A tale of two states

Print edition : June 10, 2000
A.G. NOORANI

From Autocracy to Integration: Political Developments in Hyderabad State (1938-1948) by Lucien D. Benichou; Orient Longman, pages 313; Rs.380.

Jinnah: Speeches and Statements 1947-1948; Introduction by S.M. Burke; Oxford University Press; pages 242; Rs.395.

"THERE is no greater American error than the belief that liberal institutions and the rule of law relieve a nation of the moral dilemma involved in the exercise of power. Power, like sex, may be concealed and outwardly ignored, and in our society it often is; but neither in the one case nor in the other does this concealment save us from the destruction of our innocence or from the confrontation with the dilemmas these necessities imply. When the ambivalence of one's virtue is recognised, the total inequity of one's opponent is also irreparably impaired" (Russia & the West's Mentor by George F. Kennan; 1961; page 372) (emphasis added throughout).

These words are no less true of democratic India and a Pakistan languishing under military rule however much they profess to disavow power politics and dress themselves up in the shining cloak of superior virtue. Half a century of their feud shows no sign of abating, amidst a series of accords in other trouble spots in the world. The animosity is obscene. Their self-images and perceptions of each other conflict sharply. The record reveals a bid on each side to do the other down from the very moment of their birth as independent states.

The Partition accord of June 3, 1947 took care of British India. But the princely states acquired a status that had no basis in law, morality or history - independence on the lapse of the paramountcy of the British Crown, as distinct from direct British rule over the rest of India. "In 1819 the States which now exist finally ceased to be independent," historian Edward Thompson wrote (The Making of the Indian Princes; OUP; 1943; page 285). They were a British creation. True to tradition the British supplied a neat legal myth to dress up the sordid reality. "The conquerors assiduously rebuilt their internal independence and gave back a great deal" (page 285); so long as they obeyed the British, Maharajas who did not toe their line were unceremoniously deposed. It is over these puppets - suddenly pitchforked to independent statehood on August 15, 1947, over a century after the extinction of all vestiges of sovereignty - that India and Pakistan went to battle, metaphorically and literally.

The issue which still continues to poison their relations is over one such entity - the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The merits of the dispute have been debated on both sides with a surfeit of legalism, morality and historical mythology. Viewed in the context of the times, together with Hyderabad, the spuriousness of those claims stands fully exposed. Each side contradicted itself largely on every single issue involved - the legal and moral worth of the ruler's signature on the Instrument of Accession; on the democratic principle, the people's right to decide on the accession; the communal factor; and considerations of geography. If Junagadh is also thrown into the reckoning, the contradictions emerge sharper still.

Together, these two books help to provide the corrective. Lucion Benichou, an Australian scholar, traces the political developments in Hyderabad from 1938 to 1948. Prof. Samuel Burke, an eminent scholar and diplomat from Pakistan, has contributed an informative Introduction to a collection of speeches by Mohammed Ali Jinnah from June 3, 1947, until his death in 1948.

The destinies of Kashmir and Hydera-bad were linked at a precise moment in time, a fact which has gone unnoticed. The Maharaja of Kashmir signed the Instrument of Accession to India on October 26, 1947. That very day, the Nizam of Hyderabad was expected to sign the Standstill Agreement with India, but did not. It had been approved by his Executive Council by six votes to three, on October 25 after three days of debate. The draft Agreement and a draft collateral letter from the Nizam to the Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten, had been negotiated in New Delhi for days. Benichou records: "The documents were taken back to Hyderabad on 22 October with the undertaking by the delegation that they would be returned to Delhi, duly signed by the Nizam by 27 October. A strange incident in Hyderabad, however, was to upset all plans and seriously affect future negotiations between the State and India." The Nizam avoided signing them on October 25 and also on October 26. The next morning, the Ittehadul-Muslemeen's leader Qasim Razvi's goons surrounded the homes of members of the Hyderabad delegation and prevented them from leaving. They promptly resigned.

A new delegation arrived in New Delhi on October 30. Its plea for revisions was rightly refused. On November 29, the Nizam signed the documents. The Standstill Agreement was to last a year. It provided in Article 1: "Until new agreements in this behalf are made, all agreements and administrative arrangements as to matters of common concern, including External Affairs, Defence, and Communications, which were existing between the Crown and the Nizam immediately before the 15 August 1947, shall, in so far as may be appropriate, continue as between the Dominion of India (or any part thereof) and the Nizam."

