1929: Hari Singh’s Prime Minister Resigns

The Prime Minister of  Maharaja Hari Singh, Sir Albion Banerjee, who was a Bengali Brahman, resigned, and his historic indictment of the autocrat’s rule in Kashmir was published in the Lahore press. Some salient points of his statement are:

The State of Jammu and Kashmir is reeling under immeasurable oppression. The majority of people there consists of Muslims, who are totally illiterate. These people are in the morass of want and poverty. They are being treated just like dumb, driven cattle. There is no connect between the government and people; and there is absolutely no mechanism to listen to their grievances; let alone doing something to remedy it. People’s opinion has been gagged. There are no newspapers. Total impoverishment of the populace is astounding. Though Kashmiris are a good lot; they are devoid and deprived of basic creature comfort.

Sir Albion’s curtain-raiser created a stir throughout. Nobody could doubt his stature or integrity. The autocracy was put on the defensive and it marshaled some of its henchmen, who were overburdened with official concessions, to issue statements as a firefighting measure.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who was then studying at the Aligarh Muslim University, reacted to the canard of these paid statements, and wrote a series of articles in the Muslim Outlook, a periodical published from Lahore, and exposed the false claims of the government. He supported the disclosures of Sir Albion and gave it fresh content and substance with new facts and figures, and other relevant data. His name was taken note of in the black books of the intelligence agencies of the Maharaja’s regime.

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