Kashmir, Nehru and Article 370



Prof. Makkhan Lal

Though the State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) is an integral part of India, Pakistan claims that it is a disputed territory, particularly the Muslim majority Kashmir Valley, while some Kashmiris and the militant groups think that they are an independent nation. To understand how the issue of accession of J&K into India has got increasingly complicated, one has just to go through the Volume I of Sardar Patel Correspondence 1945-1950, edited by Durga Das. All original papers and correspondence among the main players are published in this one volume.

Pakistan Attacks

India became a free nation on 15 August, 1947 but the problems with Kashmir continued. The last Commander-in-Chief of undivided India, Field Marshall Auchinleck became the Supreme Commander of the forces of both the countries for the purpose of completing the partition of the armed forces. He was kept informed of all movements and he in turn kept both the dominions equally informed. When he received the message from the Pakistan Army Headquarters giving information regarding the raiders’ advance and the probable intervention, he very rightly passed it onto the Government of India.1 This means that in September 1947 itself Pandit Nehru should have had some information about Pakistan’s design to attack Kashmir. But this information was not shared with Sardar Patel.

This attack was launched by the regular army of Pakistan by drafting frontier tribesmen.2 Just in two days raiders captured a substantial part of northern and north-western Kashmir with important towns like Garhi, Domal, Muzaffarabad, Uri, and Baramula. Maharaja hardly had any army. Whatever was there, it comprised mainly of Muslims who deserted Maharaja when he needed them most. On hearing the desertions of Muslim soldiers and the advance of the raiders, Brigadier Rajendra Singh, Chief of the Staff of the State Forces, gathered together approximately 150 men and moved towards Uri. There he engaged the raiders for two days and in the rearguard action destroyed the Uri bridge. The Brigadier himself and all his men were cut to pieces in this action.”3 These two days proved to be very crucial in the history of Kashmir and so also in the history of India. Brig Rajendra Singh succeeded in stopping the advance of Pakistani army till Indian help arrived. Today if Kashmir is part of India, it is because of the supreme sacrifice of Rajendra Singh and his brave men. Describing the event in detail V.P. Menon, an insider in the contemporary drama, writes: “He and his colleagues will live in history like gallant Leonidas and his 300 men who held the Persian invaders at Thermopylae. It was but appropriate that when the Maha Vira Chakra decoration was instituted the first award should have been given (posthumously) to this heroic soldier.”4

Sheikh’s Duplicity

It is now time to discuss briefly the real face of Sheikh Abdullah, which started coming out of the mask once Maharaja was out of way, Sardar was side-lined, and Pandit Nehru was venerable and confused. The Maharaja had washed his hands off the affairs of Kashmir due to Nehru’s ambivalence towards his position. In one of his letter to Patel he expressed his anguish in following words: “Sheikh Abdullah and Bakshi are virtual dictators and they have complete power. I wonder what we are expected to do and what the suggestion is. Even when Mr. Mahajan and I have stepped aside are we to be blamed and coerced?”5 Once Sheikh Abdullah succeeded in taking owner the control of the State Government, he started to implement his design to take the control of army as well.6

Most of the concerned people, including the (now former) Maharaja Hari Singh, kept writing to Sardar Patel about the mess in which Kashmir was being pushed into. They expected Sardar to do something. But Pandit Nehru, being a prisoner of his own ideals and fancies, had taken away the Kashmir affairs from the Sardar. To complicate the matter further, Nehru, on the advise of Lord Mountbatten, took the matter to UNO on 1 January, 1948. In the complaint India said: “Since the aid which the invaders are receiving from Pakistan is an act of aggression against India, the Government of India are entitled, in International Law, to send their armed forced across Pakistan territory for dealing effectively with the invaders.”7 Thus, what Nehru and Mountbatten were asking for was the United Nations Organisation’s (UNO) permission to defend his own territory, i.e. Kashmir, being invaded by Pakistani Army. As expected, the UNO did nothing except complicating the matter beyond redemption.

On 29 September 1948 Abdullah gave an interview to the foreign correspondents which not only revealed his mind but also his long term planning. In this interview he virtually declared independence of J&K. Sardar Patel knew the dubious character of Sheikh Abdullah. Therefore, he just could not allow Abdullah to get away with the interview. Patel not only took note of it but also on September 30, 1948 wrote to Nehru in most unambiguous terms:-

“I am surprised to read this morning an account of the Press Conference which Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah is reported to have held here [Delhi] yesterday. He said he would be seeing me today and I was waiting for him, but since he did not turn up I am writing to him as well as to him about it....

