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Volume 23 - Issue 25 :: Dec. 16-29, 2006
INDIA'S NATIONAL MAGAZINE
from the publishers of THE HINDU
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Kashmir: blunders of the past

A.G. NOORANI

A volume of letters exchanged between Jawaharlal Nehru and Karan Singh shows up the latter's parochial commitments.



TRAGEDY lies not in the conflict between good and evil but between one good being and another, both victims of circumstance and prisoners of their own character with all their qualities and their flaws. Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah were committed secularists and close friends. Each overrode the distrust his colleagues tried to instil in his mind about the friend. They fell out and Nehru wantonly humiliated his friend; got him sacked as Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and imprisoned for 11 years, except for a few months' break in 1958. He was put up for trial on false charges later in 1958 after his re-arrest. The case was withdrawn in April 1964.

Neither fully reflected the psyche of his people or his associates. It is very doubtful if Nehru would have relished his Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel's characterisation of him as "after all, he is also a Hindu and that a Kashmiri Hindu" in a letter of June 16, 1946, to Pandit Jiyalal Kaul Jalal (Sardar Patel's Correspondence; Volume I, page 3). He was a "patriot". In December 1947, Patel questioned Maulana Azad's patriotism for not denouncing Pakistan on Kashmir. Patel's letter of June 19, 1946, to another friend reflected his outlook on Kashmir ("a Hindu State situated in Muslim surroundings") and distrust of Sheikh Abdullah (page 4).

To Nehru, Sheikh Abdullah was Kashmir. "For me the people of Kashmir were basically represented by you," he wrote to his friend on April 25, 1952, as differences arose between them (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru; Volume 18, page 388). He had good reason to do so because, as Indira Gandhi wrote to him on May 14, 1948, "they say only Sheikh Abdullah is confident of winning the plebiscite" in Kashmir. On his return from a visit to the State, Vice-President S. Radhakrishnan told President Rajendra Prasad that "even Sheikh Abdullah thought we would lose in a plebiscite". The President conveyed that to Nehru on July 14, 1953.

Contrary to Nehru's claims, Sheikh Abdullah was by no means representative of Jammu and Kashmir. On the issue of accession, public opinion, even in the Valley, was divided. Indira Gandhi sensed that the majority favoured Pakistan. Sheikh Abdullah favoured India because of its secular ideals. Ideally he would have preferred an India-Pakistan accord on Kashmir that guaranteed the State's autonomy and ensured peace. Pakistan's tribal raid forced the pace.

The Sheikh bared his outlook in a `secret' talk with the United States Ambassador Loy Henderson in Srinagar, which was reported to the State Department on September 29, 1950, in cablese. Abdullah was "vigorous in restating that in his opinion it [Kashmir] should be independent; that overwhelming majority population desired this independence ... Kashmir ... people had language and cultural background [of] their own. Their Hindus by custom and tradition widely differed from Hindus [in] India, and outlook and background; their Muslims also quite different from Muslims Pakistan. Fact was that population Kashmir homogeneous in spite of presence of Hindu minority." But, "independent Kashmir could exist only in case it had friendship with both of India and Pakistan; in case both these countries had friendly relations with each other".

Abdullah was opposed to partition of Jammu and Kashmir. If a choice had to be made "it would be preferable for Kashmir to go to India than to Pakistan. It would be disastrous for Kashmiris to be brought under control of government with medieval Koranic outlook". The Ambassador's assessment, as that of all foreigners there unanimously, was that "if Vale should be given opportunity to vote freely, it would prefer Pakistan to India. Most of them were also of the opinion that population in general would prefer independence to any other solution" (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1950; Volume V, pages 1434-35).

This was a secular Kashmiri nationalist speaking. He preferred India because of its secular ideals. Nehru was well aware of that. He told a public rally in Calcutta on New Year's Day 1952: "There can be no greater vindication than this of our secular policies, our Constitution, than that we have drawn the people of Kashmir towards us. But just imagine what would have happened in Kashmir if the Jan Sangh or any other communal party had been at the helm of affairs. The people of Kashmir say that they are fed up with this communalism. Why should they live in a country where the Jan Sangh and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh are constantly beleaguering them? They will go elsewhere and they will not stay with us." Indeed, "if the people of Kashmir tell us to get out, we will do so". The dispute was before the United Nations. "We have given our word of honour that we shall abide by their decision. India's pledge is no small matter and we shall stick by it in the eyes of the world" (SWJN; Volume 17, pages 76-78).

