1931 – A Memorandum

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Months after July 13, 1931, marked the beginning of the demands for political reforms and basic rights by the Jammu and Kashmir Muslims and a number of Committees and Commissions were constituted, the Kashmiri Pandits presented a detailed memorandum to the Maharaja Hari Singh. It was presented by the Sanatan Dharam Young men’s Association in Srinagar on October 24, 1931. The document is of historic importance and is being reproduced on its 89th anniversary

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An undated photograph showing a woodcutter overseeing his son read and write

May it please Your Highness?

We, representatives of Kashmiri Pandits, beg to submit below our community’s demands for Your Highness’ consideration. Our community’s loyalty to Your Highness’ house is well-tried. Our devotion to Your Highness’ person and throne needs no reiteration. Our hopes have been centred in Your Highness ever since Your Highness’ assumption of the office of Senior Member of the late State Council. Your Highness’ liberalism and solicitude for the people have found expression in several reforms which must forever enshrine Your Highness in our hearts.

Encouraged by all this, and with a view to assisting Your Highness’ Government, we venture to avail the opportunity which has been so graciously granted to us for placing our demands before Your Highness:

1.    Recent events have unmistakably proved the machinery of the administration in the State to be unsound and totally unfit for purposes of modern government. The Srinagar Riots Enquiry Committee has not gone into the matter at any length but even its findings corroborate our statement. Nepotism and jobbery are still at work in the selection of men for higher posts in the State. If in the time of his late Highness, outsiders were given responsible posts to the exclusion of local men, the tendency in more recent years has been to put men (local in many cases) irrespective of merit or qualifications in charge of such posts. We stand by the principle of preference for “State-subjects” and do not desire any change in the definition of the term. But we are opposed to a system under which the posts of a Governor of a Province and the Inspector-General of Police can be given to mediocre men wanting, as has been found by the Riots Enquiry Committee, in executive efficiency. Merely communal or even national considerations should not weigh in selecting men for posts of the highest responsibility. We would not exclude even Englishmen and Lent officers from such posts, should circumstances make their appointment necessary. For obvious reasons, we must rule out such Englishmen and Lent officers as have been directly connected with the Government during the last ten years. The appointment of really capable men at the helm will obviate the necessity of making too frequent changes in the administration and improve its general tone. But more than that the policy of drift will give way to purposeful government. The irresolute methods of administration should end. The Government has of late become top-heavy, and indiscriminate expenditure has contributed to the unsatisfactory state of our finances. This combined with laxity in the control of audit and accounts, makes the Government grope after make-shifts. Recent orders of penny-wise and pound-foolish retrenchments, which have mainly affected our community, should be withdrawn. Retrenchment should, in the first instance, aim at stepping wasteful expenditure and begin with highly paid services.

Muslim craftsmen at work in Srinagar: an old photograph

2.    The Government should make adequate arrangements for the protection of law-abiding citizens, their homes and their places of worship against unprovoked attacks, loot, arson and incendiarism. No well-wisher of the Government can contemplate with equanimity the utter bankruptcy to which the administration of law and order in the State was reduced recently. We are not for a rule by ordinance, such as became necessary last month simply because the ordinary law was not set in motion. But the Government should never fail to discharge the primary functions of government. In the Muffasils the position of our community is perilous, and special measures of protection are necessary. The Government should deal with the situation with sympathy and understanding and make it possible for us to breathe freely. Fire-arms should be granted to those Kashmiri Pandits who can reasonably apprehend danger to their life and property.

3.    The wrong suffered by our community in the recent riots need not be mentioned here. But Vicharnags should be made impossible for all time. Your Highness’ illustrious grandfather, Maharaja Ranbir Singh, granted three lakhs of rupees as compensation to the Shias, who were looted in his time by the Sunnis. Your Highness has already been gracious enough to declare that the question of granting compensation to Hindu sufferers of recent riots is engaging Your Highness’ attention. This grant of relief is, therefore, not one of our demands today. But we cannot help observing that these sufferers have not so far received that attention from the authorities that their case deserved. We take this opportunity of informing Your Highness that there is a wide-spread impression in our community, that we are doomed to suffering because we may not make such noise as must compel attention. If law and order are to be vindicated, it is the Kashmiri Pandits who must suffer Lathi charges, if retrenchments are to be made, it is the Kashmiri Pandits who must be victimized before others, if a favourite is to be pitchforked into high office, and it must be over the head of some Kashmiri Pandit. It is again Kashmiri Pandit officers who can be turned out from service with impunity without reason. And a Kashmiri Pandit official’s worth may be recognised on all hands, and yet he may be condemned to an inglorious career taking orders from those whom he should command. No one can say that we as a community suffer from the disease of impatience. One can easily imagine what would have followed if any other community’s place of worship had been set on fire, as our temples have been set on fire, even after the amnesty. We do hope that Your Highness’ Government will demonstrate in practice that whatever might have been the case so far, no discrimination against us will be allowed in future in any sphere whatsoever.

