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The controversial resolution of commemorating Hari Singh’s birth anniversaryby the incumbent PDP government has, after all, added one more reason for Kashmiris to believe that Mehbooba Mufti’s government is on a collision course with history. Ironically,one of the PDP’s influential leaders, NayeemAkhter,glorified the virtues of autocracy when he said that Hari Singh deserved the credit. Did he mean that the massacre of Kashmiri Muslims in July 1931 or Muslims in Jammu in 1947 by Hari Singh’s forces deserve credit or did he credits him for acceding Kashmir to India after disregarding the wishes of people?Perhaps Nayeem Akhtar has inherited this chutzpah from the late Mufti Sayeed or his good friends in Nagpur. I wish the erstwhile Education Minister had little time to go through few pages ofKashmir history. Perhaps his obsession with skill-oriented courses made history unattractive for him.

Hari Singh whose 122nd birth anniversary is being commemorated today has two sides of his ‘heroic’ story -one as a Princeand otheras a ruler, which I hope PDP’s ministers would be eager to learn about.

As a prince, he was not known much to the people of Kashmir as he was busy in spending lavishly the state exchequers for his personal pleasures in England. Historians are of the view that he outspent every other prince in India. Not surprisingly, Hari Singh who was a frequent visitor to Europe got scandalously involved in a clandestine affair with Mrs Robinson in 1924. He was caught red-handedby the husband of the lady in a Paris hotel. He was freed after he paid an amount of around 125000 pounds through a cheque in hush money in order to prevent himself from being implicated as a respondent in possible divorce proceedings. Ian Copland says, much has been tried to hide by theBritish press, but the newspapers in France and America showed no restraint and the full story soon became common knowledge, much to Hari Singh’s humiliation in India. Hari Singh though escaped from England but landed back to his home with the infamous pseudonym of which Copland says‘Mr. A of 1924’. (The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, Ian Copland)

Hari Singh’s coronation was again shocking for people as it was filmed by an American cinema operator Mr Cowling. The expenses for his coronation were squandered away from public exchequer in a manner and on such a scale which is unprecedented in the history of princely states, so much so that the Maharaja’s favourite horse ‘zabardast’ was, according to Mr Wakefield, decked out with emeralds worth seven lakhrupees. It is said that Hari Singh used to wear jewels worth two million rupees and it was estimated that the coronation expenses according to a noted political observer M. Y. Sarafmay have in no case been below rupees 30 lakh rupees. It is astonishing that such a huge amount wasspent on celebrating his accession to the throne in a land where the great majority of people did not enjoy even a single meal a day because much of their produce was snatched by Hari Singh’s rapacious forces.

As a ruler, Hari Singh went a hundred steps further in letting Kashmiri’s suffer. After coming to power in 1925, Hari Singh let loose a reign of terror among the people andthe Muslim massacre of July 13, 1931, in which more than twenty innocent Kashmiris were killed and hundreds injured by Hari Sings band of forces is a glaring example. The killings were followed by arrests and a large section of Muslim leaders was pushed behind the bars. Furthermore, the imposition of Martial Law and barring of media added to the fear psychosis of masses. Under Hari Singh’s rule Kashmiris faced unprecedented suppression, notes Prem Nath Bazaz. In the backdrop of this oppression,Sheikh Abdullahlaunched Quit Kashmir Movement in 1946, which bluntly denounced the dynasty born out of the Amritsar sale deed. A famous slogan that made resonance with agitating masses those days was: ‘By-nama Amritsar tod do, Kashmir hmarachod do’(Break the Amritsar treaty, quit our Kashmir).

Hari Singh once again proved detrimental to the fate of Kashmir in 1947 when he put to display the autocrat in him when he signed accession of the state of J&K with India without considering the popular choice. This despotic decision to disregard peoples’ wish has set in a cycle of violence which claimed more than 70000 lives (according to conservative estimates) in Kashmir in the past seven decades. In making Kashmir the most dangerous place on earth (to quote Bill Clinton)and a bone of contention between two nuclear neighbours Maharaja Hari Singh’s role can’t be ignored.

Hari Singh did not stop here and he was yet to do something big. Over 237,000 Muslims from Jammu were systematically exterminated by his forces in Oct-Nov 1947, according to Christopher Snedden, the Australianauthor of ‘Kashmir: The Untold Story’.

The incumbent PDPgovernment along with its RSS backed BJP partner has passed an act to commemorate his birth anniversary at a time when Kashmir ismourning their sons and daughters who are being killed, blinded and maimed bythe Indian forces almost every day. The celebration of autocrats and communalists like Hari Singh ironically amounts to the grave insult of those martyrs who were killed by his army in July 1931 protesting against his excesses. NayeemAkhtar and his ilk cannot have the luxury to script separate histories to incorporate Martyrs Day and Hari Singh’s Day in the same calendar without being challenged. History doesn’t have any precedents of a Goliath and David being celebrated together. This is not a Manichean view of history but only an endeavour to set history straight which has of late become a tool to seek political correctness. The commemoration opens chances for people like KukaParrey, Major Gogoi, Jagmohan, et al, to be acknowledged as saviours on any future date.

Mehbooba Mufti not only forfeited the trust of Kashmiris but also exposed herself and her colleagues about their love for the chair. This government has given Kashmiris many things to remember and the saner Kashmiris will not allow the history to be obliterated from public memory by selfish politicians.

The author is a Doctoral Fellow at Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at sahibkhawaja@gmail.com

 

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