Note: This article was originally published on August 9, 2019 and is being republished on November 14, 2019.
The Sangh parivar’s hatred of Jawaharlal Nehru is perfectly understandable. At the time of the Partition of India, he stood by Gandhi and bravely fought back the rising surge of hate fostered by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS supremo, M.S. Golwalkar’s plans to exterminate Muslims were detected, as the chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh, Rajeshwar Dayal revealed in his memoir A Life in Our Time.
Had he been arrested, as Dayal suggested, Gandhi’s life would have been spared. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the RSS still feel very uneasy about Gandhi. L.K. Advani got installed in the hall of parliament the portrait of V.D. Savarkar – whom a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice J.L. Kapur, held guilty of being a member of the conspiracy to kill Gandhi. Savarkar is author of the parivar’s Bible, Hindutva. Gandhi’s portrait there faces that of his assassin.
This writer gauged the depth of the BJP’s hatred of Nehru in 1989 when he met Jaswant Singh, a friend some of us thought was a liberal. He asked me for the word in Urdu for an idol breaker. It is butshikan. He proceeded to tell me, for the first time, that we must demolish three “idols” – planning and non-alignment. He did not mention the third. It was, obviously, secularism. In Mumbai he lamented before a gathering of businessman that in India, three Gs are treated with scorn – Gai, Ganga and Gita. He had never stated this falsehood before.
Hatred of Nehru has been fuelled by falsehoods of history. But the truth was never a parivar virtue. To cite an instance, Advani brazenly contradicts himself on the Jan Sangh’s transformation into the BJP in one and the same book, My Country, My Life (2008). At page 38, he writes that the Jan Sangh “later became the Bharatiya Janata Party” in 1980. But at page 311, he writes: “while affirming our proud link with both the Bharatiya Jan Sangh and the Janata Party, connoted that we were now a new party with a new ‘identity’” (emphasis added throughout).
This is a brazen falsehood. The BJP soon developed an item in its credo, “Gandhian Socialism”. A.B. Vajpayee spoke the truth: “When did we leave the Jan Sangh?”
This earned it the wrath of the RSS, which wanted revival of the Jan Sangh. Vajpayee and Advani knew that the Sangh’s name was mud in the country. It needed the destructive slogan of Ayodhya – which Rajiv Gandhi generously provided it in 1986 – for the BJP to rise from two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984 to 89 in 1989.
If these people could utter lies on a matter like this, one should not expect anything better on Nehru’s record. If Kashmir is a part of India, it is almost entirely because of Nehru. He had the foresight to forge an understanding with its tallest leader, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in the 1930s. As far back as in May 1947, he wrote a detailed memorandum to the Viceroy Mountbatten staking a claim to Jammu and Kashmir ahead of the Partition. The BJP’s ancestor, the Jan Sangh, was interested only in Jammu and its proxy, the Praja Parishad.
On January 1, 1952, Nehru uttered a bitter truth which still rankles in the minds of the BJP. Its behaviour in recent months has vindicated Nehru. He said:
“You can see that there can be no greater vindication than this of our secular policies, our Constitution, that we have drawn the people of Kashmir towards us. But just imagine what would have happened in Kashmir if the Jan Sangh or any other communal party had been at the helm of affairs. The people of Kashmir say that they are fed up with this communalism. Why should they live in a country where the Jan Sangh and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh are constantly beleaguering them? They will go elsewhere and they will not stay with us.” (S. Gopal [Ed.] Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru; Vol.17; p.78).
Patel was also privy to the pledge on plebiscite as, indeed, was his cabinet colleague Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. One does not expect the historical truth from man like a Narendra Modi and his man Friday Amit Shah. They are not only uneducated but uneducable. What Shah, now Union home minister, said in his speech in the Lok Sabha on June 28 deserves note because it recites all the BJP’s main charges against Nehru. No cabinet minister is able to open his mouth on any subject without praising Modi to the skies. How long this political obscenity lasts remains to be seen.
Let us begin with this first charge. The entire Congress, Patel included, was privy to it. The Congress of 2019 is not the Congress of 1947 or 1944. The formula which Gandhi offered to Jinnah in 1944 envisaged the Partition of India after a plebiscite of “contiguous Muslim majority districts”.
