Kashmir A Misnomer – in the Light of Amritsar Treaty

Prof. Suresh Chander
Ever imagined that a word can change the collective thinking and lead to miss representation of facts of history and geography. It can also colour the thinking process of historians and intellectuals for many generations. It may surprise readers that the word under reference isKashmir.
Kashmir is the northernmost geographic region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term “Kashmir” denoted only the Kashmir Valley between the Great Himalayas and the PirPanjal Range. Today it represents the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir is interchangingly used for the valley, Kashmir Division and the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Even till recently, the Government of India used to describe Azad Jammu Kashmir as Pak occupied Kashmir or POK. Now it has been corrected as POJK.
This dual meaning seems to be the outcome of the Treaty of Amritsar. After this treaty, Europeans started visiting the valley. For them, Kashmir became synonymous with the valley and the state as they found very little interest in the other parts of the state. Kashmiri leaders and civil society took full advantage of this confusion. In the process they became the sole arbitrator of the state and the only voice of the state. For almost all experts in India and abroad, Kashmir means the valley only.
Recently, the Kashmiri leadership, irrespective of its hue, has started talking of the state as it existed in 1947 because of the river waters in the Jammu region.
Fascination for Kashmir went into the thinking process of the Jammu-based intellectual as well. They wrote numerous articles about the valley and the problems associated with it, especially after 1947. Some of them regretted the absence of the history of Jammu. Their fascination for Kashmir was so great that they couldn’t see the history around them.
Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi, perhaps passed near Jammu during many of his expeditions.
Timur was in Jammu from 16th – 19th Jamad’l-Akhir, 802 (6th – 9th March,1398 AD). He looted, killed and converted the people there, as elsewhere. The battles were fought mostly near Bahu Fort dense jungles. Till recently, before the bypass road from Jammu to Srinagar, this area was a thick forest. He imprisoned Raja of Jammu. He was let off after paying money and agreeing to become a Musalman. The name of the Raja is not mentioned, it may have been RaiBhim.
Akhnoor is believed to be the ancient city of Virat Nagar mentioned in the Mahabharata, the place is one of the most important historical sites in Jammu and Kashmir. Excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India have established the fact that Akhnoor was one of the last bastions of the Harappan Civilization. Akhnoor is said to be the northernmost site of the HarappanCivilisation. Terracotta figures and other anthropological objects belonging to the later Harappan period have been found during the excavations. Excavations at Ambaran-Pamberwan sites have proved that the place was a prominent abode of Buddhism.
It is perhaps beyond their imagination that the war between Alexander and Porus was fought in the plains of Mirpur in an area known as Khari (KhariKhariyali). Bafliaz in Surankote tehsil of Poonch district on Mughal Road has a link with hallowed antiquity going all the way back to 326 BC. It is believed that it is here that Alexander’s beloved Bucephalus – the tempestuous horse that he trained as a youth – finally breathed his last after Alexander’s defeat at the hands of Porus in the battle of Hydaspes (Jehlum).
This name confusion led to a comic story that the Treaty of Amritsar was a Sale Deed of Kashmir. An impression was created that the valley of Kashmir was bought by Gulab Singh for 75 lakh rupees.
The Treaty of Amritsar does not stand by itself. It is to be read along with the Treaty of Lahore (Article 12). There was no sale in the Treaty of Amritsar as the Treaty of Amritsar is the follow up of the Treaty of Lahore.
The sale argument became the chief weapon of Sheikh Abdullah against the Dogra Raj. All this confusion was the result of the word Kashmir – a valley, Kashmir division or the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The valley at that time was under Sikh Darbar. The treaty merely transferred the vale from the Sikh rule to the new state under Gulab Singh. Sikh Darbar was an independent entity where as a new state was under the suzerainty of British Raj. It was just transferred from Sikh Governor to Gulab Singh.
Gulab Singh paid rupees 75 lacs for the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir of which vale of Kashmir was a very small part. Gulab Singh got – the whole of the outer hills between the Ravi and the Indus, the Valley of Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit, Baltistan and Indus Valley down to Chilas.
Soon afterwards the treaty was modified in respect of the boundary of the Ravi. The river divided the Chamba State into two portions. The Raja of Chamba objected to being subject to Jammu. Under the new arrangement, Chamba surrendered claim to Bhadrawah in lieu of territory to the west of Ravi. Chandgraon and Lakhanpur were also exchanged.
At the time of transfer, the Hazara Chiefs were in revolt against the Sikhs and refused to be under Gulab Singh. Gulab Singh approached the Sikh Darbar to be relieved of Hazara in exchange of territories near Jammu. Thus Hazara again came under Sikh rule and Gulab Singh got Munawwar and Garhi in exchange.
It is alleged that no mention was made of the rights, interests or the future of the people of the State. Western authors and many Indian authors too dubbed “Treaty of Amritsar” as “Sale deed of Kashmir”. As per the custom in those days, an agreement was made between Raja Gulab Singh and the Chiefs, under the guarantee of the British Government, by which cash allowances, amounting to Rs. 62,300 per annum for dispossessed Hill Chiefs between Ravi and Jhelum. They were also given the option of remaining in or leaving Jammu.
Interestingly, Gulab Singh ceded his lands near Pathankot valued at rupees 42,800 to British as part of the agreement. This seems the same as provision of Privy Purses for Indian Princes in 1947.
A similar provision for compensation was made in the Treaty of Lahore too.
Nowhere in the world, the treaties mentionthe rights, interests or the future of the people after the wars.
It is the author’s contention that Gulab Singh paid money not for the territories alone; it was also for being recognized as the Maharaja of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Before the Treaty of Amritsar, Gulab Singh had the title of Raja. Gulab Singh is referred to as Raja Gulab Singh in the Treaty of Lahore on 9th March 1846, whereas he is referred as Maharaja Gulab Singh in the Treaty of Amritsar a week later on 16th March 1846. Gulab Singh was Raja on 9th March 1846; he became Maharaja on 16th March 1846. Gulab Singh was conferred the title of Raja by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh
It appears thatGulab Singh was not ecstatic for all the territories he acquired as often happens in property deals. It is said that Maharaja Gulab Singh when he surveyed his new acquisition, the valley of Kashmir, he grumbled and remarked that one third of the country was mountain, one-third water and the remainder alienated to privileged persons. Speaking up the whole of his dominions, he might without exaggeration have described them as nothing but mountains.
Maharaja got the territories as per the Treaty of Amritsar plus the title of Maharaja and recognition as one of the Princesses of British India. In my opinion he gave rupees 50 lacs for recognition as Maharaja, the rest for the territories. He already had Jammu Hills, rest he paid for the rest of the state. On a pro rata basis the value of the valley was perhaps less than rupees 5 lacs and not rupees 75 lacs..
A proper analysis of the Treaty of Amritsar requires understanding of the making of Gulab Singh from Raja Gulab Singh to Maharaja Gulab Singh; and reading the Treaty of Amritsar along with the Treaty of Lahore.
(The author is former Head of Computer Engineering Department in G B Pant University of Agriculture & Technology)