Rumblings: Quit Kashmir Movement
forces and circumstances which ended the Dogra rule over Jammu and Kashmir
and gave rise to the "Kashmir Problem" can be directly traced to the socio-
political revolution that began to take shape in British India from the
early years of the 20th century. The British rulers of India foresaw quite
early the birth of national awakening of a different type than the one
which had manifested itself in 1857, and formulated a set policy to checkmate
it. It was thus enunciated by Sir John Stratchey, one of the ablest British
administrators in India in 1874, "The existence side by side of these (Hindu
and Muslim) hostile creeds is one of the strong points in our political
position in India. The better classes of Mohammedans are a source of strength
to us and not of weakness. They constitute a comparatively small but an
energetic minority of the population whose political interests are identical
of this policy, the British began to use the Muslims to further their own
political ends and to counteract the national upsurge which had always
been essentially Hindu in inspiration. The partition of Bengal in 1905,
the command performance of Aga Khan deputation in 1906 and the subsequent
formation of the Muslim League at Dacca and the introduction of separate
electorates in 1909 were calculated steps in the pursuit of this set policy.
Policy got a momentary setback during the short-lived honeymoon between
Khilafat movement, which aroused Pan-Islamic consciousness and extra -
territorial loyalties of the Indian Muslims under the leadership of fundamentalists
like Maulana Mohammad Ali, and the Indian National Congress under the mystical
leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. But this marriage of convenience of the two
incompatibles could not last long. The abolition of both Sultanate and
Khilafat i Turkey by Kamal Ata Turk; enabled the British to divert against
the infidel Hindus the religious frenzy aroused by the Khilafat Movement
amongst the Muslims against the Christian Britishers. The bloody communal
riots that followed in Malabar, Kohat, Multan, Saharanpur and many other
places marked a convincing failure of the Gandhian experiment in communal
harmony through appeasement of Muslims and success of the British policy.
of aggressively communal Muslim separation in Indian politics that followed
had its reverberations in the princely states as well. But as in British
India, it needed support from British Political Department to find its
feet there. Since Jammu and Kashmir State was a Muslim majority state under
a Hindu Maharaja who was proving to be inconveniently independent and patriotic,
the British decided to raise the Muslim bogey in his State to chastise
him and bring him to his knees.
the extension of religio-political awakening and sectarian political organizations
of British India into Jammu and Kashmir State. A clear grasp of the religio-
political awakening in Jammu and Kashmir state, which took different shape
and color in its different regions according to their socio-religious complexion,
is essential for any scientific study of genesis of Kashmir problem.
barriers and socio-economic backwardness precluded the frontier area of Ladakh, Baltistan and Gilgit from being affected by the
influences which began to enter the State frorn 1921 onward. They were
shaken out of their blissful ignorance or indifference to developments
in the rest of the State by Quit Kashmir movement of 1946 and shots and
shells of Pakistani invaders in 1947-48.
Of the remaining
three regions, Kashmir valley was the first to experience political activity.
Mirpur, Muzzaffarabad, and Poonch area followed the lead of Kashmir. The
Dogra area of Jammu remained steeped in its sectional and factional politics
till the revolutionary changes in the State's administrative and constitutional
set up following the Pakistani invasion of Kashmir in 1947 forced its people
to organize themselves politically and adjust themselves to the new order.
the political life in the Jammu and Kashmir State revolved around four
organizations - The Muslim Conference, the National Conference, the Praja
Parishad and Laddakh Buddhist Association.
The most important
role in creating political awakening and turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir was
played by Jammu and Kashmir Muslims Conference. The brain behind it was Sh. Mohammed Abdullah, who dominated the political scene in Kashmir till
his death in 1982. He has given a graphic but subjective account of the
political developments in Kashmir in his volumious autobiography in Urdu
- "Atish-i-Chinar." Like most other notable Kashmiris, Abdullah also was
a scion of a Kashmiri Brahmin family of Srinagar whose head, Pt. Ragho
Ram Kaul, was converted to Islam in 1766. His grandson, Ibrahim Sirad Abdullah
was born in 1904. Manufacture and trading in shawls was his family profession.
put in a "Maktab" in 1909 where he got his first grounding in Islam. He
got his early education at Srinagar and moved on to Lahore after passing
FSE examination from Shri Pratap College, Srinagar.
