Restoration of Powers to Maharaja Pratap Singh 1905
LORD CURZON’S SPEECH
Your Highness, Three times since I came to India as Viceroy have been privileged as representative of the Government to instal an Indian Prince, but have never before enjoyed the pleasure of conferring an enhancement or restitution of powers upon a ruling Chief, and in the annals of the Foreign office we can discover no record of such a ceremony ever having taken place. The present occasion is therefore unique in its character, as well as agreeable in its relation both to the Prince who is the recipient of the compliment and to the people who share in the honour that is being conferred upon their ruler.
This ceremony may be looked upon from a threefold point of view either as typing the policy of the paramount power, or as affecting the fortunes of the Maharaja or the destines of his State.
BRITISH POLICY TOWARDS NATIVE STATES
Let me say a word upon all those aspects of the case. The position which is occupied by the British Crown towards the feudatory princes in India is one of the greatest responsibility that is anywhere enjoyed by a sovereign authority. Some times it may impose upon that authority unwelcome or distasteful obligations. But far more often it is the source of a relationship which is honourable and advantageous to both, and which associates them in the bonds of a political union without any parallel for its intimacy or confidence in the world. As one who has represented the sovereign power for an unusual length of time in India I can speak with some right to be heard when I say that anything that enhance the security or adds to the dignity of the Indian princes is above all things welcome the British Government. Titles and honour and salutes it is in the power of the supreme authority in many countries to bestow, and it is from no vain or childish instinct that the world in all ages has attached value to these emblems or rewards. But surely amongst them the most dignified distinction to offer and the proudest to receive must be the augmentation of governing powers bestowed upon a ruler, to whom they are given not as a matter of course, but because he has been merited them by faithful devotion to the intrest of the people and by loyal attachment to the paramount power. Such an act is even more congenial to the latter if it marks the rescission of an attitude that may have been called for in different circumstances but that might be thought to carry with it the suspicion of distrust.
It gives me, therefore the highest pleasure to be here today to confer this particular honour upon one of the foremost of the Indian Princes. But the pleasure is enhanced by the circumstances of the State and of the ruler to whom it is offered I know not why it is, but the State of Kashmir, so fertile in all its resources, has always been more productive of strange rumours than any other native State in India. Thus in Lords Lansdowne’s day it was widely circulated that the State was about to be taken over by the Crown. Similarly a few years ago, at the very time when I was first considering with Your Highness the restoration of your powers. it was actually spread abroad that I was discussing with you a territorial exchange by which the Kashmir Valley should pass into the hands of the Government of India and that the British officials were even to come after the manner of the old Moghuls and spend their summer at Srinagar or Gulmarg. Only the other day a fresh crop of silly rumours had to be formally denied, namely that in handing back to you the first place in the government of your State, we had imposed conditions as regards the tenure of property by Europeans in Kashmir for which there was not one word foundation. Your Highness, is not the action which I am taking today the most eloquent commentary upon these absured fictions? Does it not testify in the most emphatic manner to the rectitude and good faith of the British Government?
If excused for a different policy, for a policy of escheat or forefeiture in native States, were required, History will supply cases in which they have sometimes not been lacking. But we have deliberately set ourselves to carry out opposite political theory, namely to retain the native States of India intact, to prolong and fortify their separate existence, and to safeguard the prestige and authority of their rulers. Such has been our Attitude towards Kashmir ever since the end of the first Sikh War when we made over to your grandfather, already the ruler of the State of Jammu, the much more valuable possession of Kashmir. Since that day there has been no departure from this policy, and there has been no more striking evidence of it than the step which I am taking today and which I consider it my good fortune that before I leave India I am in a position to take. It shows conclusively, if any further proof were required that it is our desire to see Kashmir and Jammu a single and compact State in the hands of a ruler qualified to represent its dignity and authority before all India.
Your Highness, there is a third reason why i have found this act so agreeable, and that is personal to yourself. Since I arrived in India when you were the first ruling chief to greet me upon the steps of Government House at Calcutta we have met on many occasions and have constantly corresponded. You have been my guest at Calcutta, and it is only by a -series of accidents first the flood in 1903, and then the delay in my return from England last year, and finally the circumstances attending my departure in the present autumn-that have prevented me from enjoying the princely hospitality that you have so frequently pressed upon me at Srinagar. However, though these opportunities have been wanting there have not been lacking many others not merely of acquiring your Highness’s friendship but of forming a personal regard for yourself and a High opinon of these qualities of head and heart which -will now find an even wider scope for their exercise. I feel that I am the indirect means of honouring a prince who will so conduct himself as to be worthy of honour, and who will never cause my successors to take the step which I have taken.
ADVANTAGES AND IMPROVEMENTS IN KASHMIR
The State of Kashmir is indeed a noble and enviable dominion of which one would wish to be the ruler. Its natural beauties have made it famous alike in history and romance, and they draw to it visitors from the most distant parts. It possesses a laborious population. Its industrial resources are already growing rapidly, and are capable of immense additional expansion. Its accounts have been placed in excellent order; its land settlement has been effected on equitable lines; its revenue are mounting by leaps and bounds; it is about to be connected with India by a railway and will thus lose the landlocked condition which has often been the source of economic suffering, without, I hope, sacrificing the picturesque detachment that renders it attractive to visitors. Your Highness will remember that this railway was my first official suggestion to you at Calcutta in January, 1899, and though nearly seven years have since elapsed I am pleased to think that the alignments and gauge are now fixed.
Finally, your State possesses a mountain frontier uneqalled in diversity of race and character, of natural beauty and political interest, and towards its protection you make the largest contribution of any State in India to imperial defence. I allude to the Kashmir Imperial Service Troops of which your Highness is so justly proud, and whose service to the Empire has already won for your Highness the exalted rank of a British General. Such are the features and the Prospects of the State of which your Highness is the ruler, and of which you are now given the supreme and responsible charge.
NATURE OF THE NEW POWER
Henceforward the State Council which for the last sixteen years has administered the affairs of the State will cease to exist, and its power will be transferred under proper guarantees to your self. You will be assisted in the discharge of these duties by your brother Raja Sir Amar Singh, who has already occupied so prominent a position in the administration and
who will be your chief minister and right-hand man. I am convinced that he will devote his great natural abilities to your faithful service, and it will be your inclination as well as your duty to repose in him a full measure of your trust.
In all important matters you will be able to rely upon the counsel and support of the British Resident, who, owing to the peculiar conditions of Kashmir, has played so important a part in the recent development of the country and whose experience and authority will always be at your command and will assist to maintain the credit of the State.
COUNCIL AND EXHORTATION
I feel convinced that your Highness will exercise your powers in a manner that will justify the Government of India for their confidence and that will be gratifying to your people and creditable to yourself. You rule a State in which the majority of your subjects are of different religion from the ruling caste, and in which they are deserving of just and liberal consideration. You rule a State which is much before the eyes of the world and is bound to maintain the highest standard of efficiency and self respect. Finally, you rule a State which has a great and splended future before it, and which should inspire you with no higher or no lower aim than to be worthy of the position of its ruler, and thus to add fresh lustre to the proud title of Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.