How deliberate historical fallacies created myths about Jammu Kashmir’s accession to India
History, in India, is a strange subject and historians even stranger. The subject is reviled by students who perceive it to be dull and boring. This, in effect, encourages rote learning of the subject and bereft of any meaningful discussions--so very essential to acquire historical knowledge. And historians, especially the “Eminent Leftist Historians” of India are well aware of this fact. Yet they have, by design, let history-learning remain that way in schools and colleges.
Strange as it may sound, but then this dull and boring ‘history-teaching-and-learning’ devoid of any discussions and factual analysis suits the agenda of our “Eminent Historians”. How?
Well, boring it may be, yet history provides a sneak preview of what has happened in our past, helps guide actions in the present and sets the course for future road map.
A basic tenet of history writing remains that it should be based on facts and empirical evidence. This indeed is a tedious task and historians sift through volumes of evidence to simplify the past and based on the facts uncovered, write history for books and textbooks.
In schools, a vast majority of students take more interest in science, maths, economics, finance or other such subjects and show only a cursory interest at historical developments of the yesteryear. Almost always, students do not go beyond the words of our “Eminent Historians” to cross-check facts or scrutinize the evidence on which a dictum has been pronounced. Neither have efforts been made to change this. Certain major events, thus, get etched in an individual's memory for a long-long time.
India’s “Eminent Leftist Historians” are well aware of this and have hence unleashed their devious agenda towards historical analysis and distorted all historical discussions in the public sphere.
And nowhere does this manifest more than in the case of Jammu Kashmir—an erstwhile princely state during British rule in India.
Ask any well-educated person about the date of accession of Jammu Kashmir with India, and the answer appears nowhere close to facts or to reality. In all likelihood one would hear: “Well, the State of Jammu Kashmir acceded to India some time during 1950s!!!” And mind you, these replies come from those armed with heavy-duty college degrees, sitting pretty at powerful positions both in the public and private sectors who form the crux of opinion makers. Also, after you pop the question about Jammu Kashmir’s accession to India the discourse will quickly veer towards plebiscite, the ongoing disputes and how this became the “Kashmir issue” and so on.
Okay, let’s first have a hard look at the facts.
The state of Jammu Kashmir acceded to the Indian Union on October 26th, 1947. Yes you read it right. There is no typo either on the date--October 26, or the year--1947.
Hari Singh, the erstwhile Maharaja of Jammu Kashmir signed the “Letter of Accession” on October 26th 1947 which was counter-signed by the then Governor General Lord Mountbatten on October 27th 1947.
“…and whereas the Government of India Act, 1935, as so adapted by the Governor General, provides that an Indian State may accede to the Dominion of India by an Instrument of Accession executed by the Ruler thereof…..now, therefore, I Shriman Inder Mahinder Rajrajeswar Maharajadhiraj Shri Hari Singhji, Jammu & Kashmir Naresh Tatha Tibbet adi Deshadhipati, Ruler of Jammu & Kashmir State, in the exercise of my Sovereignty in and over my said State do hereby execute this my Instrument of Accession and…..I hereby declare that I accede to the Dominion of India…(and)…I hereby declare that I execute this Instrument on behalf of this State and that any reference in this Instrument to me or to the Ruler of the State is to be construed as including a reference to my heirs and successors. Given under my hand this 26th day of October, nineteen hundred and forty seven.” Hari Singh, Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir State signed on this Letter of Accession.
This happened on the night of October 26th, 1947 and on the wee hours of October 27, 1947 Mountbatten accepted this letter of accession.
“I do hereby accept this Instrument of Accession. Dated this twenty seventh day of October, nineteen hundred and forty seven,” reads the letter of acceptance signed by Lord Mountbatten, Governor General of India.
Moreover, the Government of India Act 1947 clearly mentions that once this Letter of Accession was signed by the ruler of the princely state it stood as a final settlement that could not be challenged either by the Indian or Pakistani governments or even by the British Parliament. All princely states acceded to India or to Pakistan on this same letter format.
Importantly, these are all public documents (the letter of accession by Maharaja Hari Singh and its subsequent acceptance by Mountbatten) that are available for scrutiny by anybody.
This is just a glimpse of the level of orchestrated distortion in the present historical discourse in India wherein the “public perception” about the date of accession of Jammu Kashmir has been successfully distorted by Leftist historians so much so that a vast majority of Indians have been deliberately confused about exact date of state’s accession.
Let us also analyse the facts through which this confusion has been created.
Along with the acceptance of accession letter Mountbatten also sent a separate letter to Maharaja Hari Singh.