He added: "Now these Hindu communal parties like the Jan Sangh and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and another party called the Praja Parishad in Jammu have launched an agitation against the Sheikh Abdullah government. They abuse him and want the old Maharaja to come back. Now you can imagine what this means. At the moment, it is Sheikh Abdullah who is completely opposed to Pakistan. There is no doubt about it that he is the leader of the people of Kashmir, a very great leader. If tomorrow Sheikh Abdullah wanted Kashmir to join Pakistan, neither I nor all the forces of India would be able to stop it because if the leader decides, it will happen."

Nehru knew also that the Sheikh had, as he put it, waded through blood to shake hands with India. He reminded Patel on December 30, 1947, that between the RSS and Sheikh Abdullah there was a big gulf. "I do not see how that gulf can possibly be bridged, especially as the RSS is accused with reason of having organised killing of the Muslims in Jammu. Sheikh Abdullah has to keep the goodwill of the Muslims to some extent even in Jammu" (emphasis added throughout). Revealing words, these (SPC; Volume 1, page 143).

Abdullah minced no words in telling Patel, Maharaja Hari Singh's protector, on October 10, 1948: "I regret that in spite of my repeated attempts in this behalf the sentiments of the people of this State with regard to the unmistakable part which the Maharaja and his satellites took in the general massacre of Muslims at Jammu are but insufficiently appreciated." He quoted from a Note of June 1, 1948, in which he recalled Hari Singh's flight from Srinagar to Jammu, as the raiders came in, and the organised killings of Muslims in Jammu "for weeks under his very nose" a few miles from the palace. He had written about this to Nehru and Gandhi in December 1947 (SPC; pages 236-237).

Nehru pleaded with the Maharaja on December 1, 1947, to make amends. "If there is going to be plebiscite, then obviously we have to work in such a way as to gain the goodwill of the majority of the population of the State, which means chiefly the Muslims. The policy recently pursued in Jammu province has alienated the Muslims there very greatly and has created a great deal of ill-feeling in certain parts of the country. The only person who can effectively deal with the situation is Sheikh Abdullah... . Even if military forces held Kashmir for a while, a later consequence might be a strong reaction against this. Essentially, therefore, this is a problem of psychological approach to the mass of the people and of making them feel that they will be benefited by being within the Indian Union. If the average Muslim feels that he has no safe or secure place in the Union, then obviously he will look elsewhere" (ibid, page 103).

Splitting the State would not do. This was Hari Singh's proposal, Nehru warned Patel on April 17, 1949. "This idea is based on the belief that a plebiscite for the whole of Kashmir is bound to be lost and therefore let us save Jammu at least. You will perhaps remember that some proposal of this kind was put forward by the Maharaja some months back. It seems to me that this kind of propaganda is very harmful indeed for us. Whatever may happen in the future, I do not think Jammu province is running away from us. If we want Jammu province by itself and are prepared to make a present of the rest of the State to Pakistan, I have no doubt we could clinch the issue in a few days. The prize we are fighting for is the valley of Kashmir.

"This propaganda for a zonal plebiscite is going on in Jammu, in Delhi and elsewhere. It is carried on by what is known as the Jammu Praja Parishad. Our intelligence officer reported that this Praja Parishad is financed by the Maharaja. Further, that the large sums collected for the Dharmarth Fund, which are controlled by the Maharaja, are being spent in propaganda for him."

General K.M. Cariappa reported that "the Maharaja's brother-in-law was openly carrying on a campaign against Sheikh Abdullah and his government and issuing pamphlets of this kind". Nehru added that in an intelligence report "mention was made of the Yuvraj [Karan Singh] getting mixed up with this business. This will be unfortunate as the Yuvraj is fairly popular at present. If he gets tied up with these conflicts, he will also become unpopular" (ibid, pages 262-263).

Communal outlook

PICTURES: THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Jawaharlal Nehru. To him, Sheikh Abdullah represented Kashmir.

