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‘Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away?’

Excerpted from Kashmir 1947, Rival Versions of History, by Prem Shankar Jha.  - Editor

Sam Manekshaw, the first field marshal in the Indian army, was at the ringside of events when Independent India was being formed. Then a colonel, he was chosen to accompany V P Menon on his historic mission to Kashmir. This is his version of that journey and its aftermath, as recorded in an interview with Prem Shankar Jha.

At about 2.30 in the afternoon, General Sir Roy Bucher walked into my room and said, ‘Eh, you, go and pick up your toothbrush. You are going to Srinagar with V P Menon. The flight will take off at about 4 o’clock’. I said, ‘why me, sir?’

‘Because we are worried about the military situation. V P Menon is going there to get the accession from the Maharaja and Mahajan.’ I flew in with V P Menon in a Dakota. Wing Commander Dewan, who was then squadron leader Dewan, was also there. But his job did not have anything to with assessing the military situation. He was sent by the Air Force because it was the Air Force which was flying us in.’

Since I was in the Directorate of Military Operations, and was responsible for current operations all over India, West Frontier, the Punjab, and elsewhere, I knew what the situation in Kashmir was. I knew that the tribesmen had come in - initially only the tribesmen - supported by the Pakistanis.

Fortunately for us, and for Kashmir, they were busy raiding, raping all along. In Baramulla they killed Colonel D O T Dykes. Dykes and I were of the same seniority. We did our first year’s attachment with the Royal Scots in Lahore, way back in 1934-5. Tom went to the Sikh regiment. I went to the Frontier Force regiment. We’d lost contact with each other. He’d become a lieutenant colonel. I’d become a full colonel.

Tom and his wife were holidaying in Baramulla when the tribesmen killed them.

The Maharaja’s forces were 50 per cent Muslim and 50 per cent Dogra.

The Muslim elements had revolted and joined the Pakistani forces. This was the broad military situation. The tribesmen were believed to be about 7 to 9 kilometers from Srinagar. I was sent into get the precise military situation. The army knew that if we had to send soldiers, we would have to fly them in. Therefore, a few days before, we had made arrangements for aircraft and for soldiers to be ready.

But we couldn’t fly them in until the state of Kashmir had acceded to India. From the political side, Sardar Patel and V P Menon had been dealing with Mahajan and the Maharaja, and the idea was that V.P Menon would get the Accession, I would bring back the military appreciation and report to the government. The troops were already at the airport, ready to be flown in. Air Chief Marshall Elmhurst was the air chief and he had made arrangements for the aircraft from civil and military sources.

Anyway, we were flown in. We went to Srinagar. We went to the palace. I have never seen such disorganisation in my life. The Maharaja was running about from one room to the other. I have never seen so much jewellery in my life — pearl necklaces, ruby things, lying in one room; packing here, there, everywhere. There was a convoy of vehicles.

The Maharaja was coming out of one room, and going into another saying, ‘Alright, if India doesn’t help, I will go and join my troops and fight (it) out’.

I couldn’t restrain myself, and said, ‘That will raise their morale sir’. Eventually, I also got the military situ-ation from everybody around us, asking what the hell was happening, and discovered that the tribesmen were about seven or nine kilometres from what was then that horrible little airfield.

V P Menon was in the meantime discussing with Mahajan and the Maharaja. Eventually the Maharaja signed the accession papers and we flew back in the Dakota late at night. There were no night facilities, and the people who were helping us to fly back, to light the airfield, were Sheikh Abdullah, Kasimsahib, Sadiqsahib, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, D P Dhar with pine torches, and we flew back to Delhi. I can’t remember the exact time. It must have been 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock in the morning.

(On arriving at Delhi) the first thing I did was to go and report to Sir Roy Bucher. He said, ‘Eh, you, go and shave and clean up. There is a cabinet meeting at 9 o’clock. I will pick you up and take you there.’ So I went home, shaved, dressed, etc. and Roy Bucher picked me up, and we went to the cabinet meeting.

The cabinet meeting was presided by Mountbatten. There was Jawaharlal Nehru, there was Sardar Patel, there was Sardar Baldev Singh. There were other ministers whom I did not know and did not want to know, because I had nothing to do with them. Sardar Baldev Singh I knew because he was the minister for defence, and I knew Sardar Patel, because Patel would insist that V P Menon take me with him to the various states.

Almost every mor-ning the Sardar wo-uld sent for V P, H M Patel and myself. While Ma-niben (Pa-tel’s dau-ghter and de facto secretary) would sit cross-legged with a Parker fountain pen taking notes, Patel would say, ‘V P, I want Baroda. Take him with you.’ I was the bogeyman. So I got to know the Sardar very well.

At the morning meeting he handed over the (Accession) thing. Mountbatten turned around and said, ‘ come on Manekji (He called me Manekji instead of Manekshaw), what is the military situation?’ I gave him the military situation, and told him that unless we flew in troops immediately, we would have lost Srinagar, because going by road would take days, and once the tribesmen got to the airport and Srinagar, we couldn’t fly troops in. Everything was ready at the airport.

As usual Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God almighty, everybody, until Sardar Patel lost his temper. He said, ‘Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away’. He (Nehru) said,’ Of course, I want Kashmir (emphasis in original). Then he (Patel) said ‘Please give your orders’. And before he could say anything Sardar Patel turned to me and said, ‘You have got your orders’.

