J&K: Dilemma of Accession – Part IC
by Radha Rajan on 12 Dec 2016 1 Comment

Gandhi warns CWC about joining the Constituent Assembly, June 24, 1946


At the meeting, after sending the draft letter to Lord Wavell rejecting the Interim Government proposals and before meeting the Cabinet Delegation again later in the day, Gandhi addressed the CWC again. At this meeting Gandhi came up with a new objection – he now told the Working Committee that it made no sense to him for the Congress to enter the Constituent Assembly when they had no control over the Interim Government. Gandhi justified his warning on the grounds that his “mind is in a fog” and “I see darkness where four days ago I saw light”.


First Gandhi pressured the Congress not to form the Interim Government, and then he pressured them not to enter the Constituent Assembly.


Gandhi writes to Stafford Cripps: joining Constituent Assembly linked to Interim Govt.


“In spite of the readiness, as it seems to me, of the Working Committee to go in for the Constituent Assembly, I would not be able to advise the leap in the dark…I therefore propose to advise the Working Committee not to accept the long-term proposition without its being connected with the Interim Government. I must not act against my instinct and shall advise them to be guided solely by their own judgment. I shall simply say that the conversation gave me no light to dispel the darkness surrounding me. I shall say I had nothing tangible to prove that there were danger signals”. (Letter to Stafford Cripps, June 24, 1946, Gandhiji’s Correspondence with the Government, 1944-47, page 212, CWMG, Vol. 91, 193-4)


-        Congress Working Committee writes to Cabinet Mission rejecting Interim Government proposals but accepting long-term plan for Constituent Assembly – New Delhi, June 25, 1946

-        Viceroy and Cabinet Mission announce formation of caretaker government - June 26, 1946

-        Cabinet Mission leaves for England – June 29, 1946


Notwithstanding the fact that the Muslim League accepted the Cabinet Mission proposals for peaceful transfer of power, was ready not only to form an Interim Government with or without the INC and was ready to enter the Constituent Assembly, the Viceroy, as promised earlier, did not invite the Muslim League to form the Interim Government when the INC under pressure from Gandhi reneged on promises made on May 20 when Gandhi welcomed the proposals.


Enraged at the deception of the INC and the Viceroy, the Muslim League promptly unleashed jihad against the Hindus. Two days after the Cabinet Mission left for England, on July 1, 1946, violence broke out in Ahmedabad on the sacred occasion of ashadh sud or rathyatra day. On July 29, the Muslim League rejected the Cabinet Mission proposals in entirety.


Incensed over what they considered a gross betrayal by the Viceroy of Clause 8 of the June 16 statement, the Muslim League convened in Bombay on 29th July and passed two resolutions – the first withdrawing the previous acceptance of the Mission proposals and the second announcing direct action to achieve Pakistan –


“And whereas it has become abundantly clear that the Muslims of India would not rest content with anything else than the immediate establishment of an independent and full sovereign State of Pakistan and would resist any attempt to impose any constitution, long-term or short-term, or setting up of any Interim Government at the centre without the approval and consent of the Muslim League. The Council of the All-India Muslim League is convinced that now the time has come for the Muslim nation to resort to Direct Action to achieve Pakistan and to get rid of the present slavery under the British and contemplated future caste Hindu domination.” (Stern Reckoning, GD Khosla, Oxford University Press, Oxford India Paperbacks, Second Impression, 1999, page 38)


To prove my point that London sent the Cabinet Mission to plant the seeds of partition, which intention Gandhi fulfilled faithfully when he pulled the rug from under the feet of an already volatile Muslim League, the Viceroy, in August 1946, invited the INC to form the Interim Government, after the Cabinet Mission and Viceroy announced on June 26 that a caretaker government with representatives from both the INC and the Muslim League, not an Interim Government would be formed; on August 12, 1946, the INC and Gandhi both accepted to form the Interim Government. Enraged, Jinnah announced Direct Action on August 16 and soon, jihadi flames engulfed Bengal, Bihar, Bombay, Punjab and the North-West provinces.


In retrospect it must be concluded that Gandhi and the Viceroy acted in tandem to push the Muslim League over the precipice; the resulting communal violence in the country pushed the tragic events unfolding in Jammu and Kashmir to the margins.