But the greatest splitter was Mukherjee, the Jan Sangh’s founder: He was a collaborator with the British, teaching the governor how to defeat the Quit India movement. Jinnah could not have spent three hours talking to him unless Partition was a topic.
The Cabinet Mission’s Plan of May 16, 1946, was the last chance of preserving India’s unity. It envisaged a united federal India. Jinnah accepted it, the Congress did not. Mukerjee hated it, he wanted Partition. This is what he wrote to Patel on May 11, 1947:
“I hope there is no possibility of the Muslim League accepting the Cabinet Mission Scheme at the last stage. If Mr. Jinnah is compelled to do so by the force of events, please do not allow the question of partition of Bengal to be dished. Even if a loose Centre as contemplated under the Cabinet Mission Scheme is established, we shall have no safety whatsoever in Bengal. We demand the creation of two provinces out of the present boundaries of Bengal – Pakistan or no Pakistan.” (Durga Das [Ed.]; Sardar Patel’s Correspondence; Vol. 4, p. 40).
Thus, even if there was no Partition, Bengal must be partitioned on religious lines. Its impact on the nature of the federation and or the affected provinces, East Bengal, Sind, Punjab, N.W.F.P. and Balochistan can well be imagined.
There always existed a section of the Hindu politicians which preferred Partition. Lajpat Rai said as much in 1924. Why did Mukerjee join a cabinet in 1947 whose leaders had accepted the Partition of India? He did so with the same ease with which he had joined Fazlul Haq’s cabinet in Bengal. He wanted J&K also to be partitioned on communal basis. He was a partitionist to the core.
Yet Amit Shah said: “Who has done the Partition? We did not do that. Who gave consent for Partition? Today also we tell that, the nation should not be divided based on the religion. It was a historical mistake. Its height is like Himalayas and depth is like ocean. But we did not do that mistake. Mistake was done by you, your party has done and you can’t run from that history.”
The ceasefire in Kashmir
Amit Shah said: “Jawaharlal Nehru was the prime minister who called for a ceasefire. That part is now in Pakistan. You are teaching us history, making allegations, and doing press conference, we will not take this and that into confidence. Without taking into confidence the home minister and deputy prime minister of the nation, Jawaharlal Nehru has taken the decision; if [others were] taken into confidence, today the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir would have been in India’s possession.”
This is utterly and totally false. Volume 1 of Patel’s correspondence belies the charge that Patel was not taken into confidence. In that event, he was man enough to resign from the cabinet. The record was set out in full by a professional military historian, S.N. Prasad, based on interviews and official records. He was director, historical section of the Ministry of Defence. History of Operations in Jammu & Kashmir (1947-48) was published in 1987 by the history section of the defence ministry. The history’s analysis is set out here in extenso.
“The enemy had in December 1948 two infantry divisions of the regular Pakistan Army, and one infantry division of the so-called ‘Azad Kashmir Army’ fighting in the theatre. These comprised fourteen infantry brigades; or 23 infantry battalions of the Pakistan Army and 40 infantry battalions of “Azad Kashmir”, besides 19000 Scouts and irregulars. Against this, the Indian Army had in J&K only two infantry divisions, comprising twelve infantry brigades; a total of some 50 infantry battalions of the regular army and the Indian States Forces, plus 12 battalions of the J&K Militia (some with only two companies) and 2 battalions of the East Punjab Militia.
Even if the above statement of comparative strength is taken as approximately correct, it is clear that Indian forces were definitely outnumbered by the enemy in J&K, and only the superior valour and skill, and perhaps fire-power, together with the invaluable help from the tiny Air Force, enabled the Indian Army to maintain its superiority on the battlefields. There can be no doubt, however, that any major offensive required more Indian troops in J&K. …
The position regarding further Indian reinforcements for J&K was none too comfortable. Infantry was the basic requirement in the mountainous terrain, and infantry units of the Indian Army were fairly fully occupied elsewhere. About the end of 1948, there were 127 infantry battalions of the Indian Army, including Parachute and Gorkha battalions and State Forces units serving with the Indian Army, but excluding Garrison battalions and companies. Of these 127, some fifty battalions were already in J&K. Twenty-nine battalions were in the East Punjab, guarding the vital sector of the Indo-Pakistan frontier. Nineteen battalions were stationed in the Hyderabad area, where the Razakars still posed a potential threat to law and order and the Military Governor required strong forces at hand to complete his task of pacifying the area. There were thus only twenty-nine battalions, available for internal security, to guard the thousands of kilometres of frontier, and to act as the general reserve.
