Liberation of Kashmir
by Narender Sehgal
KASHMIR: Memorial of Mistakes
Kashmiri Hindus did not lose courage despite
being victim of atrocities during 500 year barbaric rule of the foreigners.
When the Hindu state was established in Punjab, Kashmiri Pandits, through
their adroitness and alertness, established contact with Maharaja Ranjit
Singh and established Hindu Government in the state. The hero of this work
was Birbal Dhar.
trend of religious conversion, which started with the reign of Shahmir,
continued, without any interruption, for 500 years till the rule of the
last Afghan ruler, Ajim Khan. The erstwhile Hindu Kashmir was converted
to a Muslim state on the strength of the sword. During this era all cruel
and destructive means were adopted for destroying the Hindu society but
despite these cruel and inhuman measures foreign rulers could not finish
the basic society of Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits, while maintaining their
tradition of unique sacrifices, protected the Indian value of life.
Pandits did not accept defeat
The basic nationalist society of Kashmir had become
tired while tolerating and facing atrocities up to the last Afghan Subedar's
rule. But their mind for struggle was not tired. The major section of the
Pandits was still capable of facing this situation with novel style and
this section achieved success through their great sacrifice.
The last Subedar, Ajim Khan, felt the need of
involving capable Pandits for running the administration systematically
after silencing the flames of anarchy and mutual conflict. It is condemnable
but a reality that every Muslim ruler in Kashmir fully banked on the calibre
and wisdom of Pandits for running the state administration and for fulfilling
their political objectives and then destroyed the Pandits, their families
and their religion for their political interests.
This Subedar, Ajim Khan, too obediently followed
the demonic traditions of his ancestors and entrusted all the powers of
the government to Pt. Birbal Dhar, Pt. Sukh Ram and Mirza Pandit. These
three Hindu sardars were competent administrators. But the Muslim sardars
incited the Subedar against them by levelling baseless charges of embezzlement
and misappropriation of Government funds. The Subedar ordered confiscation
of the family property of Birbal after levelling false charge of embezzling
crores of rupees. With this the Hindu society came under the cloud of misfortune.
Ajim Khan gave full freedom to Muslims sardars for annihilating the remaining
Pt. Birbal staked his life
Prominent Pandits of Kashmir decided to protect
the Hindu society in this situation. A secret meeting was organised for
carrying out the sacred duty of protecting their society in the interest
of nationalism. Political, religious and social Hindu leaders from the
entire state participated in the meeting which was held in the house of
Mirza Pandit. Some decisions were taken after a day-long deliberations.
The question pertained not only to Kashmir but
to whole of India. The question related not only to the Pandit society
of Kashmir but to the misfortune having befallen the entire Hindu society.
There was need for resolving this misfortune on the national instead of
the regional level. After the deliberation it was decided to approach Maharaja
Ranjit Singh for help. The responsibility of meeting the Maharaja was given
to the seasoned person like Birbal Dhar.
Support of patriotic Muslims
Faint outlines of this plan became known to the
Subedar. He immediately summoned Mirza Pandit and enquired from him about
the plan but Mirza Pandit cleverly pacified the Subedar. By then Birbal
Pandit had left the house alongwith his son, Raja Kak, in disguise. After
halting at Devsar, away from Srinagar, the father and the son left for
their onward journey. With the help of the local Muslim society they succeeded
in crossing the Pir Panjal. These Muslims performed their duties towards
the nation by giving assistance to them and the names of such Muslims will
shine in the history of Kashmir.
The Subedar and the Muslim courtiers were highly
irked and intrigued by the way Pandit Birbal and his son duped the Subedar
and crossed the Pir Panjal with the help of some Muslims. On hearing about
it, the Subedar rushed his soldiers who carried out massive search operations
in the entire country but by then the arrow was out of the bow.
