I: Chapter 23
DHAR AND SIKHS
Afghans littered the valley of Kashmir with images of gore and violence
and as a fall-out of their primeval and unbridled savagery and ferocity,
the Kashmiri Pandits in streams buzzed off their homes and hearths to sanctuaries
across the mountain ramparts in the plains of India. As evidenced by records
of sufficient veracity, their numbers in the valley fell to a mere seven
thousand, four thousand in the city of Srinagar and three thousand in the
hamlets and villages, near and distant. According to Moorcraft, the unprecedented
depletion of Kashmiri Pandit population was the direct outcome of ruthless
persecution that they were subjected to. Concurring with the views of Moorcraft,
Cunningham states that the ancestors of Kashmiri Brahmans now settled in
Delhi, Lucknow and elsewhere in the plains of India were refugees from
Afghan oppression and cruelty.
shocked by the ruthless persecution of his co-religionists, Birbal Dhar,
a notable noble of Kashmir, suddenly disappeared from the landscape of
Kashmir alongwith his son causing a gnashing anxiety to the Afghan governor,
Azim Khan, rapacious and brutal and with the active aid of Raja Dhyan Singh,
brother of Raja Gulab Singh, appeared in the glittering court of Maharaja
Ranjit Singh in the Punjab. It was after a lot of persuasion that Ranjit
Singh nodded the despatch of his troops to Kashmir to annexe it to his
kingdom. The Afghan resistance petered out in face of the pitch and thrust
of the Sikh onslaught and the Hindu conquest of Kashmir was celebrated
for full three days.
The Sikhs were
highly shocked at the sight of havoc that had been wrought on the Kashmiri
Pandits all through the period the Muslims held sway over Kashmir. Their
temples had been ravaged and levelled; they were butchered and murdered;
they were not permitted to worship their gods and goddesses and their women-folk
were abducted for export to Kabul. They were burdened with unjust and inequitous.
taxes and exactions to satiate the hunger of the Muslim rulers at Kabul.
Now it was
the turn of the Muslims to suffer. A brick for brick and tooth for tooth
policy was pursued. In sheer retaliation the Sikhs closed Jama Masjid built
on the ruins of a Hindu temple and a Buddhist Vihara for prayers, stopped
azaan to call the faithfuls to prayers, imposed levies and taxes on the
Muslims, banned cow-slaughter and declared Pather Masjid as property of
the state. Phoola Singh, a Sikh General, trained his guns at the Mir Ali
Mosque on the plea that it was raised on the plinth of a temple that was
pillaged and destroyed. The said - mosque was saved only at the intervention
of Birbal Dhar, who has been showered with bouquets and brickbats for this
act of his by a substantial number of writers on Kashmir history.
About the Sikh
phase of Kashmir conquest, a host of lies have been told and a number of
half-truths have been woven with a view to discrediting the improvements
that the Sikhs registered in Kashmir economy and politics and the relief
that they brought to the oppressed people. The latest attempt in the vicious
propaganda launched against all shades of Hindus is Altaf Hussain's book
'Paradise wounded', which is said to have been written by the votaries
of secessionism in America and issued out in his name. But the available
historical evidences and notices belie all what is said in the book by
way of aiding and abetting the on-going terrorism in Kashmir.
"The condition of Kashmir under the Sikhs was no doubt an improvement on
that under the Afghans. The Hindus to whom the Sikhs are in many ways very
near benefited most and the disabilities under which they had been unable
to practice the rites of their religion were removed. It was now the turn
of the-Muslims to suffer. Mosques were closed, the call to prayer was forbidden
and capital punishment was awarded for the killing of a cow."
puts, "It must have been an intense relief to all classes in Kashmir to
see the downfall of the evil rule of the Pathans. I do not mean Sikh rule
was benign and good, but it was at any rate better than that of the Afghans.
von Hugel, "The dreadful cruelties perpetrated by their earlier rulers,
who, for the smallest offence, punished them with the loss of their noses
and ears, make poor Kashmiris well satisfied with their present comparatively