Noted Kashmir expert, commentator and author, AG Noorani’s utterance that Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah rejected Lord Mountbatten’s proposal on November 01, 1947 and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah wasn’t in favour of accession to India, in his brief speech at Greater Kashmir’s silver jubilee event last week triggered a controversy. It led to sharp statements, adverse commentaries and even cancellation of some meetings. Historian Ashiq Hussain Bhat revisits the issue.
In his latest two volume book The Kashmir Dispute: 1947-2012, Kashmir expert AG Noorani has published 28 documents in addition to his writings on Kashmir since 1964. The book is a significant contribution to the history of Kashmir.
Noorani has explained in his book what he stated in his brief speech at the Silver Jubilee event of the Greater Kashmir. “Jinnah wrecked his best option – an overall settlement proposed to him in writing in Lahore by Mountbatten on November 1, 1947,” Noorani writes (pages 7-8). “By then, the Indian troops had occupied Junagadh and were beating back the raiders who had entered Kashmir on October 22 with Jinnah’s full knowledge and approval – a fact which few Pakistanis care or dare to acknowledge.”
The proposal that Noorani talks and writes about is on page 174. Sourced from Sardar Patel’s Correspondence 1945-1950 by Durga Das that was published in 1971, 1977 and 1981 and introduced as a formula, Noorani writes: “The Governments of India and Pakistan agree that, where the ruler of a State does not belong to the community to which the majority of his subjects belong, and where the State has not acceded to that Dominion whose majority community is the same as the States, the question of whether the State finally accedes to one or the other Dominions should in all cases be decided by an impartial reference to the will of the people.”
Then it listed six point “suggested proposals” to the Government of Pakisan to form the basis of discussion. The proposal was that it was of paramount importance not only to the government of India, Pakistan and Kashmir but also to the cause of world peace that the fighting in Kashmir should cease at the earliest possible moment. It also stated that the best if not the only hope of achieving this object is a very early meeting between accredited representatives of the two countries.
“The government of India for their part have no desire to maintain troops in Kashmir once the valley is safe from attack and law and order have been restored. They are therefore prepared to give an undertaking to withdraw their troops immediately the raiders have left the country and returned to their homes,” the proposal states.
“It is the sincere desire of government of India that a plebiscite should be held in Kashmir at the earliest possible date and in the fairest possible way. They suggest that UNO might be asked to provide supervisors for this plebiscite, and they are prepared to agree that a joint India-Pakistan force should hold the ring while the plebiscite is being held,” it says.
“The government of India suggests that both governments should agree on the form of public announcement to be made in regard to the procedure for accession of those states in which this matter is in dispute. A draft is attached as a basis of discussion. They suggest that the above proposals should be the subject of a roundtable discussion at the earliest possible date,” the proposal concludes.
After his return from Lahore, Lord Mountbatten told his private secretary, Alan Campbell-Johnson, of what had passed between himself and Jinnah on November 1, 1947. Campbell-Johnson’s memoir Mission with Mountbatten records this (page 229):
“Mountbatten…told me he was very pleased with his three-and-a-half hour talk with Jinnah at Lahore…He told him that he considered the prospect of the tribesmen entering Srinagar in any force was now remote. This led Jinnah to make his first general proposal, which was that both sides should withdraw at once and simultaneously. When Mountbatten asked him to explain how the tribesmen could be induced to remove themselves, his reply was, “If you do this I will call the whole thing off”, which at least suggests that the public propaganda line that the tribal invasion was wholly beyond Pakistan’s control will not be pursued too far in private discussion…On inquiry, Mountbatten found that Jinnah’s attitude to a plebiscite was conditioned by his belief that the combination of Indian troops in occupation and Sheikh Abdullah in power meant that the average Moslem would be far too frightened to vote for Pakistan. Mountbatten proposed a plebiscite under United Nations Organization auspices, whereupon Jinnah asserted that only the two Governors-General could organize it. Mountbatten at once rejected this suggestion, stressing that whatever Jinnah’s prerogatives might be, his own constitutional position allowed him only to act on his Government’s advice.”
