Reports from British diplomats in India and Pakistan on Partition squabbles, Kashmir, Junagadh, Hyderabad and, interestingly, the CPI.
LIONEL CARTER holds scholars in debt for the excellently annotated compilations he has produced, namely, five volumes of the Punjab Governor’s reports, three of the United Provinces (U.P.) Governor’s reports and Mountbatten’s last report on his viceroyalty; all published by Manohar. For more than a decade he served on the team that produced the Documents on The Transfer of Power to India 1942-1947.
The two volumes of Partition Observed contain reports from British diplomats in India and Pakistan. Compilers of documents in South Asia can learn a lot from him on how they should be compiled and annotated. He has described how material was obtained from the archives and the gaps in their collections. They range over a wide field – the massacres, Partition squabbles, Kashmir, Junagadh, Hyderabad and some very interesting materials on the Communist Party of India.
To Lord Addison, Secretary of State for the Dominions, Sir Terence Allen Shone, High Commissioner in India, wrote on September 5: “Despite the criticisms of foreign correspondents by Pandit Nehru on August 28, which were regarded as directed particularly at one of the BBC’s observers, there now seems little doubt that his report and that, for instance, of the special correspondent of The Times, from Jullundur on August 24 (published in The Times on the following day), were correct in attributing a large part of the first major atrocities to organised bands of Sikhs, acting in retaliation for what the Muslims had done to the Sikhs in Rawalpindi last March. While there was undoubtedly serious trouble at an early stage in Lahore, it seems clear that Sikh atrocities further inflamed the situation in the West Punjab.”
A top secret paper defined the circumstances in which British troops were to be used for the protection of British lives in India. “If the time should come when we have to seek the protection of British troops, we shall be in a strong position if the Indians have tried and failed,” Sir Shone wrote to the Joint Parliamentary Under Secretary Archibald Carter on September 9. We had come that close to humiliation.
Curiously, London was still occupied with forging “long-term defence arrangements” with India.
Nehru faced a solid phalanx of communalists in the Cabinet. Only Maulana Azad and John Mathai supported him, G.D. Birla told John Shattock of the High Commission. Gandhi fought for the protection of Muslim lives in India. On Pakistan, he was belligerent. He said at his prayer meeting on September 26: “He had been an opponent of all warfare but if there was no other way of securing justice from Pakistan, if Pakistan persistently refused to see its proved error and continued to minimise it, Indian Union Government would have to go to war against it.” The next day he explained that if one party persisted in wrongdoing and did not settle “the only way left open was that of war”.
“Gandhi was very stiff about Kashmir”
Kingsley Martin and Dorothy Woodman met him shortly before his tragic assassination and recorded their discussion for the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library’s Oral History Project.
Kingsley Martin said: “I got to Delhi in time to have an interview with Gandhi on Tuesday. Gandhi, I think, was killed on Friday if I remember rightly. I had an interview by Amrit Kaur. She sent his speech and took some notes, which I think I have still got, of our conversation. Gandhi was very stiff about Kashmir to my complete astonishment, and absolutely adamant about fighting it out, as if Kashmir belonged to India.
“B.R.Nanda: Gandhi said that?
“K. Martin: Yes. And he would not have anything to do with any kind of compromise about it. I said: ‘If you are going to fight for Gilgit, you will fight the wrong way – all of you. And you won’t get there. You are going to have Pakistan as a permanent enemy.’ He turned round to me, and he said: ‘You are only a journalist and you have no right to say this kind of thing when you have not even seen the documents or the history or anything about it.’ So I was rather abashed and then he said: ‘Well, perhaps I am rather brusque with you because you are not the only person; some very well-informed people indeed have been saying the very same thing to me in the last week.’… That night I was Nehru’s guest, but he put me off into the Government House.
I had been staying with Nehru for a day or two and then he packed me in the Government House. So I was with Mountbatten. I said to Mountbatten: ‘Have you seen Gandhi lately?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I saw him last week and we parted “brass rags”.’ That was his phrase. I said: ‘Why was that?’ ‘Well,’ I told him, ‘you ought to divide Kashmir and come to an end of this situation.’… Then I found that Nehru was quite really unwilling to talk much about this. In all the years that have gone, I have tried to talk about Kashmir, not from the Pakistan point of view, but in order to try and see what compromise can be made. Nehru was very unwilling to talk about all this.” The only man who talked of peace was Rajaji. He proposed a settlement based on the partition of Kashmir.
