(Written by: Zahir-ud-Din)
After Mountbatten’s failure to woo Hari Singh, the father of the Indian nation, Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi, visited Kashmir to get the princely state for India, and succeeded in changing the history of the subcontinent.
Gandhi’s visit commenced on July 31, 1947, and ended on August 2. A massive demonstration greeted him at Baramulla. The demonstrators protested his Kashmir visit. On August 1, he met the Maharaja, and had a long, separate meeting with Maharani Tara Devi. (Campbell Johnson’s Mission with Mountbatten, p. 117)
The Times, London (October 25, 1947), wrote: “What exactly did Gandhi tell the Maharaja? We will never know, but the chain of events that followed his visit is an indicator of what must have happened. After his visit, the Prime Minister of Kashmir, Ram Chandar Kak, who had no inclination towards India, was replaced by Janak Singh, and then by the Indian loyalist, Mehr Chand Mahajan. The British officers in the Kashmir Army and the Police were dismissed, including the Inspector General of Police and the Chief of the General Staff. Orders for construction of a bridge over the Ravi River, near Pathankot, to allow connectivity between India and Jammu and Kashmir, were issued. The road between Jammu and Kathua was improved and a telegraph line was constructed between Jammu and the valley. This was all possible because of assistance from India.”
So Hari Singh did all this and much more before the tribal invasion, for what? He may have been flirting with the idea of an independent state, but Gandhi changed him and that change took place on August 1, 1947.
Ignorant National Conference workers widely believed that during his visit, Gandhi had described the Treaty of Amritsar as abikri patr (Sale Deed). They further believe that Gandhi refused to drink a cup of milk offered by Maharani Tara Devi when he arrived in the palace. Gandhi is also supposed to have expressed his displeasure over the Dogra regime’s atrocities on the hapless people of Kashmir.
But there is no evidence to corroborate this. Gandhi was on a mission in Kashmir. How could he afford to annoy the Maharaja at that crucial juncture of history? And why did Gandhi leave New Delhi to visit Kashmir at a time when the sub-continent was to be partitioned in two weeks?
Dr Karan Singh who was around during the historic meeting, with his fractured leg plastered, writes in his autobiography that Gandhi did not eat the fruit offered to him. “I do not eat at this point of time in the day. Please keep the fruit in my car,” he told the royal family. Gandhi, therefore, accepted fruits offered by a tyrant ruler.
The story does not end here. Hari Singh released Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah on September 29, 1947, after he tendered a written apology. The apology letter has been published in Sardar Patel’s correspondence.
The Sher-e-Kashmir took some time to assess the situation. Meanwhile, he also received a letter from Jawaharlal Nehru. It was delivered by Dwarka Nath Kachroo, General Secretary of the All India States People’s Conference, who attended a high level meeting of the top leaders of the National Conference in Srinagar and also met with Abdullah and wrote a letter to Nehru on September 4, 1947:
“Sheikh Sahib and his close associates have decided for the Indian Union. But this decision has not been announced yet and the impression is being given that so far the National Conference has taken no decision.”
The Sher-e-Kashmir addressed a mammoth gathering at the erstwhile Huzuri Bagh on October 1. He said: “I do not know why I was arrested and I also do not know why I have been released.” He made no mention of the apology letter he had written to Maharaja Hari Singh to secure his release. He also did not tell the people that Indian leaders had impressed upon the Maharaja to get him released.
He further said: “Till the last drop of my blood, I will not believe in the Two-Nation Theory.” He also told the people that a decision concerning the future of Kashmir would be taken with their consent.
The Sher-e-Kashmir convened a meeting of the NC working committee on October 2, 1947, and took the decision to support the accession of the state to India. The decision was conveyed to Nehru by Dwarka Nath Kachroo who had been invited to the NC meeting as an observer.
All these developments took place before the tribal invasion. Both Hari Singh and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah were facilitating accession to India by overt and covert measures. The claim that the accession was signed in an emergency after the tribal invasion has no takers. In fact, it is the other way round. The tribal invasion became a compulsion after the series of measures taken by New Delhi, Hari Singh and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. According to Joseph Korbel, Jammu was captured by India in September. Pakistan, therefore, had no option but to respond the way she did.