Kashmir Dispute – The Myth
History vindicated Maharaja Hari Singh’s Stand
By Dr. M.K. Teng
Neither the composition of the population of the Princely States nor the self-determination of their peoples was recognised by the British, the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress, as the determining factor of the future disposition for the states in respect of their accession.
After the 3 June Declaration, envisaging the partition of the British India, Nehru demanded the right of the people of the Princely States to determine their disposition in respect of their accession Mohammad Ali Jinnah rejected Nehru’s demand as an attempt to thwart the process of the partition. Shortly, before the transfer of power, the Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten advised the Princess to keep in consideration the geography and the composition of the population of the States in reaching a decision on their accession. Mountbatten proposed to the Muslim League as well as the Congress to accept the principles of the partition–geographical contiguity and the composition of the population as the criteria of their accession. While the Congress leaders indicated their inclination to accept the proposals, the Muslim League leadership reacted sharply against the proposals and characterised them as an attempt to interfere with the rights of the Princes to determine the future of the States. At that time the Muslim League was deeply involved in shadowy maneuvers to support the Muslim rulers of several major States to remain out of India and align with Pakistan. It has been pointed out in an earlier part of this paper that Pakistan invoked the partition to legitimize its claim to Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the Muslim majority character of its population after the last two Muslim ruled States of Junagarh and Hyderabad were integrated with India.
There is enough historical evidence available, which reveals that in persuading the Congress leaders to accept the partition the British assured the Congress leaders that after the Muslim majority provinces and regions were separated to form the Muslim homeland of Pakistan, the unity of the rest of India, including the states would be preserved and not impaired any further.
The Indian leaders rejected the claim Pakistan made to the Muslim majority States as well as the Muslim ruled States, but they dithered when the time to act and unite the States with India arrived. Instead of taking active measures to bring about the unification of the States with India, they resorted to subterfuge..
The Indian leaders turned to Mountbatten and not the people of the States to bring about their integration with India. Mountbatten steered the States Department to accept a balance between the Muslim ruled States and the Muslim majority States. The largest of the Muslim ruled States were deep inside the Indian mainland. Neither Gandhi nor Nehru objected to the course, the Indian States Department followed.
The Viceroy did not forgive Hari Snigh for having disregarded his advice to come to terms with Pakistan. He refused stubbornly to deal with Jammu and Kashmir independent of the Muslim States and in the long run did more harm to Jammu and Kashmir than anybody else in India did. He was the main proponent of the policy of isolation, the Indian leaders followed towards Jammu and Kashmir. The way Mountbatten acted as the Governor General of India till 15 August 1947, and the way he acted as the Governor General of the Indian Dominion after 15 August 1947, left wide space open for Pakistan to claim a separate freedom for the Muslim of Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the Muslim majority character of its population. Not many months after the Security Council adopted its first resolution on Jammu and Kashmir in August 1948, the Muslims laid claim to a separate freedom for them on the basis of the Muslim majority character of the population.
The Government of India and the Indian political leadership failed to rebut the claim made by Pakistan and the Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir that the state was on the agenda of the partition of India. Not only that, the Government of India and the Indian political leadership failed to refute the claim made by the Muslims of the state to a separate freedom, different from the freedom that the Indian people were ensured by the Constitution of India – a separate freedom which was determined by the theological imperatives of Islam. The Indian leaders overlooked the fact that the conflict which led to the partition of India was rooted in the claim the Indian Muslims made to a separate freedom which drew its sanction from the precept and precedent of religion.
The Muslim League followed a meticulously designed plan to use the Muslim rulers of several major Princely States, situated deep inside the Indian mainland to bring about the fragmentation of India. The Indian leaders walked into the trap when they tried to balance the accession the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir with the accession of the Hindu majority States ruled by the Muslim Nawabs like Bhopal, Hyderabad and Junagarh. The strategy to refer the issue of the accession to the people of these States tantamounted to the acceptance of the Muslim claim to a separate freedom, the Two-Nation theory envisaged. The Indian proposals to Pakistan to refer the accession of Junagarh with that Dominion, accomplished by the ruler of the State on the eve of the transfer of power, was a tame recognition of the Muslim claim to a separate freedom. When Pakistan made a counter-proposal to hold a plebiscite in all the three States, the Government of India was suddenly faced with a catastrophic choice. It promptly rejected the proposals made by Pakistan.
The Indian Government, for unknown reasons, separated its offer to refer the accession of the State to its people i.e. the Muslims for their endorsement. Why did not the Indian Government propose to refer the accession of Bhopal and Trancore to the Dominion of India, to the people of the two States? The rulers of both the States were opposed to join India and their people took to the streets and forced them to accede to India. Hardly ten months after the accession of the Jammu and Kashmir while the Indian armies were still fighting to drive out the invading forces, United Nations foisted a resolution on India which envisaged a plebiscite to determine its final disposition in respect of its accession. The resolution of the Security Council, virtually underlined the repudiation of the accession of the State to India and opened the option for the Muslims of the State to exercise their choice to join Pakistan. The Security Council Resolution was the first step in the process of the internationalization of the claim of the Muslims of the State to a separate freedom. The Government of India cried hoarse that it had rejected the Two-Nation Theory inspite of having accepted the partition of India. But its commitment to refer the accession of the State, accomplished by Hari Singh to its people was a tacit recognition of the right to a separate freedom, which underlined the demand for Pakistan.
Another ten months after the August resolution of the Security Council was adopted the Indian Government took a fateful step and formally recognised the right the Muslims for Jammu and Kashmir to a separate freedom, when in May 1949, it agreed to exclude Jammu and Kashmir from the constitutional organisation of India. In November 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India incorporated provisions in the Constitution of India which left out the State from the constitutional structure which it had evolved for the Dominion as well as the Princely States which had acceded to India and after years of labour. The special provisions for the State, embodied in the Constitution of India, stipulated the application of only Article if the Constitution of India to the State. A blanket limitation was imposed upon the application of the rest of the provisions of the Constitution of India to the State. The Union Government was empowered to exercise powers listed in the Central list of the Seventh Schedule of the India Constitution only in respect of defence, foreign affairs and communications which corresponded with the powers delegated by the State to the Dominion Government by virtue of the Instrument of Accession.
The Interim Government of the State, constituted by the National Conference insisted upon the right to frame a separate constitution for the State, which fulfilled the aspirations of the Muslims who constituted a majority of its population. The Interim Government arrogated to itself unrestricted powers and ruled the State by decree and ordinance. Within six years of its tenure, it completed the task of the Muslimisation of the State by enforcing the precedence of Islam and the Muslim majority in its social, economic and political organisation. In 1953, the Interim Government claimed a separate freedom for the Muslim ‘nation’ of Kashmir. The Indian leaders had conceded to the Muslims the right to constitute a Muslim State of Jammu and Kashmir on the territories of India. Confronted by the demand for a Muslim State outside the territories of India, the Indian leaders were flustered. They refused to countenance the Muslim demand for a separate Muslim State of Jammu and Kashmir, which did not form a part of India. The Interim Government was dismissed and the National Conference broke up.
Pakistan, the Muslim separatist and pro-Pakistan Muslim flanks joined by a large section of the leaders and cadres of the National Conference, called for a plebiscite in the State, which enabled the Muslims to exercise their right of self-determination. They claimed that they had acquired in consequence of the partition of India and which India, Pakistan as well as the United Nations had explicitly recognised.
