The Valley Of Kashmir | Sir Walter Roper Lawrence | Part 3

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Pages might be written b me on facts which have come under my personal observation, but it will suffice to say that the system of administration had degraded the people and taken all heart out of them. The country was in confusion, the revenue was falling off, and those in authority were making hay while the sun shone.

Strong personal government is, I believe, the only form of government possible in Kashmir for many years to come, but it is difficult for the Maharajas to supervise the administration of the Valley when they have always recognized that their rulers were sympathetic and anxious to secure their prosperity. But the officials of the people, or to find out that the revenue of the country was diminishing. If the Governor of Kashmir were not active and honest, dishonesty ran rampant through every grade of officialdom.

“There’s not a crime

But takes proper change out still in crime

If once rung on the counter of this world.’

 

And the slightest weakness or corruption on the part of the governor had its echo in every corner of the valley. Not only were the officials corrupt but the peasants and their headmen were also dishonest, all joining to rob their master’s treasury.

His Highness the Maharaja Pratab Singh, G.C.S.I., recognizing that it was impossible to check these abuses without records and statistics, resolved to effecting a land Revenue Settlement of his country. At first, it was extremely difficult to persuade the people that the Settlement would be a reality or to inspire them with a belief that there would be some continuity in the administration.

Little by little, confidence has sprung up. Land which had no value in 1889 is now eagerly sought after by all classes. Cultivation has extended and improved. Houses have been rebuilt and repaired, fields fenced in, orchards planted, vegetable gardens well stocked, and new mills constructed. Women no longer are seen toiling in the fields, for their husbands are now at home to do the work, and the long journeys to Gilgit are a thing of the past. When the harvest is ripe, the peasant reaps it at his own good time, and not a soldier ever enters the village.

The old saying –

Batta, batta

Tah piyada patta’

 

Which means ‘we are asking for food and the tax collector is after us,’ is no longer heard, for the people are left with ample grain to feed their families. Before 1887, the peasants rarely tasted their beloved food rice. Now all eat rice and enjoy salt, and the luxury of tea. Little shops are springing up in the villages, and whereas I never saw a metal vessel in any peasant’s house three years ago, now a brass cooking-pot is by not means rare.


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