Those patriotic Maliks who helped Birbal and his
son in going out of the state were hunted and killed. Those houses, in
which Birbal and his son had stayed, were set ablaze and the family members
in those houses were burnt to death alive. Their lands were seized and
all Government grant and facilities were stopped in all those villages
where Birbal and his son had crossed and stayed. The Subedar called Mirza
Pandit for talks and the two discussed the situation. During this discussion
Mirza Pandit concealed the plan of Birbal. He told the Subedar that if
Birbal was successful in reaching the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, he
would return to Kashmir with Hindu troops or otherwise go to Haridwar for
It inflamed the Subedar. He was confident that
Birbal would be successful in his mission. He was aware of the patriotism
of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his faith on Hindutva and his powerful country.
The Subedar turned mad with anger and through his dexterity Mirza Pandit
weakened all the defence of the Subedar. The Subedar started visualising
the fall of the Muslim rule in Kashmir.
Subedar Ajim Khan started grumbling like an insane
animal and whosoever confronted him was killed. When he got wary of all
this he ordered that all the women of the family of Birbal Pandit be arrested
and brought in front of him. But in this field also he had to face defeat.
Farewell from brave wife
When Pandit Birbal initiated the plan he had visualised
such a possible attitude of the Subedar. He had the inkling of his wife
and children getting killed and insulted. He had decided to give this sacrifice
in the interest of the nation. He had preferred safety of the land of Kashmir,
the Indian culture and the Hindu society to the gradual sacrifice of individual
families. Before his departure Birbal Pandit had met his wife who bid farewell
to him with her tearful eyes and with the assurance that she would never
hesitate performing her duties even if she had to undergo severe pains
and miseries. While placing her hands in the hands of her husband she had
pledged that she would not hesitate embracing death and will not allow
any foreigner to touch her body so long she was alive. How emotional farewell
would it have been for Birbal when he was confronted by his wife pledging
to sacrifice herself for the cause of the nation?
Her son, Raja Kak, too touched his mother's feet
for seeking her blessings. She embraced her son knowing fully well that
that meeting with her son was the last. She entrusted her son to the care
of his father and bid a customary farewell to her husband and son who had
to go on a right course of action. Both the son and the father left the
house with their chin up and the brave husband saw his brave wife the last
time and the son waved his hand to his mother. The brave mother went inside
the temple for prayer. She worshipped both Shiva and his trident and her
daughter-in-law, wife of Raja Kak, too joined her in her prayers.
Patriotism of Qadis Khan and Pandit Bassa Ram
Prior to his departure, Birbal Pandit had entrusted
the task of protection of his family to one of his trusted Muslim associates,
Qadis Khan Gojwari. Therefore, both the mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law,
went to the house of Qadis Khan.
The soldiers of Ajim Khan launched a massive hunt
for the two women but Qadis Khan had made elaborate arrangements for their
security and the two women were made part of the family in order to prevent
any suspicion from taking shape.
One Hindu, Pandit Bassa Ram, knew about the whereabouts
of the two women. He had left the two women in the house of Qadis Khan.
Bassa Ram was a close friend of Birbal Pandit. Subedar Ajim Khan learnt
about the whereabouts of Bassa Ram who was arrested and brought to the
subedar. The Subedar gave him the allurements of estates, gold and top
post in the Government but the strong-willed Pandit refused to divulge
anything. The Subedar ordered that the Pandit should be tortured For nine
days he was kept hungry and was subjected to torture. His flesh was peeled
off with hot iron rods. His eyes were gouged out and for each of these
nine days he was fined Rs. 9,000. But when he refused to open his mouth
despite undergoing all these ordeals and tortures, on the 10th day his
belly was ripped open with red hot sword and this way Bassa Ram Kak achieved
martyrdom on the altar of the nation.
