Darbar was yet to move, it was tonight 65 years ago the Palace of Maharaja Hari Singh plunged into pitch of darkness, the tribal raiders of frontier province of Pakistan had captured the only Power House at Mohura on the main road from Domel to Srinagar along which invasion was proceeding. The death and destruction was fast approaching Srinagar. Maharaja was dumb with fear, and his dream for independent Kashmir was shattered. Amid massive bloodshed and unprecedented communal riots, the British India had got divided on the name of religion into two dominions – India and Pakistan. As per the laid down principles of Partition Plan of 3rd June 1947 of Indian independence act, all Muslim majority areas were to constitute part of Pakistan and similarly the Hindu majority areas were to go to India. Besides, the 565 princely States at that time including the State of Jammu and Kashmir were given the option either to accede Pakistan or India. Such joining to either State was to be determined by the geographical contiguity and communal composition of the population. All the states except Kashmir, Junagarh, & Hyderabad signed the instrument of accession. Unlike Hyderabad & Junagarh which had Muslim rulers ruling over Hindu population, Kashmir had a Hindu ruler and population was predominantly Muslims. Kashmir was Jawaharlal Nehru’s obsession and he wanted it to be part of India. Prior to independence in 1947 he had sent Congress President Acharaya Kriplani, Lord Mountbatten, and even Mahatma Gandhi to persuade Maharaja to accede to India. But Maharaja was in favour of Independent Jammu & Kashmir. In this back drop on 12th Aug 1947 he announced his intention to sign a standstill agreement with India and Pakistan and his Prime Minister sent telegrams to both. Pakistan immediately accepted the agreement while as India refused to enter into any such agreement with Maharaja of Kashmir.
Pandith Nehru had already concocted a larger plan so as to create favourable circumstances to have Kashmir on his side. While India was getting partitioned, under the influence of Lady Mountbatten, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the Chairman of the Boundary Commission on India and Pakistan, in crude violation of partition plan of June 3rd 1947 decided to allot three-fourth of the Muslim majority district of Gurdaspur of Punjab to India, giving India a corridor and access to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. India otherwise would have no claim whatsoever to Kashmir. This gave Nehru a hope to chase and possess the Vale of Kashmir. Nehru had also won the mind and heart of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, whom he had supported all along his “Quit Kashmir” movement against Maharaja. Nehru was even arrested by Maharaja on 16th June 1946 when he defied the ban and entered into Kashmir through Punjab via Kohala Bridge, so as to show his solidarity with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who was kept in Badami Bagh cantonment after his arrest. On release, Nehru before leaving for Delhi met Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah in Jail and assured him his full support. Sheikh was touched and won over by the good-will gestures of Nehru. Mohammad Ali Jinnah had also visited Kashmir in the month of June 1944 but his unpleasant meeting with Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah had further distanced Sheikh from him and his two nation theory. It was here that Kashmir began to slip out of Jinnah’s hand.
It was this day 26th of Oct 1947 the jubilant Shri V P Menon, a civil servant and the Sardar Patel’s envoy returned to Delhi with Kashmir Accession in his pocket, the document, that decided the fate of the then four million people of Kashmir. To click the deal in favour of India, stress circumstances were created for Maharaja and tribal raid was engineered. Interestingly Army Chief of both the countries of Pakistan and India were British officers. There seems to have been some understanding between two chiefs. As mentioned by Devi Dass in his book “Kashmir in search of future”, the Indian army Chief knew three days in advance about tribal raid. A clandestine plot was hatched in the Frontier Province of Pakistan by one Khurshid Anwar a retired Major of Indian Army with the consent of Chief Minister NWFO, Khan Abdul Qayoom Khan. On 20th October the tribal war Lords of Frontier Province began to march for Kashmir. The Governor of NWFP was ignorant and on receiving the information he Immediately informed Liaqat Ali Khan who was taken by a surprise and is said to have stated that Pakistan had no intention to indulge into such an adventure. On 22nd October, tribal forces comprising of 2000 troops entered into Kashmir. Maharaja Hari Singh ordered his Army Chief R.S. Jamwal to fight back the raiders to the last men and last bullet. Dogra army could not resist them. On 26th October they captured Baramulla. Maharaja had already sent his Prime Minister Mehar Chand Mahajan to Delhi with a request to Government of India for military help. On 25th October,1947 a meeting of Defence Committee was held under chairmanship of Lord Mountbatten. There was a hot debate on the question of request of Maharaja Hari Singh. Lord Mountbatten held that sending troops to a neutral State would be a great folly in the eyes of international community. Mehar Chand told Nehru “he had orders to go to Pakistan in case the immediate aid was not given”. On this, Nehru lost his temper and shouted at him, “to get out”. As mentioned by Tarif Naaz in his book “Sheikh Abdullah, a victim of betrayal”, Sheikh Abdullah was also present and was listening to all the debate from the adjacent room. He sent a note to Nehru and requested him to agree to the request of Maharaja. Nehru cooled down and a decision was taken to send three men to Srinagar, V P Menon, Col. Manikshaw and an Air force officer to assess the ground situation and also to know whether Hari Singh is interested in acceding to India. Menon reported to Nehru from Srinagar that Maharaja is nervous because of tribal war and he was eager to escape from Srinagar. Nehru captured the moment and asked V P Menon to urge Maharaja to sign the accession. Menon succeeded in his mission and got the document of accession signed by Maharaja on 26th October, 1947. Same day V P Menon returned Delhi with a letter of Maharaja and instrument of accession addressed to Lord Mountbatten. Lord Mountbatten wrote a letter back to Maharaja Hari Singh stating that the question of State’s accession is provisional and shall be finally settled by reference to the people. To keep the good will of Sheikh Abdullah, Nehru had got the instrument of accession drafted with care so as to respect Shiekh Abdullah’s dream of autonomy for his State.
On 27th October 329 Jawans of Sikh Regiment were airlifted to Srinagar. Tribal men were five miles away from Srinagar. Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference through their volunteers gave a full support to the Indian Army. They raised a slogans “Hamlavar Khabardar Hum Kashmiri Hai Tayar”, Yeh Muluk Hamara Hai Iski Hifazat Hum Karinge” and Sheri-Kashmir Ka Kya Irshad Hindu Muslim Sikh Itihad”. The invaders were pushed back by Indian Army to Lal Pul near Uri. A cease fire was declared through United Nations Security Council and the State got divided into two halves one administered by Pakistan known as “Azad Kashmir” and other administered by India known as Jammu & Kashmir State. Thus, the Aggression and Accession sealed the fate of the divided Kashmir.
(The writer is a former Indian Forest Service officer and presently member of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, New Delhi.)