Legal Document No 6
The three principal facts which it is necessary to notice are that the death of the Maharaja Ranbir Singh is apparantely near at hand; that the administration of the Kashmir State is so thoroughly disorganised as to threaten a complete breakdown; and that the heir-apparent to the Chiefship is said to be unfitted in character and habits to govern the State. The first two of these facts we have unfortunately been in a position to anticipate for a long time past. The Maharaja has been suffering for years from a moral disease; while the recent famine afforded convincing proof of the corruptness and inefficiency of the administration of Kashmir. We have also heard from time to time unsatisfactory accounts of the heir-apparent, and it has of late been reported that his father entertained some idea of setting him aside by a testamentary disposition. In our judgment, the time has now come for determining the course which the British Government should adopt on the death of the Maharaja; and we therefore proceed to lay our views before your Lordship.
Turning first to the question of the succession to the present Chief, we are of opinion that the eldest son, Mian Pertab Singh, should be proclaimed at once when his father die. We do not consider that we can take congizance of the vices attributed to Pertab Singh unless they have reduced him to a condition of actual incapacity which does not appear to be the case; nor do we think that in this matter we should be justified in attaching any weight even to the wishes of His Highness Ranbir Singh. For the general interests of peace and good order among the Native States, no encouragement should be given to the idea that an eldest son can be set aside at the with of his father; and we hold that in practice nothing but the clearest evidence of actual incapacity to rule should be allowed: to stand in the way of a regular succession by order of primogeniture. Further we are entirely opposed to permitting any partition of the Kashmir State, by will or otherwise, among the three sons of the present Chief. Feeling confident that our opinion upon these points are in accord with established policy, we have anticipated your Lordship’s orders by issuing the instructions necessary for-the guidance of Lieutenent-Colonel Sir Oliver St. John, K.B.C.I., the Officer on special Duty, ire case of an emergency arising. In the meanwhile we do not think it desirable formally to announce to the Maharaja that a will affecting the succession could not be recognised, because this course might raise unpleasant discussions. But the Officer on Special Duty will avail himself of any good opportunity for intimating to His Highness that such a will would not be expedient.
On the succession of the new Chief, it will not, in our opinion, be proper to postpone any longer representation of our views upon the necessity for introducing substantial reforms into the administration of Kashmir. The misgovernment to which the people of that country have long been subjected was some time since prominently brought to our notice by Mr. Henvey. We did not take action at once, conceiving that a more favourable opportunity would present itself on the occurence of a fresh succession-an event which seemed unlikely to be long postponed. When that event takes place, we consider that it will be our duty to impress upon the Kashmir Government its obligations to its own subjects, and to see that the reforms which are so urgently needed are no longer postponed. With this view we would propose, immediately on the occurence of the next succession, to inform the Maharaja, that we regard the present state of affairs as most unsatisfactory and that substantial reforms are required. We would if possible lead the new Government to propose the measures necessary to give effect to this altered policy, but we should require that their execution should be entrusted to competent hands. While firmly insisting upon necessity for a change, we should avoid any direct interference with administrative details.
We are, however, sensible that, if our advice is to be effectual, it may be necessary to alter the present arrangement under which our representative remains in the Maharaja’s territory for a portion only of the year. Such a change would probably be welcomed by the people of Kashmir; and as it would not be introduced until after the death of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, his feelings in the matter would be fully respected. It is a measure which may be called for, not merely by the need for assisting and supervising administrative reforms, but also by the increasing importance to the Government of India of watching events beyond the North-Western frontier of Kashmir. Any disturbances which continued misgovernment might create in Kashmir, would be actually felt on the frontiers of Afghanistan; the connection between Kashmir and its dependent Chiefships would in all probability be served; and grave political complications might easily ensue. We have therefore to consider the necessity for providing for efficient political supervision, not merely in the interests of the people of Kashmir, but also in the interests of the people of India. Under these circumstances we are anxious to obtain from Her Majesty’s Government authority to appoint, if it should appear to us necessary, at any time after the death of the present Maharaja, a Resident political officer, who will exercise a general supervision over the affairs of the Kashmir State. We do not propose that this officer if appointed by us, should hold any actual position in the government of the State, nor do we think that it would be necessary to give him special powers in the province of Kashmir. It will suffice if he occupies, with regard to Jammu and Kashmir, the position and powers ordinarily given to a British Resident in a feudatory State.
The British Government are not debarred by any engagement express or tacit, from posting a political Officer permanently in Kashmir; and we see no reason why an arrangement which has been accepted without demur by such a State as Hyderabad should not be adopted in regard to the Kashmir State. If this view is correct, the only question which arises is, whether existing circumstances do not render it desirable to give us the authority we seek.