J.L. Raina 1926

Original Title: Means of Communication in the Last Century in Kashmir and How the Control Passed into British Hands by J.L. Raina. This work was a self-published overview of the J&K postal service. Some minor editing has been done and the section on the telegraph service has been omitted. The work was originally printed at the Model Electric Press, 28 pp., Ewing Road, Lahore by Bhai Amar Singh, June 1926. Price: —Annas twelve. With our thanks to Dr W. Hellrigl for making this obscure and somewhat curious work available.


In January 1925 I presented this paper to Major-General Janaksingh Bahadur, then officiating Senior and Foreign Member. He had no time to go through it as he was very busy. After taking over the charge of that portfolio, he was very kind to forward the paper demi-officially to the Senior Member recommending me for encouragement. I do not know what became of it later. Since the designation of that office had changed, I submitted an application to the State Secretary to let me know the progress of the recommendation. I was asked to submit a duplicate copy of the note as the matter had been practically dropped. I was told that the copy of the note would be forwarded to Home Member for disposal. I fear the note never went up to the State Secretary; and I had, therefore, to withdraw it [...] Under these circumstances I could not but [self-]publish it. It is largely due to the affectionate help of my uncle Pandi Kesho Ram Raina—who maintained notes in Persian—that I have been able to prepare this paper. The statistical portion is altogether his. I am highly thankful to Sir Evan Cotton, Kt., CIE., ex-President of the Bengal Council, who was kind enough to go through it. My thanks are also due to R. Mukerji, Esq., Bar-at-Law, and particularly to Professor Taraknath Sannyal for reading the manuscript. Last comes Pandit J. L. Kaul Jalali, MA, who must be thanked for his suggestions to enlarge it, which for some reasons have to be left to a future attempt. In fact Mr Kaul made me change some passages altogether. And last but not least I must thank my friend Pandit Pearay Mohan Dattatrya, BA, LLB, for seeing the book through the press. Jammu: 1st January, 1926.


It has always been a question for great discussion in some quarters that Kashmir should be taxed more than other places in India in regard to its communications. That the postal communication does not bring in good income in Kashmir; that it does not even meet the expenditure; that there is great loss to the government; and similar questions naturally put an imaginative public to discuss a problem of this sort ab initio. Whether postal communication is a source of income to the coffers of a State, or, whether its object should be to develop commerce and industry and provide a necessity to the public is beyond the subject in discussion at present. But the history of the Posts shows that even from the time of Augustus, letter carriage has been considered a public duty imposed on a State. It was from the time of Augustus that a centralized system of posts was established and the expenses defrayed from the public treasury. It has never been possible to harmonize fiscality with utility. [Both] of these must stand. The latter might cover the former but the former cannot cover the latter. In Germany the evolution of the posts is a reflex of the general development of the State. In France, England, and the United States of America, the system grew with the contingencies. But it has never been considered a form of taxation and constant income to the State, which has always produced bad results. That may be the definition put by an ideal State. The case may differ here in Kashmir, but there is no valid reason why our State may not be an ideal State. The main object of the postal system is to increase uniformity, public ease, and develop industry and commerce, by lowering the rates of communication.

Initial expenditure in introducing postal communication in the State was incurred long ago by Maharaja Ranbir Singh and success was achieved to an extent that could not otherwise be achieved without a machine. The telegraph line engaged much of the Maharaja’s attention and it has actually become a paying concern. This can be evinced from the statistics appended to the book. In the case of postal communication, any deficit, if it occurs at all may be met from the telegraph communication. Now that the term of the contract is over, the State may take over the control and more facilities may be created for the public.

Assuming that the British Government were to give to the State the full amount of Rs80,000 or more that is expended by the State on service stamps, it is only to return to pre-Augustinian time when the communications facilitated the official ease only. The State is again then forgetting its duty towards its own people. Justi, as early as 1755, taught that the postal administration is intimately related to the welfare of the State; that its purpose is the convenience of travellers and the furtherance of commerce and industry; and the revenue derived from the postal service, as from other royalties, is only of secondary importance. He further holds that it is against its very nature to charge high postage. Mr. Rowland Hill, the great postal reformer and advocate of the theory of the harmony of interests, went to the length of saying that in virtue of interests it is well to retain a surplus revenue from the Post because a very low rate will lead to such an increase of correspondence as will very considerably decrease the relative costs of the postal service. Hill in his plan of reform says: “What I have endeavoured to show is that it is highly probably that the post will show no considerable deficit and it is quite possible that there will be no deficit at all. But if a serious deficit should in fact result, the productive power of the country would receive such an impulse from the cheapening of correspondence as to produce so much the greater revenue from other branches of administration.” The advice from such a great reformer was acted ad literatim by all European countries and the result is advancement. In the same conditions there is no reason why development cannot be forecasted here. The present Maharaja, it is hoped, will do much to look into the problem from all sides and decide the matter on its merits. We cannot offer any opinion, but it is our duty to put the facts in the form of a history before a Ruler for arriving at a judgment that he may consider is right. [...paragraph omitted.]