I am not aware of any single instance – at least Sheikh Sahib has not brought it to my notice – in which the Maharaja has obstructed or resisted any of popular reforms. As a constitutional head, he may have asked for reconsideration in one or two matters, but this could hardly be treated as the subject of grievance. It is undignified and constitutionally improper for a Prime Minister [Sheikh Abdullah] to attack the Constitutional Head of his Administration. Knowing full well that the latter is not in position to defend himself or to retaliate. On the top of it, to insinuate that he is trying to retain power, or that he has strong friends in India or that he could buy friends is, in my opinion, to say the least, most unfortunate. ..

Sheikh Sahib has also referred to certain people in India who believe in surrendering Kashmir to Pakistan. I should like to be enlightened who they are. As far as my information goes, there are many more of such people in Jammu and Kashmir State than in the whole India put together. ..

Sheikh Sahib also refers to the Hindu fanaticism in the East Punjab. This again is a generalisation, which, I hope, Sheikh Sahib in calmer moments will regret. It certainly is a most unfortunate attack on a neighbouring province of the Dominion to which his state has acceded. ..

I hope Sheikh Sahib realises that nobody has been more accommodating to him than the Government of India and none has extended to him greater understanding and sympathy in his struggle than the people of India… I think it would be difficult to find a parallel in constitutional history to the sort of attack, which he has made on Maharaja. I hope you will succeed in impressing upon him the mistake he has made.”8

Patel never minced a word while dealing with the issues. He wrote to Sheikh also on the same day he wrote to Nehru, and reminded him:-

“I have seen a report of your yesterday’s Press conference which has appeared in today’s Statesman. You made no reference to it when you saw me yesterday nor did you give me any indication that you were going to deal with certain controversial matters with which we, in the State Ministry, are undoubtedly concerned. Indeed, in respect of some matters we are seized already. I thought, as you told me yesterday, you will be coming to see me, but since you did not come, I am writing this to you….

I had never imagined that you would ventilate your grievance in public and I had thought that at least in fairness to ourselves, and having regard to the agreed arrangements between ourselves, if you had any grievance, you would first come to the States Ministry and seek a satisfactory solution through our medium. In fact, so far whenever you have had any difficulty we have not hesitated to put pressure on Maharaja to accept a position, even though in certain matters it went against the arrangements agreed in the last March. ..

No one knows better than you that today Maharaja is powerless to resist your wishes…. I am, therefore, unable to comprehend your reference to his trying to retain power. ..

I am also rather mystified at your reference to his having strong friends in India, or his being in position to buy friends…. If you have any particular information about these strong friends, I would be glad if you could communicate it to me. You have also referred to certain people who believe in surrendering Kashmir to Pakistan. I would like to be enlightened on this point as well. You will agree that we should know who these traitors are...

I hope you will not mind my speaking to you so frankly about your interview because I do feel that now when we are engaged in a common struggle against a foreign foe this sort of interview or thinking aloud does no one any good.”9

Patel advised Abdullah not to indulge in such gimmick and also desist from speaking to press in the interest of Kashmir and the country. His unhappiness over the conduct of Abdullah can be understood by the fact that he sent this letter to Abdullah as “c/o The Prime Minister of India.”

Sardar Patel wrote also to Gopalaswamy Iyyangar who was put in-charge of Kashmir affairs, highlighting several points in Abdullah’s interview. It is interesting to note what Gopalaswamy wrote to Patel: “Before I saw the account of it in the newspapers, I had been told that orally by a person who had been present there of a god deal that he had said but had not appeared in the Newspapers. What was not reported in the papers, I gathered, was even more unjustifiable than what did appear.”10 Despite all this, both Nehru and Gopalaswamy Ayyangar tried to show that Abdullah was a great patriot. Jawaharlal wrote to Sardar Patel: “I entire agree with you that some of the statements that Sheikh Abdullah made in regard to Maharaja were very indiscreet and should not have been made…. He is not a very clear thinker and he goes astray in his speech as many of our politicians do.”11

Abdullah tried to wriggle out of the situation by giving a long reply on 07 October, 1948, to Patel’s letter of 30 September, and saying that he has been misunderstood.12 He was full of venom against Hindus and Sikhs. This letter of Abdullah clearly indicated the game Abdullah was playing and the way he would go in future. Though camouflaged under the garb of nationalism and patriotism, Abdullah’s real motives could not escape Patel’s watchful eyes. Patel was not the person who could let pass such a thing easily. He reminded Abdullah: “You seem to be in the peculiar position of having being misunderstood, apart from many others, by all three of us, Jawaharlal, Gopalaswamy and myself.”13

Patel further said that:-

“I put several pointed questions in my letter you have avoided answering them…there is no disposition on your part either to understand our point of view or to strike a new line as demanded by the changed situation. I am quite convinced that the grossly prejudiced view you have taken in the matters referred to is not likely to mend matters; instead it is likely to make them worse and more complicated.”14