The accord contained the seeds of failure. The Nizam had forfeited New Delhi's trust completely. On both the issues which the siege of October 27 raises, Benichou's assessment is sound. It was not a Qasim Rizvi "coup" against the Nizam but an action taken with his connivance. The Nizam had consistently sought independence for the state and also perpetuation of his personal rule, flying in the face of the realities. "Faced with such bleak prospects, the Nizam had turned to Karachi (then capital of Pakistan) for advice. Although what passed between the emissaries of the Ittihad and Jinnah remained a well-kept secret, it can be supposed that Jinnah, waiting on the outcome of developments in Kashmir, welcomed the opportunity to render the life of Indian leaders a little more difficult. He may have advised Hyderabad 'not to give an inch' until at least the Kashmir issue had been settled."

V.P. Menon recorded that later the Nizam's emissary "Sir Sultan Ahmed told Lord Mountbatten and myself that the Nizam had sent two persons to Karachi who had returned on 29 October. He attributed the Nizam's volte-face to some message which he must have received from Karachi (The Story of the Integration of the Indian States; page 314). Mountbatten mentioned the names of the two emissaries - Yamin Zubeiri and a companion - to Jinnah when they met at Lahore on November 1, 1947. "Jinnah assured me categorically that he had merely seen these two men out of courtesy, for a matter of five or perhaps seven minutes" (Sardar Patel's correspondence 1945-50; Vol. 1; edited by Durga Das; Navajivan Publishing House; page 74). Circumstantial evidence and probabilities belie the denial. Two sets of documents are relevant. One set concerns Hyderabad; the other concerns Kashmir. Jinnah Papers July 26 - August 14, 1947; First Series, Vol.IV; Ed. G.Z.H. Zaidi (distributed by Oxford University Press), published recently, contains two revealing documents. One is the Nizam's note to Jinnah on July 28, 1947, defining his options. The other is a record of his delegation's talks with Jinnah in New Delhi on August 4. The Nizam astutely pointed out: "When the British go... there would be no chance of making anything like so favourable arrangement with the Government of the Dominion of India, as would be probable on the present basis, if a settlement could be reached now." He asked specific assurances of help "with arms and equipment and, if necessary with troops".

On August 4, Jinnah evasively told the Nizam's emissaries: "It was not possible for him at present to give any specific undertakings but that, generally speaking, he was confident that he and Pakistan would come to the help of Hyderabad in every possible way". He read them a homily on the martyrdom "of Imam Hussain standing for what was right and giving his life for it" (pages 41-48 and 195-197, respectively). One who counselled thus on August 4 was unlikely to alter his stand on October 26-27, especially since Kashmir had acceded to India by then.

The Kashmir documents reveal that Mountbatten gave Jinnah this remarkable proposal at Lahore on November 1: "The Governments of India and Pakistan agree that, where the ruler of a State does not belong to the community to which the majority of his subjects belong, and where the State has not acceded to that Dominion whose majority community is the same as the State's, the question of whether the State should finally accede to one or the other of the Dominions should in all cases be decided by an impartial reference to the will of the people."

Mountbatten recorded his host's response in his Note of the discussion: "Mr. Jinnah then went on to say that he could not accept a formula if it was so drafted as to include Hyderabad, since he pointed out that Hyderabad did not wish to accede to either Dominion and he could not be a party to coercing them to accession." Thus was the last chance for a Kashmir accord wrecked on the vain hopes of an independent Hyderabad. (ed. Durga Das, pages 73-74). Jawaharlal Nehru repeated this formula to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in a cable on November 8: "... the principle that, where Ruler of a State does not belong to the community to which the majority of his subjects belong, and where the State has not acceded to that Dominion whose majority community is same as State's, the question whether the State has finally acceded to one or other Dominion should be ascertained by reference to the will of the people."

Mountbatten went so far as not only to offer a plebiscite in Kashmir under the supervision of the United Nations, but also that "a joint India-Pakistan force should hold the ring while the plebiscite is being held" (page 81). This, at a time when militarily India's position in Kashmir was improving by the day.

Jinnah sinned against the light and repeatedly so as his statements on the princely states in Burke's volume bear out. Twice, on January 17 and July 30, 1947, he asserted the State's right to independence and their rulers' right to decide. The All India Congress Committee (AICC), in contrast, asserted on June 15 that "the people of the State must have a dominating voice" in the matter.