Gandhi, Nehru and the Princely States


The rise of Sheikh Abdullah as a violent antagonist, whose politics was directed specifically against the Hindu ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, derived directly from the political views that Gandhi, Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal Nehru nurtured and implemented against Hindu princely states and their rulers. Sandwiched between the Simon Commission and the Government of India Act, 1935 was the Round Table Conference which was convened to discuss self-governance in an All-India Federation with a diarchic federal legislature of Upper and Lower Houses to which the provinces or British India and the Princely States would send their representatives. While accession of the provinces to the federation would be automatic, accession of the Princely States was voluntary; a State would be considered to have acceded only after the ruler had executed the Instrument of Accession which would have to be accepted by the British King. When rulers of Princely States acceded to the Indian Federation, they would possess and retain all original sovereign powers except those which they surrendered, under the terms of the Instrument of Accession, to the Crown. 


“The rulers and their ministers met in conference at Bombay in November 1938. While reiterating their faith in the idea of an all-India federation, they stressed the need for specific and effective safeguards without which ‘the rulers and their successors would find themselves unable, in the fast changing circumstances of the country, to duly discharge their duties to the Crown, to their dynasties and to their peoples’”. (Integration of the Indian States, page 46)  


The underlying concept of the All-India Federation with two Houses of Parliament for self-governance was to preserve the essential unity of the country and to knit the two distinct political formations into a self-governing whole. Gandhi, who embraced the Ali Brothers, refused to make ban on cow slaughter a condition for support to the Khilafat campaign, who declared in 1942 that he was ready to hand over the whole of India – British India and the Princely States, majority of which were Hindu Princely States - to the Muslim League, who insisted that the Congress would not resist by force or violence if the Muslim League seized power to rule the country, made no attempt to reach out to the Princely States and draw them into the freedom movement.


Instead, Gandhi, Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal Nehru equated the rulers of Princely States to the British government and repeatedly asserted that the people in the Princely States had every right to aspire for independence from their rulers; only they called it “aspire for responsible government”. 


From this adversarial notion about the Princely States was born the All-India States’ Peoples Conference (also All-India States Subjects Conference) – a political forum under the aegis of the INC for all malcontents in the Princely States - of which Sheikh Abdullah was appointed President!


Motilal Nehru and the Princely States


In the Nehru Report, 1928, a counter to the all-British Simon Commission, Motilal Nehru theorised, “It is inconceivable that the people of the States who are fired by the same ambitions and aspirations as the people of British India will quietly submit to existing conditions forever, or that the people of British India bound by the closest ties of family, race and religion to their brethren on the other side of an imaginary line, will never make common cause with them.” (Integration of the Indian States, pp xxvi-vii)


This was the first explicit threat by the INC to interfere in the internal affairs of the Princely States. In the wake of victory in eight of the eleven provinces in the provincial elections whose results were announced in February 1937, a triumphant Gandhi and the INC instigated civil unrest in several Princely States in the name of civil liberties, temple entry and “responsible government”. There was Congress-triggered unrest in Mysore, Travancore, Kashmir, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Rajkot, Talcher and Dhenkanal.


The freedom movement was floundering with no decisive progress towards total political independence. Gandhi had transformed the INC from vehicle for political independence into instrument for social reform. And after Gandhi forced the Congress governments in eight provinces to resign in October 1939, the INC was bereft once again of a political agenda. Gandhi had to keep a restive Congress from open rebellion and simultaneously had to keep the people of the country who had not lost hope that he was leading them towards independence, firmly behind him. Gandhi’s usefulness with the British government rested on his absolute control of the INC and his power over the ordinary people, the majority of whom were Hindus.


Since Gandhi was making no headway with the Viceroy or with the Muslim League, he had to provide a vent to the simmering fire of need for political action; interfering in the internal affairs of Princely States was a tactical move which cost the Congress nothing but destabilized the Princely States and coincided with the resignation of the Congress provincial ministries. Mysore, Travancore, Dhenkanal, and the state of Jammu and Kashmir were some of the best administered Princely States in 1946 when Gandhi let loose the INC into their territories. These states, in the view of VP Menon, had well-organized administrative machinery, excellent judiciary and the tax-payer’s obligations were clearly defined. Such was the extent of destabilization and the newly injected poison of discontent among the people that the Princely States had little reason to like or trust the Congress, Gandhi or Nehru.


Why Maharaja Hari Singh and Prime Minister Ramchandra Kak would not agree to accede to the Indian Union in 1946 when the first offer was made, must be seen against the background of the Congress’ destabilizing mission which propped up Sheikh Abdullah against the Hindu king. 