Tied up Karan Singh was. But, by then Nehru could do little except ignore his letters, which awakened him to the mentality of a young man he had come to like. Those letters are now published and they confirm the impression that Karan Singh's public record had created of a man of parochial commitments (Dogra and Jammu), communal outlook (anti-Muslim and even anti-Urdu) and a person who nursed grudges till antipathies fermented into venom. He was every bit his father's son when he became Regent on Hari Singh's departure from Kashmir. He had sought to be a player but remained a frustrated functionary. He missed the Foreign Minister's job, not least because of the trip to Nepal.

Karan Singh's interview to Christopher Jaffrelot reveals a lot more than he intended. The scholar records: "In September 1981, in reaction to the Meenakshipuram conversions, Dr. Karan Singh, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir and a former Minister in Indira Gandhi's administration, who had been elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980 as a candidate of the Congress(U) - the successor to the Congress(R) - founded the Virat Hindu Samaj. He explained his decision as follows:

`The Virat Hindu Samaj, basically, was envisaged as a social reform organisation. The real, proximate cause was the conversions of Meenakshipuram. (... ) I tried to put the emphasis on looking inwards. Why is it that people convert? Is it that the Harijans still feel discriminated against? The Hindu opinion was divided, even before independence into two streams, one is the RSS parivar (family), the other may be called the Congress parivar. The latter never call themselves Hindus but they are also good Hindus as anybody else. In a way the Virat Hindu Samaj was a sort of an attempt to bridge. I, having been in the Congress all my life, felt that there were people who may be turned off, who may not go to the RSS parivar but who would come here'."

Karan Singh became president of the Virat Hindu Samaj; its officers were RSS-BJP stalwarts Hans Raj Gupta and O.P. Tyagi (vice-presidents), V.H. Dalmia (treasurer) and Ashok Singhal (general secretary). The organisation held numerous Virat Hindu Sammelans in Delhi, Mathura, Patna and Jodhpur with the participation of Congressmen and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders. In October 1981, Karan Singh presided over a Sammelan in Delhi "which attracted tens if not hundreds of thousands of followers, and during which slogans against untouchability alternated with those denouncing the influence of money from the Gulf and the absence of a uniform civil code. In November 1982, a Sammelan was organised in Patna by Shankar Dayal Singh, a Congress MP; the Maharaja of Jodhpur was one of those who attended it. However, there was no real rapprochement between Karan Singh and the `Sangh Parivar'. Karan Singh was not inclined to an activist approach." He did not want to ruin the chances of a return to Indira Gandhi's Congress now that she had returned to power (The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India, pages 364-365).

Karan Singh ardently espoused his father's moves to break up the State, after temporising tactically, for fear of displeasing Nehru. But to B.K. Nehru he candidly expounded his ideas. Shortly before he was sworn in Governor of Jammu and Kashmir on February 26, 1981, B.K. Nehru met various people.

"The only real briefing that I got was from Tiger [Karan Singh] who put the State of Jammu and Kashmir in correct perspective for me. He explained that the State was a wholly artificial creation, its five separate regions being joined together by the historical accident that Raja Gulab Singh had conquered all the territories over which his father Maharaja Hari Singh was ruling at the time of Independence and Partition. Those five different entities had nothing in common with each other. The hill areas of Gilgit, Baltistan and Skardu and the Punjabi-speaking areas of Muzaffarabad etc. were already in the hands of Pakistan. In our part of the State, there were three clear divisions - Jammu, which was Hindu, Kashmir, which was Sunni Muslim and Ladakh, one part of which was Buddhist and the other Shia Muslim. Because of the lack of commonality between these three divisions, the sooner they were separated the better it would be for the future" (Nice Guys Finish Second; Viking, 1997; page 589).

A major plank of the Jan Sangh founded by Shyama Prasad Mookerjee in October 1951 was Kashmir. "The economic power of the Dogra landlords had been seriously undermined in 1951 by the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, which had provided for the confiscation of large holdings without compensation and for the transfer of land to the tillers... the Jan Sangh did not have its own party units in Jammu and Kashmir but it was in sympathy with the Praja Parishad and its vigorous leader, Prem Nath Dogra, a Brahman, formerly a civil servant in the princely state, who had at one stage headed the RSS groups in Jammu city" (Hindu Nationalism and Indian Politics by Bruce Graham; Cambridge University Press, 1990; page 36). Sheikh Abdullah's government had a pronounced Leftist approach.

promoting trifurcation

The BJP regime at the Centre began gingerly to promote trifurcation of the State after the RSS spokesman M.G. Vaidya said on September 3, 2000, that "the RSS was in favour of trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir". The then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah warned that, in that event the districts of Doda, Poonch and Rajouri would not live with Jammu and that would trigger something worse than the Jammu massacres in 1947 (Kashmir Times; October 3, 2000).

