Monday, 5 August 2013

Maharaja Hari Singh was not a villain

Shekhar Kapur repeatedly asserted that Sheikh Abdullah was an outstanding nationalist and that he was not only vehemently opposed to the pernicious two-nation theory that culminated in the communal partition of India in August 1947 but was also bitterly opposed to the idea of Jammu & Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan. It is clear that he based his assertions on the (mis)information supplied to him by Mushir-ul-Hasan, M J Akbar and Qamar Ali.

It needs to be underlined that Sheikh Abdullah wanted the State of Jammu & Kashmir to become part of Pakistan subject to the condition that the state will enjoy a very special status under his complete control. Just before accession of the state to India, he had sent two emissaries — Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq – to Lahore to discuss the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to Pakistan with Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, notwithstanding the fact that princely states were not part of the partition plan and that he had no locus standi in the matter. The pleadings of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq failed to evoke any positive response from Jinnah and Khan. In fact, they and their leader Sheikh Abdullah were rebuffed by the Muslim Leaguers and the result was that they returned to Kashmir empty handed. Sheikh Abdullah turned to Jawaharlal Nehru only after his emissaries returned to Srinagar. The fact of the matter is that it was the “mortal fear of elimination” at the hands Jinnah and Khan that made him look towards Nehru so that he could achieve in India what he failed to achieve in Pakistan.
It would be interesting to know what Jinnah and Khan had said about Sheikh Abdullah. About the Sheikh, Jinnah had contemptuously observed: “Oh! That tall man who sings the Koran (Quran) and exploits the people” (read Kashmiri-speaking Sunnis). Liaquat Ali Khan had, on the other hand, said: “This quisling (Sheikh Abdullah) – an agent of the Congress (in this case Nehru) for many years — who struts about the stage bartering the life, honour and freedom of the people for the sake of personal profit and power”.
Sheikh Abdullah achieved both profit and power through Nehru’s “generous and unchecked support” by cleverly camouflaging his real motive. His real motive was independence from India and his objective was to establish “Switzerland-type Independent Kashmir”. This became clear on October 27, 1947. On that day in Srinagar, he said: “We have picked up the crown of Kashmir from dust. The question of joining India or Pakistan can wait. We have to complete our independence first”. It may appear preposterous and unbelievable, but it is a fact that Shekhar Kapur did not refer to these historical facts even indirectly in his “Pradhanmantri”. Instead, he presented Hasan and Akbar to the TV show-watchers so that they could mislead the public opinion by saying that Sheikh Abdullah was secular and Indian by heart and Maharaja Hari Singh was communal and pro-freedom.
And what happened on October 26, 1947? Did Nehru accept the offer of accession of Jammu & Kashmir State with India the moment the offer was made to him or when did or at whose behest he accepted the offer of accession? That day, Mehr Chand Mahajan, Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, went to Delhi to meet Nehru and other central leaders to discuss the situation arising out of the Pakistani aggression in the state and negotiate the state’s accession to the Indian Dominion. Accompanying him was V P Menon, Secretary of the Ministry of States to the Government of India. Mahajan carried with him the Instrument of Accession document, which was duly signed by Maharaja Hari Singh. In the course of the confabulations held between the two Prime Ministers, tempers ran very high. The question under discussion was the Hari Singh’s request for an immediate military help to defend the “all out invasion of Kashmir” started on October 22, 1947 by Pakistan. The aggression was aimed at grabbing Jammu & Kashmir or seeking its forced accession to the Pakistan Dominion.
Mahajan vigorously pleaded with Nehru that the Indian military help should be immediately sent to the Valley, as Kashmir could fall anytime before the Pakistani evil machinations. To the forceful pleadings Nehru retorted, “India is strong enough to retake it” (read Kashmir). This casual and irresponsible reply obviously disappointed and dismayed Mahajan and dumbfounded Home Minister Sardar Patel.
It would be appropriate to quote verbatim what Mahajan wrote in his autobiography, Looking Back, in this regard. He wrote thus: “I, therefore, firmly but respectfully insisted on the acceptance of my request for immediate military aid. The Prime Minister observed that it was not easy on the spur of the moment to send troops as such an operation required considerable preparation and arrangement, and troops could not be moved without due deliberation merely on my demand (Mahajan’s) demand. I was, however, adamant in my submission; the Prime Minister also was sticking to his own view. As a last resort I said, ‘give us the military force we need. Take the accession and give whatever power you desire to give the popular party (National Conference). The army must fly to save Srinagar this evening or else I will go to Lahore and negotiate terms with Mr. Jinnah’. When I told the Prime Minister of India that I had orders to go to Pakistan in case immediate military aid was not given, he naturally became upset and in an angry tone said, ‘Mahajan, go away’. I got up and was about to leave the room when Sardar Patel detained me by saying in my ear, ‘of course, Mahajan, you are not going to Pakistan’. Just then, a piece of paper was passed over to the Prime Minister. He read it and in a loud voice said, ‘Sheikh Sahib also says the same thing’. It appeared that Sheikh Abdullah had been listening to all this talk while sitting in one of the bedrooms adjoining the drawing room where we were”. The said piece of paper changed the whole situation and the question which only a few minutes before had generated intense heat got solved. Without further debate and argument, Nehru agreed to help the state against Pakistan’s unprovoked and illegal war. Thereafter, things moved very fast and the very next morning Indian army landed in Srinagar.
Sadly, Shekhar Kapur did not reveal these facts, including the fact that Nehru made Sheikh Abdullah a party to an event he had nothing to do with. According to the Indian Independence Act of 1947, Maharajas of the 560-odd princely states alone had the power to take final decision on the political future of the princely state(s). They had only two choices: Indian Dominion and Pakistan Dominion. They had no third option: Independence. Besides, the Indian Independence Act nowhere directly or indirectly talked about the right to self-determination or plebiscite to ascertain the people’s view whether they wanted to become part of Indian Dominion or Pakistan Dominion.
However, Shekhar Kapur did hold the nominated Governor-General of Independent India Lord Mountbatten and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru responsible for complicating things in Jammu & Kashmir by saying that it would be for the people of Jammu & Kashmir to ratify or not to ratify the decision on the accession of the state. Mountbatten, who had no plenipotentiary powers, had on November 1, 1949 on his own committed a plebiscite to Jinnah in Lahore, an offer rejected outright by Pakistan Governor-General. Nehru also held out a similar commitment a day later. Earlier, Mountbatten had visited the state to tell Maharaja Hari Singh that if he wished to accede his state to Pakistan, India will not raise any objection.
Shekhar Kapur would do well to look all these facts in the face and make changes in his show accordingly. Besides, he needs to inform the nation that Jammu & Kashmir is in India only because of Maharaja Hari Singh. Hari Singh was not for independence. He was for the state’s complete merger with India and that was the reason Nehru looked down upon the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir.

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