Raja Moti Singh Founder of Dogra Raj in Poonch Principality

K D Maini
Poonch from1827-46 was known as Bhimber-Chabbal Jagir with Poonch as its capital. This track had been conquered by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1819, by defeating Gujjar Raja Ruh Allah Khan of Poonch and Raja Sultan Khan of Bhimber. Later on in 1827 Maharaja Ranjit Singh gifted Poonch- Chabbal Illaqa to his Prime Minister Raja Dhyan Singh as a Jagir. Therefore Poonch-Chabbal came into existence in 1827 AD. Raja Dhyan Singh never visited Poonch and he had entrusted the Illaqa to his brother Raja Ghulab Singh of Jammu for monitoring purpose while administrators of Raja Dhyan Singh at Poonch were running the Jagir.
In 1839, after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, disturbance started in Punjab Darbar and ultimately Raja Dhyan Singh the brother of Raja Ghulab Singh was also killed in Punjab. Raja Dhyan Singh was having three sons namely Raja Hira Singh, Raja Jawahir Singh and Raja Moti Singh. Raja Hera Singh was working as Prime Minister in Punjab Darbar and he was also killed in disturbance. Thus Punjab Sarkar on 21st May 1945 transferred Poonch -Chabbal Jagir firstly to Faiz Talib Khan, the son of Raja Sultan Khan of Bhimber and then to Sardar Chattar Singh. In the meantime, due to Amritsar pact on 15th March 1846 between Raja Ghulab Singh of Jammu and British Government, Ghulab Singh became Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir State after paying Rupees Seventy five Lakhs. Therefore in 1846 AD Poonch-Chabbal Jagir was dissolved and merged with Jammu and Kashmir State by Maharaja Ghulab Singh. By this way from 1844 onwards the rule of Raja Dhyan Singh and his sons Raja Hira Singh and Moti Singh ended who had shifted to Jammu in 1847 AD and requested Maharaja Ghulab Singh for release of their principality. But Maharaja Ghulab Singh refused to release the jagir Poonch-Chabbal in favor of the sons of Raja Dhyan Singh. Therefore Mian Jawahir Singh and Moti Singh returned to Lahore and filed a complaint against Maharaja Ghulab Singh in the court of Sir Frederick Currie agent to the Governor General on 18 Nov 1847 with request to release Poonch-Chabbal Principality in their favour which was bestowed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to their father. After long deliberations on 13 August 1852 Poonch-Chabbal Jagir was divided into two parts Chabbal was released in favour of Raja Jawahir Singh and Poonch in favour of Raja Moti Singh. Raja Moti Singh was given only two-third part of this Jagir.
Therefore, later on in the light of the order of Robit Montgomery on 16th August 1852 Poonch Principality was released in favour of Raja Moti Singh with the title of ‘Raja of Poonch’. He was given Raj Tilak in Mubarakh Mandi Darbar by Maharaja Ghulab Singh and deputed him with 600 Dogra Forces to take the possession of Poonch Raj. At that time the revenue of Poonch Illaqa was only 1.05 Lakhs Nanak Shahi. The principality of Poonch comprised Poonch Khas, Haveli, Salamabad, Mandi, Suran, Bhramgala, Tat, Plangi, Pural, Dharmankote, Bagh, Khar, Mang, Jawahar Ghar, Plandri, Kamiri, Nirol etc. However the formal orders for release of Poonch Illaqa in favour of Raja Moti Singh were issued in 1860 AD after the death of Maharaja Ghulab Singh by the Maharaja Ranbir Singh. Raja Moti Singh came to Poonch and took over the charge of Poonch Illaqa from Pandit Jnardan Zutshi who was representative of J&K Government in Poonch Illaqa. At that time there was no administrative set up available in the Poonch Principality. There were insurgencies and infighting between the Tribals of this area and Jammu Darbar. People in the villages were having their own Sardars known as Rajas. These Sardars were often engaged in assaulting and looting each other. The Government of Pandit Zutshi was only confined to Poonch town.
