Comments of a Pakistani expert on my research work.
This is what Dr. Yousaf Bokhari, Ex-chairman, Kashmiriyat Department, Punjab University, Lahore, said about my new book – Kashmir and the Partition of India.
“Kashmir and The Partition of India”, a research work accomplished by Dr. Shabir Choudhry deserves my rich tribute; and appreciation for Dr. Michel J Lelohe, Chairman of History and Politics, and Mr. J. Price for their assistance to the writer. This was, of course, an uphill task and voluminous hard work.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir, with its present boundaries, was founded by Maharaja Ghulab Singh. Initially, he had secured the principality of Jammu as a Jagir from Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in 1820. It was obtained in recognition of his loyal services and was authorized to rule over the territory as a Raja. After the death of Ranjit Singh in 1839 and the Anglo Sikh War, the East India Company concluded a treaty with Ghulab Singh at Amritsar, on 16 March, 1846. It is known as the Treaty of Amritsar. Kashmir was thus sold to Ghulab Singh for Rs. 75 lacs.
This work deeply observes the legal position of the State on 15 August, 1947. In this research work, the author writes, ‘Kashmir became the centre of one of the major international disputes, which brought those new countries into direct clash against each other’. The future status of Jammu and Kashmir became the quagmire of affairs, thus ball of controversy was rolled on, which parched the heart and tongue of every independent soul. Both India and Pakistan desired to make the state part of their own territory, whereas state ruler Hari Singh wanted Kashmir to become a sovereign independent state.
Dr Shabir is quite correct when he asserts that the British literally sold the Kashmiri nation like a commercial commodity. The Treaty of Amritsar consists of ten articles. All articles assure the Maharaja’s subjugation of the British. Article IV of the deal is quite evident, according to which the limits of territories of Maharaja Ghulab Singh shall not be at any time changed without the concurrence of the British government.
The Indian Independence Act was ambiguous. It was made for keeping two nations in the state of tug-of-war at all times. I again agree with the writer that the Radcliffe Award was simply meant to provide India with land access to Kashmir and hence facilitate it.
The British government had clearly stated in the Independence Act, the states from all their obligations to the Crown. The states will have complete freedom technically, and legally they became independent.
A doubt on the role of Lord Mountbatten being prejudiced is not true. It was the dictation of the British rulers- for this and for everything Lord Mountbatten and Edwina Mountbatten. On this occasion, they proved very fruitful for evaluating the legacy of turmoil in the name of independence. Personal friendship with Nehru and his dislike for Jinnah had an important influence on the whole process of partition. Important personalities like Gandhi, Patel, V.P.Menon, particularly Edwina Mountbatten could not be ignored. For making the British ruler’s dream come true, was the delay of the Radcliffe Award announcement Mountbatten arranged Gandhi’s meeting with Maharaja Hari Singh and dispatched Nehru to Kohala to see Abdullah who was behind the bars. Hari Singh believed in an independent Kashmir. He wrote a letter to Mountbatten as follows:
“My Dear Lord Mountbatten, I have to inform your Excellency that a grave emergency has arisen in my state and request immediate assistance of your government….. I wanted to take time to decide to which dominion I should accede or whether it is not on the best interest of both the dominions and my state to stand independent, of course with friendly and cordial relations with both India and Pakistan. I accordingly approached the dominions of India and Pakistan to enter into standstill agreement.”
Mountbatten replied as follows, “My dear Maharaja Sahib, letter dated 26th October has been delivered to me by V.P.Menon. My government have decided to accept the accession of Kashmir state to the dominion of India.”
For consolidating all the issues, Mountbatten arranged the visit of Gandhi to Kashmir which has eventually been done without any rhyme and reason. The research work gives birth to Kashmir issue by 1920, where economic deprivation and seeds of social unrest, germinated under the umbrella of 13 July, 1931, considered as the turning point of the modern Kashmiri struggle. The author believes the whole truth regarding the partition of India will never be known, because many of the characters involved are not alive. I believe nothing is latent. The principal characters in creating problems are Krishna Menon, Sardar Patel, Nehru and the Indian Independence Act of 1947 passed by the British Parliament on 17 July, 1947. Cabinet Mission Plan of 16 May, 1946. The partition was Mountbatten’s policy of excessive haste. He arbitrarily advanced 15 August, 1947 the date for independence from the limit of June, 1948 given to him by the British Prime Minister Attlee’s government. This ill-considered decision has unfortunately been accepted by both India and Pakistan.
This resulted in horrific killings of about one million human beings and the displacement and transfer of about 8 to 10 million people moving across the new frontiers. Rafiq Zakariya writes in his book, ‘The Man Who Divided India 2001, Mr Jinnah strongly opposed the partition of the Punjab and Bengal. He wrote in May, 1947 to the British Cabinet asking to prevent such a decision, because he wanted large number of non-Muslims to also be part of original demand of Pakistan. The partition was callously imposed by the Congress and Mountbatten, not a condition created by the Quaid-e-Azam.
We have to probe into Johnson’s diary where Johnson exclaims Lord Ismay feared that Winston Churchill has attributed the services of Mountbatten for the division for the best interest of Hindus, which would cause the loss to Indian Muslims.
