While reading about the Jammu Kashmir conflict I recently came across an op-ed in ‘The Politic’ by Sabrina Bustamante titled ‘What if both sides are bad’: Truths at War in Kashmir. Unlike the vast majority of writers that always tends to assume an India-biased stance when it comes to the Jammu Kashmir conflict, she is most definitely engaged in a rather conscious effort to remain impartial as she opines after seven decades the Jammu Kashmir dispute has morphed into a mere matter of national pride for India and Pakistan, and is therefore employed to gain political benefit by both, while the people of Jammu Kashmir stand forgotten. Nonetheless, the core notion upon which her narrative is built i.e. there may be two truths at war, does tend to reflect a degree of naivety as far as the dynamics at play in British India, before and after Transfer of Power under the Independence Act of India 1947, as well as the stipulations that dictated the accession of the 565 or so Princely States of British India at the time, not to mention the commanding impact of the underlying spirit, the unstoppable idea, that forced the Partition of British India to begin with. Indeed if we focus only on the current or the more recent past, and opine solely on the basis of what is broadcast in the mainstream media and propagated by sponsored research academics the notion ‘What if both sides are bad? ’ could be proclaimed to hold weight. However, long-running disputes and conflicts as complex as this one, wherein the web of intricacies transformed subtly over the passage of time adding new twists and turns to the affair, do not allow such simplistic judgments. In fact it may be appropriate to refrain from declaring a verdict of any variety, intellectual, political or moral, without a rather comprehensive understanding of the contextual details involved in the mater. There is no contesting the fact the plight of the people of the Vale of Kashmir should have continuously occupied centre-stage in this on-going saga instead of being spun into a Geo-political tool, but it is equally correct that ‘two truths are NOT at war here’. Irrespective of the fact how multidimensional it has become, the Jammu Kashmir affair does not present a paradox by any means. There is only one plain, albeit multifaceted, truth in sight here: the inordinate misfortune of the people of Jammu Kashmir as a direct consequence of the multi-layered game of deception played by the imperial mind-set of the British Indian Empire, its partner in crime i.e. the Hindu leadership of All India National Congress, not to forget the collaborators among the Muslim politicians of the age. If the world outside never gets to witness the true extent of the inhumane treatment Muslims of Jammu Kashmir are subjected to, or form an accurate perspective of the contributing dynamics, it is because truth in its entirety is never allowed to surface; it only leaks out, in little bits and pieces, here and there, that somehow succeed in escaping the many forms of repression and distortion employed by the Indian lobbyists. An utter lack of genuine concern in the global power centres and the mainstream media, which are dominated by the Globalists, coupled with duplicity on part of the everlasting plenty of pseudo-intellectuals, quasi-historians, ‘for sale’ journalists, and corrupt politicians in Pakistan, who happen to be proud pawns of the Globalists, the complete picture of the every-day torments that continue to agonize resilient Kashmiris never makes it to the consciousness of even the many well-meaning truth-seekers. Nor are the hidden particulars, which shaped this dispute and could effectively uncoil the Anglo-Indian conspiracy, permitted to surface in the mainstream except heavily coloured by propaganda. What the outside world hears is a chronicle proactively disseminated by the Indian lobbyists instated in key power centres around the globe; a tale that has been shaped by deceit and tells a lie. The shamefully puny effort of the bulk of politicians and the civil society in Pakistan toward highlighting the plight of the Muslims in Jammu Kashmir on pertinent forums does not stand a chance, not only because it tends to display an utter want of comprehensive familiarity with actual facts on their part, but more so because of an absolute lack of genuine conviction. Perhaps it will not be an overstatement to say the ethically depraved majority of Pakistani politicians might have just succumbed to the Indian influence and bartered over the rights of the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir had they not been apprehended by the fact with the passage of time this dispute has come to sit high on the central doctrine of the Pakistan Armed Forces for more than one reason. Hence the impression this conflict has been employed as a Geo-political tool, while the anguish of the people of Jammu Kashmir has been thrown into oblivion. As said earlier, there is no denying human plight sits at the heart of this issue, however just as incontestable is the fact that a grave wrong was committed to start with; ‘something’ was in the making, but then ‘something else’ was made to occur, and that ‘something else’ became the very source of prolonging the misery of the people of Jammu Kashmir to this day. Without tracing steps back in time, and taking into account the untold history of the Realpolitik that gave birth to and shaped the subtleties of this conflict, one cannot possibly expect to do justice to the cause of the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir who have shed their blood and laid their lives, but not accepted defeat in the face of the falsehood embodied by almost daily acts of brutality committed by up to 700,000 armed Indian personnel deployed in their territory.
Before moving back in time, let us take a quick glance at the official narratives vis-à-vis the Jammu Kashmir dispute.
The Indian narrative insists:
- The accession was legal and final – it rendered the Princely State of Jammu Kashmir ‘an integral part’ of India; the State’s accession to India was sought and endorsed by Sheikh Abdullah, a Muslim politician who was a native of Jammu Kashmir
- The ‘will of people’ does not need to be ascertained through a plebiscite, rather the democratic electoral process, which the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir have actively participated in over the passage of time, has established the fact that by and large the Muslim majority of Jammu Kashmir continues to validate the State’s accession to India
- The ‘internal law and order situation’ in Jammu Kashmir would sort out if only ‘Pakistan backed aggressors’ do not cause disruption through ‘terrorist activities’
- Human rights violation by the State are negligible and ‘sufficient judicial mechanisms’ are in place to address such grievances
On the other hand Pakistan’s official narrative essentially presents the rebuttal:
- The accession of Jammu Kashmir stands disputed given that it was obtained from Raja Hari Singh under duress hence the State of Jammu Kashmir must be considered ‘disputed territory’
- The promised plebiscite under international auspices has not been permitted by the Indian Administration despite UN Security Council resolutions thus rendering the affair of Jammu Kashmir ‘an unfinished case of Partition’
- The Muslims of Jammu Kashmir are fighting for freedom from Indian oppression, which cannot be termed ‘an internal law and order situation’ hence Pakistan will continue to provide them with moral and diplomatic support
- Grave violation of human rights by the State must be investigated impartially and independently
Let us now start our jaunt back in history in order to understand the circumstantial details which set the background for the birth of these starkly opposing narratives and the subsequent impression there are ‘two truths at war’ here:
After over four centuries of Muslim rule, in the early 19th century the Vale of Kashmir was conquered by the Sikh rulers of adjoining Punjab and soon after the Kingdom of Jammu became its tributary while the Sikh Empire also annexed territories of Ladakh, and Baltistan. In 1846 the Princely State of Jammu Kashmir was formed as a single contiguous unit; in addition to the adjoining territories already seized by the Sikhs, Gilgit was made part of the State of Jammu Kashmir under the Treaty of Amritsar 1846, which was signed between the British East India Company and Gulab Singh Dogra, the ruler of Jammu. Essentially the British colonists selected Gulab Singh Dogra to hand over these territories in exchange of the useful mediation provided by him in the aftermath of the first Anglo-Sikh War as well as the trustworthy advisory services rendered to Sir Henry Lawrence, a British military officer and statesman of British India. Thus Gulab Singh established the British loyalist Dogra rule in Jammu Kashmir in the mid-19th century at the cost of 7.5 million Nanak-Shahi Rupees (approximately 500,000 British Pounds) and other annual tributes paid to the British East India Company under the Treaty of Amritsar 1846. From its very inception the State of Jammu Kashmir was “somewhat artificial in composition and it did not develop a fully coherent identity, partly as a result of its disparate origins and partly as a result of the autocratic rule which it experienced on the fringes of Empire”. Ladakh was ethnically and culturally Tibetan and the inhabitants practiced Buddhism; Jammu had a mixed population of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs; the Vale of Kashmir was populated by a majority of Muslims and a small but influential Hindu Brahman minority; the population of the sparsely inhabited Baltistan