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Jammu and Kashmir on the Eve of Partition-A Study of Political Conditions

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Abstract

With the partition of the Indian Subcontinent Jammu and Kashmir presented a very chaotic and confusing picture. It was a Muslim majority state ruled by a Hindu monarch. Both India and Pakistan wanted to control Kashmir because of its strategic location and geo-political importance. Geographically, economically and demographically, Kashmir was contiguous more to Pakistan than India. However, events moved with lightening rapidity and the state ended up being part of India by virtue of the controversial accession. This paper is an attempt to understand the political conditions and loyalties of Kashmir at the time of partition. An endeavour has been made to understand the background of the tribal invasion and the accession of the state to India.
A Research Journal of South Asian Studies
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South Asian Studies
A Research Journal of South Asian Studies
Vol. 32, No. 2, July December 2017, pp.285 295
Jammu and Kashmir on the Eve of Partition- A Study
of Political Conditions
Safeer Ahmad Bhat
Government Degree College Kulgam, Jammu and Kashmir.
ABSTRACT
With the partition of the Indian Subcontinent Jammu and Kashmir presented a very chaotic and
confusing picture. It was a Muslim majority state ruled by a Hindu monarch. Both India and
Pakistan wanted to control Kashmir because of its strategic location and geo-political importance.
Geographically, economically and demographically, Kashmir was contiguous more to Pakistan
than India. However, events moved with lightening rapidity and the state ended up being part of
India by virtue of the controversial accession. This paper is an attempt to understand the political
conditions and loyalties of Kashmir at the time of partition. An endeavour has been made to
understand the background of the tribal invasion and the accession of the state to India.
Key Words Partition, Kashmir Dispute, National Conference, Poonch Uprising, Tribal
Invasion.
Historical Background
The state of Jammu and Kashmir as a single contiguous unit was formed as a result
of the Treaty of Amritsar, signed between the British East India Company and
Gulab Singh on 16th of March 1846, under which Kashmir and its adjoining
territories were transferred to Gulab Singh and his male heirs on the payment of Rs
7500000 (Aitchison, 1983). The Dogra rule was characterized by despotism,
autocracy and sectarianism. They always considered Kashmir as their purchased
property and Jammu their homeland and discriminated against Kashmiris in
general and Muslims in particular. The state 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. The people were denied even the
basic freedoms of press, speech and expression and the right to form political
associations. It was only lately, in 1930s, that a new trend of politics emerged in
the state as a result of many factors (Saraf, 2005) and the harbinger of this new
trend was All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference which was formed in 1932
with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as its first president.
The meeting of Sheikh Abdullah with Jawaharlal Nehru in 1937 and
conversion of Muslim Conference into National Conference in 1939 to enable non-
Muslims to join the organization (Abdullah, 1993) proved to be significant events
in the history of the state. The conversion paved the way for the increasing
association of National Conference with the Congress and subjected it to the
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vagaries of subcontinent politics, the fact which had been feared by Chaudhary
Abbas while opposing the conversion (Abbas, 2001) and it can be argued that the
Kashmir Dispute is one of the legacies of this historical decision.
Central Theme of the Paper
The politics of Kashmir in early and mid-1940s was marked by controversies,
contestations and dissensions. Both the National Conference and Muslim
Conference claimed to represent the majority of the people. Both the parties got
embroiled in the Sub-continental politics by closely associating themselves with
the Indian national parties and lost their independent standing to a large extent.
While Sheikh Abdullah maintained close ties with Nehru and Congress,
Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas declared that „Muslim Conference is part and parcel of
Muslim League‟ (Khalid, 1943). The popularity of National Conference was
dwindling among the Muslims of the Valley due to its increased association with
the Congress (Zutshi, 2003). This was the time when the identities in the
Subcontinent had been clearly demarcated into Hindu and Muslim, with Muslim
League considered as representing the interests of the Muslims against the
majoritarian communalism. It was therefore easy to propagate that the National
Conference‟s close ties with the Congress were hampering the interests of the
Muslims.
