For the first time in independent India, Maharaja Hari Singh, the last king of Dogra, is being celebrated as the Jammu and Kashmir administration has declared the birth anniversary of the Maharaja on Friday as a public holiday.
In Jammu, fireworks lit up the sky as BJP leaders, Rajput groups and Maharaja Hari Singh’s family participated in festivities marking the first public holiday in his honor.
Home Minister Amit Shah expressed his wishes for the celebration. “I bow to the national symbol Maharaja Hari Singh on his birthday. Prime Minister Modi has hailed him by declaring his birthday a public holiday to commemorate his efforts to make Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India and to keep the country safe.”
Last week, Manoj Sinha, the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, declared Hari Singh’s birthday on September 23 a public holiday. He said his decision was made in light of the contributions of the late Maharaja.
Of the 562 princely states that joined and merged with the Federation of India in 1947, Jammu and Kashmir is the first state in which its former ruler is officially celebrated.
When the British officially left on August 15, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh, who was the Hindu ruler of a Muslim-majority country, wanted his country to remain independent and thus had an agreement with both India and Pakistan.
However, following the invasion by Pakistan-backed tribal raiders, Hari Singh fled Kashmir and signed an instrument of accession with India on October 26, 1947.
Maharaja Hari Singh later lived in exile in Mumbai, where he died in 1961.
Even after accession, the state had its own constitution, flag and penal code, the Ranbir Criminal Code (ROC), named after Ranbir Singh, one of Hari Singh’s ancestors.
The law under jurisdiction, which defined permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir and prohibited outsiders from owning land, was another defining legacy of Maharaja Hari Singh. All of this was repealed when Article 370 was repealed in August 2019.
Ironically, while the monarch is officially celebrated, the official holiday commemorating the birth of the first democratically elected leader of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, was removed from the list of public holidays in 2019.
Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah not only rejected the two-state theory, choosing secular India over Islamic Pakistan, but under his leadership his supporters rose up against the Pakistani raiders and blocked their advance until the Indian army reached Srinagar on October 27, 1947.