An early last century photograph showing the Kashmiri Pandit book writers in Srinagar. Photo: Internet

4.    Consistent with our culture and the tradition of our community both here and outside the State, we cannot look on things through communal glasses. It was the proud boast of the great Pandit Moti Lal Nehru that his mind could not run in communal channels. This sums up, we believe, the position of the average Kashmir Pandit on communal matters. Long before the Musalmans of Kashmir had become politically conscious; it was Kashmiri Pandits who fought for modernity in the administration. It was they who first raised the cry of Kashmir for Kashmiris. It was they who first demanded a legislature, a free press and a free platform. They cannot today go back on their nationalism and repudiate these and other essentials of good government. Recently they have not been so vocal on political reform, but the reason is that the Musalmans have presented their claims avowedly on communal grounds and for communal ends. Kashmiri Pandits are as anxious as any other community for the introduction of constitutional government, but they are equally anxious that the body politic should not be corrupted by the canker of communalism. Even that greatest votary of liberty, Mahatma Gandhi, was once so upset with the communalism of the Indian Press as to say, that if he had the power of an autocrat, he would proscribe all papers in India with the exception of his own “Young India”. In India today one provincial Legislature and several Municipalities have become arenas for communal fire-brands, a state of affairs which is by no means enviable. We should rather do without a free press and a free platform and the right of representation than make our country a hot-bed of communal warfare. Recently events in Kashmir are a tragic demonstration of the evils of communalism. Free press and platform or no press and platform, the Government can at no time deal too strongly with those who preach hatred among different classes of people. We are opposed to giving statutory recognition to the vicious principle of communal representation. The constitution of a legislature in accordance with the stage of our political evolution, its powers and functions, the franchise and other matters are things of detail which cannot be decided without a regular and open enquiry. We reserve to ourselves the right of making concrete proposals on all such matters at the proper time.

5. One matter which has driven our community to the verge of despair is our economic position. It was proved by our spokesmen before the Riots Enquiry Committee, that about a thousand of our educated men -Matriculates, Undergraduates, BA’s, BSc’s, MA’s, MSc’s, IFS’s and LLB’s – are without service. The number of such young men in all other communities put together cannot be more than 200. In recent years about a hundred Kashmiri Pandit educated men have settled outside the State, including such distant places as Italy and England. The Government has in the past on numerous occasions passed over the claims of our qualified men and given preference to men of indifferent worth from other communities. The Riots Enquiry Committee has observed that qualified men from among Mohammedans are not available, although, paradoxically enough, it states that they have a “legitimate grievance” in that they are not represented in service in large numbers. The truth, however, is that Kashmiri Pandit having the grievance that their Graduates must give way before Matriculates of other communities? The Committee again states that Muslims were never excluded from service because they were Muslims. It could be correctly said that Muslims have been taken in, service because they are Muslims, and it was in the humour of despair that many Kashmiri Pandit young men expressed their preparedness some time ago to embrace Islam when applications for certain posts were invited from Muslims alone. The glaring truth is that Kashmiri Pandits are being excluded from service because they are Kashmiri Pandits.

In this 1895 photograph preserved and owned by the British Library, a Dogra soldier is seen keeping a watch while Kashmiri women work on Maharaja’s fields as forced labourers on Begar. The photograph taken in Srinagar periphery is believed to have been taken in Pampore.