While Kashmir was bleeding and Hyderabad’s situations getting worst, Nehru was more worried about image of India and his own in the Western World. From Paris he was suggesting Patel to go for the plebiscite in Kashmir and Hyderabad. He was more worried about how the western countries are going to judge as to: “what India stands for and is going to be. We have, therefore, to keep this fact in mind in regard to any step that we take in both these places.” 15

Origin of Article 370

Sheikh Abdullah started showing his true colour sooner than many may have expected. He now started clamouring for an ‘Independent Kashmir’; he started giving calls to the landlords, who has gone to Pakistan, to come back. Abdullah declared in an interview to a foreign correspondent: “Accession to either side cannot bring peace. We want to live in friendship with both Dominions… an Independent Kashmir must be guaranteed not only by India and Pakistan but also by Britain, the United States and other members of the United Nations…. Yes independence – guaranteed by the United Nations – may be the only solution.” 16

Everyone was horrified at this statement of Abdullah. Even Gopalaswamy, normally so sympathetic and accommodative to Abdullah, wrote to Patel: “My attention was drawn to the content of his interview earlier in the day. It is most astonishing performance…. I condemn the Sheikhs action and that I feel that what he has told Michael Davidson and what the latter has published will have the most serious and mischievous consequences both in India and abroad… reading between the line, I suspect a plan, first step of which is this blessing by the Premier of Kashmir of the idea of an independent Kashmir…and the final step of which may well be perhaps one of the greatest betrayals in history.” 17

Framing of the Constitution of India was virtually in the final stages. Gopalaswamy was made in-charge of framing the part dealing with Kashmir. A draft (Article 306A) was agreed upon among Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Gopalaswamy, Dr. Ambedkar, the Maharaja of J&K, Sheikh Abdullah and three of his colleague. It was also finally approved by the Constituent Assembly. The Article dealing with Kashmir in this draft was known as Article 306A. But after Abdullah and party went back to Srinagar, they started raising objections to the draft already approved by the Constituent Assembly. Abdullah said that the provisions of Indian Constitution applicable on all other states should not be applicable on J&K. He just would not listen to any reasoned argument. There was speculation that perhaps Nehru advised Abdullah to seek the help of Ambedkar for the matter of securing special provisions for J&K. After giving a patient hearing Ambedkar said to Abdullah:-

“India should provide all the money for the governance and development of your state. India should undertake to defend your state against Pakistan and other aggressors. Indians should die to defend your state. You will have a separate constitution, separate head of state, separate sets of laws and separate flag. Your people can buy and own land anywhere in rest of India but none who was not born in Jammu and Kashmir could reciprocally buy and own property in Jammu and Kashmir. Indians should be taxed to develop your land, to defend it from all aggressions and you have no obligation at all to the Indian Union. I can never agree to such treatment to any state.” 18

It is very difficult to guess how far Gopalaswamy was sincere in writing what he wrote to Patel after Abdullah’s interview with Davidson, when he lamented that it was unimaginable and hurtful that: “after having agreed to the substance of our draft both at your [Sardar Patel’s] house and at the party meeting, they [Abdullah and company] would let me and Panditji down in the manner they were attempting to do.”19

But the story gets murkier. Though Gopalaswamy and Nehru were blaming Abdullah for the impasse and trying to impress on Patel that they were unhappy with Abdullah’s behaviour, the subterfuge was still going on. Gopalaswamy, on 15 October 1949, sent another draft of article to be incorporated into the Constitution, replacing Article 306A dealing with Kashmir, to Patel for his consideration. Gopalaswamy did not forget to mention in his covering letter that he has prepared this new draft, in place of the one agreed upon by all: “Without giving up the essential stands we have taken in our original draft, read just it in minor particulars in a way which I am hoping Sheikh Abdullah would agree to.”20 Patel was aghast at the draft. What Gopalaswamy was calling as ‘minor’ adjustments, in all essentials it was the original draft. He wrote Gopalaswamy:-

“I find there are some substantial changes over the original draft, particularly in regard to the applicability of fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy. You can yourself realise the anomaly of the state becoming part of India and at the same time not recognising any of these provisions.

I do not at all like any change after our party has approved of the whole arrangement in the presence of Sheikh Sahib himself. Whenever Sheikh Sahib wishes to back out, he always confronts us with his duty to the people. Of course, he owes no duty to India or to the Indian Government, or even on a personal basis to you and the Prime Minister who have gone all out to accommodate him.

In these circumstances, any question of my approval does not arise. If you feel it is right thing to do, you can go ahead with it.” 21

Things became more and more complicated due to the reopening of the Constitution Draft, already unanimously approved by the Constituent Assembly, and that too without anybody raising any note of criticism. Abdullah and three of his colleagues were present when this Draft (Article 306-A) dealing with Kashmir was approved by the Assembly. They also did not raise any objection or moved any amendment to it. Still, Gopalaswamy and Nehru thought it prudent to open the chapter and start drafting the whole thing afresh (which came to be known as Article 370) as per the whims and fancies of Sheikh Abdullah and his cronies.

