Kashmir Files: Glamour Scoundrel's Trumpet Boy Who Foxed Jinnah

Out of tyranny is born rebellion which when taken to its logical culmination results in freedom. The yoke of tyranny in the independent state of J & K was rampant with a sinister eco system of suppression, oppression and repression. An ambivalent Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh allowed his prime minister Ramchandra Kak to run riot, aided and abetted as he was by the British Resident and all the top courtiers in the Durbar. Palace politics saw Kak at its vanguard supported by the British officers in responsible positions in the state hierarchy. In any case a Hindu ruling over predominantly a Muslim majority state had created a perverted schism as nationalism was simply not tolerated by the ruling and presiding deity Hari Singh and his minions. It was a brutal subjugation which led to unending misery for the masses who found themselves in the throes of serfdom and penury. Shaking off this tyrannical structure, emerged Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah or Sher-e-Kashmir who found a friend in Jawaharlal Nehru who understood quickly that by installing a secular Abdullah, he would be able to bait the theologically inclined Mohd Ali Jinnah, his bete noire in Kashmir and national politics. Secular Abdullah was pitted against communal Jinnah and for Nehru turning J & K into a shop window for his secular India, it was imperative that the former succeed over the latter. Hari Singh himself was a vacillator, not convinced that he should sign the instrument of accession either to India or Pakistan. He preferred to play the waiting game only to succumb when the raiders marched down Muzzafarabad road towards Srinagar burning the power station in Mahura, pillaging and raping in Baramulla. An unforgiving Jinnah who had always coveted Kashmir Valley fought a proxy war to pouch Kashmir, but failed in his endeavour and died without realising his ultimate obsession.  Kashmir’s history since then is predicated to Pakistan’s nefarious design and architecture of fighting a proxy war using mujhaids to do their dirty work. Over time regular wars have also been fought, but the defining imprimatur remains the stratagem of using cheap mules to further the game plan of the ISI-Jehadi military complex. This has bled both Kashmir and India, the death by a thousand cuts imperillng us.

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Kashmir was volatile and even incendiary and this confusion continued in a chaotic political situation, until in late 1946 the communal situation throughout the sub-continent began to go from bad to worse and worse to worst. And Jammu — with all its caste and communal prejudices coupled with illiteracy and lack of political understanding  — was in one of the worst affected areas. Then came the Mountbatten Plan and Partition followed by unprecedented communal frenzy and mass migration. Hindu and Sikh refugees started pouring into the state from all sides and then in October 1947 came the Pakistan raids. His Highness the Maharaja left Srinagar for Jammu and immediately an ill-advised plan to murder and liquidate Muslims was hatched. According to all evidence available this plan was organised and executed by a group of people under the leadership of Hindu forces. No definite indication is available of the Maharaja’s direct participation in this plan, but surely he did not take even elementary precautions to safeguard his Muslim subjects. And that in itself is quite a serious lapse on the part of a ruler and his government. All this was in sharp contrast to the conditions prevailing at that time in the Valley, where not a soul was hurt or dispossessed of anything. So much so that the National Conference arranged some Muslim tongawalas to carry Hindu and Sikh refugees to Jammu, who were stranded in Srinagar due to transport shortage.

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By this time Poonch had taken a turn for the worst. To the degree the repression had been intensified, the resistance and the extra-territorial activities of the Poonchis had increased. Leaguers, who hithertofore, had been given an absolutely free rope so that they could replace the National Conference as a popular organization, began to create trouble in Srinagar and elsewhere. The Pakistan government considering themselves on sure feet, began to put pressure, political as well as economic, on the state government. The economic blockade began, thereby creating untold miseries for the people of the state. Essential supplies like salt, medicines, petrol, kerosene, cloth and sugar became intensely scarce. In short the situation was just hopeless from all points of view. And the state government by its follies in the preceding period had brought itself to a point where it was just ineffective. It could do absolutely nothing to alleviate the sufferings of the masses nor could it improve the political situation.

This was the over-all picture, so gloomy in itself, when Sheikh Abdullah was released on the 29th of September. The people of the Valley received him in a right royal manner. But political confusion was peaking. Due to government repression people wanted to shake off the Maharaja’s primacy, and the Muslim Conference leaders had told them that the only way to get rid of the Maharaja was to accede to Pakistan and the people in their naïve simplicity had taken this to be correct.

