Kashmir: The Storm center of the World
Table of Contents
   Index
   About the Author
   Foreword
   Abode of Kashyap
   The Making of J&K
   Hundred Years of Dogra Rule
   Quit Kashmir Movement
   Hari Singh's Dilemma
   Accession to India
   First Indo-Pak War
   Bungling at U.N.
   Kashmir Divided
   The Dixon Proposals
   Shadow of Cold War
   The Chinese Factor
   Indo-Pak War of 1965
   Indo-Pak War of 1971
   The Great Betrayal
   Back to Square One
   War by Proxy
   The Way Out
   Appendix
   Book in pdf format  
   Official Site  

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Chapter 4

Political Rumblings: Quit Kashmir Movement

The 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 with ours."

In pursuit 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.

This British 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.

The growth 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.

This marked 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.

Geographical barriers and socio-economic backwardness precluded the frontier area of Ladakh, Baltistan and Gilgit from being affected by the religio-political 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.

Broadly speaking, 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.

Muslim Conference

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.

Abdullah was 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.

Quick rise 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.

Abdullah was 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 suggest remedies.

The report 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. Abdullah.

The British 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.

National Conference

Sh. Abdullah 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.

The conversion 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.

The second 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 crystal clear.

Sh. Abdullah 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.

The cabinet 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 free India.

According to 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.

Mr. Jinnah 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.

Sh. Abdullah 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."

Quit Kashmir Movement

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.

This arrest 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.

Abdullah was 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.

These objectives 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.

Jammu Praja Parishad

The Hindus 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.

Jammu, therefore, 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.

Laddakh Buddhist Association

The Buddhists 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 of Laddakh.

The Laddakh 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.
 

Kashmir: The Storm Center of the World

 

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