As for Vallabhbhai Patel, Shone reported to Philip Noel-Baker, as Secretary of State for the Dominions, on November 1: “Patel has never made any secret of his anti-Muslim or pro-Sikh sentiments; he is also realistic and of course vigorously anti-communist; he would no doubt like to run the country and might be expected to do it ruthlessly, primarily in Hindu interests and in those of himself and his friends. Nehru may be too much of an idealist and too emotional but he is certainly more of a statesman in the wider sense, and he has a pliability which Patel does not possess. Nor should I expect him to stand on his pride to the same extent as Patel. Nehru no doubt still exercises far more popular appeal than Patel, but Patel is said to have strong backing in the Congress Working Committee.” One close friend was G.D. Birla, a companion on his walks “every morning”. On Patel, Lord Ismay remarked that “he had never known a man, unless it was Jinnah, who appeared to have less humanity in him”.
JUNE 2, 1947: At this meeting with Indian leaders called by Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India presented the partition plan. It was accepted the next day and announced over All India Radio. To Mountbatten’s right are Jawaharlal Nehru, Acharya Kripalani and Sardar Baldev Singh. To his left are Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali and Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar.
Birla was level-headed. He told Shattock and Alexander Symon, the Deputy High Commissioner, that people were seized of “a communal attitude of the most intransigent kind. Everyone in all classes of society was imbued with it. Not even the political leaders who exercised such strong influence over the masses in former days could stem its feelings. They were being carried along on the flood which they were at present unable to control. Even the attitude of the Congress party and [of] the masses of its followers to this question had undergone a great change and was now much more nearly a Mahasabhite one…. Before he left he handed to Mr. Symon a confidential pamphlet which he was submitting to the Cabinet containing proposals for a five-year economic plan for the Dominion. He said he would be extremely grateful for the personal views of members of the High Commissioner’s staff on this pamphlet both from the economic and political angle. In passing he remarked that India, in the future, would be neither a fully capitalist nor a fully socialist state. There would be room for private enterprise and state industries as well as state supervision over the whole economic field.” The paper was given to the British even before it was seen by the Indian Cabinet.
Rajaji was one of the very few who kept his head. He told Shone on November 15 that he was concerned at the situation he had found here, particularly with regard to the relations between India and Pakistan. “He said that while it was not for him to criticise Indian Ministers, he could not help feeling that in the disputes with Pakistan, they were all too often motivated by the desire to score off the opposite side. Whither was this likely to lead? He did not mention any particular Ministers, but he left me in no doubt that in his view the general line which was being taken with regard to the various disputes with Pakistan was petty, short-sighted and dangerous.” He criticised Britain for “becoming too much tied to the American tail”.
Charan Singh, then Parliamentary Secretary in U.P., thought that the “inexorable logic of partition of Mother India on a religious basis can admit only of two peaceful solutions of the problem, namely an exchange of population or an unqualified denunciation of the two-nation theory by Muslim Leaguers and the launching of an active enthusiastic campaign by them for unification of the two Dominions. There is no other middle path. Not all the efforts of our Nehrus and Pants can bring peace to this unfortunate land otherwise.” The then president of the United Provinces Congress Committee stated that “the Congress could not be fooled by the professions of loyalty to India so freely and frequently made by Muslim Leaguers nowadays. Their sole aim seemed to be to enter the Congress by the backdoor methods and get a share in the administration. ‘I want to tell the Leaguers your infiltration tactics and sabotaging would not succeed. We know you always betrayed the country, you stabbed us in the back and so we will give you your proper place.’” That was Purshottam Das Tandon.
A cult grew around Ram Manohar Lohia, a member who bequeathed his destructive opportunism to Madhu Limaye, George Fernandes, Raj Narain and sundry other wreckers. This is what he said on October 18, 1947: “Pakistan will have to go in one of three ways. Either [the] population of Pakistan will overthrow [the] League government and establish [a] secular state and reunite with India; secondly, [the] new leaders of Pakistan may realise [the] folly of [the] two-nation theory and change their ways and enter into agreements with us and start from being a confederation and once again become a single India; thirdly, war. Pakistan will disappear within the next five years.”
United Front suggested
The volumes contain interesting material on the CPI. P.C. Joshi, its best general secretary ever, advocated a united front on October 4: “It has to include within its fold our national leaders like Gandhi and Nehru right up to socialists and communists. Only if all parties came together would they be able to rally the people, stop the riots and crush the enemies within their gates. Reactionary vested interests who feared national reconstruction were the very elements who incited communal tension in order to sabotage all attempts at reconstruction by the national government.”
Shattock reported to London on October 11: “Mian Iftikharuddin, the well-known Congress Communist Muslim of Lahore, who has recently become Minister for Refugees in the West Punjab told a friend in Delhi recently that he had accepted this post ‘in Party interests’ and with the Party leaders’ blessings (meaning the Communist Party). The Communists’ programme in India was at present obscure. The Bombay leaders had just declared their support for the Indian government’s policy and Nehru’s leadership but with their usual ulterior motives in doing so. They do not appear to have made up their minds about Pakistan yet, but the Communist organisation in Pakistan is very weak and always has been amongst Indian Muslims. The Sikh Kirti group in northern India is completely disorganised. The remnants are attempting to reform with Amritsar as their headquarters. The rift continues between this group and the Bombay CPI Polit-bureau, but in the new situation local enthusiasts expect a new policy and possibly a new line-up.” That did happen at the second party Congress in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in February 1948. P.C. Joshi was ousted by the hardliner B.T. Ranadive.
