Kashmir 1947 Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespearian mid summer Night’s dream, contrary to Stanford upon Avon [cemetery of the great playwright] master’s plays, where tragedies rule the roost, ended in a happy ending as comedies do, unless it is a comedy of tragedies, where characters tread upon each others toes and spoil the show-a theater of the absurd! Kashmir 1947 was exactly that, as the main characters-major or minor didn’t play their roles to make the act after act, a worthwhile sequence of events, producing the desired show. We have talked of some of the mid summer actors last week, we may take up the rest today. But first of the Kashmiri dream during the mid summer nights of 1947-dream that didn’t come true!

What did they dream of? Many are living to relate, many have related their tale and departed. The sum total comprises a hope, a prayer for a better future. Having lost their independence to act meaningfully way back in 1586 A.D to Mughal designs, they remained with marked inability to cultivate and harness their resource to live decently. Afghans followed the Mughals, where Mughals had chivalry of spirit to an extent; Afghan rule was marked by brutality, as was the rule of Lahore Durbar of Ranjit Singh and his sons, Dogra Shahi completed the tale of woes. The religion of rulers did not matter. Muslim Mughal and Muslim Afghan were followed by Lahore’s Khalsa Dubar, ultimately the Hindu Dogra. Sheer autocracy has no religion; one man’s command holds the rule for masses. That one man-the autocrat has never had any religion, he was the Lord-Zul-i-Illahi [shadow of God] or Mahabali [Supreme Power] violating in fact the universal rule-there is no God, but one God!
1947 was dreamt to be the year of deliverance from autocratic tyranny. Democracy was in the air worldwide, including the sub continent. So, the Kashmiri dreaming of the democracy being just a step away couldn’t be accused of day dreaming or dreaming of the impossible. Whatever destiny had in store in 1947, whatever shape the events took, the democratic train heading for Kashmir got derailed at Lakhanpur-the entry point to Jammu and Kashmir or it might be put as, it was allowed to pass, duly weighed and measured, as the situation warranted. The situation assessment was not on the political but the security scale. Political contingency ceased to be the objective, as security concerns multiplied over years, precisely because politics had a security knot or a stranglehold, right at the initiation. Many analysts believe that democracy in full measure might have had a few hiccups, some teething troubles, however it would have served the powers that be much better than the fits and measures policy adopted-a half baked democracy at play. Non-delivery of what is promised and not delivered plays on the mass psyche in much worse a manner, than total denial of promise and hope! 1947 promised much but failed to deliver.

Mid summer was partly covered in last week’s column, since than I have had a dose of Shakespearian plays, mid summer night’s dream included; hence the caption! We may continue where we left. Mountbatten’s visit was followed by that of Lord Hastings’ Ismay, his chief of staff. While Viceroy was taken on fishing sprees to evade finding an answer to the question concerning the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, his Chief of Staff, whenever he tried to broach the subject was asked by Maharaja, whether he remembered ‘our polo match at Cheltenham in 1935’ or, as Ismay puts it ‘he abruptly left for one of his other guests’ [The memoirs of General, the Lord Ismay, London 1960-page: 433] concludes Ismay ‘The Maharaja was in Micawberish frame of mind, hoping for the best while continuing to do nothing’. Evasion continued to be the name of the game, and 63 years hence, it continues to be so, though from the quarters keen on fishing out a favourable verdict in 1947.

While as in 1947, Hari Singh held the key-possession being nine tenths of law, it is now Delhi which holds the key. Hari Singh being an autocratic ruler could afford to do it-autocracy and morality being poles apart. It is however questionable whether Delhi could afford to do it, and yet call itself-world’s largest democracy. India beyond Lakhanpur is a democracy in word and deed, shortcomings withstanding-democratic culture takes a few generations to build-up-it cannot be an instant cup of coffee! Solution of Kashmir has to be rooted in democracy-totality of it, not in half measures. If Kashmir could be a laboratory for India’s secularism, so could it be a laboratory to test democratic credentials, the very process however has not been initiated-uncontrolled and uninhibited!

