Chamba Agitation and Dhami Tragedy
- The first agitation against the ‘unjust revenue collection system‘ and ‘Begar‘ was made by the people of ‘Bhattiyat Wazzirat‘ in 1896. However, government suppressed it with heavy hands and cowed down the people for almost four decades.
- For a long, they continued suffering silently and finally in 1922, state subjects working in Lahore urged the Raja to set up a representative advisory council, working as a link between government and the governed to deal effectively with the problem of mal-administration. Chamba Agitation
- A few persons exiled from Chamba state organized “The Chamba People’s Defence League” with its headquarters at Lahore in 1932. The League highlighted the issues of monarchical regime, irresponsible administration, exorbitant taxes and restrictions that were imposed on the economic and civil liberties of the peasants.
- In March 1936 ‘Chamba Sewak Sangh‘ (CSS) provide assistance to the devastating fire victims in Chamba city. It was patronized by the State and some of the state employees also became its members.
- However, soon afterwards, it emerged as the vanguard the people’s movement and highlighted the issue of ‘Begar’, favoured the ‘sons of the soil’ to the posts in the state; the separation of judiciary from executive, permission for only legally qualified pleaders to practice in all the state courts, improvement of the means of communication and increased medical facilities and nepotism indulged by the Dewan of the State. (Chamba Agitation)
- As a result of such activities, ‘Sangh‘ was banned in Chamba and authorities started using freely the means of repression.
- On this Chamaba Sewak Sangh (CSS) shifted its centre of activities to Dalhousie. A number of articles were published on the Chamba State’s condition in The Kesari’, the Inquilab’, ‘the National Congress’, ‘the Ghadar’, ‘the Paigaime Sulah’, the Ahsaan’, ‘the Eastern Times’, ‘the Tooth’, ‘the Sunrise’, ‘the Tribune’, the Outlook’, ‘the Daily Heralad’, etc.
- After some time, ‘Chamba Riyasti Praja Mandal’ was organized and it sent a delegation comprising Sarvshri Vidya Sagar, Vidhya Dhar, Gulam Rasool and Prithi Chand to attend the AISPC session held at Ludhiana. For a few years, the repressive measures, such as censorship of the ‘dak’ (post) and screening the people entering the state, did not allow the Praja Mandal to strike its roots inside the state.
- Towards the end of 1944, the state authorities revoked the ‘Registration of societies Act’, under which Chamba Riyasti Praja Mandal (CRPM) was banned and as such, it shifted its headquarters to Chamba town in 1944 and when the Himalayan Hill States Regional council was organized in 1946, its representative participated in its deliberation. (Chamba Agitation)
- The leading lights of CRPM were Sarvshri Jaswant Rai, Daulat Ram, Vidya Sagar, Vidhya Dhar Negi etc. Another association, namely CHAMBA STATE PEOPLE’S FEDERATION was organized in 1947.
- Finally, Chamba was merged with Indian Union on 15th April 1948 and became a part of Chief Commissioner Province, named Himachal Pradesh.
Dhami Tragedy (1939)
- Dhami a small principality ruled by a ‘Rana’, lay some sixteen miles west of Shimla and six miles from Jutogh. The people of this tiny state had numerous grievances against the ruler, and they demanded, abolition of ‘Begar‘, reduction of land revenue by fifty percent recognition of Riyasati Praja mandal’, ‘Dhami’ and the ‘grant of civil liberties’. (Dhami Tragedy)
- Aware of the denial of civil liberties in their state, they, in the first instance, decided to concentrate on carrying out certain social and religious reforms. In 1937, a ‘Prem Pracharini Sabha, Dhami State‘ was organized. It converted itself into ‘Dhami Riyasati Mandal‘ on the 13th July 1939.
- The Dhami Praja Mandal led by Shri Sita Ram put forward three main demands before Rana Dalip Singh of Dhami. These three demands were:
(a) Abolition of Begar;
(b) Reduction in land revenue
(c) Recognition to the Dhami Praja Madal (Dhami Tragedy)
(d) Restoration of civil liberties
(e) Removal of bar imposed on the activities of the people
(f) Restoration of confiscated property of Prem Pracharni members and
(g) Establishment of democratic government with responsible executives.
The Rana rejected these demands outrightly.
- ‘Bhag Mal Sautha‘ led a delegation of seven members and proceed towards Dhami to present the charter of demands by hand to the Rana on 16th July, 1939. A crowd of about 1500 joined them near the border of the Chamba.
- At a place called ‘Ghanahatti’, Bhag Mal Sautha was arrested and the Congress flag carried by him was snatched away and burnt. Hardly they had gone to safe distance, police started lathi charge, and bullets upon the peaceful crowd without any warning. (Dhami Tragedy)
- Two persons were killed and number of others were injured. Now people started demanding an independent enquiry into the Dhami firing. But the Rana did not pay any heed. Letters were also written to Shri M.K. Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru by the people.
- A deputation comprising Sarvshri Sita Ram. K.S. Sautha, Bhaskara Nand and Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur also met Gandhiji. Gandhiji and Nehru both did not approve of the demand of the Praja Mandal, for setting up a responsible government in so small a state, at so short a notice. (Dhami Tragedy)
- Gandhiji, however, felt that the firing was uncalled for and that it was the duty of the paramount power to deprive the chiefs of the states powers of which they did not make judicious use.
- ‘Shri Shanti Swarup Dhawan‘ was sent by Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru to present on the spot report. He met the Rana and the people of the state. Later on, a nonofficial enquiry committee was set up on 30th July 1939 headed by ‘Lala Duni Chand Ambalvi’ and its two members were Shri Dev Suman (Tehri-Garhwal) and Shri Shyam Lal Khanna (President, Shimla District Congress Committee).
- The Committee presented its report to Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru with following suggestions: (Dhami Tragedy)
(a) Firing incident should be inquired by a judge of the High Court.
(b) Punishment involved in the unprovoked firing, and
(C) Civil administration improvement.
- Whatever were the other results of Dhami Firing tragedy, it can’t be denied that it exposed the deplorable state of affairs not only in Dhami but in other small Hill States too and this incident occupies an important place in the growth of political consciousness in the Hill states. (Dhami Tragedy)
- It gave a great boost to freedom struggle movement in the Hills. Thereafter, the public movement gathered further momentum in these Hill States.
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