§1. Maharaja Ranjit Singh conquered Kashmir completely in the year 1819 ~ samvat 1876. The former ruler abdicated the throne and a Governor was appointed in 1820. There were no regular means of communication here with the outside world. The circumstances had changed and the capital of the Punjab had to be connected with Srinagar. Representations from the people and government reports had to be submitted to the Suzerain Government at Lahore through ambassadors; orders and farmans were communicated in a similar manner. It was a source of great inconvenience to the people as well as to the Government. This difficulty continued for a period of more than two years, as no better arrangements were made. The need for a new system was increasing daily; and, in order to satisfy it, arrangements were made to start a mail service line. In the year 1823 a regular mail line was inaugurated, and communication was opened via Shopian and Rampur, direct with Gujrat and Lahore. There were no cart roads in those days. The mail was therefore carried by coolies called harkaras, i.e., those who carry letters. Thirty-eight postal stages from Srinagar to Lahore, with two harkaras to carry dāk from one stage to another were located. These harkaras were paid at the rate of Rs5 per mensem in chilki coin, current in those days to annas 10 of these days. Four darogas as detailed below were appointed to supervise the work of harkaras: (a) From Srinagar to Harapora; (b) from Harapora to Aliabad; (c) from Aliabad to Gujrat; (d) from Gujrat to Lahore, the latter on Rs15 p.m., chilki, the other three on Rs10. Besides the darogas, four chalan navises (clerks) were appointed to look at the transit, and posted at Srinagar, Rampur, Rajauri, Gujrat, and Lahore. The total cost for the whole establishment amounted to Rs550, according to Hari Singhia coin, equivalent to Rs343-12-0 in British coin. Change in seasons—in winter from 15 maghar (late November) to 15 cait (late March)—brought about also a change in the route for communication, and the mail was run via Baramulla and Poonch. An addition of two more stages was made and orders were issued to headmen and lambardars to render help to the runners when needed.

§2. The mail consisted of two bags. One was addressed to akhbar navis (~ newswriter) and the other to the Representative of the Kashmir darbar at Lahore; and in a similar manner to bags were sent to Kashmir from Lahore. [Author’s Footnote: In olden days Government used to keep an establishment like the CID of today. The Department wielded much power and afterwards even distribution of pay to officers depended upon their recommendation. This system of espionage spread all over the country.] In addition, letters were received and despatched by traders and big men [rusans, pl. of rais] of Lahore, Amritsar, Gujrat and Wazirabad through these harkaras. No postage was charged on these letters. Informally these letters were mostly sent through some influence with a chalan navis or by coaxing the harkaras. The mail bags did not weigh more than two or three pounds in all. It took about 92 hours for the mail to reach Srinagar from Lahore via Shopian, and 116 hours via Poonch in winter. This system continued for a long time and no change was effected. Parcel and registered letter was quite unknown in those days.

§3. In 1833, during the Governorship of Colonel Mian Singh in Kashmir, Ganesh Pandit, one of the biggest rusans of Kashmir, brought under subjugation the territories of Gurez and Astore. Postal arrangements were made between Srinagar and Astore, about 200 miles to the north. Between Srinagar and Astore, 47 postal stages were established and three branch offices at Bandipur, Gurez, and Astore were opened. The chalan navis at Astore was appointed at Rs15 p.m. and the postal clerks at Gurez and Bandipur at Rs10 and Rs7, respectively. Three darogas were appointed at Rs7 each to supervise the work. The expenditure amounted to Rs429-8-0 according to Hari Singhia coin, which comes to Rs268-10-0 Imperial. In summer the mails took 96 hours to reach Srinagar from Astore but in winter it extended to a period from 45 to 60 days. The mail was not sent regularly but at time of need only.

§4. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was pleased to appoint Raja Gulab Singh (afterwards Maharaja) as Governor of Jammu. No good means of communication were adopted between Jammu and Lahore. At the time of need special ambassadors were equipped to travel on camels. During 1835, Raja Gulab Singh’s army led by a brave genral, Diwan Hari Chand, with the help of Wazir Zorawar and Wazir Tannu, conquered Ladākh and Askardoo (Skardu). These territories were annexed to Jammu. On their return Wazir Zorawar died near Man Talaw. Mahta Basti Ram was appointed Governor of Ladākh and Askardoo. No arrangements for communication were made, but urgent letters from the governor, private or official, were sent by special carriers.