was ethnically related to the people of Ladakh, however the Baltis practiced Islam as did the people in Gilgit region. Under the oppressive non-Muslim Dogra Raj and the despotism of the Hindu elite i.e. the Brahman Pandits, the State essentially functioned and legitimized itself in terms of Hindu idioms, customs, scriptures and identity. Nomenclature of various Muslim places was changed and Muslims were discriminated against in every aspect of life which led to their marginalization. Hence in spite of holding majority in the State, Muslims were not allowed raising their status above that of an impoverished peasantry. In 1850 the Dogra rulers even considered re-conversion of Muslim population in Jammu Kashmir albeit this was opposed by the Hindu Pandits since it would ‘dilute the purity of Hinduism’; nonetheless a rule was implemented by the Dogras to check further spread of Islam in the region and conversion was discouraged under the threat of losing one’s right to inheritance besides other troubles that would be bequeathed upon the converted individual. To acquire a slight taste of the Muslims’ predicament under the Dogras a few well-known facts can be easily cited: For the sake of a small Hindu minority, the killing of a cow was banned and the punishment of the accused at various points in time was anywhere between death sentence and life imprisonment, later reduced to seven years in prison; the Hindu minority exercised a monopoly over State education; conducting of business with Muslim contractors was discouraged; in order to establish a class loyal to the State, gazetted appointments in the bureaucracy were made out to Hindus and Sikhs, with only a meagre share of low-level posts permitted to the Muslims; for similar reasons, Muslims stood disqualified for high-level posts in Military Service. In 1905 signs of social and political awareness among Muslims first appeared when Mir Waiz of Kashmir, Rasool Shah, founded Anjuman-i-Nusrat-ul-Islam in Srinagar with the objective of improving the lot of Muslims. However it was not before the early 1920s that the organization sought redress of grievances from the State Government, albeit without success. In 1924 the labour unrest at the State Silk Factory in Srinagar, did manage to highlight the condition of the Muslims to the British Administration yet it resulted only in a minimal increment in the wages of the factory workers. The British Administration, it seemed, preferred to refrain from meddling in the affairs of the Princely States of British India for various political reasons. Therefore far from paying heed to the demands made by the Muslim representatives, who met Viceroy Lord Reading and called for the abolition of Begaar (labour without wage), better educational facilities, good representation of Muslims in the State services, release of religious places and buildings and proprietary rights to the peasants, the British Administration did little even when the signatories of this memorandum were severely punished by the State Administration. Later in 1929 Sir Albion Bannerji, the Foreign and Political Minister of the State of Jammu Kashmir, resigned and openly criticized the autocratic Dogra rule for the impoverished condition of Muslims; in fact his remarks at the time equated the illiterate Muhammaden population labouring under poverty to practically being governed like dumb driven cattle. Not at all difficult for any to conclude the sole reason for this wide-spread discrimination and unjust treatment of the majority of population in Jammu Kashmir at the hands of the British backed Dogra Raj was these underprivileged subjects were Muslims i.e. followers of a religion other than that of the ruling elite. In 1931 the flame of opposition to the ruler was set alight when in addition to a chain of other incidences, at least 22 Muslims were shot dead by the State police from among thousands who flocked to witness the trial of Abdul Qadeer – Abdul Qadeer was apparently put on trial by the State Administration for having delivered a fiery speech against the oppression of the Dogra Raj. This incidence undoubtedly sent a major shock wave through the region, protests intensified and communal riots broke out, the uprising and connected violence spread through Jammu and Kashmir until three British companies comprising of 500 men were sent to support the Dogra ruler in restoring law and order. Sir Mohammad Iqbal, the renowned Muslim poet-philosopher, a Kashmiri by ethnicity, was appointed to lead a committee established to secure the appointment of an independent Commission of Enquiry into the background of the crisis. The subsequent Glancy Commission obliged Hari Singh, the Sikh ruler of Jammu Kashmir, to grant a constitution supported by a degree of freedom of speech and association. By this time, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, a young graduate of the Aligarh Muslim University, and Mir Waiz Yusuf Shah, the acknowledged head of the Muslim community in the Vale of Kashmir, had both surfaced as dominant Muslim leaders and “Between them, Mir Waiz Mohammad Yusuf Shah with his religious prestige, and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah with his charismatic personality and organizing ability, made a formidable team”. The Sheikh-Waiz duo went onto form the All Jammu Kashmir Muslim Conference which turned into the main vehicle of opposition to the Dogra rule. The Legislative Assembly formed under the ‘post- Glancy Commission Constitution of 1934’, using communal constituencies and restricted electorate, presented a far from democratic arrangement with severely limited powers, however it did create a political forum that was exploited to the full by the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference. Quite surprisingly, the struggle of the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir, against the oppressive Dogra Raj, also amassed support from certain Brahman Pandits despite the fact Muslim opposition of the autocratic rule in the State was still bound up with religious sensitivity. This perhaps was a preliminary effort directed at infusing the struggle of the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir with the spirit of secularism, which undoubtedly appealed to some of the young educated Muslims who had been exposed to the thinking of Marx and Engles. In fact it would not be an exaggeration to say the effort to direct the political activity of Muslims in Jammu Kashmir in a secular direction did in fact find a degree of success in the aftermath of the split between Sheikh Abdullah and Yusuf Shah – a split stoked by their difference of opinion regarding the Ahmadiya community which Shah believed to be heretical, and perhaps also by Sheikh’s marriage to the daughter of Harry Nedou, a European proprietor of a chain of hotels. Following the Sheikh-Waiz split, the Brahman Pandits of the Vale of Kashmir, especially Prem Naath Bazaz, furthered their support to Sheikh Abdullah, and combined with Jawaharlal Nehru’s shrewd overpowering influence, Sheikh’s political thought continued to become more secularized until in 1939 the All Jammu Kashmir Muslim Conference morphed into All Jammu Kashmir National Conference so as to enable non-Muslims to join the organization. Theoretically speaking, this allowed inhabitants of Jammu Kashmir to come together in their fight for political and social reforms in the State with a commonly shared spirit of territorial nationalism without concerning themselves with matters of theology, however as it turned out, in essence this historic metamorphosis was intended to pave the way for an affiliation between All Jammu Kashmir National Conference and All India Congress thereby subjecting it to the vagaries of sub-continent’s politics. Subsequently, many of Sheikh’s political associates left to join hands with Yusuf Shah in reviving the All Jammu Kashmir Muslim Conference which eventually aligned itself with the politics of Jinnah’s Muslim League in British India. In 1941 the Muslim Conference came to dominate the quota of seats allocated for Muslims in the State Assembly while Sheikh’s National Conference could manage to win only ten, however in later years by not supporting the 1946 Quit Kashmir movement, started by the National Conference on the lines of Congress’s 1942 Quit India movement in British India, it appeared the Muslim Conference did lose some political ground albeit some of its members participated enthusiastically in the Quit Kashmir movement. This movement essentially argued the sale of the Vale of Kashmir to the Dogra Dynasty by the British was not valid hence the Dogras must leave Kashmir; it resulted in Prime Minister Pandit Kak imposing Martial Law after 20 were killed during protests while Sheikh Abdullah was imprisoned along with hundreds more. The relative inertness of the Muslim Conference toward the Quit Kashmir movement did impart an edge to the popularity of the National Conference; and this was more than fully exploited and manipulated by Nehru in the run up to Transfer of Power because it permitted him to inaccurately portray Sheikh Abdullah as a Muslim leader from Kashmir with ‘tremendous popular following’. The National Conference did not participate in the 1947 election while the Muslim Conference won ten of the seats allocated for Muslims; the rest could not be filled due to the nomination screening process approved by Hari Singh. And these elected Muslim representatives in the State Assembly passed a resolution in July 1947 which advocated accession to Pakistan although within the Muslim Conference there were a few elements that contemplated an independent status for the State of Jammu Kashmir.
