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23rd September '2007
Royalty on Sale

It has been reported that the owners of the Karan Mahal also known as Taleh Manzil situated on the famous Gupkar Road are looking for a buyer. They seem to have seen the writing on the wall. The invisible verdict of history. The Palace has been the Private Residence of the last scion of the Dogra dynasty. It is the most ideally located Palace with a panoramic view of both the Dal Lake as well as the Pir Panjal Range of mountains. This must be the last piece of property of the Dogra Royalty left in Kashmir. It is probably the last item on the auction list of the “Royalty on Sale” in the Kashmir valley. The main Palace was earlier sold to Oberois (East India Hotels Limited) and subsequently to the Grand Intercontinental chain. It is at the moment functioning as the best available Hotel in Srinagar. The next Palace known as Hari Niwas is being readied as the official residence of the State Chief Minister. It has 60 rooms and its renovation is expected to cost Rs.12 crores to the state exchequer. The lands below the Palace on the banks of the Dal Lake have already been purchased by Gausia Enterprises, a company owned by a Kashmiri presently resident in Dubai. It is reported that the company is planning to set up an amusement park even though no constructions are allowed here. The amusement park would be an environmental disaster on the banks of the dying Dal Lake. The last nail in its coffin! On the subject of this “Royal Sale” one has to admit that history has sometimes very strange way of levelling people. The fate of this last vestige of the Dogra dynasty reminds one about the Treaty of Amritsar when the entire Kashmiri population with their land, houses, cattle, and everything else was sold by the British to this dynasty for a paltry sum of rupees seventy five lakhs (NanukShahee). They had come to own the whole country by the infamous and humiliating deed. It was an unprecedented sale of sending an entire nation into slavery. The sale was clinched by the British who consider themselves at present among the leaders of the free world. They committed an unpardonable sin of putting an entire population in perpetual bondage. The mistake of 1846 was compounded by them in 1947 at the time of quitting the Indian sub-continent by manipulating a further bondage of Kashmiris to two conflicting neighbours created by them by stoking communal fires so as to keep their fingers perpetually in the sub-continental pie! Some articles of the Treaty of Amritsar make an interesting reading in the light of the proposed sale of the last vestige of Dogra rule in the valley. The Article 1 states, “The British Government transfers and makes over for ever in independent possession to Maharajah Gulab Singh and the heirs male of his body all the hilly or mountainous country with its dependencies situated to the eastward of the River Indus and the westward of the River Ravi including Chamba and excluding Lahul, being part of the territories ceded to the British Government by the Lahore State according to the provisions of Article IV of the Treaty of Lahore, dated 9th March, 1846.” The Article 3 specifies the price to be paid for this transfer. “In consideration of the transfer made to him and his heirs by the provisions of the foregoing article Maharajah Gulab Singh will pay to the British Government the sum of seventy-five lakhs of rupees (Nanukshahee), fifty lakhs to be paid on or before the 1st October of the current year, A.D., 1846.”
The treaty made Maharaja acknowledge the supremacy of the British Government and in token of that he had to pay an annual tribute which is specified in Article 10. “Maharajah Gulab Singh acknowledges the supremacy of the British Government and will in token of such supremacy present annually to the British Government one horse, twelve shawl goats of approved breed (six male and six female) and three pairs of Cashmere shawls.” The last King of this dynasty which ruled over Kashmiris for over 100 years sold them into a larger bondage by virtue of his “Instrument of Accession”. In this document he states, “I Shriman Inder Mahinder Rajrajeswar Maharajadhiraj Shri Hari Singhji, Jammu & Kashmir Naresh Tatha Tibbet adi Deshadhipati, Ruler of Jammu & Kashmir State, in the exercise of my Sovereignty in and over my said State do hereby execute this my Instrument of Accession and I hereby declare that I accede to the Dominion of India with the intent that the Governor General of India, the Dominion Legislature, the Federal Court and any other Dominion authority established for the purposes of the Dominion shall by virtue of this my Instrument of Accession but subject always to the terms thereof, and for the purposes only of the Dominion, exercise in relation to the State of Jammu & Kashmir such functions as may be vested in them by or under the Government of India Act, 1935, as in force in the Dominion of India, on the 15th day of August 1947.” The document further specifies that it is binding on all the successors of the Maharaja. “I hereby declare that I execute this Instrument on behalf of this State and that any reference in this Instrument to me or to the Ruler of the State is to be construed as including a reference to my heirs and successors.” The most tragic part of both these deeds is that there is absolutely no mention of the inhabitants of this unfortunate land-the Kashmiris! They have been treated worst than cattle. The British had the cheek to demand a horse and 12 Pashmina goats every year from the Maharaja but did not bother about the fate of the local people. A detailed reading of both the documents reveals that the people of Kashmir seem to have been non-existent for the parties entering into these deeds. But history has its own way of delivering judgement at the right time. History’s first irony was that the last Dogra ruler had to leave the state in unusual conditions. He died in exile in Mumbai. The second irony has been that the dynasty had to wind up everything in Kashmir and has been selling even their property here through some questionable deals! The founder of the dynasty could never have imagined that things would come to such a pass. Kashmiris may derive vicarious pleasure from the fate of Dogra dynasty. The martyrs of 1931 who gave their blood for ridding the valley of the autocratic rule stand partially vindicated. Their old perpetrators have almost vanished from the valley, notwithstanding the new ones. However, Kashmiris are yet to reach the goal which the movement of 1931 had aimed to attain. At the present moment they are in a logjam. Yet, in spite of the worst type of oppression, they have not given up their struggle to reach the goal of ultimate emancipation. The valley has a large number of millioners who can easily afford to bid for this last symbol of autocratic rule. It would be a befitting tribute to the martyrs of 1931 if some patriotic and conscientious Kashmiri buys the Palace and converts it into a museum depicting the history of Kashmir’s Freedom Movement. That would help complete the history’s fair and just verdict!

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