March-April 2004 issue
of the Vinod Sur Shringar Music Academy
at the Annual Cultural Nite at Rang Sharda, Bandra
From the Pages of History
… J.N. Kachroo
Indo-Pak War - Part II
Click: Part 1
About a month ago, somebody called me from Srinagar. He had somehow read Milchar, January-February 2004 issue. Referring to the article 'Indo-Pak War 1947', he said that questions raised therein for a reply are of academic interest. The most important 'problem' which owed its origin to 'the Indo-Pak Conflict' was the question of plebiscite. According to him, this was the only 'living question' of the period. This should get precedence. I agree with him.
I get tempted to trace the history of Kashmir in 1940's, so that decisions taken then are viewed in right historical perspective to enable the reader to come to a logical conclusion.
Fateful Forties And Kashmir :
Forties of the last century have many defining moments in the course of world history. The first (and hopefully the last) nuclear Bomb was used as a weapon. The world war came to an end. Colonialism collapsed. The British withdrew from India. Two sovereign states, India and Pakistan, came into existence. And the Indian States saw the dawn of democracy replacing feudalistic regimes. Kashmir witnessed historical changes in its political affiliations. Some of the changes brought the State on the chessboard of national politics.
With the change of Muslim Conference (MC) into National Conference (NC) in 1939, and the endorsement of its National Demand Resolution by prominent Hindus and Sikhs, Kashmir Movement assumed a secular look.
In 1940, Jawahar Lal Nehru and Abdul Gaffar Khan visited Kashmir at the invitation of NC. Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah acted as a perfect host. The NC came closer to the Indian National Congress (INC). In 1941, Sheikh Abdullah got NC affiliated to the All States Peoples' Conference. Nehru was its President then. Muslim League (ML) reacted by reviving MC under Ghulam Abbas, but it had little public support. NC passed a strong resolution supporting Quit India Movement launched by INC in 1942. In 1944, the NC issued an outline of the new Constitution in New Kashmir plan. It envisaged freedom, equality, democracy, joint electorate. Its economic creed was socialism, land to tillers etc.
The Muslim league had already passed the Lahore Resolution in 1940, demanding Pakistan on the basis of Two Nation Theory. Naya Kashmir (New Kashmir) slogan and the consequent popularity of Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah alarmed the Muslim League. Jinnah attempted to woo the people of Kashmir.
On 19th May 1944, Jinnah was accorded a reception on behalf of the citizens of Srinagar at Pratap Park. Speaking on the occasion, Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah said, "..... you are a beloved leader of the Muslims of India ...... we Kashmiris welcome you as a prominent Indian, despite ideological differences." Jinnah gave customary thanks to the people of Srinagar. Within an hour, speaking from the platform of MC at Jamia Masjid, Mr. Jinnah declared, "Muslims have one platform, one Kalima and one God ..... All Muslims must come under one flag." Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah quickly declared in a rejoinder, "....ills of this land can be remedied by taking Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs together." On 24th June 1944, Abdullah issued a written statement saying, " .... Viewing the position from an all India perspective, we find that Mr. Jinnah has repeatedly declared that he does not extend his plans of Pakistan to Indian States." Mr. Jinnah did not comment. Perhaps he could not, in view of his diverse interests. However, war of words continued. Mr. Jinnah called the leaders of NC as 'a gang of goondas'. Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah issued a sharp warning saying, "If Mr. Jinnah does not give up his habit of interfering in our politics, it will be difficult for him to go back in an honourable manner."
Baramulla Episode: Some present day writers consider this warning as a hollow rhetoric. I am an eye witness to the following episode:
After spending a considerable part of summer in Kashmir, Mr. Jinnah was scheduled to address a public gathering at Baramulla on his return journey. The meeting was arranged on the lawns of a masjid situated on the right bank of Vitasta, just to the east of the old bridge and opposite the Baramulla Hospital across the river. Just when Mr. Jinnah appeared on the dais in front of the mosque, there was commotion in the vast crowd that had assembled on the bank of the river. Hundreds of people rose up, unfolding banners with slogans: 'Hindu Muslim Sikh Itihad - Zindabad' and 'Qaid-e-Azam Sheri Kashmir, Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah - Zindabad'. There was pandemonium on the dias. Some people were seen rushing towards the entrance through which the guest was coming, carrying a string of chappals and shoes. Stones were pelted. The situation could not be controlled. People ran helter skelter. Mr. Jinnah had to be escorted safely back to his car. The rally ended in a fiasco. It was later rumoured that Mr. Jinnah did not oblige his hosts who had arranged a lunch at Khanpora on the outskirts of the town just on the highway.
V.D.Savarkar visited Kashmir in the autumn of the same year. It is interesting to note that Pandit S.N.Fotedar, President Yuvak Sabha told him that Hindu Fundmentalism was as alien to the culture of Kashmir as Muslim Fundamentalism.
The Winner: Leaders of INC who had been arrested during Quit India Movement were released in 1945. Nehru, Azad and Gaffar Khan visited Kashmir to a rousing reception including a splendid river procession, despite a threat of disruption issued by the MC. These leaders attended the annual open session of National Conference held at Sopore. The visiting leaders were present when Pandit Kashyap Bandhu moved the political resolution demanding responsible government under the aegis of His Highness.
Incidently, Nehru on 7th August 1945 told the Kashmiri Pandits (reported in the Hindu of 10 August) : "I advise others to join it (NC) in much larger numbers and thereby influence its decisions."
Kashmiriyat was the lone winner and it survived the tests of that tragic decade.
Quit Kashmir Movement: The Cabinet Mission arrived in India in March 1946. On 12th May, the Mission issued a memorandum on the future of the Princely States: " .... His Majesty's Government will cease to exercise the powers of paramountcy. ....all rights surrendered by the States to the paramount power will return to the States." Would the princes be free to be independent? Would the British rule be replaced by Maharaja's autocracy? This was not acceptable to NC under Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah, who launched the Quit Kashmir Movement in May 1946.
Jinnah, who had little popular support in Indian States welcomed the Cabinet Mission proposal. The MC in the State sided with the Maharaja while the INC, especially Jawahar Lal Nehru supported Abdullah. Nehru rushed to Abdullah's help, was arrested and later came back to initiate the legal defence of Abdullah. The Quit Kashmir agitation continued. Maharaja Hari Singh considered Sheikh Mohd. Abdullah as an enemy and lost faith in the INC and particularly in Jawahar Lal Nehru. The situation drifted.
On 3rd June 1947, the British government announced the partition plan, reiterating the Cabinet Mission declaration on Indian States which could now accede to either dominion, observing the principle of contiguity. Theoretically the princes could be even independent. The right of decision, primarily rested with the ruler of each state. The Muslim League of India thought it was the exclusive right of the rulers to decide the accesion of their states. The India National Congress held the view that the will of the people would decide the question of accesion in case of non-agreement between the rulers and the ruled.
Thus on the eve of India's independence, Kashmir was ideologically and emotionally closer to Indian National Congress than to Muslim League. The INC particularly Jawahar Lal Nehru had demonstrated support and sympathy for Kashmiris.
(To be continued)