Maharaja Hari Singh and Kashmir Dilemma

Nehru’s Minister Mahommedali Currim Chagla countered Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in Security Council on February 5, 1964, saying, Muslims not a Minority in India

Dr Hari Desai Thursday 29th September 2016 07:26 EDT
 
 

Even after seven decades of India's Independence, Kashmir continues to bleed and cause rupture between India and Pakistan. The last Viceroy of British India, Lord Louis Mountbatten, cousin of King George, after prolonged negotiations with Indian leaders, made a declaration of the last plan for Independence on 3rd June, 1947. It made the Partition of British India into two i.e. Indian Union and Pakistan Union, leaving nearly 565 Princely States free to make a choice either to join any of the Unions or to remain Independent.

The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, was in a real dilemma as he was a Hindu King with majority of his subjects being Muslims. Before Partition, even Jammu province had a Muslim majority. According to the 1941 census, 70% of Jammu population were Muslims, and over 90% in Kashmir. The Maharaja had his ambition to make Kashmir the Switzerland of the East – a State that is completely neutral.

M A Jinnah, the Governor General of Pakistan, was desperate as he wanted J&K by hook or by crook. The raiders with the active guidance of the regulars of Pakistan Army started invasion on J&K on 22nd October, 1947. The Maharaja was helpless, his Muslim officials deserted and the invaders reached Baramulla, looting, killing and raping the innocents, creating chaos. The Ruler sought military help from New Delhi, but since J&K was “a foreign territory”, Mountbatten, with the consent of Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and other ministers, agreed to despatch forces only after getting the Instrument of Accession signed on 27th October, 1947.

Blame game was always on. The Maharaja of the State agreed to the accession after considerable vacillation. Supported by the All Jammu and Kashmir Rajya Hindu Sabha, he was initially in favour of a Hindu State independent of secular India, and then toyed with the idea of acceding to Pakistan. Once the accession to India was formalised, the Government of India wanted it approved through a referendum as desired by the Maharaja. Unfortunately, soon after signing the Instrument of Accession to India, the Maharaja wrote a letter to Sardar Patel on 31st January, 1948, expressing his willingness to withdraw the accession. Somehow, Sardar convinced him not to go back on his commitment.

There are some more myths about Article 370 (earlier 306-A) of the Indian Constitution, giving special status to J&K as well as the Plebiscite. Balraj Puri, an authority on Kashmir affairs, states in “Kashmir: Insurgency and After”, that “These two commitments are believed to be a part of Nehru’s policy of appeasement of the Kashmiri Muslims. But the fact that needs to be re-emphasised here is that the collective wisdom of the entire leadership of India at that time, whether within the government or in the Opposition, considered these commitments as the only way to make the State a part of India.

“M J Akbar has correctly pointed out that Sardar Patel and Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee were members of the front row of the treasury benches in Parliament when commitment for the UN-overseen plebiscite was made by the Government of India. Similarly, both were members of the Cabinet when it accepted Article 370. It is, however, true that Patel did not share Nehru’s faith in the Muslims of Kashmir and, therefore, was not keen on the State’s accession to India. He had conveyed to Maharaja Hari Singh through Mountbatten that if he acceded to Pakistan, the Government of India would not take it amiss.”

Even Dr B R Ambedkar was keen on Muslim–majority Kashmir Valley going to Pakistan after ascertaining the view of Kashmiri people in the manifesto for the first General Election of Lok Sabha!

Nehru’s Education Minister Justice Mahommedali Currim Chagla presented India’s case most effectively before Security Council in February 1964 countering Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the then Foreign Minister of Pakistan. “Muslims are not a Minority in India in the ordinary sense of the term. They constitute 50 million of the total population of India. India is the third largest Muslim State in the world. Muslims are the sons of the soil, they are Indian by race and they enjoy all the rights of citizenship. Every office is open to them, and in fact many of them hold the highest offices in the land….We have no official religion. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and others have full freedom of worship, and fundamental rights under the Constitution are guaranteed to every citizen. We have no first-class and second-class citizenship. Before the law everyone is equal.”

Jammu and Kashmir remains an integral part of India. Pakistan is yet to vacate the occupied Indian territories. The historical events need to meet the challenges of the contemporary world.

(The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail: [email protected])

Next Column: Arrival of Christianity in India


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