Despite the fact the issue of accession of Jammu & Kashmir and record of events that followed is well documented, yet there is lot of ambiguity about the entire issue because the events have been interpreted differently by different people (politicians and scholars) depending on which of the prevailing narratives on Kashmir she/he has been brought up?
There is a narrative laced with victimhood floated by the Kashmiri lobby blaming the Dogra rulers and the Dogras for all their ills supported by the Nehruvian school of thought in the rest of the country. It can be called the Kashmiri version and unfortunately is most popular because it has the blessings of National Conference and Congress, the two parties that ruled this state for about six decades. The narrative is developed basically to promote the Nehru- Abdullah families as the architect of modern Kashmir, while the facts are much to the contrary.
In view of the dominance enjoyed by these parties in the Centre and the State no counter-narrative was allowed to be thrown up. Any such attempt was dubbed as communal and rejected. However, the events as recorded in various books and publications as well as the eye witness accounts tell us the true story. Some pseudo-intellectuals and left liberals reject the truth terming it as “distorted version of history” that the RSS propagates. They are scared that the history written by them with “manufactured facts” will get exposed and hence take shelter behind such warped logic. These “manufactured facts” cannot be used to build a narrative to mislead the nation for ever and hence need to be exposed.
The whole narrative revolves around the theory that, “But for Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Kashmir wouldn’t have been part of India.” While it attempts to portray Sheikh and Nehru as the heroes and saviour of Kashmir, it totally downplays to the extent of ignoring the contribution of the then ruler of Jammu & Kashmir Maharaja Hari Singh and the valiant State Forces led by the Dogra officers. Nehru is also credited with quick military intervention to save Kashmir. Another outright lie gives credit of accession to Sheikh Abdullah.
Let’s have a look at the facts. Mehr Chand Mahajan, the then Prime Minister of J&K who later rose to be the Chief Justice of India, has given a vivid eye-witness account of major events during the period in his book “Looking Back.” There are numerous other books written by many government servants, politicians and political analysts who were either eye-witnesses or interviewed the important personalities of that time. Sheikh Abdullah was an ambitious person and had the backing of Nehru. Mountbatten was looking after the interests of the British Empire which wanted the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan because of the strategic Gilgit area. The Maharaja, right from the beginning, had shown disinclination towards Pakistan. Mountbatten visited Kashmir to convince the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan but the Maharaja did not yield. Nehru, on the other hand, was insistent on Maharaja handing over the administration to his friend Sheikh Abdullah before considering any offer of accession to India.
According to Dr Karan Singh, “It was the bad luck of His Highness that both the most influential powers of that time namely the British Government and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru were against the Maharaja for their own reasons.”Mountbatten also used Maharaja’s Prime Minister Ram Chandra Kak to convince him to accede to Pakistan and even facilitated his meeting with Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Maharaja understood the dubious role being played by Kak and sacked him. Sheikh Abdullah had been jailed by the Maharaja for treason. Nehru insisted that Sheikh be released and made head of the government. Meanwhile, the Maharaja offered twice to accede to India between August and September 1947 but Nehru spurned the offer and insisted on the pre-condition laid by him. The Maharaja released the Sheikh from jail in September after the latter sought a royal pardon and promised to behave like a loyal subject. Nehru now insisted that Sheikh be allowed to go to Delhi.
According to Mahajan, “…My impression of Sheikh Abdullah was that he was out to gain power at any cost. To acquire it he would try to influence his friend, the Prime Minister of India, but would not disdain the use of any other means such as creating some kind of an uprising in the State.” Prior to his departure to Delhi in October 1947, Sheikh had an audience with the Maharaja. Mahajan, along with the Deputy Prime Minister was present during his interview with His Highness. Mahajan recorded, “…The burden of his talk was that His Highness should trust him and handover the administration of the State to him. He would then behave like a dutiful son and loyal subject. Though he was swearing loyalty and allegiance to His Highness, he desired that the Maharaja should only remain as a constitutional ruler and real power should be delegated to him.”
Sheikh’s intent is clearly exposed. His pro-Nehru and anti- Jinnah stance is also based on the same logic. It is not that Sheikh was against the “two-nation” theory but was solely interested in becoming ruler of Kashmir which he felt would be easier under Nehru due to his friendship with him. Nehru and Mountbatten even knew of the Pakistan plan to invade Kashmir in October to forcibly annex the state but did not share the same with the Maharaja and instead used as a leverage to handover administration to Sheikh Abdullah before entertaining any request for military assistance.
The planned invasion of J&K State by the Pakistan Army was codenamed Operation Gulmarg and was scheduled to begin on 22 October 1947. Maj OS Kalkat, then Brigade Major (BM) of Bannu Kohat Brigade deployed in the North West Frontier Province, has explicitly written in his book “Far-flung Frontiers” that he received a “SECRET” document in his capacity as BM which happened to be an Operation Order on 20 August 1947 signed by General Sir Frank Walter Messervy, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army. Major Kalkat later joined the Indian Army and shared the details of the plan of Operation Gulmarg with his superiors. Britain wanted two areas with Pakistan at any cost if J&K acceded to India. The one was the frontier areas along the Chinese and Russian borders comprising Gilgit, Swat, Hunza, Chitral and Nagar, the other was the western hilly strip adjoining Pakistani Punjab to secure the Pakistani plains from India to include Mirpur-Kotli-Muzaffarabad.