The result was that on his release wherever the Sheikh went he was greeted with three slogans namely : Sheikh Abdullah Zindabad, National Conference Zindabad and Pakistan Zindabad. The most interesting feature of the situation, however, was that the Muslim Conference which had all this time been extremely prominent and had played a decisive role in converting the people to the idea of Pakistan vanished as if it had never existed. The leader of the people was with them. They had confidence in his honesty, sincerity, loyalty and devotion to the country and its people. They knew that their interests were safe only in his hands. They refused to pay any heed to the traitors to the people and rank opportunists.

Sheikh Abdullah lost no time in grasping the gravity of the situation. He asked his people to be ready to face any eventuality. He warned them against indulgence in wishful thinking. He made it clear that accession to Pakistan will solve no problem. The real question was whether the people were masters in their own house or not. The first priority he said must be given to the transfer of power to the people. Once the people were masters in their own house, they would decide through their own free-will on the issue of accession. Sheikh Abdullah declared that whatever the decision of the people, he will bow to it. On  October 1 Kh. G.M. Sadiq and Bakshi Ghulam Mohd., his chief lieutenants who had been in exile ever since the Quit Kashmir days, arrived in Srinagar from Delhi. At this time, Dr. Dr Muhammad Din Taseer, a friend of Abdullah and a former principal of SP College who had migrated to Pakistan, had come to Srinagar in order to canvass support for Pakistan in the National Conference circles. He could not fail to see that the National Conference was the only organization that could deliver the goods. Something that Nehru too believed in. He called on Sadiq, an old friend, and tried to convince him. The next day a meeting attended by Sheikh, Bakshi, Sadiq and Taseer was held at Sheikh Abdullah’s residence at Saura about seven miles from Srinagar.

Sheikh explained the National Conference position vis-à-vis the accession issue and it’s attitude towards Pakistan. He made it clear that he would not discuss the issue of accession with any one, until full power was transferred to the people and then they would decide through their own free will to whom to accede and on what terms. As regards the National Conference attitude towards Pakistan, he said that no doubt the National Conference had opposed the partition of the country and the two nation theory of the Muslim League. But since it was a fait accompli there was no question of the National Conference being hostile to it. The National Conference, he said had nothing but feelings of warm friendship for the people of Pakistan, but in return they also expected a change in the attitude of the Pakistan leadership towards them which hithertofore had been one of actual hostility, so much so that they had even approached the Maharaja for a settlement behind the back of the National Conference.

Taseer admitted that Pakistan policy vis-à-vis Kashmir had been very wrong and foolish, but advised the National Conference leaders to meet the Pakistan leaders, as that would remove most of the misunderstandings and bitterness which were increasing daily.

Sheikh Abdullah and his colleagues agreed and asked Taseer to arrange a place and the time. When Taseer insisted on an immediate meeting, Sheikh suggested to send Sadiq to meet the Pakistan leaders. This was agreed to by all. Taseer left on the 3rd and Sadiq followed him on the 4th of October.

At Rawalpindi, Sadiq stayed with the commissioner of Rawalpindi, Mr. Rahim, who was later in-charge of the tribal raids. Rahim took Sadiq to Lahore, where he had quite a detailed discussion with Nawab Ifthikar Hussain Khan Mamdot, the then Prime Minister of West Punjab, whom the Pakistan leaders had deputed to conduct the talks. He started with an appeal to the sentiment of Muslim solidarity, which, however, did not cut much ice. Mamdot then advised the National Conference to support immediate accession and said that the organisation as the sole representative of the people of Kashmir had every right to decide the fate of the people. He was rather critical of Mr Jinnah, who he said, had a personal vendetta against Sheikh Abdullah. He also promised to remove all causes of apprehensions to the people of Kashmir.

As regards some other points of high policy raised by Sadiq, Mamdot suggested that Sheikh Abdullah should come to Lahore in the third week of October, when Liaquat Ali Khan would also be coming, so that a final decision is taken in a face to face talk. Consequently Sadiq left Lahore and reached back in Srinagar on October 12.

While in Lahore, Sadiq also had a talk with Mian Iftikhar Ud-din, an ex-President of the Punjab Congress and then a prominent Muslim League Leader, who was heading the so-called progressive section of the Muslim League. He also advised in favour of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. He argued that a powerful alliance of Kashmir National Conference, Frontier Red Shirts and other progressive elements inside and outside The Muslim League, would form a formidable challenge to the reactionary leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League. But Sadiq refused to indulge in this wishful thinking. He pointed out that the psychological atmosphere of Pakistan, it being what it was at that time, was most unsuited for any progressive party to survive. He pointed out that due to this very atmosphere the Red Shirt movement was withering away, and as for the Punjab he said that it never had any militant movement with a tradition behind it. So far as the progressives in the League were concerned, they were as ineffective as anything.

