Editorial : Quarterbacking the history of Kashmir : 9th august 1953

New York Times of July 5, 1953 wrote that John Fester Dulles supported the secession demand of Shiekh Abdullah or a similar solution of this nature. There was no official verification, however it is true that Adlai Stevenson, U.S. Ambassador in India visited Kashmir in May 1953, but there is no proof of any connection between his visit in May and Shiekh Abdullah’s change of behavior by June 1953. The coincidence is, however, conspicuous.

It was on 31 July 1953 Sheikh Abdullah addressed to a peasant audience at Ganderbal and said that: Both India and Pakistan ….. Are our neighbours and are situated on our borders. It is natural that the progress and betterment of Kashmir should be dependent on their good will. We should have the friendship of both. Only then we can live a life of honour. It will not augur well for the Kashmiri people to be unfriendly to India or Pakistan or both.

On Martyr’s Day, July 13, 1953 he delivered a major speech. Richard S. Leach of the US Embassy was present. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah stated that: Kashmir’s position is such that it should have the sympathy of both India and Pakistan. Therefore, we have to seek such solution which will be honourable to Kashmir and acceptable to these countries. It is not necessary that our state should become an appendage of either India or Pakistan…. I do not want unity between Kashmir and India alone, but between Kashmir, India and Pakistan.”

Inspite of the discussions, debates and decisions in the constituent Assembly of J&K, the implementation of Delhi Agreement was not forthcoming. The peculiarity of the situation roused many eye-brows and the suspicion aroused about the intentions of the leaders of the Government. (Though the agreement was discussed in the Union Parliament on August 7, 1952 and accepted). In the working committee of the National Conference there was a sharp criticism of the Government’s policy. The rift was such that it had its adverse effect on the Cabinet as well. Instead of implementing the Delhi Agreement Shiekh Abdullah starting advocating secession, which would make J&K an Independent State.

The people of the state because of the Tribal Attack in 1947 which had caused much devastation, which was a direct consequence of J&K’s isolated position, could easily perceive the danger of such a course. There are inflammatory rumours that US was backing the Kashmir’s independence. Sheikh Abdullah was accused both by the public and by his colleagues in the cabinet of attempting to create a state for himself.

In fact, three members of his cabinet submitted a memorandum to sheikh Abdullah accusing him of various charges .

“As is well known, the unprovoked aggression from Pakis-tan had put our very national existence at stake. In that critical hour of crisis, all of us jointly approached India for help and requested her to accept the accession of the State and assist us in repelling the aggression and restoring peaceful conditions in the State.The united will of the people stood solidly behind this act of Kashmir’s accession to India. While accepting our request, the Government of India assured us of the right of self-determination for our people. After the convening of the Constituent Assembly, certain inescapable elaborations of the State’s relationship with India were defined in the Delhi Agreement, of which you were the Chief Architect on our behalf. Your stand was unanimously endorsed by the Government, the National Conference, the Indian Parliament and the Constituent Assembly of the State. But you have not only deliberately delayed implementation of the agreements on these matters which form the sheet-anchor of our policy, but have purposefully and openly denounced these in public. You have thus arbitrarily sought to precipitate a rupture in the relationship of the State with India. Though it is true that the people of the State have the ultimate right to decide their future, the conditions of chaos and confusion which are being engineered today by you are bound to be fatal for the exercise of the right of self-determination by our people. Under these circumstances what seems inevitable is that interested foreign powers may well take advantage of and exploit the situation for their own selfish purpose. Mr. M.A. Beg has persistently been following policies of narrow sectarianism, and communalism, which have seriously undermined the oneness of the State. Unfortunately, you have been lending your support to his policies in the Cabinet and his activities in public. This has generated bitter feelings of suspicion and doubt in the minds of the people of various constituent units of the State. You have connived at all these unfortunate happenings and thus strengthened and encouraged the forces of disruption. The result is that unity and the secular character, the two fundamental aspects of our State, stand threatened today.