The Muslim separatist movement led by the Plebiscite Front, committed itself to an ideological framework which was based upon the distortions of the history of the partition of India. The ideological commitments of the Plebiscite Front underlined : (a) that the right of the Muslims to a separate freedom enmated from the partition of India and the creation of the Muslim homeland of Pakistan; (b) that the right of the Muslims to a separate freedom transcended the accession of the State to India, brought about by the ruler of the State; and (c) that as a consequence of the partition of India, the Muslims, constituting the majority of the population of the State, had acquired an irreversible right to exercise their option to join the Muslim State of Pakistan.
In 1990, the Muslim Jehad initiated by Pakistan and the Muslim separatist forces in the State, claimed their aims to be the unification of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan on the basis of the Muslim majority character of its population to complete the agenda of the partition of India. The Jehad claimed that Muslims of the State, as the Muslims elsewhere in India, had acquired a right to a separate freedom which the Muslim struggle for Pakistan had secured the Muslim nation of India.
The Indian Government and the Indian political class must realise that the Muslims of the State did not acquire any right to separate freedom from the partition of India, which brought Pakistan into being and any attempts to arrive at a compromise with the Muslim separatists forces will lead straight to a second partition of India. The Muslim claim to a separate freedom on the basis of religious is a negation of the unity of India.
Of the many distortions of the history of the transfer of power in India, which form a part of the Kashmir dispute, the most conspicuous is the distortion of the historical facts of the boundary demarcation between the Dominion of India and Pakistan in the province of the Punjab. After the announcement of the partition plan on 3 June, 1947, a Boundary Commission was constituted by the British to demarcate the boundary between the Muslim majority zones and the Hindu-Sikh majority zones in the two provinces of Bengal and the Punjab. The Boundary Commission for the demarcation of the Muslim majority zone in the Punjab was constituted of four Boundary Commissioners, two of them representing the Muslims and two representing Hindus and the Sikhs. Justice Din Mohammad and Justice Mohammad Munir represented the Muslims and Justice Mehar Chand Mahajan and Justice Teja Singh represented the Hindus and the Sikhs respectively. A British lawyer of great repute, Sir Cyril Radcliff was appointed the Chairman of the Commission. Sir Radcliff presided over the Boundary Commission appointed for the demarcation of the boundary in the province of Bengal as well.
The Boundary Commission was charged with the responsibility of demarcating the Muslim majority region of the Punjab from the Hindu-Sikh majority region of the province on the basis of the population and other factors, which were considered to be relevant to the division of the province. Justice Mohammad Munir and Justice Din Mohammad refused to agree upon the criteria to specifically identify the factors other than population ratios. The Muslim Commissioners insisted upon strict adherence to the population proportions as the basis of the division of the province.
Mehar Chand Mahajan and Teja Singh pleaded for a balanced interpretation of the terms of reference of the Boundary Commission and emphasised the need to bring about harmonization between population proportions and the “other factors”, specified in the terms of reference. They felt that the division of the province of the Punjab was bound to affect the lives of millions of people, belonging to various communities living in the province as well as the future of the two Dominions, India and Pakistan. The Commissioners pointed out to the Commission that the population of the Hindus and Sikhs was unevenly distributed over the province of the Punjab. They pointed out that larger sections of the Hindu and Sikh population were concentrated in relatively smaller region of the East Punjab and the imbalance would be reflected in demarcation of Hindu and Sikh majority regions from the Muslim majority regions of the West Punjab. They expressed the fears that the territorial division of the Punjab on the basis of population would earmark a smaller part of the East Punjab, to the Hindu and Sikh Community which would not commenserate with their population in the province. The Hindus and the Sikhs, Mahajan and Teja Singh pointed out to the Commission formed 45 percent of the population of the province and the territorial division of the province on the basis of the population ratios would leave them with less than 30 percent of the territory of the Punjab.
Mahajan and Teja Singh pointed out to the commission that fair distribution of river waters, irrigation headworks and canal system and cultural and religious centres could not be left out of its consideration in the delimitation of the Muslim majority and the Hindu and Sikh majority regions of the province. They emphasized the necessity of keeping in view the geographical contiguity of the demarcated regions, the communications and the viability of the borders of the two Dominions of India and Pakistan. They told the Commission that in the demarcation of the borders between the West Punjab and the East Punjab balance would have to be achieved to ensure a fair and equitable division of the territories of the province between the Muslim community and the Hindu and the Sikh communities.
The most controversial and bitterly contested part of the demarcation for the borders was the division of the Doab, comprising the districts of the Lahore Division. Of the four districts of Lahore Division, the District of Amritsar was a Hindu-Sikh majority district and the district of Gurdaspur was a Muslim majority district with the Muslims having a nominal majority of 0.8 percent. Both Din Mohammad and Mohammad Munir insisted upon the inclusion of the entire Lahore Division in the West Punjab. The Muslim Commissioners were men of great ability and legal acumen and had the advantage of representing the majority community of the Punjab. They knew that the inclusion of the Lahore Division in the West Punjab would be of crucial importance to the future of Pakistan. The inclusion of the Lahore Division in the West Pakistan would ensure the Muslim homeland a larger share of water resources, irrigation headworks and the canal system of the Punjab. It would also close the only communication line; the Jammu-Madhopur fair weather road, which ran between the Jammu and Kashmir State and the Dominion of India. The Muslim League leaders were keen to isolate Jammu and Kashmir and build pressure on the ruler of the State to compel him to come to terms with Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir was not wholly isolated from India and had a contiguous frontier with Kangra and the Punjab Hill States, which had acceded to India. The State Government could construct an alternative communication route to connect the State with India. The construction of an alternative road between the State and the Dominion of India would, however, be an arduous task and take a long time, thus exposing the State to more hardship. Logistically also the construction of an alternative road would pose many problems. The borders between the State and the Indian Union running east of the Pathankot tehsil in Gurdaspur district, through which the Jammu-Madhopur road run, were mountainous and rugged and largely snowbound. The closure of the Jammu-Sialkot road and railway line and the Jhelum Valley road, which linked Srinagar with Rawalpindi had been closed by Pakistan and there was little prospect of their being thrown open for transport after the State joined India. By the time, the Boundary Commission begun its work, Pakistan was left with little doubt about the disinclination for the ruler of the State Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to that country.
Mahajan and Teja Singh pleaded for the inclusion of the Division of Lahore in the East Punjab. The two Commissioners raised fundamental issues with unparalleled eloquence in respect of their claim, which Sir Cyril Radcliffe could not overlook altogether. The issues they raised, included:
i) the distribution of water resources between the East and West Punjab, the location of the irrigation headworks and the canal system;
ii) the continuation of the communication lines in the East Punjab of which the Lahore Division formed Centre;
iii) the demarcation of a viable and defensible border of the India in the Punjab;
iv) the interests of the Sikh Community which had its largest assets in the West Punjab and its main religious and cultural centres in the Division of Lahore;
v) the Indian interest in the road-link between Jammu and Madhopur, arising out of its proximity to Jammu and Kashmir State for the security of that state as well as its future relations with the Indian Dominion.
Both Mahajan and Teja Singh avoided the heavily value-laden discourse of the Congress leaders, in their presentation to the Commission. They marshalled up concrete facts relevant to the demarcation of boundary in the Punjab and elucidated in detail the consequences – geographic, economic, political and strategic, the division of the province was bound to lead to and their impact on the future of the Hindus and Sikhs in the Punjab. Sir Radcliffe was a man of independent outlook, sent down from his country to draw the boundaries of the new Muslim State of Pakistan, which the British had actively connvived in creating. Sir Radcliffe knew little of the cultural configuration of the Punjab, its economic organisation and its history. Not only the Punjab, Sir Radcliffe knew much less of the history and culture and economic and political organisation of Bengal, the other Indian province he was commissioned to divide between the two communities, Hindus and Muslims, on the basis of population proportions.
