The gullible National Conference workers believe that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi scolded Hari Singh and his Maharani Tara Devi for their repressive rule in Kashmir when he called on them in their palace on August 3, 1947. According to them, he called the Treaty of Amritsar a Bikri Patr (Sale Deed). They further believe that the great Indian leader refused a cup of milk offered by the royal family.
However, there is no evidence to corroborate this. Gandhi was on a mission in Kashmir. How could he afford to annoy Maharaja at that crucial juncture of history?
Noted columnist, AG Noorani wrote in Frontline March 28 April 10, 2009, "Asaf Ali's performance as defence counsel in the Sheikh's trial for sedition was splendid. He rested his case on the people's right to demand freedom from a ruler whose title to rule was derived from what Mahatma Gandhi aptly called a 'sale-deed', the Treaty of Amritsar (1846) by which the Dogra Gulab Singh bought Kashmir for Rs.75 lakh."
While a columnist of Noorani's repute cannot be easily refuted, he too has not quoted the source of this information. As mentioned above Gandhi met Hari Singh and Tara Devi separately when nobody was around. Who, therefore, reported that Gandhi had uttered the word Bikri Pater (Sale Deed). And who reported Gandhi's disapproval of Dogra atrocities on Kashmir? Hari Singh's son Karan Singh who had his fractured leg cast in plaster writes in his autobiography Heir Apparent that Gandhi refused to eat fruit offered to him. "I do not eat at this point of time. Keep the fruits in my car. I will eat them later," he told the royal family. He accepted the fruits offered by a tyrant ruler!
Gandhi had to be polite because he was seeking a favour. Now what was that favour? Sher-e-Kashmir was released on September 29, 1947. Hari Singh sought a written apology which was readily given. The historical document has been published in Sardar Patel's papers.
The Times, London, October 25th 1947 wrote: "What exactly did Gandhi tell the Maharaja? We will never know, but the chain of events that followed his visit is an indicator of what must have happened. After his visit, the Prime Minister of Kashmir, Ram Chandar Kak, who had no inclination towards India was replaced by Janak Singh and then by the Indian loyalist, Mehr Chand Mahajan. The British officers in the Kashmir Army and Police were dismissed including the Inspector General of Police and the Chief of the General Staff. Orders for construction of a bridge over the Ravi River, near Pathankot, to allow connectivity between India and Jammu and Kashmir were issued. The road between Jammu and Kathua was improved and a telegraph line was constructed between Jammu and the valley. This was all possible because of assistance from India."
Gandhi's visit, therefore, changed the course of Kashmir history. He did what other leaders including Nehru and Lord Mountbatten could not do. He got Kashmir for India. No one actually knows what transpired between Maharaja and Gandhi ji during that meeting in Hari Niwas. He was fully aware of the strategic importance of Kashmir and the role Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah could play to throw Kashmir into the Indian basket.
On his way back, Gandhi said in Wah (where Sushila was asked to stay to help the refugees) that Kashmir had the biggest strategic value perhaps in whole of India. On the contrary, Gandhi scolded Begum Abdullah for a lavish tea party at her Soura residence.
"Mahtama, If sheikh Sahib had been out of prison, he would have arranged a grand party. I and my children shall be happy if you take this cup of tea with us," the Begum said.
"This is not good. Why have you purchased so many eatables for this Tea party? How much can an old man consume? I do not like this at all. You need to save money," he replied.
Now, for the sake of National Conference workers if it is accepted that Gandhi did express his displeasure over atrocities in Kashmir during the aforementioned meeting, how would he react to the reign of terror unleashed at the people of Kashmir today? In Dogra rule, Kashmiris were taken for bonded labour. Nothing has changed now. The armed forces take Kashmiris for bonded labour even now and also use them as human shield during encounters with the militants. Pellet guns have wreaked havoc across Kashmir since the past one month. Around 150 persons will never see the `beautiful' world again. Hari Singh believed in supermacy of judiciary, the present `democratic' dispensation does not. The past twenty-five years have claimed hundred thousand lives. People have been killed after arrest and also subjected to enforced disappearance. Women have been molested and raped. What would Gandhi call the Instrument of Accession (if its validity is accepted for the sake of arguments)?
But then India always had an army of crisis managers in Kashmir. They would come forward to his rescue.