Category Archives: History

Kashmir vs Cashmere

Published / by Jehangir

Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Cashmere is one of the most expensive fabrics in the world.

Kashmire, Cashmeer, Cashmere, Cashmire, Kashmeer and Kashmir have all been used throughout the past few centuries to describe the Vale of Kashmir.

Writing about the travels of Francois Bernier, George Forster used the spelling ‘Kashmire’ for the valley in 1783. He also used ‘Kashmire’ in the title of his 1798 book ‘A Journey from Bengal to England – through the Northern part of India, Kashmire, Afghanistan, and Persia, and into Russia by the Caspian Sea.’

With the advent of the nineteenth century, the term ‘Cashmeer’ to denote the valley seems to have gained popularity while ‘Kashmire’ just disappeared. ‘Cashmeer’ was used in books like ‘The Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean‘ published in 1807 and ‘The Arabian Nights‘ published in 1811.

In subsequent decades ‘Cashmeer’ was used interchangeably with ‘Cashmere’ till it fell out of favour and the latter became increasingly frequent by the 1840s. A few instances of ‘Cashmeer’ can be found in the 1850s and the 1860s, before bowing out in 1871 in an inexplicable blaze of glory having being brought centre-stage by Robert Shaw, an old Kashmir hand writing about his exploits in ‘Visits to High Tartary, Yarkand and Kashgar.’

I say inexplicable because the gentleman responsible for the last mainstream use of the term ‘Cashmeer’ served as the British Commissioner in Leh and must have been well aware that the official name of the kingdom by the 1870s was ‘Kashmir’ – even ‘Cashmere’ having been officially relegated by that time.

Strangely enough around the same time a pamphlet written in defence of the Maharaja of Kashmir in 1870 was titled ‘The Maharaja of Kashmeer and his Calumniators‘, marking a rare use of the term ‘Kashmeer.’ The pamphlet sought to counter western authors severely castigating the misrule of the Dogra ruler in ‘The Wrongs Of Cashmere‘ (1868) by Arthur Brinckman and ‘Cashmere Misgovernment‘ by Robert Thorpe published posthumously in 1870.

‘Cashmire’ was intermittently used over the years, primarily in literary works, and while writing in or translating from French, with ‘Kaschmir’ being the German equivalent.

One of the earliest uses of the modern name ‘Kashmir’ is found in the ‘Historical and Descriptive account of British India‘ published in 1832 by a group of British experts led by Hugh Murray. The valley is described as the ‘little kingdom of Kashmir’ and extolled as a ‘terrestrial paradise’.

Baron Charles von Hugel used the term in scientific papers published in 1835 and 1836 and his books – ‘Kaschmir und das Reich der Siek‘ (1840) and ‘Travels in Kashmir and the Punjab‘ (1845).

Over the course of the nineteenth century, ‘Cashmere’ and ‘Kashmir’ kept jostling for prominence. Official acceptance of ‘Kashmir’ over ‘Cashmere’ was an important factor and by the 20th century it was ‘Kashmir’ that had become the accepted term for the valley with ‘cashmere’ being reserved for an exquisite fabric made from the soft undercoat of Himalayan goats.

Incidentally the valley is called ‘Kasheer’ in the native Kashmiri language.

P.S Boring Scientific Explanation from the internet:
the British Raj standardized on the Hunterian system in 1872, and from the article, it looks to me like ‘Kashmir’ would be the proper Hunterian transliteration. Prior to 1872, the Raj (and before that, the East India Co.) appear to have haphazardly used either the Wilkins system or the “Dowler” system‘.

A Bridge named Albion?

Published / by Jehangir

On this day in 1929 newspapers carried an article exposing the sectarian and autocratic character of the Dogra rule. The publication of this article emboldened Kashmiri muslims to raise the banner of protest. Remarkably, the article was written by the serving Prime Minister of KashmirSir Albion Banerji.

Sir Albion R. Banerji, Kt., C.S.I. C.I.E., (1871 – 1950) was the first Bengali Brahman to be born in England, hence his unusual first name. He earned his Master's Degree at the Balliol College, Oxford and joined the Indian Civil Service in 1894. At the Delhi Durbar of 1911, Albion Banerji was awarded the Companion of the Indian Empire (CIE).

He served as Magistrate in the Madras Presidency, and as Diwan of Cochin and then of Mysore before joining the Maharaja's administration in Kashmir as the Foreign and Political Minister.

In 1927 Sir Albion Banerji was appointed Prime Minister of Kashmir.

On March 16, 1929, he published a scathing indictment of the administration of the Kashmir State – criticising the Maharaja's lavish lifestyle sustained by a poor population – and then resigned from his post.

Some excerpts from the note:

'Jammu and Kashmir state is labouring under many disadvantages, with a large Mohammedan population absolutely illiterate, labouring under poverty and very low economic conditions of living in the villages, and practically governed like dumb driven cattle.

There is no touch between the government and the people, no suitable opportunity for representing grievances…

The administration has at present no or little sympathy with people's wants and grievances…'

Sir Albion Banerji's resignation effectively ended his hitherto stellar career in the Indian Civil Service. This act should have made him a hero for the common Kashmiri.

