Maharaja Hari Singh played the waiting game till he was stampeded out of the Valley by the marauding Pathan raiders who burnt the Mahura power station to cinder
As the Afridi raiders stormed down the Muzzafarabad Road making their tryst with Srinagar, burning the Mahura power station effecting a lights out in Kashmir Valley, Maharaja of J&K Hari Singh knew that the end game had begun. Fate always a seductress, fortunately was on India’s side. If the Kabali/Afridi raiders hadn’t stopped to sack, rape and pillage a small Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Convent in Baramulla, the script may well have been different. Instead of seizing Srinagar airport where by then 329 Sikhs of the First Sikh Regiment and eight tons of equipment landed on October 27 to first stem and then turn the tide once and for all. The old proverb of many twixt the cup and the lip playing out before everyone’s eyes. Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins writing in Freedom at Midnight provide a vivid recounting of what transpired – By pausing to sack the convent in the little city of Baramulla only 30 miles from Srinagar, when they should have been driving on the capital of Kashmir and its vital airfield, the Pathan raiders would end Jinnah's dream of joining Jehangir's beloved Vale to his nation. All day, Monday, October 27, while the First Sikhs secured their fragile hold on Kashmir's only airport, the Pathans in Baramulla were giving vent to their ancient appetites for rape and pillage. They violated the nuns, massacred the patients in their little clinic and looted the convent chapel down to its last brass knob.''
Maharaja Hari Singh had played the waiting game, wanting to remain independent despite entreaties from Jinnah, Nehru, Kripalani, Gandhi and of course Mountbatten himself. But all his calculations went awry when the raiders descended on the road to Srinagar. On October 24, celebrating Diwali in the Durbar Hall of his palace in Srinagar, a resplendent Hari Singh saw the lights go out as the raiders blew up the Mahura power station. The invasion had begun and equally the stampeding of the Maharaja and his family which drove out in a cavalcade towards Jammu. Once the Instrument of Accession was signed by Hari Singh and secretary of states V P Menon flew back with it to 17 York Road, PM Nehru's residence with the climactic words - The Baxxxxd has signed it - Kashmir was part of the Indian Union. Though the accession is still viewed as controversial.
Correspondence between Maharaja Hari Singh and Lord Mountbatten, Governor General of India: -
My dear Lord Mountbatten,
I have to inform our Excellency that a grave emergency has arisen in my state and request immediate assistance of your Government.
As Your Excellency is aware, that the State of Jammu & Kashmir has not acceded to either the Dominion of India or Pakistan, Geographically my State is contiguous to both the Dominions. It has vital economic and cultural links with both of them. Besides, my State has a common boundary with Soviet Republic and China, In their external relations the dominion of India and Pakistan cannot ignore this fact.
I wanted to take time to decide to which Dominion I should accede or whether it is not in the best interest of both the Dominions and of my state to stand independent of course with friendly and cordial relations with both.
I accordingly approached the Dominion of India and Pakistan to enter into a standstill agreement with my state. The Pakistan Government accepted this agreement. The Dominion of India desired further discussion with representatives of my Government. I could not arrange this in view of the developments indicated below. In fact the Pakistan Government under the standstill agreement are operating Post and Telegraph system inside the State.
Though we have got a standstill agreement with the Pakistan Government, that Government permitted steady and increasing strangulation of supplies like food, salt, & petrol to my State.
Afridis, Soldiers, in plain clothes and desperadoes with modern weapons, have been allowed to inflate into the state at first in Poonch area, then in Sialkot and finally in mass in the area adjoining Hazara district on the Ramkote side. The result has been that the limited number of troops at the disposal of the state has to e dispersed and thus had to face the enemy at several points simultaneously so that it has become difficult to stop the wanton destruction of life and property and looting. The Mahoora (Mahura) Power House which supplies the electric current to the whole of Srinagar has been burnt. The number of women who have been kidnapped and raped makes my heart bleed. The wild forces thus let loose on the stare are marching on with the aim of capturing Srinagar, the summer capital of my Government as a first step, to overrunning the whole state.
The mass infiltration of tribesmen drawn from distant areas of the N.W.F Province coming regularly in motor trucks using Nawshera-Muzzaffarabad road and fully armed with up to date weapons cannot possibly be done without the knowledge of the Provincial Government of the N.W.F Province and the Government of Pakistan. In spite of repeated appeals made by my Government no attempt has been made to check the raiders or stop them from coming to my State. In fact, both Pakistan Radio and Press have reported these occurrences. The Pakistan Radio even put out a story that a Provisional Government has been set up in Kashmir. The people of my State both the Muslims and the non-Muslims generally have taken no part at all.
With the conditions obtaining at present in my State and the great emergency of the situation as it exists, I have no option but to ask for help from the Indian Dominion. Naturally they cannot send the help asked for by without my State acceding to the Dominion of India. I have accordingly decided to do so and I attach the Instrument of Accession for acceptance by your Government. The other alternative is to leave my State and my people to free booters. On this basis no civilised government can exist or be maintained. This alternative I will never allow to happen so long as I am the Ruler of the State and I have life to defend my country.
I may also inform Your Excellency’s Government that it is my intention at once to set up an Interim Government and ask Sheikh Abdullah to carry the responsibilities in this emergency with my Prime Minister.
If my State has to be saved, immediate assistance must be available at Srinagar. Mr Menon is fully aware of the gravity of the situation and he will explain to you if further explanation is needed.
In haste and with kindest regards,
The Palace, Yours sincerely
Jammu Sd/- Hari Singh
26th October 1947 Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir


