Kashmir & Jinnah-jagmohanSurprisingly, there is no mention of the Kashmir problem in Jaswant Singh’s book, Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence, though this problem throws light on Jinnah’s mind and motivation, his well-crafted approach and his over-powering ambition to attain his objective even if it involved loss of innocent lives.
A couple of years before Partition, Jinnah had formulated his strategy with regard to the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the summer of 1944, he visited it, ostensibly for rest. But his real purpose was to establish contact with the two principal political outfits of the state — the National Conference, headed by Sheikh Abdullah, and the Muslim Conference, headed by Chowdhry Ghulam Abbas. He accepted invitations for receptions in his honour from both.
At the reception given by the National Conference, Sheikh Abdullah as well as Jinnah indulged in what may be called an “exercise in ambivalence”. But at the reception held by the Muslim Conference, Jinnah came out openly in its favour. He said: “The Muslims have one platform, one ‘Kalma’ and one God. I would request them to come under the banner of the Muslim Conference and fight for their rights”.
Jinnah also presided over the annual session of the Muslim Conference. In his address, he described Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference as a “band of gangsters”. Later, when this outfit launched its “Quit Kashmir” movement against the Maharaja, Jinnah labelled it “an agitation carried on by a few malcontents who were out to create disorderly conditions in the state”.
Jinnah urged the Muslims of the state to rally under the leadership of Chowdhry Ghulam Abbas and his Muslim Conference. This must have convinced Sheikh Abdullah that his political future would be bleak if Kashmir joined Pakistan. In his autobiography, Atish-e-Chinar, Sheikh has himself acknowledged the hostility which Jinnah displayed towards him: “At that time, Jinnah was intoxicated by power. He thought it beneath his dignity to talk to a poor and resourceless nation. When this equation of power went against him, he woke up in panic from his dream. But by this time, the snake had passed; only its line remained”.
At the time the Indian Independence Act was passed, the political stage of Kashmir was crowded with a variety of actors. The National Conference dominated the Valley but had a limited influence in Jammu and Ladakh. It had developed close rapport with the leaders of the Indian National Congress, particularly Jawaharlal Nehru. Then there was the Muslim Conference which had been gaining ground after Jinnah’s visit to the state. The Maharaja was yet another force. The relations between him on one hand and Sheikh Abdullah and Pandit Nehru on the other were marked by mutual distrust and dislike.
All these actors were soon to play their part in the first act of the tragic Kashmir drama. The Maharaja was indecisive. Jinnah was impatient. Pandit Nehru was caught between his idealism and the stark realities of the situation. Sheikh Abdullah, with streaks of megalomania embedded deep in the layers of his mind, was nursing the ambitions to carve out a virtual “Sheikhdom” for himself and his coterie.
Each one of these actors was pushed on the stage with illusions of his own importance and believed that the drama would end the way they desired. Consequently there was confusion and inconsistency. Mistakes were made and Kashmir soon found itself in the whirlpool of national and international controversy.
The first grave mistake was when Maharaja Hari Singh flirted with the idea of independence. Later Lord Mountbatten recalled: “The only trouble that could have been raised was by non-accession to either side, and this, unfortunately, was the very course followed by the Maharaja”.
Jinnah and his advisers, however, lost no time in working out a plan to secure possession of the state through subterfuge, subversion and infiltration. While on paper a “stand-still agreement”, operative from August 15, 1947, was executed by Pakistan with Jammu and Kashmir, in practice economic blockade was brought about, causing acute scarcity of essential commodities in the state.
On October 16, 1947 Dawn reported: “The Kashmir government is disintegrating. It has already suffered a loss of Rs 2 crores out of its total budget of Rs 4 crores. The tremendous inflation in the prices of necessities has created a feeling of feverish restlessness amongst the masses.”
Earlier, Jinnah had sent his private secretary to Kashmir to build an environment favourable to Pakistan. According to M.C. Mahajan, the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, “Communal-minded persons and Muslim divines were worked up and asked to request the Maharaja to give accession of the state to Pakistan”. According to the Tribune’s report of October 23, “West Punjab and Frontier Pakistani crusaders, masquerading as pleasure seekers, had poured into the Valley and, besides carrying on subtle poisonous propaganda, were organising ‘stabbers and fire-raiser’ squads. Menacingly, Jinnah caps were visible everywhere”.
Around the same time, military skirmishes all along the border were manipulated to disperse state forces, the total strength of which was only nine infantry battalions and two mountain batteries. From October 22, large-scale infiltration of armed tribesmen began.
They pillaged, plundered, raped and killed with impunity. Muzaffarabad and Baramulla soon fell to them. The latter was ruthlessly devastated. Of about 14,000 inhabitants, only 3,000 are believed to have survived. Jinnah did not utter a single word of condemnation against such beastly atrocities.
When, on October 27, Jinnah learnt that Jammu and Kashmir had acceded to India and the Indian forces had landed in Srinagar, he realised that his plan could not be executed with the smoothness he had earlier visualised. Flabbergasted, he ordered General Gracey to march into Kashmir with Pakistani troops. But General Gracey expressed his inability to carry out the orders without the approval of General Auchinlek, the supreme commander. Auchinlek told Jinnah that in case of a war between the two dominions, all British officers would have to be first withdrawn.
Jinnah was left with no option but to cancel his orders. He asked for a meeting with Nehru and Mountbatten at Lahore. Being ill, Nehru could not go to Lahore on November 1, where the two Governor-Generals met. During the course of discussions, Jinnah proposed withdrawal of all forces — the Indian Army and the tribal invaders. When asked how anyone could guarantee that the latter would be withdrawn, Jinnah, according to Alan Campbell Johnson, the press adviser of Mountbatten, replied: “If you do this, I will call the whole thing off”. Unwittingly, he gave out that the entire invasion had been engineered by him.
* Jagmohan is a former governor of J&K and former Union minister