Maharaja Hari Singh
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Maharaja Hari Singh
(This article was read in the British Parliament on behalf of Dr Shabir Choudhry who couldn’t attend the function organised on the occasion of birthday of Maharaja Hari Singh by ‘Voice of Dogras’ on Oct 10)
All those who have made some contribution to history are controversial people; and Maharaja Hari Singh is no exception to this. The fact that he is a controversial figure is tantamount to acknowledging that he has made some contribution to the history of Jammu and Kashmir and the region; and which is still considered to be significant.
Critics of Maharaja Hari Singh
Maharaja Hari Singh’s critics could be characterised as follows:
- People of the Valley of Kashmir erroneously think they are the chosen people; and people belonging to other regions of the State of Jammu and Kashmir are inferior to them. Since Maharaja Hari Singh belonged to Jammu, they never accepted him as an equal, or even a ‘Kashmiri’, hence the Quit Kashmir Movement against the Maharaja, at a crucial time when important decisions were being made in whole of the Indian Sub Continent.
At this important juncture of history, people and the ruling elite of Jammu and Kashmir must have been on the same page to safeguard interests of the Jammu and Kashmir State; alas some political aspirants had other ideas which were detrimental to the interests of the State.
- Muslims of the State, in Particular Muslims of the Valley of Kashmir regarded him as a ‘biased’ Hindu Dogra; and examined his Rule from religious perspective. Most literature against the Dogra rule or Hari Singh was produced by the Muslims of the Valley which had religious and regional bias.
This literature, to a large extent, had inbuilt bias against Hari Singh and his administration; and many people of Pakistan, Pakistani occupied Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and the Kashmir Valley were and still are influenced by that literature. 3/ Other critics of Hari Singh view his administration in the light of the Western democracies of 21st century. Little they know what were the political, economic and social conditions of the people in the British India, and especially in the Princely India. All these approaches to evaluate his rule and his legacy are wrong, as they will reach wrong conclusions.
Was he a communal Ruler?
We have to analyse his rule and achievements under the prevailing political, economic and social conditions of that time. Moreover, we should examine his administration as a Ruler of a multi religious and multi ethnic State; and not as a follower of a particular religion.
He may not appear a democrat, especially if we see his rule in the light of democracy we see in Britain or in the Western Europe; but he was far ahead of other Princely Rulers of India. He was the first Ruler to grant Assembly to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Among the biggest criticism against the Maharaja Hari Singh are events which culminated in to the tragic event of 13 July 1931, in which more than 21 innocent citizens got killed and injured. And because of these events people label him as ‘anti Muslim’. His officials could have been too harsh with Muslims, and there were heavy taxes imposed on Muslims, which generated resentment and hatred against his rule, especially in 1947 when religious sentiments were running very high.
But is it not true that officials even in 21st Century democracies, at times, treat people harshly and exhibit anti certain community actions? Are we not complaining about taxes and high prices on various items used in everyday life in 21st century? In other words people always complain about inequality and unfair treatment in every society. This is not to suggest that officials of the Maharaja were pious people and they were not biased or oppressive. Muslim subjects strongly felt that they were treated unfairly and that they were burdened with heavy taxes which resulted in resentment and anti Dogra sentiments.
Anyhow, before we comment on the events in which Muslim sentiments were very seriously injured, thinking people need to see why these four incidents happened at that particular time. No one can trace any such incidents before 1930/31 or after this.
Then question arises why these events happened at that time. Why sentiments of Muslims were hurt. Can people remember there was a Round Table Conference in London in 1930? This is where the British asked the Maharaja to lease areas of Gilgit to the British that they could check the Soviet Russia’s activities from there.
As a loyal son of the soil, the Maharaja refused. The British made it apparent that they did not like this rather rebellious attitude of the Maharaja Hari Singh; and that there would be a political price for this.
At that time Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir was a British gentleman called Mr Wakefield. His services could be utilized to teach Hari Singh a lesson, hence four communal incidents in which Muslim sentiments were very profoundly hurt. Colonel Tej K Tikoo, commented in the following words:
‘Clipping the Maharaja’s wings would serve their immediate purpose. Besides, it would serve its other strategic purpose; coerce him to submit to the British demand for lease of Gilgit, the all important strategic outpost in the Great Game.’ The Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Wakefield, ‘was ideally placed to implement the conspiracy on the ground’. 1 It looks he completed his task effectively.
