Nehru and Kashmir

Nehru and Kashmir

BJP overlooks Nehru''s efforts!

Amit Shah of the BJP, this Wednesday, in line with his party tradition, accused Pt. Nehru of making a wrong decision on Kashmir in 1947, which cost India a part of Kashmir. The whole premise of his argument is as if Kashmir was by default, part of India and Nehru went to the UN ‘to improve his personal image’ by making it a dispute. Amit Shah & his party is turning a blind eye on Nehru’s efforts on Kashmir. If there is a part of J&K with India, it’s because of Nehru. I accuse him of that but that’s a different argument. Let’s just talk about Nehru’s endeavors to secure Kashmir for India.

Kashmir’s historiography on this issue leaves little doubt about the fact that Hari Singh wished to stay independent or at least flirted with the idea. Had that not been the case, he should have decided to join either of the two dominions well before August 14th, like other princely states. Had he acceded to Pakistan, India wouldn’t have got time to sabotage it and had he acceded to India, Pakistan didn’t even exist to interfere. The fact that he let go off straight forward options, proves he was either indecisive or wanted to stay independent. Pakistan did not worry about Kashmir, since it was a ‘blank cheque’ in its pocket, in the words of Jinnah. On the contrary, Nehru’s anxiety about Kashmir’s inclusion in India didn’t let him rest, especially the fact that Hari Singh did not like Indian National Congress. Therefore, he decided to come to Kashmir to secure the release of Sheikh Abdullah, who was serving a 3-year jail-term for ‘Quit Kashmir movement’, from 1946.

It’s interesting to learn that the importance of Sheikh Abdullah in Nehru’s eyes vis-à-vis Kashmir’s accession to India. However, Lord Mountbatten, the Viceroy of India, objected to his visit and instead offered himself for the job. He came to Kashmir on June 18, 1947 for a 4-day trip. Hari Singh avoided him to the extent that no proper discussion could take place. At one instance, he even complained of Colic to cancel the meeting. This failed trip was followed by another trip of Mountbatten’s chief of staff Lord Hastlings Ismay, which again failed to make sure that he doesn’t declare independence.

Nehru got infuriated with the outcome and even wrote to Mountbatten, complaining that his endeavors did not bear any results. Unnerved by the impending independence of British India and its division into two states, he once again wanted to go himself, only to be stopped by Sardar Patel this time. He, instead, considered MK Gandhi to be ‘lesser of the two evils’ to go to Kashmir. Campbell Johnson in ‘Mission with Mountbatten’ comments on this anxiety as follows:

“Both Nehru and Gandhi have been very anxious that the Maharaja of Kashmir should make no declaration of independence.”

Gandhi came to Kashmir ending July and met Hari Singh on August 1st, (13 days prior to Pakistan’s Independence Day). Although, what transpired in that meeting was not known, but the fact that Father of his Nation, who had never got time to visit Kashmir earlier, left Delhi at such a crucial juncture, to see Hari Singh and influence him about accession, is quite axiomatic. In fact, London Times later reported this on October 25 as follows:

“The Union of India has been taking a lively interest in the subject and indications are that the Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir, Sir Hari Singh, has lately been much influenced by representations made by Gandhi who visited Kashmir three months ago and by other congress leaders.”

Now, if this perception could travel to England, it would’ve been stronger and palpable much earlier in Pakistan. Interestingly, consequences of Gandhi-Singh meet began to send all the wrong signals to Muslim League. Hari Singh was finally influenced and a joint plot began to show results. Just 9 days after this meeting, on August 10, Prime Minister of Kashmir Ram Chander Kak who had no penchant for India, was dismissed and Janak Singh was brought in, who was later replaced by Pro-India Mehr Chand Mahajan.

On August 12, identical telegrams were sent by the Prime Minister of Kashmir to Dominions of India and Pakistan to enter a Standstill Agreement, which would have maintained Kashmir’s independence, until a final decision was taken. Pakistan signed it but Nehru’s India refused, making its intentions clear. India’s refusal jolted Pakistan. The main objective of India fructified on September 29, when Nehru’s friend-Sheikh Abdullah was released only after 16 months, even though he was serving a 3-year prison term.

Just after 2 days, on October 2, Abdullah addressed a rally in Hazuribagh saying, “Till the last drop of my blood, I will not believe in Two-nation theory.” The next day, on October 3, 1947, NC working committee met under the presidency of Abdullah and decided to support accession with India, while people’s sentiments could be gauged by the fact that they had smashed windowpanes of Gandhi in Baramulla to protest his visit.

Even Jagmohan in his book ‘My Frozen turbulence in Kashmir’ (pg.83) mentions these two events (replacement of RC Kak & release of Abdullah) and even adds that road link between Jammu and Pathankot was strengthened, a scheme to construct boat bridge over river ‘Ravi’, but says he doesn’t see anything wrong in it. Also, a Telegraph line was initiated between Jammu and Valley.

Then, under the influence of Nehru’s confidante -Mountbatten, the chairman of the boundary commission Sir Cyril Radcliffe awarded the only Muslim majority district-Gurdaspur to India, which was India’s only road link with Kashmir. The British author, Alastair Lamb, points to the presence of Patiala troops (Indian forces) in Kashmir, well before October 22; and I was amazed to see Jagmohan in his book not denying this, by justifying it saying “Maharajah in Kashmir was not precluded from obtaining troops from wherever he liked’’.(Pg 821) This is why it could be believed that Pakistan facilitated the tribals and volunteers, to invade Kashmir, although some historians like Devi Das opine that Government of Pakistan was unaware, saying stress circumstances were created for Hari Singh by India and tribal-raid was engineered. Nevertheless, most historians agree that Pakistan was involved since it couldn’t send its regular troops, having signed the stand-still agreement. When Indian forces secured valley from the tribals, Nehru brought UN into the scene to cement his grip on valley and he hoped Pakistan to be declared as an aggressor there. He wanted to take Kashmir with International will, leaving no argument for Pakistan. However, when the UN passed resolutions on Kashmiri self-determination, he changed the tone and let the issue linger. He backtracked from his promises. And today, to see his country bash him to let off a part of J&K, instead of lauding him to secure major pie of it, is quite interesting.