Aug-2010. Manmohan Singh says that India is willing to consider autonomy for J&K within the ambit of the Constitution. What does it mean?
Oct-2010. Omar Abdulla says that J&K’s accession with India was not final and absolute, but was based on certain conditions and that J&K had not merged with India like Hyderabad and Junagarh. S.M Krishna does not find anything wrong with Omar Abdullah’s statement. (Of course he did not find anything wrong in Portuguese’s Minister’s speech as well!) P. Chidambaram certified the authenticity of Omar’s claims. (Kaash… he could have certified the authenticity of India’s list of 50 most wanted criminals.)
Jul-2011.Mehbooba Mufti argues for Self Rule in a conference in Germany.
I am reminded of the childhood story of 7 blind men trying to feel an elephant. Are the above and the views of innumerable other players any different? I doubt.
I classify the various views/ opinions on J&K into two categories-
- those based on the stated position of a political party or a religious group or a columnist. These intellectuals/ parties/ groups don’t want to move an inch from their declared position. They don’t think like common people, like us. Faced with any problem, you and I look at the available options. Choose one and proceed. Suppose after sometime we feel that we have chosen the wrong option, we stop to evaluate. We see what we would have been-better off or worse- had we chosen the other option. Accordingly we are either content with what we have chosen or we change; but the intellectuals/parties/ groups won’t do this as this would amount to a climb down for them.
- those arising out of ignorance of the details.
I intend to address the second problem through these articles. Being a common man, I am going to analyze like one.
When I spoke to my friend Dr. Vasanthi about my intention to write a series of articles on J&K, she suggested that I prepare the readers with some background and history before I fill them with complex details.
Hence this intro.
What was India before independence?
Till 1857 India was ruled by East India Company (EIC) which was something similar to a Public Sector Undertaking of today. EIC grew beyond being just a trading company; it used military power, acquired territories and ruled them. The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 made the British rethink their strategy for ruling India. EIC was asked to transfer all the territories under its rule to the Queen. Till 1947 these were directly ruled/ controlled by the British. Provinces like Punjab, Assam, Bengal, Madras, United Privinces and Central Provinces fell under this category and were directly administered by the British.
Post 1857 the British started entering into agreements with rulers of small states. These were called Princely States. While communication, military and external affairs of these states were directly managed by the British, internal affairs were “indirectly managed”- a euphemism; the rulers (Rajas, Maharajas, Badshahs, Nawabs) were just constitutional figureheads. There were 150+ such states in 1858 and these grew to 550+ in 1947. J&K, Baroda, Hyderabad and Mysore were some of the large Princely States.
In 1947 when British decided to granted independence, the Labour Party government headed by Clement Attlee passed the Indian Independence Act. This Act partitioned the directly administered territories (provinces) into India and Pakistan.
The Act gave an option to the Princely States - either to remain independent or to join India or Pakistan. And this was the starting point of all the problems!
And what did the Princely States do?
Some of them were clear. They joined India.
Some of them wavered. They tried to rebel under the leadership of Nawab of Bhopal. But this rebellion collapsed in no time.
But the twists and turns of some of the Princely States are worth a detailed discussion.
First Jodhpur- predominantly a Hindu State with a Hindu ruler. Still it wanted to join Pakistan! Why? Maharaja Hanwant Singh’s aristocratic lifestyle! A great polo player!Congress and its leaders had socialistic ideas and the Maharaja felt there was not much future for him. Fortunately wiser sense prevailed and the King decided to accede to India. Later he agreed to merge with India for an annual privy purse of Rs. 17.50 lacs.
Next Junagarh- One of the Princely States quoted by Omar Abdullah in his speech in the J&K Assemply in Oct-2010; a Hindu majority State with a Muslim ruler. At least Jodhpur & Jaisalmer shared boundary with Pakistan. Junagarh did not share anything. Still Nawab Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III decided to join Pakistan! He signed the Instrument of Accession in September, 1947. Junagarh was surrounded on three sides by India. Indian government (read Sardar Patel) sealed the borders to Junagarh; stopped movement of goods to the State. There were internal disturbances also within Junagarh. Adjacent States also protested the decision of Jungarh. The Nawab fled to Karachi in October, 1947. His Dewan sent desperate telegrams to Jinnah and others in Pakistan seeking help. But no came help from Jinnah or Pakistan. The State Council of Junagarh decided to accede to India in November, 1947. Indian army moved in. Liaqat Ali Khan kept writing to Nehru that his government disapproved the actions of India. (Remember Kalaignar Karunanidhi used to write letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regarding Srilankan problem). A plebiscite was held. 99% of the people voted for Indian rule!
Next Travancore. Maharaja Chittirai Tirunal did not want to join India or Pakistan. He declared independence in Jun, 1947. Sir C P Ramaswamy Iyer, the then Dewan of the State advised the ruling family to accede to India.
Hyderabed- 87% Hindu population; Ruled by a Muslim ruler; Situated in the South Central part of India. Nizam Osman Ali Khan declared that the State would be independent. The State Congress Party launched an agitation against the Nizam’s decision. Communists, as usual betrayed- supported Congress initially, but sided with the feudal Nizam later. India sent its army in September, 1948. The State was annexed to India.
Note that in all these cases the decision to join India or Pakistan or to remain independent was taken by the King/ Nawab/Nizam/ Badshah and not by any elected body of the people of the State. In fact the Mayo College educated Nawab of Junagarh said he was not required to consider the public opinion under the Indian Independence Act, 1947! We will return to this point later.
Last but not the least, Jammu & Kashmir.
We will discuss in Part II.