It is worth recalling that Johnson writes in his diary about the first meeting of Nehru and Mountbatten. It was decided that Punjab would be divided on the basis of religion, although the 3rd June plan had not come into public. Sheikh Abdullah was made the controversial leader by Mirwaiz Yousaf Shah, with the intrigue of Hari Singh. He was impelled to form National Conference and bade goodbye to the Muslim Conference.
It was of course a good decision of Sheikh Abdullah and the Kashmiri leadership. The evolution two parties caused great loss to the Kashmir cause. This was Chaudhary Ghulam Abbass who ascertained that the party should have included non-Muslims in the mainstream of Kashmiri political life. Here Shabir Choudhry reflects, and explains in Chapter IV the aftermath of the Muslim Conference was changed into the National Conference. Chapter V deals with Jinnah’s visit to Kashmir. The researcher is very correct that Sheikh Abdullah invited Quaid-e-Azam to take guidelines about the conflict created by Hindus in Jammu, but instead compromise Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas parted from Abdullah had consoled Mirwaiz and Muslim conference instead Masudi and Mirza Afzal Beg who had a soft comer for Pakistan. They too were not taken into confidence, with the result that the road to Kashmir’s independence was shattered and blocked.
Quaid-e-Azam was not in the interest of Hindu-Muslim unity. Thus if Quaid-e-Azam would have succeeded in bringing Kashmiri masses into the garland of unity, the future of Kashmir would not have been darkened. This has rightly been discussed by the author.
Actually it was threat of communism which gave birth to partition. America and Britain had the fear of communism raising alarm in London, the failure of Congress in India and Muslim League in Pakistan. The researcher has given solid reference with plea of Churchill and Attlee.
Sheikh Abdullah, as stated by the author in Chapter 6, has said to Quaid-e-Azam that experience has proved that the initial problem is not the confrontation between religions, but that of the economically divided society. There are those who exploit and those who are exploited. The struggle is not against individuals, rather it is against an oppressive system in which we will have to participate, irrespective of religion.
Sheikh Abdullah has proved it by maintaining ‘Law, Land to the tillers’. All the Jagirdars were denied these lands and the cultivators owned and became the masters of the land. I appreciate the approach of the author with the last corner of my heart. He has well knit the situation.
The same chapter (6) explains the position of Britain. Britain has been in decline for a hundred years. The war forced Britain to accept American leadership. Britain was treated as a defeated nation and the advancement of communism and the inability to sustain the burden of Empire, industrial need became the cause to declare India’s freedom. The author deserves appreciation for the way he has dealt with this chapter.
In Chapter 7, the importance of Khizar Hayat Tiwana has been expounded. However, in the Cabinet Mission, the meeting maintained that the state should not be forced to join any union, there should be prime facie, no objection to the formation of a confederation of the state if the Rulers so desired and there should be no interference by British India in their internal affairs.
Chapter 8, a surprise political move by Nehru and his arrest in Kashmir proved decisive in many respects, when it came to deciding the fixture of Kashmir.
Chapter 9 denotes the injustices attributed to Mountbatten, his wife and their friendship with Nehru and actually the prejudice to the Muslims of India. The author is very clear on this subject. This is a sad story for residents now in Pakistan.
Chapter 10 deals completely with Mountbatten. He got the upper hand from Prime Minister Attlee. He got the authority to deal with the Indian independence. He hurried into dividing India in August, 1947 instead of June, 1948. He did his best to keep India in Commonwealth which was in the best interest of Britain. Nehru played it as a trump card. This is very plainly, logically stated by the writer.
Chapter 11 is of great importance in that the Quit Kashmir Movement is discussed, with reference to the Muslim Conference. Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas, in order to show his political power, gave the arrest. Chaudhary Hamidullah became the acting president. He declared Kashmir to be a sovereign state, not to annoy the Hindu majority of Jammu and to have relations with both India and Pakistan. For this, Jinnah has also permitted Maharaja and that was pro-Pakistani Sardar Ibrahim was not allowed to see Jinnah. The writer has given all the causes, consequences regarding these occurrences, without any rhyme and reason.
Chapter 12 traces the details of existing states and the position they held. This chapter states the Princely States and relationship with the monarch. Here, the Muslim League is fancying the states to be independent, whereas Congress had not many daydreams.
In Chapter 13, the author discussed the main theme of the Commonwealth, in which Britain was quite interested.
Chapter 14 explains the reasons for an early transfer of power in August 1947, instead of June, 1948. It explains that the Congress leadership influenced Mountbatten’s thinking through Edwina Mountbatten and Chapter 15 also exhibits the enmity between Mountbatten and Jinnah.
The ambiguity left in the 3rd June plan was working against the Princes, their future looked bleak. In Chapter 17, the work of the Boundary Commission is explained and analyzed. It is also shown that the Award was changed at the last moment, in favour of India. The last chapters depict the destruction and annihilation of Indian inhabitants.
I am pleased to see how the author has systematically dealt with the inns and outs of this slender vine problem with his steady oak and brought into the limelight, all the Indo-Pak partition issues.
Dr. Yousaf Bokhari,
Ex-chairman, Kashmiriyat Department, Punjab University, Lahore
Former Director, Sir Ganga Ram Heritage Foundation, Lahore.
Cell No: +92(0)321-4846684