In his letter, Mountbatten said, “…it is my government’s wish that, as soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invader the wishes of the people be ascertained.”
Both “Leftist Historians” and Kashmiri Separatists have been taking refuge in this letter citing it as evidence that people of Kashmir should have a right for self-determination. Yet again facts have been blatantly ignored all these years.
Yes, Mountbatten did write a letter but then did it have any legal status? The Leftist historians do mention about Mountbatten’s letter to Maharaja Hari Singh and its talk about ascertaining people’s wishes but choose to remain comfortably silent over whether it has any legal basis. The letter merely talks about Mountbatten’s "wish" to ascertain people’s view in Jammu Kashmir. It had and has absolutely no legal basis. Also, did Mountbatten write similar letters to other princely states about his wish? The answer is No. Then why did Mountbatten write a letter only to Maharaja Hari Singh?
And look at its after effects. Any discussion about Jammu Kashmir quickly veers towards plebiscite and here too talks centre on Indian government’s commitment to give the people of “Kashmir” the right to self-determination. It is conveniently brushed aside that Jammu, Ladakh, Gilgit, Baltistan, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad have historically and culturally remained under the princely state of Jammu Kashmir for several centuries and on October 26, 1947 when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the letter of accession then the whole of Jammu Kashmir becomes a part of India including the Pakistan-occupied regions such as Gilgit-Baltistan, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad etc. So, rather than discussions and debates over how to take back those areas from illegal Pakistani occupation what we discuss is the legal status of Jammu Kashmir’s accession to India.
In fact, these “Eminent Historians” have further demonized Hari Singh for all of Jammu Kashmir’s ills simply because the Maharaja delayed State’s accession to India. And the reason given for this delay is that Hari Singh’s plan was to remain independent of either of the two dominions India and Pakistan.
Yet again, this is devoid of any empirical evidence.
Nowhere it’s brought out that it was Maharaja Hari Singh who foiled the devious designs of Mountbatten to make Jammu Kashmir accede to Pakistan. Or, why was India’s then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru being adamant over his demand that Maharaja pass over Jammu Kashmir to National Conference leader Sheikh Abdullah (father of Farooq Abdullah and grandfather of Omar Abdullah, National Conference leader of Jammu Kashmir) before signing on the Instrument of Accession.
Maharaja Hari Singh knew that Sheikh Abdullah was a rank opportunist who enjoyed support only among the Sunni Muslims of Kashmir valley and was leveraging his friendship with Nehru to usurp power in Kashmir. There was huge bitterness towards Sheikh Abdullah in large swathes of regions that included Gilgit-Baltistan, Muzaffarabad, Jammu and Ladakh. Even in Kashmir valley the Gujjar and Shia Muslims did not consider Sheikh Abdullah as their leader.
In fact, all evidence clearly points out that Maharaja, on one hand, was trying to fend off the cunning manoeuvres of Mountbatten while on the other he was reasoning out with Nehru that Sheikh Abdullah was not the representative of the people of Jammu Kashmir. Nehru, on his part, was least bothered about state’s accession rather was overly keen to prove his “secular credentials” before the world. Amidst all this machinations Maharaja could not sign the treaty of accession with India before August 15, 1947.
Yet, Maharaja did enter into a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan on August 12, 1947. “…it is suggested that existing arrangements should continue pending settlement of details,” Hari Singh wrote in his telegram to Pakistan.
The Pakistan’s government accepted this Standstill Agreement by sending a telegram on August 15, 1947.
“Your telegram of the 12th. The Government of Pakistan agree to have a Standstill Agreement with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir for the continuance of the existing arrangements pending settlement of details and formal execution.” This was the text of reply from Government of Pakistan sent on August 15, 1947.
This Standstill Agreement meant that status quo was to be maintained between Jammu Kashmir and Pakistan. Despite this Pakistan chose to invade Jammu Kashmir and let loose its Army on the hapless Kashmiri people to kill, rape and plunder.
All these facts have been conveniently brushed aside, thanks to the cosy relationship between our Leftist Historians and Congressmen who have over the last several decades created a smoke screen and beneath it the bogey of “Kashmir issue”.
None of the Leftist historians have ever conducted a detailed study as to why did Jawaharlal Nehru insist on having Mountbatten, a Britisher as the Governor General even after India won independence. A detailed study and analysis could throw some light on Mountbatten-Nehru nexus.
All this must change sooner rather than later. And the first step is to know and remember that the State of Jammu Kashmir acceded to India on October 26th, 1947.