The State Subject Law, which was enacted in 1927 by Maharaja Hari Singh is an integral part of Kashmiri people’s struggle for equality and democratic rights. The State Subject movement had a distinctive feature of its own as it amalgamated both the regions on this issue i.e. Jammu under Dogra Sadr Sabha and Kashmir under Pandits. One of the annual conference of Dogra Sadr Sabha held at Srinagar on October 1926 in which Pandit Jia Lal Kilam moved a resolution, demanding that only those persons whose ancestors had been residing in the state since the time of Maharaja Gulab Singh should be considered as the hereditary State Subjects and be given preferential treatment in the state-services to such persons. Finally, the issue came up again towards the beginning of the Maharaja Hari Singh’s regime. The Maharaja appointed a commission under the chairmanship of Major General Janak Singh, the then revenue minister, to define the term. The commission comprised officials and non-officials including the natives and the outsiders. The constitution of the State-Subject Definition Committee was broad based and the representation was given to all the sections of the population of the state including the Kashmiris, the Dogra and the Punjabis. The definition of state subject and law was framed in 1927 under the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh. It was the Kashmiri Pandits who had played an important role in getting the legislation framed as the issue was largely irrelevant to Kashmiri Muslims, who were shut out of the employment pool almost entirely, due to their comparative socio-economic disadvantage and the communal nature of Dogra rule.
The worst feature of the Dogra rule was its communal outlook. It discriminated against the Muslims on the basis of their religion and also interfered in their religious affairs. The Dogra State was actually a Hindu State and its rulers tried their best to broaden its Hindu nature. As a result Kashmiri Pandits, the Hindu community of the valley, were associated with it and the Muslims were marginalised. In the field of education, Kashmir was lagging behind in the whole subcontinent. Though modern education began in Kashmir in 1880, but it was the Kashmiri Pandits who took advantage of it. The Pandits were advanced in education because of the facilities provided by the Government which were not provided to the Muslims. As the Muslims were mostly uneducated, they were not employed in the state’s public service.
With the turn of the century the Muslims became conscious and started thinking about their community. They sent petitions and requested the Government to establish the schools in their areas, but were turned down. Muslims outside the state also highlighted the grievances of Kashmiri Muslims and supported them through their organisations, press and other means. Under pressure of growing public opinion, Maharaja Pratap Singh, in 1916 invited Sir Henry Sharp, the Educational Commissioner, and Government of India, to examine the educational system in Kashmir and to advise the future policy, and also to recommend the development of education of the Muslims. Mr. Sharp recommended the expansion of the primary schools, scholarships for the Muslims. Though Pratap Singh accepted these recommendations, his Hindu officials ignored these recommendations as they did not want Muslims to be appointed in the State services, which they considered their monopoly.
In 1920, the silk factory workers struck work to call for a pay raise. Four years later, they launched an even bigger agitation due to poor working conditions. The Reading Room Party from Srinagar agitated for improved education facilities and more administrative work opportunities for Muslims. In July 1931 Kashmir’s Muslims launched their first massive protest against the unfair Hindu administration of Dogra regime. On July 13, 1931, several Kashmiri Muslims protesting the arrest of Abdul Qayyum, had taken out a procession demanding his release. To counter the spreading rebellion of Kashmiri masses, Maharaja Hari Singh passed an Ordinance which empowered troops to enforce brutal laws. Through this draconian Ordinance the city was handed over to the military and civil administration was suspended. The Rajput soldiers of Maharaja took full benefit of the Ordinance Raj over the days. The Ordinance gave troops a free hand. Soldiers entered homes, looted and raped the women. Several cases of rape were reported to Middleton, Enquiry Officer of Riots Enquiry Commission. Shopkeepers were asked to open their shops, and when they did it, they were arrested. In their absence the shops were plundered. People were forced to salute the military officers in the streets of the town.
On October 5, 1931, during the celebration of his birthday, Hari Singh asserted “I believe I am voicing the general feeling when I say that we are deeply grateful to the troops for their devotion to duty and self-restraint they have shown in maintaining the public peace and authority of law during last three months.” (The same praise is often heaped on Indian security forces, by India’s mainstream political parties, despite their horrible human rights record.) The protests gained momentum after the killings and Maharajah Hari Singh was forced to institute the Glancy Commission to inquire into the Muslim complaints.
The Glancy Commission found that in 1930 in the state’s bureaucracy, Hindus and Sikhs held 78 percent of gazetted appointments compared to the Muslims who held only 22 percent of the jobs. The Glancy Commission submitted its report to the Maharaja on March 22, 1932.The Hindus felt that its recommendations were not in the interests their community. They started a movement against the recommendations of the Glancy Commission called “Bread Movement” asking the Maharaja not to employ Muslims in large numbers in the government. The divide between the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmir Muslims can be traced back to this movement of Kashmir Pandits, when instead of supporting their Muslim brethren, they opposed them. This was the time, when Kashmir witnessed its first communal violence and communal killings.
In 1930, the Kashmiri Muslim had only 22 percent of the gazzetted jobs. Let us look at the community wise distribution of jobs in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s, sixty years after Glancy Commission’s recommendations. As on July 1, 1987, in J&K, nearly 57 percent of Gazetted jobs were held by Hindus and Sikhs, while the Kashmir Muslims held 41.71 percent of these positions. About one third of all persons employed in state owned corporations, undertakings, autonomous bodies and banks in J&K were Hindus. When we look at the community wise breakdown of employment in Central government establishments in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989, we see that in the “Officer”, Hindu employees constituted about 83 percent while only about 6 percent of the “Officers” were Muslim. Considering that Hindus and Sikhs together constituted about 36.5 percent and the Muslims comprised 64.15 percent of the population of J&K (1990/91), it clearly shows that the Kashmiri Muslim never enjoyed a monopoly over jobs in the government of J&K, even under the rule of the Abdullahs. (India’s Kashmir War, Tapan Bose, Dinesh Mohan, Gautam Navlakha Sumanta Bannerjee; Economic & Political Weekly, March 31, 1990)
A document, which according to a government official, provided the rationale for the removal of special status of Jammu and Kashmir was published by the Hindu on August 5, 2019. The document clearly spells out BJP’s reasons and objective for removal of Article 370 and 35 A. It says, “There exists an unnecessary chasm between citizens of Kashmir and the rest of India.” The document also claims that, “… (in) Kashmir the positive discrimination has tended to be insidious. … If Indians (non-Kashmiris) cannot invest in land or property, how can manufacturing firms or multinational corporations? The moves might have provided jobs to the young people of Kashmir. It also stopped public colleges such as medical colleges from adequately fulfilling vacancies. Professors cannot be hired from outside the State except in extremely low quotas. These and many more ensure that unemployment increases, which make the advent of radicalization, more viable. Hence, Article 370, the pernicious basis of Article 35-A must go.”
The Afghan rule in Kashmir which continued for 67 years was probably the worst ever seen by the inhabitants of the valley. The stories of brutalities of the Afghan rulers make people shudder even now. Kakkar Khan, a man with flowing white beard was thought to be pious man. He was appointed Governor of Kashmir. As Kakkar Khan’s entourage reached Baramulla a funeral was passing by. The governor asked them to stop. Kashmiris were happy thinking the pious man is going to offer fateh to the departed soul. On the contrary he asked them to open the coffin and bit the ear of the deceased and shouted, “Tell the dead in the next world that Kakkar Khan has arrived in Kashmir!”