A date to remember The day a dispute was born

On October, the 27th 1947, Indian forces landed in Kashmir, ostensibly to help an independent ruler retain his kingdom. Jammu and Kashmir was on the date related a sovereign state. The British Raj left the subcontinental shores on August 14/15th August 1947, leaving successor dominions—India and Pakistan. The partition was religion based. Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy induced ‘other factors’ in the partition plan, taken to mean ancillaries needed for administrative convenience of the two dominions. It translated to take water/irrigation head and run of the river into consideration, besides religion, as the basis of partition. The other factors had Muslim majority areas on the basis of 1941 census in the Gurdaspur region fall on the Indian side. It provided the vital corridor to India to stay in the race to claim the coveted northern frontier—vital for providing the depth in defence to cushion the emerging nation state. Pandit Nehru in a cable made it known to British Premier—Clement Atlee on October, the 25th at the height of Kashmir crisis. The cable read:

‘Kashmir’s northern frontiers… run in common with those of three countries, Afghanistan, the U.S.S.R and China. Security of Kashmir, which must depend upon its internal tranquillity and existence of stable government, is vital to the security of India’ [Alistair Lamb: Birth of a Tragedy, page 88]

Kashmir was on Nehru’s mind not only on sentimental grounds, as often made out, given his Kashmiri origin, but he had a definite security perspective in view. He perused it relentlessly much before the accession obtained from Maharaja Hari Singh, apparently on 26th October 1947. Prompted by Nehru, GOI’s Patel led home ministry took series of steps in the month of September and early October 1947 to ensure that Kashmir stays with India. It included planting Lt. Col Katoch of Indian army as advisor in Kashmir Durbar, arranging one civilian aircraft to run a special service between Delhi and Srinagar. On October, the first, wireless equipment to assist all-weather operations at Srinagar airport was provided. Preparations were afoot for more effective telegraphic communication with Jammu and Srinagar. Road improvement was undertaken from Punjab to Jammu by Indian army engineers, including a pontoon bridge over Ravi leading to Kathua. In mid-October troops, arms and equipment from Patiala state army were dispatched. The series of steps taken are noted in Alistair Lamb’s [Birth of a tragedy-Kashmir 1947-page: 70/71]. Lamb takes the tale further. A communiqué from Lord Mountbatten to Srinagar based resident of British Raj–Col.

Wilfred Webb notes, ‘’Nehru had broken down and wept, explaining that Kashmir meant to him at the time more than anything else’’. In the note Mountbatten informs Col. Webb ‘’I called upon him [Nehru] as a matter of duty not to go running off to Kashmir, until his new Government was firmly in saddle and could spare his services’’ [Mountbatten in Transfer Papers, Vol. XI, Doc. 319, p. 593, quoted in Victoria Schofield’s : Kashmir in the Crossfire-pages 123/124]. Mountbatten’s notes show his involvement in what Delhi was planning, and the series of steps that were taken in August, September and early October 1947 to ensure that Kashmir stays with India.

The series of steps taken prove the obvious that Delhi had much in place before the actual signing of accession. As is true of much else vis-à-vis Kashmir narrative, the actual date of signing of accession is disputed. Noted authors with extensive narratives on Kashmir like Alistair Lamb and Victoria Schofield relate several factors to support the contention that VP Menon could not leave Delhi for Jammu to get the accession document signed by Maharaja Hari Singh on 26th October. VP Menon, the bureaucrat figures repeatedly in ‘K’ narrative being Delhi’s point-man. Several factors include Menon’s flight not taking off at the late hour from Delhi, and later his recorded meeting with Alexander Symon of UK High Commission.

It is made out that accession was signed on October, the 27th after the troops had landed. Accession first or Indian armed intervention first, continues to interest the academicians and students of ‘K’ dispute, as accession after armed intervention has a different ring to it legally. Notwithstanding the argument, the fact stands that at about 9.00 A.M on 27th October, 1947, carried by ten Dakota aircraft, the IST Sikhs regiment started landing at Srinagar under the command of Lt. Colonel Dewan Ranjit Rai. Seventy one years later, Indian troops in Kashmir remain the ground reality.
Indian armed intervention on October, the 27th 1947, was operationalized, as requested by Maharaja Hari Singh. As per the Indian narrative, the intervention was prompted by armed raiders crossing into state of Jammu and Kashmir on October the 22nd 1947. As per the Indian narrative, faced with aggression, they were called to help by Maharaja ruled J&K State. A contrary view emerges, yet again in ‘K’ narrative. It points to an internal rebellion by people of Poonch. Calcutta Statesman’s Richard Symonds noted in his despatch of 4th February 1948, ex-servicemen returning to Poonch found ‘’there was tax on every hearth and every window. Every cow, buffalo and sheep was taxed and even every wife.’’ Finally ‘Zaildari Tax’ was introduced to pay for the cost of taxation [Allister Lamb: ‘Birth of a Tragedy’ Kashmir 1947-page 61]. Poonchis’ reacted as only they could and Hari Singh responded as only he could. The Poonch rebellion started in late August and was joined by tribes across the state border. Thus external aggression by raiders or an internal rebellion forms another debate in ‘K’ narrative, joined by eminent chroniclers of the narratives, the likes of Allister Lamb and Cristopher Sneddon.

Seventy years since the birth of the dispute, called a ‘Tragedy’ by Lamb, there is no end to varied shades of the raging conflict, it continues to devour lives in an unending saga of pain and tears.
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]