These communal events, bad and undesirable as they were, were orchestrated systematically to inflame religious passions of Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir and in the British India. They held the Maharaja Hari Singh responsible for these communal events, and were determined to overthrow him. In this struggle, Muslims of Punjab were supporting them.
It is true, the Muslims were politically suppressed and economically strangled, but was that not the case in the rest of India too; and there were other reasons why they were behind, one reason was their refusal to learn English and lack of cooperation with the British who were, at that time, masters of India.
Abdul Qadeer was an employee of an English army officer, who was on holiday in Kashmir, staying in a house boat in the Nasim Bagh. When the Muslims were killed as a result of firing, and their passions were running very high. When the crowd was emotionally charged, out of nowhere, Abdul Qadeer Khan appeared on the scene and delivered a powerful speech to inflame passions of the Kashmiri Muslims. He said: ‘Muslim brethren! The time has now come when we should meet force by greater force to put an end to the tyrannies and brutalities to which you are subjected; nor will they solve the issues of disrespect to Holy Quran to your satisfaction. You must rely upon your own strength and wage a relentless war against oppression’. Pointing his finger towards the palace, he thundered: ‘Raze it to the ground’. 2
Abdul Qadeer Khan was arrested and imprisoned, but not many people know that under the pressure of the British he was released secretly. Important point was he came, played his role brilliantly, created the chaos which the British wanted; and disappeared.
For full text see excelsior website
After the tragic killings of 13 July, The All India Kashmir Committee was established to support Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir and lobby the British on their behalf. They conducted a successful campaign to exert pressure on the British to intervene to stop the killing of innocent people. Due to internal and external pressure the Maharaja appointed a Commission, which was known as the Glancy Commission.
The Commission had the task of looking into the grievances of the community groups in the State, particularly the Muslims, who had serious complaints against the Government. The Maharaja also promised that once the Commission had completed its task, he would hold a conference under the chairmanship of Mr. Glancy, to consider constitutional reforms.
The Commission completed its task and presented the report on 22nd March 1932, and made 12 recommendations, of which these are the important ones:
- That certain Muslim religious shrines should be restored to Muslims;
- Complete religious liberty should be enjoyed by every class and community;
- A special inspector of Mohammedan education should be appointed and the number of Muslim teachers increased;
- All communities should receive a fair share of Government appointments;
- All vacancies should be properly advertised;
- There should be decentralised power so that ministers could function properly;
- Certain taxes should be abolished and industrial development should receive the urgent attention of the Government.
Conclusion In my opinion Hari Singh was a true nationalist. His vision and care for his subjects could be seen from the fact that in order to protect interests of his subjects he introduced State Subject Laws in 1927, that no non Kashmiri can buy any land in Jammu and Kashmir.
It is sad to note that whereas, India, by and large, has respected State Subject Laws, Pakistan has openly contravened these laws, especially in Gilgit Baltistan where tens of thousands of Pakistanis have settled; and a large areas of the region are leased to rich Pakistanis who are plundering our natural resources.
He exhibited statesmanship by dealing and having very tough negotiations with great and clever leaders of that time, for example, people like Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pandit Nehru, Mahtama Gandhi, Mountbatten, and Sheikh Abdullah etc. He must have had strong nerves to put up with the pressure of Muslim League, Indian National Congress, Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, and Mountbatten who were forcing him to either accede to Pakistan or India. He did not surrender to this pressure; and as a loyal and brave son of the soil, he protected the interests of Jammu and Kashmir State; and opted to remain independent.
He wanted to preserve his independence which he gained after lapse of the British Paramountcy on 15 August 1947. As the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, he concluded a Standstill Agreement with the government of Pakistan. He also offered India a Standstill Agreement. India did not refuse to sign the Standstill Agreement; but wanted to discuss this matter further.
It must be remembered that he was the first Princely Ruler to establish the Constituent Assembly. He was gradually giving away his powers to the people and the Assembly when, Pakistan, in violation of the Standstill Agreement, attacked State of Jammu and Kashmir on 22 October 1947. If there was no tribal invasion, it was more than likely that Jammu and Kashmir would have been an independent country with a constitutional monarchy.