Subedar Azam Khan made all possible efforts to
search out these two ladies but it was of no avail. Qadis Khan spared no
efforts to hide them. It was destined that these two women would sacrifice
their lives for Kashmir. This news reached Subedar through one of the trusted
friends of Qadis Khan because of his selfishness and anti-national bent
of mind. Whether this friend of Qadis Khan was Hindu or Muslim is not known
from any historical source. It may be due to this fact that a traitor is
to be condemned everywhere. The house was besieged by Qadis Khan because
of the news of this hated person. Qadis Khan tried his best to hide these
ladies but he was killed by Subedar's Soldiers. Both the mother-in-law
and daughter-in-law were arrested.
While these ladies were being taken by Subedar's
soldiers, the mother-in-law swallowed one diamond, she was having round
her throat but the daughter-in-law could not do so. When both of them were
brought before Subedar, the wife of Birbal looked at Azamkhan with contemptuous
eyes and said bravely, "The reign of terror leashed against the Kashmiri
Pandits will end and the rule of the Afghans will collapse. My husband
and son have reached Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Darbar". She died before she
could conclude her talk. She fulfilled her promise and did not allow any
person to come bear her while she lived. Azamkhan was very much sad.
But Pandit Birbal's daughter-in-law and the wife
of Raja Kak was sent to Kabul through one Afghan Subedar. There is a lot
of difference between these two cultures. The students of history know
when the Maratha soldiers defeated a Muslim Subedar at Kalyan near Pune,
the weapons, artillery and the fort of the Subedar fell into the hands
of the Marathas. The Maratha soldiers presented the young daughter-in-law
of Muslim Subedar before Shivaji. Shivaji reprimanded his soldiers and
asked them not to repeat such a type of action in future. Then, he addressed
Subedar's daughter-in-law as "Mother" and offered her golden ornaments
and sent her back to Subedar. Here lies the difference between these two
Father and son reached the destination
Pandit Birbal Dhar and his son, Raja Kak, were
marching towards their destination carefully after surmounting many hurdles
in the way. As a result of their strong faith in their objective they could
secure assistance of many in the way. Many more Hindus from Kashmir followed
Pandit Birbal. All these Hindus were successful in reaching the court of
Maharaja Gulab Singh in Jammu. Maharaja Gulab Singh gave a letter for Raja
Dhian Singh, Prime Minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and made arrangements
for their trip to Lahore. On reaching Lahore, Raja Dhian Singh made arrangements
for their meeting with Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Pandit Birbal narrated the
entire story to the Maharaja. He influenced the Maharaja with his oratory
The Maharaja listened to Birbal attentively. He
was dismayed over the misfortune on Hindutva and Indianness in Kashmir.
He felt that the entire problem should be viewed in the national context.
He was a true Sikh who recalled the sacrifice of Guru Teg Bahadur. The
picture of young children of Shri Gobind Singh being embedded in the wall
loomed large in front of his eyes. He could see the severed head of Hakikat.
After discussing the matter with his assiociates the Maharaja immediately
ordered that the troops be kept ready. He suggested to Birbal to remain
with the Army officers for acquainting them with the topography of the
state. Pandit Birbal accepted all the conditions and kept his son in the
Lahore court as a pawn.
When Subedar of Kashmir, Ajim Khan learnt about
it and about the ensuing invasion of Kashmir by the Sikh soldiers, he felt
scared. He felt he would be asked to give an account of all his evil deeds.
He was so terrified that he sent his harem, his entire gold and wealth
to Kabul under the supervision of Sehaj Ram. After some days he also left
Kashmir and handed over power to his brother, Jabbar Khan. Even while fleeing
Kashmir Ajim Khan committed condemnable act of taking a wealthy Pandit,
Suraj Tikoo, with him so that he could grab his wealth. But when he could
not lay his hand on anything the Subedar killed Suraj Tikoo near Baramulla.
Victory campaign of Sikh soldiers
Maharaja Ranjit Singh sent his five top and brave
Army commanders along with 30,000 soldiers to Kashmir under the guidance
of Pandit Birbal. Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu, and other powerful Army officers
including Hari Singh Nalwa, Jwala Singh, Hukum Singh and Shyam Singh uprooted
the troops of Jabbar Khan with their might. Jabbar Khan took to his heels.
