How Jinnah failed and Kashmir came to India
The best laid plans of the first Pakistani PM of using Kak as a Trojan horse had failed.
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When the British talked of leaving India, there were only two possible heirs to political power – the Congress and the Muslim League – but they viewed each other with sharply rising jealousy and distrust. Philip Woodruff in his seminal work The Men Who Ruled India details the third dimension – the chamber of princes – one that could not be ignored in this diabolical equation. These princes, some very big, and the majority, extremely small, had their linkages with the British. Bound by a treaty to the British, they too were keen to preserve their estate undivided and outright. As such it was not surprising that several of them flirted with the idea of independence.
In India of the princes, Rosita Forbes captures their underlying credo – Many are absolute monarchs linked only by a treaty to the British Crown. It is against this backdrop that the Maharaja of Bikaner set the ball rolling with a secret note to his fellow princes on April 1, 1947; laying down the agenda at a crucial time, when they were asked to choose between the Dominions of India and Pakistan, and essentially gauging their mindsets on which way they wanted to jump. It also needs to be mentioned that the Maharaja of Bikaner played an instrumental role in the redrawing of the country’s borders by the Boundary Commission headed by Sir Cyril Radcliffe. Chosen by Clement Atlee personally, Radcliffe is believed to have changed the borders near Ferozepur and Chittagong Hill Tracts under pressure from the Nehru-Mountbatten combine. This was corroborated by Radcliffe’s private secretary Christopher Beaumont, after Radcliffe’s death in 1977, when he provided a memorandum to the Daily Telegraph saying that the borders had been secretly redrawn in the run up to August 13, 1947 to Pakistan’s disadvantage.
The most important reversal involved Ferozepur, an area of 400 square miles, vital because of its canal headquarters controlled the irrigation system in the princely state of Bikaner. Forewarned by a leak of Ferozepur’s award to Pakistan, Nehru reportedly joined with Maharaja of Bikaner to alter it. The memorandum circulated by the Chancellor’s Secretariat for the meetings of the Constitutional Advisory Committee, the Standing Committee of Princes and the General Conference of the Princes and Ministers as regards the statement of the British PM in parliament on February 20, 1947 induced the Maharaja of Bikaner to float this note, imploring his fellow princes to take the right decision.
The memorandum, in more than one place, stressed the necessity for the states to maintain a solid front, knowing full well that there were two sections within the ranks of the princes holding different views.
One of the key pointers raised by the memo went like this – The united front that is required to be put up by the states is therefore not by adopting a policy of wait and see, but by fully cooperating with the Constituent Assembly, with all the benefits that will accrue from such a step. The states may for a time take the stand of wait and see, but the vital question is as to what effect such a step will have on both their own people and upon British India. It is a fact which brooks no argument that it is essential for the rulers to carry their own people with them and nothing must be done which would impair their loyalty and support. It is strongly felt that a decisive step taken now with a broad vision and in the larger interests of India is not only in the interest of the states themselves, but becomes imperative. Operating under the radar were many princelings and their key associates. Among those at the vanguard was Ram Chandra Kak, prime minister of Maharaja Hari Singh’s regime in Kashmir. In a secret assessment of his role sent to the Government of India on December 19, 1947, questions were raised about which way Kashmir would bend.
The top secret communiqué said, “Kak was a faithful servant of the autocracy. He was a hireling of the British. The two mean much the same. His line of policy was to save the former with the help of the latter… Kak’s policy was to save the autocracy by selling out to imperialism.
This could only be done only by suppressing the people’s movement (Sheikh Abdullah) ruthlessly. Kak was not a child not to understand why the British had reared the princes all these years. He knew why so much solicitude was being shown for the rights and privileges of these ancient houses. He knew their job was to form a network of friendly fortresses in a foreign territory. He knew Kashmir was to be the main bulwark of the intricate chain, for Kashmir occupied a key position in the geo-politics of the area.”
There was an uncanny cogency in Kak’s action plan. Undoubtedly some efficiency was shown in its execution too. But all this was blindsided by the people’s organised strength both inside and outside the state. Soon Kak felt the earth beneath him slipping when he saw imperialism incapacitated as the British realised that it was a zero sum game despite the best efforts of the political department at subterfuge.
The watchdogs were left to the wolves. The Nizam of Hyderabad who like Kak of Kashmir nursed ambition pleaded with the British – “We cannot believe that after more than a century of faithful alliance, the British government intends to throw Hyderabad out of the Empire against its will.”
By the end of July, the virulent political department had to be liquidated even as the British gave up all hope of direct intervention. All of this broke Kak’s back. He was relieved in the run up to independence. Maj Gen Janak Singh and Ram Lal Batra replaced him, the former representing the outlook of the Dogra aristocracy, the latter of the RSS. The people of Kashmir thought it was a huge victory and awaited Sheikh Abdullah’s release from jail, but that did not happen immediately. Subsequently, the Instrument of Accession was signed and Kashmir came to India, the nefarious designs of men like Kak scuppered. Jinnah’s best laid plans of using Kak as a Trojan horse had failed.