Maharaja Hari Singh

Memoir By Thakur Divakar Singh - President, J K Dharmarth Trust :

Maharaja Hari Singh's regime (1925-1947) was crucial in the Indian phase of history and it was very important event for Jammu and Kashmir State. He was a man of progressive outlook and he initiated revolutionary social reforms, toning of administration and expansion of trade and education in this strategically principal reign of the country. It was a period of great significance that brought about major changes in the Indian sub continent.

Maharaja Hari Singh ascended the throne at the age of thirty on September 23, 1925. He was enlightened ruler and was fully aware of the impact of numerous socio-religious evils and customs prevailing at that time which include untouchbilities among the high castes, infanticides, child marriages, discouraging widows for remarriage and free sale of tobacco to children. He was a visionary personality who has not only made his mark as a most progressive, secular, social and nationalist ruler whose distinguished credentials were not only recognized in India, but even by the Britishers.

During his twenty-two years reign, Maharaja Hari Singh introduced a number of innovative administrative and political reforms. By virtue of these reforms, Jammu and Kashmir State has the rare distinction of having the first Legislative Assembly in early thirties, known as Praja Sabha. The Praja Sabha was given the right to nominate a panel of six, out of which, he would choose two persons to join the Council of Ministers. Two such persons, Mirza Afzal Beig and Wazir Ganga Ram who secured the highest votes among the Muslims and Hindu candidates, were appointed Ministers.

The Praja Sabha constituted on October 17, 1934 was consisting 42 nominated and 37 elected members and was authorized to make provisions for the association of the people with this legislative body.

Maharaja Hari Singh was an outstanding General and his contribution during the World War-II and as a member of the British War Council has been recognized by one and all. It is no denying the fact that it was he who introduced Permanent Resident Certificate, popularly known as the State Subject Certificate. Besides this, he issued orders for making available timber on concession rates to the people living in the periphery of forests. He proclaimed, "Justice is my religion and merit alone will be considered deciding factor for all types of employments and caste, creed, religion or sex will receive no consideration."

He also appointed some of his ministers from Muslim community from Uttar Pradesh who were persons of eminence and high integrity and never interfered in their working.

Maharaja Hari Singh formulated a realistic social policy in 1928 to suppress infant marriages, which was prevalent during those days and thus Jammu and Kashmir State became one of the earliest princely states of the country to pass such a legislation. According to the regulation, the girls were not allowed to marry before they attain the age of 14 years and boys 18 years. The violation of this order was declared to be punishable Act by one year imprisonment or fine up to rupees one thousand.

In 1932, Maharaja Hari Singh threw open the doors of temples for Harijans and ensured that people of all sections of societies draw water from the same well and made concerted efforts to discourage untouchbility.

Unlike most other rulers Maharaja Hari Singh had made a clear distinction between his private property including jewelry and state property. He left family jewelry, shawls, carpets and regalia worth crores with the state treasury (Toshakhana). He never harassed the population for personal ends and that was the reason that his administration and system of Justice is to this day accepted by impartial observers as of the best.

The administration was clean and corrupt elements severely punished. He was the greatest lover of freedom and this fact is known to all when he asserted that freedom from British was the inalienable right of the people of India and that too at the Round Table Conference in London when he was speaking as the representative of the Princely India.

History stands witness to his signing of the historical Instrument of Accession on October 21 1947, making Jammu and Kashmir State as an integral part of the Indian Union.

The Maharaja also not only believed in equality and justice of the people, but he did it practically for them. He simultaneously set up Prince of Wales College in Jammu and S.P. College in Srinagar for higher education of the youth of the State, besides creating a network of other educational and health Institutions as well as roads.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that all of us should make concerted endeavors to acquaint the coming generations about the glorious contributions made by Maharaja Hari Singh in variant fields.

I appeal the intellectuals, historians and social scientists to contribute their mite in this task by throwing light on various aspects of the multi-faceted personality of Maharaja Hari Singh at various forums including in print and electronic media for benefit of younger generation.