I walked out, and we started flying in troops at about 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock. I think it was the Sikh regiment under Ranjit Rai that was the first lot to be flown in. And then we continued flying troops in. That is all I know about what happened. Then all the fighting took place. I became a brigadier, and became director of military operations and also if you will see the first signal to be signed ordering the cease-fire on 1 January (1949) had been signed by Colonel Manekshaw on behalf of C-in-C India, General Sir Roy Bucher. That must be lying in the Military Operations Directorate.

“V P Menon turned around and said, ‘Sam we’ve got the Accession.’ “

Sam Manekshaw, the first field marshal in the Indian army, was at the ringside of events when Independent India was being formed. Then a colonel, he was chosen to accompany V P Menon on his historic mission to Kashmir. This is his version of that journey and its aftermath, as recorded in an interview with Prem Shankar Jha.

You went in on the afternoon of the 25th. When you got to Srinagar, were you actually present when the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession?

I was in the palace when V P Menon, Mahajan, and the Maharaja were discussing the subject. The Maharaja was running from one room to another.....I did not see the Maharaja signing it, nor did I see Mahajan. All I do know is that V P Menon turned around and said, ‘Sam we’ve got the Accession.’

He said that to you.

Yes, yes he turned around to me, and so we flew back.

And you were actually  present the next morning when V P Menon handed this over during that.....

(Interrupting) I was at the cabinet meeting presided over by Mountbatten when it was handed over....we’d got the Accession. I can’t understand why anyone said that the thing was signed in Jammu, because we never went to Jammu.

Was it the cabinet meeting, or was it the defence committee of the cabinet?

No, it was a meeting with Mountbatten presiding, with Vallabhbhai Patel, Baldev Singh...

Nehru, of course.

There were other ministers too; I can’t recall.....

That was the defence committee. Otherwise, there would have been a much larger group. Sir Roy Bucher was there too?

Yes, yes, Sir Roy took me there.

Was the Maharaja, in your presence, demurring from signing, was he laying down conditions. Was V P Menon saying ‘look you’ve got to bring Abdullah into the Cabinet first....’

That I honestly can’t tell you. All that I can say is that the Maharaja was ... he was not in his full senses. He was running about saying I will fight there. Unless the Indian army comes in, my own forces will fight’; that sort of rubbish was going on. All that V P Menon was telling him was that we cannot send forces in unless the accession takes place. Then he signed it. That is all I can tell you about the actual signing.

And you were present the next morning when the Instrument was handed over to Mountbatten?

Yes.

You have said that the first lot of troops were flown in around noon.

Immediately (emphasis in original) after the cabinet meeting. We went to Srinagar I think on the 25th. I can’t tell you the dates. We came back on the 26th in the early morning, and the same day we started to fly troops in. And the Pakistanis only came in when we started throwing the tribesmen out. It is only then that the Pakistani regular troops came in. I think it was General Akbar Khan, who was married to Begum Shah Nawaz’s daughter; can’t remember her name, dammit, I used to know them so well in Lahore. I think he organised the tribesmen coming in.

What you said about the Sikhs being moved on the 26th, immediately after the Letter of Accession was given, is not known. The story is that the first Indian troops were moved on the 27th - that they left at the crack of dawn, maybe even earlier, and that they arrived in Srinagar at 9 am. General Sen, who wrote a book about it, said that they were surprised to find troops of the Patiala regiment (state forces) already there. Did you find, when you went to Srinagar that in fact at some point earlier on, perhaps even before 15 August, the Maharaja of Patiala had agreed to send a battalion of his troops to Kashmir.

If that had happened, I would have known. No. There were no soldiers of either the Indian or Patiala forces which had gone in earlier.

Then is it possible that the troops that General Sen referred to were the ones who had gone in on the 26th?

No, that was the First Sikh Light In....Sikh Battalion, that was sent with Ranjit Rai. That was sent on the 26th. The same day we’d had the cabinet committee meeting, the defence committee meeting or whatever. I remember getting out of that meeting and making arrangements. Bogey Sen went in later. Poor old Ranjit was killed. He and I were from the same batch - the first batch at the Indian Military Academy.

In his book, The Great Divide, H V Hodson, who wrote it after being given access to Mountbatten’s personal papers, doesn’t specifically say that the Instrument was presented to the defence committee at its morning meeting. But he does say that after you had given your appreciation of the military situation in the morning, discussion went on about, well, we should send in the troops but should we accept the Accession or not.

Which implies that the letter of Accession had already been given but the cabinet (committee) was still in two minds about whether it should be accepted, or whether the Maharaja should be told, well, we are sending in troops to support you, but we are not going to accept the accession just now. In the evening, apparently, the decision was taken that we will accept the accession but with the proviso about the reference to the wishes of the people which eventually went into the letter that Mountbatten wrote.

Now is it possible that although you made the arrangement to send the troops, the actual fly in took place on the 27th.

(Thinks) No they were sent in the same day. And I think you would be able to verify that from air force records because we didn’t have all that many aircraft, and had to get them from the civilian airlines. They had all been got ready.

--Courtesy: The Net.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

  

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