Kashmir: The Storm center of the World
Table of Contents
   Index
   About the Author
   Foreword
   Abode of Kashyap
   The Making of J&K
   Hundred Years of Dogra Rule
   Quit Kashmir Movement
   Hari Singh's Dilemma
   Accession to India
   First Indo-Pak War
   Bungling at U.N.
   Kashmir Divided
   The Dixon Proposals
   Shadow of Cold War
   The Chinese Factor
   Indo-Pak War of 1965
   Indo-Pak War of 1971
   The Great Betrayal
   Back to Square One
   War by Proxy
   The Way Out
   Appendix
   Book in pdf format  
   Official Site  

Koshur Music

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Chapter 5

Hari Singh's Dilemma

The Mountbatten plan which propounded the scheme of partition and laid down the procedure to give effect to it, placed the Jammu and Kashmir State in a very difficult position. Though theoretically it conceded an independent status to all the states after the lapse of British paramountcy, it advised them in their own interest as also in the interest of the new dominions of India and Pakistan to join one or the other of them before 15th of August, the deadline for British withdrawal. The geographical contiguity was laid down as the main factor guiding their choice of the dominion for accession. For most of the states which were surrounded on all sides by Indian territory, the choice was obvious. But that was not the case with Jammu and Kashmir State which was geographically contiguous to both India and Pakistan. Some of its parts had close social and cultural ties with India while others had closer ties with would be Pakistan. The majority of its population taken as a whole was Muslim while the ruler was a Dogra Hindu. Its position, therefore, was very unenviable.

There were three courses open to the state. It could accede to India or to Pakistan or remain independent. Mr Jinnah claimed Kashmir for Pakistan on the ground of its being a Muslim majority state contiguous to Pakistan. ln fact he was so confident about it that he told a deputation of the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference that "Kashmir is in my pocket".

Indian leaders were naturally interested in retaining Jammu & Kashmir in India. But instead of basing their claim on the natural ground of its being an integral part of India which could not be effected by the partition agreement which concerned only British India, they banked on the support of the Kashmiri Muslim followers of Sheikh Abdullah who held the balance between the Hindus who wanted the state to accede to India and the supporters and followers of the Muslim Conference who preferred Pakistan. Therefore they, especially Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, wanted to appease Sheikh Abdullah by putting him in power before accepting the accession of Jammu and Kashmir so that India could be sure of the support of Sheikh Abdullah and his Muslim followers. This stand of the Congress leaders was in keeping with their declared policy that the decision about accession should ultimately rest with the people and not with the rulers of the States.

This put Maharaja Hari Singh on the horns of a dilemma. He did not want to accede to Pakistan. His preference was definitely for India. But the condition of putting Sheikh Abdullah in power before accession of his State to India could be accepted was unpalatable to him. Sheikh Abdullah had made no secret of his hostility to the person and Government of the Maharaja. He and his National Conference wanted him to quit Kashmir bag and baggage before they could give their opinion about accession authoritatively. Accession to India, therefore, meant to him a sort of voluntary abdication of his authority over Kashmir without any definite guarantee that Sheikh Abdullah and his followers would support the accession of the State to India even after obtaining full power. On the other hand, the Pakistan Government began to offer him alluring terms if he acceded to Pakistan. The Maharaja was therefore, between the devil and the deep sea. Accession to India meant immediate transfer of power to Sheikh Abdullah without any definite guarantee about the future of the State.

His sentiments and patriotism stood in the way of accession to Pakistan. So he defered decision.

The fact that under notional division of Punjab the district of Gurdaspur including the rail head of Pathunkot, which provided the only road link between Jammu and East Punjab, had been included in West Pakistan added to Maharaja's difficulties in making up his mind. By delaying the announcement of the Radcliff Award, which awarded Gurdaspur and Pathankot, to India, by two days - the Award was made public on 16th instead of 14th of August - Lord Mountbatten too contributed to Maharaja's indecision.

Actually Lord Mountbatten far from being neutral in the matter of accession of Jammu & Kashmir State to India or Pakistan wanted the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan. The Maharaja lacked courage to resist his pressure. This added to his indecision.

As time passed the third course of remaining independent began to appeal to him. His Prime Minister, Pt. Ram Chander Kak, was an enthusiastic supporter of this idea. The author discussed the question at length with him. He argued that Jammu and Kashmir being a Muslim majority state, Pakistan had a logical claim to it on the basis on which India was going to be partitioned. Accession to India, he said, would be resented by Pakistan and there would be trouble in Muslim majority parts of the State. Accession to India would mean putting Sheikh Abdullah in power. He doubted Sheikh Abdullah's bonafides and sincereity. On his assertion being challenged he warmed up and said, "I too am a Kashmiri. I know Sheikh Abdullah too well. His past antecedents and present politics if studied realistically cannot warrant any other conclusion."

