Letter of the Maharaja Hari Singh to Sardar Patel

Reproduced from:
Converted Kashmir - Memorial of Mistakes
A Bitter Saga of Religious Conversion
Author: Narender Sehgal
Utpal Publications, 1994

According to the published Correspondence of Sardar Patel, Volume One, Maharaja Hari Singh wrote to the Sardar on January 31, 1948, a long letter giving vent to his agony. In the course of this letter, he wrote: "The military situation as you know has been quite depressing since the arrival of the Indian troops. Except the first gains in the Kashmir Valley there has been a debt balance throughout so far as achievements are concerned.

"The Indian troops arrived in the Valley on 27 October, at that time we were in possession of about 3/4th of Poonch and the whole of the Mirpur district. We had by then lost only small bits of Poonch and Muzaffarabad district. After the recapture of Baramulla and Uri, there has been a standstill. Two months have passed and the Indian troops are still at Uri. They attempted to venture to the town of Poonch and though they reached it, it was at a great cost and the road was eventually lost. In the Poonch Jagir, which was held by the state troops inch by inch, we had to withdraw and eventually lost the whole of the Jagir except the town itself, where about 40,000 people are besieged alongwith 4 battalions (3 state and 1 Indian). The situation is by no means satisfactory. I may mention that in the August disturbances, with two battalions of the state troops we cleared the whole of Poonch Jagir, peace was restored, the whole of the revenue was realised and the administration was functioning normally. It was only in the second week of October that trouble again began in Poonch and our troops resisted it till about the end of December. But as no help was given, they had eventually to fall back on Poonch town..."

He went on: "In Mirpur district, at the time when the Indian forces arrived, we are still holding Mangla and our territory along the Jehlum Canal bank, but during the past two months we have lost Mangla, Alibeg, Gurdwara, and the town of Mirpur, the town of Bhimber and the villages of Deva and Battala, the town of Rajouri and the whole of the area adjoining Chhamb, Naoshera. Jhangar, a key-place both for Mirpur and Kotli, was lost after a defeat. These defeats have been a heavy blow for us and have also undermined the prestige of the Indian forces. Not a single town has so far been recovered by the Indian troops. The people judge an army from results and not from propaganda carried on about it. On the Kathua-Sialkot border attacks have been intensified. Everyday there is one raid after another. A number of villages have been burnt, people have been looted, women abducted and there have been killings also. The result has been that all the border villages have been vacated and we have about 70,000 to 80,000 refugees in the city of Jammu. Crops, houses and valuables have been lost. Most of the people are also vacating Jammu and its suburbs and are going to West Punjab. The situation, therefore, is worsening everyday.

Name of the Indian Army getting into the mud

"The name of the Indian Army is getting into the mud in spite of its brilliant record. I was a member of the War Cabinet. I travelled in war zones during the Great war. The name of the Indian Army was at its highest pitch and it pains me to see that the name of the Indian Army has become a topic of every tongue during these days and it is daily losing prestige. Some people think that it is not the fault of the Army but the fault of the policy that is being followed: others feel that it is the fault of the commanders who are quite new to the job. People who would have had to wait for 10 to 15 years to become generals have been put in charge of operations. Opinions differ, but the fact is that the name of the Army is in the mud. Sardar Baldev Singh was here for a day. He has heard from our politicians, members of the public and from me and my Prime Minister all that everyone had to say. He told me secretly that he had ordered certain actions to be taken. I told him that a mere order is nothing unless it is implemented. When you kindly spent two days with us here, a number of decisions were taken and you gave instructions in certain matters. Since your departure nothing has been done and, as I have said, we had more serious attacks. The effort on the part of Pakistan is gaining ground everyday. Their morale owing to success is going up. They loot property, they take away cattle and women and when they go back to Pakistan, they incite people and tell them how much loot and what benefits there are to raid our territory. On the other hand, our morale is rapidly going down. So far as the people are concerned, they are thoroughly demoralised and they start fleeing as soon as there is even a rumour of a raid. Even people living at distant places start fleeing when they see fire five or six miles from their villages. So far as the Indian forces are concerned, they do not leave their apportioned places to meet the raiders. There are no mobile columns to meet them. The work is felt to a few Home Guards or to a platoon or so of very tired state forces. How can it be possible for them to engage 500 or 1,000 raiders ? Last time you ordered guerrillas to come into the state and take over this work. As far as I know, no guerrillas have arrived so far...

"In the situation, therefore, my position as Ruler has become very anamolous ant one of great perplexity. People in the State continue sending me telegrams and asking for help. Our civil administration is in the hands of the National Conference and military operations in the hands of the Indian Union. I have no voice or power either on the civil or military side. The State forces are under the Indian Army Commander. The result, therefore, is that I have just to watch the terrible situation in a helpless manner, to look on at the abduction of women, killing and loot of my people, without power to give them any redress whatever. People continue to approach me everyday and they still think that it lies in my power to give them relief and redress. You will realise that my position is getting most awkward every day, so long as the military situation is adverse to us and refugees continue pouring in the city and daily raids from Pakistan keep on coming without any reply from us."

