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How Kashmiri Pandit community acquired control over huge tracts of land in Valley

An extract from 'Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects', by Mridu Rai, Associate Professor of History at Yale University:

The chakdari system became an important mechanism for the Kashmiri Pandit community to acquire control over extensive tracts of land in the valley. Although chaks were allotted under strict and elaborate conditions, most of these were regularly violated by their Pandit beneficiaries. When lands fell fallow temporarily during the Kashmir famine of 1877-9, Pandits took over substantial tracts of them claiming that they constituted uncultivated waste. Numerous Kashmiri Muslim cultivators who had left the valley for Punjab, to escape the devastation of those years, found upon their return that they had been ousted from lands they had cultivated over generations. 
Chakdaris, at the inception of the system, were granted through pattas (deed of grants/assignments) issued directly by the durbar, as a means of establishing and extending the latter's authority over powerful political allies. However, this formality gradually lapsed and diwans (revenue ministers) and wazir wazarats in Kashmir made such grants under their own authority.97 These officials tended to be Kashmiri Pandits and so schemed with their co-religionists in the consolidation of large landed estates in the valley. The condition about not using extant cultivators, instituted to ensure a true increase of cultivation, was also consistently disregarded. Evidence suggests that the rates owed to the state were not paid either, since most Pandits held land in 'excess of what they pa[id] for'. And while some fallow land was indeed brought under cultivation, the Kashmiri Pandits also included substantial portions of already cultivated lands, ousting old cultivators to 'destroy any proof of prior farming.
The Pandits devised numerous ingenious strategies for an almost 'annual' accretion of lands to their chaks. The help of the local tehsildar was frequently summoned by the chakdar for the acquisition of cultivated lands adjoining his assignment. Common machinations included the threat of raising the revenue demand or instigating imaginary boundary disputes to compel cultivators to abandon their lands, which were then 'legitimately' transferred to a chakdari. The moment the durbar announced the desirability of resettling these 'waste or semi-waste villages . . . by leasing them out on easy terms', the Pandit revenue officials 'would have possession of a valuable patronage'. The assessment was low since it was made on the land considered waste, and the 'cultivators . . . waiting in surrounding villages' would be allowed to come back on terms favourable to the chakdar. The Kashmiri Pandit thereby made large profits vis-à-vis both the state and the cultivators.
In his preliminary report on settlement operations, Wingate attributed too much naivete to the Dogra durbar. Undoubtedly the state would not have wished to be defrauded of its revenues. However, it seems highly unlikely that the Kashmir durbar was such a helpless victim of Kashmiri Pandit officialdom.100 In creating chaks hanudi and mukarraris assigned mostly to Hindus in the valley, the Dogras were quite clearly seeking to provide Kashmiri Pandits with a stake in supporting their rule. They abdicated voluntarily the supervision of the actual working of these grants in favour of the Pandit-dominated revenue department. A rap was administered on knuckles only in instances of the situation spinning out of control, or when the British raised questions about the 'rights' of cultivators being trampled too palpably (as they did via Wingate and Lawrence).
By Wingate's own admission, at the time of his visit to Kashmir 'a suspicion of the truth' about the misappropriation of cultivated land by chakdars had arisen in the durbar circles as a result of which chaks had become progressively more difficult to obtain. It is remarkable that despite these misgivings that should have made the durbar more vigilant, Pandit officials were still able to transfer lands to themselves with astonishing ease and impunity. Some of the stratagems employed were too artless to constitute acts of concealment but appear instead to be gestures of merely keeping up appearances. In some instances cultivators were coerced into acknowledging the fictitious assertions by Pandits that certain villages had been the ancestral property of the latter. As much as the claims, the deeds recording them were also manufactured and asserted that 'somehow possession was lost, but the villagers unanimously recognise[d] him [the Pandit in question] as proprietor'.101 Not only were forged deeds not unknown to the Dogra regime, but the rulers were also certainly capable of, and in other contexts had been self-interestedly diligent in,102 investigating records of land grants. That they did not do so is either explained by their gullibility or by their deliberate decision to turn a blind eye. Wingate's proposal that both applied at the same time is untenable. The Dogra rulers provided too many loopholes for the Kashmiri Pandits to exploit for this not to be part of a conscious policy aimed at winning support for their exercises of legitimation. Recording another 'very simple method' of obtaining control over revenue, Wingate suggested that the Trakiyat or land improvement department was instituted in Kashmir to 'work waste lands that nobody would take up by means of hired labour'. He proposed further that 'it was most useful in conferring the management of small estates upon numerous needy pundits' since 'any bit of land could be transferred to this convenient department and made over to a friend to cultivate'.
However, when the Trakiyat had become 'too notorious', Wingate also admitted that it was abolished.
This was not a government run by an oblivious dupe but one which knew when and to whom its sovereign rights of revenue collection could and should be devolved. The governor of Kashmir at the time of Wingate's survey was fully conscious that cultivators sold and mortgaged their rights fairly regularly. However the position he adopted was that since the 'durbar [wa]s the only owner [of land], it d[id] not matter if people [did] buy and sell their land.'104 The Kashmiri Pandits, in turn, were well aware of the correct form to be observed. 'However possession [of revenues] was got', Wingate observed, 'great ingenuity and co-operation we[re] displayed [by the Pandits] in building up a title. To please the durbar and allay any apprehension every official glibly agree[d] that the land belong[ed] to His Highness.'105 Though cognizant of Kashmiri Pandits contravening the principle that all land in Kashmir belonged to the ruler, the durbar was equally conscious that any attempt at 'dispossessing' them would result in large expanses of revenue-paying lands falling out of cultivation. Many of the original cultivators had disappeared and others would be too intimidated by the Pandit officials to take them over.106 In this manner, some of the richest lands of the valley were acquired by the Pandits through sale and mortgage and, undoubtedly, with the conscious acquiescence of the Dogra durbar.
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