[Continued from yesterday]
Everything was hunky dory for the Maharaja Hari Singh Bahadur till the day we got independence. Soon after, the Maharaja was shaken by a savage tribe of raiders who appeared on the borders of his kingdom. Kashmiri leader Sheik Abdulla who was fighting for freedom from the Maharaja’s despotic rule was put under arrest. Of course, when the raiders came to the doorsteps of Kashmir Valley, the Maharaja released Sheik Abdulla and signed the Accession Treaty with India seeking help to push back the raiders. By that time, Pakistan had already occupied a part of Kashmir, now known as PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir). Rest is history.
Pandit Nehru rushed to the scene of battle to see for himself the harrowing devastation. He reached Baramulla where he could still see the ravages of war. As if to show his concern for Kashmiris, he embraced Sheik Abdulla at the airport. Thousands had gathered in Srinagar’s Main Square where people wanted Indian Union to protect Kashmir from the Pakistani invaders. People began to shout hysterically: Pandit Nehru Ki Jai. Sher-e-Kashmir Ki Jai. Tiger of Kashmir was how Sheik Abdulla was called. A great tribute to Prime Minister Nehru from his land of ancestors! Nehru was elated and felt fulfilled. He was carried away on a wave of emotion and that was when he committed a mortal blunder. He told them on his own responsibility and without any consultation with his Government that when the process of liberation was over they would be free to choose whatever form of Government they desired. In fact, Nehru was offering them a pledge of a referendum to decide either to join the Indian Union (to which their ruler had already acceded) or to join Pakistan or remain independent.
Nehru apparently and rather innocently did not believe that Kashmiris would want to join Pakistan after the devastation caused by the Pakistani tribals and the army. In other words, Nehru believed the Kashmiris would respect the Accession Treaty with the Indian Union. What, however followed, we all know. A situation like ‘finder keeper’ prevails to this day with PoK with the Pakistan and the rest of Jammu and Kashmir with India. That was the result of India going to United Nations for justice, where India’s complaint was turned into a dispute and the festering Kashmir problem remains. Nehru’s mishandling in this matter is clearly seen.
Why is Kashmir so important for India? According to Karaka, Kashmir is vital to the defence of India. The strategic outposts of this defence position are the various vital mountain Passes beyond the Valley which we now firmly hold. It was comparatively young Lieutenant General K.S. Thimayya, who forced the need to block these Passes permanently when he was put in charge of the Kashmir operations and he sealed all these Passes once and for all giving India the great military advantage with this impregnable line of defence.
Incidentally, it may be mentioned, at that time Thimayya was just recently raised to the rank of Lieutenant General and given the Army command by superseding six senior men. Thimayya was Nehru’s choice. This far Nehru was handling the Kashmir war competently. But at a time Indian army, under Lt. Gen. K.S. Thimayya, was all set to drive away the Pakistan intruders from PoK and take it back, Nehru was misled by his friend and the first Governor General of Independent India, a foreigner and the incumbent Governor General Lord Louis Mountbatten. He successfully persuaded Nehru to take the matter to the UN instead. That was India’s undoing on Kashmir.
Lord Mountbatten was a person much obsessed with power and pomp. Therefore, it was not surprising that he had the gumption and audacity to ask Mohammad Ali Jinnah to make him the Governor General of new Pakistan also, thus holding two offices simultaneously! And Jinnah, like Nehru in India, to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Jinnah simply ignored Lord Mountbatten. But Nehru and his government compromised.
According to Karaka, situations like these will continue to recur so long as Pandit Nehru believed that the running of India is part of his family’s destiny and the finances of the country the family ‘cook’s book.’ I guess, Karaka’s opinion about Pandit Nehru’s belief about his family’s destiny to rule India when he wrote this book in 1953 has proved to be prophetic. And we have been seeing it in reality till Narendra Modi came to power as Prime Minister in 2014.
If Kashmir is a problem State for India today, it is because of two very important political leaders of that time — Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who was misled by Lord Louis Mountbatten, his friend and the then Governor General of India. Another important political leader was Sheik Abdulla, who was so confused that he could not make up his mind about the future political status of Kashmir. For him it was a dilemma — whether to accede to Pakistan or to India (as per the Accession Treaty already signed by the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir) or to remain as an independent State (as provided in the partition plan of the British).
Recalling a speech Sheik Abdulla made in Srinagar in 1952, before going to Delhi for discussion, where he declared that ‘he was a Muslim, a Kashmiri and an Indian too,’ Karaka wonders, how he contrived to manipulate all these three conflicting loyalties within himself. No one knew!
After independence, the people of India believed that India would be led by the triumvirate — Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel. Sadly, Mahatma was assassinated, Sardar died and it was left to Nehru alone to lead the country. And this naturally led to nepotism and favouritism. He appointed his sister Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit as a diplomat to Moscow and Washington and many others whose performance was poor.
Be that as it may, I am of the opinion that for a citizen, government means not Nehru or Modi. Government means the government officials and law enforcing authorities, like Police and Judiciary. And these officials representing the government must have a human face, must enforce law not brutally but by tempering it with mercy. Karaka recalls his own experience during Nehru reign in 1948. He received a letter from the government stating that under so-and-so Act if he did not apologise he would be punished. And what was his offence?
“A silly news item, incidentally correct, which said that a certain Minister was snoozing in a certain Doctor’s Waiting room while his PA was telling callers that the Minister was busy at an important conference and could not be disturbed!”
Yours truly too had had many such experiences… yet survived the “slings and arrows” of our outrageous governments, Police and Judiciary. Nehru or Modi, every citizen is at the mercy of government official over whom the Prime Minister will have only a remote control, if at all. Amen.