 It soon became obvious that the capacity of the administration to function efficiently was doubtful. Consequent upon the developments caused by the rift between the leaders of the cabinet and change of stance of Shiekh Abdullah Sadar-e-riyasat, who, taking the cognizance of the situation, on August 8 1953, dismissed Shiekh Abdullah from the post of Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, and dissolved the cabinet.

Wrote Sadar-e-Riyasat to Shiekh Abdullah :

“This conflict within the cabinet has for a considerable time been causing great confusion and apprehension in the minds of the people of the state ….I have been forced to the conclusion that the present cabinet cannot continue in office any longer and hence I regret to inform you that I have dissolved the council of Ministers headed by you.”

On the same day in order to avoid a political and administrative vacuum the  Sadr-e-riyasat invited Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, the erstwhile Dy. Prime Minister, to form a new Government.On 9th August 1953; Shiekh Abdullah was arrested at Gulmarg under the state preventive detention Act.

His arrest produced an inevitable reaction in Kashmir valley with the gathering of angry crowds and the calling of strikes .In the early hours of August 9, 1953 Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad was sworn as the Prime Minister. The dismissal and arrest of Sheikh Abdullah was vigorously supported by the extreme right and the extreme left groups in Indian union. It was particularly important at the moment when India and Pakistan were getting closer; independence slogan might add a complication to a problem which the two Prime Ministers of both countries were trying to solve. The Prime Minister of India Pandit Nehru made an elaborate statement on the subject on August 10, 1953 in the Indian Parliament. He stated that: The Government of India though concerned at these developments, “did not wish to interfere except with advice in the internal structure and administration of the state.” …“our interest was in a peaceful and progressive government having the support of the people.” …… “this was an internal matter and we did not wish to interfere.”

Moreover, since the Art 256 of the constitution of India, which empowers the Union Government to issue directions to the State Government for the running of Administration in the state was not applicable to J&K, the Government of India could not intervene in the matter, but that does not imply that there was no role of Govt. of India behind his arrest.

Despite Nehru’s denials most historians believed that Congress Government was responsible for the cabinet upheaval and that Abdullah was removed because he was reluctant to lead Kashmir continuously into the lap of Indian union. He was evidently angling for special status just short of independence. Mr Mullick also stated that Pandit Nehru was receiving regular reports from D. P. Dhar and Karan Singh obviously exaggerated which showed that they were working jointly for his removal.

In May 1953 Pandit Nehru visited Srinagar for over a week. Nehru invited the Conference leaders to his residence but Sheikh remained unmoved. Pandit Nehru then sent Maulana Azad who did his utmost to persuade Abdullah to be moderate while criticizing the Hindu Mahasabha or Jan Sangh and advised him not to take the matters to the extreme but failed. Consequently the attitude of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah caused grave concern to the central leaders. On his return to New Delhi Pandit Nehru was advised to dismiss Abdullah before he commit any more mischief. Nehru was personally involved in the planning of the operation.

According to Director of Intelligence, Nehru asked him to strengthen his organisation in Kashmir and personally approved the choice of an intelligence official D.W. Mehra to oversee the operation. After deliberation Nehru came to the point that there was no alternative but to remove sheikh Abdullah and Install Bakshi G. M. in his place. He hoped that the change would be effected peacefully but he warned the rank and file to be prepared for the worst because Sheikh undoubtedly was a popular leader of valley. Nehru’s cabinet colleagues- Rafi Ahmad Kidwai and Ajit Prasad Jain were supervising the operation.

In Pakistan, however, the events in J&K provoked a wave of indignation. There were accusations against India of having overthrown Shiekh Abdullah, ’ until then a quisling in the opinion of the Pakistanis’ but who, now through a twist of history not without its comical aspects had became a martyr in the struggle of Kashmiris. But this propaganda in Pakistan was met with sharp criticism in Kashmir. In the September convention of the National Conference the members opposed association with the ruling clique of Pakistan and regretted their indulgence.

Meanwhile Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad immediately upon taking the oath of office while addressing People of the State made a policy statement. In his statement he bitterly deplored the idea of an independent Kashmir under the patronage of United States of America, which he said would be a threat to the freedom and independence of Indian and Pakistani people. He praised India with which Jammu and Kashmir had entered into indissoluble links.


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