When he was forced by the Tribal attack to seek help from India, in his letter to Mountbatten, Governor General of an independent India he wrote: ‘so that it has become difficult to stop the wanton destruction of life and property and the looting of the Mahura power house,…The number of women who have been kidnapped and raped makes my heart bleed…. I have no option but to ask for help from the Indian Dominion… . I have accordingly decided to do so, and I attach the instrument of accession for acceptance by your Government. The other alternative is to leave my state and people to free booters. On this basis no civilised government can exist or be maintained. This alternative I will never allow to happen so long as I am the ruler of the State and I have life to defend my country…’ 3
If one impartially read these sentences, one can see his pain on the destruction and loss of life of his Subjects. No matter what was attitude of some of his officials, this letter shows he cared for his people, whether they were Muslims or non Muslims.
In my opinion, the biggest tribute to his rule is that even his Muslim critics also demand protection under the State Subject Laws, be they are in Srinagar, Jammu, and Muzaffarabad or in Gilgit. Further more, majority of the people seeking unification and independence of Jammu and Kashmir demand all the areas of the State of which he was the last Ruler.
23rd September is the 121st Birth Anniversary of Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Ruler of Jammu Kashmir State, whose Royal Title was Shriman Indar Mahindar Rajrajeshwar Maharajadhiraj Shri Jammu Kashmir Naresh Tatha Tibet Deshadhipati. Maharaja Hari Singh was the last Dogra ruler of a Dynasty which held together an improbable State for a century. The Dogras created the State of Jammu and Kashmir which included Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan, Muzaffarabad-Mirpur, Aksai Chin and Saksham Valley with feudatories like Hunza and Nagar. It was one of the biggest Kingdoms enjoying autonomy and internal sovereignty till 1947. Not only is the State multi cultural, multi linguistic and multi religious, but it’s far reaching frontiers are an evidence of its formidable military prowess, unparalleled in history.
Maharaja Hari Singh ascended to the throne in 1925. His reign was marked by complex political events, conspiracies, and sweeping changes which had the power to completely overtake any mere mortal. Despite his inner turmoil he stood tall and stoic for his Kingdom, while taking some of the toughest decisions no other King had to before him. The fact that he maintained a dignified silence in face of vicious slanderous campaigns against him so that his beloved Jammu Kashmir could get a fair chance in an Independent India, stands proof of both his love for his State and his Nationalist nature. His birth anniversary allows us the opportunity to celebrate a modern King who was a progressive thinker and social reformer.
A Hindu King who ruled over a Muslim majority is how he is often limitedly described, but it is only right in context of current events to see how he rose above the communal stereotyping and stood by his words – “Justice is my Religion” ; his first statement after assuming the high office in 1925. A man not keen on religious rituals, he did not discriminate between his Hindu and Muslim subjects. Indifferent to the opinions of his fellow co religionists, he gave importance only to meritocracy and appointed the best of Muslims in his court, administration and the army. Before Sheikh Abdullah’s virulent anti Dogra campaign and many an unholy nexus that changed the winds, the Army was a fine blend of Dogras, Sikhs, Gorkhas, Pathans, Hindu and Muslim Rajputs from Mirpur and Poonch, many of whom are now in Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir and still swear loyalty to the Dogra Dynasty.
Khusrau Jung who belonged to the royal family of Hyderabad in the Deccan, was in Maharaja’s employment. Malik and Nur Muhammad Khan from Baluchistan were his ADCs. Maharaja Hari Singh’s head cook and head waiter were also Muslims. His secretary was Abdul Qaiyyum Khan and one of his close friends was Sardar Abdul Rahman Effendi an Afghan refugee related to King Amanullah. In his kitchens only halal meat was cooked so that Muslims could eat as well. He was the first Maharaja of Jammu who went to the Mosque, standing respectfully throughout the prayer. After the prayer he offered the Imam who had led the prayers, five hundred rupees and a pashmina robe. His progressive views on religion caused much displeasure to his Hindu subjects resulting in rumours that the Maharaja had converted to Islam on the sly. He remained indifferent to all such talk.