Thus we see how in the run up to Transfer of Power in British India three distinct opinions emerged among the Muslim politicians of Jammu Kashmir:
- The National Conference under Sheikh Abdullah aligned itself with Nehru’s so-called nationalist viewpoint aimed at a secular independent India with all the territory, which had been part of British India, under its dominion.
- The Muslim Conference under Mir Waiz Yusuf Shah explicitly aligned itself with Muslim League, which based on the ‘Two-Nation’ theory, advocated Partition of British India into two Dominions – Muslim and non-Muslim.
- Additionally, a few Muslim politicians in Jammu Kashmir did tend to favour an independent status for the Princely State following the end of British colonial rule in India. However, it seemed highly unlikely that if the question of an independent Jammu Kashmir was put to the electorate in an impartial manner at the time, the historic maltreatment of the Muslim majority in Jammu Kashmir at the hands of the Dogra Raj, would allow continuation of the autocratic reign that had thus far survived under the protection of the British.
Considering the geographic positioning of the State of Jammu Kashmir, which shared a long stretch of its Northern border with China and was separated from Russia to its West only by the narrow Wakhan tract of Afghanistan, unlike most other Princely States of British India, it did have an outlet to the world outside the Indian sub-continent. Hence the theoretical probability it could survive as an independent State, outside either of the successor Dominions of the British Indian Empire. However, the critical importance of the Northern Frontier, especially in the wake of the perceived threat embodied by the Russian and Chinese influence in the region, which the British had become aware of back in the 1820s, rendered it crucial the British ensured the long stretch of the Northern Frontier was not permitted to fall under Russian or Chinese persuasion even after Transfer of Power in British India. Now, the Northern Frontier of Jammu Kashmir essentially runs along the high mountains of the Karakoram and its associated ranges – Pamir and Hindu Kush in the west, Himalayas in the south, Kunlun in the north while toward east this Frontier meets the western edge of the Tibetan Plateau. And at the time i.e. in 1947, both routes that led to the Chinese province of Sin Kiang (Xinjiang) – the eastern route from Leh in Ladakh and the western route from Gilgit through Hunza – could be approached from Srinagar. Srinagar essentially presented the easiest access to Leh as well as the most logical starting point for Gilgit which greatly added to the Geo-political and Geo-strategic potential of the Vale of Kashmir. Equally critical was the Gilgit-Baltistan region for the British – much of this region was annexed by the Sikh Empire in mid-to-late 19th century, but their grip remained tenuous. In 1876 the British struck a deal with the Dogra Raj: the British would assist the Dogras in their bid to extend Sikh penetration of the region and in exchange, the Dogra Raj would allow the British to station a representative of their Administration in Gilgit. However, in 1881 the British withdrew from this arrangement having realized it was not only making their relationship with Dogras less than cordial but also did not effectively discourage the Dogras from clandestine interaction with the Russians. Further toward the end of the 19th century the Anglo-Russian rivalry reached a climax: On one hand Russians seemed to be approaching Afghanistan, while on the other the prospect of Princely states such as Hunza falling under Chinese sway tended to pose a real threat to the British interest in the region. The British also suspected strengthening of covert links between the Russians and the rulers of various Princely States in the region. Annexation of the entire Princely State of Jammu Kashmir was therefore proposed, however re-establishment of Gilgit Agency was opted for in 1889. This proved to be a more advantageous choice in terms of public opinion within India and also because it rendered the British in control of the Frontier Policy yet much of the cost incurred at safeguarding the Northern Frontier was borne by the State of Jammu Kashmir. The intense Anglo-Russian competition also resulted in intense Anglo-Russian negotiation in an attempt to define the North-western Frontier of the British Indian Empire hence the subsequent Durand Line, which ran up until Wakhan tract where China, British India and Afghanistan approached each other at the extreme eastern corner of the Pamir range; an understanding was also reached as to their respective spheres of influence in the Pamirs. Almost parallel to this, the critical task of demarcation of the frontier between the two northern tracts of Jammu Kashmir i.e. Ladakh and Gilgit Agency, and the Chinese territory, was also undertaken by the British, albeit this task was dominated by the nature of the relationship that existed between the Princely State of Hunza and the Chinese authorities in Sin Kiang. In 1899 Peking was sent a Note by the British Indian Minister Sir Claude MacDonald asking the Chinese to relinquish their claim on the Princely State of Hunza while the British Indian Administration, on behalf of the State of Hunza, would surrender claim to the arable lands of Raskam. Peking never replied formally but they never repudiated the terms spoken of either. In 1905 two British objections to the proposal outlined in the 1899 Note to Peking were addressed by Lord Cruzon and the subsequent arrangement allowed China substantial tract in the Pamir range in exchange of a few square miles of territory to the east of Khunjerab and Shamshal Passes. In 1935 the British Indian Administration acquired a 60-year lease of Gilgit Agency from the Dogra rulers of Jammu Kashmir for security reasons namely direct monitoring of the Russian influence in Sin Kiang. This arrangement was again intended to keep the region out of the hands of the Dogras and spoke volumes of the massive interest the British had in securing long-term control of this region so as to contain probable expansion of Russian or Chinese influence into the Indian sub-continent, as well as monitor spread of Russian influence in Sin Kiang. Thus in 1947 the State of Jammu Kashmir found itself geographically positioned between two seemingly rival successor Dominions of the British Indian Empire, with an ever-present prospect of Russian or Chinese sway at its doorstep, alongside a pervasive threat of British interest in holding strategic reins in the region. Despite wishful thinking on part of certain Muslim politicians, in this Geo-political context an independent State of Jammu Kashmir could not have relished a peaceful existence; accession was the only practicable option. And the geographic and demographic factors did render it highly feasible for the State to accede to Pakistan; not to forget the historic opposition of the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir to the Dogras, which further strengthened the likelihood of the State’s accession to the Muslim successor Dominion of the British Indian Empire. The inclusion of Poonch in the State of Jammu Kashmir, not long before Partition of British India, further strengthened the demographic factor which tended to sway the rational opinion furthermore toward the State’s accession to Pakistan – the over 90% Muslim population of Poonch had traditionally sustained stronger ties with Muslims in the North Western Frontier Province and across the Jhelum than with the Muslims of the Vale of Kashmir or the ones inhabiting the outlying districts of the Hindu majority Jammu. As for the geographic factor, it must be mentioned that besides the long stretch of border, which the State of Jammu Kashmir shared with the Muslim majority Punjab and North Western Frontier Province thereby permitting effective lines of communication, three out of the five rivers flowing through Punjab either originated in or traversed the State of Jammu Kashmir while a short stretch of Ravi marked the boundary between Jammu Kashmir and Gurdaspur District. And the water of these rivers was vital for the agricultural life of the entire region of Muslim majority Punjab that was bound to become Pakistan. On the other hand, the only line of communication between India and Srinagar ran through the Muslim majority Gurdaspur District of Punjab, making accession to India practicable only if certain eastern Tehsils (Administrative Units) of Gurdaspur District were awarded to the non-Muslim successor Dominion in outright defiance of the spirit and the principle which theoretically dictated the stipulations applicable to the Partition of British India. Hence it would not be an overstatement to say, as an overwhelmingly Muslim majority Princely State of British India, which was geographically contiguous to the Muslim majority regions destined to become Pakistan, with economic and communication lines bound with the territory of future Pakistan, there existed a more than solid rationale for accession of the State to the Muslim Dominion of the British Indian Empire following Transfer of Power. The possible consequences of Partition of British India, vis-à-vis the State of Jammu Kashmir, were certainly apparent to the Foreign Policy analysts in the British Indian Administration. If the State exercised independence, India would be deprived of ‘a vital guard for a difficult frontier’, the very purpose the Princely State of Jammu Kashmir had served from the time of its creation in 1846; if however the State was allowed to move toward an accession with Pakistan, the probability of the Northern Frontier falling to foreign intervention thus allowing ‘undesirable influence’ to enter the sub-continent, was certainly high in the eyes of the British observers – they harboured serious doubts about the stability and longevity of Pakistan – an argument fortified by the leadership of All India National Congress which could not but envision a ‘stillborn Pakistan’ soon bound to fall back in India’s lap. Thus the only Geo-politically viable option for the British was to somehow render the State of Jammu Kashmir a part of India, the seemingly more ‘stable and reliable’ of the two successor Dominions of the British Indian Empire, even if that implied utter defiance of common logic, disregard of reality on the ground, and disdain for the very principle which had compelled the Partition of British India in the first place i.e. there were two people in the Indian sub-continent, Muslims and Hindus, who adhered to two distinct social orders and could not evolve a common nationality.