The rift between the Muslim League and National Conference proved
detrimental to the interests of the state. Sheikh had strongly denounced
Mohammad Ali Jinnah‟s advice to keep Kashmir aloof from the Congress by
saying that they cannot ally with those who were the friends and protectors of
princes (Khan, 1980). National Conference had denounced Pakistan Resolution
and Two-Nation Theory of Jinnah as an emotional slogan. The opportunity to
reconcile their differences came in 1944 on Jinnah‟s visit to Kashmir. Sheikh had
welcomed him as a „beloved leader of the Muslims of India‟. However unable to
reconcile the differences between the two, Jinnah called upon Muslims of Kashmir
to rally behind Muslim Conference and called National Conference a „band of
gangsters‟ (Akbar, 1991). This was sharply retaliated by Sheikh in one of his
meetings at Srinagar on June 20, 1944, „„If Jinnah does not give up the habit of
interfering in our politics it will be difficult for him to go back in an honourable
manner‟‟ (Bazaz, 2009, : 180). The tactical blunder committed by Jinnah and
Muslim Conference in the state was that they called upon Sheikh to dissolve the
National Conference and join along with his supporters with Muslim Conference
which was loosely organized and had a strong presence only in the Jammu region.
While National Conference was ready to accept Muslim League‟s leadership in
case of all-India matters (Saraf, 2005) but to demand liquidation of National
Conference was totally impractical and egoistic on part of Muslim Conference as it
would have been a great setback to Sheikh‟s ego and personality. He was a hero of
the masses and the second rung leaders of Muslim Conference were no match for
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his popularity. The more practical solution was that Sheikh be impressed upon to
sever his links with Congress and get closely associated with Muslim League. The
opportunity of reconciliation was thus lost forever due to the haughtiness of
Muslim Conference leaders and resulted in the upheavals of 1947.
As against the dillydallying attitude of Muslim League, the Congress played
an active role in Kashmir and devoted time and energy to Kashmir affairs.
Jawaharlal Nehru maintained close ties with Sheikh and adopted a well-defined
policy vis-à-vis Kashmir. He along with Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan visited
Kashmir in 1940 which was followed by the National Conference joining All India
States‟ Peoples‟ Conference in 1941 (Akbar, 1991). National Conference
supported Quit India Resolution of Congress and condemned the “reign of terror
which the Government of India have launched‟‟ (Akbar, 1991, pp. 84-5). One of
the important tactics used by Nehru to generate support among the Muslims of the
Valley was that whenever he visited Kashmir he was accompanied by „Muslim‟
Nationalist (Congress) leaders like Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Molana Abul
Kalam Azad, Mian Iftikhar-ud-din Ahmad, Asaf Ali and others. This was to
impress upon the people that Congress is not a „Hindu‟ party and is supported by a
large segment of enlightened Muslims. The case of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was
significant as he despite being a leader of Muslim-majority area supported
Congress. An analogy was drawn, albeit inadvertently, between Sheikh and
Ghaffar Khan to impress upon the former that his interests lay with the Congress.
The most decisive moment in the history of the state was the Quit Kashmir
Movement launched by Sheikh Abdullah in May 1946. He declared the Treaty of
Amritsar a „sale deed‟ and challenged its „moral and political‟ validity (Abdullah,
1993). British Resident, W. F. Webb described it as having the attributes of a
rebellion (Lamb, 1994) which unnerved the administration and Sheikh was
arrested. Although many Congress leaders and Hindu press had criticized the
movement in vehement terms (Vashishth, 1968), Nehru immediately rushed to
Kashmir but was detained by the Maharaja‟s govt. This action endeared Nehru to
Kashmiris and quite often Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah mentioned his debt to
Nehru on supporting him and his people in their struggle against autocracy
(Hindustan Times, 1951; Hitvada, 1948; National Herald, 1948). On the other
hand, Muhammad Ali Jinnah called the movement as „foreign-inspired‟ and
advised Muslim Conference to keep aloof from it. This was Jinnah‟s tactical
blunder as the common Kashmiri Muslims failed to understand why a movement
aimed at breaking their chains of slavery was opposed by the person who claimed
to be representing the interests of the Muslims. Both India and Sheikh could
advertise Jinnah‟s stance as an anti-Kashmiri ploy. Sheikh consistently spoke that,
„„Mr. Jinnah vehemently opposed us. How can Muslim League turn around and
say that they are the champions of the people of Kashmir‟‟ (Hitvada, 1948).