WHAT exactly was Jinnah's vision of Pakistan's relations with India? In an interview to A.S.R. Chari, then a correspondent of the Daily Worker organ of the British Communist Party on October 14, 1944, Jinnah said: "We will say 'Hands off India' to all outsiders", and would "vigorously observe something like the Monroe Doctrine". On March 11, 1948, after Pakistan established, he told Dr. Eric Streiff of the Swiss paper Neue Zurcher Zeitung: "I have no doubt in my mind that our own paramount interests demand that the Dominion of Pakistan and the Dominion of India should co-ordinate for the purpose of playing their part in international affairs and the developments that may take place and also it is of vital importance to Pakistan and India as independent sovereign states to collaborate in a friendly way jointly to defend their frontiers both on land and sea against any aggression. But this depends entirely on whether Pakistan and India can resolve their own differences. If we can put our house in order internally, then we may be able to play a very great part externally in all international affairs." It was, of course, impossible to achieve that while he pursued the policy on the States which he did.

In his famous speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, on August 11, 1947, Jinnah discarded the two-nation theory and ardently advocated a secular polity. His successors reversed that resolve. Given the historical background, the India-Pakistan Cold War could not fail to impact on secularism. It encouraged revivalist bigots in both countries.

In exploiting the Hyderabad question to promote the interest of Pakistan, Jinnah not only ruined Hyderabad but also damaged the interest of Pakistan as well. The tactical skill of Mohammed Ali Jinnah secured the establishment of Pakistan. The arrogant folly of the Quaid-e-Azam lost Kashmir for Pakistan and wreaked havoc for the poor Muslims of Hyderabad. No tears need be shed for the Nizam.

A quarter century later, on November 27, 1972, the President of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, told a tribal jirga at Landikotal that India's first Home Minister and Minister for the States, Sardar Patel, had, at one stage, offered Kashmir to Pakistan in exchange for Junagadh and Hyderabad. But, he added, Pakistan "unfortunately" did not accept this offer with the result that it not only lost all the three native states but East Pakistan as well.

This is fully corroborated by the memoirs of Chaudhary Mohammed Ali, The Emergence of Pakistan (page 299). Patel asked Liaquat Ali Khan: "Why do you compare Junagadh with Kashmir? Talk of Hyderabad and Kashmir and we could reach an agreement." Patel repeated this offer publicly at a meeting in Junagadh on November 11, 1947. "Our reply was that one could agree to (sic.) Kashmir if they agreed to Hyderabad."

On November 27, with Lord Ismay's help, V.P. Menon and Mohammed Ali hammered out a draft agreement on Kashmir (Campbell-Johnson, page 250; Menon, page 389). Two hours after Mohammed Ali was airborne for Karachi, Nehru shot down the draft. So did Jinnah at his end. The Nehru-Liaquat talks in Lahore on December 8 ended in deadlock. Not surprisingly, Jinnah's notebook has an entry dated November 30 recording Liaquat's undertaking not to settle without his approval. On December 30, Jinnah got the Cabinet to pass a resolution on these lines, thus undermining Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan's position - and the fundamentals of parliamentary democracy.

India's distrust of the Nizam was confirmed when he rejected the final draft of the "Heads of Agreement" sent to him on June 15, 1948, redrafted three times since May 26. It was the best offer in the circumstances. It did not provide for accession to India in law; but did so in effect on defence, foreign affairs and communications leaving Hyderabad considerable leeway. A draft Firman by the Nizam, which bore V.P. Menon's imprint, provided for responsible government and for a plebiscite on the issue of accession to be held under the auspices of some impartial and independent body. It had Patel's full approval, of course.

The tragic aftermath, predictable as it was, followed inexorably. "Operation Polo", launched on September 13, settled the issue, but at great human cost. P. Sundarayya recounted in his work Telengana People's Struggle and its Lessons, CPI(M), Calcutta, 1972; pages 188-189) the "widespread" attacks on Muslims in the wake of what was miscalled "police action".

On Maulana Azad's persuasion, Nehru sent to Hyderabad a Committee of Inquiry, comprising Pandit Sunderlal, Yunus Saleem and Abdul Ghaffar. Its Report remains suppressed to this day. It documents the massacre of Muslims in parts of the State, as extracts reveal. The rich Nawabs suffered far less than the poor, emotionally and physically. Muslim communal parties there still continue to exploit the trauma among the poor sections of the community. Scholar W.C. Smith, a consistent critic of Pakistan, described the massacre in many parts of the state (vide his article "Hyderabad: Muslim Tragedy"; Middle East Journal; January 1950; pages 27-51).

