By Syed Mustafa Ahmad
It can be called as an irony of fate that a Kashmiri community is unaware of its history. Those people who did everything to settle their lives for the sake of Kashmir, are lost in the haze of history. Among them is Robert Thorp. Zahir-Ud-Din in his book” Flashback” says, “ Early in the morning on November 2, 1868, a body was recovered from Srinagar. The deceased was later identified as Robert Thorp. Poisoning, the people believed, was the cause of death. Thorp was laid to rest at Sheikh Bagh Christian graveyard. It took the locals some time to realize that with the death of Thorp, a strong voice had fallen silent. Kashmiris lost their saviour. The epitaph reads: “Obit- Robert Thorp-Veritas-He gave his life for Kashmir”.
Who was Robert Thorp? Robert Thorp, a young British Army officer, arrived in Kashmir as a tourist in 1865. Thorp’s mother, Jana was a Kashmiri and lived with her family at Sugen Yarinar in Budgam district. Robert Thorp’s father, E-Thorp, was an officer in the British Army and would come to Jana’s village very often. He fell in love with her when she was herding her buffaloes. Jana belonged to an orthodox Muslim family and Thorp knew the affair would not mature into a long-lasting relationship unless he embraced Islam. Jana’s relative, Habibullah Tell was a soldier in the British Army. Thorp approached Teli. He consented to their marriage. Jana’s descendants, who still live in the village, say Thorp embraced Islam and the marriage was solemnized near a rock in the village. Jana was taken to England by her husband.
After some time, Robert Thorp was born. Robert Thorp had heard stories about Kashmir’s beauty and the suffering of its people from his mother Jana. He was desperate to visit Kashmir. In 1865, Thorp visited Kashmir. Foreigners required permission of the British authorities to enter Kashmir. They could not stay in the valley for more than two months at that time. 27 year old Thorp stayed longer to study the appalling condition of the people of his mother’s birthplace. Why was Thorp murdered? Thorp was shocked to see the miserable plight of the people in his mother’s birth place. He raised his voice at a time when there was total sanction on information reaching the Government of India. Thorp took it on himself to inform and educate the British people about the situation in Kashmir by writing to the British press without caring for consequences. Thorp felt the British were responsible for the plight of Kashmiris, as it was they who had sold it to the Maharaja Gulab Singh, under the “The Treaty of Amritsar”. Thorp pleased before the Government to release Kashmiris from the wretched conditions, oppression and misery. He believed that public opinion was paramount to influence the Government to do what was needed. Thorp travelled to the nooks and corners of the Valley, collecting information about the plight of the people and thoroughly investigating the facts. He later on published a book entitled” Kashmir Misgovernment” and dedicated it to the people who, according to him” do not approve of cruelties upon human beings and to those who are exalted from the moral, religious and social point of view and do not like oppression”. Thorp pleaded that the British were the first nation, which led the way for the abolition of slavery. When resistance was shown by one Sheikh Imam-Ud-Din, the British forced Sheikh to obey the new Sovereign of Kashmir or consider himself as an enemy of British power. Sheikh yielded and Gulab Singh’s troops were permitted to occupy Srinagar without any resistance. Thorp pleaded that British had committed a want on outrage and injustice by handing over Kashmir to the unjust Maharaja. He pleaded to the British Government to establish the facts as he had done by laborious investigation in Kashmir itself. However, trouble came upon Thorp and he was ordered to leave Kashmir. Undeterred, Thorp returned to Srinagar on November 21, 1868 and next morning after his breakfast he died, possibly because of poisoning. Thorp was found dead on the Suleman Taing Hill.”
In this way, a hero sacrificed his life for the miserable condition of Kashmiris. Robert Thorp will be remembered forever. May his soul rest in peace!
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