This book examines the topic of an independent ‘Kashmir’ and why this political aspiration to be self-governing and free from coerced subordination to another nation remains unsatisfied. It focuses on how Maharaja Hari Singh, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Muslim Kashmiris have envisioned or sought independence for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), or for their particular region within this disputed entity. Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah were the two most significant figures in J&K in the twentieth century. They also were political rivals, united briefly in 1947 by not wanting J&K to join Pakistan and by an indecisive desire for an independent J&K. After acceding to India, Singh quickly became redundant. Through a tumultuous political career, Abdullah strove for independence or maximum autonomy for J&K. In 1988, disenchanted Muslim Kashmiris surprisingly began a violent anti-India uprising seeking azadi (independence, freedom) for their region or for it to join Pakistan. Kashmiris remain severely disgruntled and this insurgency continues to pose challenges for India. By concentrating on these two men and this insurgency, the book provides a focused, in-depth history of J&K from the mid-1920s, when Hari Singh became J&K’s ruler, to the present time, when many Kashmiris still crave azadi from India. While an ‘independent Kashmir’ is a long envisioned aspiration, the book concludes that it is likely to remain incomplete while India and Pakistan exist in their current structures, while India is strong and unified, and while Kashmiris are disunified and uncertain about what status they want for their homelands.
their role as the paramount power and guarantor of the Indian princes’ autocratic regimes, had maintained superiority and power over some 562 rulers for nearly ninety years via various treaties and other arrangements. These would end, or lapse, after the British departure. Thereafter, some princely rulers, along with the leaders of the soon-to-be-created political entity of Pakistan, believed that the princely states (‘PrincelyIndia’) would be independent. That is, they would not have to join either India or Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of the princely
movement grew, however, the political cocoon which paramountcy wrapped around the princes began to be punctured. Communal organisations such as the All India Muslim League (1906), the All India Hindu Mahasabha (1915) and the Akali Dal of the Sikhs (1920) began ‘infiltrating’ the borders maintained between British and princelyIndia. For a long time the princely states, of course, had prided themselves in embodying a secular and syncretic culture. ‘So in the states generally,’ opined Bikaner’s Maharaja Ganga Singh in an address to mark the 1932 new year, ‘the communal
indirectly controlled the other third. That third was princelyIndia,
territory ostensibly ruled by some 600 to 700 princes known under a
range of titles, variously maharaja , raja , rana ,
rao , maharao , nizam and so on, according to
family and lineage tradition. The princes had their own bureaucratic
structures by which they governed their territories while they ensured
reform. However, although they may have admired European practices and
adopted many of them, they undoubtedly did not regard themselves as
second-class citizens. Whereas the British took the view that politically
they were superior partners in an unequal relationship between Britain and
princelyIndia, the Indian rulers saw matters differently. They were well
aware that in order to exist they needed the British, but every ruler, major
To be independent, or not to be independent? That is the question1
of the state's international status, but it didn't. Immediately, India made Pakistan a formal party to the Kashmir dispute by offering J&K-ites a plebiscite to decide whether their state would join India or Pakistan.
This was unnecessary. Had India followed the established decolonisation process for PrincelyIndia – the full integration of the princely state into the dominion to which the ruler acceded – this would have made Singh's accession ‘final and absolute’.
Rajas, maharajas and others in post-colonial India
operating within the demands of the value systems that attached to the princely states. Critical in the 1950s and 1960s was the way in which an emotional sense of approval, a pleasing attitude to the princes, was being created, not only within India but outside it. Large exhibitions in the major European and American museums devoted to the arts and crafts that the princes had once patronised further promoted princelyIndia as a popular tourist destination and increased understanding of its cultural achievements. 28
Back in India, a generalised sense of goodwill towards
players, and the
evolution of imperial concepts of education, hierarchy and community.
Recent historians of princelyIndia have proceeded upon the assumption that
the First World War marked a watershed in princely politics, ending the isolation of the
ruling chiefs and involving them in a wider field of Indian and imperial affairs. 38 There is no reason to contest this
assumption as long as its scope is narrowly political. At the level of “culture,”
however, the introduction of the princes to the world outside their states
‘Princely’ India encompassed over six hundred states – from ones as large as some European countries to others barely bigger than small towns – over which reigned hereditary sovereigns bearing a diversity of titles. Most threw their weight behind the British paramount rulers and reaped benefits from their accommodation. As in Indonesia, their position on independence, and their fate in an independent India and Pakistan, was a subject of intense debate and manoeuvring. Jim Masselos, in this volume, charts the ways in which the maharajas and other princes navigated through
expecting, change to occur. His experiences show that this ruler had been well informed about some previous political developments concerning India and its eventual post-British future. He had, for instance, been a member of the Standing Committee of the Chamber of Princes that met with British officials who conducted an enquiry into the Indian States throughout PrincelyIndia and in London in 1928, and which also visited Kashmir.
Similarly, he was a representative in the Indian States Delegation that attended the First