Gandhi and sale deed of Amritsar

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It is widely believed that the father of Indian Nation MKC Gandhi called Sale Deed of Amritsar a Bikri Pater (Sale deed) during his July-August visit of Kashmir in 1947. It is further believed that Gandhi refused to drink a cup of milk offered by Maharani Tara Devi when he called on Maharaja Hari Singh.  Gandhi is also supposed to have expressed his displeasure over Dogra regime’s atrocities on the hapless people of Kashmir. 

However, there is no evidence to corroborate this. Gandhi was on a mission in Kashmir. How could he afford to annoy 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?

 Sher-e-Kashmir was arrested in 1946 for Quit Kashmir Movement. Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to appear as a defence counsel to get his `friend’ out. However, he was denied permission and even arrested by Dogra police.  Time was running out of his hands. Sher-e-Kashmir had to play a vital role in the coming months.  His release, therefore, was very important for fulfilling Indian agenda.

Nehru was worried for another reason also. He knew Maharaja’s Inclinations towards independence. He wanted to visit Kashmir to pressurise Maharaja not to declare independence. But Lord Mountbatten, the Indian viceroy did not allow him to visit Kashmir. He offered to visit the Valley himself. The Maharaja proved a hard nut for him. He sent the viceroy on fishing trips to avoid any serious interaction with him. The frustrated Viceroy one day took off his clothes and sun bathed in nude.

This was followed by the visit of his Chief of Staff. This visit also went in vain.  Once again, Nehru wanted to go to Kashmir personally.  Both Mountbatten and Sardar Patel strongly disapproved of his visit. However, they agreed to let Gandhi visit Kashmir.

Gandhi’s visit commenced on July 31 and ended on August 2, 1947. A massive demonstration greeted him at Baramulla. The demonstrators protested his Kashmir visit. On August 1st, he met Maharaja and had a separate long meeting with Maharani Tara Devi.  (Campbell Johnson’s Mission with Mountbatten, p. 117)

Noted columnist, A G Noorani wrote in Frontline March 28-April 10, 2009, “Asaf Ali’s performance as defence counsel in the Sheikh’s trial for sedition was splendid. He rested his case on the people’s right to demand freedom from a ruler whose title to rule was derived from what Mahatma Gandhi aptly called a “sale-deed”, the Treaty of Amritsar (1846) by which the Dogra Gulab Singh bought Kashmir for Rs.75 lakh.

While a columnist of Noorani’s repute cannot be easily refuted, he too has not quoted the source of this information.  As mentioned above Gandhi met Hari Singh and Tara Devi separately when nobody was around. Who, therefore, reported that Gandhi had uttered the word Bikri Pater (Sale Deed). And who reported Gandhi’s disapproval of Dogra atrocities on Kashmir? On the contrary, Gandhi had to be polite because he was seeking a favour. Now what was that favour?

Sher-e-Kashmir was released in September 1947. Hari Singh sought a written apology which was readily given. The historical document has been published in Sardar Patel’s papers. It is also published by budding historian from Kashmir Ashiq Husain Bhat in his book.  

The Times, London, on 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 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.”

Gandhi’s visit, therefore, changed the course of Kashmir history. He did what other leaders including Nehru and Lord Mounbatten could not do. He got Kashmir for India.

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