The Sikh soldiers emerged victorious and this way brought about an end
of the Afghan rule. On June 20, 1819 A.D. Pandit Birbal entered with Sikh
soldiers into Kashmir as a victor. Even the Muslim historians have praised
the contribution of Pandit Birbal.
According to Mohd. Din Fak, Pandit Birbal was
a person of bright character. In his view any great sacrifice was much
too small for any noble cause. He was not perturbed even by the suicide
of his loyal wife, abduction and forcible conversion of his daughter-in-law
and by the merciless killings of his friends and relations. He kept on
marching with determination on his path so that he could throw out the
Afghans from his country. But in the hour of his triumph he did not forget
his Muslim countrymen and his duty. The Sikhs wanted to loot the city but
he came in their way. And when Phool Singh started demolishing the sacred
shrine of Shah Hamdan, Pandit Birbal, without caring for his safety, told
Phool Singh that the history will condemn him for his evil deed. This deed
of Birbal is sufficient to make him immortal. He is a symbol of innate
qualities of Pandits and of their permanent strength to fight the onslaughts
A question worth consideration
The character of Pandit Birbal reveals that if
a single person desires, he can change the course of history. Success is
assured if one remains above self-interest and works with dedication and
determination during the hour of national crisis. The role played by Pandit
Birbal and his son for finishing the cruel rulers of Kashmir has its background
in the encouragement of two great women who lost and sacrificed everything
for completing the national task.
Had Pandit Birbal desired he would have sought
revenge after his victory. He could have avenged the destruction of temples
and educational institutions during the last 500 years from mosques and
tombs. He could have reconverted those who had been forced to adopt Islam
but as a great man he did nothing like this.
In the context of the current problem in Kashmir
it is worth consideration and debate whether Pandit Birbal should have
destroyed all the foreigners on Kashmir and all their signs with his sword
under the "tit for tat" policy in consonance with the requirements of history,
political wisdom and in order to caution foreign powers in the future.
Temples echoed with the sound of Arti (prayer)
After conquering Kashmir, the reign of Maharaja
Ranjit Singh lasted for 27 years. During this period 10 Governors were
appointed in Kashmir. The Government policies were liberal and the victimisation
and suppression of Hindus by Muslims had stopped. Muslim landlords, who
would commit atrocities daily, took to their heels and the women folk used
to live and roam about honourably and freely. Bells in the temples started
ringing and the tunes of Arti reverberated in the temples and it seemed as if the golden age had dawned again.
But with the advent of this era no such system
and practices were adopted which could have given a permanent and stable
shape to this era. It was never thought that this era would end some day
and result in the same age of darkness. After achieving freedom from 500-year
long slavery no attempt was made to link the state with its ancient foundation.
No plan was formulated for the renovation of the ruined temples and the
centres of culture, education and spiritualism. There was no possibility
of starting activities in order to strengthen nationalism because by this
time the British had established their foothold in rest of the country.
Maharaja Gulab Singh
During his lifetime, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had
appointed Gulab Singh as the ruler of this state. But in 1846 under the
Amritsar Agreement, which was forged after the battle between the Sikhs
and the British, the Britishers secured penalty for the Sikh-British war
from Gulab Singh even after recognising him as the ruler of Kashmir. One
British agent was appointed in Kashmir. In Reality the Britishers established
their control over Gulab Singh through the Agent.