§5. In 1842, Colonel Mian Singh, the governor of Kashmir was killed by religious soldiers. The vacated place was filled by Sheikh Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din. Gilgit was conquered during his governorship and the territory was annexed to Kashmir. By this time Maharaja Gulab Singh had announced himself de facto king—the Maharaja of Jammu and all the suburbs that he could bring under him. On 16 March 1846 (~ 4 cait 1904) Maharaja Gulab Singh got Kashmir also in accordance with the treaty entered into by him the the Government of India and had to pay some money in exchange. [Copyist’s note: the original put the date of this event, the Treaty of Amritsar, mistakenly on 4 jeţh.] The capital of Kashmir had, therefore, to be changed to Jammu instead of Lahore. Srinagar, had, therefore, to be connected with Jammu, the new capital of Kashmir. Change in the capital also brought change in the postal arrangements. The mail line from Jammu to Srinagar was directed via Verinag and Banihal. A new establishment was made which consisted of 75 harkaras paid at Rs4), three darogas at Rs7, one Srinagar clerk at Rs60, one Verinag clerk at Rs10, and one Jammu clerk at Rs30, for a total monthly expenditure of Rs421 chilki, which is equivalent to about Rs265 Imperial. The mail consisted of only official papers from the Governor at Kashmir to the address of the darbar at Jammu and vice versa. Private letters, which did not number many, were carried free of charge. It took about 100 hours for this mail to pass between Srinagar and Jammu, but it varied at different times, never exceeding 140 hours. The weight of the mail bags did not exceed a few seers. There were no visitors to Kashmir, and scarcely a couple of outsiders came as tourists. The face of a European was seldom seen in these parts in those days.

§6. It was in 1855 (8 phāgan 1912) that Maharaja Gulab Singh entrusted his son Maharaja Ranbir Singh with the reins of Government. Exactly after a lapse of one year and seven months, on Sunday 20 sāvan 1914 (August 1857) the late lamented Maharaja Gulab Singh breathed his last. Maharaja Ranbir Singh had a great love for learning. He had many qualifications. His appreciation of distinguished merit invited many capable, great and intelligent men to his Court. He induced many men of learning and ability to take up employment in his State. This also made it possible for Europeans to come to Kashmir. Necessity was, therefore, felt to improve and regulate the postal arrangements in the State. Maharaja Sahib Bahadur, who was anxious to ameliorate the condition of the people, thought seriously of establishing all modern improvements in the State. With a mind bent upon securing efficient means of communication, he afforded all sorts of facilities for his people and ease for visitors and travellers. To increase the running speed of the mails, 129 stages were made instead of the 38 stages between Srinagar and Jammu. Two more branch offices were added to the existing offices at Anantnag and Ramban. One jamadar to supervise the work on the line was appointed. Expenditure increased. The total sum calculated in English coin came to Rs913-2-0 monthly. This increased the running speed and in summer it took the mail 25 to 30 hours to reach Jammu from Srinagar instead of 100 to 140 hours. This was admirable and did not pass unnoticed by the Maharaja. Once when Sir John Lawrence, the then Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, visited Kashmir, such arrangements were made that the mail reached Srinagar in 24 hours. This fact did not escape the notice of the Lieutenant-Governor. The Maharaja Sahib was very much please with Pt. Diva Ram, the then Postmaster, Srinagar Post Office, and in recognition of his services was awarded a khilat worth Rs900.

§7. The work was being done very well. The running speed of the mails reached a limit which could not be exceeded without machinery. The expenditure was going up daily. The number of private letters increased as the seasonal move of the darbar was arranged. Maharaja Sahib Bahadur was pleased to order the levying of postage on all letters to the traders of Lahore and Amritsar. The postage was, therefore, fixed and demanded from traders only and it was at the rate of ½a per half tola and 1a for every additional tola. This postage was taken in the way of tax for every letter received or despatched in hard cash and was credited to the Treasury as a regular tax. Letters marked ‘State’, whether private or official, were sent free of charge. In 1864, a mail line was also opened from Jammu to Lahore direct. This was done to afford facilities to Europeans coming to Kashmir. European visitors were exempted from any payment of postage for some time. One official was deputed by the State on special duty to take delivery of all letters from English travellers and visitors, and he was made responsible for their delivery to all Europeans and receive letters from them which they had to send outside Kashmir. No European could take delivery of letters except through him, nor could he hand over letters to the Post Office directly. The official was, therefore, responsible for bringing all such letters and handing them over to the Post Office. For about a year an average of 15 letters were received and despatched by Europeans in Kashmir, but gradually the number rose high, when the Government of the Punjab thought it desirable and expedient to interfere and, accordingly, a note to that effect was addressed to the Maharaja of Kashmir by the then Lt.-Governor of the Punjab. From a vernacular despatch, a translation of which is given below, it seems that a meeting was arranged in December 1865 between the Lt.-Governor of the Punjab and Maharja Ranbir Singh of Kashmir. Mr. F.R. Hogg, Postmaster-General of the Punjab, was also present. In the course of the conversation some suggestions regarding the imporovement of the postal system were made; and, in accordance with that, the following despatch in Urdu was addressed by the Foreign Secretary Panjab Government to the Maharaja Sahib Bahadur of Kashmir:

“With compliments, etc. Suggestions regarding the improvement in the despatch of letters and postal arrangements made by Mr Hogg, Post-Master General, Punjab, at a meeting arranged at Jammu in December 1865 AD between Your Highness and the Lt.-Governor of the Punjab were accepted by your Highness. Your Highness expressed a desire to make postal arrangements on the lines adopted in British India. Your Highness was also pleased to say that a new arrangement for the despatch of letters for people residing in the Punjab or in any other place in India, and letters addressed to travellers or visitors in Srinagar, should be delivered or received through an agent deputed for the purpose. The Lt.-Governor of the Punjab has been pleased to know the introduction of a new system in Your Highness’ dominions and expresses a willing desire to be of any help in its success. In order to give effect to various changes for a better organization, Your Highness is requested to direct and authorize a representative to make all arrangements in consultation with Mr Hogg. etc.—etc., 18th June 1866 AD”

A letter in reply must also have been written by the Maharaja. No copy of such a draft is extant. But we can understand what could be the possible tenor of the reply. It seems to have been the introduction and fixation of postage stamps on parcels and registered letters as in British India. In order to bring in force an efficient postal system, the Maharaja, at the suggestion of B. Nilamber Mukerjee, ordered the introduction of stamps ranging from ½a to 8as, which removed all difficulties of paying postage in cash, as was done heretofore. These stamps were not very beautiful but their introduction and difference in value, as compared with the then prevalent system in India, reflects much credit on the said Babu and the willingness of the Maharaja to afford facilities to the people of the State is very appreciable. The stamps ranging from ½a to 4as were round, and eight-anna stamps were square. These stamps also bore different colours for different values. Letters were accepted for registration and for this an extra fee of four annas was charged besides the postage. Printed forms for not in use. The Postmaster wrote a receipt with his own hand. Nor were there any seals to cancel stamps. The procedure of crossing a stamp with a pen was in vogue. Mail bags were closed in a curious way. The mouth of the bag was closed with a sheet of paper, and the paper was stitched and closed with gum where the Postmaster put his signature or stamped his name with ink. All private letters were subjected to postage since the issuing of stamps. Paid letters were received for despatch by affixing stamps and bearing letters were charged in cash.

§8. About the end of samvat 1922 ~ February 1866 [Copyist’s note: the original mistakenly puts 1864 here] a despatch was addressed by the Secretary to the Government of the Punjab to the Maharaja. The despatch contained a request on behalf of the Government of the Punjab to open a seasonal post office in summer in Srinagar. A translation of the despatch runs as follows:

“In view of some correspondence and verbal discussion regarding postal arrangements that have been made for all visitors and the Agent at Srinagar in summer, and in order to remove all compaints and inconveniences, a suggestion is made to start a postal service line by the Government in the Kashmir State to facilitate arrangements of mails for all visitors and the Agent during his stay at Srinagar, as it is also in vogue in the other Native States where a Resident or an Agent is posted. To make such arrangements possible it is requested to know the distance between Sialkote and Srinagar; and it is also requested to know the stages between the two stations; it is further necessary to ascertain the number of stages that have been made by you in this respect. A detailed information on the subject may please be intimated. 1st February 1866.” [Copyist’s note: The booklet’s text puts 1867, which is not possible.]

This despatch only proposed the opening of a seasonal post office in Srinagar. Maharaja Sahib Bahadur in a return despatch replied as follows—a translation of the despatch drafted in Persian:

“With compliments etc. Whereas the Agent and other European gentlemen in summer go to Srinagar, the Agent may be entrusted with the work of forwarding letter posts towards British territory. As regards a statement showing distance and stages from Sialkot to Srinagar together with chaukis of harkaras, etc., as desired, I have to say that Dewan Jawala Sahai will wait on you in two or three days and give a verbal reply to the above. 8th phāgan 1922.” [Copyist’s note: i.e., 17 February 1866, or 16 days after the sending of the original letter above.]