We have said above that the most responsible offices in the State should be given to the best available men, not excluding Englishmen and Lent officers, but we cannot help observing that Kashmiri Pandits have not even been considered for those high posts which have been recently or are even now in the hands of State-Subjects belonging to different other communities in the State. Even Sir Albion Bannerjee, whose oft-quoted statement has been exploited so successfully to our detriment, could not help remarking that Kashmiri Pandits are a “depressed class”. It will be admitted by all that a community, whose political importance in the past history of Kashmir is unquestionable, and which has given to India her best politicians, is not receiving its due in its own home. Our fault is that without any special facilities we received higher education, beating the other communities in the race. Although our population is small, 60 to 75 per cent of those in the State who have received or are receiving higher education belong to our community. With this inherent sin of being Kashmiri Pandits, we cannot expect to get even petty clerkships, which we are told, must be conferred not on grounds of efficiency but on grounds of communalism. Without other resources to draw upon, Kashmiri Pandits have been left wondering how to keep body and soul together, during recent years, this vicious policy of making appointments on communal grounds, has operated against our interests alone. And unless a miracle happens in this age – notorious for its absence of miracles – there is absolutely no hope for our younger generation, which believes in the dignity of labour, to earn honest livelihood in the State. We do not want to tire Your Highness by giving examples, but the appendices IV, IV (a), V and V (a) of the Statement presented to the Riots Enquiry Committee, a copy of which is herewith submitted, which could be supplemented by similar statements relating to other non-Muslim communities, will speak for themselves. We, however, wish to point out the case of a Kashmiri Pandit First Class First MA in English who was refused the post of a lecturer in English in the Prince of Wales College, which was conferred on a Second Class Mohammedan MA in Philosophy, a thing which would not be possible in any college outside Kashmir. The same gentleman was on a previous occasion passed over to make room for a Third Class Mohammaden MA in English. Several others of our First Class MA’s have been treated in a similar manner. Such things must be stopped at once. Our community will feel reassured by Your Highness’ issuing orders that all such preferences must become a thing of the past. We also pray to Your Highness to be pleased to publicly announce that our community will not anymore be placed under any disability in the matter of employment, in the State. We respectfully beg to submit that in such matters quibbling formulas do not at all serve any useful purpose. We do not claim any special rights. We do not ask for preference in any matter on the ground that we are a minority. We want fair field and no favour in the matter of grant of service.

6.    There can be no reason for the exclusion of Kashmiri Pandits from the Army. Even at present, Kashmiri Pandits hold high military ranks in British India and several States. We do not want to refer to old times, but the history of Kashmir during the times of the Afghans and the Sikhs furnishes examples of epic courage displayed by scions of Kashmiri Pandits held high command and distinguished themselves in various battles against the Afghans. In several battles in the State, Kashmiri Pandits fought and scored victories. Skardu and Muzaffarabad were once conquered by a Kashmiri Pandit, Ganesh Pandit Dar. They played an important part in the conquest of the frontiers and their consolidation. How Kashmiri Pandits helped not only in the creation but also in the building of the State needs no detailed description. But for the supreme sacrifice and courage of Pandit Birbal Dar and Mirza Pandit Dar, the history of Kashmir might have been differently written. It is therefore not at all unreasonable to expect that the doors of military service will be thrown open to our community in the very near future.

7.    The problem of providing employment for the unemployed is greater than that of removing the disability which has been put on our community. The question of mass unemployment can be solved by the State and the State alone. It is the duty of the State to provide a living wage for every adult male willing to work. More than, the best interests of the State lie in this that educated men are not given cause for disaffection against the administration. It is notorious that discontented BA’s feed revolutionary forces. When we say this, Your Highness, we are pointing out a danger which we shudder to contemplate and which all well-wishers of the State should be anxious to avert. It is not for us to suggest a scheme for the relief of unemployment, but a country with the natural wealth and physical advantages of Kashmir must provide employment not for one thousand but for thousands of educated men.

An early twentieth-century photograph showing a group of extremely beautiful Kashmiri women, disempowered and in poverty. The photograph has been taken in Kashmir periphery.

