Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India

Milchar

Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

  Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India

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Milchar
April-June 2002 issue

Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

Table of Contents

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

 

From the Pages of History

Kashmir - June 1947 to October 1947

- Pains of Procrastination -

... J. N. Kachroo

Introduction: 
The State as on 15th August 1947:

Jammu and Kashmir was the largest of the princely states in territorial extent and the most diverse in cultural terms. It was also very strategically located. It shared its borders with Tibet (720 Kms.), Sinkiang (640 Kms.), Afghanistan (256 Kms.) and the newly born Pakistan in August 1947 (1120 Kms.) besides India. The state was ruled by a Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh, and had an overall Muslim majority. However, demographic distribution was as varied as its cultural diversity. Kashmir valley had predominantly Muslim population, Hindus (Kashmiri Pandits) and Sikhs forming significant minorities. All spoke Kashmiri. Hindus were in majority in eastern Jammu and Muslims in western Jammu. All spoke Dogri. Ladakh was predominantly Buddhist populated area, linguistically close to Tibet. West of Ladakh was dominated by Shia Muslims speaking Balti. To further north lay Gilgit, mostly Muslim populated, speaking varied dialects. A strip running close to Pakistan border, comprised Muzaffarabad district, Poonch, Rajouri and Mirpur. The population here was mostly Muslims, with sizeable Hindus and Sikhs speaking a variant of Hindustani, close in identity to people on the other side of the border.

 National Conference (NC) under the leadership of Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah, was the most popular political party in the State. Ideologically, it was close to Indian National Congress. Ghulam Abbas, a non-Kashmiri speaking Mirpurian was the President of Muslim Conference. It had some presence in Mirpur and Poonch. National Conference  had launched Quit Kashmir Movement in 1946. R.C.Kak was the Prime Minister. The government came down on the people with a heavy hand. The Indian National Congress (INC) , particularly Jawahar Lal Nehru extended support to the people when they were under suppression. The State, though overwhelmingly Muslim populated was not affected by the Two Nation theory of the Muslim League and, therefore, was free from communal tensions when rest of the country was in the grip of communal violence.

Events June 1947 onwards:

Momentous political changes were initiated in the country on 3rd June 1947. The British government announced its scheme of the partition of British India into two dominions, India and Pakistan. It was made clear that the partition was applicable to the British India only. The Indian states would be dealt with under the terms of the Cabinet Mission Memorandum to the Chancellor of Indian Princes on 12 May 1946, which in effect stated that once self-governing governments came into being in British India, His Majesty's government would cease to exercise the power of paramountcy over the princes, bringing to an end the political arrangements (and hence Defence also) between the States and the  British government. The princes could enter into agreements with the new government or governments.

 On 17th June, the British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act, under which two dominions, India and Pakistan would come into existence on 15th August 1947. It was reiterated that paramountcy of the British Crown would lapse to the Princes, who were free to accede to one or the other dominion, keeping in view the principle of contiguity.

 The 562 princes had to decide the fate of their people and of themselves also, as quickly as possible before 14th August. Till then, there was only one Governor General. So like his colleagues, Maharaja Hari Singh had to take a decision, keeping in view the socio-cultural and political conditions in view.

 On 19th June 1947, the Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten came to Kashmir on a four day visit. He advised the Maharaja not to declare independence, but to ascertain the will of the people in any manner and accede to either of the Dominions. He had the authority from future rulers (i.e. Congress leadership) of India to assure His Highness that if he chose to join Pakistan, they would not object. Mountbatten was also of the opinion that if Hari Singh would accede to India, Pakistan could not interfere, as it did not exist. The Viceroy therefore, insisted that the decision was to be taken before 14th August 1947. In his speech in London on his return from India, Lord Mountbatten lamented that in spite of his repeated advice to the above effect, His Highness did nothing, giving rise to complications. (Ref: Time to Look Forward - PP 268-69). About the visit, Campbell-Johnson in his book 'My Mission with Mountbatten' says, " When he (Viceroy) got there, he found the Maharaja very elusive and the only conversations that took place, were when they were driving. The formal meeting fixed for the ultimate day could not take place as the Maharaja suffered a colic attack. Uncertainty and indecision continued.

 Towards the end of July 1947, Mahatma Gandhi visited Srinagar. He was not allowed to address the people. He advised the Maharaja to constitute a democratic government implying releasing National Conference leaders and associating Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah with administration. All that happened was that Thakur Janak Singh, a former revenue minister replaced R.C.Kak as Prime Minister.

 On 12 August, Kashmir telegraphically entered into a standstill agreement with Pakistan regarding continuance of Civil Supplies, Transport, Communications, Postal Services etc. A similar telegram was sent to the Government of India. They wanted a personal discussion which never matured.

 Soon after the creation of Pakistan, trouble started first in Poonch and then on the Poonch-Mirpur border. On 4th September 1947, the Kashmir government lodged a strong protest with the government of West Punjab against large scale border raids by armed Muslims. Ignoring the protest, the Pak administration clamped an economic blockade, cutting essential supplies. Instead of seeking relief from India and reading the writing on the wall, Maharaja Hari Singh thought it fit to send a cable to the British Prime Minister. By the end of September, the border raids increased and the situation became explosive. The British Prime Minister ignored the cable and the Maharaja was alarmed.

 Thakur Janak Singh, after staying in office for about two months was replaced by Meharchand Mahajan, an eminent jurist. On 29th September 1947, full 1-1/2 months after Pakistan had been born, Hari Singh released Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah and other NC leaders and workers. Sensing danger, the NC leaders activised the organisation. A delegation under G.M.Sadiq was sent to Pakistan. Sadiq met Liaqat Ali Khan, the Pak PM twice and presented  to him, a four point proposal; 1) to support Kashmiri People's struggle for self-rule; 2) to recognise the right of the people to decide the question of accession; 3) to allow people some time for it and 4) not to precipitate the matter meanwhile. G.M.Sadiq had to come back empty-handed and hurriedly in the face of a strict blockade.

 Maharaja Hari Singh was under pressure. He was advised even by Sardar Patel to associate Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah with the administration and take a decision. This, both Nehru and Patel felt was necessary to face any trouble from Pakistan which they feared. Unfortunately, time was allowed to slip. Armed incursions became more frequent, necessitating the deployment of state forces in small strength all along the border, leaving no reserves in the barracks. Brig. Gansara Singh, who had been sent to Gilgit as Governor to receive charge from the British, was facing a revolt.

 On 22nd October 1947, 5000 armed tribesmen guided by Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan (under the name of General Tariq) entered the State and occupied Muzaffarabad and Domel. Their onward march was halted for two days by the valiant Brig. Rajinder Singh.

 The NC organised National Militia under the guidance of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed. Thousands of men and women volunteered to join it. Some of them were given short training in rifle-shooting. They were to maintain law and order, to keep vigil against enemy infiltration in the city and suburbs, and to assist the civil administration. Civil transport, whatever available was requisitioned along with the drivers for use in the emergency.

 The Maharaja sent an SOS to the government of India for military help on 24th Oct. 1947. Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah also flew to Delhi to appeal to the Indian Cabinet. Meanwhile, raiders were marching towards Baramulla.

 On 25th October 1947, the Defence Committee met under the Chairmanship of the Governor General, Mountbatten to decide on the Maharaja's request for supply of arms and ammunition. At this meeting, General Lockhurt, the Commander-in-Chief in India, read a telegram from Pakistan Army stating that 5000 armed raiders had entered and occupied Muzaffarabad, and many more were on their way. Would the supply of arms and ammunition to the local population meet the requirement in the face of a massive armed raid? The problem of troop reinforcement was talked, but according to Campbell-Johnson, Lord Mountbatten ruled it out till the State had acceded. V.P.Menon, the Secretary M.O. Indian States was sent to Kashmir immediately. Menon flew to Kashmir, assessed the situation, advised the Maharaja to leave for Jammu along with him and went back to Delhi. On 26 October, the Instrument of Accession was signed by the Maharaja, Meharchand Mahajan and Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah.

 The accession of Jammu & Kashmir was accepted by the Governor General in the same way as in the case of other 560 odd Indian States. However in a separate letter to the Maharaja, Lord Mountbatten said, "In consistence with the policy of government of India that in the case of any state where the issue of accession has been a matter of dispute, the question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of State. It is my government's wish that as soon as the State has been cleared of the raiders and as soon as law and order has been restored, the question of State's accession should be settled by a reference to the people."

 It was a promise to the government of India which the State government fulfilled on 6th February 1954, when the duly elected Constituent Assembly ratified the State having acceded to India on 26th October 1947.
 The first batch of Indian Army under Col. Rai landed at Srinagar airport on 27th October when Baramulla had fallen. Raiders then moved towards outskirts of Srinagar city, but were defeated and driven out of the Valley on 8th Nov. 1947.

 Accession has been done in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, under which 560 other state rulers decided their accession. The legality of Kashmir accession has not been challenged even in UNO. By implication, it has been recognised. But unfortunately the problem has been a constant headache. Is it not due to procrastination of a single person who mattered most? 
 
 

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