Mahajan and Teja Singh were genuinely fearful of the future of their communities in the Punjab. The history of the Punjab had been shaped by Hindus and the Sikhs. The Sikhs established a powerful Kingdom in the Punjab, the borders of which extended from Afghanistan to the eastern fringes of Tibet. The Sikh state integrated the Himalayas into the northern frontier of India. The Himalayas, Sanskritised by the Hindus of Kashmir, formed the civilisational frontier of India. The establishment of the Sikh power put an end to the long history of the invasion of India from the north. The division of Punjab was bound to have serious effect on the future of the Sikh community. The Punjab was considered by the Sikhs to be their homeland. The Sikh places of pilgrimage were located in the eastern part of the Punjab, mainly the Division of Lahore. The responsibility of apprising the Boundary Commission of the sociology of the Sikh religion and its moorings in the Hindu civilisation of India, fell upon the Hindu and Sikh Commissioners. Teja Singh, ravaged by the anti-Hindu riots in the Punjab, exhibited great courage and forbearance, in defending the cause of his community.
The Muslim League carried on a strident campaign to build pressure on the Commission to demarcate the boundary between the east and the West Punjab on the basis of the population proportions. The British Governors of the Punjab and the North-East Frontier province along with the British officials posted in the two provinces acted in tandem to influence the Commission.
The Boundary Commission was entrusted with the historic task, of the demarcation of the Indian frontier in the north. Jammu and Kashmir formed the central spur of the warm Himalayan uplands and the new configuration of power created by the emergence of the Muslim state of Pakistan, was bound to effect the security of the Himalayas. There is no evidence to show that the Indian leaders realised the importance of the crucial changes, the emergence of Pakistan, would bring about in the structure of power-relations along northern frontier of India.
The Hindu and Sikh leaders of the Punjab evinced serious interest in the boundary demarcation. Both Mahajan and Teja Singh kept themselves in close touch with the Hindu and Sikh leaders of the Punjab. Among them were Sir Shadi Lal and Bakshi Tek Chand. Both Sir Shadi Lal and Tek Chand were in the confidence of Maharaja Hari Singh. The Indian leaders had warbled notions about the northern frontier of India. They were carried away by the fraternal regard, the Asian conference held in Delhi in 1946, symbolised. The Indian leaders viewed the solidarity of the Asian people and the emergence of the Asian nation from colonial dominance as basis for coexistence and cooperation among the Asian people. Gandhi disclaimed national frontiers. He claimed commitment to vaguely conceived concept of anarchism which formed a part of the intellectual tradition of the early twentieth century.
They had accepted partition of India, but they refused to recognise its political implications. They were unable to comprehend the significance of the demarcation of the boundary between India and Pakistan in the Punjab. Their inability to link the boundary demarcation in the Punjab with the security of the Northern Frontier of India exposed Jammu and Kashmir and the entire Indian frontier, stretching to its east, to foreign aggression.
Another man, whose future was linked with the de marcation of the boundary in the Punjab, was Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. The Jammu-Madhopur fair weather cart-road was the only communication link between the State and India. The two major all weather motorable roads, the Jehlum-Valley Road linking Srinagar with Rawalpindi and the Jammu-Sialkot road ran into the West Punjab. The railway line connecting Jammu with Sialkot also ran into the West Punjab. The border between the State and Kangra and the Punjab Hill States, which had decided to accede to India, was broken by rugged mountainous terrain. An alternate road could be built via Mukerian to connect Jammu with Kangra and via Doda with the Punjab Hill States. Indeed, when Mahajan and Teja Singh pointed out to the Commission the necessity of securing access to Jammu and Kashmir through East Punjab, Mohammad Munir and Din Mohammad suggested the construction of an alternate land route via Mukerian connecting Jammu with Kangra. The Hindu and the Sikh Commissioners realised, as did Hari Singh, the importance of the tehsil of Pathankot to the viability and the defensibility of the borders of India as well the Jammu and Kashmir State.
Sir Shadi Lal and Bakshi Tek Chand kept Hari Singh informed of the boundary demarcation in the Punjab. They were close to Mehar Chand Mahajan and had apprised him of the interest Hari Singh had in the demarcation of the boundary in the Punjab.
Hari Singh was suspicious of Mountbatten, whose mind he knew. He did not trust the Congress leaders. He had received a communication from States Minister, in which the latter had advised him to release the National Conference leaders and come to terms with them. Unsure of the course Sir Radcliffe would follow in respect of his State, he reportedly, conveyed to the British officials, through some of his trusted British friends, his interests in a balance border with the two Dominions of India and Pakistan and the importance of the Jammu-Pathankot road for the security of his State. Reportedly, he conveyed to the British authorities that in case he was not secured the land route between Jammu and Pathankot he would have no other alternative except to depend upon the Dominion of India for the construction of a new transit route, across the eastern borders of the State with Kangra or with any of the Punjab Hill States, which had already acceded to India.
The British were not averse to a balanced border of the State with India and Pakistan, for they were keen to avoid any diplomatic or political lapse which would push the Maharaja into the lap of India. Some of the British officials sincerely believed that Hari Singh would opt for an arrangement in which he was not required to accede to any of the Dominions, if he was guaranteed peace on his frontiers. Ram Chander Kak, out of stratagem or straight devotion to his master, had spared no efforts to assure the British, that Hari Singh pursued a policy, which enabled him to retain his independence, rather than join India which was beset with serious difficulties.
In view of the extremely divergent views and deep disagreement among the Hindu and Sikh Commissioners and the Muslim Commissioners, the Boundary Commission was unable to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on the demarcation of the boundary across the Lahore Division. In accordance with the procedure laid down for the Boundary Commission, in case of disagreement among the Hindu, Sikh and the Muslim representation in the Commission, it was decided by mutual agreement to entrust the task of the demaracation to Sir Radcliffe, the Chairman of the Boundary Commission. The Commissioners, representing the Hindus and the Sikh as well as the Muslims agreed that the arbitral award made by Sir Radcliffe would be binding on them.
History had cast a unique responsibility on Sir Radcliffe, to lay down the future boundaries of the nation of India, which was on the threshold of freedom from centuries of slavery as well as describe the future boundaries of an independent Muslim state in India. The Congress leaders, were perhaps, oblivious of the elemental change the creation of Pakistan would bring into the civilisational boundaries of India and the far-reaching effect the establishment of a Muslim power in India, would have on its northern frontiers. Jammu and Kashmir formed the central spur of the great Himalayan uplands poised as the State was, it stood as a sentinel for any eastward expansion of any power from the west as well as the north.
Pakistan was, however, keenly conscious of the strategic importance of Jammu and Kashmir. But the Government of Pakistan was unable to judge the ability of Maharaja Hari Singh to defeat their designs. Hari Singh played a historic role in persuading Sir Radcliffe to accept that his State could not be completely isolated from the Indian Dominion.
The Muslim League leaders did not trust Hari Singh. They spared no efforts to convince the British officials in the Government of India about the necessity to ensure that the Boundary Commission did not deviate from the principle of the population proportions. The Muslim League leaders were keen to acquire the Ravi Headworks at Madhopur isolate the district of Amritsar and seal the existing road-link connecting Jammu and Kashmir with India. The League leaders sent Chowdhary Mohammad Ali to convey to the British officials in the Indian Government their concern about the future of the Lahore Division. Mohammad Ali met, Lord Ismay, the Political Advisor to the Viceroy to convey to Mountbatten the anxiety of the Muslim League leaders about any deviation from the principle of population-proportions the Boundary Commission may resort to in the demarcation of the boundary in the Punjab. Ismay told Mohammad Ali that the Boundary Commission was an independent body of which the functions were determined by its terms of reference, and the Government of India had no role in its function. Many years later, research in Pakistan revealed that during his meeting with Lord Ismay, Mohammad Ali showed the Political Advisor a sketch map of the demarcation of the boundary between east and west Punjab which was not strictly based upon the principle of population-proportions. Ismay, reportedly expressed dissatisfaction with it.
