The Valley of Kashmir | Sir Walter Roper Lawrence | Part 2

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Much has been written of the abuse which have prevailed in the administration of Kashmir. They were numerous and deplorable, and when I first came to Kashmir in 1889, I found the people sullen, desperate and suspicious. They had been taught for many years that they were serfs without any rights but with many disabilities.

They were called Zulm parast, or worshippers of tyranny, and every facility was afforded to their soldiers attended at harvest time.

They were dragged away from their houses to carry loads to Gilgit, and every official had a right to their labour and their property. Their simple proposition yus Karih gonglu sue karik Krao (he who loughs shall reap) was ignored, and their position was infinitely worse that that of the ‘Tiers Etat’ before the French Revolution.

While the villagers were thus degraded, the people of the city were pampered and huumoured, and the following passage fro Hazlitt’s life of Napoleon Bonaparte gives a fair idea of Kashmir before the Settlement commenced: –

“The peasants were overworked, half-starved, treated with hard words and hard blows, subjected to unceasing exaction and every species of petty tyranny….while in the cities a number of unwholesome and useless professions, and a crowd of lazy menials, pampered the vices or administered to the pride and luxury of the great.”

It was no wonder that cultivation was bad, that the revenue was not paid, and that the peasants were roving from one village to another in the hope of finding some rest and freedom from oppression. The Kashmiri is made up of contradictions. He is timid yet persistent, degraded yet intellectual. Village life meant little to him. His one object was to escape the pressgang when carriage was wanted for Gilgit, and to secure some share of the autumn’s grain when the tax collectors appeared.


He would not hesitate to throw his burden on to his neighbour’s shoulder, and if he failed, he would depart to some other village under the aegis of a privileged person who would protect him from the corvee, and would allow no one but himself to oppress the wanderer.


About the Author

Sir Walter Roper Lawrence (9th February 1857 – 25th May, 1940) was a member of the British Council of India and an English author who served in the Indian Civil Service in British India and wrote travelogues based on his experiences of travelling around the Indian Subcontinent.

He was appointed as the Settlement Commissioner for Jammu and Kashmir between 1889–1894, during the rule of Maharaja Pratap Singh. While travelling in Kashmir, he recorded and produced a brief history on account of the geography, the culture of the people and the Dogra rule over Kashmir.

Over the course of his travels, he developed a close affinity with the Indian and Kashmiri people, who figure prominently in his work. His best-known books are ‘The Valley Kashmir‘ (1895) and ‘The India we Served’ (1929).

Book Details : London Henery Frowade, Oxford University Press Warehouse, AMEN Corner, E.C

Print Date: 1895

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