Jammu will split evenly. Three of its six districts have a Muslim majority - Doda (63.59 per cent); Poonch (88.87 per cent); and Rajouri (60.97 per cent). The latter two abut the Line of Control (LoC). The other three are Udhampur, Jammu and Kathua. A tehsil in Udhampur, Gool Gulab Garh, and three in Rajouri will go to the Valley. Ladakh was split in 1979 into two districts - Muslim-majority Kargil and Buddhist-majority Leh.

The Chief Minister was alive to the implications: "India will be left with two and a half districts while the so-called Greater Kashmir would go on a platter to Pakistan eventually" (Greater Kashmir, December 11, 2000).

Karan Singh's memoirs Heir Apparent and Sadar-i-Riyasat (1953-1967) recorded his pro-Praja Parishad bearings. He wanted, incredibly, to build "a new Dogra-Kashmiri rapport" by embracing the Parishad.

Supposedly a head of state acting on Cabinet advice, he "was also taking an active interest in the State politics". He found that "Dogra rule had in effect been replaced by Kashmiri rule". On November 14, 1965, he confirmed to Neville Maxwell of The Times (London) his ideas on trifurcation. Kuldip Nayar, who headed the United News of India (UNI), reported his views at length - "a unilingual Kashmiri-speaking State"; Jammu's merger with Himachal Pradesh; Ladakh to become a Union Territory. Jammu and Kashmir was an "administrative monstrosity". There was no "sanctity behind" it. "His family had brought the two parts together through conquest and he as successor would say that the sooner the present arrangement was ended the better it would be." (He had written differently to Nehru earlier.)

If D.P. Dhar, a Kashmiri Pandit and once a close associate of the Sheikh, opposed some of the ideas, Karan Singh accused him of being jealous of "my growing influence at the Centre" and of insecurity as a Kashmiri Pandit.

The anti-Hindi riots in Madras in February 1965 inspired him to write to the President "to draw a parallel between the secessionist ideology of the DMK [Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam] in the extreme (sic.) South and that of the Plebiscite Front in the extreme North". His fears of "grim potentialities" proved false in both cases. The Dravidian movement's role is one of the success stories of the Indian federation. However, in sheer meanness of spirit these are nothing as compared to his venomous advice on Sheikh Abdullah's family after his arrest on August 8, 1953.

Karan Singh wrote to Nehru two months later that Sheikh Abdullah's wife, "his two daughters and his eldest son Farooq are playing a prominent role in these openly pro-Pakistan activities... if they continue to act in this way the hands of the government might be forced and they may all have to be sent to join Sheikh Abdullah in Udhampur".



Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. He was for an India-Pakistan accord on Kashmir.

Sheikh Abdullah married Akbar Jahan Begum in October 1933. His first child was a daughter, Khalida. Farooq is the eldest son, followed by two sons Tariq and Mustafa Kamal. Another daughter, Suraiya, is the youngest child. Farooq, born in 1937, was a subversive at 16 in 1953. Suraiya, far younger, was a dangerous 10 year old. Only a vindictive man would have suggested deportation and imprisonment of all of them for "pro-Pakistan activities".

As far back as on April 17, 1949, Nehru had learnt of Karan Singh "getting mixed up" with his father and uncle's intrigues against the Sheikh. He was appointed Regent in June 1949. It is not surprising that on April 9, 1951, Sheikh Saheb complained publicly that he was "frequently conferring with his reactionary communal elements who are plotting to bring back the Maharaja". Karan Singh complained to Nehru, who felt helpless even when the truth surfaced in the letters themselves. So was Abdullah. The Regent and his advisers and supporters made the most of it.