The award of the Boundary Commission was announced on 18 of August 1947, three days after the transfer of power in India. Sir Radcliffe left India the same day. The districts of Amritsar and Gurdaspur were included in the East Punjab, whereas the districts of Lahore and Sheikhopora were included in the West Punjab. The entire Muslim League leadership flared upon in anger against the inclusion of Gurdaspur in the East Punjab and blamed Sir Radcliffe of connivance in a craftily devised plan to give India access to Jammu and Kashmir and provide the Indian state the strategic ground to grab the State. Communal riots flared up in Lahore and spread to the whole of the Punjab.
Sir Radcliffe followed uniform standards in the delimitation of the boundary between India and Pakistan in Bengal as well as the Punjab. Evidently, he did not overlook the consideration of other factors, specifically mentioned in the terms of reference of the Boundary Commission in the delimitation of the boundary between the East and the West Punjab. He did take into consideration the nominal majority, the Muslims enjoyed over the Hindus and the Sikhs in Gurdaspur. The Tehsil of Pathankote in the Gurdaspur district had a distinct Hindu majority and it could not have been included in the West Punjab by any stretch of imagination. Sir Radcliffe had not followed the district boundaries as the basis of delimitation of the boundaries elsewhere in the Punjab. Besides, the Ravi irrigation headworks were located in Pathankot and they could not have been excluded from the East Punjab, to ensure a just and equitable distribution of water resources in the Punjab between India and Pakistan. undoubtedly, Sir Radcliffe did not overlook the necessity of providing a balanced border to the Jammu and Kashmir State, for which Mahajan and Teja Singh had spiritedly pleaded. The security of the Jammu and Kashmir State, which constituted the central spur of the northern frontier of India and which was crucial to the security of the Himalays, could not be left out the consideration of the Boundary Commission. The division of the Punjab was a part of the partition of India and the demarcation of the boundary between India and Pakistan could not be undertaken in isolation from its effects on the Indian States. The delimitation of the boundary in the Punjab around the Bahawalpur State, was undertaken with due consideration of its future affiliations. Bahawalpur joined Pakistan,.
Sir Radcliffe recognised the inclusion of the district of Gurdaspur in the East Punjab as a strategic requirement of the security of the northern frontier of India, including the frontier of India in the Punjab. He accepted in his report that the inclusion of Gurdaspur in the East Punjab was necessary for the security of the district of Amritsar, which would otherwise he surrounded by Pakistan. Perhaps, Radcliffe was aware of the security of the northern Frontier of India, in which the British were more interested than the Congress leaders, who had warbled notions about the security of the Himalayas. Unlike the other officials of the Government of India, Radcliffe was free of the trappings, the British officials of the Indian Civil Service were strapped to. He did not visualise the partition of India as the British officials of the Indian Government did, and he was guided by his own judgement. He refused to recognise the claim to the geographical expression of the Muslim nation of Pakistan, the way the British officials of the Indian Government did. He had little regard for their colonial concerns or Jinnah’s notions of the ascendance of the Muslims power in India.
An important consideration which Sir Radcliffe had in mind in dividing the Lahore Division was the future of the Sikh Community, which was bound to be adversely affected by the partition of the Punjab. The land and the assets owned by the Sikhs were largely situated in the west Punjab but a larger section of their population lived in the East Punjab. Besides, their main religious centres and most sacred shrines, including the Durbar Saheb, were located in the Lahore Division. The division of the Punjab was bound to uproot them from the West Pakistan and deprive them of their land and assets. The claim laid by the Muslims to the whole of Lahore Division, would divest them of their sacred places and shrines. Lahore was the seat of the Sikh empire of the Punjab, which had changed the course of the history of India. The demarcation of the boundary of the East Punjab was therefore, crucial to the survival and future of the Sikh community. Both Mahajan and Teja Singh emphasised upon the need to consider the interests of the Sikh community in the demarcation of the boundary in the Punjab.
The inclusion of Gurdaspur in the East Punjab mitigated, though only partially, the rigours of the division of the Punjab. The delimitation of the boundary in the Punjab, Sir Radcliffe undertook, gave the Muslims, who constituted 55 percent of the population of the Province, 65 percent of its territory. The Hindus and the Sikhs who constituted 45 percent of the population got only 35 percent of the territory of the Punjab. The Muslim League leaders had no reason to grumble. Their reconstruction were politically motivated and aimed to prepare ground to launch a new form of Direct Action to reduce the Jammu and Kashmri State.
Pakistan resorted to the distortion of the history of the transfer of power in India, to justify its claim on Jammu and Kashmir. Inside Jammu and Kashmir the National Conference leaders who ruled the State for decades after its accession to India, resorted to the distortion of the history of the accession of the State to India, to legitimize their claim to a Muslim State of Jammu and Kashmir inside India but independent of the Indian Union and its political organisation. Not only that. The Muslim separatists forces, which dominated the political scene in the State after the disintegration of the National Conference in 1953, also resorted to the fossilization of the facts of the accession of the State to India. Interestingly, the entire process of the distortion of the history of the accession of the State, spread over decades of Indian freedom assumed varied expressives from time to time.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who headed the Interim Government instituted in March 1948, disclaimed the Instrument of Accession executed by Hari Singh, as merely the Kagzi Ilhaq’ or “paper Accession” and claimed that the “real accession of the state to India” would be accomplished by the people of the State, more precisely the Muslim majority of the people of the State. While the Constitution of India was on the anvil and the issue of the constitutional provisions for the States came up for the consideration for the Constituent Assembly of India, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah claimed that the National Conference had endorsed the accession of the State to India on the condition that the claim the people of the state had to a separate freedom was recognised by India and the leadership of the National Conference had been assured by the Indian leaders that the people of Jammu and Kashmir would be reserved the right to constitute Jammu and Kashmir into an autonomous political organisation, independent of the Indian constitutional organisation.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and other National Conference leaders, claimed that they had been assured that Jammu and Kashmir would not be integrated in the constitutional organisaion of India and the assurances were incorporated in the Instrument of Accession. They stressed that they had agreed to the accede to India on the specific condition that the Muslim identity of the State would form the basis of its political organisation.
In his inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir convened in 1951, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who was the Prime Minister of the Interim Government of the State, claimed that the Constituent Assembly was vested with the plenary powers, drawn from the people of the State and independent of the Constitution of India. He claimed that the Constituent Assembly was vested with the powers to opt out of India and assume independence or join the Muslim state of Pakistan.
Fifty years later the claims Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah made in the Constituent Assembly were echoed in the first Round Table Conference, convened by the Government of India in 2006, to reach a consensus on a future settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
Mr Muzaffar Hussain Beg, represented the People Democratic Party in the Round Table Conference which was a constituent of the coalition government in the State, headed by the Congress Party. Beg claimed, that the Instrument of Accession was a treaty between two independent states, the Dominion of India and the Jammu and Kashmir State and the Constituent Assembly was a sovereign authority, independent powers inherent in its sovereignty.
The Government of India made no efforts to put the record straight. Frightened at the prospect of losing the support of the National Conference the Indian leaders did not question the veracity of the claims the Conference leaders made. Indeed, they depended upon the support of the National Conference to win the plebiscite which the United Nations Organisation was hectically preparing to hold in the State. The Indian leaders, overwhelmed by their own sense of self-righteousness, helped overtly and covertly in the falsification of the history of the integration of the Princely States with India and the accession of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian Dominion in 1947. Many of them went as far as to link the unity of India with the reassertion of the subnational identity of Jammu and Kashmir, which the Muslim demand for separate freedom for the Muslim symbolised.
