Freedom Files: The kashmir intrigue
An empire which is toppled by its enemies can rise again, but one that is toppled from within crumbles that much faster, it could be a Trojan or a schemer or a saboteur who brings it to its knees. History is replete with such examples — from Achilles in Troy (in Greek mythology, he was a Greek hero of the Trojan War and the central character and greatest warrior of Homer’s Iliad) to Mir Jaffer in the decisive Battle of Plassey (who assembled his troops to assist Nawab Sirajuddaullah against a much smaller force led by Robert Clive but did not lead them into combat thus neutralising the Nawab of Bengal’s fighting efficacy, leading to his rout and subsequent death). The reprobate British did their best to prevent the de-colonisation as many of them played their part to the hilt in order to serve the Churchillian diktat of keeping a bit of India, using cunning and subterfuge to blindside India and Indians consumed as they were by a visceral vengeance, even as they were ordered to leave after the Second Great War. However, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Lord Mountbatten fixed the subversive political department under the wily Sir Conrad Corfield.
There were many deceitful characters floating around in those uncertain times. F Paul Mainprice was one such gadfly. He came from 4 Dorset Road, Bexhill, London. He joined the Indian Civil Services in the late 1930s and served in Assam and Madras Provinces. During the later part of his service, he reportedly was transferred to the political service and acted as Political Agent for the States in Assam and later in crucial Gilgit and Chilas. Around 1947, he was acting as political agent in Gilgit, from where he was relieved during the month of August, when Gilgit was handed back to the to the Kashmir government. He reportedly reached Srinagar about August 26 or 27 and stayed in the famed Nedous Hotel. After staying for nearly a week, he left for Delhi. He had lots of boxes full of papers with him. At Delhi, it is learnt that he contacted Mahatma Gandhi, to whom he gave a certain note on Gilgit, probably on the lines that Gilgit should continue to be under the Indian government or that of Pakistan. It is further learnt that a copy of that note was passed on by him to the deputy high commissioner for Pakistan for the information of Pakistan government. He then reportedly left for Kalimpong, as his address there was “care of Mrs Shariff, Tashiding.”
As we now know, Pakistan got possession of Gilgit-Baltistan through the connivance of two British military officers. In 1935, the Gilgit agency was leased for 60 years by the British from the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir because of its strategic location on the northern borders of British India. It was administered by the political department in Delhi through a British officer. With impending Independence, the British terminated the lease and returned the region to the Maharaja on August 1, 1947. The Maharaja appointed Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the J&K state forces as governor of the region. Two officers of the Gilgit Scouts, Major W A Brown and Captain AS Mathieson, along with Subedar Major Babar Khan, a relative of the Mir of Hunza, were loaned to the Maharaja at Gilgit. But as soon as Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India on October 26, 1947, Major Brown imprisoned Brigadier Ghansara Singh, and informed his erstwhile British political agent, Lt Colonel Roger Bacon, who was then at Peshawar, of the accession of Gilgit to Pakistan. The conspiracy saw Major Brown on November 2 officially raising the Pakistani flag at his headquarters, and claimed that he and Mathieson had opted for service with Pakistan when the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession in favour of India.
He arrived in Srinagar on June 13, 1948. He stayed for sometime in the Nedous Hotel, then moved into a houseboat. From the beginning, his activities came under the notice of the police. He visited Bandipur, Baramulla and Sopore in the beginning and then, at Baramulla he tried to take photographs and came under the notice of the army and eventually was stopped from doing so. He came into very close contact with Dr Edmaunds, principal of the local Missionary High School, who incidentally was notorious for his pro-Pakistani sympathies. Remember this was an extremely fluid and dangerous time. He accompanied him to Mahadev on a trekking expedition. During his stay in Srinagar, he had a close association with Caption Annette and other Europeans, who were seemingly pro-Pakistan. He tried to establish contact with the local people and was observed in trying to get information from them regarding military movements and working of the present government. It seemed that his purpose of staying on in Srinagar was to wait for the arrival of the United Nations Kashmir Commission and to supply them with certain data. During the commission’s stay in Srinagar, he first tried to approach the commission, in which he did not succeed, but then contacted Symonds, secretary of the commission and also he tried through his other European friends to influence the commission through Symonds in favour of accession of the state to Pakistan.

When his activities became absolutely objectionable, the government was forced to pass an order against him under the Defence Rules to leave the state, but he refused to carry out that order and called it a ridiculous and scandalous order. However, under the Defence Rules, the deputy inspector-general of police, Kashmir Range, was deputed to inform him that he would have to leave the state and in case he refused to do so, he would be forced to leave and put in the aircraft. When the deputy inspector-general reached his houseboat, he was found to be absent and closeted with captain Annette in the latter’s boat. He was sent for by the deputy inspector-general and was informed that he had to leave that day, as the time limit given to him was to expire. To this he replied, he was not going. The deputy inspector-general told him that the order shall have to be carried out and he shall have to leave.
On this Mainprice got excited and made a sudden assault on the deputy inspector-general knocking off his hat and spectacles and also tried to grapple with other police officers. However, he was over-powered and was driven to the aerodrome and put into the plane, which left for Delhi. After his departure, it was considered necessary to take possession of all his belongings, a magistrate therefore was deputed to make in inventory of all his belongings, so that the stuff could be handed over to captain Annette according to the wish of Mainprice. While making an inventory, there were some papers found, which Mainprice seemed to have been writing only very lately.
These papers were examined and it turned out that he was writing a note on the happenings at Jammu during last November, in a very exaggerated form and also he was trying to write a sort of note on the history of Kashmir including Gilgit; probably for the information of the commission on how the state actually came under the domination of a Dogra rule. He was also trying to compile census of population by communities in the different districts of the State. He was busy telling people that he was private secretary to Sir Walter Monckton, constitutional adviser to His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad (one of those opposed to the unification of India and the merger of the princely states with the dominions). He was expressing a desire now to somehow be closely associated with the UN Commission on Kashmir so as to give them all the information he had collected. Further, it was discovered that he was also associated with a certain Anglo-Indian officer of the Royal Indian Air Force and through him had managed to take some aerial photographs of the state of J & K.
It was obvious that Mainprice like so many other assorted characters floating around after the British officially handed over India to Indians continued to obfuscate and frustrate us.
Sandeep Bamzai