National Conference was also able to draft a Social and Economic Plan, called
Naya Kashmir in 1944 which, though criticized as „un-Islamic‟ by Mirwaiz Yusuf
Shah and resented by Pandits (Khalid, 1945), created enthusiasm among the
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people in general and peasants in particular and strengthened the social base of
National Conference.
By terms of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 India was to be partitioned
into two Dominions of India and Pakistan. With the lapse of the Paramountsy, the
562-odd princely states were told to join either Union while keeping in view the
composition of the population and geographical contiguity. Kashmir was the
largest princely state with an area of 84,471 sq. miles (218,800sq.km) (Sufi, 1949).
Kashmir was geographically, economically and demographically contiguous with
Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten visited Kashmir in June 1947 and tried to impress
upon Maharaja Hari Singh to accede to the either Dominion. But the
indecisiveness of Maharaja complicated the matters and by August 15 he had not
acceded to any of the Dominions, though he entered into a Standstill Agreement
with Pakistan whereby the various essential services were to be continued. India
procrastinated, urging the Maharaja to send an official to New Delhi for
negotiations (Lamb, 1991). Maharaja was thinking in terms of making Kashmir an
independent country, a Switzerland of the east. In this he was well supported by
his Prime Minister, R. C. Kak. As late as October B. L. Batra, Deputy Prime
Minister of Maharaja was publicly touting the idea of independence (Hindustan
Times, 1947). The fact that Maharaja was aware of the demographic composition
of his population and in his inner self he knew that this meant that he had to accede
to Pakistan but practically how could a Hindu Maharaja accede to a Dominion
which had been founded in the name of Islam. He could not accede to India either
as he despised Nehru and Congress who were supporters of his biggest enemy,
Sheikh Abdullah and had always advocated against feudal levies. The alternative,
therefore, was to declare independence. However, as the later events showed
Maharaja did not use his independence card well, otherwise he would have been
successful in getting a semi-independence status for the state recognised by both
the Dominions (Noorani, 2013).
Congress had adopted an active policy towards Kashmir as it was well aware
of the geopolitical significance of the state. Writing in 1946, British Resident in
Kashmir, Colonel Webb said that Nehru had already developed his policy for
Kashmir as early as 1946 (Lamb, 1994). Often it is said that Nehru had a personal
affection for Kashmir because his ancestors were from Kashmir, but the most
important factor for his interest in Kashmir was its strategic importance. Kashmir
had contiguous borders with USSR, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and was part of
the prestigious Silk Route. Kashmir could give India the privilege of having a
scientific frontier and secure her North-Western Frontier which had made her
vulnerable in the past. Second, accession of Muslim-majority Kashmir, practically
a „miniature Pakistan‟ to India would strengthen Nehru‟s ideals of secular
nationalism and would have a „powerful effect on communal elements in India‟
(Gopal, 1980). It was these considerations in mind that Nehru, in a note to
Mountbatten on the latter‟s visit to Kashmir tried to strongly impress upon him
that the interests of the state lie in joining the Constituent Assembly of India and if
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any attempt is made to push the state to Pakistan it will have serious consequences
(Transfer of Power, Vol. XI, No. 229. p. 443-4 as cited in Lamb, 1991). Though
Nehru based his case on Sheikh Abdullah‟s aversion to Pakistan, in reality he was
trying to force Maharaja to accede to India keeping in view the state‟s
geographical location. Pertinently, „Hindu‟ Maharajas of Patiala, Kapurthala and
Faridkot and the president of Congress, Acharya Kripalani visited Kashmir in
1947 (Korbel, 1954). They could have no other purpose in Kashmir other than to
influence Maharaja, a Hindu to accede to India. Anxious that the Maharaja would
declare accession to Pakistan or independence, Nehru was very impatient to visit
Kashmir. However keeping in view the Maharaja‟s hostile attitude to Nehru, it was
decided to send Mahatma Gandhi, „„in view of the religious aura around him‟‟
(Bhattacharjea, 1994, pp. 108-110). This was a sort of „political launch‟ of
Mahatma Gandhi who, though, had declared his journey to Kashmir to be
apolitical but the timing of his visit, his meeting with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel,
Lord Mountbatten and Nehru prior to his departure and the sequence of events
which followed his arrival in Kashmir clearly lay bare the political motives of his
visit (Bhat, 1981). He persuaded Maharaja to refrain from declaring independence.