Government House
NEW DELHI, 27th Oct. 1947

My dear Maharaja Sahib,

Your Highness’s letter dated the 26th October has been delivered to me by Mr. V.P.Menon. In the special circumstances mentioned by Your Highness, my Government have decided to accept the accession of Kashmir State to the Dominion of India. Consistently with their policy that, in the case of nay State where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute, the question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the State, it is my government’s wish that, as soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and her soil cleared of the invader, the question of the State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people. Meanwhile, in response to Your Highness’s appeal for military aid, action has been taken today to send troops of the Indian army to Kashmir to help your own forces to defend your territory and to protect the lives, property and honour of your people.
My Government and I note with satisfaction that Your Highness has decided to invite Sheikh Abdullah to form an Interim Government to work with your Prime Minister.

With kind regards,
I remain
Yours very sincerely

Mountbatten of Burma

Lieutenant General His Highness
Maharaja Sir Hari Singh Indar Mahindar Bahadur,
Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir

Even before these dramatic events unfolded with great rapidity, the British Resident was in touch with Kashmir's PM Ram Chandra Kak (who in any case was batting for independence) on the way forward for the State. The idea being at all times to remain independent of both Dominions - India and Pakistan
Copy of a DO letter No: D.778-C/47, dated 18th June 1947 from the Resident in Kashmir to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Srinagar.
Explaining the Formula for Standstill agreement on the lapse of Paramountcy, the Resident diabolically expostulates on what could have become of the State at the lapse of Paramountcy.
Will you please refer to paragraph 4 of the Memorandum on States’ Treaties and Paramountcy presented by the Cabinet Mission to is Highness the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes on 12th May 1946, a copy of which I sent you with my demi-official letter No: D.865-C/46 of the 28th May 1946.
1. The interim period referred to in this memorandum is expected to come to an end on August 15, 1947, but no progress has been made in negotiations between the States and British India in regard to the future regulation of matters of common concern. The States cannot remain entirely isolated from the economic life of the rest of India and fresh or modified Agreements will have to be negotiated with the Successor Government in due course. In the meantime, however, to avoid an administrative breakdown on the lapse of Paramountcy, it is essential in the interest of all concerned that agreements should be reached in regard to administrative arrangements during the interval between the lapse of paramountcy and the conclusion of such fresh or modified Agreements. In the Cabinet Mission’s Memorandum it was suggested that such arrangements should be on a standstill basis, and there seems to be no practical alternative to this suggestion.
2. A preliminary draft of a standstill Agreement between individual States and the two Successor Governments is enclosed herewith. I would add that the draft is nothing more than a ‘cockshy’ – an attempt by the Crown Representative to provide a basis for direct discussion and negotiation between representatives of the States and of the prospective Dominion governments; and it is hoped to arrange for these discussion to be held towards the end of July. I should be grateful if the Kashmir Government’s reaction to the draft agreement could kindly be conveyed to me by the 25th of this month.
To understand the term cock shy that the British Resident is referring to, one needs to understand the state of mind of the various Princelings - big and small. It has to be viewed against a backdrop of a very fluid state of play where to meld one and all was a herculean task.
(1). Some Important factors that must be borne in mind in deciding upon a solution of this vital problem.
(a) The present day political events and important developments are taking place at an unimaginable fast pace, which is increasing all the more every day. The situation demands immediate and most prompt action; lease delay will result in most rapid deterioration of the political situation, never again to be retrieved.
(b) The declaration on the part of the British Crown to give India complete independence in near future has positively weakened the position of the Indian Princes. The very foundations on which they had based their demands during last thirty years have ceased to exist, and the main stay of their strength will no longer be there in due time. The fact, that the British paramountcy will end at not a very distant date, has completely revolutionized the entire position of the Indian Princes and their states. This now definitely demands most radical remedies and real far-reaching sacrifices from the Princes. Half measures, nominal sacrifices and halting advances will not meet the situation, but will only tend to worsen their future.
(c) Any future solution of the problems of the small and medium-sized states will have to be such as will meet with the general approval of the British Indian leaders, and should most definitely be based on consideration of the good of the people of the States concerned. Any efforts to safe-guard the interests of or to ensure the existence and continuance of the existing ruling dynasties, at the cost of the good and welfare of the State-subjects, will prove only suicidal, and will simply hasten their end.
The British Indian leaders have so far only very vaguely indicated their views on the subject. They are yet too busy to divert their attention to this question. The initiative is yet not with them, and the same could yet be taken and retained by the Princes. Any such move should in the long run prove beneficial to the cause of Indian Princes.
(d) As a result of the claim for Pakistan, the idea of bringing about a loose-type of Union, with a loose centre, is finding favour with the majority of the Indian leaders whether British India or the Indian States. But they very fact of this gaining favour in political circles in India has sounded the do kneel of the small States. Majority of the medium-sized too – destined to share the same fate with the smaller ones. With respect to a few of the medium-sized States, who are on the border line, it appears to be merely a question of time. The fate of these all, without any exception, is going to be the same, their virtual political extinction.