There was, however, no consistency in India's policy on the states either. On September 17, 1947, Mountbatten prevailed on both Nehru and Patel to call off the military action that they planned to take against Junagadh, which had foolishly acceded to Pakistan. (The Great Divide; H.V. Hodson; 1969, page 431). So much for the "sanctity" of the Instrument of Accession. The Government of India's White Paper on Hyderabad (1948) said: "Plebiscite without an interim government representative of and satisfactory to the majority population will only be a fraud on the people." Nehru's stand on this point throughout the negotiations on plebiscite in Kashmir (1947-53) was the direct opposite. On June 9, 1948, V.P. Menon told the Nizam's delegation: "In the ultimate analysis, sovereignty can only vest in the people and situated as Hyderabad was and the large majority of the population were Hindus and the ruler was a Muslim, the Government of India cannot disclaim interest in this matter" (White Paper on Hyderabad; supplement page 50).

Nehru's attitude towards the people of Kashmir was fundamentally undemocratic as has been pointed out earlier (vide the writer's "Kashmir: History and Politics"; Frontline; July 31, 1998). They were "soft and addicted to easy lining", Nehru wrote to Sheikh Abdullah. There is ample evidence to prove that Nehru had decided to resile from his pledge on a plebiscite as early as in 1948. Certainly after the successful Operation Polo in Hyderabad (vide Frontline, March 24, 1995 for details). Irrefutable evidence on this appeared in 1996 in Volume 19 of Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (page 322). It is in a highly secret note he wrote at Sonamarg in Kashmir, dated August 25, 1952, addressed to its Prime Minister (as he was then called), Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah. As a piece of cool analysis, it has no parallel in any of Nehru's writings, still less in its frank cynicism.

NEHRU virtually admitted that he had set his face against a plebiscite "towards the end of December 1948". He had, clearly, accepted the U.N. Commission for India and Pakistan's plebiscite proposals on December 23, 1948, not to have a plebiscite but only in order to achieve a ceasefire once the Army had reached the desired line. He was resolved to maintain "the status quo then existing" by force. Nehru wrote: "We are superior to Pakistan in military and industrial power. But that superiority is not so great as to produce results quickly either in war or by fear of war. Therefore, our national interest demands that we should adopt a peaceful policy towards Pakistan and, at the same time, add to our strength."

A letter which Indira Gandhi wrote to her father from Srinagar as early as on May 14, 1948, (while memories of the bestialities perpetrated by the tribesmen from Pakistan were still fresh) must have shaken him: "They say that only Shaikh Saheb is confident of winning the plebiscite..." What followed these words was omitted by the highly competent editor of the correspondence (1940-64), Sonia Gandhi (Two Alone, Two Together; Hodder & Stoughton; 1992; page 551).

Indira Gandhi's solution was no different from Nehru's or for that matter, that of successive governments for the next 50 years. "I feel that all this political talk will count for nothing if the economic situation can be dealt with. Because after all the people are concerned with only (one) thing - they want to sell their goods and to have food and salt". Nehru also believed that "the common people are primarily interested in a few things... if they get this, then they are more or less content." They would not ask for a plebiscite.

President Rajendra Prasad's letter to his Prime Minister on July 14, 1953, must have strengthened Nehru's resolve. Vice-President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan "on his return from a visit to Kashmir, came and told me that even Shaikh Abdullah thought that we would lose in a plebiscite" (Dr. Rajendra Prasad Correspondence; Valmiki Choudhary; Allied; page 91).

Would Nehru have risked that? Having built up public opinion, mobilised domestic support around the sensitive issue, Nehru feared loss of his office. "If I give them that, I shall no longer be Prime Minister of India - I will not do it." This was said apropos the boundary dispute with China at a meeting attended by Nehru, Secretary-General of Ministry of External Affairs, N.R. Pillai, and others. Neville Maxwell reported that on the basis of what he learnt from "one of those present" (India's China War; page 166). Kashmir was, and is, a far more explosive issue in India as well as in Pakistan. Any accord must be "saleable" to the peoples of both countries. But their leaders first whip up passions and, next, cite "public opinion" as a factor that precludes comprise.