In these circumstances Raja Moti Singh overhauled the administrative set up of this area. He appointed Mian Nizam-ud-Din of Reasi as Prime Minister of Poonch Principality who divided the illaqa into five Tehsils namely Haveli, Mendhar, Bagh, Sadnuti and Thakiala Parava (Present Balakote and Nakyal area). He then divided the Tehsils into Niabatas and Parganas and Thanas and Police Chowkis on Tehsil and Niabatas Headquarters. Raja raised his army from 300 to 1200 Soldiers and posted them in remote and troublesome areas to handle the law and order problems. Raja Moti Singh then appointed Pir Noor Shah as Dewan-e-Khas, Mian Ghulab Singh as Minister, Kamadan Balwant Singh as Army Chief, Mirza Haider Begh was appointed incharge of Jails whereas Pandit Janardan Zushti was appointed as incharge of revenue and Sardar Hara Singh incharge custom and supplies.
As per Tarik-Aquam-e-Poonch written by Fooq, Raja Moti Singh then concentrated on remodeling the Poonch city. There was no Pacca house in the town except Poonch fort at that time. Fort building constructed during Muslim Period had also collapsed and not in a position to live in. Raja Moti Singh for the first time stayed in the house of Gold Smith of Khorinar area. Simultaneously he passed orders for renovation and redesigning of fort building. He engaged a European Architect to design the frontal block of the fort. The work done was so superb. Then Raja Moti Singh shifted in the fort with his family.
At that time there were only three Mohallas in the City namely Mohalla Sarian, Kasaban and Khorinar. The total population of Poonch city was 2000 souls. The population was further divided into Purani and Nai Poonch. There were 50 to 60 shops scattered in a haphazard manner. All the houses were single storied. There was a thick belt of bushes and forest around the city. Raja passed the order for redesigning of his capital city Poonch and directed the Darbaris and officials to construct their Pacca houses and settle here once for all. He introduced the schemes of loan and free wood for construction of Pacca houses. On his order, the Bazar was constructed on modern pattern and the shops were allotted to traders free of cost so that trade could flourish in this hilly town.
On his encouragement Sardar Hara Singh motivated Khatri families of District Jehlum and western Punjab to establish their ventures in Poonch city and villages of Poonch Illaqa. However these Khatris were not allowed to purchase land for cultivation. Their activities were confined to business only. During the period of Raja Moti Singh, Mandi Hall, Darbar Hall, Bagh Deodi, fountain Garden, Prade ground, jail and a number of other buildings were constructed for the convenience of public. He started collection of revenue both in cash and kind. The education was given in Makhtabs and Pathshallas, Dogri and Persian were the official languages. Raja Moti Singh would conduct three Darbars during the year i.e. Dushara Darbar, Basant Panchmi Darbar and Darbar of his Birthday. These Darbars were attended by the Lambardars, Jagirdars, Sardars and Zamindaras. Raja presented watches, turbans and clothes to prominent persons.
He was very popular Raja among the natives. He provided funds for construction of mosques, allotted Jagirs to prominent shrines. Therefore the Muslims also adopted him as their own Raja from the core of their heart. Raja Moti Singh died in 1892 after governing Poonch principality for about 40 years. Mr. CE Bates, the author of ‘ A Gazetteers of Jammu and Kashmir’ had visited Poonch in 1867 AD and wrote that there were about 750 houses in the town, a Sarian for Villagers, two Madarsas for Hindu and Sikhs and one for Muslims, two Masjids and two Ziariats. The main Hindu temple was near Khakha Naban Spring. The city is well supplied with water. Sir Lawrance also visited Poonch during the tenure of Raja Moti Singh. He writes that the administrative set up of Raja Moti Singh of Poonch Illaqa is appreciable and the best as compared to the other hilly states of this region.