Ismay was hardly back in Delhi, when Nehru’s cup of patience reached its brim. A historic document reveals it all. It is a communiqu‚ from Lord Mountbatten to Srinagar based resident of British Raj-Col. Wilfred Webb. The confidential note conveyed the gist of the Nehru-Patel meet ‘Nehru had broken down and wept, explaining that Kashmir meant to him at the time more than anything else’. As is evident from the note, both Mountbatten and Patel wanted to stop Nehru from going to Kashmir, though for different reasons. Patel, it could be inferred from the trail of events felt that working through Kashmir Durbar is a safer bet than banking on Abdullah’s popularity-the Nehru card, while as Mountbatten’s concern is evident in the note ‘both Maharaja and his Prime Minister, Ram Chand Kak hate Nehru with a bitter hatred and I had visions of Maharaja declaring adherence to Pakistan just before Nehru arrived and Kak provoking an incident which would end up by Nehru being arrested just about the time he should be taking power from me in Delhi’. The note is yet another proof that Mountbatten was dead set against Kashmir going to Pakistan. Apart from his personal equation with Nehru, a part of the cozy relationship between Lord and Lady Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru; it is highly possible that it was in parts the grand western design to have India defend the strategic northern sub continental border. Long back a British strategist had noted it as the place ‘where three empires meet’!

Patel and Mountbatten agree after considerable correspondence between Viceroy and Congress leaders, that Gandhi instead of Nehru may go, though Patel believed that neither should go, but in view of Pundit Nehru’s great mental distress if his mission in Kashmir were to remain unfulfilled, he agreed that one of them must go, Mountbatten noted that Patel bluntly remarked ‘It is a choice between two evils and Gandhiji’s visit would be the lesser evil’ [Viceroy’s report, 1 August 1947, No 15, Transfer Vol. XII, Doc. 302, p. 449].

So, 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, Vol. XI, Doc. 319, p. 593]. In a word of caution, as well as of advice, Mountbatten notes ‘Nehru is under great strain and I consider visit by him to Kashmir at this moment could only produce the most explosive situation; whereas if His Highness could be persuaded to handle Gandhi tactfully, I believe there is a good chance that the visit could pass off without any serious incident’ [Mountbatten to Webb, 28 June, Transfer, Vol. XII, Doc. 387, p.720]. All these documented transfer papers of Vol. XI/XII are mentioned in Victoria Schofield’s [Kashmir in the Crossfire-pages 123/124 and in the notes-page 310].

Gandhiji’s visit called the lesser of ‘two evils’ by Patel took place on IST. August, 1947. Mohd. Yousuf Saraf, the legal luminary of Pakistan administered Kashmir and a famed author of a voluminous book on Kashmir, originally from Baramulla picks up the tale in an interview of March 1994 to Victoria Schofield in Rawalpindi ‘The biggest, noisiest demonstration was organized by me against Gandhi. Even some glass panes of his car were broken by the demonstrators’. Saraf in the interview gave the impression that while as the visit was projected as nonpolitical, in his meeting with the Maharaja and Maharani, Gandhi persuaded the Maharaja to accede to India. Shahid Hamid, private secretary to Field Marshall Auchinleck, the Army Chief lends weight to Saraf’s contention in his account. ‘In reality it was to persuade Maharaja to accede to India and to remove Kak’ [Disastrous Twilight, Great Britain 1986, p 273] concludes Hamid.

The nonpolitical nature of Gandhiji’s visit was underlined by him in a statement, which Urdu daily Khidmat has noted in its editorial of 3rd August 1947 ‘I am not going to persuade Kashmir Durbar to accede to India or Pakistan, to join either has to be the decision of people of Kashmir, as power and sovereignty rests with people. I am going to Kashmir to fulfill a promise and I shall serve people there to the limit of my capacity’.

Khidmat, the official organ of Jammu and Kashmir National conference notes in the editorial that Gandhiji’s statement reflected the viewpoint of National Conference that sovereignty rests with people. In 2010, National Conference heads the coalition, which includes Congress, an organization of which Mahatma Gandhi was the moving spirit. Both stand to answer-if the sovereign right has been exercised, as is claimed by powers that be, why 63 years hence Kashmir does not have the peace that people dreamt of in Mid summer nights of 1947?
God willing next week our study continues to explore the truth-truth that father of the Indian nation experimented with!
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival] Feedback on<iqbal.javid46@ gmail.com