The infighting for the throne of Gilgit one of the representative of ousted Raja went to Kashmir to seek assistance from Sikhs. It was 1842 when Maharaja sent an army to Gilgit which succeeded in restoring power to ousted Raja. This was the moment which reshaped/changed the history of Gilgit thereby introducing a new outside force ‘Sikhs’ in the region. However, this Sikh force was destroyed by strong ruler of Yasin, Gohar Aman by invading Gilgit. This resulted into bringing further reinforcement from Kashmir. Gohar Aman again attacked and destroyed the Sikh army at famous Bhoop Singh Pari. In case of Skardu, it remained under the influence of Mughals during the time of Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb. Sikhs considering themselves as successors of Mughals also demanded tribute from Balistan. It was in 1836 one Muhammad Shah from the ruling family of Skardu also sought Sikh help in his fight for the throne. It was again struggle for power which led to the occupation of Skardu. According to the Treaty of Lahore, signed on 9th March 1846, after Sikh defeat their territory was reduced and they agreed to hand over Kashmir, Hazara and other areas to British.

On 16th March 1846, Kashmir was sold to the Maharaja Ghulab Singh by British for 75 lac Nanak shahi and a treaty was signed. This treaty created a new princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. According to article one of the treaty that all the hilly and mountainous country with all its dependencies situated to the east of river Indus and westward of river Ravi ceded to British. There is no mention of Gilgit which is located north of Indus and other political districts Hunza, Nager and Yasin and there was no mention of Baltistan also. According to Fredric Drew a commission comprising Vans Agnew and Ralph Young was sent to demarcate the frontiers but this has been denied in a report by R.C.Kak (Chief Secretary of Kashmir) in March 1939 that no such commission was ever appointed. It is clear that areas like Gilgit, Chilas, Hunza, Nagar and Yasin and other areas were never given to Maharaja. Chilas was located south of Indus and Kohistan further to the south. Astore was only area under the protection but again not part of Kashmir. It was only after the death of Gohar Aman in 1860, some local Rajas who were fugitives in Jammu returned to Gilgit with a Dogra army and Gilgit was occupied. First time wazir wazarat was appointed in Gilgit and Skardu.

In 1876 according to Madhopur settlement signed between Ranbir Singh and Lord Lytton it was decided to establish a firm grip over Yasin and Chitral with best interest of British India against a possible Russian invasion. British appointed Major John Biddluph as OSD (officer on special duty) in Gilgit from 1877 to 1881. In 1889, the British reestablished Gilgit as agency and Algernon Durand was appointed as Political Agent. In 1901 a ruling was issued by Political Agent that Hunza and Nagar though under suzerainty of Kashmir but formed no part of Maharaja’s territory. In a letter to British resident in Kashmir in 1926 the British Political Agent in Gilgit , Gordon Loch wrote as a matter of practical convenience the agency was attached at that time (1889) to the state of Jammu and Kashmir but practically it remained under British control/authority. In 1926 the British conclusions were that Hunza and Nagar are proper states, therefore not part of Kashmir and there is no authority of Jammu and Kashmir over political districts like Yasin, Ishkoman, Kuh-Ghizer and Chilas. It was only Punial to some extent under the influence of durbar. In 1941 the British resident communicated the same definition to Maharaja. In 1928 position of these areas were further clarified in a letter from resident of Kashmir to Director Frontier Circles Survey of India that territory comprised with Gilgit Agency fall into three categories.

One state territory i.e Gilgit wazarat comprising Gilgit tehsil (including Bunji) with its niabat of Astor. Second, political districts of Nagar, Hunza, Punial, Yasin , Ishkoman and the Republic of Chilas. Third was un-administrated areas of Darel, Tangir, Kandia, Jhalkot, Sazin, Shatial and Harban. In another note in 1929 it was clarified that Hunza, Nagar, Chilas, Kuh-Ghizer, Ishkoman, and Yasin though under the suzerainty of Kashmir, were never recognised as part of Kashmir. The Gilgit wazarat included the areas of Astor, Bunji, Harmosh at Indus and Kargah nullah. It was also mentioned in the gazetteer that these areas acknowledge the suzerainty of Kashmir but form no part of its territory and they only pay tribute of Maharaja annually. According to professor Dani paying tribute is not a proof of ownership. Historically, Hunza paid tribute not only to Kashmir but China as well and local Rajas considered tribute as a exchange of gifts and compliments. It was Mountbatten who reversed the definition of 1926 and 1935 by adding states of Hunza and Nagar to wazarat. According to Alastair Lamb he contributed further complexity to the Kashmir dispute by adding political districts which 1947 belonged elsewhere and this was also rejected by Gandhi. On 20 March 1935 British decided to take Gilgit Wazarat on lease from Maharaja for 60 years and accordingly an agreement was signed. In this agreement only Gilgit Wazarat was mentioned and no reference was made of political agency of Gilgit as the agency was under British control. There was hardly any writ of Maharaja in the region. In late April 1947 the lease issue of Gilgit was discussed by Mountbatten and according to political department persuaded Mountbatten that lease to be handed back to Maharaja.

Aim was to establish his authority when Britishers were still around to support him. Both Nehru and Mountbatten had a common underlying objective the eventual incorporation of state in India. For Mountbatten and Nehru it was not only Gilgit town but included vast tract of land bordering China and Wakhan. During the partition of the subcontinent, the British started referring the region as Gilgit subdivision which included areas of Gilgit agency and Gilgit Wazarat whereas the lease agreement was only for Gilgit Wazarat. The Political districts and states were included Jammu and Kashmir which had no business to be there at all. Besides Hunza, Nagar and other states like Yasin, Ishkoman, Kuh-Ghizer, Chilas were never considered as Kashmir territory and Kashmir state offices were never allowed to interfere in their administration. According to 3 June 1947 plan whole Gilgit agency was handed over to Maharaja. The local population was never consulted about handing over of region to Maharaja. On 1st August Brigadier Ghansara Singh took over as governor of agency whereas on ground people and Rajas had already decided in favour of Pakistan.

According to Alastair Lamb, the accession in case of Nagar and Hunza was accepted and by the rules of transfer of power, there can be no doubt these states are part of the sovereign territory of Pakistan. The people Gilgit agency never accepted the authority of Brigadier Ghansara Singh and realized the forced and illegal merger with Kashmir. Tribesmen from all over Gilgit agency and its dependencies started gathering in Gilgit town. On 31st October 1947 the residence of governor was surrounded by Gilgit Scout (the real power in Gilgit) and in the morning of 1 November 1947 Brigadier Ghansara Singh surrendered to scouts. The people of agency proclaimed Gilgit as part of Pakistan and hoisted Pakistan’s flag. On 16 November 1947 Sardar Alam Khan arrived in Gilgit as a political agent and on 6 April 1948 Gilgit agency was placed under the political resident of NWFP.

 

The writer is a retired brigadier and freelance columnist.