The Indian Independence Act of 1947, laid down separate procedures for the transfers of power in the British India and the Indian Princely States. The Princely States were left out of the partition plan, which divided the British Indian provinces and envisaged the creation of the Muslim state of Pakistan. In respect of the Princely States, the Indian Independence Act, envisaged the lapse of the paramountcy – the power which the British Crown exercised over the Indian States. The British Government clarified its stand on the future disposition of the States in the British Parliament during the debate on the Indian Independence Bill. It categorically stated that the lapse of the Paramountcy would not enable the Princes to acquire Dominion status or assume independence.
The British Government made it clear that the reversion of the Paramountcy to the rulers of the States would inevitably lead to mutually accepted agreements between the Dominions and the Princely States which would involve their accession. The Indian Independence Act did not envisage in the procedure the accession of States. The Nawab of Bhopal approached the Diplomatic Mission of the United States of America in India to seek the recognition of the Independence of his state. The American Government snubbed the Nawab and refused to countenance any proposals for the independence of the Princely States in India. It was left to be formulated by the two Dominions of India and Pakistan.
The Political Department of the British Government of India was divided into two separate Political Departments – the Political Department of Pakistan to deal with the Indian Princely States. The Political Department of India was put in charge of Sardar Vallabhai Patel and the Political Department of Pakistan was put in charge of Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar. The procedure for the accession of the States to the two Dominions was evolved separately by their respective Political Departments.
The Muslim League however, insisted upon the independence of the Princely States in order to enable the Muslim ruled states to remain out of India. The Muslim League aimed to Balkanise the Princely States and place the state of Pakistan in a position which provided it a way to forge an alliance with them. The Indian States spread over more than one-third of the territory of India constituted more than one fourth of the Indian population. Some of the Muslim ruled Princely States were largest among the Princely States of India and several of them were fabulously rich.
The claim Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah made in his inaugural speech to the Constituent Assembly of the State that the States had the option to assume independence was a reiteration of the stand the Muslim League had taken on the future disposition of the states following the lapse of the Paramountcy. The lapse of the Paramountcy did not underline the independence of the States. It did not envisage the reversion of any plenary powers to the Princes or the people of the states as a consequence of the dissolution of the Paramountcy. The states were not independent when they were integrated in the British Empire in India. They did not acquire independence when they were liberated from the British Empire 1947. They were not vested with any inherent powers to claim independence to which Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah referred to in his inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly.
The convocation of the Constituent Assemblies in the States was provided for in the stipulations of the Instrument of Accession that the Princely States acceding to India, executed. The Instrument of Accession devised by the States Department of Pakistan for the accession of the States to that country did not envisage provisions pertaining to the convocation of the Constituent Assembly. The power to convene separate Constituent Assemblies was reserved for all the major states the Union of the States, which acceded to India.
The Jammu and Kashmir State was no exception. In fact, Constituent Assemblies were convened, in the states of Cochin and Mysore and the State Union of Saurashtra, shortly after their accession to the Indian Dominion.
The Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was a creature of the Instrument of Accession. It exercised powers which were drawn from the state of India and its sovereign authority. It did not assess any powers to revoke the accession of the State to India to bring about the accession of the State to Pakistan or opt for its independence, as Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in his inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly claimed or as Mr Muzaffar Hussain Beg claimed in the Round Table Conference.
The truth of what happened during those fateful days of October 1947, when the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India was accomplished was concealed by a irredentist campaign of disinformation which was launched to cover the acts of cowardice and betrayal, subterfuge and surrender which went into the making of the Kashmir dispute.
The National Conference leaders, were at no stage, brought in to endorse the accession of the State to India. No one among them was required to sign or countersign the accession and none of them signed or countesigned the Instrument of Accession, executed by Maharaja Hari Singh. The Indian Independence Act, an Act of the British Parliament, which laid down the procedure for the transfer of power in India, did not recognize the right of self-determination of either the people of the British India or the people of the States.
The transfer of power was based on an agreement among the Congress, the Muslim League and the British. The British and the Muslim League stubbornly refused to recognise the right of the people of the British India and right of the people of the Princely State to determine the future of the British India or the Indian states. The Muslim League and the British insisted upon the lapse of the Paramountcy and its reversion to the rulers of the States. Accession of the States was not subject to any conditions and the Instrument of Accession underlined an irreversible process the British provided for the dissolution of the empire in India.
No assurance was given to the National Conference leaders that the Constituent Assembly of the State would be vested with plenary powers or powers to ratify the accession of the State to India, revoke it opt for its independence or its accession to Pakistan. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and the other National Conference leaders did not seek the exclusion of the State from the Indian political organization as a condition for the accession of the state to India. Nor did the Indian leaders give any assurance to them that the Jammu and Kashmir would be reconstituted into an independent political organisation, which would represent its Muslim identity.
At the time of the transfer of power in India, the National Conference leaders and cadres were in jail. They were released from their incarceration after the proclamation of General Amnesty was made on 6 September 1947. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, the Acting President of the National Conference who had evaded arrest and taken refugee in the British India in May 1946, arrived in Srinagar with several other senior leaders of the National Conference on 12 September 1947. Meanwhile, Mohi-ud-Din Qara the Director General of the War Council, which had been constituted by the National Conference to direct the Quit Kashmir Movement, surfaced from his underground quarters alongwith some of his close aides. Onkar Nath Trisal, who played a historic role in the defence of Srinagar, when the invading armies of Pakistan surrounded the city, was with him. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was released from jail on 29 September 1947.
Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad used the good offices of Pandit Sham Sundar Lal Dhar, a personal aide of the Maharaja to arrange a reconciliatory meeting between Hari Singh and Sheikh Mohammd Abdullah. The meeting did not go beyond usual formalities as the two men who shaped the future of the State looked at each other with cold distrust. Shiban Madan, a close kin of Sham Sundar Lal Dhar, then a man of younger years acted as a help. Shiban Madan told the author in a interview held in Srinagar in 1978, that Hari Singh sat through the meeting glumly. His Highness looked straight when the usual presentation ceremony of the Nazarana was completed. He sat glum and expressionless, his haughty demeanour more than awkwardly visible. The rest of the meeting was strictly formal.”
Hari Singh was unable to judge the far-reaching consequences of the end of the British empire in India. Not only him, the other Princes too refused to realise that their power, which had its sanction in the British Paramountcy had virtually suffered dissolution with its withdrawal. The Princely rulers genuinely believed that the States were their fiefs and the British had usurped their right to rule them. They visualised the end of the British Empire as an act of deliverance for them, which they believed would enable them to regain the unquestioned authority they had as the sovereigns of the states.
They considered accession of their States to India as a new arrangement with the Dominion of India, by virtue of which they would part with the specific powers of the defence, foreign affairs and communications of the states and retain the rest of the powers of the governance without the encumbrances the Paramountcy entailed.
Hari Singh had been shaken by Mountabatten’s advice to come to terms with Pakistan when the Viceroy visited Srinagar. Accession to Pakistan was the last act, Hari Singh was prepared to perform. However, when he turned to India and conveyed to the Indian leaders his desire to accede to India the Indian leaders advised him not to take any perceptible action in respect of the accession, till the transfer of power had been accomplished. The Indian leaders advised Hari Singh to end the distrust with the National Conference, release the leaders and cadres of the Conference and take them into confidence and commence preparations to associate them with the government of the State.