No records exist as to when the dewan proceeded to Lahore to discuss the matter personally. There is every probability that the said dewan went to Lahore and came to some agreement, as a consequence of which an Imperial Post Office was opened early in samvat 1924 [March 1867]. The copy of the agreement under which the Post Office was opened can not be traced; but from the system adopted at the time it seems that the Maharaja took the responsibility of all the expenditure of postal arrangements in Kashmir, and the income accruing from letters and parcels despatched or received by the Government Post Office was to be credited to the State. In accordance with the agreement (not available), the rules guiding the payment of postage were published in the Punjab Gazette Notification No. 673, dated 16 March 1867. [Ed. note: These are reproduced on the Rules page, link on front screen.]

§9. The Post Office opened by the Punjab Government was for some time a seasonal office. A special mail line was established via Baramula, Kohala and Murree. All papers and letters belonging to officials of all classes on the line began also to be received by mail. An extra establishment was created for this line also, 43 stages were made, and 86 harkaras at Rs5 chilki were appointed. [In addition were appointed] three darogas at Rs7, and four chalan navis [at the following four stations:] Baramula at Rs10, Hatian at Rs10, Muzafarabad at Rs15, and Kohala at Rs15. [Copyist’s note: the sum of these give a total expenditure of Rs501 per month, while the original reports a total of only Rs415, a sum that precisely accrues if the harkaras were paid only 4 rupees.] Or Rs259-6-0 Imperial. The mail used to reach Murree in 72 hours from Srinagar. Letters received from British territory were taxed through postmen appointed by the Government and the amount realized in cash was deposited weekly in the State Post Office, Srinagar. Stamps of the State were to be affixed on letters meant to go outside the State territories in addition to British stamps. In this way a double payment was to be made for letters sent outside the State.

§10. In S1925 [1868-69] the impression and formation of stamps was changed. It has already been mentioned that different colours were used for different denominations and all these were separately impressed with hand-made seals. Improvements were introduced now and the red colour was used for stamps of all value. From the opening of the Government Post Office till S1925 a ¼a stamp was not made. But Europeans at the time of need were cutting the ½a stamp into two equal parts to make use of it. But in S1925 stamps worth ¼a were also printed. [Copyist’s note: Much odd in this paragraph? The bisection of the Kashmir ½a ultramarine is known in S1934 ~ 1877.]

A parcel branch was also established in Srinagar and Jammu only, and after some time parcels began to be carried to Gilgit and Skardu also. Parcels were charged at the rate of 8as per 40 tolas and for every addition of 40 tolas or portion thereof another 4as were charged. These rates were fixed for any place in the State; but extra charges were made on the addressee or the sender, if these were to be sent outside the State territories. No printed forms were used. The receipts were given in handwriting.

§11. We find, as mentioned above, that a postal line of harkaras from Jammu to Lahore was opened by the State for State purposes only. It was observed in the Punjab by British authorities that besides the letters for State purposes, other letters belonging to traders and private individuals were running with the mail. The Postmaster-General objected to this system. On this the Government of the Punjab requested the Maharaja to disallow all private letters to run in this mail, which was reserved for State purposes only. The Punjab Government also suggested that all such letters could easily be posted at nearby post offices. A translation of the Government’s despatch is as follows:

“In a letter received by the Punjab Government from the Postmaster-General, Punjab, it is requested that the mail which was run by harkaras from Jammu to Lahore should consist of only those papers which are sealed under State service or which serve any State purpose. As regards letters which belong to private persons or which belong to traders, arrangements may be made to post these at the nearest post office belonging to the Government; no such private letter should be despatched or received in the State Mail. 13 August 1869.”

The Maharaja wrote in reply the following in Persian:

“I am in receipt of your letter saying that instead of the system of posts between our territories and the English, under which letters, etc., of traders are are being carried, in future only letters addressed to me and my servants should be transmitted by that mail; and public business letters will be sent to the post office belonging to the English which may be nearest to the frontier. Orders have accordingly been issued; and I hope that in future not a single business letter or correspondence from the public with the exception of State servants who are on State duty in the British territory will come by the said posts; that they will be confined to frontier post offices as mentioned by you. 7th bhādon 1926.” [~ 21 August 1869.]