While Sadiq was in Lahore, messages reached Srinagar through sympathetic Pathan sources that an attack on Kashmir was in the offing and that preparations were afoot in the Frontier province. But the National Conference leaders were inclined to discount these reports thinking that a folly of this magnitude at this critical time, much less to negotiations were going on, would definitely not happen. But as one has been witness to a Janus-faced Pakistan and its duplicitous way of diplomacy over the years and its errant ways cannot be undermined or discounted.

By this time, all the National Conference leaders had been released and they met at an informal meeting to discuss the situation in the light of the discussions that Sadiq had held with Mamdot. They all supported the line so far taken by Sheikh, Sadiq and Bakshi.

In Srinagar Sadiq had a detailed discussion with Sheikh Abdullah in the light of Lahore discussions. Sheikh agreed to meet Liaquat, but suggested Abbottabad as the alternate venue as Lahore was too far. As for the date, he said that immediately he was leaving for Delhi to preside over the standing committee meeting of the All India States Peoples' Conference of which he was the elected president, from where he would be back in a week or so and then after celebrating Id in Srinagar, which fell on the 25th of October, any date would be acceptable to him. In the meantime, he asked Sadiq to go again to Lahore and meet Liaquat who was coming there and have a thorough discussion with him and then decide a date and the place for a meeting between Sheikh and Liaquat.

Sadiq left Srinagar on the 14th and after staying at Rawalpindi for a couple of days, arrived in Lahore. Liaquat also arrived on the 17th and they had a detailed discussion on the 18th.

Liaquat expressed grave apprehensions regarding Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to Delhi. He said that Indian leaders were out to ruin Pakistan. He said that Pakistan’s main worry was that Sheikh might not some commitments with the Indian leaders. He wanted an immediate assurance of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan.

Sadiq clarified that Sheikh Abdullah’s visit had no special significance, as he had gone to attend the meeting of an organization of which he was the duly elected president. As regards making some commitment, he said that Sheikh was president of a democratic organization and therefore, he could not commit anything on behalf of the National Conference without consulting its working committee.

Sadiq admitted that the situation, as it was, was greatly in favour of Pakistan. Geographical contiguity and communications were greatest factors. But factors against Pakistan were that its leaders had never taken a healthy attitude to the Kashmir’s struggle against autocracy and always supported traitors to the cause. That, he said, was in sharp contrast to the stand taken by Congress leaders, who had always supported the National Conference through thick and thin, so much so that Pt. Nehru had even courted arrest in defence of the people of Kashmir.

Sadiq informed Liaquat that the National Conference was soon going to launch a very vigorous campaign against the Ruler for the transfer of power to the people of the state. At that time, he said, the Muslim League and Pakistan leaders should given an all-out support to this movement. They would consider the issue of accession only after they were victorious in their movement and not before. Therefore, the question of any kind of assurance did not simply arise. But there was every likelihood of the decision going in favour of Pakistan.

Among other assurances asked for by Sadiq, before the National Conference would support accession to Pakistan, were internal autonomy, right of secession if it was found later that the accession was not working to Kashmir’s benefit no interference in implementation of NEW KASHMIR POLICY, security for minorities, and right of consultation in the field of foreign affairs affecting or having a bearing on the state of Kashmir.

Liaquat did not raise any objection to any of these and asked Sadiq to arrange a meeting with Sheikh before the 25th. He suggested that Sadiq should proceed to Delhi and from there come back with Sheikh and after meeting Liaquat at Lahore they both could proceed to Srinagar so as to reach there before the 25th i.e. Id. Sadiq agreed and left Lahore for Delhi on the 19th evening. At Delhi he found that slippery-as-an-eel Sheikh had left for Simla to arrange for the migration of Kashmiri labourers stranded there. On the 21st he left Delhi for Srinagar along with Mirza Mohd Afzal Beg but as the plane could not cross the Banihal pass they came back to Delhi, as they could not stay at Jammu, it being in grip of communal riots. On the 22nd they flew straight to Srinagar, where on arrival the first news they heard was that Muzaffarabad had fallen.

Pakistan did commit the foolish mistake. And that is why Liaquat Ali Khan was sticking to a hard pressed time table to meet Sheikh. The raids were in full swing. The question arises, what were the reasons and considerations which prompted Pakistani leaders to decide on the course that they adopted, especially at a time when to all indications available were that they had won the game. The question also arises that if the Pakistan leaders had not acted the way they did and instead had let the events take their own course, what would have been the position of Kashmir today or rather had there been any Kashmir problem such as we find today?