Strangely, or maybe I should say expectedly, there is no mention of Sir Albion Banerji in the sponsored hagiographies that masquerade as history in today's Kashmir. His selfless act has been forgotten because no self-serving separatist, mainstream or 'slipstream' politician can legitimately claim his legacy.

Even the numerous 'civil society' groups peculiar to Kashmir, ever keen to jump on to any 'kashmir/kashmiriyat' bandwagon, have not instituted an award (their favoured ploy to stay news-worthy) in his name – the ultimate ignominy for a man who has had such an undeniable impact on the history of Kashmir.

Perhaps there is an undercurrent to Sir Albion Banerji's service in Kashmir that I have failed to observe, but the fact remains that he championed both the cause of the downtrodden muslim population of Kashmir and of the backward classes of India. Much to the discomfort of his peers, he protested the failure of the Dogra and the British rulers respectively to address their problems.

The erstwhile state of Cochin, which also had cause to honour the gentleman, has a street named after him. I had suggested in an earlier post that the new bridge over the river Jehlum at Rajbagh could be named the Albion Bridge to honour Sir Albion Banerji.

Any takers?

The Day a Nation was Sold

Published / by Jehangir

On this day in 1846, the British sold Kashmir for 75 lakh nanakshahi rupees to Gulab Singh via the Treaty of Amritsar.

After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839 the Punjab fell into a state of disorder. The British were quick to take advantage of the anarchy and decisively defeated the Khalsa at Aliwal (January 1846) and Sobraon (February 1846), hastening the demise of the once-mighty Sikh Empire.

Pre-informed by Pandit Dina Nath, the Finance Minister of Lahore that his coffers were worth only half a crore, the British imposed a war indemnity of one-and-a-half crores on the Sikhs for the crime of 'unprovoked aggression' against the East India Company.

By the Treaty of Lahore the British claimed all the territories between the Beas and the Indus in lieu of the remaining one crore rupees.

The Sikh Empire was also forced to recognize Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu, their erstwhile vassal, as an 'independent sovereign' to allow the British to 'admit him to the privileges of a separate treaty'.

This Gulab Singh was a one-time sowar or cavalryman of the Dogra army who found favour with Maharaja Ranjit Singh and was elevated as a prince of Jammu.

In lieu of 'services' rendered to the British during the Anglo-Sikh wars and the negotiations that followed, they elevated Gulab Singh to the status of 'Maharaja' at Amritsar on March 15, 1846. With folded hands Gulab Singh declared himself to be a 'zar kharid ghulam' of the Raj. On the next day, March 16, 1846 the Treaty of Amritsar was signed. By Article 1 of the treaty, Gulab Singh acquired 'all the hilly or mountainous country with its dependencies situated to the eastward of the River Indus and the westward of the River Ravi'.

To add insult to inhumanity, Gulab Singh acknowledged the supremacy of the British Government – amply demonstrated by the power to sell into bondage every man woman and child in Kashmir – by agreeing to present annually to the British Government:

'one horse, twelve shawl goats of approved breed (six male and six female) and three pairs of Cashmere shawls'.

Since the land had already been paid for, one may assume that all the children of Kashmir equaled one horse in value, men and women six shawl goats each while the three shawls must obviously have symbolised the much vaunted British values of honor, justice, and fair play.

The Kenyan-born poet, Shailja Patel wonders- 'How do you price a country? How do you value its mountains and lakes, the scent of its trees, the colors of its sunrise? What’s the markup on the shapes of fruit in the dreams of its people?'

It is the British that are thus responsible for the unending cycle of slavery, violence and death that followed the Treaty of Amritsar and continues to this day.

Surely we had our own internal issues, but the British had no right to outsource mayhem to the Dogras. We have no end of local talent in that department. For centuries it has been this self-destructive trait that has arrested our progress into an evolved society.

An example of the titles bestowed by a grateful Raj upon the Dogra rulers:
Lieutenant-General His Highness Shriman Rajrajeshwar Maharajadhiraj Sri Sir Hari Singh Indar Mahindar Bahadur, Sipar-i-Sultanat, Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, GCSI, GCIE, GCVO

In February this year, another worthy with a mouthful of titles, the Right Honourable David Cameron, Member of Parliament, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and First Lord of the Treasury performed an ablutionary pilgrimage to Jalianwala Bagh. In the visitor's book he wrote:

"This was a deeply shameful event in British history and one that Winston Churchill rightly declared at the time as 'monstrous'."

"We must never forget what happened here. And in remembering we must ensure that the United Kingdom stands up for the right of peaceful protest around the world."

Will David Cameron visit Kashmir and apologise to the Kashmiri nation for the shameful Treaty of Amritsar?

Did I mention that Mr Cameron visited India as part of a trade delegation? Sin relación, probably. As another completely unrelated fact, 5 lakh British Sikhs are potential voters for the Conservative Party.

I wonder how many Kashmiri's possess voting rights in the United Kingdom?

P.S Here is a reproduction of the Treaty of Amritsar