After the transfer of power in August 1947 Hari Singh promptly ordered fresh recruitment to his armed forces and reportedly sought to secure field guns from Patiala and Hyderabad. Reports appeared in the newspapers in Pakistan that he tried to seek military assistance from India and wanted the Indian Government to take up the conversion of the fair weather road from Jammu to Madhopur, into a national roadway.
He was alarmed by the establishment of the Provisional Government of Pak-occupied-Kashmir at Tran Khel in the district of Mirpur by Sardar Ibrahim Khan on 30 August 1947. Hari Singh knew that the proclamation of the Provisional Government of Azad Kashmir had been made in connivance with the intelligence agencies of the Government of Pakistan and the leaders of the Muslim League to build pressure on him to accede to Pakistan.
Meanwhile Sham Sunder Lal Dhar helped to bridge the differences between Hari Singh and the National Conference leaders. Hari Singh agreed to revive the Dyarchy he had introduced in the State Government in 1944, and provide a wider share of power for the National Conference and accept to entrust a fairly large measure of responsibility in the State Government to National Conference leaders as members of his Council of Ministers. The National Conference leaders had shown their readiness to join the State Government.
For Hari Singh however, the difficulties he faced in regard to the accession were not eased. Several developments in the process of the integration of the States complicated his situation further. Junagarh, situated in the midst of the Kathiawad States, which had acceded to India, acceded to Pakistan on the eve of the transfer of power. The Nawab of Hyderabad refused to join India and secretly plotted with the leadership of the Muslim League to align himself with Pakistan.
Not only that. Mountbatten was at the helm of affairs in India, where he had been placed by the Congress leaders probably, to earn them a favourable disposition of the British. Hari Singh knew that Mountbatten had not forgiven him for his audacity to send him back to the Indian capital, without having agreed to abide by his advice to come to terms with Pakistan. It is hardly possible that the Congress leaders must not report have received the intelligence of what transpired between the Viceroy and the Maharaja in Srinagar. But how did they install him the first Governor-General of the Dominion of India is an enigma, which continues to remain unexplained.
Hari Singh was unsure of the Congress leaders as well, who had, in unabashed self-conceit, indicated their willingness to accept a settlement on the Princely States on the basis of their population and geographical location. Perhaps, they sought to use the influence of the Viceroy to ensure the accession of the Muslim ruled States, inhabited by Hindu majorities and situated within the territorial limits earmarked for the Indian Dominion to India. It is hardly possible that they did not know the mind of the Viceroy and perhaps the strategic implications of the future disposition of Jammu and Kashmir to the British interests in Asia. A section of the Congress leadership was not averse to the division of the States on the basis of their population even after the transfer of power. Some of them believed that Mountbatten would be able extricate Junagarh from Pakistan and bring about the integration of Hyderabad with India. Their prestige in the whole of the Kathiawad peninsula had plummeted down as they had reacted to the accession of Junagarh to Pakistan pussiliminously. The rulers of the Kathiawad States had to send Jam Sahib of Nawanagar to convince the Congress leaders that Junagarh posed a serious threat to them and to demand immediate and effective action to liberate Junagarh, which was fast slipping into a civil wear.
The Congress leaders looked up to Mountbatten, who advised them restraint. Later admissions made by him in his interviews and memoirs, prove that he was keen to secure the interests of Pakistan and his country, Britain, in Jammu and Kashmir, but he had no mandate from the British Government to secure the Indian interests in the Muslim ruled States of Junagarh and Hyderabad. He disapproved of any perceptible action for the reclamation Junagarh and Hyderabad.
Hari Singh did not lose sight of the problems, arising out of his enemity with Mountabatten and the duplicity of the Congress leaders. Jinnah scuttled the proposals to divide the States on the basis of their population and scoffed at the suggestions made by Mountbatten. Hari Singh knew that if he took a false step, Mountbatten as well as the Congress leaders would nor hesitate to abandon him in a bargain with Pakistan.
This was the greatest act of betrayal committed by the men in power in India. The Indian Government crumbled in its resolve to set right the wrong in Junagarh and rein in the Nawab of Hyderabad. The Indian leaders looked upto Mountbatten to deliver them from their predicament though experience had shown to them that the major role in the integration of the States had been played by the States people who had struggled for the unity of the States with India and the Hindu rulers of the States who had acceded to India.
The Government of India should have made a bold move to take Hari Singh into confidence, thrash out the issues pertaining to the transfer of power to the peoples representatives with him and helped in removing the prevailing distrust between him and the National Conference leaders. Instead the Indian leaders sulked away. Gandhi had advised Hari Singh to handover the State Government to the National Conference leaders and entrust them the responsibility to conduct elections to the Praja Sabha, the State Legislative Assembly and empower the elected representatives of the people to take a decision on the accession of the State. Hari Singh had refused to abide by Gandhi’s advice and told him that such a course would enable Pakistan to grab the State with the support of the Muslim Conference and the other pro-Pakistan flanks in the state. Later events proved that Hari Singh had chosen the right course. Jammu and Kashmir would have gone the way, North West Frontier Province did if he had opted for elections to the Praja Sabha.
The Indian Princely States were a part of the Indian nation. Partition did not divide the States, nor did the partition empower Pakistan to grab Junagarh or claim Hyderabad on the basis of being Muslim ruled States and annex Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of its population. The Muslim League as well as the British treated the States as their personal preserve and sought to use them to Balkanise India. The Princes as well as the people of the States defeated their designs.
The role played by Mountbatten and VP Menon, in the integration of the Indian States was only marginal. The States’ Ministry did not draw up any plans for the consolidation of the northern frontier of India of which Jammu and Kashmir was the central spur. Nor did the States Ministry formulate any plans for the security of the Himalayas against the threat of their de-Sanskritsation which the creation of Pakistan posed.
Few in-depth investigations and inquiries have been undertaken so far to unravel the forces and factors, which shaped the events in Jammu and Kashmir, during the fateful days following the transfer of power in India. No investigations were ever carried out in the actions of men, who were at the helm of affairs in India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir, their motivations and their personal prejudices. Much of what happened those days, has been covered under false propaganda by the Government of India as well as the Government of Pakistan and the Interim Government which was instituted in Jammu and Kashmir after the accession of the State to India. A widespread disinformation campaign was launched by the Interim Government in collusion with the Government to find scapegoats for their failures and to apportion blame, where it did not belong. The sordid story of what happened in the state, those days, is yet to be told.
Pakistan sought to bend the procedure laid down by the Indian Independence Act for the transfer of power in India, to grab the Muslim majority states as well as the states ruled by Muslim Princes.
The Indian Government failed signally to counteract the stratagem, subversion and military intervention, Pakistan employed to achieve its objectives. Perhaps the British, who had quit India, still cast a shadow on the Indian outlook. The Congress leadership with its liberalist tradition which denied the civilisational boundaries of the Indian nation, continued to play the Muslim card, to prove that Jammu and Kashmir would be more Islamic than the Muslim State of Pakistan after its inclusion in the Indian Dominion.
The Congress leaders wanted Maharaja Hari Singh to follow what they did in collusion with Mountabatten to retrieve Junagarh and bring round the Nawab of Hyderabad to come to terms, with India. Gandhi advised Hari Singh, during his visit to Kashmir, towards the close of July 1947, to (a) transfer the powers of the State Government to the representatives of his Muslim subjects, who formed a majority of the population of the state; (b) hold fresh elections to the Praja Sabha, the State Legislative Assembly, on the basis of universal adult franchise and (c) entrust the Praja Sabha with the task of taking a decision on the accession of the state. The meeting between Hari Singh and Mahatma Gandhi was held on the lawns of the Gupkar Palace, situated on the eastern bank of the Dal Lake in Srinagar. Maharani Tara Devi and the Heir-Apparent Karan Singh were present in the meeting. The only other man present in the meeting was a senior officer of the state army, who acted as an aide to the Maharaja and prepared the situation report of the meeting for the military archives of the state.