He then went on to say: "Apart from the military situation, the reference to the UNO and the proceedings that are hanging fire there are causing great uncertainty and perplexity not only to me but to every Hindu and Sikh in the State as well as to those who belong to the National Conference. The feeling is strongly gaining ground that the UN Security Council will take an adverse decision and that the State will eventually have to accede to Pakistan as a result of what the Security Council will decide. The Hindus and Sikhs have, therefore, started going away from the State, as they anticipate that the result of the UNO decision will be the same as what happened in West Punjab and therefore it is much better to clear out of the State before that eventuality arises. The National Conference leaders also feel that they may eventually be let down by accepting the decision of the Security Council and what would be disastrous for them.

"My position in this matter is also precarious. You know I definitely acceded to the Indian Union with the idea that the Union will not let us down and the State would remain acceded to the Union and my position and that of my dynasty would remain secure. It was for this reason that I accepted the advice of the Indian Union in the matter of internal administration. If we have to go to Pakistan, it was wholly unnecessary to accede to India or to mould the internal administration according to the desire of the Indian Union. I feel that the internal administration or the question of accession is wholly foreign to the jurisdiction of the Security Council. The Indian Union only referred a limited question to the Security Council, but the whole issue has been enlarged and not only the matter of aggression by one Dominion over the other is being considered by the Security Council but internal questions of the formation of the Interim Government and the matter of accession have all been taken notice of by them. It was a wrong step in going to Security Council and then agreeing to the enlargement of the agenda before that Council. As soon as the Council enlarged the agenda, the Indian Union should have withdrawn the reference and ended the matter.

"In the situation described above, a feeling comes to my mind as to the possible steps that I may take to make, so far as I am concerned, a clean state of the situation. Sometimes I feel that I should withdraw the accession that I have made to the Indian Union. The Union provisionally accepted the accession and if the Union cannot recover back our territory and is going eventually to agree to the decision of the Security Council which would result in handing us over to Pakistan, then there is no point in sticking to the accession of the State to the Indian Union. For the time being, it may be possible to have better terms from Pakistan, but that is immaterial, because eventually it would mean an end of the dynasty and end of the Hindus and Sikhs in the State. There is an alternative possible for me and that is to withdraw the accession and that may kill the reference to the UNO, because the Indian Union will have no right to continue the proceedings before the Council, if the accession is withdrawn. The result may be return to the position the State held before the accession. The difficulty in that situation however, will be that the Indian troops .... have to work as volunteers to help the State. I am prepared to takeover command of my own forces along with the forces of the Indian Army personally to help the State. I am prepared to lead the Army personally and to command if the Indian Union agrees, also their troops. I know my country much better than any of your generals will know it even during the next several months or years and I am prepared to take the venture boldly rather than merely keep on sitting here doing nothing. It is for you to consider whether the Indian Union will accept this in both the situations, whether after the withdrawal of the accession or even if the accession continues. I am tired of my present life and it is much better to die fighting than watch helplessly the heartbreaking misery of my people.

"Another alternative that strikes me is that if I can do nothing, I should leave the State (short of abdication) and reside outside so that people do not think that I can do anything for them. For their grievances they can hold the civil administration responsible or the Indian forces who are in charge of the defence of the State. The responsibility will then clearly be either the Indian Union or of the administration of Sheikh Abdullah. If there is any criticism, those responsible can have it and the responsibility for the suffering of the people will not be mine. Of course, I well anticipate that, as people started saying when I left Kashmir only on Mr. Menon's advice, that I had run away from Srinagar, they will say that I have left them in their hour of misery, but it is no use remaining in a position where one can do nothing merely to avoid criticism. Of course, if I go out of the State, I will have to take the public into confidence and tell them the reasons why I am going out.

"The third alternative in the situation that has arisen is that the Indian Dominion discharges its duty on the military side effectively and makes an all-out effort to stop the raids from Pakistan and to drive out of the State not only the raiders but also all rebels. This can only be done if the Dominion really fights. It has avoided fighting so far. Two or three courageous battles will more or less end this situation, and, if it is delayed, there is bound to be a catastrophe. Pakistan is more organised against Kashmir than the Indian Dominion, and as soon as snow melts it will start attacking Kashmir on all sides and the province of Ladakh will also come into the hands of the enemy and the Valley and the whole border will be raided and even double the number of troops at present in Jammu and Kashmir will not be able to save the situation. What should have been done and achieved a month before can still be achieved during the next month, but if matters are delayed and if owing to the UNO reference and the attitude of compromise, the situation remains at a standstill, it would become terribly grave after the expiry of the month. Therefore, unless the Indian Union makes up its mind to fight fully and effectively, I may have to decide upon the two alternatives mentioned above.

Sardar Patel's Advice

To this letter Sardar Patel replied on February 9, 1948, and said in the course of his reply: "I fully realise what an anxious time you must be having. I can assure you that I am no less anxious about the Kashmir situation and what is happening in the UNO, but whatever the present situation may be, counsel of despair is entirely out of place."