidently his Coronation was also on 23rd September 1925. He ruled the most troubled region of the sub-continent during the most turbulent time of history when the sub-continent was divided on the basis of religion. He came under tremendous pressure for acceding to Pakistan because majority of his subjects were Muslim. He took an all time historic decision and signed the Instrument of Accession in favor of India on 26 October 1947. Today J&K is part of democratic India and we are Indian because of him. Four Dogra rulers ruled J&K for 101 years but none ever faced such uncertain and fast moving political and military challenges that he faced including threats to his life and property right from the time of the Round Table Conference. Yet he steered the state to its destination wisely for which he deserves to be remembered and celebrated.
He was son of Raja General Amar Singh Ji; younger brother of Maharaja Partap Singh. He ascended to the throne of Jammu & Kashmir State on 23 September 1925 after the demise of Maharaja Sir Partap Singh Ji.
He was one of the renowned rulers of British India for ruling the largest, (87,000 Sq Miles) and strategically the most important state of British India which continues to remain in the limelight even today for several political, military and historical reasons. He gained acclamation for being “The Last Ruling King of Independent India” since he continued to be ‘Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir’ till 15th November 1952 while all other rulers of princely states had seized to be Kings by 1948.
His rule has been described as glorious by many historians because of several reforms that he introduced in Administration and Judiciary. His commitment to justice and rule of law has been vividly described by Justice T S Thakur, ex Chief Justice of India, in a video which is going viral these days. After ascending to the throne he brought about several rules and regulations for the welfare and betterment of his subjects. There are numerous instances worth mentioning but few of them such as making primary education compulsory for all men & women, prohibiting child marriage and opening all the places of worship for low caste subjects are most remarkable. He opened lot of new schools and colleges to promote education. He managed to check corruption in the administration by adopting unique ways of detecting corruption, finding culprit officials and punishing them. He banned beggar (free labour) and it is said that during his rule none dared to accept bribes or deny wages for any services rendered. He even ploughed himself to get land holding rights to his subjects.
He was a member of the Imperial War Council from 1944 to 1946 during the World War II. During the war he visited Middle East where he joined his units which were fighting against Axis Powers. He lived with them in their temporary bunkers which boosted their moral, the same way as PM Modi’s visit to Ladakh during current Indo-China standoff has done. Showing his solidarity with his forces in the battlefield earned him lot of respect not only of his men but also of the Allied Powers particularly of the British Army. He was very popular and respected by his men who defended the State of 600 miles border with 12000 soldiers till the Indian Army came at a cost of 1990 officers and men killed.
Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule witnessed lot of political upheavals. From 1931 onwards his rule faced Kashmiri insurrection against his rule which almost became a mass movement in the valley under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah. He opposed Jinnah’s Muslim League for its communal agenda illustrated in his two nation theory; hence faced his wrath. He was victim of hostility of Indian National Congress because of Pt Nehru and Sheikh.
Maharaja was a democratic and progressive ruler and knew what was to come. He had made it clear in the Round Table Conference in London that he was for independence of India for which he had to pay heavily as British never trusted him thereafter. As a result he had to face many uprisings fomented and abetted by them. He knew that the era of the dynastic rule was to end soon for which he prepared his subjects by introducing elections for the Paraja Sabha. He also prepared his son to fit in the future democratic set up of the country. Dr Karan Singh bears testimony to it as he became the first elected head of the State as Sadar-i-Riyasat and later Union Minister and Parliamentarian for many years. The credit for preparing him for the distinguished career in the changed political scenario goes to the Maharaja.
Lord Mountbatten visited Srinagar in June 1947. He advised Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to Pakistan. Maharaja ignored this advice and instead wanted more time to decide the future of his State. Maharaja had his own reasons as ascertained by me while spending a month with him in Bombay along with his ADC Late Capt Diwan Singh in Apr 1954. Why he did not join Pakistan. He treated his subjects as his family. He thought 30 percent of his Non Muslim subjects i.e. Hindu, Sikhs, Bodh, Jains and 10 percent of Shias and Christian will not be happy in a Country born on religious grounds whereas all including 60 percent Sunni Muslims will live happily in India being a pluralistic Democracy. How true he was, is now in front of us. This was his farsightedness.
There was a provision of Standstill Agreement in the process of transfer of power. He offered Standstill Agreement to both the Dominions. Unfortunately it was not accepted by Pt Nehru which changed the course of history. Had Pt Nehru accepted it, Pakistan couldn’t have attacked J&K in October 1947 as the State would have been the joint responsibility of both the Dominions. However following the invasion by Pakistan on 21/22 October 1947, he appealed to the Indian Union for help. India refused unless he acceded to the Indian Union. He signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ with the Govt. of India on 26 October 1947 acceding his country to the Indian Union which included Jammu, Kashmir, Northern Areas, Ladakh, Trans Karakoram Tract, POK and Aksai Chin.
Due to growing hostility with his Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah, he appointed Yuvraj Karan Singh as his regent and left for Bombay in June 1949, never to return to his State thereafter. He spent rest of his life in Exile. He breathed his last on 26 April 1961 at Bombay. As per his will his Ashes were immersed in Tawi and spread all over J&K.
The events mentioned above leading to the Accession of J&K with Indian Union created Indo-Pak hostility which has resulted into 4 wars. Due to undemocratic nature of transition, the largest State of India today is left half of what Maharaja acceded. All the territories mentioned above are split between India, Pakistan and China, a flash point of the World.
J&K State, which was knit together by his illustrious forefathers was re-organised on 5th August 2019 into two UTs of J&K & LADAKH. Ladakhis are overjoyed on coming under direct central rule but Jammu is not yet reconciled to the down gradation of state of their forefathers’ creation. Like Ladakh Jammu had also aspired for separation from Kashmiri domination. Hence the Dogras are still hopeful of Jammu Statehood. In the mean time they appeal to the Hon’ble Lt Governor to declare 23 September as Holiday as a tribute to a distinguished last ruler who made J&K part of India despite all the odds.
Maj Gen Goverdhan Singh Jamwal, Col J P Singh