R C Kak was replaced first by Janak Singh and then by M C Mahajan as Prime
Minister who had worked as Hindu member of Radcliffe Commission and was a
staunch Arya Samajist. He adopted a harsh attitude towards Pakistan and a
conciliatory tone towards India, signaling what laid in the future. Commenting on
Mahatma Gandhi‟s visit to Kashmir, Shahid Hamid, P.S. to Lord Auchinleck said,
„„Before his departure from Delhi the Apostle of truth announced that his tour was
absolutely non-political, in reality it was to pressurise the Maharaja to accede to
India and to remove Kak‟‟ (Schofield, 2003, : 32). After the appointment of
Mahajan as Prime Minister, Kashmir maintained close ties with India and high-
level officials of the state visited Delhi frequently and maintained close
correspondence with Nehru and Patel. On the other hand, very little, if at all,
correspondence was maintained with Pakistan. Patel was directly consulted in the
appointment of Lt. Col. Kashmir Singh as Commander-in-Chief of State Armed
Forces and efforts were made to link the state with the Indian Dominion by means
of telegraph, telephones, wireless and roads (Das, 1971).
Nehru was anxious that Sheikh Abdullah should be released as he was the
only person who could steer Kashmir to India. Writing to Nehru on May 14, 1948,
Indira Gandhi said that „„they say that only Sheikh Sahib is confident of winning
the plebiscite‟‟ (Gandhi, 2004, : 517). Since Patel had good relations with the
Maharaja, Nehru wrote to him on 27 September to persuade Maharaja for the
release of Sheikh Abdullah and impress upon him the importance of the „early‟
accession of the state to India (Chopra, 2002). Interestingly on September 29,
Sheikh Abdullah was released while the Muslim Conference leaders who had done
„lesser crimes‟ were still behind the bars (Birdwood, 2005). Sheikh had been
unconnected with the developments in the state and his release, therefore, did not
lead to the end of the political stalemate. He did not declare his support to either
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accession with Pakistan or India. Speaking at a rally at Hazuribagh Srinagar on
October 2, he raised the slogan of freedom before accession and supremacy of the
will of people (Abdullah, 1993). However, the tone of his speech in which he
criticized the Two-Nation theory clearly pointed out that his preference was not for
Pakistan. Though Sheikh consistently mentioned his aversion to Two-Nation
Theory and believed in the separation of religion and politics but the larger
question in 1947 was not whether he believed in it or not but the question of the
fate of the state which was contiguous to Pakistan geographically, economically
and above all demographically. He was criticizing a theory which had practically
succeeded with the creation of Pakistan. Sheikh resorted to political maneuvering
as during his speeches and press reports he praised Nehru and Congress and
indirectly criticized Jinnah. During most of the days of the fateful month of
October he camped in Delhi and was absent from the state. He did not show
statesmanship by trying to engage with different shades of political opinion or
study the mood of people since he was cut off from them for more than a year.
