Partition and the Kashmir imbroglio
Modi’s Cabinet colleague MJ Akbar, in his biography of Nehru says “Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the strong man of India, had accepted the idea of Partition even before Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
Politicians not only ‘present the past’ to suit political agendas, they can go to any extent to even distort the events and their interpretation. ‘Facts are sacred; opinions are free’ should have been the dictum for all those commenting on them, but as they say for the likes of PM Narendra Modi, ‘all is fair in love and war’. To promote his personal ambitions and to enhance the impact of his political agenda, Modi has been crossing all limits. At one level in order to glorify Sardar Patel, he is trying to undermine Jawaharlal Nehru, and is trying to create a binary between them. For Modi, this serves two purposes. One, as Sangh Parivar never participated in the freedom movement, they are forced to look for an icon who was an undeniable part of the freedom moment, and so have picked Sardar Patel and are trying to appropriate him. This, despite the fact that Patel was very clear about the role of Modi’s ideological parents (Hindu Mahasabha-RSS), in the murder of Patel’s mentor, Mahatma Gandhi. Patel had said “… as [a] result of the activities of these two bodies [the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha], particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible…The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the Government and the State”.
As far as the tragic Partition of the country is concerned, there are so many scholarly works which not only tell us the dynamics of India’s Partition, but also throw a light on the complexity of the whole process. Yes, it is true that the complicated dynamics is so vast that many can pick up facts as per their own narrow picture, but there are three core reasons for the Partition tragedy. The biggest reason has been the British policy of ‘Divide and rule’. The British knew that India’s major leadership is tilted towards socialism and may ally with the then Soviet socialist block in international affairs. In pursuance of their imperialist vision, the British wanted to cultivate a country which would remain their subservient nation. That’s precisely the role which Pakistan went on to play in international affairs. The major factor which assisted this British goal was the two-nation theory, originally propounded by Veer Savarkar, the ideological founder of Modi’s political leaning. The third reason had been Jinnah’s assertion that ‘Muslims are a separate nation, and so we want Pakistan’. For the followers of Jinnah, it was the Congress which was responsible for India’s Partition, and Modi seems to be in the same boat.
Lohia in his major book, “Guilty Men of India’s Partition”, writes: “… one of the forces that partitioned the country was precisely this Hindu fanaticism… Those who have shouted loudest about Akhand Bharat, the present Jana Sangh [previous avatar of BJP] and its predecessors of the curiously un-Hindu spirit of Hinduism, have helped Britain and the Muslim League partition the country. They did nothing whatsoever to bring the Muslim close to the Hindu within a single nation. They did almost everything to estrange them from each other. Such estrangement is the root cause of partition…”
Similarly Jinnah had become more and more rigid about his demand for a separate Pakistan over a period of time. Once Nehru stated that they are not bound by Cabinet Mission plan, Jinnah rigidly adhered to the demand for Pakistan.
At an administrative level while Gandhi was more involved on the ground, dousing the Hindu-Muslim violence, leaving the issue in the hands of Nehru and Patel, his most trusted followers. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in his seminal “India Wins Freedom”, points out that it was Sardar Patel who was the first major Congress leader to have supported the British plan for India’s Partition. Gandhi was the last person to have given a quiet acceptance to this, hoping that it will be a reversible process. Modi’s own colleague in the Central Cabinet, MJ Akbar, in his biography of Nehru (1988) “Nehru-The Making of India” says “Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the strong man of India, had accepted the idea of Partition even before Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the romantic.”
One recalls that Jaswant Singh in his book ‘Jinnah Partition Independence’ did point out about the role of Patel in acceding to the pressure of circumstances and accepting Partition. Modi, then the Gujarat CM, had banned this book in his state.
The Kashmir imbroglio was the creation of historical circumstances in which a Muslim majority state did not want to merge into Pakistan. In the face of attacks of groups of tribals, supported by Pakistan army, Maharaja Hari Singh sought the help of India. It was Sheikh Abdullah who was most insistent on help from India. Patel and Nehru were on the same page. Patel was even willing for a trade off on Kashmir. Rajmohan Gandhi in his biography “Patel: A Life”, tells us that Patel was thinking of making an ideal bargain: if Jinnah lets India have Junagadh and Hyderabad, Patel would not object to Kashmir acceding to Pakistan. He cites a speech by Patel at Bahauddin College in Junagadh, following the latter’s merger with India, in which he said: “We would agree to Kashmir if they agreed to Hyderabad.”
This article first appeared in National Herald on Sunday