§12. There were no post offices except at Jammu, Srinagar, Astore, and Muzafarabad. There were only postal clerks called chalan navises at Ramban, Banihal, Anantnag, Verinag, Baramula, Hatian, and Kohala. The duty of a chalan navis was to see the mail run regularly. It was also his duty to record the time of the mail passing by, so that at the time of investigation of any delay or any other occurrence, necessary evidence could be gathered and action taken accordingly. These clerks delivered and received letters sent in a separate and extra bag meant for that purpose, and this bag was opened at every mail station. In 1872, two more Post Offices were opened at Skardu and Ladākh because a European named Mr. Forsyth with some other Englishmen went to travel to Yarkand through Ladākh. As a consequence of this an extra establishment was created to give effect to all the arrangments. It cost the State Rs321. In summer usually 120 hours brought the mails from Ladākh, but in winter it was difficult to be punctual as at times runners were detained by snow for more than two months at one place. The mail meant for the British Post Office passed Murree; letters meant for Ladākh and Jammu were sent through State mail. The State vakil at Sialkot was responsible for handing over the mail at the Post Office at Sialkot in a good condition. Complaints began to arise when sometimes the bags were not found intact. To remove this difficulty the Government of the Punjab, in a despatch dated 21 December 1874 to the Maharaja, requested him to depute a clerk solely for this purpose to Sialkot. The clerk on duty was bound to get a receipt from the postmaster at Sialkot for all papers. The proposal was agreed to by the Maharaja Sahib and it was carried into effect. The Government of the Punjab was accordingly informed of the action in a despatch dated 26 assūj 1931 [~ 10 August 1874].

§13. There was no Superintendent to supervise all the postal arrangements effected so far. The Postmaster, Srinagar, was the supervising head of all the post offices in Kashmir, as it was at Jammu. In 1875, Babu (afterwards Colonal) Devi Din was appointed Superintendent of the Post Office. He had worked as a postal clerk somewhere in the British territories. He introduced printed forms and chalans as were prevalent in British India. Now printed receipts were issued instead of manuscript receipts. No improvements were made in the account books. In order to cancel the stamps, a quadrangular seal was made for Jammu and another for Kashmir:

[Copyist’s note: The author’s strange illustrations of the Jammu and Kashmir seals are presumably those shown above, the Jammu 12-bar obliterator, known from the spring of 1879 to 1891, and the obliterator portion of the Kashmir duplex, known from 1879 to 1887.]

Late in S1933 [early 1877] the Government of India requested the Maharaja Sahib Bahadur to transfer the Government Mail line from the Baramula-Murree side to the Banihal-Jammu side. The Maharaja could not comply with the request on the ground that arrangements were already complete and it would, therefore, be a cause of great trouble and inconvenience to effect the change in such a short time. In S1934 [December 1877] the Government of the Punjab repeated the request to the Maharaja in a despatch, a translation of [part of] which is given below:

“...Before this some correspondence has been held in connection with the despatch of Government mail via Banihal, and the Postmaster-General is of the opinion that by making this arrangement the mail can reach Sinagar from Simla one day earlier. It seems necessary to send the mail via Banihal; during his stay at Simla this summer the Lieutenant-Governor, Punjab, desires to remain in direct touch with the Europeans who are on special duty in Kashmir. And in view of the necessary and immediate correspondence of the Foreign Office, arrangements should be made unless there are any special reasons to the contrary. Last year Your Highness was addressed in the matter but the request was made very late in the year [late S1933, early 1877] when arrangements had been made and change in the route would have been a cause of great inconvenience. It will be very easy to make arrangements this year as matters have been brought to Your Highness’ notice earlier. The Government will very anxiously wait for an early and favourable reply. 28th December 1877.”

The Maharaja’s despatch in reply was sent on 10 phāgan 1934 [~ 20 February 1878. Copyist’s note: The text reads S1933, which makes no sense in the light of the preceding and the following.] The translation of the Persian is:

“...I have already addressed you regarding the system of mails from Srinagar via Banihal to Jammu which would prevent delay that occurred between Simla and Srinagar. I am also in receipt of your despatch, dated the 28th December 1877, on the subject of the sojourn at Simla of His Honour the Lt.-Governor of the Punjab in the coming summer, and also that it is necessary that all promptitude should be observed in forwarding communications between the officers on special duty in Kashmir and the Foreign Department, His Honour reminds the darbar of the necessity of arranging the forwarding of dāk via Jammu, provided of course there be no special objection. I understand such necessity of officers. But as certain difficulties are expected to be experienced in the carriage of sealed bags intact, and in view of some trouble caused in this direction by the Postmaster of Sialkot last year, I agree that the postal communications from officers on special duty and on Government service would be carried in bags sealed or locked with the dāk of the State via Jammu and Banihal. All other dāk, including letters, parcels, etc., of other visitors to Kashmir should, as usual, be carried via Murree, etc.”

