Mountbatten plan which propounded the scheme of partition and laid down
the procedure to give effect to it, placed the Jammu and Kashmir State
in a very difficult position. Though theoretically it conceded an independent
status to all the states after the lapse of British paramountcy, it advised
them in their own interest as also in the interest of the new dominions
of India and Pakistan to join one or the other of them before 15th of August,
the deadline for British withdrawal. The geographical contiguity was laid
down as the main factor guiding their choice of the dominion for accession.
For most of the states which were surrounded on all sides by Indian territory,
the choice was obvious. But that was not the case with Jammu and Kashmir
State which was geographically contiguous to both India and Pakistan. Some
of its parts had close social and cultural ties with India while others
had closer ties with would be Pakistan. The majority of its population
taken as a whole was Muslim while the ruler was a Dogra Hindu. Its position,
therefore, was very unenviable.
three courses open to the state. It could accede to India or to Pakistan
or remain independent. Mr Jinnah claimed Kashmir for Pakistan on the ground
of its being a Muslim majority state contiguous to Pakistan. ln fact he
was so confident about it that he told a deputation of the Jammu and Kashmir
Muslim Conference that "Kashmir is in my pocket".
were naturally interested in retaining Jammu & Kashmir in India. But
instead of basing their claim on the natural ground of its being an integral
part of India which could not be effected by the partition agreement which
concerned only British India, they banked on the support of the Kashmiri
Muslim followers of Sheikh Abdullah who held the balance between the Hindus
who wanted the state to accede to India and the supporters and followers
of the Muslim Conference who preferred Pakistan. Therefore they, especially
Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, wanted to appease Sheikh Abdullah by putting him
in power before accepting the accession of Jammu and Kashmir so that India
could be sure of the support of Sheikh Abdullah and his Muslim followers.
This stand of the Congress leaders was in keeping with their declared policy
that the decision about accession should ultimately rest with the people
and not with the rulers of the States.
This put Maharaja
Hari Singh on the horns of a dilemma. He did not want to accede to Pakistan.
His preference was definitely for India. But the condition of putting Sheikh
Abdullah in power before accession of his State to India could be accepted
was unpalatable to him. Sheikh Abdullah had made no secret of his hostility
to the person and Government of the Maharaja. He and his National Conference
wanted him to quit Kashmir bag and baggage before they could give their
opinion about accession authoritatively. Accession to India, therefore,
meant to him a sort of voluntary abdication of his authority over Kashmir
without any definite guarantee that Sheikh Abdullah and his followers would
support the accession of the State to India even after obtaining full power.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Government began to offer him alluring
terms if he acceded to Pakistan. The Maharaja was therefore, between the
devil and the deep sea. Accession to India meant immediate transfer of
power to Sheikh Abdullah without any definite guarantee about the future
of the State.
and patriotism stood in the way of accession to Pakistan. So he defered
The fact that
under notional division of Punjab the district of Gurdaspur including the
rail head of Pathunkot, which provided the only road link between Jammu
and East Punjab, had been included in West Pakistan added to Maharaja's
difficulties in making up his mind. By delaying the announcement of the
Radcliff Award, which awarded Gurdaspur and Pathankot, to India, by two
days - the Award was made public on 16th instead of 14th of August - Lord
Mountbatten too contributed to Maharaja's indecision.
Mountbatten far from being neutral in the matter of accession of Jammu
& Kashmir State to India or Pakistan wanted the Maharaja to accede
to Pakistan. The Maharaja lacked courage to resist his pressure. This added
to his indecision.
As time passed
the third course of remaining independent began to appeal to him. His Prime
Minister, Pt. Ram Chander Kak, was an enthusiastic supporter of this idea.
The author discussed the question at length with him. He argued that Jammu
and Kashmir being a Muslim majority state, Pakistan had a logical claim
to it on the basis on which India was going to be partitioned. Accession
to India, he said, would be resented by Pakistan and there would be trouble
in Muslim majority parts of the State. Accession to India would mean putting
Sheikh Abdullah in power. He doubted Sheikh Abdullah's bonafides and sincereity.
On his assertion being challenged he warmed up and said, "I too am a Kashmiri.
I know Sheikh Abdullah too well. His past antecedents and present politics
if studied realistically cannot warrant any other conclusion."
All this sounded
quite plausible. But what he would not explain convincingly was the way
the independent status of Kashmir was to be maintained in face of a hostile
Pakistan and an indifferent India. His plea was that Jammu & Kashmir
should remain independent for some years until India became strong and
her leaders more realistic in their policies. That he thought, would be
the time to accede to India. But the weight of these arguments was taken
away by his close association with enemies of India like Nawab of Bhopal
whose Home Minister, Shoaib Qureshi, frequently visited Srinagar as his
guest in those days. The author pointed out to him that the example of
independent Kashmir would strengthen the separatist and Pakistani elements
in B hopal and Hyderabad. B ut his personal ambition and distrust of Pt.