Malka Pukhraj the legendary songstress and one of the gems of Maharaja’ s Durbar was not only appointed as a court singer but it is an example of the Maharaja’s progressive views on religion that he had her, a Muslim girl singing bhajans in the Mandi Palace early mornings alongside shloka chanting Pandits. “Faiths should not be so weak that they be threatened by touch. Everyone’s God is the same and the differences have been fabricated by us” is something he often said. When overpowering ambitions of some individuals coupled with the British interference lead to political mischief resulting in Hindu Muslim riots the Maharaja was shocked and deeply hurt. Malka Pukhraj in her autobiography writes that he said ” I have never differentiated between the Hindus and Muslims for the two communities are like my two eyes” expressing his anguish.
He was a King who shattered the glass ceiling in more ways than one. He passed legislation against many a social evils unlike his counterparts in the sub continent. He abolished untouchability and sacked the priest of Raghunathan Temple when he found out that the priest had refused entry to the lower castes despite his explicit orders. He opened all public schools, colleges and wells to ‘ untouchables’ in 1931. A social reformer both ahead of his times and courageous he was a champion of women’ s emancipation. Maharaja Hari Singh stopped the rampant practice of child marriage and actively promoted widow remarriage. He made trafficking and organised prostitution illegal. He was also successful in rooting out the practice of Sati.
A great educationist, his endeavours to promote literacy in the State were proactively inclusive of women’s education. Primary and secondary education were free. Besides making primary education compulsory in 1930, a special department for female education under a deputy director was set up. Free conveyance was provided including staff who would escort girls from home to school. Under Maharaja a special drive against illiteracy achieved a lot of success with around 4000 adult literacy centres functioning in the State. During his reign the number of primary schools went up from 706 to 20728 in Jammu & Kashmir. Free education till matriculation, scholarships and grants for backward classes, nominal fees in colleges, and Urdu being added as a medium of instruction were in keeping with his vision of promoting literacy and higher education across a wide section of the people.
Maharaja Hari Singh left behind a stellar best practice model in the development of health care in the State. Today when the State is in dire need of an overhaul and development of health care in all three regions it is hard to believe that it was once a pioneer in health care infrastructure, under the Maharaja’ s rule. Jammu Kashmir had one of the biggest hospitals in the sub continent – the Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Srinagar. The State also enjoyed the distinction of having the first Tuberculosis Department in the sub continent. The number of hospitals, dispensaries, qualified and specialised staff were significantly increased in Maharaja Hari Singh’s time.
The Maharaja paid special attention to tourism and handicrafts industry. Gulmarg and Pahalgam were developed in a planned manner and the number of tourists increased from 8604 in 1931-32 to 24659 in 1936-37. Local enterprises were greatly encouraged and many manufacturing units were set up. The infrastructure development that he initiated building roads, bridges, tunnels, hydro power stations in addition to modern communication services like telephone, telegraph and wireless, all lead to significant rise in industrial production. In fact the increase in the volume of trade though a boon for all, was especially beneficial for the Kashmiri Muslims who were primarily craftsmen and tradesmen. Brilliant agriculture reforms which changed the taxation system, land ownership and debt clauses, abolishing of begar and forced labour, all brought much relief to the agriculturists.
He was a King of many ‘ firsts’ setting up a Flood Control Department, Price Control Department in the WW II and the revolutionary Jammu and Kashmir Bank in 1938 all,of which improved the quality of life of the people. In a memorable speech in London in 1931-32 in Round Table Conference on Indian Constitutional Reforms, Maharaja Hari Singh fearlessly demanded honour and equality for India. This stance earned him the wrath of the British who unleashed a conspiracy against him which finally ended with him being the first high profile exile who died in Mumbai, far away from his beloved Jammu Kashmir.
Learning by inquiry into the past, with an ability to sift through counter narratives objectively gives us the skills to deal with our present better. Though most historians have wronged Maharaja Hari Singh, safe in their popular narrative, more have now arisen to counter it, not in an attempt to seek a consensus, but because they believe that there are two sides to every story. One has been told and the other needs telling. Maharaja Hari Singh’s legacy as a Ruler of a vast and diverse Kingdom, who loved his land and all his people, is something we need to know and learn from.
