Home NEWS Did Nehru commit ‘blunders’ on Kashmir: How Hyderabad and Junagadh impacted J&K’s...

Did Nehru commit ‘blunders’ on Kashmir: How Hyderabad and Junagadh impacted J&K’s fate | Explained News

Union Home Minister Amit Shah again attacked India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, on the Kashmir issue, saying in Parliament, “I say this with full responsibility that Kashmir suffered due to two blunders by Nehru. First, the ceasefire (with Pakistan) was announced when our forces were winning…before winning the whole of Kashmir. The second blunder was to take the Kashmir issue to the United Nations.”

Responding, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had been prepared to let Kashmir go in return for Hyderabadwhile Nehru wanted it in India. “In her book, Kashmir in ConflictVictoria Schofield says that even Mountbatten’s political advisor Sir Conrad Corfield recommended a barter but anything that Corfield said carried no weight against the long-standing determination of Jawaharlal Nehru to keep Kashmir in India,” he said.

Nehru, Patel, and accession

After the British left, two important princely states refused to join either India or Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir had a Hindu ruler in a Muslim-majority state. Hyderabad had a very high-profile and very rich Muslim ruler in a Hindu-majority state. Both wanted independence.

Nehru was firm that Kashmir should be a part of India. Patel, while very clear that a hostile Hyderabad would be a “cancer in the belly of India”, believed that “if the Ruler [of Kashmir] felt that his and his State’s interest lay in accession to Pakistan, he would not stand in his way” (from My Reminiscences of Sardar Patelby V Shankar, his political secretary). Patel’s opinion about Kashmir changed on September 13, 1947, when Pakistan accepted the accession of Junagadh.

Accession of Junagadh

Junagadh, in the Kathiawar region of Gujarat, was ruled by Nawab Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III. Initially, the Nawab had given indications of joining India. However, months before Independence, he got a new prime minister, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto (father of Pakistan’s future PM, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto).

Festive offer

Upon Bhutto’s persuasion, the Nawab on August 14, 1947, announced he would join Pakistan, though most of his subjects were Hindu and Junagadh had no direct land link to the new country. Pakistan accepted the accession.

Incensed, India sent a small military to support two of Junagadh’s tributary states that did not agree with the Nawab’s decision. Junagadh’s residents too rose in protest. By November, the Nawab had fled to Karachi and Bhutto had to ask India to take over the province. A plebiscite was held, where 91% of the voters chose to stay in India.

Accession of Hyderabad

Adhir Ranjan in Parliament mentioned Victoria Schofield’s book. Here’s what it says about the proposed “barter”, “Corfield had suggested that if Hyderabad, second largest of the princely states, with its Hindu majority and Muslim ruler, and Kashmir, with its Hindu ruler and Muslim majority, were left to bargain after independence, India and Pakistan might well come to an agreement. ‘The two cases balanced each other . . . but Mountbatten did not listen to me… Anything that I said carried no weight against the long-standing determination of Nehru to keep it [Kashmir] in India.’”

Hyderabad joining Pakistan was never a practical proposition. However, Patel gave Nizam Mir Usman Ali a long rope, partially because of the prestige he enjoyed in the Muslim world — his sons were married to the daughter and niece of the deposed Caliph of Ottoman, Abdulmejid II, who even wanted his daughter’s heir to succeed him as the Caliph. Till three months after Independence, all India had with Hyderabad was a stand-still agreement, which meant ties remained as they were under the British. Negotiations continued.

However, soon, the situation on the ground demanded faster action. Revolt against the Nizam’s rule was widening, for democracy as well as against large landholdings, forced labour, and excessive tax collection. An outfit meant to cement the Nizam’s position, the Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, was getting more violent, with its paramilitary wing called the ‘razakars’ brutally attacking all opponents.

Finally, on September 13, 1948, the Indian Army was sent to Hyderabad under Operation Polo. In three days, the Nizam’s forces surrendered.

Accession of Jammu and Kashmir

Maharaja Hari Singh refused to accede to either dominion, preferring independence. In September, lorries carrying petrol, sugar, salt, clothes, etc. for J&K were stopped on the Pakistan side of the border, possibly to create pressure for accession. Meanwhile, a revolt broke out in Poonch against Hari Singh, not a very popular ruler.

On September 27, 1947 [India after Gandhi, by Ramachandra Guha]Nehru wrote to Patel that the situation in J&K was “dangerous and deteriorating”. Nehru believed Pakistan planned to “infiltrate into Kashmir now and to take some big action as soon as Kashmir is more or less isolated because of the coming winter” [Schofield]. The infiltrators came in October.

India maintains they were armed and sent by Pakistan. Pakistan claims these were tribesmen acting on their own, “to avenge atrocities on fellow Muslims”. Hari Singh asked India for military help, and to secure this help, acceded.

Indian troops quickly secured Srinagar, and then began driving out the infiltrators from other parts.

Nehru’s “blunders”

This is where we come to the “blunders” of Nehru mentioned by Shah. Why did India go to the UN, instead of defeating Pakistan in battle?

First, it was under pressure from Louis Mountbatten, then Governor-General of India, and the British government. British PM Clement Attlee had written to Nehru: “I am gravely disturbed by your assumption that India would be within her rights in international law.”

Second, there was the risk of the war spilling outside Kashmir and into Punjab, which had just suffered the brutalities of Partition. Third, the war was costing India dearly: Patel himself, addressing locals at a library opening in Delhi in December 1947, had said, “You must realise that nearly Rs 4 lakh are being spent every day on the Kashmir operations alone.” Fourth, the Indian government seems to have believed that a ‘neutral’ forum like the United Nations would agree with its position, and the Kashmir issue would be resolved once and for all.

Instead, India was shocked by British and American hostility. The US had seen in Pakistan a valuable asset against the Soviet Union. Britain, after having just partitioned Palestine, did not want to oppose another Muslim country. Soon, Nehru himself regretted ever going to the UN. He told Mountbatten that “power politics and not ethics” were driving the UN, “which was being completely run by the Americans” [Guha]. He went on to resist all demands of a plebiscite — from the UN to the Commonwealth — till all Pakistani intruders were out of Kashmir.

As for the ceasefire, it was supervised by the UN. While many in India continue to see it as an opportunity lost, Pakistan had then seen it as favouring India. “The ceasefire was imposed on us at a time when it suited the enemy most,” wrote Colonel Abdul Haq Mirza, who fought as a volunteer from October 1947, as quoted by Schofield. “Four months of operational period was allowed to the Indians to browbeat the ill-equipped Mujaheddin and to bring back vast tracts of liberated territories in their fold.”

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