Article 370: Don’t blame Patel, Nehru did the damage

Written by PROF. MAKKHAN LAL

Nehru and Gopalaswamy thought it prudent to open the chapter (Article 306-A dealing with Kashmir) 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

Jawaharlal Nehru, Sheikh Abdullah and Maharaja Hari Singh must be given full credit for messing up the accession of Kashmir in India which has resulted in such a wound that refuses to heal. It is good fortune of India that Sardar Patel did not allow Nehru to meddle much in the affairs of Hyderabad, Junagadh and other states. Had Nehru succeeded in his efforts to interfere in Hyderabad and Junagadh affairs we would have ended up with two more Kashmirs inside the belly of the Indian State. Due to Nehru’s excessive involvement in the matters of Kashmir, Patel felt handicapped. Field Marshall Auchiinleck was the Supreme Commander of Pakistan as well as Indian forces for some time. 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 Head Quarters giving information regarding the raiders’ advance and the probable intervention, he passed it onto the Government of India.1 Thus, in September 1947 itself Nehru had known about Pakistan’s design to attack Kashmir.  This attack, under the garb of frontier tribesmen, was launched by the regular army of Pakistan.2

On 29 September 1948 Abdullah gave an interview to the foreign correspondents in which he virtually declared independence of Jammu and Kashmir. Sardar Patel took note of it and wrote to Nehru in most unambiguous terms on September 30, 1948:

“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….

“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….

“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….” 3

Sardar Patel wrote also to Gopalaswamy Iyyangar who was put in-charge of Kashmir affairs by Nehru, highlighting several points in Abdullah’s interview. Seeing Sardar Patel’s fury both Nehru and Ayyangar got on the business of cover-up. They tried to show that Abdullah was a great patriot. Jawaharlal wrote to Sardar Patel:

“I entirely agree with you… He is not a very clear thinker and he goes astray in his speech as many of our politicians do.”4

Abdullah tried to wriggle out of the situation by giving a long reply to Patel’s letter of September 30 and saying that he has been misunderstood.5 In this letter he was full of venom against Hindus and Sikhs. 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.”6

Sheikh Abdullah started showing his true colours sooner than many may have expected. He started clamouring for an ‘Independent Kashmir’; 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.”7

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…. I condemn the Sheikh’s action…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.”8

The framing of the Constitution of India was virtually in the final stages. A draft was finally agreed upon among Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Gopalaswamy, Dr. Ambedkar, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah and three of his colleagues. It was also approved by the Constituent Assembly. The Article dealing with Kashmir in this draft was known as Article 306A. But after Abdullah and the party went back to Srinagar, they started raising objections to the draft. Abadullah argued that the provisions of Indian Constitution applicable on all other states should not be applicable on Jammu and Kashmir.

It is very difficult to guess whether Gopalaswamy was honest in writing in what he wrote to Patel after Abdullah’s interview with Davidson or was he really playing a game. Nevertheless, 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.”9

But the story gets murkier as we proceed. Though Gopalaswamy and Nehru were blaming Abdullah for the impasse and trying to impress upon Patel that they were unhappy with Abdullah’s behaviour, somewhere behind Patel’s back game was still on. Gopalaswamy, on October 15, 1949 sent another draft of article to be incorporated in 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.”10

Patel was aghast at the draft. What Gopalaswamy was calling as ‘minor’ adjustments, and in all essential it was the original draft, was seen by Sardar Patel as follows (communicated to 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.” 11

Things became more and more complicated due to the reopening of the Draft Constitution, already unanimously approved by the Constituent Assembly. 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, Nehru and Gopalaswamy thought it prudent to open the chapter and start drafting whole thing afresh (which came to be known as Article 370) as per the whims and fancies of Sheikh Abdullah and his cronies.

In a way, Abdullah was granted virtually an independent state within the India; courtesy Jawaharlal Nehru. Syama Prasad Mookerjee articulated the Indian people’s resentment on this issue in Parliament. Jana Sangh deplored the Article 370, Nehru-Abdullah Pact, and a separate Constitution for Jammu and Kashmir:

“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.”12

The Jana Sangh’s Central Working Committee passed a resolution reminding the Government that Jammu and Kashmir 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.”13

 

References:

(For details see Makkhan Lal, 2008, Secular Politics Communal Agenda, New Delhi)

 

  1. P. Menon, 1957, Transfer of Power, p. 452
  2. Jawaharlal Nehru’s reply to debate in Lok Sabha, on Kashmir on 29th March, 1956, Speeches:1953-57, Vol. III, pp.216-26.

 

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

 

  1. Letter of Nehru to Patel, Sardar Patel Correspondence: 1945-1959. 1, Edited by Durga Das, 1971, pp. 230-233.

 

  1. Letter of Sheikh Abdullah to Patel, (7th October, 1948), Sardar Patel Correspondence: 1945-1959. 1, Edited by Durga Das, 1971, pp.233-47

 

  1. Letter of Patel to Abdullah, Sardar Patel Correspondence: 1945-1959. 1, Edited by Durga Das, 1971, pp. 241-245.

 

  1. Sheikh Abdullah’s interview with Machael Davidson published in The Scotman, on 14 April, 1949. Also in Sardar Patel Correspondence: 1945-1959. 1, Edited by Durga Das, 1971, p. 266.

 

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

 

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

 

  1. Ibid.

 

  1. Patel to Gopalaswamy (latter dated 16 October, 1949), Sardar Patel Correspondence: 1945-1959. 1, Edited by Durga Das, 1971, p. 305.

 

  1. Organiser, V:51; 4 August,

 

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

 

About the author

PROF. MAKKHAN LAL

The author is a well-known historian.

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