NEHRU WITH PATEL (centre) and C. Rajagopalachari. Sir Terence Allen Shone, Secretary of State for the Dominions, reported that “Patel has never made any secret of his anti-Muslim or pro-Sikh sentiments”; that Nehru possessed a “pliability which Patel does not possess”; and that the “only man who talked peace was Rajaji” – he proposed a settlement based on the partition of Kashmir.
People’s War, the CPI’s organ (before it became New Age), was the only paper to report on the Muslim League Council’s proceedings in camera in Karachi on December 13-14, 1947. The High Commissioner to Pakistan Sir Lawrence Grafftey-Smith’s report to London on December 19 is therefore invaluable. “It is understood that the debates were heated, sometimes violent, and that Mr Jinnah himself was involved in acrimonious exchanges. It appears that three main trends of opinion were displayed at the outset; Muslims from the Frontier Province were in favour of a purely Islamic state in Pakistan and urged the expulsion of all-non-Muslims; a contingent from the Punjab favoured the maintenance of the Muslim League in its present form, covering both the dominions, and opposed division; and the East Bengal delegation, led by Suhrawardy, pressed for the replacement of the League by a separate ‘National League’ in Pakistan, open to non-Muslims, and by an organisation in India which, though its membership would apparently continue to be Muslim, would be primarily political rather than communal in its activities and would be prepared to cooperate with the Congress and the Government of India. The main resolution is reported eventually to have been carried with only five dissentient votes; but there is little doubt that the Quaid-i-Azam’s personal influence was used to the full to secure this result, and a large number of amendments are reported to have been tabled but finally withdrawn under pressure from him.” All the prominent Leaguers from India were opposed to the imposition of the League on India. An obscure Mohammed Ismail from Madras, who was not even a member of the working committee, readily agreed to become its convener and win fame. He thus acquired a zamindari which did much damage to Muslims.
Nehru successfully impressed not only his ignorant colleagues in the Congress but others with his “expertise” in foreign affairs. Only Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai, Secretary-General in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), was not fooled, though he respected his boss. He was keen on “the education of Indian Ministers in diplomatic practice and the field of international affairs generally, a task to which, as he has more than once told me, he has been applying himself diligently since he became Secretary-General of his Ministry”.
The High Commissioner reported to London: “Sir Girja said he had not been keen on taking that post, but he had found in Pandit Nehru a very sympathetic and understanding chief who had grown greatly in stature and in knowledge of foreign affairs during these last months. The Pandit was now a very different man from the author of the well-known Autobiography and The Discovery of India. If he was not too easy to deal with over personalities, he was always ready to listen to argument and advice on policy. The trouble was that he had so much to do nowadays that Sir Girja could only see him all too rarely. But he had delegated much responsible work to Sir Girja.
“Sir Girja alluded to all the talk there has been here of India assuming the leadership of Asia; he felt India had much to do first in the way of settling her internal affairs and establishing a stable government and administration; he was not himself inclined to run after ‘wills o’ the wisp’.” One wonders if the Ministers are better educated now. Judging by the outpouring in the media of most Indian diplomats after retirement, one wonders if they are any better. Sir Girja remains unsurpassed.
We have had from both sides a lot of tendentious comment on the state of popular opinion in Kashmir before it acceded to India. These volumes provide a corrective. One hopes Carter will compile another volume of reports by British Residents in Srinagar (1945-1947) and more extensive reports on Kashmir by diplomats in Delhi and Karachi (1947-1949). It will be a great service to the historical truth.
GANDHI IN SRINAGAR with Begum Abdullah (left) and Khallida Abdullah. On Kashmir, Kingsley Martin found Gandhi to be “absolutely adamant about fighting it out, as if Kashmir belonged to India”.