He was deeply
influenced by Islamic fundamentalism during his stay at Islamia college,
Lahore, from where he passed B.Sc and Aligarh Muslim University from where
he passed M.Sc in Chemistry in 1930. After returning to Srinagar he joined
State High School as Science Teacher. But he was dismissed within a year
for his subversive activities. This proved to be a blessing in disguise
for him. The British Political Department and the British Resident in Srinagar
who were annoyed with Maharaja Hari Singh for his patriotic speech at the
Round Table Conference at London had already begun to fan discontent among
the educated Muslims in Kashmir who till then had little share in the administration
of the State. They found in Abdullah a ready made tool who could be projected
as leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference formed in 1931 to
institutionalize the agitation against the Maharaja and his government.
The Muslim Press of Lahore, and Ahmadiya Jamat and Majlis Ahrar, two religio-political
movements of Punjab, also gave him a helping hand in that formative period.
of Abdullah can be ascribed to a number of factors. He was the first Kashmiri
Muslim to get a post graduate degree in science. This gave him a special
status among his people. His youthful looks, histrionic talents and command
over Koran, which he recited in a melodious voice in all his public speeches
added to his appeal. But his greatest asset was the support of the British
Political Department, Muslim organizations and the press of Punjab which
wanted to project him as leader of the Muslim majority in Kashmir.
an effective speaker in Kashmiri and Urdu and a good organizer. Muslim
Conference soon became a mass organization under his leadership. The communal
riot at Srinagar in July 1931, in which many Kashmiri Hindus were killed,
women dishonored. Their property looted and burnt and some activists of
Muslim Conference were also killed in police firing, proved to be a turning
point in the politics of Kashmir and life of Abdullah. The Maharaja was
unnerved. He appointed to commission to go into the causes of unrest and
of Glaney commission proved a boon for Kashmiri Muslims. It gave them a
number of concessions. The Maharaja also agreed to set up a legislative
assembly - The Praja Sabha - and take some elected leaders into his council
of ministers. This naturally gave a boost to Muslim Conference and Sh.
got the lease of Gilgit region for sixty years beginning from 1935 in the
bargain. This made British de facto master of the tributory state of Hunza,
Nagar and Chitral also. They raised a local militia - the Gilgit Scouts
- to police the area.
converted Muslim Conference into National Conference in 1939. To be able
to get support of the Indian Press and leadership in his struggle for power
in Kashmir. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan pursuaded him to do so on the plea that
with overwhelming majority of Muslims in Kashmir, political power, wherever
and in whatever way it was transferred to popular hands, would come into
his hands. As such, the change was more cosmetic than qualitative by opening
the doors of Muslim Conference to Non-Muslims, Abdullah lost nothing but
gained much; Kashmiri pundits joined it in good number.
But his colleagues
of Hindu majority Jammu region and Punjabi speaking belt from Mirpur to
Muzzaffarabad refused to fall in line with him. They kept the Muslim Conference
intact. It was led in Jammu by Ch. Ghulam Abbas. Mir Waiz Yusuf Shah kept
it alive in the Kashmir valley.
of Muslim Conference into National Conference brought Sh. Abdullah on the
national stage. He began to be lionised as "Sher-i-Kashmir" or, Tiger of
Kashmir. He also became an important leader of the state's peoples conference,
a front organization of the Indian or National Congress. Sardar Patel was
the only congress leader of note who had reservations about the credentials,
motivations and objectives of Sh. Abdullah.
world war and arrest of all top leaders of the Congress in the wake of
the quit India Movement of 1942, gave a new turn to Kashmir's politics.
The communist party of India, which began to support the British after
German attack on Soviet Russia and Russian entry into the Anglo-American
Camp. They began to take special interest in Kashmir. Many top communist
leaders of Punjab like B.P.L. Bedi, his European wife Freda Bedi and comrade
Dhanwantri came to have a good hold over Sh. Abdullah and his colleagues.
Some of them like Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq, Mir Kasim and D.P. Dhar formed
a group called "Friend of Soviet Union" and began to give pro-communist
tilt to politics and policies of the National Conference.
