The Valley Of Kashmir | Sir Walter Roper Lawrence | Part 7

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The Kashmiris are very unstable and very prone to give undue weight to rumours. They are emotional and ruled by sentiment. They will do excellent work on water-courses and embankments if coaxed, and praised, and encouraged with small presents of snuff. They will do little if paid a full daily wage. They like and admire stern determination in their ruler. All they ask is that they may have access and hearing on certain occasions. They are accomplished talkers, but have an instinctive dread of their words being committed to paper.

Writing in their opinion is a trap and a fraud. While on the whole they like certainty in the revenue administration and are not as some suppose enamoured of the elastic properties of a fluctuating assessment, they would hate our Western ideas of justice and judicial procedure. I have done my utmost to leave the system of Kashmir alone where it was possible and should deplore the introduction of elaborate rules and procedures.

These Sibylline books, with officials as interpreters, would do no good to Kashmir. All that the State needs now do for its agricultural population is to leave the villagers alone. Cholera and smallpox should be grappled with so that the population—at present inadequate—should increase and multiply. Kashmir is generations behind the Panjab, and what is good and necessary in the Panjab is dangerous and premature in this country. A wise Kashmiri with whom I was conversing on the subject of the alleged oppression of the police, said, in answer to a question of mine.

Of course the police annoy us, and I presume that this is the purpose for which they are employed. There is no crime in the country, and the police must have something to do.’ There is no doubt work for the police in the city and towns and on the road, but I doubt whether their presence is necessary in the villages. But police are necessary in the Panjab districts, and it has perhaps been argued that human nature being the same in all countries police are required in the districts of Kashmir.

I merely mention the police as an instance to show that Kashmir is a peculiar country, which need not necessarily be administered at present by the strict pattern adopted in British India. While the object of administration should be to leave the people alone to recover from the atrophy which has been caused by over-government, much can be done by example and advice.

At the present time the Kashmiri is ruled by Rawaj (custom) and is content to abide by the Ain of the country. In some respects, he is better off than his fellows in India, he has ample grazing for his sheep and cattle, fuel for the winter, good warm clothes, and sufficient manure for cultivation.

 

He is not extravagant, and happily spends little on marriages and similar occasions. But it is possible as prosperity increases the Kashmiri will follow the example of India and will increase the expenses of marriages. If the State will intervene and order that the old scale of marriage expenses shall be observed the people will gladly obey. They are docile and always ready to carry out orders which are conservative in their tendency. They understand that they are responsible for the maintenance of irrigation, channels, and of communications between villages, and it would be a great mistake if the State ever relieved them of this responsibility.

Apart from the work of settling the villages and assisting in the revenue administration of Kashmir, I have held charge of Viticulture, Hops, Horticulture, and Sericulture. These subjects will be discussed elsewhere, but here I wish to state that although the last three have been worked with a fair profit they will never become of real importance until the State makes them over to private capitalists.

I think that whereas no Europeans could live and thrive as ordinary agricultural colonists in Kashmir, they could do good to themselves and to the State if they settled in Kashmir and devoted capital and labour to the production of wine, hops, canned and dried fruits, vegetables and silk.

The cultivation of vines could be enormously extended in the immediate neighbourhood of Srinagar; there is a vast area of land admirably suited to hops. Horticulture can practically take care of itself, while the countless mulberry trees and the ease with which the tree can be propagated open out a wide field for sericulture.

An amateur’s experiences, though extending over six years, may not be worth much, but the opinions I now express are founded on the views held by men who are practical experts in viticulture, wine-making, and sericulture. As regards hops I can appeal to the best criterion, financial results. If private enterprise were allowed in these special industries, the good which would result to the State would be a perceptible increase in the revenue, and what is of greater importance an increased field of labour and employment for the people of Srinagar.