A loose type of Union, having not a very strong centre, demands the growth or existence of strong autonomous units within the Union. Obviously enough neither the small nor the medium-sized States could ever be expected to develop individually into the necessary type of strong autonomous units. Then naturally enough to meet the demands of circumstances they should go under to form strong autonomous units. Thus strangely enough the demand for vivisection of India will lead to the development of a few strong autonomous units out of a horde of India States of all sizes and enjoying varying degrees of sovereignty.
(2). What part should the Rulers of these States should take in the forthcoming Provincial Union.
For last 125 years the Indian Princes have lived in a world of their own. They have rarely condescended to come down from their high pedestal to take any part in the political or administrative life of their State, save merely to dictate their wishes as the final authority. Their position has all these years remained unassailed save from the side of the paramount power. With a complete revolution changing the entire situation with respect to the Princes and their States, the question does arise as to what position should they hold in the changed world when these new provincial unions are formed. Should they take any part I the forth-coming union government as and when it is formed? The ideal, which they have all along cherished and had fondly hoped to achieve, was of becoming constitutional rulers of their own States; an ideal which cannot possibly be achieved or even thought of under the circumstances, which threaten the very existence and the territorial integrity and administrative autonomy of the States.
Should the Princes continue to remain away from the bustle and tumultuous life of administration and politics? Will it be befitting their dignity to descend from their century-old high pedestal and mix with the hoi polloi, where there is not going to be much respect for their person or of their-old past respect and hollow of glory as the rulers of men? The Princes will have to consider over these questions and to take an early decision.
In the draft Constitution of the proposed Union of Malwa it has been proposed that there should be a Council of Princes, wherein the Princes take their seat, take their part in the administration of the entire Union, and, receive their due share in the responsibilities and powers to be entrusted by them to the Union government. It is true that this position is different from that of theirs in past, and may not be liked by many of them. But the question is, in what other way the Princes could be associated with the Union government, which is going to be a strong pretty well unified system. The Council of Princes could easily be turned into a Council of States with representatives of State administrations, as is actually the case in Switzerland. Probably this change will be to the liking of many Princes; the Ministers of the States will definitely like it; and other will wish for it. But the Princes should realize that this change will once for all take all political power from their hands. The power, which is already slipping from their hands, will have for ever gone, and later the Princes will face the bitter consequences of the same.
If the Princes decide to accept the position of pensioners with their privy purse, etc. assured without any hand in the administration, they and their dynasties will go the way other ruling dynasties have gone in the past. It is not very difficult to end these pensions, and then the dynasties will simply sink into oblivion, and will just disappear. The latest instance is that of the King of Oudh. Shall we accept that future? The Princes should, at this stage, not worry about their own hollowed glory of maintenance of their present high position, not even for the prestige and show of the continuance of their power. They must see that the roots of their dynasties are not pulled out. Even with their clipped swings, reduced glory and prestige and without all tat pomp and show, the Princes will be doing a signal service to their own dynasty and their house if they can see that they continue to have their place in the polity and administration of their own provincial union and they are with their own people.
To bring all these 565 Princes into the fold and to make them a part of the new idea required a superhuman effort on the part of the Indian National Congress leadership and it is to their credit that they handled the bloodletting of partition in parallel with this complex issue of amalgamating the Princely States.
(3). The extent of powers to be delegated and given to the Union Government.
With the talk of forming any Union, the first question which naturally comes to the fore is about the extent to which the powers should be delegated to the Union Government by the States joining it. The general tendency is likely to be to delegate as few powers as would meet the requirements. But if any such decision is taken without full thought and consideration of the conditions prevailing in the country, the demands of the times, and what is not only unavoidable but most essential, the Princes will be making a sad mistake. The time has come when no half measures, hesitant partings of powers or halting advances will serve the purpose; on the other they will merely worsen the situation.
It has already been pointed out that the necessity of reacting a strong provincial unit by the combination of the States has become most imperative and essential, because of the suggestion that the all-India Central government should be a loosely knit affair with as few powers as would meet the purpose. With such a centre the joining unit should necessarily be strong and autonomous.
The exact extent to which the delegation of powers should go shall be determined with the particular requirements of each case. The special problems of each case and the particular requirements of the local areas will determine the exact extent. Greater the number of sub-units and States to be united, greater the need for a stronger union.
To bring all these 565 Princes into the fold and to make them a part of the new idea required a superhuman effort on the part of the Indian National Congress leadership and it is to their credit that they handled the bloodletting of partition in parallel with this complex issue of amalgamating the Princely States.
Sandeep Bamzai