The end of
the second world war in 1945 victory of Labour Party in U.K. and beginning
of the cold war between the two super powers - the USA and USSR - and their
allies, gave a new turn to Indian politics as well. The Labor Government
of Attlee was committed to transfer of power to Indian hands. Announcement
about the visit of the cabinet mission to India in early 1946 to hold on
the spot discussions with Indian leaders about transfer of power made this
and his communist friends saw in this situation a new opportunity to fulfill
their own dreams. Abdullah wanted to get control over Kashmir valley before
the British left India for good. The communists wanted to make independent
Kashmir a communist base which could serve as a jumping ground for a push
forward into the rest of India in the days to come.
mission included Lord Pethic Lawrence as leader and Mr. Horace Alexander
and Sir Stafford Cripps as members. As it reached Delhi in early April,
1946, it made it clear that the British would quit India after an agreement
was reached with the Congress and the Muslim League about the shape of
the tentative plan it placed before Indian leaders for consideration, India
was to be a federation in which the centre would have control over specific
matters, including defense, foreign affairs and communications and the
residual powers were to remain with the federating units.
It also stipulated
sub-federations of Sindh, Punjab and NWFP. In the west, Assam, and Bengal
in the east, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Central Province, Orissa, Bombay and
Madras Presidencies to cover the rest of India. The idea was to create
two Muslim majority and one Hindu majority blocks. The princely states
were advised to join the new Indian Federation retaining the same powers
as the federating provinces. The decision to join the federation or stay
independent was to be left to their rulers.
and the Muslim League endorsed the view that decision about joining the
federation should be left to the rulers. But the Congress favored participation
of the peoples of the respective states in decision making.
wanted to strike before the plan was finalized and the British left. He
therefore, visited Delhi, met Gandhiji and Congress president, Acharya
Kripalani and sought their support for a mass movement to force the hands
of the Maharaja to quit Kashmir and hand over power to the people. Both
advised him against any such agitation at that juncture. But Abdullah and
his communist friends had made up their mind to go ahead.
In the meantime,
the cabinet mission decided to visit Kashmir. It reached Srinagar on April
19. Sh. Abdullah sent it a long telegram from Lahore in which he gave "clear
indication of his intention to launch a movement to wrest power from the
Maharaja". The gist of the telegram was: "The people of Kashmir do not
only want responsible government. They want complete independence and end
of personal rule of the Maharaja. Hundred years ago, the East India Co.
had sold Kashmir for 75 lakhs to Gulab Singh. We challenge the moral and
political basis of this "sale deed" miscalled "treaty of Amritsar" and
do not accept the right of the ruler to rule over us any longer."
On reaching Srinagar, Sh. Abdullah made a public call to the Maharaja to quit Kashmir
and exhorted his people to do everything possible to end the Dogra rule
over Kashmir- His speeches were so fiery and virulent that the government
had to order his arrest. He was arrested on May, 20.
It was followed
by large scale violence and arson by the followers of Abdullah in the valley.
Many key bridges were burnt down and government offices were attacked.
Pt. Ram Chandra Kak, a Kashmiri himself, who had been appointed Prime Minister
of the state by Hari Singh in 1945, came down on the agitators with a heavy
hand. The movement died down within a short time.
But a new turn
to the situation was given by Pt. Nehru who decided to visit Srinagar much
against the advice of Gandhi and Sardar Patel. It would have been wise
on the part of the state government to allow him to enter Kashmir and see
for himself the devastation caused by violent "Mujahideens" of Abdullah.
But Pt. Kak thought otherwise. He blocked entry of Pt. Nehru at Kehala
bridge. When Nehru persisted, he was arrested on June 22, and kept in the
Dak bunglow at Domel, near Muzzaffarabad.
made Pt. Nehru, who was then tipped to be the head of the Interim Government
to be formed at New Delhi, an inveterate enemy of Maharaja Hari Singh.
Even though he returned to Delhi after two days on urgent summons from Gandhiji, he continued to nurse animus against Hari Singh until his death.
The antipathy that began between Hari Singh and Jawaharlal with this unfortunate
incident did more to create the problem of Kashmir than anything else.
tried by a special court under section 144 of the Ranbir Penal Code pertaining
to armed rebellion and was sentenced to three years imprisonment. He was
thus put out of the picture during the crucial period preceding partition
and freedom of India in August, 1947.
The Quit Kashmir
movement made the real intentions of Sh. Abdullah clear beyond any doubt.