By scraping the barrel, more forces could certainly be despatched to J&K. But this would have accentuated the supply problem, as the entire force in J&K had to be maintained by a single rail-head, and a single road. This road was long and weak, and had numerous narrow bridges with which few liberties could be taken.
While logistics put a definite limit to the size of the forces that India could maintain in J&K. Pakistan suffered from no such limitation. There were numerous roads from Pakistan bases to the J & K border, and from there the actual front-line was generally accessible by short tracks or roads. So there was no maintenance problem for whatever reinforcements Pakistan could send to her forces in J&K to block any Indian advance.
Indian forces, therefore, had to operate in J&K under a definite and severe handicap. The enemy could not be beaten decisively by local action within the boundaries of J&K. For decisive victory, it was necessary to bring Pakistan to battle on the broad plains of the Punjab itself; the battle of J&K, in the last analysis, had to be fought and won at Lahore and Sialkot, as events brought home in 1965. So, if the whole of J&K had to be liberated from the enemy, a general war against Pakistan was necessary. There can be hardly any doubt that Pakistan could be decisively defeated in a general war in 1948-49, although both the Indian and the Pakistan armies were in the throes of partition and reorganization then.” (pp.373-5).
India secured the Valley, Jammu and Ladakh. In 1948-49, it could not afford “a general war”.
Reference to the United Nations Security Council
Given the military situation, a ceasefire was imperative. Had it not acted, Pakistan would have gone there first, citing India as a respondent. The issue first came up on December 8, 1947, at Lahore when Mountbatten and Nehru went there to meet Liaquat Ali Khan. They discussed a draft agreement. Liaquat Ali Khan agreed to a reference to the UN. Mountbatten began to persuade Nehru to agree to this.
Discussions were resumed in New Delhi on December 21-22, 1947. For long, Nehru was “bitterly opposed” to a reference to the UN. He agreed to it by December 22. The draft was approved by Gandhi who deleted the option of independence. (S. Gopal; Nehru; Vol. 2; p.22).
In view of later criticism, it is important to note how and why things went wrong:
“I (Mountbatten) informed him (Nehru) of my view that one of the main reasons why India’s case had gone so badly at the Security Council was because the Indian delegation was completely outclassed by the Pakistan delegation. Not only was Mr. Gopalaswami Ayyangar completely the wrong type to send, not being a good social mixer and having a harsh, inaudible voice; but also there was nobody to compare with Mr. Mohammed Ali for doing background work behind the scenes. I told Pandit Nehru that my choice of the delegation would have been Sir C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar as leader, with Mr. H.M. Patel and possibly General Bucher. I suggested that, if it was intended to continue discussions at Lake Success after an adjournment, this team, rather than the present one should be sent. Pandit Nehru said that he would think this suggestion over.”
Another delegate India sent was the pompous, unsociable M.C. Setalvad. This charge does not figure in Amit Shah’s speech but it does in BJP’s discourse.
The Article represents a compact between the state of J&K and the Union. It was negotiated for six months from May 15, 1949 to October 16, 1949. The Union’s team comprised Nehru and Patel; Kashmiris’ team included Sheikh Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Beg. It was adopted by the Constituent Assembly of India on October 17. Nehru was away in the US. Patel led the Union’s team and altered the text along with M. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar as Patel’s letters dated October 16 and November 3, 1949 reveal.
Amit Shah said: “This treaty (Instrument of Accession) was not only made with Jammu-Kashmir, it was made with the 630 princely states of the nation. The treaty was made with 630 princely states, and 370 was not there. Sri Jawaharlal Nehru has negotiated at one place, and there is 370.”