Chivalry of Gen. Zorawar Singh
Gulab Singh converted Jammu and Kashmir to a strong
state by uniting small states with the help of his military missions and
political influence. Through the efforts of Gen. Zorawar Singh, well adept
in mountain warfare, Gulab Singh annexed Ladakh. This brave Gen. Zorawar
Singh attained martyrdom while fighting the war in the mountain region
of Ladakh. Famous historian, K.M. Pannikar, has praised his troop command
and war tactics. He has written that it is most amazing to see him carry
the soldiers to the heights of 15000 ft. above the sea level in Ladakh
and Baltistan's snow covered cliffs where it is difficult for the people
from the plains to live because of paucity of oxygen. Carrying the troops
to these heights more than six times and launching one attack after the
other for conquering the state in order to establish peace is unique and
matchless in the history of India. His greatness as a great soldier will
shine in the pages of the history of India.
Maharaja Ranbir Singh
After Gulab Singh his son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh,
occupied the throne of Jammu and Kashmir. People remember him as an ideal
Hindu king because of his interest in Hindutva, Sanskrit and the Indian
culture. He opened many centres for the teaching and study of Sanskrit,
built libraries and made efforts for re-establishing the values of Hindu
life. Under the guidance of this Maharaja a Dharmarth Trust was set up
for the construction of many temples. As a result of these efforts a wave
of Hindutva swept the state. The Hindu society too started to get up and
the people of Kashmir became impatient in restoring to the state its ancient
Anti-national crime of Pandits
The impact of the wave of Hindutva was so powerful
that even the converted people started making up their mind for adopting
the religion of their ancestors. Muslims from Poonch and Rajouri and some
from the Kashmir valley assembled and appealed to the court of Maharaja
Ranbir Singh praying that they be accepted in their basic Hindu religion.
It can be treated a misfortune for the country that some contractors of
religion always tried to create hurdles. When the Maharaja asked the Pandits
about the reconversion of their relations, the Pandits clearly refused
to accept them back in Hindu religion. These very Pandits had not allowed
Rinchan to adopt Hindu religion which led to the trampling of Kashmir under
the feet of Muslim rulers for 500 years. And when the Muslims expressed
their wish to return to the Hindu religion, these very Pandits created
obstacles because of their narrow outlook.
Had the Maharaja himself declared the converted
people as Hindus, the problem would have ended for ever. History can never
forgive the Pandits for this antinational work.
When Raja Pratap Singh succeeded Maharaja Ranbir
Singh, he had to face opposition from his younger brother, Amar Singh.
Amar Singh had challenged the occupation of the throne by Pratap Singh.
The British Government assisted Maharaja Pratap Singh and this way it further
strengthened its foothold in the state. The British Government appointed
political Agents in Srinagar, Leh and Gilgit.
A British Parliamentarian, William Digwe, had
given an account of the political powers of these agents. He has written
that the powers of the Resident have been supreme and the fact is that
one cannot do anything without written orders from him. His wish is law,
he is a ruler. He has allowed himself to be surrounded by sycophants and
friends and has ousted old and loyal servants of the Government. No one,
in that country, can open one's mouth and in case any weakling raises a
voice of protest, he is warned of dire consequences.
Maharaja Hari Singh stood for complete independence
Maharaja Hari Singh ascended the throne of Kashmir
after Maharaja Pratap Singh. On assuming the throne this young ruler brought
about many constitutional reforms in the state. Having been baptised in
the Indian culture, Hindutva etc the Maharaja was a nationalist. His patriotism
is testified by the way he supported total independence for India as a
representative of the Chamber of Princess in the roundtable conference
in London in 1931. The Maharaja said candidly "It is the first occasion
when the Indian princes have come to discuss the political future of India
with the representatives of the British Government and the British India.
As Indians we want our motherland to enjoy a place of honour and equality
in the British Union".
For the first time in the British rule in India
that a ruler of a state had raised the question of India's independence
with determination. The British Government was alerted. Feeling that patriotism
of Hari Singh may come in the way of their scheme, the Britishers started
hatching conspiracies for creating an atmosphere of opposition for the
Maharaja. They thought of projecting a Kashmiri leader as a British "stooge"
and the then Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, projected Sheikh Abdullah in the
guise of the "stooge" through Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru.