April-June 2002 issue
the Pages of History
Kashmir - June
1947 to October 1947
Pains of Procrastination -
... J. N.
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.
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
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?