Part - I
Addressing the British Prime Minister, Ambedkar said, "Prime minister, permit me to make one thing clear. The depressed classes are not anxious, they are not clamorous, they have not started any movement for claiming that there shall be an immediate transfer of power from the British to the Indian people.... Their position, to put it plainly, is that we are not anxious for transfer of power from the British to the Indian people."
As per the original plan, India was to gain independence in July 1948. The date was advanced to August 1947 by Lord Mountbatten, who was the then Viceroy of India. The reason, he claimed, was to avoid a bloodbath. But, his intention obviously was to create a bloodbath!
At some point in time, the British realized that their days in India were numbered. India had been the jewel in their empire. When they did not call it the "empire", they referred it as the "white man's burden". Their reasoning went like this "Wasn't it good fortune of these Indians that they have the British to rule over them?" At some time, they had to resign to the fact that they would have to eventually leave. It is clear to us now that the departing British decided to make their exit a honourable one for them and devastating one for Indians. A bloodbath would provide just that. It would reinforce the hackneyed claim that Indians were not capable of ruling themselves. Or, in other words, only the British could rule India. So, they did what they did to Bengal - divide the country on the basis of religion. As Sardar Vallabhai Patel astutely noted, "The British statesmen in order to win the sympathy of the world, now go on repeating that they are willing to give freedom to India, were India united."
Unfortunately for them, the Muslim League did not have a huge following among Muslims. Their goals were same as that of the Congress but with a special focus on Muslims. So, the British brief for the League was simple - "Change your act if you want to be taken seriously". Hence, a delegation went to London to get a man whom the League believed would galvanise the Muslim masses for an eventual partition of India and the creation of Pakistan*. The man's name was Jinnah†.
Mr. Jinnah, as he was known, was an old Congressman. He believed in gaining autonomy from the British by legislative means, as did most Congressmen. He had no appetite for civil disobedience and the possibility of arrest or jail time. Feeling sure that the movement had gone to the dogs and that he had no longer had a role to play, Jinnah went to London to practice law there.
Apart from Jinnah, the British employed B. R. Ambedkar‡ for their act. It is not known whether Ambedkar took orders from the British but whatever he did fit the plans of the British perfectly. He claimed to be the representatives of Harijans and the British accepted this claim without question, ignoring all the work that Gandhi and other Congressmen had done for the uplift of Harijans.
The British used these "representatives" of Muslims and the "Untouchables" (Harijans) as counterweights to the Congress, both at home and at the Round Table Conferences. Addressing the British Prime Minister, Ambedkar said:
"Prime minister, permit me to make one thing clear. The depressed classes are not anxious, they are not clamorous, they have not started any movement for claiming that there shall be an immediate transfer of power from the British to the Indian people… Their position, to put it plainly, is that we are not anxious for transfer of power from the British to the Indian people...
Thus, an unified opposition to the British was not forthcoming from India. Now, British claimed that Jinnah was the sole voice of Indian Muslims and Ambedkar was the voice of the "Untouchables" and hence the Indian National Congress could not speak for whole of India.
After the conferences, Ambedkar would be feted by British politicians for his loyal service. Jinnah was too much of a gentleman that the British did not take the same route. So, they cultivated him by proxy¤.
However, when the division came, Jinnah was an extremely frustrated man. The date was advanced against his wishes. His plea for a land corridor between western and eastern wings of Pakistan across India was rejected. Kashmir* was a princely state and hence its fate would be determined by its Maharaja. Nehru declared that Pakistan would be treated as a part of India that had seceded from it and not as equal halves.
It was then Jinnah knew he had been all along played like a fiddle by the British. Smarter from the experience, Jinnah conveyed to the British that he intended to become Governor General of Pakistan himself and Mountbatten would have to be content with being the Governor General of India alone. The latter would extract revenge that could be as cheap as Mountbatten was. When his PRO (a rarity in those days) Alan Cambell-Johnson found a doodle by Jinnah with tennis racquets, fireworks, and the words "Governor General", Mountbatten promptly passed it on to the press, as undeniable evidence of Jinnah's greed for power.
Personal relations between Jinnah and Mountbatten may have been become sour, but British treachery continued from inside Pakistan. Both Indian and Pakistani armies were under Claude Auchinleck, the Commander-In-Chief of British Indian armed forces. In October 1947, Pathan tribesmen from North-West Frontier Province, backed by regulars from the Pakistan army, moved into Kashmir. But, the C-in-C adopted a don't ask and don't tell policy. Later, he claimed he was totally unaware of the Pakistani irregulars' mobilization and backup provided by Pakistani army, which at that time was commanded by his British generals.
- * - The word Pakistan is an acronym of Punjab Afghania Kashmir Iran Sindh Tukharistan Afghanistan BaluchistaN. Fortunately, it does not include Junagarh, Hyderabad or East Bengal.
- † - Jinnah married a Parsi and she died rather early in life. After Independence, his family did not move to Pakistan. His sister Fatimah though accompanied Jinnah to Pakistan. After Jinnah's death, Fatimah Jinnah tried to follow his politica footsteps but her efforts were checkmated by general in the Pakistani military. These men then went on to make Pakistan into the world's leading bannana republic. Pakistan was run under the supervision of American economists and advisors because of which it does not have any big manufacturing industries. It imports a lot and its exports are mainly agricultural items. Interestingly, Jinnah's grandson Nusli Wadia lives in India and is the Chairman of the Bombay Dyeing group.
‡ - Ambedkar opposed Indian independence as much as he could because he felt that an independent India would be dominated by Brahmins. In 1937 elections, Ambedkar allied with the Muslim League and challenged the Congress but lost miserably. In his home state, the Congress won 14 out of the 15 seats that were reserved for harijans. The all-India situation was no different. Ambedkar alleged fraud in his book What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables. When independence from the British seemed inevitable, Ambedkar was one of the champion supporters of Pakistan and also wrote a book in support of it. In 1946, Ambedkar lost the elections but was elected to the Constituent Assembly after the winner vacated his seat. When India became independent, Ambedkar got himself tucked into Nehru's cabinet on the recommendation of Gandhi.
The offer came as a great surprise to me… I had my doubts… But I kept my doubts at rest and accepted the offer of the Prime Minister on the ground that I should not deny my co-operation when it was asked for in the building up of our nation…
Arun Shourie in his book Worshipping False Gods (ASA Publishers, 1997) quotes the diary of Indrani Devi, the widow of Jagjivan Ram.
And on this side Ambedkar had started coming over to our house. One day he (Ambedkar) told him to put in a word with Gandhiji to have him (Ambedkar) included in the Cabinet. Before talking to Gandhiji he (Jagjivan Ram) talked to Sardar Patel. Sardar Patel said, do what you think is appropriate. He (Jagjivan Ram) got into quite a quandary -- that Ambedkar had always opposed Gandhiji and the Congress, how could he now recommend his case to Gandhiji? Even so, given his large-heartedness, he pleaded with Gandhiji on behalf of Ambedkar, and told him that as he has surrendered in front of you please request Nehruji so that he may be taken into the first Cabinet.
Anyway, Ambedkar drew up the draft of the Indian Constitution. Hence, he is known as the father of the Indian Constitution. This is ironical for three reasons. One, he was a traitor to the Indian cause. Second, he followed Manu to write the law for Indians. Three, Ambedkar himself denounced the Constitution and expressed regret for having participated in its making. After four years in Nehru's cabinet, Ambedkar resigned. He contested the Lok Sabha elections in 1952 and lost. He gained entry into the Parliament via the Rajya Sabha. In 1953, he stood in the Bhandara Constituency by-election and lost again.
- ¤ - Unable to copt Jinnah, the British copted Shahid Hamid, one of Jinnah's confidantes. In his book "Disastrous Twilight", Hamid says he was "kicked upstairs" and appointed as personal secretary to Claude Auchinleck, the last Commander-in-Chief of British Army in India. Reading the book, one gets the impression that the British were feeding him in information knowing well that he would be relaying it to Jinnah. This was noted by the person who wrote the preface of the book, where Lord Mountbatten tells Hamid that he believed the creation of Pakistan is inevitable and Hamid confesses that he "told Jinnah accordingly". Jinnah became more confident about Pakistan after this.
A "tribal invasion" by "Muslim coreligionists" from NWFP was planned under the direction of British and Pakistan generals in the Pakistan Army. One must note that at this time, both the Indian Army and the Pakistan Army were still under Supreme Allied Commander-In-Chief Claude Auchinleck. Auchinleck and Lord Mountbatten should have been in the know but they feigned ignorance until the very last. The main proponents for the establishment of Pakistan were Muslims from India proper rather than those from what is now Pakistan. Many of them found themselves unable to fit into the Congress, which was more focused on nationalism than religion. These Muslims considered themselves to be superior to what the thought were uncivilized brutes inhabiting the North-West India. This, they thought, would enable them to get a prominent position in the affairs of the new country, should it ever become a reality. In India, they would always finish second-best to the Hindus. The British colonial government was its principal backer of the Two Nation Theory and Indian Muslims were unconsciously its most willing collaborators.