Nehru stood in the way of his appreciating this point of view. He was,
however, not able to get much support from the Hindus of the State for
this policy of independence. But the Muslim Conference, strangely enough,
supported this move. Maybe, it wanted to prevent Kashmir from acceding
to India until Pakistan became free from internal problems created by partition
and could turn her attention to Kashmir.
The net result
of this conflict and confusion in the mind of the Maharaja and his Prime
Minister was that Jammu & Kashmir State had not decided about accession
until the eve of the partition day. The dismissal of Pt. Ram Chandra Kak
on August 10, did create some hope of immediate accession to India. But
it remained unfulfilled. The Maharaja and his advisers failed to take the
decision even then. At the eleventh hour they decided to send telegraphic
requests to Mr. Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten for Stand - Still Agreements.
Jinnah at once accepted the request and a Stand Still Agreement with Pakistan
was signed. But the Indian Government started protracted negotiations which
remained incomplete until the date of Pakistani invasion.
not remain content with a stand-still agreement, but it removed her anxiety
about immediate accession of the State to India for she was not in a position
just then to exert her full pressure. It gave her time to strangulate Kashmir
economically and militarily before delivering the final blow.
of the Kashmir State to accede before the 15th of August is responsible
for much of the tragic drama that has been enacted there since then. There
can be no doubt that accession of the State to India before that fateful
date would have simplified the issue. Most of the pro-Pakistan Muslims
of the State would have surely gone over to Pakistan and their place might
have been taken by the Hindu refugees from the adjoining areas of West
Punjab and North Western Frontier Province. Such a development, would have
been in line with what happend in the princely States of Punjab and Rajasthan
and would have been taken as the natural result of the unnatural partition
of the country. Actually lakhs of Hindus passed through Jammu & Kashmir
territories during their forced exodus from West Pakistan to East Punjab.
Many of them, particularly those from the districts of Hazara, Rawalpindi
and Peshawar, were keen on settling in the Kashmir valley because of its
climatic affinity and geographical proximity to their home districts.
have put the seal of finality on the resultant alignment and there might
have been no Kashmir problem which has been plaguing Indo-Pak relations
ever since. But that was not to be.
It has become
customary to put the blame for the failure of Jammu & Kashmir State
to accede to India in time on Maharaja Hari Singh and this Kashmiri Prime
Minister, Pt. Kak. That is only partly true. It must be admitted that the
Maharaja had genuine difficulties which could not be wished. His Prime
Minister Pt. Kak had his own ambitions and fears. He was convinced that
accession to India so long as Pt. Nehru was Prime Minister at New Delhi
would mean transfer of power to Sheikh Abdullah and his own exile into
wilderness. Furthermore, he was under concerted pressure from British die-hards
and the rulers and premiers of States like Bhopal and Travancore which
were than toying with the idea of independence. The unique geo-political
situation of Jammu & Kashmir made it an ideal state to give the lead
to other princely states in asserting their independence which would have
led to Balkanisation of India as desired by the hostile British officials
and politicians. His British wife and her British relations who then occupied
high civil and military posts in the State might also have exerted their
influence in the same direction.
But it would
be wrong to give too much importance to Pt. Kak in the matter. He was after
all a servant and not the master of the Maharaja. His influence and advice
proved effective only because the Maharaja's own mind was also conditioned
that way. He had a strong feeling that Pt. Nehru, wanted to humilate him
by forcing him to submit to Sheikh Abdullah about whose bonafides he had
strong and valid doubts. Sh. Abdullah banked on Pt. Nehru to secure power
Lal Nehru was interested in securing Kashmir's accession to India because
of his emotional attachment with it as his ancestral homeland. But he had
pinned his hopes on Sh. Abdullah for whom he had developed a strange infatuation
rather than on the Maharaja. He had nothing but contempt and hatred for
the Maharaja and his Prime Minister, Pt. Kak, who had the temerity to order
his arrest on the eve of his appointment of head of the Interim Government
in 1946. Vindictive by nature, he was more keen on humilating the Maharaja
than on understanding his point of view, giving him friendly and sympathetic
guidance and helping him in arriving at a positive decision.
Patel, who as States Minister had presuaded hundreds of Princes to accede
to India before 15th August inspite of the machinations of the British
Political Department and subtle pressure from Mr. Jinnah through his declaration
that the Muslim League would respect the independence of the states. He
might have allayed the fears of the Maharaja and persuaded him to accede
in time. But since Pt. Nehru claimed to be a specialist on Kashmir, he
did not like anybody else in his party and the Government to interfere
with it. The Sardar therefore could not take that personal interest which
marked his handling of other princely states. The Maharaja was obsessed
by the fear that in respect of Jammu & Kashmir only Pt. Nehru's will
would prevail. Thus the issue of accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India
was made more difficult and complicated by the inter play of personal factors.
The obsessive interest of Pt. Nehru in Kashmir and Sh. Abdullah, which
was more subjective than objective, contributed more than any other factor
in the decision of Hari Singh. His dilemma was ultimately resolved by the
rulers of Pakistan.