Pakistan launched operation Gulmarg as per plan on 22 October which was preceded by cross-border raids and economic blockade in September. Historians have been very unfair for not recording the valour of Dogra soldiers who faced the invaders despite being betrayed by their Muslim compatriots and heavily outnumbered. Moreover, British Chief of the State Forces had, before leaving the state, so dispersed the army in small units in far flung areas that they had ceased to be effective as a cohesive force. Mahajan writes, “In Muzaffarabad and Domel, the gateway to Kashmir, there was only a battalion of State Forces commanded by Colonel Narain Singh, but this unit had about 40 percent Muslims who could not be trusted in the communal situation that had arisen. Despite the word from Maharaja to disarm this part of his unit, Col Narain was not ready to do so on the plea that they were his most loyal soldiers and had served under him in Burma and elsewhere in the Great War. He met his death at the hands of his own Muslim soldiers who joined the raiders. Large number of fellow Dogra soldiers were also assassinated at Domel.” It was the treachery of Muslim troops of the State Forces that opened the road to Muzaffarabad and Srinagar. But the Dogra soldiers fought last man last round and tried to prevent them from reaching the capital Srinagar.
To contest the advancing enemy, Brigadier Rajinder Singh, Chief of Staff of the State Forces, gathered nearly 200 soldiers and rushed towards Uri with whatever weapons and ammunition he could accumulate. Brigadier Singh occupied defences at Uri on the home side of River Jhelum. He denied the use of Bridge to the invaders thus delaying their advance. He finally attained martyrdom at Uri fighting the invaders on 27 October. Had he not exploited the bridge and compelled the enemy to stay on the other side for a reasonably long time, the history of J&K would have been different today. Maharaja’s desperate requests for help were not heeded by Nehru. Maharaja had even sent his Deputy Prime Minister Batra with a letter of accession to Delhi on 24 October.
Had Nehru not been adamant and accepted the accession earlier, the Indian Army could have been deployed well in advance of the Pakistani invasion preventing creation of POJK and the inhuman rape and plunder that followed the invasion. Nehru’s blind love for Sheikh is the root cause of creation of POJK.
VP Menon, Secretary of the Ministry of States arrived in Srinagar on 25 October. He along with Lt Col Sam Manekshaw and a few Air Force officers was sent by Delhi to assess the ground situation. As per Mahajan, “He came straight to my residence and told me that he had come there to take me to Delhi. Nothing about military aid he said could be decided till my arrival there.” They both met the Maharaja the same day and Mahajan was ordered to accompany him to Delhi the next day. He flew with Menon to Delhi on 26th morning.
Menon took Mahajan straightway to meet Nehru & Patel. Mahajan pleaded for airlifting military aid to Kashmir at any cost. Nehru appeared to equivocate but soon conceded under pressure from Sardar Patel and concurrence of Sheikh who was present in Nehru’s house in an adjoining room and listening to the entire heated conversation. He was so influenced by Sheikh that after reading the chit received from Sheikh said in a loud voice, “Sheikh Sahib also says the same thing.” Nehru then convened the meeting of Cabinet Defence Committee, ironically headed by Mountbatten.
Later, in the meeting of Defence Committee, request for military aid was agreed to. Nehru was still dillydallying supported by Mountbatten? He said how forces can be sent at such a short notice on spur of the moment and when the military situation was not clear, knowing fully well that Indian Army was already prepared with contingency plans. He finally conceded under pressure from Patel and in the wee hours of 27 October, began the airlifting of Indian Army troops.
The bravery of Lt Col Ranjit Rai and valiant troops of 1SIKH, D Company of 4 Kumaon under the leadership of Major Somnath Sharma coupled with the bravery of Dogra troops under Brig Rajinder Singh, saved Srinagar from falling in the hands of invaders. Readers for themselves can assess the role of Nehru and Sheikh.
Another, “manufactured fact” often stated is that the accession by the Maharaja was conditional. As per Mahajan,“After landing at Safdarjung airport, I immediately drove in a waiting car to the Prime Minister’s House on York Road. In view of the advance of the raiders towards the towns of Baramulla and Srinagar, I requested immediate military aid on ‘any terms.’ Hand over political power to any one you like.” The situation was so critical that Maharaja sought military aid on “any terms,” then how could he ever had laid any conditions for the accession that followed. In fact, he was forced to hand over the emergency administration to Sheikh to satisfy Nehru.
By end 1948, the British having achieved their objective of the frontier areas including Gilgit and the western hilly tracts of Mirpur, Kotli, Muzaffarabad firmly in hands of Pakistan, used the services of Mountbatten (who had already left in June 1948) to convince Nehru to agree to a ceasefire. The military commanders were not in favour of the ceasefire and demanded few more weeks from Nehru to free the entire area in view of the successes achieved in the months of October- November. Nehru rejecting the military advice announced a unilateral ceasefire with effect from 01 November, sacrificing national interest over his friendship with Mountbatten.
The above mentioned facts are meant to let the truth be known to all including those who are blinded with their love for the Kashmiri version.
Brig Anil Gupta is a Jammu based political commentator, political analyst, security and strategic analyst. The views expressed are based on extensive research. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org