Legal Document No 10
I have the honour to report my arrival here yesterday morning, my journey having been much delayed by the bad state of the road. At Verinag, late at night on the 12th, I received a telegram from Mian Pertab Singh, the heir-apparent, informing me of the death of his father, Maharaja Ranbir Singh at 4.30 p.m. that day.
The state of affairs seem to be somewhat as follows :
The death of Wazir Punnu (who fell down dead in Durbar
On the 6th instant) was a stroke of extraordinary good fortune for the opposite party, represented by Diwan Anant Ram and
Babu Nilambar. It not only removed their most powerful adversary, and the man who had the greatest influence with the present as with the late Maharaja, but it also keeps the country quiet without any effort on their part. The name of Punnu was a byeword and a reproach among the people, and all the tyranny and oppression from which they suffered was invariably laid to his door, not always with justice. Had he survived his old master, he would have been the leading spirit in the Councils of the new Chief, and the people, hopeless of improvement, would probably have made rebellious Demonstrations, which with an army eighteen months in arrears of pay, would not have been easy to suppress. But Punnu died six days before Pertab Singh succeeded to the Chiefship, and the people, overjoyed at their deliverance from the man whom they believed their sole tyrant, are probably indifferent to the change of rulers, and will remain quite in confident anticipation of early relief from their burdens.
Another fortunate circumstance for the new Chief is the general prosperity of the country, as far as it can be prosperous. under such a Government. The late spring rains caused someloss in the low country and the outer hills, as did the summer floods in Kashmir, but the agricultural out-turn for the last year has everywhere been exceptionally high, and the prospects of the crops now in the ground are excellent. Commerce is shown by the Punjab trade reports to be steadily improving inspite of the vexatious restrictions placed on it. Thus, as. far as the country itself is concerned, Maharaja Partab Singh and his councillors have everything in their favour. At present he is looking for advice to Babu Nilambar and Diwan Anant Ram. The first is clever and well-intentioned but deficient in force of character. The Diwan is perhaps well meaning but his bringing up inclines him to lean to the old way of managing the country, and he is weak and cunning. They are, I fear, wholly unable to cope with the difficulties which will meet them in improving the administration, should they make any real effort to do so. Certain simple reforms, such the abolition of obnoxious imports and export dues and the more regular payment of officials, they may effect, but it wills I fear, be hopeless to look for any serious improvement in the administration generality, without constant and heavy pressure, and material interference in details.
A probably early source of trouble will be the influence possessed over the new Maharaja by his personal followers. These, who are mostly men of the lowest class, are already beginning to assert themselves, and to offer to help their friends to lucrative employment. it can hardly belong before they and the party of Nilambar and Anant Ram come into conflict. The later will not have the courage to lean on the Resident, and govern as Salar Jang did in Hyderabad in spite of the Chief, but will try to trim with the usual consequences. On these points I will write more fully as the situation develops itself. For the present I have only pointed out to Anant Ram and Nilambar the urgent necessity for paying the troops and for relieving the export trade of the country from its burdens. They will not, or cannot give me any information of the actual state of the finance, except that the public treasury is practically empty. I have every reason to believe, however, that the late Maharaja regularly diverted the revenue of certain districts to his private chest. Some of this was devoted to religious purposes, but popular report has it that he has left large sums hoarded in obscure forts in different parts of the country. It is also said that he solemnly enjoined that this money should – never be used to meet the current expenditure of the State, and no doubt, if it exists, every effort will be made to keep it intact, or at all events to spend it on no useful object. The annual customs contract expires in the course of a month or two, and this will be a favourable opportunity for a revision of the tariff, which should entirely free the woollen and metal trades of Kashmir from the heavy export duties to which they are now subject. This will give an impulse to production in Srinagar, which should tide the artisan class over the w inter, of which the prospects are exceptionally bad owing to the final collapse of the shawl trade in Europe, and the paucity of visitors in the valley this year.