October 27, 1947 - the day when India landed its forces in Srinagar - veritably marks the birth of an unending tragedy that continues to bleed to this very day. The day marked the culmination of a conspiracy hatched by the Indian leadership in connivance with Lord Louis Mountbatten, the then Governor General of India, to wrest Kashmir with the force of arms.

The State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was one of 584 princely states, which, with the lapse of paramountcy of the British Crown in August 1947, had to exercise the option of joining either India or Pakistan. The state, which was ruled by the Hindu Dogra Raja, Sir Hari Singh, had an overwhelming Muslim preponderance. Notwithstanding its rule by Dogra Maharajas, whose ancestor, Maharaja Gulab Singh, had been sold the Kashmir Valley along with its inhabitants by the British for just Rs 75 lakh, there was no rationale under which it could be absorbed into India under any pretext.

The subcontinent was being divided in deference to the Two-Nation Theory, which demanded carving out a nation state comprising contiguous Muslim majority areas in undivided India. Kashmir’s union with Pakistan, based on this criterion, was only too obvious. In addition, there were compelling strategic compulsions recommending such a course. Sources of three major rivers irrigating Pakistan - Indus, Jhelum and Chenab - lay in Kashmir.

Besides, Kashmir’s outside linkages passed through the territory that was to constitute Pakistan: Road Pindi-Murree-Muzaffarabad-Srinagar comprised one route, while Sialkot-Jammu-Banihal Pass-Srinagar constituted the other. The third route - a dirt track - passed through the Muslim-dominated district of Gurdaspur in the Punjab, providing a minor link to Srinagar through the Pathankot railhead. It was certain that once Punjab was divided, Gurdaspur being a Muslim-dominated district of Punjab and contiguous to other Muslim majority areas, would form part of Pakistan.

However, the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, himself a Kashmiri Pandit, had a pathological fixation for acquiring Kashmir; by hook or crook. He was joined in such scheming by the British Viceroy and the first Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten, whose antipathy to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Pakistan is no secret.

The Mountbatten-Nehru duo hatched a deep-rooted conspiracy to wrest Kashmir and thus sowed the seeds of a tragedy that has ever since overshadowed the prospects of peace in South Asia.

The notorious design to occupy Kashmir began to unfold on August 16, 1947, with the announcement of the Radcliffe Boundary Award. The June 3 partition plan envisaged establishing boundary in Bengal, Assam-Sylhet and Punjab under the stewardship of Sir Cyril Radcliffe. When the Award was announced, its most controversial decision dealt with awarding the Gurdaspur District to India.

There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that Mountbatten prevailed upon Radcliffe to configure the Award in line with the conceived plan for subsequent occupation of Kashmir. The rationale would remain a mystery, since Radcliffe had left India by the time it was announced, taking all his papers with him. He died in 1977 without ever uttering a word, either on or off record, to explain the underlying reasons for his fateful Award.

With a land route now becoming available for the Indian armed forces to move into Kashmir, the plan for military occupation began to take shape. A political fig leaf had to be in place to justify and validate the aggression. To this end, it was essential to acquire an instrument of accession from the Maharaja and the occupation had to be camouflaged in an open-ended commitment to hold a plebiscite to decide the final fate of Kashmir’s accession. Nehru’s political chicanery, at this juncture, becomes manifest in the manner in which he used Sheikh Abdullah to advance his plans. Abdullah, was then in jail and Nehru employed considerable effort to have him released in the first week of October.

According to the plan, Abdullah, at the behest of Nehru, was to endorse an accession by the Maharaja and form a government in Kashmir, with the support of the Indian forces.

Nehru outlined the role that was to be played by Abdullah in annexing Kashmir, in a letter to Patel on September 27, 1947: “We have definitely a great asset in the National Conference. Sheikh Abdullah has given assurances of wishing to cooperate and of being opposed to Pakistan; also to abide by my advice.”

As October progressed, Kashmir got engulfed in strife. There was a rebellion in the state forces, which revolted against the Maharaja’s authority and were joined by a small number of Pathan tribesmen, who voluntarily joined the rebels. Mounbatten, as Governor General of India, called a meeting of the Defence Committee to assess the situation on October 25.

The Committee under his chairmanship decided to immediately send V.P. Menon, along with senior army and air force commanders, to land in Srinagar the same day, reconnoitre the ground situation and advise the Maharaja to abandon it for the safety of Jammu across the Banihal Pass.

Mountbatten also ordered the British Commander of the Indian forces to assemble a fleet of 10 transport aircraft for an airlift operation after 48 hours for landing troops in Srinagar.

Menon’s visit on October 25 so unnerved the Maharaja that he packed all his valuables and left for Jammu by road in the morning of October 26 without signing any instrument of accession. Hence, there is no evidence that establishes that the Maharaja ever signed the instrument of accession. It has never been shown in any official Indian document or held in any archives and there is a widely held belief that it does not exist.

Mountbatten, while chairing another meeting of the Defence Committee on October 26, ordered the landing of the first battalion of the Sikh regiment in Srinagar on October 27. At about 0900, hours the Sikh regiment began to land at the deserted Srinagar Airport. It is to be poignantly noted that on that fateful day, as the Indian aggression commenced, Jammu and Kashmir existed in the same constitutional limbo of insecure independence in which it had remained since August 15, 1947; following the lapse of the British paramountcy.

As the Indian aggression unfolded, Pakistan’s military response remained stymied by refusal of General Gracey, the Acting Chief of Pakistan Army, to send forces in Kashmir. It was with much delay that Pakistan was able to respond militarily in Kashmir. On December 31, 1947, India made an appeal to the UN Security Council to intervene and a ceasefire ultimately came into effect on January 01, 1949, following the UN resolutions calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir.

October 27, 1947, very early marked India’s propensity for aggression in realising its territorial and political ambitions. In doing so, it, however, failed to factor in the will of the Kashmiri people, whose grassroots resistance to the Indian occupation has been the major factor in New Delhi’s grudging acknowledgement that Kashmir is a bleeding wound whose pain is only getting worse with the passage of time.0

The writer is a freelance columnist.