Karan Singh did his best to extinguish the State's autonomy and undermine Abdullah's authority. The fierce ambition that has driven him all his life was apparent even when he was 22. He wrote to Nehru on August 3, 1952. "Regarding my tenure of office, as I indicated to you personally, I would much prefer, if I am to serve as Head of State, to do so for more than the very limited term of five years. I would be very much happier if no time limit is imposed."

The State's leaders envisaged an elected head of state. By 1952, Nehru himself was set on reducing the autonomy to a husk. The Delhi Agreement of 1952 between him and the Sheikh gave him a veto on the appointment of the Sadar-i-Riyasat, even after his election by the State's legislature, his continuance in office dependent on the Centre's whim.

Nehru's relations with Abdullah deteriorated when he wrote his infamous Note of August 25, 1952, calling Kashmiris "not what are called a virile people. They are soft and addicted to easy living". After a stunning confession that, public pledges notwithstanding, he had decided privately in 1948 not to hold a plebiscite, he asked Sheikh Abdullah to get the Constituent Assembly to ratify the accession, a demand he found difficult to accept given the Kashmiris' growing disenchantment with the Sheikh as well as with India (SWJN, Volume 19, pages 322-330). Nehru, on the other hand, was under pressure from his own partymen, from the Jan Sangh and its ally the Praja Parishad in Jammu led by Prem Nath Dogra, whom Karan Singh covertly supported. He wrote to Nehru repeatedly about "the Jammu people", never of the people in the Valley.

"The proposed ending of the ruling dynasty has upset them immensely, not because of sentimental attachment alone but because they feel that this step will break the only link which bound them to Kashmir, and that unless it is followed by complete accession to India their position will be even more precarious than it has been for the last five years.

"Their basic demand, as you know, is full accession of the whole State to India. Although I myself would very much like a closer association of this State with India, it seems clear that the Government of India is committed - at least for the time being - to limited accession, and the alternative of Jammu breaking away from Kashmir will also, at this stage, be disastrous to India, Kashmir and to Jammu itself." He urged the Prime Minister to give Dogra & Co "a sympathetic hearing".

Incredibly, he supported "a referendum" on abolition of hereditary rule regardless of the fact that it could only bolster clamour for the oft-promised plebiscite on the issue of accession to India or Pakistan. "If it is possible to have a referendum and I do not see why it should not be - I feel it would be a good thing, as it would give the people of the State a fully democratic method of expressing their decision as to whether they would like a member of the dynasty to be their Constitutional Head or would prefer to elect someone periodically."

Nehru referred (September 9) to the Parishad's alliance "with the most communal elements in Delhi" and drew a distinction between Jammu and Kashmir's full accession and full integration. His warning was very significant - "any attempt to give effect to their demand would not only fail in itself but might put an end to even the present accession. I explained that to you". How would it put "an end" to the accession? Because Abdullah had opted for accession to India relying on Nehru's promise of special status and guaranteed autonomy. If that promise was broken, he would feel relieved from his promise and resolve to support accession to India. Kashmiris would cease to back him. Nehru's warning to Karan Singh on September 9 contradicted his own demarche to the Sheikh on August 25.

Nehru wrote: "I am rather surprised at your reference to the referendum. This is not at all possible either from the local or from the international point of view. We have been talking about the plebiscite over other issues and even this cannot come off because there is no agreement. If the question of a referendum on a limited issue was raised, this would immediately lead to all kinds of international complications and the demand for a plebiscite immediately over the wider area... . I think that such a proposal is completely out of court in present circumstance. Pakistan would, no doubt, profit by it, but no one else."

Support for Jammu



Sadar-i-Riyasat Karan Singh administers the oath of office to Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed after the 1957 elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The latter first became Prime Minister after Abdullah was dismissed and arrested in 1953.

On September 24, 1952, Karan Singh asked Nehru to break up the State, in effect, and "directly take over the administration of Ladakh". He kept on supporting the Jammu agitation and drew up a Note for Nehru. "Whereas Jammu and Ladakh strongly desire complete integration with India, Sheikh Sahib and his colleagues are extremely insistent upon the limited nature of the accession and are not prepared to agree to complete integration. In view of these basic facts, unless Sheikh Sahib can be made to agree to full integration, there seem to be only three alternatives."

