Brit who died for Kashmir

SRINAGAR, Nov 22: Recounting his struggle and efforts of fighting against the “slavery” of Kashmiris by Dogra rulers, the people in Kashmir valley remembered Robert Thorpe over his 144th death anniversary.

Thorpe, who was born from a Muslim Kashmiri mother and British father, was killed in 1868 after he entered into the valley to “fight for the rights” of common people. 

“The struggle and contribution of Mr Thorpe was unconventional. He spoke and rose against the slavery of Kashmiris and informed the world community about it that time when there were no means of communication and Kashmir was backward in every respect,” said senior separatist leader and Chairman Islamic Students League, Shakeel Ahmad Bakshi.

Bakshi while terming him as the “first guest martyr” in Kashmir said that his sacrifices would be a lesson for his community.

“Today now his community should learn from his sacrifices as he paid with his life for some people who are from different community,” he said, while paying glowing tributes to him.

He said that scores of people are inspired by his writings about the plight and history of Kashmiris.
However, Bakshi maintained the distance between the struggle of Thorpe against then Dogra rulers and insurgency started in 1990s in Kashmir against India.
“The tyranny inflicted by that time rulers are noted in his book “Kashmir Misgovernment” and in future lots of people would be inspired by it,” he said.
He opined that with passing time the love and affection for Thorpe has not diminished even as marginal number of people only visit his grave on his death anniversary.
“The people have love and respect for him and for his sacrifices. So it doesn’t mean that they need to visit his grave physically. Thorpe lives in every heart and mind of Kashmiris,” said he.
However, as a mark of respect lawyers, journalists, intellectuals and people from other walks of life also visited his grave.
As per the historical background, Robert Thorpe’s father, Colonel Thorpe, a British Army officer, came to Kashmir on holidays, in 1833, and married Jani, the daughter of a landlord from Budgam district. When, decades later, a young Robert visited Kashmir to see his mother’s homeland, he was moved by the miserable poverty and repression the Kashmiris were living in under the Dogra regime. He started writing against the oppressive Dogra regime in publications like ‘Friends of India’. He also held responsible the British for putting the Kashmiris under the tyranic Dogra rule through the treaty of Amritsar.
According to most historical accounts, the Dogra rulers were disturbed by Thorpe’s criticism, and deported him from the state. However, Thorpe managed to sneak back, but died on November 22, 1868 under ‘mysterious conditions’ at the age of 30. It is believed that Thorpe had to pay with his life for his outspoken criticism of the Dogra autocracy.
Thorpe’s posthumously published book ‘Cashmere Misgovernment’ is perhaps the first book giving information on the taxation system, shawl industry, begar (forced unpaid labour under the Dogras), the 1846 Amritsar treaty between Maharaja Gulab Singh and the British government and other aspects of life in Kashmir.