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EARLY50 years after It occurred, the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India in October 1947 remains the most disputed and contentious event in our postindependence history. The circumstances, the legality, even the date of the accession have occasioned bitter controversy which continues to poison relations between India and Pakistan and has involved the United ,Nations. Both governments quote freely from documents to buttress their stand. Prem Shankar Jha has delved into the mes of the India Office Records Library in London to unearth yet more interesting material, some of which counters the pro-Pakistani approach of the British scholar, Alastair Lamb in Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy, But his research seems to have persuaded the author to adopt a slmllar polemical tone in refuting Lamb, which occasionally makes him sound less than dispassionate. .The exchange, based primarily on documents studied in foreign countries, shows up by contrast the autocratic controis placed on research into our own history from our own sources. It is shameful that Indian researchers still have to go to foreign libraries for material emanating in and concerning our country but denied to them here. Some of the references in Jha's book to Jawaharlal Nehru should have been avallable in the. Nehru Library, but access is controlled by Ms Sonia Gandhi who treats the Nehru-Gandhi papers as private property. The documents avallable in the India Office Records Library do not always reflect well on the British Government. Jha quotes many that show he extent to which London
Kashmir 1947: Rival
versions of history
by Prem Shankar Jha 07/ord Unlver.tty Pre••• IU 275
opposed New Delhi on Kashmir during the early years. But this has not come in the way of disclosure. The author had to locate Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw in India to establish that Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir did in fact sign the Instrument of Accession. Then a Colonel, Maneckshaw accompanied V P Menon, Secretary of the Ministry of States, on the mght from New Delhi to get the signature and returned for the Cabinet meeting at which the historic decision was taken to respond to the Maharaja's last-minute appeal to fly troops to Srinagar to counter the approaching Pathan raiders. But the Field Marshal's fading memories do not disperse all controversy. According to him, the accession was signed in Srinagar late on October 25 and the troops flew there the next day. But except for both recalling the scenes of panic surrounding Hari Singh, the record left by V P Menon differs. He locates the crucial meeting with the Maharaja in Jammu-on October 26, in his detailed account in The Story 0/ the Integration o/the Indian States. According to Menon, he first flew to Srinagar on October 24 to advise the Maharaja to send his Prime Minister, Meh.r Chand Mahajan, to discuss terms with New Delhi and himself flew to Jammu on October 26 to receive the Instrument of Accession and Hari Singh's plea for help in wri-
tiItg. The Field Marshal seems to have confused the two occasions, together with some bther details. Yet another version of the accession time-table has been given by Mr Meh.r Chand Mahajan, Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir at the time. The point on which they agree is that the Instrumenl of Accession was signed by the Maharaja. But the confusion leaves room for sceptics like Alastair Lamb to continue to maintain that the accession was signed after our troops went into action to defend Srinagar, though even that does not discredit
affect the fact of accession and dis- Kashmir would have been spared closure would strengthen New Del- much suffering if he could have hi's reputation for veracity. After so made up his mind before the tribal many years, there can be nojustifica- invaders were knocking at the gates tion for continuing to treat vital histo- ofSrinagar. According to Jha, Hari Singh was rical documents as secret in a counwilling to accede to India in Septemtry professing democracy. ber but did not want to hand over Jha was able to locate despatches from Major General Scott, the Bri- power to a popular government in tish commander of Maharaja Hari the State, as Jawaharlal Nehru Singh's forces before accession, in insisted. Nehru is depicted as prevathe India Office Records Ubrary. ricating unnecessarily while Sardar They counter the Pakistani Patel was decisive. This is to ignore accounts, favoured by Lamb, concer- the fact that without the endorsening the trouble in Poonch which ment of a popular regime in Srinabegan before the tribal incursion .gar, India would find it hard to justiinto the valley. But here the author fy the accession of a Muslimtends to lean over backwards to majority State when British India EXTRACT defend Hari Singh's regime. On page had been' partitioned on the basis of 20, be praises the State forces for religion. The Maharaja's signature doing "an exemplary job" in looking was not enough because New Delhi The British government' after the local population and rejected the accession of the Kathirefugees there; on page 24, they "on awar State of Junagadh to Pakistan ImpliCit faith In occasion acted with undue harsh- by Its Muslim ruler on the ground Pakistan's assertions ness" when clearing a three-mile that the people's ~ci&lon was final. that It had nothing to del border belt of habitation, which led Junagadh's 'accession to India was to the Muslims seeking refuge in later confl.rmedby plebiscite. with the tribesmen's Pakistan. The later a(tacks on That Hari Singh was virtually forcMuslims in Jammu town against ~nvaslon appears'qulte which GandhlJl appealed, and for ed to appoint Sheikh Mohammad ridiculous which he held the Maharaja admi- Abdullah as Head of the Emergency nistratively responsible are glossed Administration in the State (and later Prime Minister) is evident from the genuineness of the document. over. Indeed, one of the British documents That these events did not disturb his letter to Lord Mountbatten seekdisinterred by Jha suggests that communal harmony in the Valley ing accession. It was his reluctance New Delhi should have sent troops was is a tribute to the tolerance built to do so earlier, that created the crito -Kashmir without insisting on into Kashmiriat and the influence of sis. His son, Karan Singh, in his autoaccession. In this matter, inter- Sheikh Abduilah's National Confe- biography Heir Apparent retails the estingly, Lord Mountbatten, as rence, as any visitor to Kashmir at Maharaja's unwillingne.ss to take Governor-General, took a line differ- the time, including this writer, can decisions.. He also describes his ent from London's by Insisting on confirm. Nor can they justify the tri- father's ambition to regain the extenbal incursion, accompanied by loot sive kingdom ruled by his ancestors. advance accession. by like the author, the Maharaja too There would be less room for con- and rape, as maintained troversy and speculation if the relev- Pakistan. But justification of India's seemed to believe that they "deservant papers had been made available response to Kashmir's plight need ed better from history," But it was to scholars. Even if there was reasen not extend to all that occurred in the his subjects who paid the price. to obfuscate the circumstances of State under Maharaja Hari Singh. accession at the time, it does not The people of India, Pakistan and A,JltBhattacharjea
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