This led Jinnah to make his first general proposal, which was that both sides should withdraw at once and simultaneously. When Mountbatten asked him to explain how the tribesmen could be induced to remove themselves, his reply was, ‘If you do this I will call the whole thing off,’ which at least suggests that the public propaganda line that the tribal invasion was wholly beyond Pakistan’s control will not be pursued too far in private discussion…On inquiry, Mountbatten found that Jinnah’s attitude to a plebiscite was conditioned by his belief that the combination of Indian troops in occupation and Sheikh Abdullah in power meant that the average Muslim would be far too frightened to vote for Pakistan. Mountbatten proposed a plebiscite, under United Nations Organisations auspices, whereupon Jinnah asserted that only the two Governors-General could organise it. Mountbatten at once rejected this suggestion, stressing that whatever Jinnah’s prerogatives might be, his own constitutional position allowed him only to act on his Government’s advice.”(p.229).
The Indian state propaganda suggests that after its army landed in Kashmir on October 27, 1947,Lord Louis Mountbatten went to Lahore on November 01, to offer a plebiscite to Mohammad Ali Jinnah on the future of Kashmir, but the latter rejected it. India derives its narrative from Mountbatten’s private secretary, Allan Campbell-Johnson’s memoir, ‘Mission with Mountbatten’, in which he writes that after the viceroy returned from Lahore, he told him of what had passed between himself and Jinnah: “Mountbatten…told me he was very pleased with his three-and-a-half hour talk with Jinnah at Lahore…He told him that he considered the prospect of the tribesmen entering Srinagar in any force was now remote.
But, what Mountbatten said and Campbell-Johnson recorded, can that be trusted? It is rather difficult given the fact that Mountbatten had supervised the airlifting of Indian troops to Kashmir. Besides, he had, with the help of Cyril Radcliffe, manipulated the Punjab Boundary and awarded Muslim majority Gurdaspur district to India, which was against the Partition principle. Gurdaspur furnished a road link between India and Kashmir, which enabled the government of India to pursue their grand design vis-à-vis Kashmir.
All along through his Viceroyalty, Mountbatten had pursued a sinister game against Muslims especially against those of Punjab and Kashmir. Way back in May 11, 1947, in a top-secret staff meeting,which was attended, among others of his staff, by Nehru in the capacity of vice president of the interim government of British India, Mountbatten had suggested keeping Muslim majority Gurdaspur district outside the purview of the Partition principle–that contiguous Muslim majority districts would be awarded to the Muslim dominion; and contiguous non-Muslim districts would be awarded to the Hindu dominion.In the next staff meeting his own Deputy Secretary ID Scott, objected to Mountbatten’s suggestion vis-à-vis Gurdaspur district. Responding to his objection Mountbatten told the meeting that he would not press for keeping Gurdaspur outside the purview of the Partition principle but would instead ask the Boundary Commission “to handover from one side to the other any area within border districts where there was clearly a majority of the opposite community”.
The 31st Viceroys Staff Meeting of May 12, 1947, makes it amply clear: “Mr Scott said that he was very much opposed to the separate procedure which had been suggested by the meeting the previous day for Gurdaspur. He felt that any departure from the principle of clearly defining the notional boundary between Muslim and non-Muslim majority areas would lead to a spate of demands for other departures. His Excellency the Viceroy said that he did not intend to incorporate the suggestion for Gurdaspur made the previous day. Instead the Boundary Commission would be instructed to arrange for the handover from one side to the other of any area within border districts where there was clearly a majority of the opposite community.” (pp759-60 & 781, Transfer of Power Vol. 10).
Again on August 4, 1947, he said to the Nawab of Bhopal, Sir Hamidullah Khan (Chancellor of chamber of princes) and Maharaja of Indore, Yeshwant Rao Holkar: “The state of J&K was placed geographically in such a position that it could join either Dominion, provided part of Gurdaspur were put into East Punjab by the Boundary Commission” (p111 Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy by Alastair Lamb).
In between these two events Mountbatten spent a week in Kashmir in mid-June. On the day of his departure a meeting was fixed between him and the Maharaja ostensibly “to discuss the future of Kashmir state” – as if they had not discussed it yet! On that fateful Sunday June 22, 1947, the Maharaja complained of stomach pain and cancelled the meeting “and as a result Mountbatten had to leave for Delhi without discussing the future of this state with the Maharaja.”It was a drama enacted by the Maharaja and Mountbatten to hoodwink the world. The reality was that Mountbatten came to Kashmir (June 1947) to warn the Maharaja on behalf of Nehru and Gandhi not to declare independence.
The Maharaja did not take a decision by August 15, the day of Transfer of Power, as to the accession of Kashmir either to (post-partition) India or Pakistan or complete independence. Perhaps he wanted to see as to which side of the Boundary Line Gurdaspur would lie after the Partition. He did not declare independence because he was not in favour of it. For the same reasons he removed his pro-independence Kashmiri Prime Minister Pandit Rama Chandra Kak and replaced him by Janak Singh and, later, by Mehr Chand Mahajan, a hawk who played Sardar Patel’s game. Moreover, the Maharaja would not have allowed ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Jammu and elsewhere, if he had pro-independence leanings.
His decision of not acceding, after district Gurdaspur, along with other Muslim-majority areas like Ferozpur, Ajnala, Fazilka, Zira, were shown on the other side of Radcliffe Line, was that he, being a despot, wanted accession with India on his own terms and conditions. But Nehru wanted him to accede as well as share power with the National Conference so that he could tell the world that Kashmiri Muslims preferred Hindu India over Muslim Pakistan. Sheikh Abdullah and his partisans parroted Nehru’s tune because it guaranteed them political power.