Gandhi had lost touch with the developments in the princely states. He was not aware of the dangerous situation in Jammu and Kashmir. He did not know that an armed rebellion was brewing in the Muslim majority districts of the Jammu province, where arms and ammunition were being dumped by the elements of the Muslim League from a cross the border of the state with the Punjab. He was hardly aware of the sharp divide between the Kashmiri speaking Muslims and non-Kashmiri speaking Muslims. He did not know that the non-Kashmiri speaking Muslims, who constituted nearly half the Muslim population of state along with a small section of the Kashmiri-speaking Muslims owing loyality to the Mirwaiz, the chief Muslim divine of Kashmir, supported the Muslim Conference, which spearheaded the struggle for Pakistan. He was completely unaware of the fact that the Kashmiri-speaking Muslims constituted about half the population of the Muslims of the State and together with the Hindus, the Sikhs and the Buddhists they formed more than sixty percent of the population of the State. The Hindus, the Sikhs and the Buddhists, a million people, constituted more than a quarter of the population of the State. Gandhi was completely unaware of the impact of the partition on the leaders and cadres of the National Conference, which had its main support bases in the community of the Kashmiri-speaking Muslims, largely concentrated in the Kashmir province. He did not know that an influential section of the leaders and cadres of the National Conference favoured a reconsideration of the commitment of the National Conference to the unity of India.
Gandhi believed that by seeking to divest Hari Singh of his powers to determine the future affiliation of the State in respect of its accession and empowering his Muslim subjects to take a decision on the accession of the state, he would be able to create a precedent for the rulers of the Muslim ruled states, to entrust their powers to determine the future affiliations of their states their Hindu subjects, who formed a majority of their population. Nearly all the Muslim ruled states, barring a few of them situated within the territories delimited for the Muslim State of Pakistan, nearly all the Muslim ruled States in India, including the major states of Hyderabad, Junagarh, Bhopal, were populated by preponderant Hindu majorities.
Perhaps, Gandhi believed that the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir committed to support the accession of the state to India, would opt to join India after power was transferred to them and they were empowered to determine the future affiliations of the state. He was convinced that the transfer of power in Jammu and Kashmir would provide him a moral ground to bring round Pakistan as well as Mountbatten to persuade the Muslim rulers to abnegate from their power to determine the future affiliations of their states and entrust their subjects and of whom the Hindus formed a majority, to opt for India.
Gandhi and the other Indian leaders did not even get the wind of the secret preparations in Pakistan for military intervention in the Jammu and Kashmir State in the name of the Jehad for the liberation of the Muslims from their subjection to the Dogra Rule, while Gandhi went on a indefinite fast to prevent communal violence in India which threatened the Muslims, Pakistan prepared feverishly for the invasion of the state. Pakistan planned to reduce the state by military force and then deal with India from a position of strength in respect of Junagarh and Hyderabad. Junagarh had acceded to Pakistan and Hyderabad was plotting the align itself with Pakistan to remain out of India.
Had Hari Singh accepted Gandhi’s advice he would have provided open ground for Pakistan and the Muslim League to grab the state by stratagem and force. Gandhi’s suggestion to hold the elections to the Praja Sabha would have enabled the Muslim Conference and the flanks of pro-Pakistan Muslim activists, operating underground, to sabotage the National Conference and use religious appeal for Jehad to pack the Praja Sabha with the Muslim Conference. Any stringent measures adopted by him to prohibit religious propaganda in the elections would have brought him the blame of having settled the expression for the will of the Muslims. In case he did not take effective measures to prohibit the use of religious propaganda in the elections he would virtually leave the field open for the Muslim Jehad to take over.
Hari Singh had borne the ravages of Muslim communalism. He had also faced the scourage of the Paramountcy. The Congress leaders had installed Mountbatten as the first Governor General of the Dominion of India. Hari Singh had rebuffed Mountbatten and refused to abide by his advice to join Pakistan. Mountbatten, later events proved, had not forgotten the slight Hari Singh had caused to him. The Maharaja did not allow himself to be arranged before the man, who had spared no efforts to push his state into Pakistan for his management. He refused to accept Gandhi’s advice.
Hari Singh contested Gandhi’s views on the accession of the state and refused to abnegate from his rightful obligation to determine the future of his state. He told Gandhi, in measured words in the presence of Maharani Tara Devi, who regarded the Mahatma in awe, that the safety and the security of the Hindus and the other minorities in the state was uppermost in his mind, and he would not abandon them at any cost. He insisted upon the recognition of his rights as the ruler of the state to determine the basis of his future relations with India. He reminded Gandhi that nor only had the lapse of the Paramountcy vested in him the right to determine the future of the State, the Indian States Ministry had recognised the rights of the rulers of the States as the basis of their accession to India and he could not be treated in a manner different from the way, the rulers of all other acceding states had been treated.
Gandhi gave expression to his feelings in a statement he gave to the press in Punjab, on his way back to Delhi. He said that Jammu and Kashmir was a Muslim state and therefore, its future must be determined by Muslims who formed a majority of its population. He denounced the treaties between the Princes and the British as “parchments of paper” and decried the claims made by the Princes to any rights arising out of such treaties.
Hari Singh did not accept the surrender to a Muslim majority identity as the basis of a settlement of the accession of the state. He refused to become part of the process to consolidate the borders of the Muslim state of Pakistan, which Mountbatten and the Congress leaders visualised as the guarantee of the unity of India.
Later events proved Hari Singh right. Pakistan strove hard to hold Junagarh and openly supported Hyderabad in its endeavour to remain out of India. Pakistan invaded the State, irrespective of the procedure laid down by the Indian Independence Act, for the lapse of the Paramountcy, showing little regard for the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir and the people of Junagarh and Hyderabad.
Gandhi’s press statement administered a jolt to Maharaja Hari Singh. Maharani Tara Devi favoured reconciliation with the Congress leadership. She cautioned Hari Singh against the isolation into which the State was sinking fast. It is a lesser known fact that the Maharani tried to bridge the gulf between Hari Singh and the Indian leaders.
Shortly after Gandhi left Kashmir Hari Singh removed Ram Chandra Kak from his office and appointed General Janak Singh, one of his close kin the Prime Minister of the state. Ram Chandra Kak headed the State Government during the last years of the British Raj in India. Kak served the Maharaja with unflinching loyalty and devotion. Kak belonged to the Kashmiri Pandit community in Kashmir, which played a pioneering role in the growth of national consciousness in the State. While in office, Kak acted as an interface for the Maharaja with the British as well the Muslim League, at a time, when the Princes were struggling to place the State in between the British Crown and an independent Indian nation. The political Department of the British Govt. of India, with conrad corfield, a diehard British Civil Service officer, as its head, spared no efforts to assure the Princes that the British would not abandon the Princely India and would ensure the continuity of the treaties between the States and the Crown. Like the other Princes, Hari Singh was suddenly brought on the crossroads, when India was divided and the British Paramountcy was withdrawn.
The British refused to continue the protection, the Paramountcy had provided the States and the Muslim League claimed Jammu and Kashmir for the Muslim State of Pakistan on the basis of the Muslim majority of its population.
