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10/25/2020 11:43:07 PM

Col J P Singh

Persecuted refugees from Western frontiers associate their woes to the delayed accession. They think that had Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India before or on 15 August 1947, Indian army would have come to J&K before the Pakistani invasion and they would have safely stayed back in their homeland. In that case POJK would have remained part of J&K. But they were destined to suffer consequent to the partition of India which even a divine force couldn’t have escaped. When the persecuted refugees started pouring in J&K, the dilemma of accession began. Since communal barbarity and their fate is perceived to be linked to the accession, it deserves a mention in the synthesis of accession. What is important to note is that the accession of J&K took place during an epoch making periods of sub-continental history. WW II had shattered the world. Britain simply no longer had the will and the resources to hold on to its greatest imperial asset. It was the time when they granted independence to India and left. Their exit was hasty, messy and a clumsy affair. Most ugly in their doing so was dividing India on religious grounds and not supervising the division taking place. Partition of India led to mass migration of Hindus from West to East and Muslims from East to West. Migration wasn’t orderly. It was barbaric. Age old communal harmony and humanity suddenly disappeared. Indignities of refugees are beyond comprehension. But when the actual Indo-Pak conflict began over the right to control the destiny of entire state, vulnerability of millions became the focus of accession.
Jammu and Kashmir differed in one important aspect from rest of the princely states and that was its location. In fact it was rather uniquely situated to exercise more than purely hypothetical option as to its future. It shared borders with Tibet, China (Sinkiang), Afghanistan and closely touched Soviet Union, only separated by a very narrow Wakhan tract of Afghanistan, giving it, in theory at least, an outlet to the world outside India and Pakistan. This opening also added greatly to the speculations of Maharaja’s intention of exploring possibility of independent entity. As far as two dominions were concerned, despite 3/4th of his subjects being Muslims, with some degree of realism, according to the British statement of 12 May 1946 on accession, Maharaja had the option between India or Pakistan. But the ruler took his own time to decide the future of his state which resulted into Pak invasion despite having a standstill agreement with J&K. Whatever the reason, Maharaja Hari Singh just can’t be absolved of the consequences of the delay.
Geographical and economic links between J&K & Pakistan were much better than J&K & India. Its communications with outside world and economy of the state was linked to what was to become Pakistan. That should have compelled Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to Pakistan had Gurdaspur district of Punjab not been awarded to India. Gurdaspur under Pakistan would mean No direct link to India. Opening, if any, to India, at a later date, would fall through Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh over a difficult area and longer route. Hence in practical, the destiny of J&K, as opposed to the theory, was to become extremely knotted with the fate of district Gurdaspur; not to India or Pakistan per-se. Once a direct link with Delhi available, Maharaja had no compunction about accession. Delay was the time taken to develop road link to Delhi.
British plan was to hand over J&K to their newly created monstrosity. Rivers Indus, Chenab and Jhelum which flowed into Pakistan were passing through J&K and were Pakistan’s lifeline. Baby Pakistan had to be looked after by British. Hence a plan was made to annex J&K militarily should the ruler decide not to accede to Pakistan. Hence Kashmir was attacked on 22 October 1947 with a force of 6,000 invaders. Barbarity of accession started on that fateful day. (22 October is celebrated as black day both in India and POJK). Another thing to note is that it was a war in which both the opposing armies were commanded by British Generals. In India Defense Committee was headed by Mountbatten. In this complex course and outcome of accession, I see personal egos clearer than political/military nuances. Hence I quote Justice Mehar Chand Mahajan below who had been member of Radcliffe Commission which divided India and was the Prime Minister of J&K during accession.
To defend his State from likely Pak invasion, Maharaja had written to Lord Mountain for military help in early October 1947. Initially speculation of Pak invasion was laughed out and refuted, later declined for want of accession. A crucial determinant in accession was the role of Mountbatten and Pt Nehru. In his autobiography ‘Looking Back’, Justice Mahajan has summarized, “On 24th October, Mr R L Batra, the Dy Prime Minister left Srinagar for Delhi carrying the letter of accession from the Maharaja with letters for Pt Nehru and Sardar Patel asking military help. I also sent official letters to Pt Nehru and Sardar through Dy PM requesting them to save the state from Pakistan’s unprovoked aggression. Sheikh Abdullah also left Srinagar for Delhi. Maharaja told me to fly to Delhi to negotiate accession and secure military help. As the administration was grappling with the situation and before I could leave for Delhi, Mr. V P Menon, Home Secretary, arrived in Srinagar and told me that I must fly to Delhi with him to decide upon military help. On 26th early morning I and Menon flew to Delhi and drove to Pt Nehru’s residence straight away. Sradar Patel was also present there. I requested immediate military aid on any terms. Pt Nehru told me that troops could not be sent just on his request and observed that it was not easy on the spur of the moment to send troops as such an operation required considerable preparation. After lot of arguments, I said, give us the military force we need and take the accession and give whatever powers you want to give to the popular party. The army must fly to save Srinagar this evening or else I will go to Lahore and negotiate terms with Jinnah. Pt Nehru said in an angry tone, ‘Mahajan go away’. I got up to leave when Sardar Patel held me by saying in my ear, of course you are not going to Pakistan. Just then a piece of paper was passed over to Nehru. He read it and said in a loud voice, ‘Sheikh Sahib also says the same thing’. (Sheikh had been listening to the entire heated conversation sitting in the adjacent room). Pt Nehru thus called a meeting of Defence Committee at 10 AM in which a decision was taken to send two Battalions to Srinagar. Cabinet Meeting in the evening affirmed the decision. Next morning army flew to Srinagar”. Despite indignities, Maharajas acceded to India on 26 October 1947. He staked everything to prevent British conspiracy to succeed. State Forces had held on and defended Srinagar for Indian Army to land. Srinagar was saved from falling to Pakistan by a military action. This is the long story told shortly. But that didn’t solve J&K’s problem. The war continued. Indian Army and the State Forces kept fighting and pushing back the invaders when abruptly stopped at mid-night of 31st December 1948 by UN sponsored ceasefire. That left nearly half of J&K under Pak control. If it has to come back, it won’t be without a military action. The accession and final integration of J&K looks to be a military affair till endgame. Still historians overlook the secrets. Since Maharaja had options outside India & Pakistan, do we have any evidence of his inkling of third option. This should put at rest the other perception about accession and spare Maharaja Hari Singh of any vilification with regards to his quest for prolonging his rule.
From strictly a logical point of view, based on the religion, geography and economy of the region there can be little doubt that the partition plan should have awarded J&K to Pakistan. The fact that such an award was not made was essentially the product of series of historical accidents arising out of the nature of the princely state and British attitude towards J&K. (Sir Owen Dixon, in his report to the Security Council in 1950 mentioned that the basic cause of J&K problem presumably formed part of the history of the subcontinent). It was this process of sub-continental history which resulted in delimitation of a line on the map of Central Asia which on political considerations enclosed a completely artificial area, a geographical monstrosity which assumed the name of Pakistan. British just drew the boundary line on the map which became such a defining moment for India that it neither saw the beginning of monumental moment of history and nor seeing an end yet. All this is man made, not destined. Maharaja may be one of the many but not exclusive.
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