With Gurdaspur awarded to East Punjab, Sheikh decided in early September 1947, (while he was still in jail because of the ‘Quit Kashmir movement’) to support India (p376 Aatash-i-Chinar) because doing so would guarantee political power which to him seemed a remote possibility if Kashmir became a part of Pakistan or an independent country. On September 13, he promised loyalty to his king, Maharaja Hari Singh, through presenting what was called nazar – a gold coin wrapped in silken cloth – a mark of loyalty. Later, he submitted a written pledge to Hari Singh wherein he stated that he along with his party would treat his enemies as their own enemies. (p130 Sardar Patel’s Correspondence Vol I). This U-turn earned him a release from jail in end September.
Post tribal incursion, Sheikh fled from Kashmir on the advice of Dogra Army.Concurrently, Nehru and States Minister Sardar Patel laid plans to capture Kashmir by the end of October. The strangest thing is that Nehru knew in September that tribals from Pakistan would invade Kashmir. This fact is revealed in the letter that Nehru wrote to Patel on September 27.Those who are under the illusion that the government of India wished to resolve Kashmir dispute through plebiscite should read what Nehru wrote to Sardar Patel in 1949: “Whatever may happen in the future, I do not think Jammu province is running away from us. If we want Jammu by itself and are prepared to make a present of the rest of the state to Pakistan, I have no doubt, we could clinch the issue in a few days. The prize we are fighting for is the Valley of Kashmir.”
Back to Mountbatten. When the Indian army landed in Kashmir he went to Lahore not with any intention to resolve Kashmir dispute, but to prolong it. Governor General of Pakistan had, on receiving information that India had flown its army to Kashmir, conveyed an order on October 27, 1947, to his country’s ‘imported’ acting military chief, General Douglas Gracey (Frank Messrvy, the commander-in-chief was on a leave in London), to launch a two pronged military attack on Kashmir state, one from Rawalpindi to meet the newly arrived Indian army and the other on Jammu from Sialkot to intercept the Jammu-Pathankot (better call it Radcliffe-Mountbatten) Road.
Instead of taking orders from his Governor-General, Gracy informed the Supreme Commander, Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck in Delhi, on phone about the orders he had received. Auchinleck advised him to persuade Jinnah not to press his orders until he arrives at Lahore. On October 28, Auchinleck met Jinnah at Lahore. He told him that if Pakistan army entered Kashmir it would be an inter-dominion war between Pakistan and India in which Englishmen would be pitched against Englishmen; he threatened him that if he pressed his orders all the English officers of Pakistan army would withdraw from it. Besides, he assured Jinnah that if he withdrew his orders he would bring Mountbatten and Nehru to Lahore to sort out the differences.On November 1, Mountbatten was in Lahore but alone. Pandit Nehru excused himself on grounds of suffering from stomach pain (the same sort of pain that Maharaja Hari Singh had felt on June 22, 1947). This modus operandi of Mountbatten helped India to get a few more days to fly in their soldiers to Kashmir in strength. Without Mountbatten’s scheming it was not possible for Indian troops to have a smooth passage in Kashmir given the fact that 330 Sikh fighters along with their commander Col Ranjit Rai, that Delhi flew to Kashmir on October 27, were slain by tribals on the same day somewhere between Sangrama and Baramulla. Induction of the Pakistani army could have changed the war situation.
After his return from Lahore, Mountbatten, in order to hide his own role in getting Boundary Awards doctored, ascribed the responsibility of tribal invasion, and emergence and non-resolution of Kashmir dispute to Jinnah.Throughout his Viceroyalty Mountbatten did everything to pave the way for bringing Muslim majority Kashmir into India. And when that happened onOctober 27, he put a rider on Hari Singh’s offer of accession that as and when peace was established in Kashmir the matter would be referred to the people. Also he prodded Nehru to take the matter to the UN. These measures on part of Nehru and Mountbatten laid the foundation of the Kashmir dispute. Nehru fell to Mountbatten’s suggestions because he wanted to gain time in Kashmir so that he could deal with Junagarh and Hyderabad.
Mountbatten knew well what the verdict of the people of Kashmir would be if the UN conducted a plebiscite here. He wrote on November 7, 1947, to King George VI: “I am convinced that a population containing such a high proportion of Muslims would certainly vote to join Pakistan.” (p 354 Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre). If he was convinced of this fact then why did he, with the help of Cyril Radcliffe, chairman Punjab Boundary Commission, place three out of the four Muslim majority sub-districts (Gurdaspur, Batala, and Pathankot) of Gurdaspur district inside (post-Partition) India?
Reasons can only be guessed: he disliked Jinnah. As Viceroy, Mountbatten had dominated everything and everyone in India except the latter. Jinnah had sartorial elegance which Mountbatten lacked; smoked his pipe in front of him, who, as viceroy, was by far the most powerful man on earth, even more powerful than the British PM; refused him the luxury of creating history by becoming the first Governor General of Pakistan. Moreover, his wife Edwina, continuously prodded her husband to side with Nehru because she too disliked Jinnah, because, as per her, he was unromantic! In hindsight Mountbatten didn’t do any real service to India. On the contrary he led it into a morass in which it has got bogged down.
—The author is a political historian. Feedback:ashqhussainbhat@