Kunihar (princely state) is a valley situated between the mountains in the Solan district, which is also known as "Hatkot" and "Choti Vilayat." Kunihar a small valley, surrounded by a small river (translated as Kuni Khudd) in shape of garland (translated as Har) so he named it "Kunihar" during his visit.
Kanshiram: A forgotten freedom fighter by Shriniwas Joshi
When Thomas Gray wrote, “Full many a gem of purest ray serene, / The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear / Full many a flower is born to blush unseen / And waste its sweetness on the desert air”, he, probably, was writing for men like Kanshiram of princely state of Kunihar who fought for the freedom of the people from the bondage of the Rana (prince), but remained bereft of recognition by the state though people doted on him.
Now, Narendra Arun (Rana Herdev Son) has brought out a book on the life of Babu Kanshiram and his struggle against the Rana of Kunihar.
Kanshiram was born at Namol village of Kunihar princely state in January 1874 from the second wife of Hazari Lal. There was no school there, therefore, Kanshiram had to go to Shimla to complete his upper primary school education from Church Mission School. That was the end of his education, but Kunihar was proud of him as he was the most qualified person there at that time. He had a good command of the English language.
How did he come from Kunihar to Shimla to settle here?
When settlement operations of land were going on in Kunihar during 1922-23, Ran Singh and Jog Raj, the blue-eyed boys of Rana Hardev Singh (1917-1964), distributed cultivable land to their favourites, mostly undeserving persons; and fallows to deserving farmers. Kanshiram raised his voice against the injustice and was supported by his wife, Shiv Devi, daughter of Ram Dayal of Khanol village. When Rana did not pay any heed to the peaceful but the strong voices, the agitation took bolder shape. It swelled from hearth to hearth under the leadership of Kanshiram. Shiv Devi buoyed up her husband (see photo). The Rana wanted to crush the agitation with might. Kanshiram was arrested, handcuffed and fettered and was compelled to face court-sittings at night. Shiv Devi was also summoned often. Ravindra Thakur, grandson of the freedom fighter, said Shiv Devi had confessed that the wife of Rana Hardev Singh, Laladi Kumari (Saaj Rani), was caring and sympathetic towards the cause for which Kanshiram was fighting and used to clandestinely send food for him in the prison. The landlords of Kunihar wrote a letter to the Deputy Commissioner-cum-Superintendent of the Hill States on December 31, 1924, an extract of which is: “During the settlement operations, certain irregularities affecting our rights of ownership of land were noticed and we submitted our objections for the same on March 5, 1923, personally as well as through our spokesperson Babu Kanshiram”.
To this, C King, the then political assistant commissioner, said the superintendent of the Hill States did not recognise Kanshiram as their spokesperson. They felt defrauded and a petition signed by 19 landlords was sent stating that Kanshiram was their spokesperson. The petition was accepted. At Kunihar, the Rana could feel the wind flowing differently and so decided to banish Kanshiram from the state. He gave him options either to go to Ambala Central Jail or to settle in Shimla with a promise of never to return to Kunihar. He went for the second option so that he could fight from Shimla for the cause of freedom for the people of Kunihar. The Rana asked him to come to Danav Dev temple near the ‘Talab’ in Kunihar at dawn and there in the presence of the ‘Devta’, Kanshiram was forced to take pledge of never to return to Kunihar and leave for Shimla that very moment. He left instantly, but continued his agitation against Rana from Shimla, while keeping his promise of not going back to his beloved village. Hard of hearing by 1947, he could read from a slate that India was Independent. Soon after, he died in peace and cremated near Bihar village in Shimla.
“Ah! Not for idle hatred, not for honour, fame, nor self applause, But for the glory of the cause, you did, what will not be forgot”. — Arthur Clough