RUMMAGING THROUGH THE HAPPENING DAYS OF OCTOBER 1947, B.L. SARAF BRINGS OUT SOME PERTINENT THINGS RELATED TO KASHMIR’S POLITICAL HISTORY
For quite some time now, a motivated debate has been going on in some sections of the press to demolish the Instrument Of Accession; which established a legal relationship between J&K and India, in 1947. Some columnists have gone to the extent of denying the very existence of this document, while as others argue that Instrument was executed after the Indian army had landed in Srinagar. These statements are, purportedly, made to denounce India as an aggressor and illegal occupant of J&K. It is time to set right the record.
Ralph Shaw, a columnist writes that Hari Singh did not sign an Instrument of Accession with India before the Indian forces moved into Kashmir on October 27, 1947 and it is highly doubtful that he ever signed one at all. Victoria Schofield, allegedly, relies on M.C Mahajan to ‘ contradict ’ the execution of the Instrument on 26th October. Schofield says “ … . Mahajan also recollects that ‘around dinner time’ on the evening of 26 October, Nehru sent a message that the following day ‘with Mr V.P. Menon , I should fly to Jammu to inform the Maharaja’ of the decision of the Cabinet meeting that military aid was to be given . …” (Kashmir in Conflict p. 57) She writes at page 52; “On October 24 , Maharajah Hari Singh made an urgent appeal for help to the Government of India ……. The following day, 25th Oct, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet met, chaired by Lord Mountbatten …” Maharaja, admittedly, was in Srinagar on 25th October and spent the intervening night of 25 / 26 October there. Vitoria Schofield says that he left Srinagar in early hours of 26th. Referring to Mahajan’s account, she gives Maharaja’s departure time as 2 A.M. So, he had enough time available on 26 October, in Srinagar, to sign the Instrument. Time was too precious to be spent in sleeping. Every moment counted that day.
Meharchand Mhajan writes; “We had decided by 25th evening to go to India if we could get a plane or else go to Pakistan for surrender. Kabul was suggested by some as a neighbor who may possibly lend a helping hand. Luckily at this crucial moment Menon arrived in a plane. An Instrument of Accession was executed and signed by Maharaja. Menon advised Maharaja to shift to Jammu. Sheikh Abdullah had left by plane for Delhi on 25th. I was asked to accompany Mr Menon to Delhi for talks on question of accession and military aid. I accompanied him to India, where we reached on 26th morning. There I met Prime Minister of India and told him give army take accession and give whatever powers you want to give to the Popular party.” (Accession of Kashmir to India- The inside story, pages 16 , 17). Sheikh Abdullah corroborates this account in his Aatish e Chinaar, page 416 & 417 and records that V.P. Menon returned to Delhi on 26th October with signed Instrument of Accession .
So, by all accounts V.P.Menon and Mhajan were in Delhi on 26th October . Therefore there is no contradiction, as Schofield would like to draw, in what Lapierre and Collins ( referred by Schofield at P 57 of her book ) have related in their book – Freedom at Midnight – that Symon and Menon sat down for a drink in the evening of 26th Oct; in Delhi where “Menon had ‘ enormous smile ‘spread across his face to declare after waving a piece of paper; “We have Kashmir (in unprintable word referring to the Maharaja ) … . has signed the Act of Accession.” Contrarily, it proves that accession document was signed before 27th Oct. Victoria Schofield admits that V.P Menon had gone to Jammu on 27th Oct, by referring to the letter of 27th of Symon to Carter. ( P 57 of her book) When we see this with what she has said in opening lines of P 57 about the recollections of Mahjan the things become clear that the Instrument of Accession was signed before 27th Oct – the day Indian army landed in Srinagar .
