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An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Lord Lansdowne to Maharaja of Kashmir,
Letter from Digby to London Times
September 7, 1889

Legal Document No 27

( Extract )

Lord Lansdowne has recently done an exceedingly kindly thing in a characteristically pleasing way. What he has done will stand him in good stead as Viceroy of India. Nowhere in the world does a generous deed meet with so much appreciation as in India. Evidently moved by the many circumstances, pathetic and otherwise connected with the virtual deposition of the Maharaja of Kashmir, Lord Lansdowne, I am informed, has granted permission to the Maharaja to see him. This kindness has raised great hopes in the heart of the Maharaja and in the minds of his supporters. They argue, t is thought on good grounds, that the Viceroy would never have suggested the interview it is declared the suggestion came from above - unless he was prepared to do justice to the Maharaja as H's Highness understands that phrase. If Lord Lansdowne does not intend to restore Partab to his throne and reinstate him with the authority taken from him a few months ago, the kindness will prove to have been a mistake; the resulting disappointment will be most keen. It is not possible to overstate the excitement, which has been caused -throughout India by the Maharaja's deposition. Nothing that has happened in the Empire during the past thirty years has so vitally stirred Indians of all races, in every grade of society-this, too, in feudatory States and British districts alike. For the sake of peace and good-will in India and for better government and the increased security of our rule, it is earnestly to be hoped That a return to the status quo in Kashmir is contemplated by Lord Lansdowne and will shortly be arranged.

Lord Lansdowne, if-with such guarantees as the Maharaja has expressed his willingness to give for the good government of the people of Kashmir - he were to restore Partab Singh to his throne, would do not merely a kindly, but also an eminently wise thing. Notwithstanding what has been publicly said by an-ex India official, who ought to have known better, respecting the character of the Maharaja, His Highness is not 'a drunken debaucher ', nor is he a man of immoral life. He has never been in the habit of taking intoxicating liquors; he is singularly abstemious. He has led a simple life, and has carefully avoided sensuality. The only fault I have ever heard brought against him by any one acquainted at first-hand with his character is that the rites of the religion he believes in have had more influence over him than on his subjects or his co-religionists think right, but more than certain Europeans Approve, and that his devotions and his contemplation regarding a future life have taken up too much of his time. He is kind and indulgent and very affectionate. Instances were related to me while I was in India last year, illustrative of his great -thoughtfulness and goodness of heart. He has more than once been known to put himself to inconvenience rather than occasion additional trouble to those about him. So much for his character as a man. If he had only had fair play as good a record of the Maharaja as a ruler would by this time have been forthcoming. Partab Singh, a despotic sovereign, began his reign well. Here is a record of what was begun-very largely in many cases, entirely in others-on the Maharaja's own initiative. I mention only the more prominent reforms:

  1. Payment of all civil and military salaries monthly instead of at irregular intervals, and thus avoiding accummulation of arrears
  2. Abolition of export duties.
  3. Abolition of numerous vexatious duties on manufacturers and traders.
  4. Abolition of the harkarabeshi, the sewai, and other heavy taxes levied on the cultivators of the soil.
  5. Stoppage of the inhuman practice of punishing the innocent relatives of deserters from the army when the deserters themselves could not be found.
  6. Abolition of the pernicious practice of farming the land revenue by letting it to the highest bidder.
  7. Abolition of the practice of buying ghee, horses, wool and other articles. through the revenue officials from cultivators, at nominal prices fixed by Government.
  8. Abolition of the tax on Mohammedan marriages.
  9. Increased allotment of funds for public works.
  10. Stringent orders issued to prevent high officials and influential men influencing the decisions of Courts of Justice.
  11. Equalization of the customs duty on salt.
  12. Establishment of high schools at Jammu and Srinagar.
  13. Municipal constitution granted to the cities of Jammu and Srinagar.
  14. Equitable adjustment of import duties.
  15. Leave Code, Educational Code, and other rules calculated to promote public interests provided.
  16. Corruption checked among civil and revenue officials by the introduction of a system of strict supervision as well as by the importation of an honest and educated element in the service. And,
  17. Amendment of certain laws.
Besides all these, a number of other reforms were taken in hand, and it was intended to press them with velour. Unfortunately, matters did not continue so excellently as they were begun, though they have always been fairly well conducted The fault is only a remote degree, if at all, lies with the Maharaja. The Residency system has been the bane of the Kashmir State, as it has been the bane of many another State in India. Let me show how this came about.