During the days, the future of the constitutional organization of India was taking shape, Ram Chandra Kak was at the Centrestage of the negotiations between the Princes, the British and the Indian leaders. The Princes were not left with the choice to seek a place outside the constitutional organization of the two successor Dominions of India and Pakistan. The undersecretary of the State for India in the British Government, clarified in the British Parliament, during the debate on the Indian Independence Bill, that the British Government would not recognize the States as the Dominions of the Commonwealth nor would extend it recognition to their independence. Kak was no longer relevant in the political context in which Jammu and Kashmir was left with no choice except to join India, the option to accede to Pakistan was not acceptable to Hari Singh or Kak.
Hari Singh turned away from the British, when he refused to abide by the advice of the Viceroy of India tendered to him to come to terms with Pakistan.
He earned the displeasure of the leaders of the Muslim League, when he refused to grant permission to Mohammad Ali Jinnah to visit Jammu and Kashmir, during the days, the transfer of power in India was in process of completion. Jinnah sent several of his emissaries to persuade Hari Singh to accede to Pakistan on conditions which he specified. A second world war veteran Major General Shaukat Hayat Khan, arrived in Kashmir with a peculiar proposal from him.
Khan met Hari Singh in his palace. He told the Maharaja that he had been commissioned by Jinnah to convey to the Maharaja that he could lay down any conditions that he chose, to accede to Pakistan and that Pakistan would deposit a huge amount of money in British currency worth hundreds of millions of Sterling Pounds, in the Bank of England, as guarantee against any breach of the conditions laid down by him.
Hari Singh was slighted, but he did not lose his poise. He told Shaukat Hayat that he would take a decision on the accession of the State only in consideration of the interests of his subjects.
Naseeb Singh, an Army officer, of the Signal Corps, who was in attendance on the Maharaja those days, told the author in an interview: “I heard him (Shaukat Hayat) tell his aides, how strange of the Maharaja it was to have turned down the offer. As he saw me standing bye, he recoiled and fell silent”. Thakur Kartar Singh, a close kin of the Maharaja and a former Revenue Minister of the State, told the author in an interview in Jammu. “His Highness was severely intolerant of any suggestion about his relations with Pakistan.
He felt hurt by what happened around him. He had given a long rope to Ramchandra Kak. He waited patiently, though that was not in his habit, for an opportunity to save the State from going to Pakistan. Pakistan pressurized him to agree to accede to that country, offering to accept any number of conditions that he would lay to safeguard his interests. But he “withstood all pressures”.
Hari Singh offered a Standstill Agreement to India as well as Pakistan for which the Indian States Department and the State Department of Pakistan had provided the option. The Indian Government did not take any action on the Standstill Agreement, though it extended the period of accession by two months for both the States – Jammu and Kashmir as well as Hyderabad. Hyderabad was the other Princely State, which did not accede to the Indian Dominion by 15 August 1947.
That Pakistan had adopted a policy of confrontation with the State Government was signaled by the formation of the Provisional Government of ‘Azad’ Kashmir, by pro-Pakistan Muslim flanks and the cadres of the Muslim Conference, at Trad Khel on 30 August 1947. Sardar Ibrahim Khan founder of the Provisional Government of ‘Azad’ Kashmir, took the salute of a contingent of armed volunteers of the Provisional Government which march passed before him in a military formation. The volunteers were armed with the rifles supplied to them from Pakistan.
Hari Singh proclaimed a general amnesty for all political prisoners who were involved in the Quit Kashmir Movement and against whom proceedings were in process in the courts of the state. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, the Acting President of the National Conference, who had taken refuge in the British India, during the Quit Kashmir Movement, alongwith other leaders of the National Conference, arrived in Srinagar on 12 September 1947. He received a tumultuous welcome, from the people in Srinagar.
The leaders and cadres of the Conference who had gone underground, had already begun to emerge from their underground quarters. Mohi-ud-Din Qara the Head of the War Council, which had been constituted to direct the Quit Kashmir Movement, came out of his underground quarters, alongwith a number of his senior cadres. Among them was Onkar Nath Trisal, a senior communist party activist, who later played a memorable role in the defence of Srinagar, when the invading armies of Pakistan were pouring into its outskirts. Mohi-ud-Din Qara addressed a number of public meetings, where he impressed upon the people of the necessity to maintain intercommunity peace and combat communalism and subversion.
While the National Conference leaders and cadres set out to reconstruct the organizational units of the National Conference, which had been battered by the Quit Kashmir Movement, Pakistan launched a surreptitious campaign in the State to unite the Muslims in support of its accession to that country. The leaders and cadres of the Muslim Conference and the sections of the Muslim community which were ideologically committed to the Muslim struggle for Pakistan, though they did not support the Muslim Conference, carried on the campaign with the support of the widespread network of Pakistani agents, spies and intelligence sleuths of the Government of Pakistan which operated underground and in vast numbers, Muslim League cadres and other political activists who had slipped into the state unnoticed.
The creation of Pakistan symbolized the realization of the desperation of the Muslim Ummah in India and (a) religious obligation devolved on the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir to support its accession to Pakistan to consolidate the Muslim power (b) the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir were part of the Muslim Umah and therefore were bound to Pakistan by the bond of Islam; (c) any deviation from a commitment to the unity of the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir would be an un-Islamic act. The National Conference had spearheaded the Muslim struggle for liberation from the Dogra Rule and now the only option for the leaders and National Conference was to join the struggle for the unification of the State with Pakistan (d) India and the Hindus who formed the main resistance to the struggle for Pakistan, were trying their utmost to scuttle the freedom of the Muslims in the Princely States, where the Muslims were subject to severe repression and the ruler of the State was waiting for an opportunity to join India, scuttle the freedom of the Muslims and perpetuate his power (e) the Muslim struggle for Pakistan was not against the Maharaja and the Muslims of the State had assured him that they would recognize him as the constitutional head of the State if he opted for Pakistan; (f) the National Conference and its cadres and supporters would be accommodated in the Muslim commonwealth of Pakistan on the basis of equality and brotherhood enjoined by Islam upon all the Muslims irrespective of their language and the region which they inhabited (g) any differences between the National Conference leadership and the Muslim leadership of the people of Pakistan could be settled mutually and (h) the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir had to stand united in the struggle for Pakistan in view of the efforts the enemies of Islam were making in India to impair the unity of the Muslims.
The police intelligence of the State reported that it had received information about an underground cell, involved in the raising of a militia, the Muslim Guard, to defend the struggle for Pakistan against any police or military action the State Government resorted to. A woman volunteer of Pakistan was charged with the tasks of recruitment of local Muslim volunteers to the ranks of the Muslims guard. The intelligence report about the Muslim Guard reached the State Government and a summary of the report was sent to Hari Singh as well. As usual, Hari Singh sent it to the State archives. But no action was taken against the sabotage planned by the enemy agents to foment a rebellion in the State, probably to coincide with the invasion of State Pakistan was secretly planning.
The Indian leaders took little notice of the developments in the State. The States’ Minister wrote a cryptic letter to Hari Singh, imploring the Maharaja to bring all punitive measures against the National Conference to an end, release the Conference leaders and cadres from imprisonment and seek their cooperation to meet the challenge the State was faced with.
On September 3, 1947, an intelligence signal was received in the Army headquarters at Delhi, that armed infiltrators of Pakistan had raided a border outpost, three miles inside the state territory. The signal with the staggering import evoked response from the Indian Government. The Indian leaders received information about the border raids and the heavy damage to life and property the Hindus and the Sikhs suffered in the border districts of the State. No voice was raised in India against the depredation, the armed infiltrators spread in the border districts of the State.
Note: The Article, in this series are based upon documentary sources in the Indian Archives, Archives of the Jammu and Kashmir State, Sardar Patel Papers; documents and Papers in Sapru House Library, Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, Contemporary Newspaper Files and Interview.
Source: Kashmir Sentinel