- A creation of the Hindi Dogra dynasty and of the British government of India, Kashmir comprises three separate regions of the Valley of Kashmir, predominantly Muslim and Kashmiri-speaking, Jammu; predominantly Hindu-speaking Dogri; and Ladakh, populated mostly by Ladakhi-speaking Buddhists. They existed as separate states, although Kashmir became part of the empire of Ranjit Singh (1780–1839) of the Punjab. After the death of Ranjit Singh, the Sikhs became weakened and after a series of wars, the British took over the Punjab. On March 16, 1846, with the signing of the Treaty of Amritsar, Kashmir was sold by the British to the Dogra chief, Gulab Sigh of Jammu (1792–1857), and he entered Srinagar on November 9, 1846.Kashmir became a state with an overwhelming majority of Muslim citizens governed by a Hindu maharaja who ruled it as an independent state with regard to internal affairs because the British did not appoint a resident to exercise greater political control until 1884. With the Sikh population in the Punjab still hostile and with strained relations with Afghanistan, Kashmir was seen as a frontline state and a valuable ally. With a border shared with Tibet, Chinese Turkistan, Russian Turkistan, and Afghanistan, it was a strategic territory. In addition, the British hoped to share in the trade with Central Asia. When Russia captured Tashkent in 1865, and Samarkand and Bukhara in 1868, there was a recrudescence of the Great Game in which the British once again become obsessed for the safety of India and the fear of a Russian invasion of India through Afghanistan. During the viceroyalty of Lord Lytton (1876–1880), Britain adopted a “forward policy,” which determined to establish the defensive line for India on the northern heights of the Hindu Kush. Kashmir again became a frontline state. It was not until 1895 that the British and the Russians agreed to the international border between Russia and Afghanistan.Gulab Singh was survived by his only surviving son Ranbir Sigh (1856–1885) who offered military and financial support to the British during the Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the state of Kashmir as a refuge, especially to British women. Pratap Singh (1885–1925) and Hari Singh (1925–1947) succeeded Ranbir. Hari Singh acceded to India rather than Pakistan in spite of the fact that Kashmir was more than 75 percent Muslim and in some areas, more than 90 percent.See also <
>; < >; < >.FURTHER READING:Huttenback, Robert A. Kashmir and the British Raj, 1847–1947. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004;Lawrence, James. Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India. New York: St. Martin’s, 1997.ROGER D. LONG
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.