Nehru's realpolitik rested on three assumptions: Sheikh Abdullah's continued partnership with Nehru; Pakistan's acquiescence in the status quo based on superior force; and, above all, the people's acquiescence in the corrupt and undemocratic regimes, including the Sheikh's, which New Delhi kept foisting on them since accession. When their alienation peaked after yet another farcical election in 1987, Pakistan was ready to put guns in their hands and send its men too. The ruin that has followed since stares us in the face today.

Pakistan injected the poison of communal bigotry. Secular Kashmiriyat is gasping for breath with none to provide relief, least of all a Bharatiya Janata Party regime. In A.D. 2000 the proposals and formulae of 1947 have scant relevance. But the fundamentals of democratic governance that are enforced in the entire Union of India hold good for the State of Jammu and Kashmir; no less so is the pledge to the people to respect their wishes. Nor can Pakistan's locus standi in the dispute be dismissed. The Simla Agreement recognises it. Pakistan cannot demand a plebiscite, however. That is out. The proposal, glib and simple, of an accord based on the status quo only reflects intellectual sloth. It does not address Pakistan's concerns realistically. Nor those of Kashmir's. What the times call for is diplomatic creativity. Ruling out Kashmir's de-accession, how do we satisfy Kashmiris and also secure Pakistan's agreement? It must be a conciliatory approach by both, shorn of the self-righteousness of old.

The record reveals that neither side has a monopoly on virtue. Both are accomplished and experienced sinners. In November-December 1947, a grand India-Pakistan settlement was possible. The seeds of protracted strife were sown then by the leaders of Pakistan and India - men of great talent, but enormous hubris; masters of great vision and slaves to petty calculations. We can only lament with the poet: Kuch aise bhi manzar hai, tareekh ki nazron men / Lamhon ne khata ki thi, sadiyon ne saza pai (Such situations there have been, in the perspective of history / Moments had lapsed in sin; centuries bore the punishment).

A.G. NOORANI

A DISCLOSURE by Lucien Benichou, in footnote 29 on page 195 of his book, raises serious issues of ethics and law which he owes a duty to resolve. Sir Walter Monckton, Q.C., Constitutional Adviser to the Nizam of Hyderabad was a brilliant lawyer who became a Cabinet Minister in Britain. His warning to the Nizam's Executive Council in October 1947, after the collapse of the talks with New Delhi, proved prophetic. The chances of India accepting a treaty with Hyderabad on a basis other than its accession to the Union were "remote". This document of prime importance is quoted at some length on pages 190-91. It bears footnote 29, which reads thus: "This recommendation by Sir W. Monckton was found in a document bearing page number 97 (XIII.97) rescued along with other papers from a pile of material destined to a bonfire at the Andhra Pradesh State Archives, Tarnaka. The pages following the document were missing but p. 105 (XIII.105) bears the date of September 22, 1947, and records the minutes of a "Meeting of the Governor General with the Hyderabad Delegation, Confidential Copy No. 11". A report of this meeting is found almost verbatim in V. P. Menon, 1961, pages 308-09. Other documents retrieved were minutes of the meetings on October 10, 1947, and October 19, 1947, of the final text (October 22, 1947), and of the Nizam's collateral letter. These documents have now been donated to the University of Western Australia's Reid Library (emphasis added).

Significantly, the language is opaque when transparency was called for. Who "rescued" the documents? Was the "rescue" brought to the attention of the authorities concerned? Were they in the know? "Destined to a bonfire" in his assumption. It gave him no title to the documents. A visitor has no right to take away papers from his host's wastepaper basket. The documents were on the premises of the State Archives. They were not gifted to Benichou, else, he would have mentioned the fact. He rescued them and retrieve some others. They included minutes of crucial meetings. All these he "donated" to the University of Western Australia, Reid Library as if he had acquired a legal title to them by the 'rescue'. The crucial questions are whether he had informed the authorities of the Archives who had so freely granted him access, in good faith, about his 'rescue' and 'retrieval' of the documents and whether they gifted them to him. If so, he owes a duty to reveal their names and the dates. For, none else but the State of Andhra Pradesh had the authority to gift them, if at all. The archives are governed by law. The university has acquired no legal title whatever since its donor had none. The Union of India and the State of Andhra Pradesh owe a duty to the nation to demand their return from the library and to demand full explanation about this questionable affair from Benichou.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor