Architect of an independent Kashmir

Ram Chandra Kak, though from his ethnic background, hated Nehru’s guts and would never trust him. Kak a staunch believer in Kashmir’s sovereign and independent status was closer to Pakistani leadership than Indian as Jinnah on several occasions had iterated that the wish of Kashmiri people must be respected.

Ram Chandra Kak held key and important positions in Maharaja Hari Singh’s government at different times and ended up with the vital position of the Prime Minister of the State from June 1945 to 11 August 1947. Hari Singh and Ram Chandra Kak had one thing in common; they would loath Jinnah, Nehru and Sheikh. Hari Singh saw the independence of Jammu and Kashmir as an alternative and viable option and Kak approved Maharaja’s desire as staunch supporter. Kak could be termed as an architect of an idea of an independent Kashmir.

Prime Minister Kak’s problems multiplied when he envisaged that his local Pandit population had joined hands with Jammu’s Dogra Hindus to oppose him in creating an independent Kashmir. Sheikh by then had been utterly mesmerised by Nehru’s cajolery that convinced him of Nehru’s sincerity of bonded relationship. What Sheikh couldn’t grasp were Nehru’s verbal promises but nothing in black and white that would guarantee Sheikh’s unfulfilled dream. Nehru’s cleverness paid huge dividends when he visited Sheikh in Srinagar along with Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan in May 1940; a master stroke to tame Abdullah and to lay foundation for an insurrection in Baluchistan in foreseeable future to annex it.

Abdullah, all know, wasn’t corrupt but had a special fondness for Kashmiri cuisine (Wazwan). A chemistry student, who later became a teacher, by any yardstick, was oblivious of the intricacy of politics especially when dealing with sagacious and astute political brains Nehru, Patel and Gandhi. Nehru was convinced that he wouldn’t possibly succeed in persuading Maharaja’s Prime Minister Ram Chandra Kak to help him carry out his mission to annex Kashmir.

Jinnah tried his best to warn Abdullah about following wrong direction but to no avail. Sheikh Abdullah at a reception in New Delhi said: “The Quaid-e-Azam had told me that I am like your father. Look at my grey hair. It has not greyed under the sunshine. I have spent my entire life in politics. Initially, I had joined the very Hindu leaders and dreamt of united India but was forced to part ways. Remember! If you don’t listen to my advice you will repent one day.”

Sheikh Abdullah at the prompting of Pandit Nehru started an unnecessary political movement Quit Kashmir against Maharaja who was a legal State Subject like Abdullah and in the worst situation could shift to safe environs of Hindu dominated Jammu which he finally did.

A calculated move by Nehru as he thought Maharaja out of the way would easily throw Kak in the dustbin of history. Nehru killed two birds with one stone and won over Abdullah with no problem in sight. Sheikh was arrested on May the 15th and to seek his release Nehru attempted to enter Kashmir as his defence council but his entry was blocked by Kak. Nehru returned to Delhi after two days when Her Majesty’s government in Delhi intervened. People of Kashmir, on the whole, believed Abdullah to be a nationalist desirous of an independent Kashmir but that in the end proved to be a mirage.

After the decision to Partition India in June 1947, the accession became imminent as Lord Mountbatten visited Kashmir in June for five days (19–23 June) and pressured the Maharaja as well as Kak to make a decision; as to which dominion to accede, Mountbatten said that it was the state government’s decision but strongly hinted that Pakistan would be the right choice. Jinnah is reported to have said that he did not mind the state not acceding to Pakistan as long as it did not accede to India.

According to Sheikh Abdullah, Kak had good relations with the ruling circles in Pakistan. He says Kak had assessed that as a Muslim majority state, Kashmir was bound to accede to Pakistan and he had prepared a path for him to serve in that eventuality. Brigadier Henry Lawrence Scott, Kak’s chief of staff, believes that the Congress leaders including Mahatma Gandhi intrigued in the State for the dismissal of Kak from premiership. He believed Kak to be an impediment to repairing relations with the Indian National Congress.

Sheikh, unfortunately, did not learn the nuances of political gamesmanship, trickery and truculence from India’s top trio Gandhi, Nehru and Patel to extract political benefits as he very well knew the aspirations of his people suffering from times immemorial. People of Kashmir gave him unstinting and overwhelming support to take decisions for his rights and wrongs but he misunderstood this support and thought he was in the right and indispensable.

Kak was dismissed as Prime Minister on 11 August 1947 and put under house arrest. Scholar Prem Shankar Jha states that he returned to the Maharaja’s service a few weeks later even though not as the prime minister. Kak was released and externed from the state in late 1948. Afterwards, Kak retired from public life.

The formula of relegating Kak was later successfully implemented on Maharaja Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah, the former externed to Bombay to die there nirvana and the latter to rot in the prisons of Kud, Kodaikanal and Kotla lane to die later a political death. The three souls expended necessitated the extension of Indian Article 370 to carry on with the occupation.

Ameer Tarin