In 1849, the British captured the southern part of Afghanistan and made it a part of their Indian empire. This region later came to be known as the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The Pakhtuns living in Afghanistan were now seperated from their kinsmen in NWFP by the so-called Durand line. The Pakhtun lands were not very suitable for agriculture. Their survival had traditionally been dependent on warfare and adventure. For centuries, Pakhtun men were employed as mercenaries. They were also known for their feuding nature and plundering ways. In 1929, Abdul Ghaffar Khan launched a non-violent anti- colonial movement called Khudai Khidmatgar. He opted for an alliance with the Congress, as he found the Muslim League to be very much pro-British. In the 1937 provincial elections, the Congress won 15 out of 36 Muslim seats while the Muslim League did not win a single seat. To counter the Pakhtun movement, the British began providing official patronage to the Muslim League. This was similar to the kind of support that the League received in its opposition to the Congress elsewhere in India. In the NWFP, however, the Muslim League failed to make much impact. The Muslim League then enlisted the support of mullahs and other religious leaders in various parts of the province, claiming that whoever supported the Congress was against Islam. Despite this, Congress emerged victorious in 1946 elections defeating the Muslim League with 30 out of 50 seats. In the Pukhtun areas, Congress’s victory was won with 16 out of 22 seats.
When the Congress finally accepted the Partition plan, the Pakhtuns felt betrayed. Gaffar Khan asked for a plebiscite, which the British agreed. He wanted the plebiscite to decide whether NWFP should become an independent state of Pukhtunistan or become part of Pakistan. This would never happen. Instead, a plebiscite deciding whether the NWFP should become a part of India or a part of Pakistan was allowed to be conducted in 1947. Backed by British officials, the Muslim League launched a campaign by sending its workers to the villages and denouncing the Congress boycott of Pakistan as un-Islamic and exhorting everyone to vote for Pakistan as it was their religious duty. The rest of India had by then become embroiled in Hindu-Muslim riots and Muslim refugees brought with them horrific tales of the bloodbath. In the end, the plebiscite was conducted and 99% of the votes were for Pakistan. Although the Congress alleged massive rigging, the fate of NWFP was sealed. The Khan brothers realised the changed realities and swore allegiance to Pakistan. But, they still continued to fight for autonomy within Pakistan.
The new rulers of Pakistan were not kind to the Pakthun leaders. Jinnah, who could not stand Congressmen in India, was not expected to tolerate them in Pakistan. Expectedly, he dismissed the Congress ministry in NWFP, which was headed by Gaffar Khan's brother. The party paper, Pukhtun, was closed. Khan and his followers were put in prison*. Putting the Khans in jail did not mean Pakistan was safe.
So, the military generals of Pakistan had a new role for the Pakhtuns - to overrun the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir. This would remove all the volatile elements away from the province and provide the hotheads with a mutually beneficial vocation to pursue. A "tribal invasion" by "Muslimcoreligionists" from NWFP was planned under the direction of British and Pakistan generals in the Pakistan Army. One must note that at this time, both the Indian Army and the Pakistan Army were still under Supreme Allied Commander-In-Chief Claude Auchinleck. Auchinleck and Lord Mountbatten should have been in the know but they feigned ignorance until the very last. At the time of the Partition, there were 569 princely states in British India. According to the Plan, the rulers of these princely states had only two options - join India or join Pakistan. There was no other alternative. The assimilation of princely states in to independent India and Pakistan went off smoothly except in Junagarh, Hyderabad, and Jammu & Kashmir. Junagadh was ruled by a Muslim ruler but non-Muslims formed the majority in his state. The same was true of Hyderabad, which was ruled by the Nizam. Both of these states were assimilated into the Indian Union by military force. Jammu & Kashmir was ruled by a Hindu prince who wanted to keep his state independant. He did not want to join either India or Pakistan. The Prince Hari Singh was hated by his people. This did not mean that his subjects were rooting for Pakistan. Jinnah had earlier visited the state and had a very hostile reception. Inside the Kashmir valley†, Muslims had rallied behind Sheik Abdullah's National Conference. Nehru had announced his support for Sheikh abdullah, who had been jailed by Hari Singh. If J&K; became independent or joined India, Pakistan was finished!
- * - In 1956, Khan's property was confiscated in lieu of fines, whereas prison terms and house arrests continued until his death in 1988.
- † - The Kashmir valley is a very small part of the entire Jammu & Kashmir state. There are many nationalities inside J&K. Kashmiri Pandits are Brahmins but eat meat and fish. Kashmiri is one of several language spoken in the state. Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists form the major religious groups in the state. However, a combination of several factors allows the valley to decide the course of events for the entire state.
[To be continued*…]
- * - I am unable to finish this article as currently I do not have access to a good library.