(The author is UK based Scholar)
Memorial park, sculpture
A colossal seated figure of last Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir State sculpted by Ravinder Jamwal is today complimenting city skyline in a memorial park constructed on the bank of river Tawi. Cast in alloy, primarily Bronze and installed in Maharaja Hari Singh Memorial Park, the statue was recently unveiled by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in presence of Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh and legislatures besides art lovers and dedicated to public as a tribute to the last Maharaja.
Maharaja Hari Singh was last ruling Maharaja of princely state of J&K State who held the title of Lieutenant-General His Highness Shriman Rajrajeshwar Maharajadhiraj Sri Sir Hari Singh Indar Mahinder Bahadur, Sipar-i-Sultanat, Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO. Now that the statue has been installed in a magnificently built park, the 2.5 ton and 10 feet high figure has become iconic which is sure to attract not only domestic but foreign tourists as well. This park if maintained to its glory is also sure to find a place in tourists’ itinerary very soon.
According to Ravinder Jamwal who owns to his credit many such statues installed in city rotaries or his artwork that dons skylines of Naraina Hospital in Katra, a lot of pain and hard work has gone into making of this iconic piece of art that has come alive after its installation. Still important was detailing of features and dress of Maharaja including his English boots besides throne and sword which go by the stature of Maharaja and complement each other.
The very concept of having a statue in sitting position, according to known sculptor Ravinder Jamwal was that it will be first of its kind and completely different from those already installed in city rotaries. He proved himself right and the statue of Maharaja is quite similar to Abraham Lincon Memorial located in Washington DC or the statue of Siyaji Rao, Maharaja of Baroda State who belonged to Gayakwad Dynasty of Marathas. His latest statue is definitely different from the rest installed in Jammu.
The statue of Maharaja Hari Singh which is fifth in series is composed of alloy and raises just few feet from ground. The seated figure with armchair and footrest upon a pedestal gazes directly towards Bagh-e-Bahu fort (East). Special attention has been paid to hands, nose and a specially designed throne besides sword by Ravinder Jamwal who says that scaling has been done keeping in view 6 feet tall figure and accordingly this statue created that’s 2.15 times the normal size.
After the model was approved and contract signed the actual work began in the studio of Jamwal that’s located at his birthplace, Birpur located in the outskirts of Jammu City. Unlike Lincon statue that’s carved and comprises of 28 blocks of white Georgia marble, this status of Maharaja Hari Singh is that of bronze but has multiple metals in it to make it an everlasting piece of art. What went into making of this statue is now a history but worth penning down and worth remembering.
The height of statue along with Chattar (Umbrella) goes up to 14 feet and it took Jamwal almost a year to complete it. He has used gun metal, copper, zinc and even led to make the alloy before casting it. This noncorrosive metal statue will require very little maintenance. Giving details of the process, the ace sculptor said that first of all an armature of a seated figure was made of steel channels and bars on which statue was built with Plaster of Paris. This was the time when every single detail was taken care of for the reason that everything was to get reflected in subsequent moulds. So there was no scope of leaving any flaw.
According to Jamwal, 55 pieces were put together by welding to get final shape of colossal statue. This art of making statue with bronze dates back to something between 4,000 and 3,000 B.C. when bronze was discovered. That’s why the period was known as ‘Bronze Age’ and today sculptors around the globe are using same technique, he said. Like ancient ages, Jamwal too followed the procedure of making prototype with Plaster of Paris on armature and then giving it finishing touches.
This was followed by moulding, waxing, chasing, spruing wax for pouring molten metal to all of the areas of the sculpture. Once shell was complete it was placed in a high pressure sealed oven, known as an autoclave to melt the wax out. The empty shell was then filled with molten bronze. Bronze at this stage was heated at about 1100 degrees. Jamwal explained that at this stage of foundry, workers face difficulties and most of the accidents occur here only. After cooling, the shell was broken off to separate the bronze from the shell. Statue that was cut into pieces during moulding was later put together again and the process was called chasing.
Final stage involved patinazation which meant treating bronze with chemical reaction that takes place between bronze and acidic chemicals under high temperatures that oxidizes the surface of the metal. This coloured or textured appearance not only brings in shine in the metal but also protects it from atmospheric pollution. Now the Jammu Development Authority (JDA) that has installed this statue will have to polish the statue once in a decade to maintain it.