Now let us proceed to see how the British Indian Administration and the leadership of All India National Congress worked their way toward a two-way consensus on the aforementioned Geo-political objective and set out to achieve the same. Here it is critical to note by this time the duo had come to harbour a sense of deep resentment toward Jinnah, the All India Muslim League, and by way of that toward the Muslims of British India, who rallied behind the legendary Jinnah in the struggle for a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India. Neither the British nor the Hindu political leadership of All India National Congress could bring themselves to accept the split of the Indian sub-continent, and that too based on the idealistic notion of Muslim nationalism instead of territorial nationalism.
- The biggest geographic hindrance in their path was the lack of existing communication lines between India and the State of Jammu Kashmir – as indicated earlier, the only link between the Princely State and India ran through the Muslim majority Gurdaspur District of Punjab, up to Srinagar, which was also situated in the Muslim majority Vale of Kashmir. Unless three of the four sub-districts of Gurdaspur were awarded to East Punjab, which was due to become part of India, accession of the State of Jammu Kashmir to India would have remained a theoretical probability. In order to overcome this obstacle, the underlining principle of Partition, which dictated all Muslim majority Districts contiguous to the Muslim core of Punjab, would go to Pakistan, was brazenly defied by the Radcliffe Boundary Commission. Here it must also be remembered this calculated and politically motivated deviation from the agreed upon Terms of Reference eventually ‘contributed to the death of some 500,000 people and the uprooting of millions more’. Based on the published documents related to the Transfer of Power in British India, it is believed ‘on the basis of something better than indignation, speculation and partisan argument’ Viceroy Lord Mountbatten manipulated the Commission so as to ensure the critical access to the Vale of Kashmir, from India via Gurdaspur, was not lost to Pakistan. Liaqat Ali Khan, a prominent leader of All India Muslim League and later the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, protested to Lord Ismay and termed this underhanded move as “a grave injustice which will amount to a breach of faith on the part of the British”. However Liaqat’s protest was dismissed by Lord Ismay who refused to believe Mountbatten was capable of such deviousness.
- The aforementioned notion was also opposed by Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten’s official biographer yet two happenings did tend to betray the truth: Subsequent to his meeting with Nehru on April 22, Mountbatten dropped a rather obvious hint on April 29, when he pointed out ‘the Princely States would have complete freedom of choice as to which successor entity to the British they could join ‘independent of the geographical considerations’; later he advised Lord Listowel to return the lease of Gilgit Agency and its dependencies to the State of Jammu Kashmir before Transfer of Power. Had the British intention not been to move the control of the Northern Frontier from Srinagar to Delhi, the matter would have been left alone until the tenancy of this lease automatically passed onto the appropriate successor Dominion as per the terms of Partition. However since geographical and demographic aspects rendered Pakistan as the appropriate successor Dominion, Mountbatten ensured in accord with Nehru, measures were taken well in time to pave the way for Jammu Kashmir’s accession to India.
- Later in June 1947, Mountbatten made known his ‘personal unhappiness’ vis-à-vis the prospect of an independent State of Jammu Kashmir; the British Resident in Srinagar was instructed to advise Hari Singh not to make an announcement about the independent status of the State until Mountbatten had personally visited and discussed the matter. Before his six-day visit to Srinagar on June 17, Mountbatten received a letter from Krishna Menon warning him of ‘dire consequences for Anglo-Indian relations if the State of Jammu Kashmir was allowed to accede to Pakistan’ as well as a Note from Nehru advocating a remarkably cunning plan which essentially revolved around his friend and ally Sheikh Abdullah of All Jammu Kashmir National Conference. Neither was a random or isolated occurring. Menon effectively threatened a predisposed Mountbatten while Nehru, at Mountbatten’s behest, went a step further and presented the Viceroy with a shrewd strategy to eliminate the probability of Jammu Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan by telling him “if an attempt is made to push Kashmir into the Pakistan Constituent Assembly there is likely to be much trouble because the National Conference is not in favour of it and the Maharaja’s position would also become very difficult. The normal and obvious course appears to be for Kashmir to join the Constituent Assembly of India. This will satisfy both the popular demand and the Maharaja’s wishes. It is absurd to think Pakistan will create trouble if that happens”. Essentially, Nehru argued Sheikh Abdullah was the ‘beloved leader’ of the Muslims in the State and that his ‘devoted Muslim following’ will approve of his decision to accede to India. He significantly undermined Muslim Conference’s standing to fully convince Mountbatten the National Conference was the sole representative of the Muslims in the State. And based on this hypothesis, Nehru also went on to suggest dismissal of the corrupt regime of Prime Minister Pandit Kak, which he opined had ‘isolated Hari Singh’, as well as an end to Sheikh’s imprisonment, thereby permitting reforms leading to a democratic State with Hari Singh as its constitutional head. As with the protest lodged by Liaqat Ali Khan with Lord Ismay regarding Gurdaspur District, Jinnah’s question regarding the All Jammu Kashmir Muslim Conference, which he voiced on July 13, 1947, was not taken seriously by the British Indian Administration despite the obvious fact ‘the policy of backing Sheikh Abdullah was fraught with danger’. Here it is worth mentioning besides the question of the Northern Frontier, as implied by the documents published in the three final volumes of the Transfer of Power series, the nature of Nehru’s personal relationship with Mountbatten and his wife Edwina, indeed played a massive role in shaping up of the Jammu Kashmir dispute.