My point is whether what Mountbatten told and Campbell-Johnson recorded could be trusted? It is rather difficult given the fact that Mountbatten had himself supervised the airlifting of Indian Army to Kashmir. Besides, he had, with the help of Radcliffe, manipulated Punjab Boundary Awards to place Muslim majority Gurdaspur district, against Partition principle, inside non-Muslim India to furnish a road link between India and Kashmir, which had enabled the Government of India to lay a grand design vis-a-vis Kashmir.
On September 13, he promised loyalty to his king, Maharaja Hari Singh, through presenting what was called nazar – a gold coin wrapped in silken cloth – a mark of loyalty
Way back in September, even when he was in jail, Sheikh Abdullah had decided to support India (Aatashi-Chinar 1988 edition pp.376) because doing so would guarantee political power which to him seemed a remote possibility if Kashmir became part of Pakistan. On September 13, he promised loyalty to his king, Maharaja Hari Singh, through presenting what was called nazar – a gold coin wrapped in silken cloth – a mark of loyalty (pp.386 ). Later, he followed by a written pledge to Hari Singh that he and his NC party would treat his enemies as their own enemies (Sardar Patel’s Correspondence). Thus he earned his and his party men’s release from jails.
This, however, is a fact that Sheikh sent two emissaries to Pakistan. Nobody met them there, probably because they represented, not the State of J&K, but Sheikh Abdullah whose political bona fides were suspect. Post tribal incursion, Sheikh Abdullah fled from Kashmir on the advice of Dogra Army (Aatashi-Chinar pp.425-26).
Concurrently, Prime Minister Nehru and States Minister Sardar Patel laid plans to capture Kashmir by the end of October. The strangest thing is that Nehru knew in September, what Jinnah did not know even in October, that tribesmen would enter Kashmir.
Whatever may happen in the future, I do not think Jammu province is running away from us. If we want Jammu by itself and are prepared to make a present of the rest of the state to Pakistan, I have no doubt, we could clinch the issue in a few days. The prize we are fighting for is the Valley of Kashmir.
The proof is revealed in the letter that Pandit Nehru wrote to Sardar Patel on September 27 when Sheikh Abdullah was still in jail but in constant touch with Nehru’s Government. “…It is obvious to me from many reports that I have received that the situation there is a dangerous and deteriorating one. The Muslim League in the Punjab and the NWFP are making preparations to enter Kashmir in considerable numbers. The approach of winter is going to cut off Kashmir from the rest of India. The only normal route there is via the Jehlum Valley. The Jammu route can hardly be used during winter and air traffic is also suspended. Therefore it is important that something should be done before these winter conditions set in. This means practically by the end of October or at the least the beginning of November. Indeed air traffic would be difficult even before that…It becomes important that the Maharaja should make friends with National Conference so that there might be this popular support against Pakistan…Sheikh Abdullah has repeatedly given assurances of wishing to co-operate and of being opposed to Pakistan; also to abide by my advice. I would again add that time is of the essence of the business and things must be done in a way so as to bring about the accession of Kashmir to the Indian Union as rapidly as possible with the co-operation of Sheikh Abdullah.”
Delhi succeeded in managing accession of Kashmir only when Mountbatten and Sheikh Abdullah supported the idea. India got not only Kashmir but also Junagarh and Hyderabad. Jinnah believed Kashmir’s predominant Muslim character should logically make it accede to Islamabad. His Junagarh (and Hyderabad) diplomacy was apparently aimed at mounting pressure on India to get her concede Kashmir but it failed.
Hyderabad had decided to survive as an independent sovereignty. In September 1948, the Indian army moved in and ensured the Nizam surrenders and signs the instrument of accession. Junagarh had acceded to Pakistan but India invoked the demographic question and a plebiscite in February 1948 fetched it to her. Kashmir was predominantly Muslim and a plebiscite could have made it part of Pakistan but New Delhi took the accession route to keep it. This could only happen when Mountbatten and Sheikh were supportive of the idea.
Those who are in this illusion that Nehru wished to resolve Kashmir dispute through plebiscite should read what he wrote to Sardar Patel in 1949 (*Sardar Patel’s Correspondence*): “Whatever may happen in the future, I do not think Jammu province is running away from us. If we want Jammu by itself and are prepared to make a present of the rest of the state to Pakistan, I have no doubt, we could clinch the issue in a few days. The prize we are fighting for is the Valley of Kashmir.”
(Bhat is the author of *Jammu Kashmir Conflict Or the Great Game*)
Read the second part here