The crater of statues of General Bikram Singh, General Jorawar Singh, Indira Gandhi, Mahatama Gandhi, Brig Rajinder Singh, Mian Dido, Raja Jambolochan and artwork installed at Narayana Hospital Ravinder Jamwal presently teaches art at Institute of Music and Fine Arts (IMFA), Jammu and had exhibited his artwork in many states. Born in Birpur, Ravinder Jamwal popularly known as Ravi has done his B.F.A (sculpture) from Institute of music and Fine Arts, Jammu and post graduation (portraiture) from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. Having recorded his name in Limca Book of Records for his work he is also recipient of National award by Lalit kala Academy, New Delhi and All India Fine Art and Crafts Society, New Delhi.
The Bronze statue of Maharaja Hari Singh installed on Tawi bank is corrosion-resistant, strong, resilient, formable and weldable. He advises his students to devote as much time as they can to bring in perfection in their work. More students, he says come to fetch degree and diplomas for seeking jobs and only a couple of them rise to become good artists who are sure to make difference in the lives of people through their artwork.
The material used in making of this statue including gun mettle, tin and micro wax were all imported from Delhi, he said adding that at many times he used to fill his thermos with tea and work post midnight to complete the statue within stipulated timeframe. Today when the statue stands installed, he is elated and feels proud of contributing into the art world of Jammu and Kashmir State. Ravinder has participated in various national and international art camps held at Jaipur, Delhi, Paris, Korea and held solo sculpture exhibitions at Jammu University, Rabindra Bhawan, Himachal Pradesh and at Gulmarg, Srinagar besides other parts of the country which makes Jammu proud of him.
With the death of Maharaja Pratap Singh in September 1925, a benevolent and sympathetic rule came to a halt. The Maharaja’s popularity, accessibility and sense of Justice was widely acknowledged. He hesitated to entertain radical demands or overtures for democratic government, the prosperity and peace of his reign provided a favourable climate for the development of the State. Hari Singh assumed the rulership of the State but the Coronation ceremony was held in February 1926 which was attended by the Rulers of Princely States ‘who poured in from across India as special invitees .The Viceroy, Lord Reading, politely refused the invitation to attend the ceremony citing the reason as he was winding up after the expiry of his tenure in India. Political Department of Indian Government wanted to distance from Hari Singh at this moment until he showed more amenable behaviour.
Soon after the coronation ceremonies and festivities were over, Maharaja Hari Singh made a whirlwind tour of the State to have had a first hand assessment of the conditions of his subjects. The Maharaja came into close contact with the people who ‘lived in abject poverty and ignorance stalked the land. A large majority of the rural population was landless and inevitably steeped in eternal and vast magnitude of agricultural indebtedness, Starvation, fatal diseases and exploitation by the money lenders had a free-hand. It dawned on him that the basic cause of the economic servitude of the rural community was the economy of exploitation which made the farmer the victim of the money lenders horrible antics. This realization convinced the Maharaja that if he wanted to transform their pathetic and depressive social economic conditions, it was imperative for him to dislodge the Sahukari system and to rescue the peasantry from the clutches of a ‘puny tyrant and dictator-money lenders.
Once during these extensive tours when Maharaja Hari Singh was camping at Uri where in one day, he received one thousand petitions which were all against an iniquitous system of usury. Here again at this place another case of usury was brought before his notice. ‘A cultivator had borrowed twelve annas from a money lender to buy medicine for his sick father and a decree was passed against him for one hundred and eighteen rupees after three years’. The Maharaja got furious at this unjust incident and called the Executive Council and Mr. Middleton, the Settlement Commissioner at the Dak Bunglow. Mr. Middleton confirmed universal prevalence of this usury system.
Agriculturists Relief Regulation:
It was here at Uri that ‘Agriculturists Relief Regulation of July 1926’ was drafted with utmost haste and care which was based on the Deccan Agriculturists Relief Act of 1876 and which empowered the debtor to bring his creditor to the court for settlement of account. Under this regulation maximum interest that could be charged by money lenders from agriculturist debtors was 12 percent, provided the total interest charged did not exceed 50 percent of the amount lent and if was found that ‘excessive interest had been charged, the court could curtail down the total amount and give the debtor a decree against his creditor’ This Regulation was ‘passed by Maharaja Hari Singh when such enactments were not common even in British India, not to speak of Indian Princely States and he was himself the ‘Prime mover of this good legislation’
On October 31, 1932, Maharaja Hari Singh made a formal proclamation by throwing open the doors of State Temples and places of worship to the Harijans. This enactment was vehemently opposed by the Chief Priest of Shri Raghunath Temple, Pt. Devraj Shastri, by tendering his resignation in protest against the entry of Harijans in the temples. Maharaja Hari Singh appointed his brother Pt. Balkrishna as the Chief Priest and went ahead with his reform rather making any amendment in his Regulation.