While Congress took an active interest in Kashmir affairs, the Muslim League
did not devote much time and energy to Kashmir. One possible reason could be
that they thought that keeping in view the demographic composition of the State, it
was natural that Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan. In fact, the word PAKISTAN
itself being an acrostic in which K stands for Kashmir (Snedden, 2015). Jinnah had
said that Kashmir will fall into his lap like a ripened fruit (Ali, 1968). Muslim
League vacillated in its stand on Kashmir, first advising Muslim Conference to
support independence of the state and then accession to Pakistan. Jinnah‟s
indifference to Kashmir is evident from his message to Kak that as long as the
state did not accede to India, he would not mind if it did not accede to Pakistan
either (R. C. Kak, Jammu and Kashmir State in 1946-47: Dilemma of Accession-
The Missing link in the story, as cited in Noorani, 2010). It was only lately that
Jinnah on July 11, 1947 urged Maharaja to consider the composition of his
population in deciding the accession of the state. Pakistan sent Mohammad Din
Taseer and Sheikh Sadiq to negotiate with Sheikh Abdullah. Sheikh reiterated that
freedom before accession was their goal and only after getting freedom from the
Dogra rule can they decide on accession (Abdullah, 1993). The indifference on the
part of Jinnah and Muslim League in Kashmir affairs was a tactical blunder and
they failed to match the diplomatic efforts and personal attention of Nehru to woe
Sheikh Abdullah and through him Kashmiri people. Nehru used his personal
relationship with Sheikh Abdullah for the furtherance of national interests of India.
On the other hand, Muslim League showed an ignorance of the popularity of
Sheikh. Jinnah‟s aversion to Sheikh Abdullah was well known and the latter could
not imagine an honourable position for himself and his people in Pakistan which
according to him would be dominated by feudal elements and would stand in the
way of implementing Naya Kashmir (Abdullah, 1993). Further the current
rumours that Pakistan would not last long and will soon merge with India had also
its influence on Sheikh. Doubts were implanted in the mind of Sheikh Abdullah
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that Pakistan will not last long and would soon merge with India. Nehru wrote to
him on 10 October, „I doubt very much of it (Pakistan) can survive at all‟ (Selected
Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, 1987). Although Muslim league had, of late tried to
use its diplomatic channels by sending Col. A. S. B. Shah to Kashmir for
negotiating with Maharaja, it proved of little help as Mahajan, the new Prime
Minister was decidedly pro-India and anti-Pakistan. Pakistan also resorted to an
unofficial economic blockade of the state which further embittered the relations
between the two. The blockade would have forced Maharaja to succumb to the
Pakistan pressure and come to the negotiating table but for India‟s consistent
backing and moral and material support.
Most of the narratives on Kashmir have focused on Sheikh Abdullah as
representing the majoritarian opinion of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to the
exclusion of others. However, his leadership did not go uncontested. Among the
77.06% of the total Muslim population in the state, around 37% lived in Jammu
and Frontier Provinces. These people did not like the leadership of Sheikh
Abdullah and were strongly pro-Pakistan. Further in the valley itself, his
leadership was contested by Muslim Conference and Kisan Mazdoor Conference.
Muslim Conference had a large number of supporters in Baramulla and some
localities of Srinagar which were under the influence of Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah.
Hindus of Jammu province, mainly comprising of Dogras formed 18.32% of the
total population of the state and were loyal to the Maharaja and staunch opponents
of Sheikh Abdullah. These were the same people who later launched Praja
Parishad agitation in the State. Most of the Kashmiri Pandits who formed 4.95 %
of the population of Kashmir Province were also loyalists, barring a few who had
joined National Conference. They were represented by All State Kashmiri Pandit
Conference and opposed anti-Maharaja attitude of Sheikh. Among those who had
protested at the entry of Nehru to Kashmir on the eve of Quit Kashmir Movement
were Kashmiri Pandits. These facts clearly point out that Sheikh Abdullah was the
leader of Kashmiri Muslims alone and not of the entire Muslim community or state
as a whole. Since Kashmir was the pivot of the politics of the state, it naturally got
more publicity than other provinces. This is probably also one of the reasons why
the Jammu massacre and Poonch uprising did not get much attention in the state. If
the Hindus of Jammu and Kashmiri Pandits supported Sheikh Abdullah in 1947, it
was only to reiterate their support for his pro-India leanings as both the Dogra
Sabha and Pandit Conference had called upon Maharaja to declare accession to the
Indian Union as early as June (Khalid, 1947).
