Homeland Security

J&K Accession: Blaming Hari Singh for delay would be Murdering History
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 05 Nov , 2022

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s October 27, 2022 assertion-in-writing that PM JL Nehru’s five blunders muddied the Indian waters in J&K and complimented the situation for India in the sensitive border state has triggered a fierce debate. The blunders which he cited included “rejection of Maharaja Hari Singh’s request for accession in July 1947”, “declaration of (the otherwise) eventful accession of J&K to India provisional”, “approaching United Nations under Article 35 and not Article 51”, “perpetrating the myth that UN mandate plebiscite was in any way was an open question, and “institutionalisation of the separatist mindset by creating Article 370” (“75th Anniversary of Five Nehruvian Blunders on Kashmir’news18.com, Oct 27, 2022). For the Congress, what the Law Minister said was a grave provocation. No wonder then that it took no time in denouncing him and accusing him of distorting history to paint Nehru black. 

However, a dispassionate perusal of the May 27, 1949 and October 17, 1959 debates on J&K in the Constituent Assembly; Nehru’s telegram No. 413, dated October 28, 1947; and telegrams No. 25 and 255, dated October 31, 1947, to his Pakistani counterpart; letter from Nehru to the Pakistani Prime Minister, No. 368, dated November 21, 1947; his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly, November 25, 1947; The Statesman, January 18, 1951 and May 1, 1953; statement in Parliament on February 12, 1951; address at public meeting in Srinagar, June 4, 1951; report of the AICC, July 6, 1951; statements made in the Parliament on June 26 and August 7, 1952 and March 31, 1955; letters from Nehru to the Pakistani Prime Minister, dated September 3, 1953, and November 10, 1953; statement made in the Indian Council of States on May 18, 1954; The Times of India, May 16, 1954; J&K PM Mehr Chand Mahajan’s autobiography Looking Back, to mention only a few, would vindicate KirenRijiju and prove the Congress wrong. 

It needs to be underlined that J&K was the only Princely State out of the 560-odd Princely States which was not handled by the Union Home Minister, Sardar Patel, as Nehru had de-linked it from the State Department (read Home Ministry) and attached it with his own Foreign Ministry as if J&K was a foreign country. 

The statements made by the three Union Ministers in the Manmohan Singh’s UPA Government, by PM Manmohan Singh himself and J&K CM Ghulam Nabi Azad would further establish that the Congress didn’t really consider J&K as an integral part of India like other states and that they considered the people of Kashmir a race apart. A brief reference to these statements will be quite in order. Immediately after the formation of the UPA Government, the then Foreign Minister K Natwar Singh during an interview to the BBC declared that “the Government of India is prepared to redraw the political map of India if that could lead to the resolution of the Kashmir problem”. The anchor was Karan Thapar. This programme took place in the fourth week of May 2004. A week later, Home Minister Shivraj Patil declared that “our government has decided to reward the moderate militants”. He said so in an interview to the same channel and the anchor again was Karan Thapar. On February 25, 2006, none other than PM Manmohan Singh suggested at the First Round Table Conference in Delhi that “there is the need to evolve a consensus on the issues of self-rule and autonomy within the vast flexibilities provided by the Indian Constitution”. This Author was part of the Round Table Conference.

On March 29, 2006, the J&K CM Ghulam Nabi Azad suggested that there should be “joint control of India and Pakistan over the state’s waters, power projects, agriculture, sericulture, tourism, forestry and environment”. Azad made this unsettling suggestion while participating in a seminar in Jammu University a day after (March 28) the then J&K Governor, Gen SK Sinha, bemoaned in the Jammu University that “the Government of India has virtually stopped calling J&K as an integral part of India”. And on October 15, 2009, the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, inter-alia, told the All India Editors’ Conference on Social and Infrastructure issues in Srinagar that “J&K has a unique geographical location and unique history”, that “we have to find a solution that may turn out to be unique” and that “the whole effort would be quiet until the contours of a political solution to the problem are found” (Indian Express, Oct 15, 2009).

The oft-repeated assertion that Maharaja Hari Singh delayed accession of J&K to India is as flawed as it’s ill-designed and ill-motivated. The fact is that he offered accession to PM Nehru as early as in July 1947 – a fact which he himself candidly acknowledged on July 24, 1952 in Lok Sabha. Speaking on the subject, Nehru, among other things, said: The question of accession “came up before us informally round about July or the middle of July…We had contacts with the popular organisation there, the National Conference, and its leaders, and we had contacts with the Maharaja’s government also…The advice we gave to both was that Kashmir is a special case and it would not be right or proper to try to rush things there…Even if the Maharaja and his Government then wanted to accede to India, we would like something much more, that is, popular approval” (read approval of Sheikh Abdullah, who had no locus standi whatsoever in the matter).

Not only in July, Maharaja Hari Singh also offered a number of times accession of J&K to India before October 26, 1947. This is what a peep into the autobiography (Looking Back) of J&K’s PM of the time reveals. It would be only prudent to quote some relevant portions from his autobiography to further set the record straight. He, inter-alia, wrote: “When we got the news of the (Pakistani) raid (on October 20), we sent our Deputy PM with a letter from His Highness to the PM and Deputy PM of India. I also sent personal letters, asking help on humanitarian grounds to save us from this unprovoked act of aggression. We also sent a letter proposing accession. The British PM was approached by cable but no response came from him. October 24 and 25, the two most anxious and most exciting days passed but no reply came from anywhere. The whole Srinagar and the whole state were in danger…” (p. 274).

It was under these circumstances that Mehr Chand Mahajan went to Delhi to meet Nehru and negotiate the accession issue. And see the kind of response his passionate plea evoked. Let me quote him: “I was asked how an army could be sent at a moment’s notice. I was assured that even if Srinagar fell in Pak hands, it would be retaken. I was not impressed and took up a firm attitude and said, ‘give army, take accession…otherwise I will go and negotiate terms with Mr. Jinnah as the city must be saved’. On this, the PM flew into a rage and gave an exhibition of his temper and told me to get out. Just as I rose to leave, an accident occurred that saved Kashmir from falling into Pak hands. Sheikh Abdullah who was staying in the PM’s house was overhearing the talks. Sensing a critical situation, he sent a slip of paper to the PM. The PM read it and his attitude completely changed” (p.277). Nehru accepted the accession offer and agreed to send the army but with the condition that Maharaja Hari Singh would abdicate his authority in favour of Sheikh Abdullah, his friend. Mahajan accepted the condition and the army landed in Kashmir on October 27. The rest is history.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Hari Om Mahajan

is former Member of Indian Council of Historical Research and former Dean of Jammu University’s Faculty of Social Sciences.

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