Maharaja opted for independence first

Independence and freedom are generally given the same meaning by some sections of the people which is not based on any logic. Independence and freedom are not synonymous with each other as such differ in meaning and in spectrum.

Independence means sovereignty of people where the country is ruled by its people irrespective of nature of structure of the government. Contrary to this, freedom means liberty enjoyed by the inhabitants of particular part or state in accordance with the framework of government given to them by the sovereign country to which they belong to rule internally for day to day affairs of running government and administrative affairs. Thus in scientific terminology it means internal freedom, autonomy or self rule so as to allow them to maintain separate identity of that unit or state which is enjoying such a type of government.
In this context one of the eminent writers of the state late P.N. Bazaz gives an analogy of this account in his book, ‘Struggle for freedom in Kashmir’: "If by independence of Kashmir we mean rule by her own people, history will tell us that Kashmir has been independent neither throughout the Buddhist or Hindu periods nor under the Muslim, Sikh or Dogra rules. Out of the twenty eight dynasties that ruled the valley till 1339 AC, the founders of no less than ten came from outside. As we know Shahmir belonged to Swat valley and the forefather of Chaks, Lanker Chak was a foreigner. About the Mughals, Pathan’s, Sikhs and Dogras one need not say that they were not Kashmiris."

It appears that in those good olden days Kashmiris were not conscious about independence or their own sovereignty but would have been more particular about good governance. Thus when Chaks failed to come to the expectations of their people the nobles of that period invited Mughals to rule their country following the mis-governance and fanatic approach of Chaks. Afterwards Mughals annexed the valley to the Mughal empire in 1586 AC. Thus Kashmir became the entity of Mughal emperors and this rule lasted for one hundred sixty six years till 1752 AC. Therefore, whatever quantum of aazadi was enjoyed by the Kashmiris was lost till state became the estate of Dogra dynasty. It was the second time after Asoka that Kashmir came under foreign domination for more than one hundred sixty six years of the Mugal rule.

After decline of Mughal rule, Kashmiris showed eagerness of joining the fold of Afghans with some false expectations that they would get succour from their rule and would get some peace of mind after Mughal imperialism. But all their hopes vanished and they were disappointed when they were enveloped with unprecedented miseries and misfortunes at the hands of Afghan rulers. They ruled the valley for round about fifty years from 1775 AD to 1824 AD. Here again P.N Bazaz narrates the tyranny of Afghan rulers in his book quoted above that, "All Kashmiris whether they know anything about their past or not usually remember two things the Greatness of Badshah and the bestiality, savagery, cruelty and barbarity of the Afghans."

Then came the Sikhs at the helm of affairs of the state who ruled the valley for about 22 years from 1824 to 1846 . "The Sikhs looked upon Kashmiris as little better than cattle" wrote William Moorcroft who visited the Kashmir in 1824 with the permission of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Thus history is witness that Kashmiris have never been their own masters since the times immemorial. The valley came under the foreign rule firstly when emperor Ashoka conquered it and secondly when the Mughal ruler was invited by the Kashmiris to rule over them in view of the despotism of Yousuf Shah Chak. After downfall of Mughal supremacy Kashmir was ruled by Afghans and then Sikhs whose tyranny caused so much resentment that the Kashmiri Muslims started giving vent to their feelings in mosques and other conspicuous places. This exercise infuriated the Sikhs to the extent that they closed historic Jamia masjid at Srinagar so as to stop them from raising hue and cry against the then government. They even decided to demolish Khanaqah-i-mohalla and placed guns on the opposite side of river Jehlum for the purpose of destroying the shrine. But timely intervention of Syed Hassan Shah Qadri (Khanyari) in the matter prevailed good sense upon the Sikh rulers and saved the shrine from vandalism. After facing crushing defeat at the battle of Subroan in 1845 the Sikhs lost their power.
Thereafter, an independent state of Jammu and Kashmir including Ladakh Baltistan and Gilgit came into being by virtue of the treaty of Amritsar on 15-3-1846 AC. According to the said treaty Gulab Singh was proclaimed as Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir by the British government and in lieu of this honour he was supposed to pay to the British government the sum of seventy five lakhs of rupees (Nanakshahi), fifty lakhs on ratification of this treaty and twenty five lakhs on or before October 1, 1846. It was really a big victory and blessing in disguise for the people of Kashmir that after sustaining unbearable atrocities at the hands of the alien rulers for centuries that they became the subjects of an independent and sovereign state irrespective of the fact whether the rulers were from another part of the same entity. No doubt Muslims were discriminated by the Dogras in the same way as they were discriminated under the Mughal, Afghan and Sikh rulers. But at the same time their old slavery had ended and they were now equal subjects of their own independent state. Their grievances could have been sorted out in an amicable way and they would have been definitely given their due in administration and employment in due course by virtue of consultation and constructive approach.
Partition of the sub continent was imminent. Two nation theory was the basis of the partition. Thus Muslim majority provinces were to be separated from India and given to Pakistan. But Maharaja Hari Singh was not inclined or willing to accede to any new dominion and was very much eager to remain independent by maintaining cordial relations with both the newly countries of India and Pakistan. However, unfortunately, pressures from India and the tribal war waged by Pakistan forced the Maharaja to change his earlier stand and sign the Instrument of Accession halfheartedly with India on October 27, 1947 subject to the condition of plebiscite. The centre was handed over only three subjects – defence, foreign affairs and communication to Government of India and internal autonomy was to be respected till conditions for plebiscite would become congenial. Sheikh Abdullah, the then leader of Kashmir, claiming to be sole representative of people of Jammu and Kashmir was party to it and signed the document without taking the people in confidence .
Thus came one hundred and one year old independence of Kashmir to a miserable end without visualising its dark side. In this way short sightedness of Sheikh Abdullah proved fatal for the Kashmiris. They have only acute corruption, nepotism and mis-governance of puppet regimes imposed on them. This is coupled with diluting the structure of internal freedom.
(The writer can be emailed at sma.qadri@yahoo.in or sms only at 9906400032)