The second misconception about the state in 1947 is that had a plebiscite been
held in 1947, India would have easily come out victorious. This is also based on
the notion of Sheikh‟s popularity in the entire state. The Muslims of Jammu and
Frontier provinces, most of which later formed Azad Kashmir comprised 37% of
the total population of the state. They were geographically, ethnically and
economically linked to North-Western areas and were supporters of Muslim
Conference which was strongly pro-Pakistan and were against any association
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with India. Further in the Kashmir Valley itself, there were a good number of
people who were against accession of the state to India. Significantly on August
14, Pakistani flags were hoisted on the General Post Office building in Srinagar
which outraged the administration and were ordered to be torn down by Janak
Singh (Bazaz, 2009). If the percentage of these Muslims who supported Pakistan is
taken to be 10% (The calculation is not arbitrary as first, Muslim Conference had
pockets of support in Srinagar Baramulla and was strong in Muzaffarabad. In
Anantnag, Kisan Mazdoor Conference, which had as early as April 1947 called
upon Maharaja not to join Indian Constituent Assembly (Bazaz, 2009) had a good
support among the peasants. Second, those remote areas have to be included which
were isolated from the political currents happening outside and might well get
carried away with religious emotions), the percentage of pro-Pakistan people rises
to 47% which shows that India might well have faced a tough competition. Even
Sheikh Abdullah mentions that he had a „subconscious sympathy‟ for Pakistan
Slogan (Abdullah, 1993). If sheikh as the great stalwart of Nationalism and open
supporter of Congress sympathized with the Pakistan Demand, what about the
common Muslims of Kashmir? Pakistan Slogan could well have appealed to their
emotions also as it had done in Bengal and Punjab which otherwise were anti-
Muslim League provinces. A good example (though of a later date) is provided by
poet Mehjoor who was a National Conference supporter and an icon of
Kashmiriyat. He wrote „„To buy salt, I went to a National Conference shop; He set
a condition, first join India; Hearing this, I started trembling; I could sacrifice my
life for India but my heart lies with Pakistan‟‟ (Bazaz, 2009, : 298). Further the
massacre of Muslims in Jammu and Punjab would not have remained hidden from
the people keeping in view that a large number of Kashmiri people worked in
Punjab. Rumours were also afloat which helped in the dissemination of news.
These killings would have forced people to give second thoughts to their supposed
association with India. Even Sheikh Abdullah admits „There isn‟t a single Muslim
in Kapurthala, Alwar or Bharatpur. Some of these had been Muslim majority
states. Try to symbolically understand the Kashmir Muslims. They are afraid that
the same fate lies ahead for them as well” (Abdullah, 1993, : 90). When the
religious and political affiliations collided with each other, it was the religion that
prevailed. North-West Muslims had shown that when asked to choose between a
„Hindu‟ India and a „Muslim‟ Pakistan, they chose the latter. It is significant to
note The Times London (1947) report, “it is possible that Sheikh Abdullah has lost
ground during the past 16 months and the rallying cry „Islamic India‟ may defeat
him. If a plebiscite were held the simple Muslim hill man might well forget newly
found political theories and allow the dictates of religious and communal prejudice
to influence his vote” (10 October). In most of the narratives much less importance
has been given to the loyalties of the common masses. The center-stage has been
taken by the leaders with people relegated to the background. Very less attempts
have been made to figure out what was going on in the minds of the common
people vis-à-vis partition and accession, though it is difficult to say in the absence
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of any reliable poll. Indeed there were many voices among the people who called
for their right to self-determination and criticized the political leadership for
aligning with Congress and Muslim League. They warned against sidelining the
interests of the people. Most of the newspapers, including pro-National
Conference advocated against accession to India or Pakistan. Instead, they called
for an Independent Jammu and Kashmir recognized by both the countries (Zutshi,
2003). Khalid (1947) in its editorial page while discussing the partition and the
fate of States peoples writes that the majority of the people of Kashmir wish to
remain independent and form their own federation. Even Khidmat (1947), the
official organ of National Conference wrote, „„Attempts are again being made to
extend the period of the contract. So there may be another auction for Kashmiris in
Delhi‟‟ (July 7). Major General H. L. Scott, Commander of the state forces till
September 1947 told British diplomats in October 1947 that „„vast majority of
Kashmiris have no strong bias for either India or Pakistan and prefer to remain
independent of either dominion and free to earn their living” (Whitehead, 2007, :
26-7).