Sardar Patel’s death removed whatever restrain was there on Pandit Nehru’s idea of dealing with the issue of Kashmir. No longer was there any friend or colleague within the party or in the Cabinet who could advise Nehru’s against recklessness. After Sardar’s death, Nehru was able to grant even the most unreasonable demands under the Nehru-Abdullah Pact. Kashmir was almost taken out of the ambit of Indian Constitution. Article 370 was inserted in the Constitution, purely as a provisional arrangement, to deal with Kashmir. This eminently suited Sheikh Abdullah. In the form of Article 370, Kashmir was granted special status and now with the Nehru-Abdullah Pact, what was merely provisional and very transitory, became permanent.

In a way, Abdullah was granted virtually an independent state within India. Syama Prasad Mookerjee articulated the Indian peoples’ resentment on this issue in the Parliament. Jana Sangh deplored Article 370, Nehru-Abdullah Pact, and a separate Constitution for J&K: “Sheikh Abdullah has secured the most unreasonable of his demands without conceding anything substantial… It has all along been a surrender of interests of India... It is repetition of the usual story of appeasement of Muslim intransigence and communal separatism. This is not likely to gain Kashmir for India but will certainly endanger the security and development of Jammu and Kashmir.”22

The Jana Sangh’s Central Working Committee passed a resolution reminding the Government that J&K was an integral part of India after the Instrument of Accession was signed between the Maharaja and the Government of India. It was wrong to refer the matter to UNO or talk of plebiscite. The Committee, therefore, urged that the: “ … time has come when the Government should take a realistic view of the situation and altar this policy of soft-paddling… and complete the integration of Jammu and Kashmir state with India in the same manner as of other acceding states.”23

Notes and References

1. V.P. Menon, 1957, Transfer of Power, Hyderabad, p. 452

2. Jawaharlal Nehru’s reply to debate in Lok Sabha, on Kashmir on 29th March, 1956, Speeches:1953-57, Vol. III, pp.216-226.

3. V.P. Menon, 1957, Intergration of Indian States, Hyderabad, p. 455

4. Ibid.

5. Letter of Maharaja of J&K to Patel (dated 01 January, 1948, Sardar Patel Correspondence: 1945-1959. Vol. 1, Edited by Durga Das, 1971, p. 147.

6. For the details see Maharaja’s letter to Patel dated 6 August, 1948 and enclosed summary of Maharaja’s talk with Sheikh Abdullahand Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad that took place on 5 August, 1948, Ibid, pp. 212-215.

7. Jagmohan, 1991, My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir, New Delhi.

8. Letter of Patel to Nehru (letter dated 30 September, 1948), Sardar Patel Correspondence: 1945-1959. Vol. 1, Edited by Durga Das, 1971, pp. 227-228.

9. Patel to Sheikh Abdullah (letter dated 30 September, 1948), Ibid. pp. 228-230.

10. Letter of Nehru and Gopalaswami to Patel, ibid. pp. 230-233.

11. Ibid.

12. Letter of Sheikh Abdullah to Patel, (7 October, 1948), Ibid, pp.233-47.

13. Letter of Patel to Abdullah, ibid, pp. 241-245.

14. Ibid. p.242.

15. Nehru to Patel from Paris (letter dated 27 October, 1948), Ibid. pp. 249-250.

16. Sheikh Abdullah’s interview with Machael Davidson published in The Scotman, on 14 April, 1949. Also in Ibid. p. 266.

17. N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar to Patel (letter dated 1 May, 1949), Sardar Patel Correspondence: 1945-1959. Vol. 1, Edited by Durga Das, 1971, p. 267-68.

18. Ambedkar to Abdullah as quoted in Hari Om, “Invoke Ambedkar, Revoke Nehru to Tackle Kashmir Jihad”, 
https://www.pgurus.com/invoke-ambedkar-revoke-nehru-tackle-kashmir-jihad/ , accessed on 28.6.2018.

19. N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar to Patel (letter dated 15 October, 1949), Sardar Patel Correspondence: 1945-1959. Vol. 1, Edited by Durga Das, 1971, p. 302.

20. Ibid.

21. Patel to Gopalaswamy (latter dated 16 October, 1949), Ibid, Edited by Durga Das, 1971, p. 305.

22. Organiser, V:51; 4 August, 1953.

23. Resolution of Jana Sangh’s CWC, 10 February, 1952, Delhi; Bharatiya Jana Sangh – 1951-72: Party Documents (Internal Affairs) vol. 4, pp. 19-20.


Note: This article was first published by the Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi on its website on July 04, 2018.