Major Cranston’s report on Kashmir
“So far His Highness had given no indication whatsoever of his intentions but the general impression was that he would make an announcement either when he went to Jammu early in November or if and when he should go to Bombay a little later, and it was thought probable that he would then declare the accession of Kashmir State to the Dominion of India. This would cause an immediate reaction throughout the State by the Muslim population which numbers about 80 to 90 per cent and which is strongly opposed to any union with the Indian Government. If this happened it is also most probable that the tribes on the north and north western borders of Kashmir would invade the State. I was informed that at that time 20,000 Hazara tribesmen, 15,000 from Chitral and 10,000 from Hunza States were ready to invade Kashmir as soon as they considered the Maharajah was declaring for accession to India. The Mehtar of Chital and the Nawab of Dir have formally warned the Maharajah that if he accedes to the Indian Union they will invade his State. Sheikh Abdullah, the Muslim nationalist leader, is said to have favoured Kashmir remaining as an independent State. He is, however, believed to have made an agreement with the Maharajah that if the Maharajah should accede to the Indian Union he would support him. In such an event, however, it is extremely doubtful whether Sheikh Abdullah’s Muslim followers would continue to support him. It is possible that if the Maharajah should announce his intention of acceding to the Indian Union whilst he is in Jammu, the State of Jammu, which contains many Dogras, would support him and join the Indian Union, but the remainder of Kashmir State would break away and join Pakistan.”
Hugh Stephenson, Deputy High Commissioner in Lahore – an old India hand like most others – reported to his chief on September 13: “The Maharajah and Hindu ruling class would join India if they dared but in the present circumstances that will mean revolution. The State Army cannot possibly hold the whole border and could not meet the Muslim infiltration which would be inevitable if revolution occurred. In the meanwhile, every effort is being made to push on the new road into India which might be ready for military traffic in three months’ time. The alternatives are for Kashmir to join India, which the ruler wants but which can only be accomplished by a coup d’etat, Indian troops being rushed to Kashmir and trusting to disorganisation in Pakistan. Or, if that doesn’t happen, Kashmir will fall eventually like a ripe plum to Pakistan.
“The impression is that the Maharajah and his advisers, who are completely undecided, will not have the courage to face a coup d’etat even if India agreed, which I think unlikely. In the meanwhile, a decision will be put off as long as possible.”
Pakistan’s tribal raid launched on October 22 compelled a decision. It was an act of criminal folly.
Grafftey-Smith’s sources told him that a “little clique, led by the Maharani, which powerfully influences the Maharajah of Kashmir, is working hard to secure conditions favourable to a declaration by His Highness of accession to the Government of India, but that any such declaration, which must provoke turbulent opposition within Kashmir and on its borders, is likely to await some dramatic and favourable circumstances”. Pakistan generously provided that.
CPI LEADERS, GENERAL secretary P.C. Joshi (left), G. Adhikari and B.T. Ranadive, at a party Polit Bureau meeting in Bombay in 1945. On October 4, 1947, Joshi advocated a united front including “national leaders like Gandhi and Nehru right up to socialists and communists” to rally the people “to stop the riots and crush the enemy within their gates”.
In September 1947, India seriously considered an attack on Pakistan over Junagadh. The idea was revived in December; this time, over Kashmir. On December 5 V.P. Menon was for the partition of Kashmir on a communal basis. The Governor of the North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa), who was opposed to the tribal raid, noted its harmful impact on Pakistan itself, very much as its covert operation launched in 1988-89 has had. “He attributed the general deterioration of the administration here to the Kashmir affair more than to any other single cause. Not only had officials been diverted from their proper duties, but the deceitful and secret methods which had been adopted, frequently under the orders of the Chief Minister, had hopelessly undermined all discipline and mutual confidence in the services between officers and men and between senior and subordinate officers.”
Shone’s report of December 28 was grim. “I learn privately that V.P. Menon, who has today flown to Jammu with Vallabhbhai Patel, informed the Governor-General that the Inner Cabinet on December 26th had decided that if Uri falls Indian forces must enter Pakistan to obliterate them [the] ‘bases and nerve centres of the raiders’. I also understand that for some days past Nehru and the Inner Cabinet have not been discussing their military plans frankly with Mountbatten or Lockhart but have been taking advice from Indian military ‘experts’.”
Until Partition, Kashmir retained its historic links with Central Asia. The mail was passed normally to Kashmir. Russian Muslims had been coming down through Gilgit to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca. One diplomat’s report reflected the obsession with the USSR. He wrote of “large numbers of maulvis coming into Kashmir doing Russian propaganda. Whether they have or not, they would provide a very convenient vehicle for such propaganda, since presumably Russian Muslim pilgrims are not allowed to travel without official approval and assistance. If there were a complete breakdown in relations between India and Pakistan, and Russia were to seek to take advantage of the opportunity to invade Pakistan, the Gilgit route from Turkestan might provide a possible line of advance for light guerilla troops, especially if the way had been prepared by propaganda and the sympathy of the local population had been won. Major Brown mentioned that caravans returning towards Kashgar are taking only loads of iron, steel and lead, for which they were paying very high prices, and it was rumoured that these materials might be for Russian tribal arms factories. Caravans normally took tea, salt and other rations.”
After 1947 the links with Central Asia weakened. Right now they are extinct.