I am writing this letter to the son of the last ruler of erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, to express my concern over commemoration of Maharaja Hari Singh's birth anniversary as a state holiday. You must be aware of a recent resolution tabled by your son in the upper house of the legislature. With due respect to your sensitivities, I completely reckon with the fact that for you Maharaja Hari Singh was more than a ruler, a personification of kindness, compassion and integrity who has taught you virtues of life. For us he was a ruler whose forefathers had made a historic purchase of my forefathers along with the mountains, fields, crops, and the streams 500 KMs away from Srinagar in Amritsar. My forefathers have seen this beautiful land of chinars, where tyrannous treatment was meted out to them. Leading a miserable life, where it was difficult to differentiate them from cattle. Ironically slave labour (begaari), heavy and immoderate taxation, discrimination, and living under constant terror was order of the day. Each of it giving us an impression of being purchased, objectified with a fear that we could possibly be sold to some other emperor, if any similar arrangement suiting the royalty takes place. In this context, while describing the pathetic picture of the Kashmiris, Sir Walter Lawrence in his book, titled "The India We Served" writes, "Army was employed in forcing the villagers to plough and sow, and worse still, the soldiers came at harvest time and when the share of the state had been seized" and "there was very little grain to tide the unfortunate peasants over the cruel winter". The state of administration is well explained by Maharaja's Prime Minister Sir Albon Banerjee, till he resigned in 1929 because of the policies of the maharaja portrayed the state of affairs on 15th March 1929, thus, "Jammu and Kashmir state is labouring under many disadvantages, with a large Muslim population absolutely illiterate, labouring under poverty and very low economic conditions of living in the villages, and practically governed like dumb driven cattle. There is no touch between the government and the people, no suitable opportunity for representing grievances. The administration has at presented little or no sympathy with the people's wants and grievances". I won't turn the pages of history in detail as it is bitter and everything is well documented by historians ,which will certainly advocate my case.
I must also be honest enough to accept and appreciate the efficacious done to Kashmir during the Dogra rule. The state subject laws, institutionalisation paved way for some of the infrastructure we utilise today. Hospitals, river banks, de-centralised government departments are the contribution of Maharaja. However the far reaching frontiers of the state are witness to the political onslaught unleashed on its people and the indignity accorded to them. Thanks to the "reading room" deliberations upon the socio-political issues confronting the Kashmiri muslims. Today after having undergone hundred and one years of Dogra rule from November 1846 to October 1947, we find ourselves fairly resourceful, little worthy enough to serve our state and also represent it. These virtues of our inherent qualities emerged only after we were allowed to do so, in a conducive atmosphere, where the air for us was not "taxed". I am myself a grandson of a Zaildar , belonging to Sallar ,an area on suburbs of scenic Pahalgam valley. For me and his people he is still remembered as a figure of benevolence but there exists a feeling of ignominy in me to attach a feudalistic badge to myself. Although his father's prime reason to join politics was to fight for his own people, the "begaari " system during the annual pilgrimage. Having said that, we Kashmiris are resilient, we acknowledge your positive role in society building and particularly your empathetic approach and vociferousness to protect the special status of the state but doing anything that will remotely re-establish the spirit of subjugation and suppression will alienate us and rob us of our pride we take in being democratic. It will unfold the incidents of history which we don't want to recall, they cause pain, they tear us apart. Moreover it will be an indignity to the spirit of democracy at large.