On October 26, 1947 Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Union of India. But the Sangh Parivar played no role in it, in fact opposed the accession and tried very hard to separate Jammu from Kashmir
BJP’s predecessor, the Jan Sangh, its political mentor the RSS and the organization supported by these two, the Jammu based Praja Parishad had no role to play in the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India, which happened on 26 October 1947.
But they have started appropriating the legacy of that historic event by designating it as Accession day and declaring a public holiday in the Union territory on that day. This is a gimmick which never occurred to those who had really fought for Kashmir, namely Sheikh Abdullah, Nehru and thousands of National Conference volunteers, who engaged the invading tribesmen from the Northern area.
Before the present leadership at New Delhi further distort the history of the union of Jammu and Kashmir with India by renaming tunnels and bridges after Jan Sangh leaders as per their intended plan, it would be worthwhile to throw some light on their real role on Kashmir.
When Article 370 was incorporated in the Constitution as per commitment given by the Union Government in the Instrument of Accession signed, these organisations started an agitation for its abrogation. Later, when the Union Government signed the Delhi Accord with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir for closer ties between the two, they opposed this too.
It is erroneous to assume, as has been largely made out, that the aim of the leaders of Jammu agitation was to integrate the state of Jammu and Kashmir with India. It was hardly their intention. What they primarily aimed at was separation of Jammu from Kashmir and then a forcible merger of Kashmir. According to eminent historian, Professor Alastair Lamb, the Praja Parishad movement had ‘sought the separation of Jammu from the vale of Kashmir, either as a state in its own right or as part of the Indian Punjab’. (Alastair Lamb, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy, page 197).
Nehru had warned about the short sightedness of the Jammu agitation, which he called ‘a remarkable instance of folly or of mischief’ in his letter of 27 January 1953 to the chief ministers. He spurned the idea of a separate Jammu province:
The purpose of this agitation is to upset the Delhi agreement. That is bad from the national point of view as well as international. To ask for Jammu province to have a closer union with India is to encourage the disruption of the Jammu and Kashmir state with all the evil consequences that must flow from it. Indeed, Jammu province itself might disintegrate. Our position vis-a- vis Kashmir valley inevitably weakens very greatly. Indeed, if that disruption takes place, we have hardly any position left in the valley.
This less known fact about their intention to separate Jammu from Kashmir was a dangerous proposition which would vindicate Jinnah’s two- nation theory and damage India’s secular credentials. As it was, there is no doubt that it introduced the communal element in Jammu and Kashmir politics. Nehru cautioned about it in an emotional speech at Calcutta, on January 1, 1952:
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 RSS are constantly beleaguering them? They will go elsewhere and they will not stay with us’. (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, volume 17, page 78.)
Nehru was deeply disturbed by the Jammu agitation, which he said was drawing Kashmir away from the nation. In a speech at a public meeting held on 06 July 1952 under the auspices of the Delhi PCC, he expressed his shock at their activities:
I am amazed at the way they have gone about doing things in Kashmir in the last couple of years. Basically, their tactics are to denounce the present regime in Kashmir, thereby sowing the seeds of dissension at the time it is essential for all of us to march together. How does it benefit anyone? The Praja Parishad claims loudly that Kashmir must be merged with the Indian Union. We too want that. But it is easy to see the result of tactics they have adopted. It is amazing to see the references to the Jammu Praja Parishad in the Pakistani newspapers Pakistan is aware that the Praja Parishad is making their task easier by creating dissensions in Kashmir. So you can understand why it is important to act circumspectly. (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, second series, vol. 18, page 21)
Nehru appealed for broad-mindedness and the need to give up parochialism and provincial prejudices. He warned against forcible merger of Kashmir as the Jan Sangh leaders were advocating. In his speech in the Lok Sabha on 26 June 1952, he had said-
Do not think that you are dealing with a part of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or Gujarat. You are dealing with an area, historically and geographically and in all manner of things, with a certain background. If we bring our local ideas and local prejudices everywhere, we will never consolidate. We have to be men of vision and there has to be broadminded acceptance of facts in order to integrate really. And real integration comes of the mind and the heart and not of some clause which you may impose on other people.
As far as one’s understanding goes, the outcome of a plebiscite in Kashmir would have gone in favour of India, in the initial stage of the crisis. Accordingly, when Mountbatten, as Nehru’s emissary, put to Jinnah the suggestion, on 01 November, 1947, that ‘the Kashmir issue could be settled by a plebiscite, perhaps held under supervision of the United Nations, but only, of course following restoration of order’, he did not agree to it.
Unable to give up his two-nation theory Jinnah saw no merit in the idea of a plebiscite. Given the ‘overwhelming Muslim population of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, he could not understand why a plebiscite should be necessary’. Liaquat Ali Khan, however, told Nehru on 16 November, that while this ‘Quisling’, meaning Sheikh Abdullah, was in Kashmir, he could not expect a fair plebiscite. Actually, what Pakistan feared most at this stage was a fair plebiscite in Kashmir. In the end, Jinnah was content to avoid the risk of a plebiscite. (Alastair Lamb, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy, page 159-160)
Alas, this position was to be reversed soon, thanks to the communal politics played by the Jan Sangh and the Praja Parishad. A plebiscite would go against India, were it to be held, say in 1953. In a sad mood, Nehru, vide his letter of 29 June 1953 confided to his friend B.C. Roy how the Praja Parishad movement had harmed the interests of the country. He minced no words:
If Hindu communalists could organise a movement in Jammu, why should not the Muslim communalists function in Kashmir? The position now is that if there was a plebiscite, a great majority of Muslims in Kashmir would go against us. In fact, there has been some petty violence also.
So, this movement of the Praja Parishad, which aims at closer integration of Kashmir state with India, has had the opposite effect. … The whole difficulty has been about the valley of Kashmir and we are on the point of losing it because of the Praja Parishad movement. Psychologically we have lost it and it would be difficult to get back to the old position. … In the ultimate analysis, we gain Kashmir if we gain the goodwill of the people there. We cannot keep it at the point of the bayonet if it is clear that the people do not want us. For the first time public cries are raised in Kashmir that the Indian Army should get out. (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, volume 22, page 203)
By 1953, the Jan Sangh and the RSS supported Praja Parishad had pushed Jammu and Kashmir to the brink. Nearly sixty-seven years after they had failed to separate Jammu from Kashmir, their present successors came up with a variant plan, and on 05 August 2019 separated Ladakh from the state, also depriving the separated units of statehood.
One wonders whether their present decision will have a less adverse outcome.