Despatch dated 10 March 1878 from the Government of the Punjab to the Maharaja of Kashmir, translated from Persian:

“[... to acknowledge that] the mail be sent in a closed bag with the State mail through Banihal for European Officers on special duty. All other letters and parcels for European travellers may be sent via Murree. The matter has been submitted to the Lt.-Governor. All necessary arrangements, therefore, may please be made regarding the enforcing of this system. We also have passed necessary orders in this connection. 10 March 1878.”

From this correspondence, it is evident that Maharaja Sahib Bahadur did not agree to the proposal of the Punjab Government, nor did he press the matter, as no correspondence on the subject is available. But some private correspondence seems to have been held on the subject and we find that from the spring of 1878 the Government mail began to run entirely via Banihal, Jammu and Sialkot instead of Baramulla, Kohala and Murree. The mail service line was retained up to Kohala and the rest of the establishment was reduced. A reduction in the number of stages was also made from 43 to 21. In order to increase the running speed of the mails, carriages were substituted for harkaras from Sialkot to Jammu and three men were appointed at Jammu and three at Sialkot to accompany the carriages.

[Copyist’s note: §§14-16, pertaining to the development of the State telegraph system, are omitted. The portion concludes with the 19 articles of the treaty entered into on 1 January 1890 leading to the administration of the State Post and Telegraph Department being handed over to the Government of India. These have been reproduced on the Rules page on the front screen.]

§17. The term of the above agreement entered into by the State with the Government of India seems to have been extended under circumstances which are not traceable. Circumstances are different now and the whole control is with the Government of India. In 1894, a subsequent agreement had been reached by which the control was transferred to the Government of India for a period of 25 years and the State was given in lieu [British] postage stamps to the extent of Rs10,000 annually, recently raised to Rs20,000 annually. The term expired in 1919 and the question of revision or extension of the present arrangement is under corresondence between the darbar and the Government of India.

A Plea. The above has given us a clue as to the arrangements made for communication by the Governors appointed during the Sikh Raj in Kashmir. Arrangements were made, as troublous times sorely demanded them. It was difficult to know if one would be alive the next moment in those times under a despotic monarchy. These arrangements were subsequently extended by the first Dogra ruler, Maharaja Gulab Singh. He did not live long enough to see his son and successor Maharaja Ranbir Singh bequeath to us an inestimable legacy. Maharaja Ranbir Singh was a model Hindu prince. He was much devoted to his religion and was very tolerant. He improved his State by introducing many useful institutions in Kashmir. He extended postal communication to a point that could not be improved upon without machinery. From the despatch of 18 June 1866 we find that the Government of the Punjab (very humbly) requested the Maharaja to proffer help in improving the condition of the post offices here. A subsequent despatch was a further request to open a seasonal post office in Srinagar for the convenience of European and English visitors. The Maharaja complied with the constant requests of the British Government and kept up friendly relations with them as his distinguished father had done before. At length, the Maharaja permitted the opening of a seasonal post office at Srinagar, but refused to change the route for the running of the mails. But [at the behest] of the Foreign Office at Simla and on account of the temporary sojourn at Simla by the Lt.-Governor of the Punjab it was necessary to bring about a change in the route of running the mails via Banihal instead of Baramula.

Improvements were made at every step to provide facilities for the people. But the Imperialists were anxiously waiting to bring in change and the sudden demise of the Maharaja brought also a change in the administration. The ambitious policy of the British Government has been stated by Seeley in his Expansion of England:

“Lord Dalhousie in particular stands out in history as a Ruler of the type of Frederick the Great, and did deeds which are almost as difficult to justify as the seizure of Silesia or the partition of Poland. But these acts, if crimes, are crimes of the same order as those of Frederick, crames of ambition.”

“In pursuance of the restless and ambitious policy,” says Mr R.C. Dutt, “Lord Landsdowne took some action in regard to the State of Kashmir which created alarm in India and brought on a discussion in the House of Commons.” In 1885 a Resident was appointed in Kashmir on the accession of Maharaja Pratap Singh, a Mr Plowdon, who was appointed Resident the following year and assumed an authority ‘over affairs which alarmed even the Foreign Office of India’. Mr William Digby in his “Condemned Unheard” (London 1890) quotes a letter dated May 1888 from the Foreign Secretary to Lord Dufferin:

“I do not agree with Mr Plowdon. He is too much inclined to set aside Kashmir in all ways. If we annex Gilgit or put an end to the suzerainty of Kashmir over the petty principality of the neighbourhood and above all if we put British troops in Kashmir just now, we shall run the risk of turning the Durbar against us and thereby increase the difficulty of the position. If we have a quiet and judicious officer at Gilgit who will get the Kashmir forces in thorough order and abstain from unnecessary exercise of influence, we shall, I hope, in a short time have the whole thing in our own hands without hurting anyone’s feelings.”