- The publication of the final document of the Partition Plan was delayed until August 15, 1947 whereas initially it was supposed to be published on August 12. This delay was intended to pressure Hari Singh into acceding to India before Transfer of Power under the impression if he did not, Gurdaspur could be given to Pakistan thereby leaving him with no option but to accede to Pakistan which in turn would certainly mark the demise of the Dogra Dynasty. In addition, the decision to accede to India, if taken before August 15, would have also made it impossible to blame the British Indian Administration of partisanship toward the Hindu political leadership of the All India Congress – an aspect that was of critical importance to Mountbatten, who remained tight-lipped in the days to follow regarding the growing corpus of documentary evidence that implied the contrary. To Nehru’s and Mountbatten’s dismay, Hari Singh did not decide on accession to either India or Pakistan before Transfer of Power although he did remove Prime Minister Pandit Kak. Hari Singh also opted to sign Standstill Agreements with the two successor Dominions of the British Indian Empire implying he wished to take time before making a choice, albeit the Standstill Agreement with India never concluded – Delhi asked for discussion with a representative of the State of Jammu Kashmir in this regard but the State never dispatched one to Delhi.
In the circumstances thus created during the run up to Transfer of Power under the ‘Terms of Reference’ quite categorically dictated by Menon and expounded upon by Nehru to a highly willing recipient i.e. Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, it was not out of line that Jinnah came to harbour a profound sense of betrayal – perhaps despite his unusual astuteness he had come to place way too much trust in the integrity of his British and Hindu associates. The situation was made far worse by communal violence that spread in Punjab and adjoining regions as a direct consequence of the political deviation permitted by the Radcliffe Boundary Commission under the auspices of Mountbatten and General Lord Ismay. The effects of communal violence, with Muslims on one side and Hindus and Sikhs on the other, naturally overflowed into the State of Jammu Kashmir making it necessary for Hari Singh to exercise the State’s writ in the region. The Dogra rule had already been challenged openly by the military power in Gilgit Agency i.e. the Gilgit Scouts – along with the bulk of population they wished to join Pakistan – and this had been known to the State Administration since July 1947 when following the return of the lease a Governor was sent to Gilgit Agency. Trouble had been brewing in Poonch as well, where the pre-dominantly Muslim population could never bring itself to reconcile to the Dogra rule – the majority of Poonch men had served in the British Indian Army and in 1947 there were around 60,000 ex-servicemen in Poonch who could provide a formidable nucleus for any resistance to Hari Singh. In fact the ‘no tax’ campaign in Poonch, started in June 1947, had rapidly developed into a secessionist movement. Hence by August 14, 1947, the day Pakistan was born, the political dynamics surrounding the question of Jammu Kashmir had become deeply entwined with the impregnable sentiment that had come to possess the hearts and minds of the vast majority of Muslims across the Indian sub-continent. Contrary to the notion put forward in Nehru’s June 17 deceptive Note to Mountbatten, the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir not only observed Kashmir Day on August 14, 1947 in remembrance of the martyrs of 1931 by holding demonstrations in defiance of the Dogra Raj, but also celebrated the birth of a nation-state for the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent by displaying Pakistan flags. Martial Law was imposed and not only more clashes between Dogra State Forces and the ‘Poonch men’ followed but also the cold-blooded massacre of the Muslims of Jammu witnessed its beginning. In Jammu, the one part of the State which held Hindu majority, Muslims were massacred not just by the Dogra State Forces but also RSS, the Hindu militant force – even by modest measures it is believed during the months of August, September and October almost 500,000 Muslims were displaced from Jammu and 200,000 simply ‘disappeared’ while Mountbatten who knew of this genocide had the news filtered out of media. Nonetheless, the news did spread out within the State and in the adjoining regions of Punjab and the North Western Frontier Province. As a pre-emptive measure the State authorities in Poonch directed the populace to surrender firearms, but it was not long before it came to be known these weapons were in fact handed over to Hindus and Sikhs. Following the incident in Mirpur District during the third week of August wherein State Forces opened fire on a political meeting, pockets of rebellion began to break out in the region. Direct contact was established between the leadership of ‘Poonch men’ and tribal leaders of the North Western Frontier Province – the tribal tracts along the Pak-Afghan border had a long history of manufacturing and smuggling arms – and by September 1947 the ‘Poonch men’, armed with weapons secured from across the border, had clashed with State Forces in the Mirpur District. Through September, the Poonch rebellion managed to acquire a rather formal structure; Poonch rebels were further reinforced by small groups of tribesmen who arrived from the North Western Frontier Province, and many an ex-servicemen of the British Indian Army who also joined in from across the Jhelum; this was hardly a surprise, given the long-running relationship between Muslims of Poonch and their fellows in faith across the State border. At the same time, a number of Muslims serving in the Jammu Kashmir State Forces deserted the Dogras and came to join the rebels. Passionate resistance to the Dogra Raj and an ardent desire to join the Muslim successor Dominion of the British Indian Empire had essentially come to constitute the predominant dissident sentiment among a vast majority of Muslims in Jammu Kashmir. The harrowing tales of massacre and displacement of Muslims in Jammu at the hands of Hindus and Sikhs not only continued to add to the zeal of the Poonch rebels but also ignite the fury of their fellow Muslims from across the State border. In the context of such a politically and socially charged environment obviously prevalent at the time, the sentiment that drove massive support for the Poonch rebels from Pakistan was catching – it was not just a question of backing their long-time traditional associates in Jammu Kashmir by extending assistance in terms of logistics, rather also that of standing up for their oppressed brothers in faith out of a sheer sense of religious and moral obligation.
Nehru and other Brahman Pandits of the Vale of Kashmir might have succeeded in undermining the religious undertone, which had essentially constituted the basis of the Muslim opposition to the Dogra Raj, by encouraging secular political thought among the likes of Sheikh Abdullah in order to achieve their own Geo-political objective, however they had erroneously underestimated the power of truth embodied by the Two-Nation Theory. The conclusive observation shared by Jinnah via the Two-Nation Theory, despite the fact he had been an ardent advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity in ‘a secular India’ until the 1930s, was not born out of thin air. ‘The events of 1937 had a tremendous, almost a traumatic effect upon Jinnah’ and drove home ‘the stark reality of near-total political powerlessness’ as it became obvious that ‘the provincial Congress governments made no effort to understand and respect their Muslim populations’ cultural and religious sensibilities’ – a situation which essentially appeared to mirror the circumstances prevalent in the State of Jammu Kashmir under the Dogra Raj since its inception a century ago. Thus in British India the nationalistic approach with a pronounced secular undertone, propagated by the Hindu political leadership of the All India National Congress, unveiled as a mere façade in the aftermath of the 1937 elections held under the British Parliament’s Government of India Act 1935. And it became apparent the banner of a so-called secular India was just an emotional and political ploy employed to instigate division among the Muslims of India – a strategy which proved particularly effective in stoking the split that transpired among the Muslim politicians of Jammu Kashmir. The Sheikh was seemingly opposed to the continuation of the Dogra Raj in the State, yet his disapproval had come to be rooted in territorial nationalism, strictly in line with the philosophy preached by the National Congress and in utter defiance of the core principle outlined by the Two-Nation Theory, which accurately depicted the glaring reality on ground, and accordingly steered the struggle of the Muslims of British India toward a free nation-state. The Poonch rebellion was unquestionably a blow to the secular charade assumed by the National Conference which had been too obviously dancing upon the tune played by the National Congress. The rebellion in Poonch was a movement of the people, by the people, for the people and by no means was it driven by notions of territorial nationalism rather to the contrary this opposition was deeply rooted in the long history of despotism and discrimination suffered by the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir at the hands of the Hindu and Sikh ruling elite. The Muslims of Jammu Kashmir were unquestionably seeking an end to the non-Muslim rule in a Muslim majority region – if at all, their struggle depicted a sense of Muslim nationalism.
