Nehru's Word: We consulted Gandhiji on Kashmir at every step

"I tried to consider the question from the point of view of not drifting from the high principles we had proclaimed in the past"

Mahatma Gandhi with Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel
Mahatma Gandhi with Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel
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Jawaharlal Nehru

Are Nehru-baiters aware that some of their criticism directed at Nehru applies to Gandhiji as well? For those continuously blaming Nehru for all the ills plaguing Kashmir, it might be salutary to recall that Gandhiji was in Delhi and fully on board when the accession of Kashmir and the subsequent decision to send the Army to protect Kashmir was taken. The much-criticised reference to the United Nations was also made during Gandhiji’s life-time. These extracts from two statements of Nehru dated 15 January and 7 September 1948 make it clear that he had consulted Gandhi at every step.

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"The government’s decision in regard to the payment of the cash balances to Pakistan has been taken after the most careful thought and after consultation with Gandhiji. I should like to make it clear that this does not mean any change in our unanimous view about the strength and validity of the government’s position as set out in various statements made by distinguished colleagues of mine.

Nor do we accept the facts or arguments advanced in the latest statement of the finance minister of Pakistan. We have come to this decision in the hope that this generous gesture, in accord with India’s high ideals and Gandhiji’s noble standards, will convince the world of our earnest desire for peace and goodwill.

We earnestly trust also that this will go a long way towards producing a situation which will induce Gandhiji to break his fast. That fast, of course, had nothing to do with this particular matter, and we have thought of it because of our desire to help in every way in easing the present tension.

(Explanatory note: India had agreed to allocate Rs 75 crore to Pakistan to help the latter make a start. In the meantime, Pakistan waged an undeclared war against India in Kashmir. Rs 20 crore having already been paid, the remaining Rs 55 crore was withheld, awaiting a settlement on Kashmir. This became another cause of bitterness between the two countries. When Gandhiji began his fast on 13 January and appealed to the nation to remove the ill will, prejudice and passion that was poisoning relations between India and Pakistan, the government of India decided to pay the amount due to Pakistan immediately as a gesture of goodwill and a contribution ‘to the nonviolent and noble effort made by Gandhiji’. On 18 January, Gandhi terminated his fast.)

Six months ago, we witnessed a miracle in Calcutta where ill will changed overnight into goodwill, through the alchemy of a similar fast. The alchemist who worked this change was described by our governor general as the one-man boundary force that succeeded when the boundary force of 50,000 men in West Punjab did not succeed in keeping the peace. This unarmed knight of non-violence is functioning again. May the same alchemy work again in India and elsewhere!

We have sought to remove one major cause of dispute and argument between India and Pakistan and we hope that other problems will also be resolved. But let it be remembered that the people of Kashmir are suffering from a brutal and unprovoked invasion, and we have pledged ourselves to help them gain their freedom. To that pledge, we shall hold and do our utmost to redeem it. We seek their freedom not for any gain to us, but to prevent the ravishing of a fair country and a peaceful people.” --New Delhi, 15 January 1948

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We have, right from the beginning, taken whatever step we have taken, in the limelight; there has been no hiding. The House has been greatly interested in this matter of Kashmir. The Indian public has taken the greatest interest in it and, rightly, the burden of it has fallen on our government. It has been a heavy burden.

I shall be frank and tell you why it has been heavy on me and more especially on my government: not because military operations were involved—although that is always a burden—but rather since we wanted to be sure that at no time did we act against the principles we had so long proclaimed.

May I take the House into confidence? In the early stages, towards the end of October and in November, I was so exercised over Kashmir—if anything had happened that, according to me, might have been disastrous for Kashmir, I would have been heartbroken. I was intensely interested, for emotional and personal reasons; I do not want to hide this: I am interested in Kashmir. Nevertheless, I tried to keep down the personal and emotional aspect and consider it from the larger viewpoint of India’s good and Kashmir’s good. I tried to consider the question from the point of view of not straying or drifting from the high principles which we had proclaimed in the past.


When this question first came up, I sought guidance, as I often did in other matters, from Mahatmaji. I went to him repeatedly and put to him my difficulties. The House knows that that apostle of non-violence was not a suitable guide in military matters—and he said so—but he undoubtedly, always, was a guide on moral issues. And so, I put my difficulties and my government’s difficulties before him; and though it is not proper for me to drag in his name at this juncture in order to lessen my own responsibility on this issue, I nevertheless mention this matter merely to show how the moral aspect of this question has always troubled me. Especially when I saw in India all manner of things happening [that] brought India’s name into disrepute, I was greatly troubled and anxious that we should keep straight.

Now, this has been my attitude, and I had proclaimed it publicly. Apart from rhetoric and vague insinuations, I should like to know from anybody, friend or enemy, from that day in the last week of October, when we took the fateful decision to send our troops by air to Kashmir, till today, what it is we have done in Kashmir which, from any point of view and byany standard, is wrong.

I want an answer to that question. Individuals may have erred here and there; but I say that the government of India and the Indian Army as a whole have done something inevitable; each step that we have taken has been an inevitable step which, if not taken, would have brought disgrace to us. That is how I have ventured to look at this question of Kashmir.

And when I find that on the other side, the whole case—that has been built up on what I venture to say, using strong language—is falsehood and deceit, am I wrong? That is what I ask this House and the country and the world to consider.” –A speech in the Constituent Assembly, New Delhi, 7 September 1948

(Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former professor of history at JNU and former director of Nehru Memorial Museum & Library)

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