The Instruments of Accession, signed by all in 1947, adopted the bare federal structure under the Government of India Act, 1935. It was adapted by India as its provisional constitution under the India Independence Act, 1947. All the princely states accepted Part B of India’s new constitution. Kashmir alone adopted by another Instrument the Constitution with its Article 370, which it had negotiated with the Centre for five months, only to be deceived five years later.
Marginal notes are referred to if the text is ambiguous in order to explain it. No marginal note can ever control the text itself. The marginal note “temporary provisions” does not set any term for Article 370. That is done by Clause (3) which confers that decision on Kashmir’s Constituent Assembly alone. With its formal dissolution on January 27, 1957, Article 370 ceased to be available to the Centre still less open to abrogation by some upstarts in New Delhi.
But why “temporary”? The sponsor of Article 370 in India’s Constituent Assembly M. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar explained why on October 17, 1949:
“Kashmir’s conditions are, as I have said, special and require special treatment. I shall briefly indicate what the special conditions are. In the first place, there has been a war going on within the limits of Jammu and Kashmir state.
There was a ceasefire agreed to at the beginning of this year and that ceasefire is still on. But the conditions in the state are still unusual and abnormal. They have not settled down. It is therefore necessary that the administration of the State should be geared to these unusual conditions until normal life is restored as n the case of the other states. Part of the state is still in the hands of rebels and enemies.
We are entangled with the United Nations in regard to Jammu and Kashmir and it is not possible to say now when we shall be free from this entanglement. That can take place only when the Kashmir problem is satisfactorily settled.
Again, the government of India have committed themselves to the people of Kashmir in certain respects. They have committed themselves to the position that an opportunity would be given to the people of the state to decide for themselves whether they will remain with the Republic or wish to go out of it. We are also committed to ascertaining this will of the people by means of a plebiscite provided that peaceful and normal conditions are restored and the impartiality of the plebiscite could be guaranteed. We have also agreed that the will of the people, through the instrument of a constituent assembly, will determine the constitution of the state as well as the sphere of Union jurisdiction over the state.
At present, the legislature which was known as the Praja Sabha in the state is dead. Neither that legislature nor a constituent assembly can be convoked or can function until complete peace comes to prevail in that State. We have therefore to deal with the government of the state which, as represented in its Council of Ministers, reflects the opinion of the largest political party in the state. Till a Constituent Assembly comes into being, only an interim arrangement is possible and not an arrangement which could at once be brought into line with the arrangement that exists in the case of the other states.
Now, if you remember the viewpoints that I have mentioned, it is an inevitable conclusion that, at the present moment, we could establish only an interim system. Article 306A [this was the draft number for the Article that would eventually become 370] is an attempt to establish only an interim system. Article 306A is an attempt to establish such a system.
It will remain “interim” or “temporary” till a plebiscite is held or “when the Kashmir problem is satisfactorily settled.”
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee death in Kashmir on June 23, 1953.
The Jan Sangh stooped to present forged documents and perjured oral evidence by Nana Deshmukh before Justice Y.V. Chandrachud on the death of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya in 1968. It stoops to the same level on Mukherjee’s death. Significantly, his acolyte Balraj Madhok made no such charge against Nehru or Abdullah in his book Portrait of a Martyr (196-97). He was treated by Dr Ali Mohammed, a physician of high repute. Madhok’s charge is not murder but “criminal negligence in the treatment” (p.242).
Amit Shah simply went haywire: “Today if Bengal is in India, it was due to the contribution of Shyama Prasad ji; otherwise Bengal would not have been part of India”.
He mentions Murli Manohar Joshi’s adventure to Lal Chowk, Srinagar; omits L.K. Advani’s presence, and adds that of “Narendra Modi ji putting their lives in danger” – despite full security. Finally, Shah concedes that “there is a gulf between the people of Jammu and Kashmir and India. But, why confidence was not built, because no efforts were made to build the confidence from the beginning itself.”
The arrest of Sheikh Abdullah on August 8, 1953, and his detention for 11 years inflicted a scar which still refuses to heal. The BJP regime’s crack down on August 5, 2019, will ensure far more lasting damage.
A.G. Noorani is a lawyer and author.