After going by way of the primary of the three-volume e book on the period presided over by Maharaja Hari Singh, Muhammad Nadeem believes the narrative is aimed toward producing defence to a well-established historical past of Jammu and Kashmir
Harbans Singh’s A Trendy Historical past of Jammu and Kashmir, Quantity One: The Troubled Years of Maharaja Hari Singh (1925-1949) goals to rewrite the prevailing unfavourable portrayal of Kashmir’s final Dogra ruler. Nonetheless, in in search of to rehabilitate the picture of Maharaja Hari Singh, the creator reveals extra about his personal biases than shedding new gentle on historical past.
In defending Maharaja, the greater than 400-page e book assaults his critics like Sheikh Abdullah. However in the end, it fails as an goal historic account, as an alternative selling a selective narrative that obscures inconvenient truths.
The e book opens by touting Maharaja’s early progressive reforms, resembling selling widow remarriage and throwing open temples for decrease castes. Nonetheless, these token measures hardly dismantled the feudal construction of the Dogra rule. Peasant exploitation continued unabated, because the regime served the pursuits of a small elite of upper-caste households. But the e book ignores the discontent brewing among the many Maharaja’s topics, as an alternative blaming overseas forces just like the British and the Congress for turning well-liked opinion in opposition to him post-1931.
The 1931 Unrest
This sample continues throughout the textual content – glossing over oppression beneath Hari Singh whereas shifting blame to exterior enemies. So, on the 1931 anti-Hindu riots in Jammu, the e book admits killings occurred however denies any state complicity. The e book ignores different historic proof to utterly exonerate the autocrat.
The e book presents related distortions concerning accession. Wartime correspondence reveals each India and Pakistan urgently entreating the indecisive Maharaja to accede at the same time as tribal invaders approached Srinagar in 1947. Nonetheless, the creator blames Congress leaders like Nehru and regional rival Sheikh Abdullah for supposedly obstructing Hari Singh’s determination to affix India. In actuality, the Dogra ruler intentionally delayed accession as a bargaining tactic to safe his place, at large human value to Kashmiris dealing with the raiders’ assault.
These deceptions persist all through, whether or not inflating the Maharaja’s contributions or diminishing his detractors. As an example, the e book exaggerates the position of the Dogra troops who helped thwart the 1947 invasion, whereas downplaying atypical Kashmiris who took up arms. This displays the narrative of Dogras because the heroic “martial race” juxtaposed in opposition to ungrateful Kashmiris led by rival Sheikh Abdullah.
Basically, the e book isn’t historical past however hagiography. Any scholar of integrity should strategy this textual content cautiously relatively than accepting its claims uncritically. That mentioned, even partisan accounts can present worth in difficult dominant paradigms and highlighting underappreciated views. Maybe subsequent volumes will present extra self-awareness of inevitable biases in chronicling the current previous.
Whereas the creator upholds Hari Singh as a champion of reform and progressive values, the fact is far more complicated. Undoubtedly, the Maharaja’s measures like increasing training and legally empowering marginalised teams have been unprecedented and laudable. Nonetheless, they hardly dismantled the prevailing feudal construction privileging elite upper-caste households of Kashmir.
As an example, the e book touts Maharaja Hari Singh throwing open temples for decrease castes as proof of his modernising imaginative and prescient. But the identical regime legally mandated placing rooster feathers in decrease caste headgear for functions of imposing hierarchy and untouchability. This was something however progressive. Likewise, whereas increasing faculties, the state nonetheless invested minuscule quantities in major training in comparison with royal bills on the army, palaces, and spiritual grants favouring higher castes.
Finally the e book presents high-minded decrees with out inspecting floor realities for Kashmir’s topics, particularly peasants who confronted crushing taxation beneath Dogra jagirdars. It admits no discontent or grounds for opposing such a ‘benevolent’ despot.
Contested Narratives on Accession
The e book seeks to settle the controversy on Hari Singh’s indecisiveness concerning accession by pinning blame on Congress leaders for delaying the choice. Nonetheless, a indifferent view should recognise a number of clashing priorities that fatefully converged in 1947 with lethal penalties.
For Pakistan, exploiting turbulence in Kashmir following the lapse of British paramountcy introduced a chance to forcibly annex this Muslim-majority province. For Congress leaders like Nehru, integrating the long-lasting valley into the Indian Union was important for proving secular nationalism’s viability.
As for the Maharaja himself, he endeavoured to protect Dogra sovereignty by securing army assist earlier than accession relatively than any deeper alignment per se. His major objective was self-preservation, not Kashmir’s finest pursuits or considering its populace’s sentiments.
Thus, in fixating on vindicating Hari Singh, the e book denies company to atypical Kashmiris caught within the ambitions of competing powers as British rule dissolved. Their voices are largely lacking within the voluminous correspondence round accession between Indian and Pakistani leaders.
Finally no single reality can seize the chaotic forces unleashed by the partition that violently ruptured Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. Whereas many questions would require solutions, the basic cynicism underlying Hari Singh’s issues is simple regardless of this e book’s ardent defence. His regime’s disastrous unpreparedness and dithering early on as raiders approached the valley itself invited the following chains of misfortunes ravaging Kashmir for many years.
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