Since last more than seven decades Jammu and Kashmir is frequently in the air. Even during the British reign Maharaja Hari Singh (23 September 1885- 26 April 1961), the ruler of the Princely State since 1925, was always suspected for his anti-British stance and even when the British were to leave India for ever, he aspired to have his own ‘Switzerland’. His State was attacked by the Pakistan army sponsored “tribal soldiers from the Frontier areas to make the attack look like a rebellion from within” in October 1947. The Dogra Maharaja who was biding his time had to decide in favour of India to save his State in such grave emergency period. Hari Singh had appointed Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan as his Prime Minister in September 1947 following Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s advice. Mahajan had “approach the Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for help when Pakistan had begun to exert pressure on the Maharaja by orchestrating economic blockade”.
Sheikh Abdullah, the most popular leader of the State, was behind the bar as he had given a “Quit Kashmir” campaign against the Maharaja in 1946.
For Pandit Nehru the issue was personal being a Kashmiri Pandit himself as well as this a public matter. Both Nehru and Sheikh were keen that unless the popular Government was installed in Srinagar, no declaration of accession to India be made. The Maharaja wrote to Sardar Patel “requesting him to provide him with guns, connected stores and material to blow up the Kohala Bridge. He had anticipated the Pakistani move and was preparing in the hope that better sense will prevail in New Delhi where even Sardar Patel did not agree to immediate accession without transfer of authority to Sheikh Abdullah”, records Harbans Singh in his most authoritative biography “Maharaja Hari Singh: The Troubled Years”. Finally, on the advice of the Sardar the Maharaja released Sheikh as a gesture who had expressed his loyalty being his subject.
When most of the Maharaja’s trusted Muslim Army officers and soldiers deserted him and the attack from Pakistan side had reached Baramulla with a design to abduct Hari Singh, on advice of V.P. Menon, the Secretary of the States Ministry headed by Patel, the Maharaja left for Jammu driving his car the whole night. The Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession to India on 26 October 1947 and the planes loaded with Indian army officials and soldiers were flown to Srinagar.
Unfortunately, the Sheikh started showing his true colours after he became Head of the Emergency Administration. Hari Singh wrote to Patel on 1, January 1948 complaining about Sheikh and G. M. Shah behaving as “virtual dictators and they have complete power”. Sheikh continued “to poison already prejudiced mind of Nehru”. He was successful in making Maharaja Hari Singh leave his own State in May-June 1949 appointing 18 year Yuvraj Karan Singh as his Regent during his absence in the State. He was convinced by the Sardar to leave the State. Even before that Maharaja had a second thought about his decision to sign the Instrument of Accession to India. He wrote to Patel on 31, January 1948 with so much pain: “Sometimes I feel that I should withdraw the accession that I have made to Indian Union.” In May 1949 when he was invited to Delhi by Patel, in whom he put total faith, “had administered the hammer blow to Maharaja”. Harbans writes: “Sardar Patel suggested that he should announce he was leaving the State for a few months on the ground of health.” On 20 June 1949, Maharaja Hari Singh signed a proclamation declaring his Yuvraj Shri Karansinghji Bahadur as his Regent and left for Mumbai forever. Even in his memorandum from Pune to the President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad in August 1952, the Maharaja described his painful experiences. Hari Singh never could return to his State alive.
Former Sadr-e-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir and the only son of the Maharaja Dr Karan Singh in his one of the interviews to “Greater Kashmir” Daily in September 2016 asserted that pre-conditions for holding a Plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir were never fulfilled despite the fact that a US admiral was appointed to monitor the process “My father was considering which of the two dominions to join, but the tribal invasion changed everything. Actually, the invasion forced my father to side with Union of India. My father sought help, and India put condition of accession before my father,” he said.
As far as the promise of plebiscite by Nehru is concerned, the former Sadr-e-Riyasat said the promise was rebutted by Nehru himself. “I believe plebiscite is an advisory and not a binding resolution. Though a few clauses of the resolution are a binding like Pakistan must withdraw its forces and then Indian army would also gradually pull out its forces,” he said. While launching the biography of Maharaja Hari Singh written by Harbans Singh in 2011, Dr. Singh compared his father’s story with the Greek Tragedy. He could not open up his with anyone and if some sort of compromise could have taken place between the Maharaja and Sheikh, the history of entire Asian continent must have been different.
Next Column: Brothers-Sisters dominate Indian Politics
1. Maharaja Hari Singh and Maharani Tara Devi
2. Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah with Sadr-e-Riyasat Yuvraj Karan Singh