Mr Ramesh Dutt, in his Economic History of India in the Victorian Age, writes:

“Lord Dufferin was a cautious statesman. Plowden was transferred from Kashmir in 1888 and in the same year Lord Dufferin himself left India. His successor Lord Landsdowne acting with less tact and wisdom. Early in 1889 the Viceroy of India deprived the ruler of Kashmir of all powers and placed the administration in the hands of a Council to act under the advice of the British Resident. The reasons which led to this measure as stated by Lord Landsowne himself were these: (a) Unfavourable reports about the administration; (b) disorder in the finances; (c) neglect to carry out reforms; (d) treasonable letters alleged to have been written by the Maharaja; (e) offer of the Maharaja to abdicate. The first three charges were of a general nature and had no special application to the short time that Maharaja Pratap Singh had been on the throne. His State was annually visited by hundreds of Englishmen and they spoke of no oppression and no misery among the people. There was worse distress in the British Province of Madras and Orissa, in the very year when the letter was written. The fourth charge was never proved and never relied on. Lord Landsdowne wrote to the Secretary of State that ‘we are not disposed to attach any excessive importance to these letters.’ And the Under-secretary for India said in the House of Commons in 1889 April, ‘the Government of India attach very little importance to the intercepted letters.’ The letters were never proved and were probably forged by the Maharaja’s enemies. The fifth charge was based on a letter written by the Maharaja to his brother under some pressure and was not abdivation. The action of Lord Landsdowne was therefore unaccountable. There was alarm in India and the impression gained ground that the Viceroy desired to virtually annex Kashmir in pursuance of his Gilgit policy. Mr Bradlaugh, MP, who had at that time took a keen interest in Indian affairs gave expression to this alarm. He moved an adjournment of the House on July 3rd 1890 and brought on a debate on the subject. The motion for adjournment was lost but the debate stayed the hands of the Indian Government. Maharaja Pratap Singh has since been restored to power and has ruled in peace. No charge of misgovernment or of treason has been brought against him.”

In the meanwhile great events had happened in British India and in England. The policy was changing and [...line illegible] Maharaja Pratap Singh was restored to full powers again. But the postal administration continued to remain the hands of the British. The policy adopted by the British Government seems to have been followed by ambitious men. Truly speaking, if the administration remained in the hands of the State entirely, more more improvement could have been possible: “The restoration of Mysore to the old family and a selection of a new and worthy ruler of Baroda are among the wisest, as they are the most generous, political acts of British ministers in relation to India. And no part of India is better governed today than these States ruled by their own Princes.”

Since the Reform Bill of 1919 administration is now entirely in the hands of the Maharaja. He is a king de facto. The British Resident does not directly interfere in the State affairs. The ‘doctrine of lapse’ and the annexation policy are only dead letters now. The time has come when the country can be ably governed and improved. Re-organization has been going on for the last two or three years, and though it has not succeeded in bringing about any substantial change it is never too late to mend. The post and telegraph administration can be taken into its own hands by the State and ably administered by Committees under the wise guidance of the Maharaja. Better arrangements for the means of communication can be made and efficiency secured all round.

Appendix A

Ordinary Income, Officials’ Incomes, and Expenditure in Rs of the State post office between the spring of 1879 and the spring of 1893. The State post office was amalgamated with that of British India on 1 November 1894. [Copyist’s note: The given figures for 1949 were summed incorrectly in the original; correction made.]

   Year AD   Year Samvat  Ordinary  OfficialTotalExpenditure


By Tarakanth Sanyal, MA, retired senior professor of English at P.W. College, Jammu. Dated 29 November 1925: This paper written by Pandit Jia Lal, a young Kashmiri graduate of the Panjab University, purports to give in brief a description of the early efforts of the Kashmir State in opening up the channels of communication in its wide and hardly accessible territories and thus introducing the germ of civilization in co-operation with the British Government. The frontier of Kashmir politically is so important that such a measure had to be taken at the urgency of the British Government. The materials for this essay have been gathered from the old records of the State, and, so far as they go, are trustworthy. It is a piece of research work in the right direction. I doubt not that it would interest some people in the Punjab. It would also give an impulse to such work among the young graduates of this province, and thus promote a higher culture than that which is generally imparted in Indian Colleges. I, therefore, bid the writer God-speed.

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