Jammu And Kashmir Legacy

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sikh Rule In Kashmir

The reign of terror broke the patience of the peace loving people, and a deputation of Kashmiris led by Pandit Birbal Dhar, and his son Pandit Rajakak Dhar, left for Lahore and fervently requested Maharaja Ranjit Singh to conquer Kashmir. Three prominent Muslims helped Pandit Birbal Dhar in his escape from the valley. They were Abdul Qadoos Gojwari, Mallick Zulfiqar and Malik Kamgar. In 1819, 30,000 soliders of Maharaja Ranjit Singh attacked Kashmir, defeated the Pathans, and the state became a part of Ranjit Singh's empire. On receipt of the news ,Maharaja Ranjit Singh bestowed honours in Dhar family and Lahore was illuminated for three days, Sikh rule lasted for only 27 years and during this period 10 Governors administersd the country one after another, out of whom the last two were Muslims. In the beginning Sikh rule also proved to be oppressive. " It must have been an intense relief ", writes Lawrence, " to all classes in Kashmir to see the downfall of the evil rule of Pathan, and to none was the relief greater than to the peasants who had been cruely fleeced by the rapacious sardars of Kabul. I do not mean to suggest that the Sikh rule was benign or good, but it was at any rate better that that of the Pathans. "
The Sikh rule over Kashmir lasted only for a brief span of time, during which the rulers at Lahore were far too pre-occupied at home to pay any attention to the affairs of this outlying province of theirs. The misery of the people increased due to natural calamities as well, such as premature snow falls, which would destroy a ripe rice crop leading to famines. These famines were followed by diseases like cholera and plague, resulting in a heavy loss of life. Thousands of people migrated to India during these hard days, and no wonder the population of the valley came down to two lakhs from 8 lakhs.
Mr. Ranel Tayler who visited Kashmir in 1846 writes about Kashmir, "The town presents a very miserable apperance. The houses made of wood are tumbling in every direction. The streets are filthy for want of drainage, none of the bazars looked wellfilled and prospseous and altogether my ride made me very unhappy ". Moorcraft who visited the valley in 1835 writes, "Everywhere the people were in most abject condition, not one sixteenth of the cultivable land is under cultivation, and the inhabitants are starving. They were in a condition of extreme weakness. Villages were half deserted and those who lived there were the semblance of extreme sickness. Villages were filthy and swarming with beggars. The rural folk on the whole were half naked and miserably emaciated and presented a ghastly picture of poverty and starvation ". Such was the general condition of the state when Maharaja Ranjit Singh died in 1830. His death was a signal for the mutiny of Sikh Army which become uncontrollable, and plunge entire Punjab into confusion and chaos.