Mountbatten’s Press Secretary Alan Campbell – Johson says on the matter; “ Mountbatten attended the Defence Committee on Saturday 25th at which General Lockhart read out a telegram from the Headquarters of the Pakistan Army stating that some five thousand tribesmen had attacked and captured Muzzafarabad and Domel ……. Reports showed that they were already little more than thirty five miles from Srinagar. The Defence Committee considered the most immediate necessity to rush in arms and ammunition requested by the Kashmir Government ……. The problem of troops reinforcement was considered, and Mountbatten urged that it would be dangerous to send in any troops unless Kashmir had first offered to accede …….. No final decision was taken on these vital question on 25th, but it was agreed that V.P should fly to Srinagar at once to find out the true position there. The information which V.P brought back to the Deffence Committee the next day was certainly disturbing ……. . Maharaja also signed a letter of accession which V.P. was able to present to the Deffence Committee …… In the light of this depressing data the Defence Committee decided that Maharaja’s accession should be accepted and that a battalion of infantry be flown in at dawn the next day.” (Mission With Mountbatten Jaico Publishing House; ;Pages 188 -189). Mountbatten insisted on formal accession of J&K with India before aid was rushed in. Campbell – Johnson writes that Mountbatten explained to him in more detail the reason of line he had taken on the accession at the Defence Committee. “ He ( Mountbatten ) considered it would be the height of folly to send troops into a neutral State, where we had no right to send them, since Pakistan could do exactly the same thing which could only result in clash of armed forces and in war. He, therefore , argued that if indeed they were determined to send the troops , the essential prerequisite was accession , ……” (Mission With Mountbatten ; Ps 189- 190). Sheikh Abdullah corroborates this fact in his autobiography at P 415. We have it from Sheikh Abdullah, M.C. Mahajan, and Cambell–Johnson (the dramatis personae) that to Mountbatten signing of State’s accession with Indian Union was a condition precedent for rushing in military aid to Kashmir. How could then the Governor General countenance sending troops to the State without having, first, the document of Accession. The letter of Symon to Carter dated 27th Oct, –copy whereof Schofield has published in her book at page 55, mentions that Symon heard “persistent rumours” that Kashmir had acceded to Indian Union. He had received definite information that ten aircrafts loaded with troops had left Delhi “in this morning .”
Ralph Shaw has a complaint that only the copies of such a document and not the original have been produced by the Indians . To whom should have India shown the original? Pakistan or Hari Singh could demand so. Although India specifically alluded to the accession of Kashmir to it in its complaint to the President of Security Council against Pakistani aggression – Refer Paras 1&5 of the letter of 1st Jan; 1948 (S/628 ) written by the Indian Representative to the President of S.C, yet Pakistan never contested the existence of the Instrument of Accession. It only challenged its legality. Victoria Schofield states the Pakistani position in her book at page 71 thus; “The Pakistani position was based on the contention that the accession of the state of J&K to India was illegal and, therefore, there was no basis whatsoever for India’s contention that legality of the accession was ‘in fact and law beyond question.’ The state of J&K had executed a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan on 15 August 1947 which debarred the state from entering into any kind of negotiation or agreement with any other country. Furthermore, Pakistan maintained that the Maharaja of J&K had no authority left to execute Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947 because the people had successfully revolted …” ( Mark the date 26th October ). Maharaja didn’t contest it. Victoria Schofield is conscious of this fact when she writes; “At the time, the belief that the State had acceded to India before Indian troops were sent prevailed. Whether or not the Instrument of Accession was signed before or after Indian troops landed, the Maharaja had agreed to accession in principle upon the terms outlined by Mountbatten. Unhappy as Hari Singh sometimes became with the state’s accession to India , he never suggested that he had not signed an Instrument of Accession before Indian troops landed nor that he never signed one”. Sheikh. Abdullah, too, never raked up the controversy, though he has had occasions to do so. He always maintained the execution of the Instrument of Accession on 26th October 1947.
Sheikh Abdullah writes in Aatish e Chinaar at p 417 that such was the disturbed state of Maharaja’s condition that on reaching Jammu, on 26 Oct, before going to bed he instructed his staff to awaken him only when V.P returns from Delhi . Then it would mean that his request of accession has been accepted . Otherwise he should be shot dead in his sleep . Schofield, too, mentions so in her book. Could a person who is imminently called upon to do something very serious to save the grim situation fall asleep leaving behind instructions not to be disturbed, or be shot dead during his sleep. On the contrary, it means that the person has done all that was required of him and now waits for the reaction at the other end. Hari Singh had undoubtedly done his job on 26 October before going to the bed, in Jammu . Response from the other side was awaited ; which came the following day as desired
(Author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge. He can be reached at bushanlalsaraf @gmail. Com)