Gandhi and the Hindu rulers of Princely States


“In February 1938, at the Haripura session of the Congress….the Congress reiterated its objective of standing for the same political, social and economic freedom in the States as in the case of the rest of India. The Congress, the resolution continued, was not yet able to obtain the liberation of the States’ subjects by itself operating within their borders. In the existing conditions, “the burden of carrying on the struggle for freedom must fall on the people of the States.” Only false hopes would be raised if they relied on extraneous help or assistance or on the prestige of the Congress name. The Congress as an organization could only offer moral support and sympathy. Individual Congressmen would be free to render further assistance in their individual capacities.


Meanwhile individual Congressmen started leading the agitation in the States themselves. The All-India Congress Committee meeting in Delhi in September 1938 condemned repression in Travancore, Hyderabad, Kashmir and the Orissa States. The Congress ministries of provinces adjoining Princely States declined to use their statutory powers to prevent agitation being organized within their provinces and launched beyond them.


On 3 December 1938, Gandhiji acclaimed the simultaneous awakening in the States as due to the “time spirit” and declared that there was no halfway house between total extinction of the States and full responsible government. 


He gave the warning that the Congress policy of non-interference might be abandoned; and advised the rulers to cultivate friendly relations with an organization which bids fair in the future, not very distant, to replace the paramount power – “let me hope, by friendly arrangement.” (Integration of the Indian States, pp 49-50)


The gloves were off. Drunk with power and success in the elections, Gandhi was fomenting instability in several Princely States, including in the three largest States – Kashmir, Mysore and Hyderabad. Several Congress leaders, Nehru, Maulana Azad, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and others made periodic visits to Kashmir to participate in the agitations unleashed against Maharaja Hari Singh by Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference. Gandhi watched indulgently as Nehru propped up Sheikh Abdullah from 1938, after the Haripura Resolution and, as we shall soon see in the RCK Paper, with tragic consequences for Jammu, Ladakh and the Hindu nation. 


During the Round Table Conference and during discussions preceding the Government of India Act, 1935, there were only two political formations, the INC and the Princely States. The Muslim League was not yet a strong political contender and could not form a government in any of the provinces, not even in the Muslim majority NWFP, Assam and even Bengal. Political sense dictated that Gandhi and the Congress should deal respectfully and sensitively with the Princely States to seek their co-operation and support when, as Gandhi warned them, the Congress hoped to replace the paramount power. 


Just how short-sighted and foolish it was to discount the Muslim League from political calculations, and worse, to antagonize the Princely States, was thrust upon the INC and the hapless Hindu nation when the political scene changed dramatically in October 1939 when Gandhi, in a fit of bravado, asked all eight Congress governments to resign.


“Though one may sympathize with the feelings of Congressmen who found themselves in this position, the outcome of their actions only confirms the conviction that the original decision to withdraw the Congress-controlled Provincial Ministries was a fatal mistake. Once that mistake had been made, everything else followed more or less inevitably, but nonetheless disastrously. In particular, it created the atmosphere of civil war in which the extremist position of the Muslim League came to be viewed as natural and right even by level-headed Muslims. In fact, within a year of the launching of the Quit India campaign, the League succeeded in gathering under its banner, the governments of Assam, Sind, Bengal, and the NWFP, except the Punjab. This meant, of course, a very great increase in its stature as a party.” (Integration of the Indian States, page xxxvii)


By 1940, after the Lahore Resolution where the Muslim League declared its intention to achieve a sovereign state of Pakistan, the British Government was confronted by three very large political formations – the INC, the Princely States and the Muslim League. But Gandhi did not desist. Gandhi and Nehru continued with their disrespectful and antagonistic approach in their dealings with the Princely States, and their bulldozing methods had its worst impact on the State of Jammu and Kashmir; the country is still dealing with the festering problem of Muslim intransigence, Islamic separatism and jihad which is organized in Pakistan and launched across national borders into Jammu and Kashmir – in the exact same manner in which Congress-ruled provinces organized the destabilizing mission inside their borders and launched them across borders into the adjoining Princely States..


It is in the context of these convulsions which Gandhi forced upon the nation that we must look at the events in J&K in 1946-47. Gandhi played no small role in the upheaval and subsequent Islamic rule in this once beautiful Hindu-Buddhist kingdom.


(Part I Concluded)

Based on Part I of Radha Rajan’s detailed monograph, which may be read here:


Pandit Ramchandra Kak’s paper may be read here:


(Part II to follow)

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