Partab Singh's accession was marked by a new departure in our relations with Kashmir. For the first time since Kashmir has been a feudatory of the British Crown, a Resident was appointed to the Himalyan Kingdom. The result was not satisfactory. Soon after Colonel Nisbet became Resident, a bundle of letters incriminating the Maharaja and making him a party to reasonable practices were handed to the Resident. He took them to Calcutta. Sir John Gorst, in the house of Commons, speaking the mind of the Government of India, as well as of the Secretary of State, declared no importance was attached to them. In the meantime by the exercise of what, the Maharaja himself in his letter to the Viceroy calls "many-sided pressures, a (so-called) letter of abdication was obtained from the Maharaja. On the strength of that document Partab Singh has been deposed. But not even the conditions of that communications have been carried out. The utmost that, under "many-sided pressures", the Maharaja would agree to was, that the assistance of the Government of India should be asked in the formation of a Council, over which Maharaja was to preside. This Council was to assist the Maharaja in carrying out needed reforms. Five Years was the limit set to this arrangement. The response to this proposal was a letter from the Government of India, informing the Maharaja that his offer has been accepted (!), he was to stand aside from all exercise of authority, the Resident was to become the Raja, and he was told an allowance, which was ungenerously described as sufficient for dignity but not for extravagance, would be made to him. No period was fixed for this arrangement to end. It might be As long as the sun and the moon endure", so for as the letter of (virtual) deposition was concerned. The Government of India say that the letter contains some inconvenient stipulations' and it would be embarrassing to it as it stands. As soon as the Maharaja saw the manner in which the offer extorted from him had been misinterpreted, he wrote a long letter to the Viceroy disclaiming the interpretation put upon what he said, and concluding by asking Lord Lansdowne, if he could not release him from the intolerable position in which he had been placed. to shoot him through the head. Death was preferable to the dishonor to which he had been subjected. Despite the Resident's efforts to detain him, the Maharaja left Srinagar and moved nearer to British territory to await the Viceroy's reply. That reply a telegram in The Times last week tells us, contains an expression of the hope of the Government of India that it may hereafter see its way to restore Partab Singh to his rightful position. Possibly the interview promised to the Maharaja may be the means of the bringing this about speedily. This incident, like scores of others affecting Indian Princes and their States, has happened, because the Government of India is in no way subject to that embodied conscience of present day civilization-an enlightened public opinion possessing punitive power. Without meaning it, and doubtless working, as it considers, with a shingle eye to the maintenance of British supremacy in India, the Indian Foreign Office is frequently guilty of grievous injustice. That office, more than any other department in the Indian Government, is in a position which neither man nor institution is good enough, or free enough from liability to error, to bear. There is no one to call it to account, no over-zeal, no one to suggest one to check its (may be inadvertent) that there is, perhaps, another side to a matter than that which has fixed itself in the Foreign Secretary's mind; not a whisper is ever raised, or is likely to be ever raised, by any one possessing power in India, suggesting that the traditions of the office might with advantage be at times broken; it is prosecutor, judge, and executioner, in its hands an India Prince is between the upper and nether millstones. The healthy criticism, the more or less adequate knowledge, and the sense of responsibility to Parliament and the Press, which keep the Foreign, Home, and Colonial Departments in touch with the nation, and which prevent any gross injustice or wide deviation from righteousness are wholly wanting in India. They are not supplied by the British Parliament, the ultimate ruler of India. As a consequence, the Indian Foreign Office, without possibly knowing it and certainly in many instances without meaning it, has been and s responsible for a vast number of acts of injustice which, f set forth in detail, would hardly be credited. The Kashmir incident is one of these.

If it be true that Lord Lansdowne intends himself to see Maharaja Partab Singh, and to restore, with guarantees, the ruler of Kashmir to his place of power, His Excellency will do as much to strengthen the Queen-Empress's supremacy in India, as has been done by all the money spent during the past four or five years in strengthening the North-Western Frontier.

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