During September and October 1947 major developments occurred, in the State of Jammu Kashmir and in the two successor Dominions of the British Indian Empire, and it is exceedingly important to understand the chronological order of these occurrences is crucial to the deconstruction of the conspiracy that only a few historians have been willing to admit to despite evidence which has been accessible since the opening up of the British archives covering the final decade or so of the British era in the Indian sub-continent, the publication of the final volumes of the Transfer of Power series, Vallabhbhai Patel’s and Jawaharlal Nehru’s correspondence and other memoirs. Less than a month after its inception, the new born State of Pakistan was facing intensified unrest at its border with Jammu Kashmir and it had become categorically clear a peaceful settlement to the matter was unlikely. Pakistan had three choices: She could ignore the situation, support the Dogra Raj to pacify the unrest, or assist the Muslim rebels fighting the Dogra oppression. The choice of supporting the repressive Dogra Raj to suppress the Muslim populace was obviously a sheer improbability – any such action would have not only defied the principle based upon which the nation-state of Pakistan had come into being, it would have been a blatant violation of any moral code, irrespective of religious connotations. The unrest could not be ignored either, particularly because of what had transpired on the ground during August and early September at communal level as well as in the world of Realpolitik. Reports of activities detailed out in the first volume of Vallabhbhai Patel’s correspondence published in 1971 had most certainly reached Pakistan and the Poonch rebels in real time. Staffing preparation for Indian troop concentration in Pathankot near the Jammu border, the improvement of the road from Jammu to the Indian border in the direction of Pathankot, expansion of telegraphic lines, development of links between Srinagar and Delhi, and last but not the least arrangement of a supply of arms and ammunition to the State Armed Forces coupled with wireless equipment for Srinagar airfield to assist with operation in poor weather, revealed how actively Vallabhbhai Patel and the Indian Defence Minister Baldev Singh, had been engaged in planning an Indian intervention in Jammu Kashmir in the aftermath of Transfer of Power on August 15. The only option was therefore to support the rebels in their just struggle – a choice which was ethically correct, albeit politically dangerous and laden with unpredictable implications in an already volatile situation. An ailing Jinnah at 71 had thus far made it a point to stay clear of involvement in the affairs of a Princely State – the reason why he declined to meet Sardar Ibrahim, a young lawyer and an elected member of the Jammu Kashmir Legislative Assembly, who escaped into Pakistan from Srinagar in a bid to secure support for the rebellion. Back in 1944 as well, Jinnah had considered it improper and unconstitutional to involve All India Muslim League in the politics of the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir – indeed he visited Srinagar to mediate between the two at the request of the leaders of Muslim and National Conference, however having realised his failure at this thankless task, he was clear in his disapproval of Sheikh’s so-called secular approach and indicated he believed the Muslim Conference was the only true representative voice of the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir; yet unlike Nehru this was the most he permitted himself to be involved in the matter. In September 1947 however, rapid developments on both sides of the State border called for immediate action – the matter was no longer limited to the politics of National and Muslim Conference rather it had come to encompass the far more inclusive question of the future of the Muslim majority in the State of Jammu Kashmir – a people who had been subjected to the tyranny of Dogra rulers under the patronage of the British Indian Empire since 1846 and did not foresee any prospect of respite over a century later despite the birth of a Muslim nation-state next door. In line with his ‘incorruptible and brave’ character, as complimented by Gandhi, Jinnah eventually advised the leaders of Muslim League to help the Muslims of Kashmir. ‘The great tragedy was that Mr. Jinnah was surrounded by men of zero military insight and devoid of all independent judgement’ while the Pakistan Army was still being controlled by the British. Jinnah had indeed secured a division of the British Indian Army despite tremendous opposition from the British, but Frank Messervy and Douglas Gracey, who had been appointed the Commander-in-Chief and Deputy C-in-C of the Pakistan Army, still reported to Field Marshal Auchinleck, Supreme Commander of the Indian and Pakistan Armed Forces. Hence in the meeting held in Lahore in September under Prime Minister Liaqat to assess how the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir could be aided, Brigadier Akbar Khan was assigned the ‘unofficial task’ of providing logistic support to the rebellion without the knowledge of British officials. The idea of ‘economic sanctions’ was also floated around at some point in time in order to ‘exert a measure of pressure as had been used by the Indian government in its argument with the Princely States of Hyderabad and Junagadh’ however the supply of essentials to Jammu Kashmir had already been disrupted greatly by ‘the reluctance of lorry drivers to cross the border tracts that were greatly affected by communal violence, lack of coal which had disrupted the railway service from Sialkot to Jammu and blocking of roads due to crowds of refugees set on the move by communal attacks’. The State blamed Pakistan for the Poonch rebellion and protested against the alleged blockade of supplies and on October 18 declared: If deterioration in political and economic relations with Pakistan did not halt, the State would be justified in seeking ‘friendly assistance’. Liaqat Ali Khan responded bluntly and highlighted the probable context which must have prompted this threatening stance: The only objective of this intervention by an outside power secured by you would be to complete the process of suppressing the Muslims to enable you to join the Indian Dominion against the declared and well-known will of the Muslims. And that indeed turned out to be the case.
During the run up to Transfer of Power, Hari Singh initially seemed to have favoured an independent status for the State – an option that would by and large guarantee the status quo. He was fully aware if the State chose to accede to Pakistan, it would definitely mark the end of Dogra Dynasty. And he could also foresee accession to India may ensure the Dogras continued to rule their Muslim subjects, but he will have to permit ‘political give and take’ with All India National Congress and Nehru’s disciple Sheikh Abdullah. Hari Singh held out on the decision to accede until after Transfer of Power, however certain developments did seem to mark a change in his preferred viewpoint on the State’s future after August 15:
- He negotiated with the still imprisoned Sheikh Abdullah vis-à-vis Sheikh’s release and accession to India, which was quite obviously not a probability without Sheikh Abdullah – Sheikh was eventually released on September 29 along with other leaders of the National Conference, while leaders of the Muslim Conference remained imprisoned.
- He dismissed Prime Minister Pandit Kak, as suggested in Nehru’s June 17 Note to Mountbatten, and eventually appointed Justice Mahajan instead – Mahajan had served on the Radcliffe Boundary Commission and was encouraged by Vallabhbhai Patel to accept the said appointment ‘in the interest of India’.
- He sought assistance from other Princely States which had already acceded to India. An effort that resulted in arrival of a Sikh battalion of infantry from Patiala in Srinagar on October 17 as part of supply convoys dispatched by the Indian Government in response to the alleged blockade by Pakistan, albeit this occurrence did tend to raise many an unanswered question surrounding the legality and secrecy of the movement of an entire battalion of Patiala State Forces, which now fell under the command of the Indian Armed Forces.