This decision of the Maharaja earned for him the unprecedented credit of being the first Ruler of a Princely State in India to take such a revolutionary step for the emancipation of the Harijans even before Gandhiji launched his movement in British India.
As first step towards discrimination in educational institutes, Maharaja Hari Singh declared that no distinction be made in Government schools on the basis of any caste or community. Places of Worship, Government schools and Public wells be shared equally by all communities irrespective of religion and creed. He issued orders to this effect that this Act be implemented strictly and if any body found violating these orders be strongly dealt with.
Hereditary State Subject:
It was reported to Maharaja Hari Singh that a sinister British move was at foot to make Kashmir a ‘British Colony’. By promulgating the Act of Hereditary State Subject on 20th April, 1927, Maharaja Hari Singh ‘made it impossible for the Englishmen, their Indian henchmen and bureaucrats from Punjab, to own land or to do business or to secure employment inside the State at the cost of the State-Subjects’. This move by the Maharaja put a complete full stop to the British game of giving employment to more Englishmen in the State Services and the dream of the Political Department to make the Kashmir a permanent British Colony came to an abrupt end thus turning them sour against the Ruler. Hence, ‘non hereditary State Subjects were debarred from acquiring immovable property in the State, selling or transferring it to other than the hereditary State Subjects’.
Keeping in view the British Indian Judicial system, Maharaja Hari Singh enacted the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution of 1928 inarguably the most important event of his reign. The Adalat-ul-Alia functioning in the State from the times of Maharaja Ranbir Singh was replaced by a High Court which consisted of a Chief Justice and two puisne Judges appointed by the Maharaja. It was felt by Maharaja Hari Singh that unless the High Court was strengthened and relieved of its advisory duties, no improvement in the administration of Justice was possible. He wanted to delegate all powers and functions similar to those exercised by the High Courts in British India with a few reservations and restrictions.
Maharaja Pratap Singh had appointed a Committee of the Chief Minister, the Members for Commerce and Industry, the Revenue Member and the Judge, High Court to determine the composition, powers and functions of the High Court on October 29, 1921. The members of the Committee formed for the purpose recommended a ‘Bench of three Judges’. The High Court was established on March 26, 1928 which consisted of a Chief Justice and two puisne Judges.
‘Prior to 1939, the Judges had no fixed tenure and held office at the pleasure of the Maharaja but under the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution Act of 1939, the Judges could hold office till the age of 55 unless one was removed from the office by the Maharaja on the grounds of misbehaviour or infirmity of mind or body. But when the Letters Patent were issued on 28th August, 1943, the retirement age of the High Court Judges was raised to 65′. The Judges of the High Court had to possess the qualifications and experience of their counter parts in British India’ It was the highest Court of Civil, Criminal and Revenue appeals and it had to keep a close watch on the functioning of the subordinate Courts.
Jammu and Kashmir High Court was inaugurated by Army Minister, Major-General, Thakur Janak Singh Katoch, on 27th April, 1928, who administered the oath ceremony to the Chief Justice (Sir Burjor Dalal) and two Judges at an impressive but brief function. In his brief address to the elite and the select assembled gathering on the occasion, he said that ‘the establishment of High Court would be a milestone in the Judicial history of the State and the future generations would definitely be benefitted by upgrading the Judicial system in the State.
In his honest and truthful approach in mitigating the woes of the unprivileged classes of the society, he was like Mahatma Gandhi. Intellectually and spiritually, Maharaja Hari Singh matched the caliber of Swami Vivekananda. In eradicating the social evils prevalent in the society, he was like Raja Ram Mohan Roy. For his modern and liberal views, statesmanship and administrative potentialities, Maharaja Hari Singh was simply superb.