Two oft neglected important events which helped in shaping the future of the
state to a great extent were the Poonch Uprising and the Jammu Massacre. Both
these events started within the jurisdiction of the state boundary but ended up
involving the non-state subjects in a significant manner. The Kashmir valley did
not witness the Communal holocaust that accompanied the partition. Peace
Committees were formed by National Conference to help refugees and protect the
life and property of minorities (Khalid, 1947). However, the communal question
was very much present in Jammu region and the influx of a large number of Sikh
and Hindu refugees from West Punjab complicated the situation. There began a
systematic massacre of Muslims aided and abetted by the Dogra administration
with the intention to change the demography of the region (Carter, 2011). Even
Gandhi admitted that thousands of Muslims were killed and held the Maharaja
responsible for that (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, 1958). Tales of
repression, killing and looting of Muslims by Hindus and Sikhs were circulated in
tribal areas which aroused the emotions of Pathans and they decided to take
revenge. Meanwhile tension was brewing up in Poonch Jagir against the harsh
taxation policy and repressive tactics of Maharaja. Richard Symonds wrote that
there was a tax on every hearth and every window (Statesman, 1948). Local
civilians most of whom had participated in World War II were ordered to return
their weapons to the state. However the same were distributed among the Dogras
and Sikhs (Thomas, 2000). The Poonchis resented this with an armed revolt which
the state tried to crush ruthlessly- whole villages were burnt where only a small
family had participated in the revolt (Statesman, 1948). It was this revolt which
ultimately paved the way for the tribal incursion into the valley as the Poonch
Muslims had historical, geographical, familial, ethnic, economic and religious
links with North Western Fronteir Muslims. This is quite significant as it shows
that the Kashmir Dispute was instigated not by the tribals but by the people of J &
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294 A Research Journal of South Asian Studies
K (Snedden, 2015). The tribal invasion ultimately „eased the way for the
accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India on 26/27th October. An important
question is that had Maharaja any moral right to decide the fate of his population
given the fact that a majority of them were in revolt against him and had, only a
year early, launched a movement strongly questioning his right to rule and asking
him to „Quit Kashmir‟. In a certain way, the Accession of the state to India
resembled the Treaty of Amritsar. In both the agreements, people of the state had
no say and their wishes were not ascertained. If in the latter case a provision was
made to ascertain the wishes of the people, that has not been fulfilled even after
the lapse of 69 years.
Conclusion
On the eve of partition the people of Jammu and Kashmir were politically divided.
There was no all-out support for either India or Pakistan and strong voices
advocating independence of the state for different reasons existed. It is a tragedy
that very less interaction took place between the leaders of two major political
parties and a lack of conviction to arrange meetings between Sheikh Abdullah and
Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas made a united stand on the question of accession
impossible. Congress backed Sheikh Abdullah, projected him as representing the
majoritarian opinion, played the religious card with Maharaja and utilised every
possible means to secure accession of the state to the Indian Union well before the
tribal invasion of the state and out-witted and out-maneuvered the Muslim League.
Sheikh Abdullah was not able to rise to the occasion. This was the time when
political differences had to be tolerated and instead of seeking vengeance, a
meaningful dialogue with all the stakeholders had to be initiated and deliver an
alternative which could have helped in breaking the ice. He allowed himself to be
used as per the whims and wishes of Nehru in the guise of personal relationship
and failed to deliver. It was all high politics, played between leaders and leaders
and in which common people were neglected. Nobody asked them what they
wanted.
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Biographical Note
Safeer Ahmad Bhat is an Assistant Professor at the Department of History,
Government Degree College Kulgam, Jammu and Kashmir and is simultaneously
pursuing Research from Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India.
_______________________________
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