All this sounded quite plausible. But what he would not explain convincingly was the way the independent status of Kashmir was to be maintained in face of a hostile Pakistan and an indifferent India. His plea was that Jammu & Kashmir should remain independent for some years until India became strong and her leaders more realistic in their policies. That he thought, would be the time to accede to India. But the weight of these arguments was taken away by his close association with enemies of India like Nawab of Bhopal whose Home Minister, Shoaib Qureshi, frequently visited Srinagar as his guest in those days. The author pointed out to him that the example of independent Kashmir would strengthen the separatist and Pakistani elements in B hopal and Hyderabad. B ut his personal ambition and distrust of Pt. Nehru stood in the way of his appreciating this point of view. He was, however, not able to get much support from the Hindus of the State for this policy of independence. But the Muslim Conference, strangely enough, supported this move. Maybe, it wanted to prevent Kashmir from acceding to India until Pakistan became free from internal problems created by partition and could turn her attention to Kashmir.

The net result of this conflict and confusion in the mind of the Maharaja and his Prime Minister was that Jammu & Kashmir State had not decided about accession until the eve of the partition day. The dismissal of Pt. Ram Chandra Kak on August 10, did create some hope of immediate accession to India. But it remained unfulfilled. The Maharaja and his advisers failed to take the decision even then. At the eleventh hour they decided to send telegraphic requests to Mr. Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten for Stand - Still Agreements. Jinnah at once accepted the request and a Stand Still Agreement with Pakistan was signed. But the Indian Government started protracted negotiations which remained incomplete until the date of Pakistani invasion.

Pakistan could not remain content with a stand-still agreement, but it removed her anxiety about immediate accession of the State to India for she was not in a position just then to exert her full pressure. It gave her time to strangulate Kashmir economically and militarily before delivering the final blow.

This failure of the Kashmir State to accede before the 15th of August is responsible for much of the tragic drama that has been enacted there since then. There can be no doubt that accession of the State to India before that fateful date would have simplified the issue. Most of the pro-Pakistan Muslims of the State would have surely gone over to Pakistan and their place might have been taken by the Hindu refugees from the adjoining areas of West Punjab and North Western Frontier Province. Such a development, would have been in line with what happend in the princely States of Punjab and Rajasthan and would have been taken as the natural result of the unnatural partition of the country. Actually lakhs of Hindus passed through Jammu & Kashmir territories during their forced exodus from West Pakistan to East Punjab. Many of them, particularly those from the districts of Hazara, Rawalpindi and Peshawar, were keen on settling in the Kashmir valley because of its climatic affinity and geographical proximity to their home districts.

That would have put the seal of finality on the resultant alignment and there might have been no Kashmir problem which has been plaguing Indo-Pak relations ever since. But that was not to be.

It has become customary to put the blame for the failure of Jammu & Kashmir State to accede to India in time on Maharaja Hari Singh and this Kashmiri Prime Minister, Pt. Kak. That is only partly true. It must be admitted that the Maharaja had genuine difficulties which could not be wished. His Prime Minister Pt. Kak had his own ambitions and fears. He was convinced that accession to India so long as Pt. Nehru was Prime Minister at New Delhi would mean transfer of power to Sheikh Abdullah and his own exile into wilderness. Furthermore, he was under concerted pressure from British die-hards and the rulers and premiers of States like Bhopal and Travancore which were than toying with the idea of independence. The unique geo-political situation of Jammu & Kashmir made it an ideal state to give the lead to other princely states in asserting their independence which would have led to Balkanisation of India as desired by the hostile British officials and politicians. His British wife and her British relations who then occupied high civil and military posts in the State might also have exerted their influence in the same direction.

But it would be wrong to give too much importance to Pt. Kak in the matter. He was after all a servant and not the master of the Maharaja. His influence and advice proved effective only because the Maharaja's own mind was also conditioned that way. He had a strong feeling that Pt. Nehru, wanted to humilate him by forcing him to submit to Sheikh Abdullah about whose bonafides he had strong and valid doubts. Sh. Abdullah banked on Pt. Nehru to secure power for himself.

Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru was interested in securing Kashmir's accession to India because of his emotional attachment with it as his ancestral homeland. But he had pinned his hopes on Sh. Abdullah for whom he had developed a strange infatuation rather than on the Maharaja. He had nothing but contempt and hatred for the Maharaja and his Prime Minister, Pt. Kak, who had the temerity to order his arrest on the eve of his appointment of head of the Interim Government in 1946. Vindictive by nature, he was more keen on humilating the Maharaja than on understanding his point of view, giving him friendly and sympathetic guidance and helping him in arriving at a positive decision.

Had Sardar Patel, who as States Minister had presuaded hundreds of Princes to accede to India before 15th August inspite of the machinations of the British Political Department and subtle pressure from Mr. Jinnah through his declaration that the Muslim League would respect the independence of the states. He might have allayed the fears of the Maharaja and persuaded him to accede in time. But since Pt. Nehru claimed to be a specialist on Kashmir, he did not like anybody else in his party and the Government to interfere with it. The Sardar therefore could not take that personal interest which marked his handling of other princely states. The Maharaja was obsessed by the fear that in respect of Jammu & Kashmir only Pt. Nehru's will would prevail. Thus the issue of accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India was made more difficult and complicated by the inter play of personal factors. The obsessive interest of Pt. Nehru in Kashmir and Sh. Abdullah, which was more subjective than objective, contributed more than any other factor in the decision of Hari Singh. His dilemma was ultimately resolved by the rulers of Pakistan.
 

Kashmir: The Storm Center of the World

 

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