Dhami Satyagraha 1939: A Popular Regional Movement in H.P

The historical period spanning from 1857 to 1947 in the annals of Himachal Pradesh was characterized by a series of Regional Movements and Freedom Movements. These movements were orchestrated by both rulers and ordinary citizens of the region, united in their collective resistance against the oppressive policies of the British colonial regime.

The British became the supreme power after defeating local rulers in the 1857 Revolt. This event sparked various smaller movements in the hill states, with local farmers taking the lead.

Popular Regional Movement

Dhami Satyagraha and Firing Case 1939

The Dhami firing incident, a dark chapter in Himachal Pradesh's history, holds great significance. Dhami, a small princely state ruled by Rana Dalip Singh in 1939, gained national attention due to this incident. It revolved around the freedom struggle and governance issues. An investigation committee was subsequently formed to probe the matter.

Princely State : Dhami

In the Shimla Hills' princely states, the Dhami princely state stood apart, not falling under the jurisdiction of any other state. The king of Dhami, a descendant of Prithvi Raj Chauhan of Delhi, reigned over an area covering 70 square kilometers. The capital of this state was Halog, and it was during the rule of King Dalip Singh, from 1908 to 1987, that Dhami attained its grandeur and fame. Subsequently, Raja Pratap Singh took the throne, ruling from 1987 to 2008.

Prelude to the Movement

In 1937, the establishment of Prem Pracharini Sabha Dhami, under the leadership of Sita Ram, marked a pivotal moment in history. Then, on the 13th of July, 1939, the organization underwent a transformation and was rebranded as the 'Dhami Riyasati Praja Mandal.' This transformation marked the commencement of the Dhami Satyagrah, a significant movement that extended over time, marked by a persistent resistance against the oppressive policies enforced by Rana.

Praja Mandal

During the period of princely states in India, the Praja Mandal movement emerged as a response to the corruption of the princes and the unjust British rule. The movement was essentially a social and political organization that originated in various hill states such as Chamba, Mandi, Bilaspur, Jubbal, Sirmaur, Bushahr, and Kunihar. The Praja Mandals aimed to achieve democratic, economic, and social reforms, as well as overall development of the area. These peoples' movements later became significant mass struggles. The mandals organized public meetings, refused to pay taxes to unjust rulers, advocated for the abolition of begging, and worked to combat injustice.

The Conference of 1939

On the 13th of July, 1939, a significant conference took place in Kasumpti, Shimla, under the chairmanship of Bhagmal Sautha, the secretary of the Himalaya Riyasati Praja Mandal. During this gathering, the Prem Pracharini Sabha underwent a transformation and was rebranded as the Dhami Praja Mandal. Pandit Sita Ram assumed the role of President, and he presented a charter of demands to Rana Dilip Singh, the Raja of Dhami.

The Demands Included:

  • Granting civil liberties to the people.
  • Abolishing begar or forced labor.
  • Reducing land revenue by 50% to alleviate the burden on farmers.
  • Acknowledging the Dhami Riyasati Praja Mandal.
  • Establishing a responsible government within the state.
  • Removing restrictions imposed on people exiled from the state.
  • Restoring all confiscated property to legitimate heirs.

Unheeded Demands

Despite presenting their demands, there was no response from Raja Dilip Singh, prompting a commission of members from the Himalayan Praja Mandal and Dhami Praja Mandal, led by Bhagmal Sautha, to submit a charter of administrative reforms. Unfortunately, their efforts did not result in any substantial changes.

The Tragic Turn

The Dhami Satyagraha took a tragic turn when three prominent leaders—Bhagmal Sautha, Mansa Ram, and Dharam Das—were arrested. In response, their supporters marched to Rana Dilip Singh's palace. In a panic, the Rana ordered open firing, resulting in numerous serious injuries. Regrettably, Durga Das and Uma Dutt lost their lives on the spot, marking the first firing tragedy in Himachal Pradesh.

ALSO READ ABOUT: Battle Of Nadaun

A Call for Investigation

Following the Dhami shootout, a delegation led by Raj Kumari Amrik Kaur, Sita Ram, and Bhaskar Nand engaged with Gandhi and Nehru. Their involvement drew the attention of national leaders towards this hilly state.

The Dhami Goli incident was an unprecedented event that took place in the mountainous region and was denounced by Gandhi and Nehru. This led to the formation of an investigative committee, which was appointed by the Indian National Congress and chaired by Punjab's renowned lawyer, Duni Chand. The incident garnered nationwide condemnation and was recognized by Mahatma Gandhi as a serious issue. The committee was tasked with thoroughly investigating the entire scandal. However, Raja Dhami and the British government collaborated to quell the movement by arresting Prajamandal activists, seizing their assets, and exiling them, which further fueled public discontent throughout the state. In response, the king summoned a contingent of the British Army to Dhami, the administrative center of the princely state. This draconian response also led to the sealing of Prajamandal and Swarajis' residences. The settlement scandal in 1941 became a pivotal revolt against British rule within the same series of events.

In conclusion, the Dhami Satyagraha and Firing Case of 1939 represents a significant chapter in the history of Himachal Pradesh's struggle against British colonial rule. This regional movement, led by the Dhami Riyasati Praja Mandal, sought to address various socio-political and economic injustices that plagued the region during the era of princely states. The Dhami Satyagraha and Firing Case, along with the related events in the region, demonstrated the resilience and determination of the people of Himachal Pradesh in their quest for justice, freedom, and self-governance.

Today, the historical significance of this movement continues to be remembered and commemorated as an important chapter in the annals of Himachal Pradesh's fight for freedom and justice.

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