The answer to the second question is an emphatic NO. Had Pakistani leaders not acted in the foolish way they did, there would be no Kashmir problem as such. The circumstances were so overwhelmingly in favour of Pakistan that no power on earth could have prevented Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. As we have already seen in these columns, the situation obtaining at that time was that there was a very strong mass sentiment in favour of accession to Pakistan. So much so that even Sheikh Abdullah and his colleagues who seriously apprehended that accession to theocratic and reactionary Pakistan dominion would toll the deathknell of progressive and secular National Conference which could not oppose Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. As a matter of fact due to the pressure of this tremendous mass sentiment they had promised the Pakistan leaders their support to accession, if certain assurance and guarantees which would safeguard Kashmir’s future were given. The Maharaja and his government were just helpless spectators. Their approach to the Government of India for accession had been rejected unless it was made with the backing of popular representation which at that time was not forthcoming. Pakistan leaders negotiations with National Conference representatives, Kh. G.M.Sadiq had been satisfactorily concluded and Sheikh Abdullah had been invited to finalise the formalities of the decision.

To launch an attack just at that time, is something which betrays complete lack of political sagacity and total bankruptcy of diplomacy. It would be quite interesting to go into the reasons for this very foolish act of Pakistan and while doing that we must bear in mind the fact that Muslim League had won Pakistan not by sacrifice and political wisdom but by treachery to the country and political blackmail.

Just when Sadiq left Lahore for Delhi on the 19th Oct. to meet Sheikh Abdullah and bring him to Lahore as asked by Liaquat, the latter left for Karachi to acquaint Jinnah with the result of the negotiations. The story goes, that Jinnah was very much annoyed with Liaquat for having talked to Sadiq, when Sheikh Abdullah had not himself come. And when he heard about the assurances and the guarantees that the National Conference had asked for before they would support accession to Pakistan, he lost his temper completely. He is reported to have said that he always suspected that “this trumpet boy of that glamour scoundrel Nehru” was upto some mischief and that “old rogue” had not gone all the way to Srinagar for nothing, to get this “puppet” of Hindus released and set free.

He ordered Liaquat to give an all clear to the tribal hordes which had been organised and kept ready for sometime past, to meet any eventuality that may arise, in case the Kashmir leaders refused to cow down to Pakistan. He also ordered Srinagar to be captured immediately, so that he could celebrate Id in Srinagar and offer his thanks giving prayers for the victory, on the auspicious day of Id.

The tribal invasion started on the 20th and by 22nd Muzaffarabad, a key town, had fallen. The invasion was in full swing and had it not been for the brave fight put up by Brig. Rajindra Singh, the first Martyr in the cause of Kashmir who held up the raiders for full three days, Jinnah’s wishful thinking might have come true. On the 25th  the Maharaja signed the instrument of accession to India and on the 26th the Government of India accepted it, as it had also been supported by the only representative organization of Kashmir people, the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference. On the 27th Indian forces began to fly to Kashmir’s rescue and ward off and repulse the raiders.

The reaction of the Kashmiri people, who hithertofore had been great votaries of Pakistan, to this dastard attack was so severe that they rose as a man to defend their hearths and homes from these messengers of death and ruin. These self-proclaimed ‘Mujahids’ who professedly had come to liberate the Kashmiri Muslim, brought in their train an orgy of loot and arson, which had been unknown to the fair land of Kashmir even during some of the worst regimes. There could be no more deception of their real aims in attacking Kashmir. Women were raped and property looted while houses were set ablaze.

The only analogy which can bring home the real situation and the mood of Kashmir people at that time to the readers in India was the murder of the Father of the Nation. The Mahatma was murdered at a time when communal frenzy was at its worst, and the communal forces were at the zenith of their power and popularity. His murderers thought that he was the only obstacle in their way and considering him to be extremely unpopular with the masses, they dared to murder him and thus clear their way. But the result was just the opposite of what they expected. This served as a shock and the nation in the grip of communal frenzy rose as a man to liquidate the forces which had hypnotized them and had murdered their Bapu. The precipitate action of Pakistan leaders threw Kashmir into a position where it had no other way except turning to the secular democracy of India if it were to survive as a self-respecting nation.

@sandeep_bamzai

Columnist: 
Sandeep Bamzai