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First time observance of public holiday on Maharaja Hari Singh‘s birthday: Changing geo-political realities in J&K

23/09/2022 at 3:10 PM

Maharaj Hari Singh birthday

Arun Joshi

 For the first time since the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India in October 1947, the birth anniversary of  Maharaja Hari Singh who made it possible through his signatures and seal, is being celebrated as a public holiday, signifying the shift that the geo-politics has taken place in this territory.

The significance of declaration of 23rd September as annual holiday in Jammu and Kashmir, as a mark of respect to the last Dogra king who had signed instrument of accession, acceding the state to  India in the most challenging times in the subcontinent when Partition of India had swamped the land with communal clashes and bloodshed, and  Pakistan had invaded the princely state to grab the territory. Maharaja who wanted the state independent and had signed  standstill agreement with  Pakistan decided to accede to India and sought the Indian help to repulse Pakistan’s invasion.

That geo-political reality inscribed in the Instrument of  Accession signed on October 26, 1947, that enabled the Indian army to land in Jammu and Kashmir to push back Pakistani soldiers and invaders,  was widely recognised but when India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru took the matter to the UN , and the subsequent resolutions on Kashmir, it cast the shadow over the very geopolitical reality – the whole of  Jammu and Kashmir to India – underwent a change. The work done by Maharaja , resisting all the pressures and invasion of Pakistan, and siding with India in  letter and spirit , was diluted. As the result of the UN resolutions, Pakistan was able to occupy a  substantial chunk of the territory of Jammu and Kashmir- Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

Over the years, the questions were being raised over the status of the  state  and its relations with India , not only by Pakistan but also by some of  Kashmir-centric parties, including National Conference, and PDP, that wanted to be regarded as the mainstream parties. All Parties Hurriyat Conference, the conglomerate of several separatist minded groups, which wanted the secession of J&K from India, at the behest of Pakistan, was leading this campaign. This was being pushed through guns and grenades of militants .

Much of the steam of that secessionist-minded campaign lost its steam after the Centre abrogated Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution which granted special status and privileges to the erstwhile state and its permanent residents , but the importance of the accession remained partly unappreciated, there was little recognition of the role that Maharaja Hari Singh had played in moving the geography and narrative of J&K to India in complete  sense of the word and geo-political action.

Lieutenant  Governor  Manoj Sinha  announced on September 15 , and the J&K government notified it officially on September 19 that the September 23 will be observed as a public holiday every year. Today is the  first public holiday to mark the birth anniversary of the last Dogra king.

With the declaration of public holiday, the government has acknowledged that it was Maharaja’s action of  signing of the instrument of accession was the first and final act , and there was no other means which needed to be recognised , thus putting it down effectively forever the narrative that despite being a Muslim-majority state , Kashmiri Muslims opted for the state of India, discarding the theological state of Pakistan, an Islamic country. This is a fact that Maharaja signed the instrument of accession , but its popular approval came from the people of Kashmir who  came out in streets, warning Pakistani invaders of assaulting Kashmiris  and their land.  Both the aspects have their value, because the instrument of accession was a legal document that had to eb signed by the ruler – in this case Maharaja Hari Singh. Since he was the ruler and had managed and ruled the sate for  close to quarter of a century, he also represented the will of all the communities, regions  and subregions .

Union Home Minister Amit Shah rightly described  the declaration of public holiday by the Narendra Modi government  as a rich tribute to the king who , as a true nationalist had played a key role in integrating  J&K into India. This establishes  the historical fact that India is paying  gratitude to the king for his contribution.

Some of the Kashmiri parties, particularly National Conference has opposed it , for obvious reasons , because it was this party since the days of its original incarnation as  Muslim Conference in 1931, launched movement against Maharaja and his rule. It was National Conference that had spearheaded “ quit Kashmir” agitation against the king .

Now onwards however this is the reality that Maharaja Hari Singh was right in all his deeds.

About the Author:

Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, and The Tribune. He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.


This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with those of prameyanews.com

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