Did Nehru visit Kashmir?

The Indian leaders visited Kashmir one after the other to persuade Hari Singh not to declare independence.  Barely a month before the partition, Nehru intended to visit Kashmir. However, Lord Mountbatten objected and offered to visit himself. At that time he was the viceroy, India was not partitioned but he also was desperate to have Kashmir as a constituent of free India.

Joseph Korbel writes in his Danger in Kashmir, p. 60

Lord Mountbatten, the Viceroy of India, did not approve of Nehru’s visit and offered to visit himself. He visited Kashmir on June 18, 1947, and stayed there for four days. Lord Mountbatten was unable to have a proper discussion with the Maharaja, as the Maharaja did not wish to be influenced and advised about the fate of his land and people.

Lord Mountbatten’s visit was followed by the visit of Lord Haslings Ismay, who was the Chief of Staff to Lord Mountbatten. Both of these proved an utter failure as far as obtaining a surety from the Maharaja that he would not declare independence. This upset Nehru and he wanted to visit Kashmir himself. Sardar Patel strongly disapproved of this visit but on Nehru’s insistence, he agreed to let Gandhi visit Kashmir, which he thought would be ‘lesser of the two evils.’ Mistrust of Gandhi was already on the rise among the Muslims of India.

Both Gandhi and Nehru were worried. To clear this anxiety, Gandhi visited Kashmir by the end of July, 1947. The windows of his car were shattered in Baramulla, where an angry crowd protested his visit. Nevertheless, he was to go ahead and obtain a cure for his and Nehru’s anxiety: a guarantee of Maharaja’s accession to India.

Campbell Johnson, Mission with Mountbatten, p. 117

 “… But the Union of India has been taking a lively interest in the subject and indications are that the Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir, Sir Hari Singh, has lately been much influenced by representations made by Gandhi who visited Kashmir three months ago and by other Congress leaders."

The Times, London, October 25th 1947

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 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.
Nehru finally paid a nocturnal visit to Kashmir on either October 25, or 26. Dr Jagat Mohini during an exclusive interview with me in December 2007 unveiled this unexplored chapter of Kashmir history.  According to her, Nehru landed on Kashmir soil either on October 25 or 26, 1947. He was accompanied by V B Patel.

Dr Jagat Mohini, 84, popularly known as Mummy in Srinagar was born and educated at Lahore. Her parents wanted to get her married in a well-off Punjabi family. But, Mohini having just completed her MBBS, wanted to serve the poor and the destitute. She turned down many a proposal. A family friend informed them about a Srinagar-based doctor, Umkar Nath whose first wife, Rattan Rani had recently expired. Mohini gave her consent and this is how she landed in Kashmir. The marriage was solemnized during the fateful days of 1947. Umkar Nath was a political activist. The National Conference workers called him Pakistani Bata (Pakistani Pandit).

Communal clashes broke out in whole of sub-continent following Partition of India. Massive migrations took place on both sides of the Redcliff Line. Mohini’s parents also had to migrate from Lahore. They entered the state of Jammu Kashmir via Kohala and stayed for a few days with their daughter. The government of India arranged special aircrafts for lifting the refugees to various parts of India.

Dr Umkar Nath went to see off his mother-in-law to the airfield. In wee hours next morning, a jeep came to a screeching halt outside their Mandir Bagh residence. Umkar Nath entered and what he narrated to his wife unveils an unexplored chapter of Kashmir history.

He told his wife: “After seeing off your mother, I saw G M Sadiq talking to a group of persons. As you know Sadiq is a good friend of mine, I approached him and was surprised to see Jawaharlal Nehru, V B Patel and Maharaja Hari Singh involved in a serious discussion with him. Neither Sadiq nor anybody else objected to my presence. Patel told Nehru he was not doing the right thing. Nehru told him Sheikh Abdullah was secular and ‘we must help him.’ The meeting ended. It was 4 am and I requested Sadiq to drop me at my place. On the way to Srinagar, Sadiq told me ‘we had signed an agreement and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah will take over the government’.” (SIC)

To be continued
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