Whether the aforementioned actions were the consequence of Hari Singh’s fear and confusion in the face of a rapidly growing sense of rebellious discontent among his Muslim subjects or that of his active partisanship in the Anglo-Indian conspiracy in works, it can certainly be concluded Hari Singh did recognize he was fast losing his grip on the affairs of the State; and with winter approaching, soon the State would be cut off from India making it impossible to receive ‘friendly assistance’ leaving his Dogra Dynasty at the mercy of Poonch rebels and tribesmen. Interestingly, this aspect was also highlighted in a letter from Nehru to Vallabhbhai on September 27, thereby giving weight to the view the British-Indian duo might have coerced Hari Singh into settling the matter of accession quickly by painting a do or die picture for the Dogra Dynasty. Thus by October 18, 1947, Justice Mahajan had been officially sworn in as the Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, while Sheikh Abdullah had come out of prison, visited his friend Nehru in Delhi, and set off on a spree of spewing out anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim Conference rant, while the Patiala Infantry Battalion had arrived in Srinagar along with humanitarian help i.e. the supply convoys from India. In other words, the ‘friendly assistance’ of which the State of Jammu Kashmir warned Pakistan on October 18, 1947, had in fact begun to materialize in varied forms even before the threat was voiced. The stage was now set for the conspiracy to move out of the preliminary round into the finale.
As indicated in The War of Lost Opportunities by Agha Amin, until October 15 the Pakistan Army was not involved in the affair; the Poonch rebels assisted by around 2,000 tribesmen from Pakistan commenced operation on October 20 i.e. after the arrival of Patiala troops in Srinagar. In the meantime a brutal episode undeniably representing an internal coup occurred in the Punjab-Kashmir border region: The 4th Jammu Kashmir Infantry Battalion was stationed to safeguard the road crossing Jhelum at Gomel with the instruction to blow up the bridge if necessary. Half the strength of this battalion consisted of Hindus inclusive of the commanding officers while the other half comprised of Muslim men from Poonch, who were in contact with the Poonch rebels. In a plain act of rebellion against Hari Singh these Poonch men killed the majority of non-Muslims in the battalion during the early hours of the morning on October 21 as per The War of Lost Opportunities and October 22 as per Alastair Lamb’s Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy. The road to Srinagar thus lay open. The first major border city of Muzzafarabad was soon captured by the joint force of the Poonch rebels, the Muslim strength of the 4th Jammu Kashmir Infantry Battalion and the tribesmen, and by October 26 Baramula, only 35 miles away from Srinagar, had been taken. Had there been adequate logistic support available to the rebel forces and had the indiscipline of the tribesmen, so feared by the experienced officials in the Pakistan Army and a few veteran politicians, not caused delay, there was nothing between Baramula and Srinagar to stop them.
Parallel to the developments at the battle front ran the game of Realpolitik:
- On October 24, the Poonch rebels formally declared independence from Hari Singh and announced the birth of Azad (Free) Kashmir and on the same day the Deputy Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir reached Delhi with request for further ‘friendly assistance’ – men and ammunition.
- On October 25, this news was formally communicated to the Indian Defence Committee headed by Mountbatten following which Menon was sent to Srinagar to investigate the situation while Sheikh Abdullah headed toward Delhi where he again took up residence with his friend Nehru.
- On October 26, Menon headed back to Delhi in the early hours of the day along with the State Prime Minister Mahajan while Raja Hari Singh along with his household abandoned Srinagar and made his way to Jammu fearing an onslaught of the Poonch rebels. On the same day, a meeting took place in Delhi between the key players i.e. Nehru, Sheikh Abdullah, Vallabhbhai, Menon and Mahajan. And Indian military intervention was promised in exchange of accession to India and a Sheikh Abdullah Administration in the State before the end of the day. Here it is worth pointing out, no reference to a Sheikh Abdullah Administration had been made by Hari Singh in the request brought to Delhi on his behalf by the Deputy Prime Minister Batra on October 24 nor an offer for accession was made at that stage. The terms, which were eventually agreed upon on October 26, were the consequence of the negotiation carried out in Delhi on October 26.
- On October 27, as related by Mahajan, he flew to Jammu with Menon to obtain Hari Singh’s signature on the Instrument of Accession. However Menon notes they left on October 26 for Jammu to carry out the task at hand. In the wake of the knowledge that Mahajan was adamant upon not returning to the State until Srinagar airfield had been secured by the Indian Armed Forces and was also emphatic about not handing over the Administration to Sheikh Abdullah beforehand, it in fact seems logical he headed back to the State on October 27 when, by all accounts, the airlift of Indian troops to Srinagar had commenced in the early hours of the day. Also, Hari Singh had abandoned Srinagar on October 26 fearing a rebel onslaught – he was travelling from Srinagar to Jammu by road and there was little point in carrying either the news of the outcome of negotiation or related documents over to the Maharaja before his midnight arrival in Jammu. Additionally, as indicated by archives and various memoirs, the presence of both Menon and Mahajan in Delhi on the night of October 26 was in fact noticed by many an observer; not to forget on October 28, 1947, The Times of London coincidentally reported the October 27 movement in accordance with Mahajan’s own account in Looking Back. Hence based on circumstantial evidence available from a variety of sources it can be reasonably argued neither the Instrument of Accession nor the letter to Mountbatten, which sought Indian military aid in exchange of accession and appointment of Sheikh Abdullah as the head of an interim Government, could have been signed by Hari Singh on October 26, 1947. In fact, the draft letter prepared for Hari Singh’s signature, yet published as having originated from Hari Singh on October 26, was only brought to him in Jammu on October 27, along with Mountbatten’s acceptance of its terms – yet another piece of evidence which overwhelming points toward Lord Mountbatten’s role in this historic scam – it seems quite inconceivable the Viceroy lacked awareness of the fraudulent chronology. Menon’s attempt to distort facts therefore unveils as deliberate, with the sole purpose of disputing the otherwise available evidence which reveals the truth i.e. if at all the Instrument of Accession and related documents were signed, Hari Singh must have done so on October 27, after the Indian intervention in the State of Jammu Kashmir. And as pointed out by Alastair Lamb ‘any agreement signed after the fact cannot escape the charge of being produced under duress’.
As it turned out in the following years, the Indian Government did publish the two letters i.e. Hari Singh’s letter to Mountbatten dated October 26, wherein he requests military aid in return for accession and also mentions appointment of a Sheikh Abdullah interim Administration, as well as Mountbatten’s letter dated October 27, which acknowledges the aforementioned letter and notes once the affairs of the State have been settled and law and order is restored, the question of the State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people. However, queer as it is, the Instrument of Accession was not published until years later; in fact it was neither presented to Pakistan at the time of overt Indian intervention in the State of Jammu Kashmir nor was it presented in facsimile to the UN in early 1948 as part of the Indian reference to the Security Council. The 1948 White Paper on Jammu Kashmir also did not include the said document rather only an unsigned copy that Hari Singh ‘must have signed’. It was not before the 1960s that a highly suspicious version of this disputed and arguably non-existent Instrument of Accession was circulated by the Indian Government with the false date of October 26, 1947. In the wake of the practice of ‘cooking the books’ pioneered by Sir Olaf Caroe in the 1930s vis-à-vis the McMahon Line in the Assam Himalayas, and the creation of ‘a formidable corpus of historical data much of it distorted, misinterpreted, irrelevant or simply untrue, assembled to show the Aksai Chin and its southern approaches had always been a part of India’, it sounds more than convincing the so-called ‘legal and final accession’ which supposedly ‘rendered the Princely State of Jammu Kashmir an integral part of India’ is a historic farce – in actuality it is only an illustration of the deception that dwells deep in Indian political designs, in rather strict keeping with the tradition of their colonial masters i.e. the British.