The Government has not so far shown a real appreciation of the problem. Both the sympathy and efficiency so necessary for the solution of this problem have been wanting. This calls for change. As many Kashmiri Pandit families as possible should be encouraged to take to agriculture by liberal grants of land. All the existing restrictions in the sale, mortgage and transfer of agricultural land in favour of Kashmiri Pandits should be removed. Special scholarships have been granted to all the communities other than Kashmiri Pandits for general education. On the same principle, special facilities should be provided for Kashmiri Pandits to encourage them in the fields of agriculture, industry, arts and craftsmanship. The only community in the State which is not classed as backward is our community, obviously, because we are the most educated and our occupation has mainly been, owing to circumstances which are the creation of history, Government service. For these reasons, however, we are economically worse off than other communities. We also claim to be a “backward community” so far as really productive professions are concerned. To give us encouragement in such spheres, special facilities are necessary. But even these measures will not mitigate unemployment in our community to any appreciable extent. The removal of the present disabilities under which our educated men have been put is essential, but even that will not remove the difficulty. A brisk industrial programme without further loss of time is urgently needed.

8. In the end, we beg to submit that for a settlement of the constitutional issues arising from the demands submitted by different communities, a joint Free Conference of officials and non-official representatives of the communities is necessary. All communities should be given equal opportunity to present their case. We regret to have to submit that during the past, important decisions detrimental to our interests have been taken by the Government behind our back. The Conference, we are proposing, will examine the outstanding issues in all aspects and also take into account all pertinent matters including the future of Indian States in general as finally evolved at the Round Table conference, the peculiar strategic position of the State, and the existing state of affairs obtaining in different States, and the existing state of affairs obtaining in different States.

To sum up, our community’s demands are:

(a)  The machinery of administration in the State should be re-modelled to serve the purposes of modern government. Jobbery and nepotism should be ended. Positions of the highest responsibility should be ended. Positions of the highest responsibility should be given to men of tried worth, Indians or Englishmen. The efficiency of administration should be maintained at the highest standard. A resolute Government is our first demand.

(b)  Proper arrangement should be made for the protection of law-abiding citizens, their property, their homes and their places of worship against attacks, loot, arson and incendiaries. Kashmiri Pandits should be provided with fire-arms, where necessary. Special arrangements should be made for the protection of Kashmiri Pandits in the Muffasils.

(c) We are for the principle of a fair field for all and favour for any. All discrimination against our community should be stopped. The practice of passing over the claims of highly qualified Kashmiri Pandits and giving preferences to men of indifferent merit belonging to other communities should become a thing of the past. The recommendation for giving preference to Mohammedan Matriculates over Hindu Graduates should be repudiated. As all other communities have been given special facilities to induce them to take to literary pursuits, our community should be provided with similar facilities for agriculture, commerce and industry.

(d) The problem of educated unemployment should be seriously tackled not only in the interests of our community but also in the interests of the State. Recent orders of penny-wise and pound-foolish retrenchment which have mainly affected our community should be withdrawn. Retrenchment should, in the first instance, aim at stopping wasteful expenditure and begin with highly paid services. As many Kashmiri Pandit families as possible should been encouraged to take to agriculture. All restrictions on the sale, mortgage and transfer of agriculture land in favour of Kashmiri Pandits should be removed. A brisk industrial programme should be launched forth at once.

(e) Communalism should not be introduced in the body politic in any form. No statutory recognition should be given to communal majorities and minorities

(f) The Military Department should be thrown open to Kashmiri Pandits.

(g) Subject to the above conditions, our community is for the establishment of a system of government on constitutional lines. We are for a legislature which is free from all taint of communalism. We, however, reserve to ourselves the right of making concrete proposals on constitutional reform at the proper time. We are for free press and free platform, but license must be mercilessly put down. In our opinion, the Government can at no time deal too strongly with those who preach hatred between different classes of Your Highness’ subjects.

(h) To deal with all constitutional issues arising from the demands of various communities and to recommend a scheme of reforms, a joint Free Conference should be instituted which will take into account the future of Indian States in general, the peculiar strategic position of Kashmir, and the existing condition of affairs in different Indian States. Equal opportunity should be provided to all communities to present their points of view.

We beg to remain,

Your Highness’

Most loyal and obedient subjects

1. Pt Jia Lal Kilam, BA, LLB, Vakil High Court & Municipal Commissioner.
2. Pt Janardhan Teng, MA, LLB, Vakil High Court.
3. Pt Prem Nath Bazaz, BA. President, Sanatan Dharma Youngmen’s Association
4. Pt Kashyap Bandhu, Vidhya Vachaspati.
5. Pt Damodhar Bhat, BA. Secretary, Sanatan Dharm Young men’s Association.

Srinagar,
24th Oct, 1931.

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