Two things became evident. 1. Sh. Abdullah was interested only in Kashmir
valley. He had neither any interest nor any stake in the rest of the Jammu
& Kashmir state. He built his whole case for quit Kashmir movement
on the alleged sale of Kashmir to Maharaja Gulab Singh by the Treaty of
Amritsar of March, 1946 for Rs. 75 lakhs. A perusal of the Treaty of Amritsar
makes it clear that this money had nothing to do with Kashmir as such.
It was the war indemnity which the British had demanded from Lahore Darbar
which surrendered all the mountainous territory of Lahore Kingdom lying
between the Ravi and the Indus in lieu of it.
2. Sh. Abdullah
had no claim on the sympathy and support of the Indian National Congress
and the people of India for this movement. He launched this movement against
the advice of the Congress President, Acharya Kripalani and other Congress
leaders. lt had nothing to do with the Indian freedom movement against
the British rule. In fact, he had not raised even a finger in support of
the Quit India movement launched by the Congress in 1942.
of Sh. Abdullah for the achievement of which he launched the Quit Kashmir
movement was an independent Kashmir valley under his tutelage. He was a
protagonist of Kashmiri nationalism linked to Islamism. His model was Dr.
Mohammad Iqbal, a scion of another Kashmiri Brahmin convert to lslam who
propounded the ideology of Pakistan as early as 1930. It is, therefore,
wrong to compare Quit Kashmir movement with the Quit India movement and
link Abdullah's Kashmiri nationalism with Indian Nationalism.
The Quit Kashmir
movement had very adverse reaction in Jammu and Laddakh. It alerted the
Hindu majority of Jammu and Buddhist majority of Laddakh and gave rise
to political moves with definite pro-India orientation in these two regions.
of Jammu had no political organization worth the name until then. There
was one Dogra Sabha. But it was primarily a socio-cultural organization.
A branch of Hindu Mahasabha was started in Jammu in early thirties. But
it never took root. A branch of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was started
there in 1940. It made steady progress and soon became a force to reckon
with. It extended its activities to Kashmir valley also in 1944. But it
claimed to be a non-political organization.
The most important
Hindu leader in Jammu region was Pt. Prem Nath Dogra. A retired civilian
and an elected member of the state Praja Sabha, he was appointed the "Sangh
Chalak" of Jammu in 1942. As an enlightened and keen observer of the political
scene he was quick to realize the implications of the Quit Kashmir movement
for the future of Jammu. He therefore began to think seriously about forming
a regional political party of Jammu. But, he could not take the initiative
without a green signal from the RSS leadership at Nagpur.
had no effective political party until Praia Parished came into existence.
The people of Jammu welcomed it enthusiastically. Praja Parished soon became
a force to reckon with in Jammu region. It was committed to full integration
of the whole state with the rest of India and autonomy for Jammu Region.
of Laddakh had been upset by inroads of Kashmiri Muslims who used to marry
Buddhist women leading to rise of a mixed breed of Laddakhis who professed
Islam, controlled trade and took active interest in conversion of Buddhist
Laddakhis to Islam. They had formed a Socio-cultural organization under
the name of Laddakh-Buddhist Association to safeguard Buddhist identity
of Ladakh. Its leaders were quick to realize the dangerous implications
of the Quit Kashmir movement and impending partition of India for the future
Buddhist Association submitted a memorandum to Maharaja Hari Singh in 1947.
It recalled the history of Laddakh, the basis of Laddakh's link with Jammu
& Kashmir state and asserted that the Buddhist people would not like
Laddakh to join Pakistan at any cost. They suggested that before taking
any decision about accessLon of the state, the Maharaja should restore
the freedom of Laddakh. In case, he acceded to India, Laddakh would like
to be linked with the Hindu majority Jammu region; in any case it would
not have anything to do with Kashmir valley.
Thus, the Quit
Kashmir movement had deep impact on Laddakh and Jammu and laid the foundation
of the movement for separating them from Kashmir.
In the meanwhile,
things were moving fast both in London and Delhi. Failure of the Cabinet
Mission Plan was followed by appointment of Lord Mountbatten as the Governor
General of India. He put forth his plan of partition and freedom of India
known as the "Mountbatten Plan" on June 3, 1947. It gave option to Princely
States to join truncated India or Pakistan keeping in view their geographical
contiguity. This plan put Jammu & Kashmir state in a difficult situation
and put its ruler on the horns of a dilemma.