As far as Sheikh Abdullah’s involvement in seeking and endorsing the alleged accession, little needs to be said about it – the Sheikh and his National Conference were simply an extension of Nehru and All India National Congress – Sheikh indeed proved to be a very effective tool of deception given his Kashmiri Muslim heritage and the very fertile combination of his progressive views, ambition for power, and utter lack of integrity. To the great misfortune of the Muslims in the Vale of Kashmir, Nehru’s pick served his devious purpose very effectually, not just at that time but also in the long run. By his example, Sheikh in fact managed to set in and encourage a long-lasting tradition of betrayal among Muslim politicians quite a few of whom proved to be little more than quislings, making the most of the monetary aid provided by Delhi under the illusory banner of ‘winning the hearts’. In actuality this was their reward for retaining the Indian flag, as implied by the Former Indian Army Chief V.K. Singh’s statements, and for running a centre-serving democratic charade that is critical to India’s global image and essentially serves as a white-wash upon the excessive military presence employed to hold the Muslim population of Jammu Kashmir hostage on their own territory. While under the shadow of this mutually beneficial bargain between Srinagar and Delhi, the ordinary Muslims of Jammu Kashmir remain the target of Delhi’s Kashmir Policy which in 1963 stated: The punishment, for all those working under the banner of separatism or merger with Pakistan is that they will be treated the same way as cotton which is thrashed during its preparation. Here it must be noted this policy was contemplated upon following the revival of the Plebiscite Movement in Jammu Kashmir in 1962 which the Indian Government feared could continue to spread and eventually turn into a common reminder of the clause in Mountbatten’s letter to Hari Singh that indicated the matter must be settled by a reference to the people. The ramifications of such a public reminder would have been grave from the Indian standpoint – any such development would have highlighted the ‘provisional & conditional’ nature of the alleged accession and made obvious it could be rendered null and void if the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir voted for its rejection. Indian apologists have argued the condition of plebiscite was personal to Mountbatten and not binding upon the Indian Government despite the fact the same was officially communicated by Nehru to Liaqat on October 28, 1947 while Nehru also spoke on the subject in a telegram to the British Prime Minister Clement Attlee: “I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir is not designed in any way to influence the State to accede to India. Our view, which we have repeatedly made public, is that the question of accession in any disputed territory must be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people, and we adhere to this view”. Also, the plebiscite policy was established long before October 1947 as an inherent part of the Partition process in British India. And in September 1947 this policy was in fact advocated by the Government of India in case of the Princely State of Junagadh wherein existed a clash of wills between the Hindu majority and its Muslim ruler. The Indian Government argued Nawab of Junagadh’s decision to accede to Pakistan was provisional and conditional upon the outcome of a plebiscite, however in case of the State of Jammu Kashmir the plebiscite policy was binned conveniently by India, not long after the military intervention, because it did not serve Delhi’s purpose – the very reason why despite having met multiple times until the end of 1947, the modalities for holding a plebiscite under impartial auspices could be never agreed upon by the two successor Dominions of the British Indian Empire. Yet another obvious proof of India’s underhandedness is the fact albeit India filed the reference in United Nations under Article 35 seeking mediation ‘to resolve a dispute that had transcended diplomatic resources of the two parties directly involved, and threatened to disturb the course of international relations’, despite many a resolutions outlining various schemes to restore Law and Order to facilitate a free and fair plebiscite in the State, none has ever been implemented. Instead over the passage of time proceedings that ensued have tended to obscure the original terms of reference; the Indian lobbyists have managed to steer focus away from the core issue of the will of the people of Jammu Kashmir toward condemnation of Pakistan’s alleged sponsorship of militant insurgency, much akin to the so-called ‘tribal invasion’ of October 1947. The truth of the matter however is the militant insurgency in Jammu Kashmir started out as an indigenous movement in the aftermath of the 1987 General Elections in the State, which were claimed to be heavily rigged in favour of Sheikh Abdullah’s son Farooq Abdullah. Had the people of Jammu Kashmir not faced utter failure at peaceful political struggle, had the preceding 40 or so years of Indian rule not been ‘a saga of broken promises, intrigues and constitutional frauds’, and had they not realized they did not stand a chance at a decent life under what they perceived as occupation by a foreign power, the tolerant and non-violent people of Jammu Kashmir would not have risked their lives, picked arms, or braved to cross over a heavily guarded treacherous terrain into Pakistan seeking assistance. Especially when the threat posed by the most heavily militarized Line of Control on earth and the perils of the mountainous terrain in this region would not permit more than bare minimum – the reason why ‘Kashmir’s might be the only contemporary armed insurgency that operates solely on the merits of the legendary AK-47′. By distorting the nature of this insurgency, portraying it as an extension of pan-Islamism in the region, and by faulting Pakistan incessantly for exporting Islamist terrorism, India only continues to delude the outside world whereas the reality on ground is ‘if it were not for the support of the local population (6 million in the Kashmir Valley), the Indian forces could round up and wipe out the 200 odd armed insurgents currently leading the revolt in half a day… What has rattled the Indian state since 2014 is the phenomenon of civilians coming in between insurgents and government forces during a gunfight in a bid to help the besieged, outnumbered and outgunned militants’ escape.’ And such a collective resolve at the grass roots level becomes part of the DNA of an entire population only when acts of extreme brutality are witnessed and experienced day after day, generation after generation, without an end in sight – it is the absolute sense of powerlessness that breeds antagonism of this depth and magnitude – this does not occur in response to ‘negligible human rights violation’ or when ‘sufficient judicial mechanisms’ are in place. Statistics tell one in every six suffers an unspeakable ordeal at the hands of the Indian Army – routine ID parades, curfew, appalling tales of torture, custodial and extra- judicial killings, sexual violence, loot and plunder, mass blinding inflicted with pellet guns, are part and parcel of the everyday life for the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir. How else must they react if not retaliate? And how else must Pakistan respond to their continued plight and cry for help if not stand in complete solidarity with their cause and insist this is ‘an unfinished case of Partition’? After all the situation did not take birth in thin air – it was the direct consequence of the crisis engineered by the British-Indian duo with much deliberation at the time of the Partition of British India.
In spite of the argument of some Indian apologists the Indian intervention was the result of triumph of improvisation from what we have seen based on detailed circumstantial evidence, it is clear this was not a case of improvisation rather that of premeditation – the British-Indian twosome had resolved to realize their dominion upon the Northern Frontier by hook or by crook – neither had been able to stomach the Partition of British India driven by the sense of Muslim nationalism outlined by the Two Nation Theory and their decision to not part with the Northern Frontier was rooted in an obligation of national interest to India and by way of that an obligation of Geo-political interest to the British since India was to serve as the Geo-political heir of the British in the region. Had the wish of people, which in later times became such a prized notion in the West and continues to serve as an umbrella under which the Western powers engineer and execute controlled conflicts in sovereign territories around the globe, been respected by the British Indian Administration instead of enactment of a Geo-political fixture, the predicament of the Muslims of Jammu Kashmir could have come to an end at the time of Transfer of Power in British India. So no! In view of the evidence that has been revealed in an exceedingly constipated manner decades later, it does become categorically clear in no way ‘the two sides’ can be judged by the same criterion – one is the persecutor and the other oppressed, one conspired while the other was wronged – both sides are not bad and two truths are not at war here!