Kashmir: the truths

Published : Apr 10, 2009 00:00 IST

PROFESSOR Sumit Sarkars earlier volume, in this series of documents on the freedom movement, on the year 1946 covered British India. The present volume covers the princely states, which gave us no end of trouble as we moved towards independence in 1947. The distinguished historian has covered both parts of the country ably, as one might expect of him.

You have here the central Indian states and the states of western, eastern and north-eastern India. But attention will be focussed on Travancore, over whose affairs Sir C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar presided with all the airs of an autocrat; the Nizams Hyderabad; and Kashmir.

Sarkars overview of the states in general knits the documents together in an instructive survey. It is a volume of great value, which no historian or student of history or politics can ignore.

The overview describes the peasants struggles and the peoples agitation for democratic reforms in the princely states. The All India States Peoples Conference deserves a book by itself.

In 1946, Jawharlal Nehru, despite his reservations, rushed to help Sheikh Abdullah in his ill-timed, ill-advised Quit Kashmir movement. Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his Muslim League were cold. The League press in Lahore sympathised with the Sheikh and supported him ardently.

Asaf Alis performance as defence counsel in the Sheikhs trial for sedition was splendid. He rested his case on the peoples right to demand freedom from a ruler whose title to rule was derived from what Mahatma Gandhi aptly called a sale-deed, the Treaty of Amritsar (1846) by which the Dogra Gulab Singh bought Kashmir for Rs.75 lakh.

The recently published Empire of the Sikhs: The Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh by Patwant Singh and Jyoti M. Rai ably documents Gulab Singhs treachery to his masters, the Sikh Darbar at Lahore, in their hour of adversity. It is not Gulab Singh but, as the authors write, the British who founded the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Ramaswami Aiyar was not only an unprincipled autocrat but, as his letter to Shyama Prasad Mookerjee reproduced in this volume establishes, a rabid communalist as well. The popular struggle against his rule is well recorded in this volume. This is what CP wrote to Mookerjee: You have done wonderful and formative work in the direction of Championing the cause of Hindu solidarity and of exposing the vacillating and suicidal policy of the Congress. It is a pity, however, that our community has not roused itself into a realisation of the crisis ahead of it.

Anyhow, I consider that your idea of working in an Indian state is a very suitable and timely one, and to the extent to which I can be of any assistance to you, it will be entirely and wholeheartedly be made available. A large number of States are asking me for my opinion as to the choice of administrators and I shall certainly keep in mind what you have written, and feeling as I do, that your presence at the head of an important Indian State will be of great use to the cause which you and I have both at heart, you may rely upon my complete cooperation in the matter.

In 1946, the Nizam began his intrigues against supporters of accession to India, now that independence was near. The Congress was restrained, realising as it did that the Nizam was encouraging communal forces. But the Nizam brooked no arrogance. He insulted Jinnah.

The British Residents two reports for the first and second halves of July 1946 are most revealing. An extract from the report for the second half of July:

During his stay in Hyderabad Mr. Jinnah addressed five meetings all of which were well attended and was presented with purses amounting to more than a lakh of rupees. In his speeches he stressed the need for Muslim unity and assured the Muslims of Hyderabad that if they would unite they would have his and the Muslim Leagues unstinted support. Referring to his statement in Delhi on the recent development in Kashmir, he said it had no bearing on Hyderabad where conditions were different and where a government more suited to her [its] genius was necessary. This statement was criticised by the Local Hindu Leaders.

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