One was trifurcation - splitting the Valley, Jammu and Ladakh: "It is likely to have the effect of pushing the Kashmir Valley into the hands of Pakistan", a fear that did not deter him in 1965 and 1982. "In the ultimate analysis the three units of the State can remain together only by common consent." He plumped for "provincial autonomy" for Jammu, a proposal the Sheikh would not have rejected. But it was the mindset that mattered. Karan Singh not only wanted Dogri to be made "the regional language" but urged purification of Hindi - "revision of Hindi textbooks to simplify the language and standardise it on the same basis as in India. At present there is a great complaint that these books contain many Urdu and even Persian words, merely written in the Devanagari script, and that their content is also not very desirable". The State's Constituent Assembly's report "says that the official language of the State will be Urdu, but that English may be used for official purposes. Thus, there is no mention at all of the National Language, Hindi. It is of great importance that Hindi be given its due place in the State at least equal to, if not superior than, the State Language... . I may add that the choice of Urdu itself as the regional language is far from uncontroversial and is open to serious objections".

He found a pro-Muslim bias in the delimitation of constituencies; favoured vesting residuary powers in the Centre, extension of Central powers over Jammu and Kashmir and finalisation of its accession to India. The gulf between him and Nehru was deep. To Karan Singh, the Jammu agitators were not "a reactionary clique". However, G.B. Pant refused to have any dealings with "the Jan Sangh or the Praja Parishad people". Nehru wrote: "In my view what these people have done is little short of treason of the country and people should realise it."

Abdullah was another issue. Nehru told Karan Singh on April 21, 1953, that "the whole international case rested upon Sheikh Abdullah. Then I [Karan Singh] asked him `what happens after Sheikh Sahib is dead'. That shook him. I said that if our relationship is based upon an individual, he is not immortal and hence must one day die. Then what will happen. I said that, that was why we were so keen on other ties".

But Nehru knew very well that the alternative to Abdullah was coercion, rigged polls and thuggery. He recoiled from it emotionally, though he acquiesced in it after the Sheikh's arrest. Karan Singh and most in India could not have cared less. He sent a message to Nehru on June 10, 1953, through K.N. Katju. "I was shocked and astounded to gather from a private meeting with Sheikh Abdullah last week that he seems to have decided to go back upon the solemn agreements which he has concluded with India and upon his clear commitments. This cannot be allowed, as it will make our position absolutely impossible and be a grave blow to our national interests and naturally to our international position also... I have requested Dr. Katju to arrange for the Government of India intelligence service here to keep in close touch with me, as that will greatly help me in correctly appraising this unstable and most unpredictable situation."

He surely knew what was afoot because his co-conspirators of the crime of August 8, 1953 (the Sheikh's arrest), were privy to it. It is a document as neglected in discourse on Kashmir as Nehru's Note of August 25, 1952. Apparently faced with the situation in Jammu and in India, Nehru's growing pressures, and growing alienation in Kashmir, Sheikh Sahib reverted to his theme of old - an India-Pakistan accord alone can end the uncertainty and ensure peace. He did not act secretly as Karan & Co revelled in doing. He acted openly. His National Conference set up a committee to consider possible solutions and Nehru, as well as Maulana Azad, was informed of it. A special session of the Working Committee of the National Conference was called at the Sheikh's residence in May 1953. Three main issues which came up for discussion were: (a) the political situation vis-a-vis the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir; (b) application of fundamental rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir; (c) extension of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to Jammu and Kashmir State.

The committee came to the unanimous conclusion that the internal stability of the State was impossible so long as international settlement on the final affiliation of the State was not achieved. It, accordingly, appointed an eight-member sub-committee to explore avenues of an honourable settlement.

It had several meetings. An extract from the final session of the Committee's minutes, held on June 9, 1953, reads: "As a result of the discussion held in the course of various meetings, the following proposals only emerge as possible alternatives for an honourable and peaceful solution of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan: (a) Overall plebiscite with conditions as detailed in the minutes of the meeting dated 4-6-1953; (b) Independence of the whole State; (c) Independence of the whole State with joint control [India-Pakistan] of foreign affairs and defence; (d) The Dixon plan with independence for the plebiscite area.

"Bakshi [Ghulam Mohammed] Saheb was emphatically of the opinion that the proposal (d) above should be put up as first and the only practicable, advantageous and honourable solution of the dispute. Maulana Mohammed Saeed Masoodi, however, opined that the order of preference as given above should be adhered to." G.M. Sadiq said: "There is of course one alternative that offers a democratic solution to the problem and that is the one suggesting an overall plebiscite. Speaking personally I do not have any doubt about its democratic character, but my main objection is to the agency which will conduct and supervise this plebiscite. If an agency consisting of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Soviet Russia and China could be created to supervise and conduct the plebiscite, I would suggest that we should immediately ask for an overall plebiscite. Failing this, we may ask for supervision commission representing all the members of the Security Council for ensuring a free and fair plebiscite in the State."

The sub-committee's members were: Sheikh Abdullah, Maulana Masoodi, Mirza Mohammed Afzal Beg, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, G.M. Sadiq, Sardar Budh Singh, Pandit Girdharilal Dogra and Pandit Shamlal Saraf. Nehru, who had come to Kashmir when the Working Committee was in session, was informed about its deliberations.

In June 1953, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad visited Kashmir and was apprised of the proceedings. Early in July 1953, Nehru was informed about the decision. He was shortly going to have a meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohammedali Bogra, to discuss and find out an early solution of the Kashmir question.

Nehru in his talks disapproved of the independence idea but, apparently, not of the deliberations themselves about the future of the State. He met Mohammedali Bogra from July 25 to 27, 1953, to decide the future of the State. Early in August 1953, Sheikh Abdullah called a meeting of the Working Committee of the General Council in the third and fourth weeks in order to review the whole situation. On August 8, 1953, just two days before the scheduled Cabinet meeting, he was arrested at the dead of night, and so were a number of his colleagues. (Vide Sheikh Abdullah in his letter from jail to G.M. Sadiq, dated September 26, 1956, published in Sheikh-Sadiq Correspondence, August to October 1956; page 18. The pamphlet was published by Mridula Sarabhai, New Delhi.)

Having tinkered with Article 370 of the Constitution, Nehru belatedly offered to make it permanent. But Abdullah's letter of July 16, 1953, to Azad recorded why he declined the offer. "Even after the Delhi Agreement responsible spokesmen of the Government of India declared that their ultimate objective was to secure the complete merger of the State with India and that they waited for appropriate time and conditions to bring that about. These statements reveal that the Delhi Agreement could not provide a basis to finalise the relationship between India and Kashmir, but that it [the Delhi Agreement] provided temporary arrangements to finalise accession. The only difference between the Government of India and different elements in the country [read Jan Sangh] on the issue is whether to bring about the merger of the State with India now or after some time... . I am very happy to hear from you that the Government of India is willing to declare that the special position given to Kashmir will be made permanent and that the Government of India will be bound by it without any condition. If such a declaration had been made at an appropriate time, it would undoubtedly have strengthened our hands and unified various organisations and public opinion in the State and even if the masses had been asked about accession, a majority of them would have come out in favour of India. But, unfortunately, that was not to be.

"The changes effected on several occasions in the relationship between India and Kashmir greatly agitated the public opinion and also weakened our hands to a great extent. Although such a declaration would be welcome, it remains to be seen if it would draw the support of different sections of people in India and parties in Kashmir. You would appreciate that without such support, this declaration would not suffice to dispel the fears that have arisen in the minds of the people of Kasmir... .

"We have carefully weighed the various pros and cons and have reached certain conclusions after careful deliberation over these matters. Bakshi Sahib and Beg Sahib have been directed to convey these decisions to you. It is now up to you and your colleagues seriously to examine them and decide if they lead to fair solution of the problem. If you do not consider these proposals practicable, then you should put forth your own proposal keeping in view the importance of internal and external aspects of the matter." Sheikh Sahib was prepared to parley. Nehru was not. He had ruled out parleys with Pakistan on anything but the status quo. The Sheikh knew there could be no solution without an India-Pakistan accord.

Unravelling strategy



Sheikh Abdullah breaks down on seeing Nehru's body on May 28, 1964, in New Delhi.

Bakshi and Sadiq had duped the Sheikh with a ruse of which New Delhi and Karan Singh were doubtless aware. They pretended to be part of the policy review. What nettled Nehru was that his strategy was unravelling. The Sheikh had begun to bow to Kashmiri opinion, not to Nehru. Even at the best of times he had made known his reservations on accession and asserted his independence. He said at Hazratbal on April 25, 1952: "It would be better to die than to submit to the taunt that India was our breadgiver." He explained to Nehru on May 2 that he had sought to counteract the propaganda that "we were being kept in the saddle with the help of the Indian bayonets" (SWJN; Volume 18; pages 387 and 390). None of his successors could use such language. He drew his power from the people; they, from New Delhi. He had his hand on the pulse of the people; they on their masters' pulse.

Sheikh Abdullah was battling against the tide of public opinion since the accession. Hence, the proposal he gave to the British Commonwealth Secretary Patrick Gordon-Walker in New Delhi on February 20, 1948, in Nehru's presence, which he reported to London: "Just before Nehru left, Sheikh Abdullah said he thought the solution was that Kashmir should accede to both Dominions" with its "autonomy jointly guaranteed" by them. It would delegate foreign policy and defence "to both jointly". He had discussed it with the Prime Minister. Gordon-Walker took it up with Nehru, who said he would be prepared to accept a solution broadly on the lines of that proposed by Sheikh Abdullah, who was opposed to a plebiscite. The vote would be close, perhaps 60:40 in India's favour. Both Nehru and he knew that there was strong pro-Pakistan feeling in Kashmir.

As Patel noted, Abdullah had said in an interview to Michael Davidson of the Scotsman (April 14, 1949) that "accession to either side cannot bring peace, perhaps a middle path between them" cooperating with both (SPC; page 266).

What of Nehru himself? He was fulsome in his assertions of Kashmir's right to self-determination and his "pledge to the world" on plebiscite. Sample only four: 1. "I say with all respect to our Constitution that it just does not matter what your (sic.) Constitution says; if the people of Kashmir do not want it, it will not go there" (June 26, 1952; SWJN; Volume 18, page 418). 2. "It is an international matter. It is a matter in the minds of millions of men. How can you withdraw it from the minds of millions of men by some legal withdrawal or otherwise from some forum? The question does not arise. We have to face our people, we have to face facts and we have to solve them." 3. "The decision will be made in the hearts and minds of the men and women of Kashmir, neither in this Parliament nor in the United Nations, nor by anybody else." (Both on August 7, 1952; SWJN; Volume 19, pages 289 and 296.) Did he mean any of these? For he had ruled out plebiscite in 1948, as he recorded on pages 322-330 of this very volume. In public, he sang a different tune. 4. "This Parliament can take many steps of course; but it cannot solve the international part of it ... We are not going to hold on to Kashmir against the will of the people, it just does not matter whether there is accession or not. I make it perfectly clear that I am not going to hold on by force of arms, against the (sic.) wish to Kashmir" (March 25, 1953; SWJN; Volume 21; page 222).

Brazen falsehood

Karan Singh and others retailed a brazen falsehood that the Sheikh's dismissal as Premier of Jammu and Kashmir and his arrest and imprisonment were decided in Srinagar. Nehru's close and disastrous confidant on Kashmir and China, the Intelligence Bureau chief B.N. Mullik, revealed in detail how Nehru planned the coup. It was done in the manner made famous by Henry II: "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" Becket was assassinated without an explicit Royal Command.

We have a lot more than that. Mullik records how Nehru personally sought his help, as did another disastrous confidant, Brig. B.M. Kaul (in his "personal capacity"); both of the Forward Policy fame (My Years With Nehru, 1971, pages 41-45 and Kaul's Untold Story, 1968). The Corps Commander at Udhampur, Lt.-Gen. Atal, was alerted. We now have Nehru's order to another unsavoury character, his Private Secretary M.O. Mathai, who duly recorded the instructions on July 31, 1953 (SWJN; Volume 23; pages 303-305 for the text). The Sheikh's sack and arrest were implicit. Neither, of course, could have been undertaken without Nehru's prior approval. No wonder he saw to it later that the Sheikh was isolated.

He lives in a "sumptuous bungalow", Nehru callously wrote to Vijayalakshmi Pandit Nehru. He falsely denied that he had any role in the matter - to the President (August 9); Parliament (August 10); the Chief Ministers (August 22) and even to daughter Indira Gandhi, who was opposed to the action (August 9).



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