Jayanti day always reminds me of my most memorable day of Gandhi
'darshan', the only day in my life when I saw and stood so near the
Mahatma. My father had sent us – me, my mother and sister – to
Srinagar from Lahore, to safely stay with my brother serving as a
bank manager there till peace returned to Punjab, particularly
Lahore, where communal flareup and fanatic frenzy were increasing by
the day. It was during that most anxious time when thick black clouds
of communal clashes were spreading all over in the neighboring
Northern states that we saw a silver lining of hope and peace in the
surprise visit of the Mahatma to the Valley.
Gandhi, a symbol of non-violence, truth and moral values paid a 4-day
historical visit to strategic and sensitive Jammu and Kashmir State
during a crucial period in first week of August, 1947 and played a
pivotal role. This was his life’s first and the only short visit in
Kashmir which gave some turning points to course of events on the eve
of Independence as well as thereafter by providing much-needed
healing touch to the people in this sensitive and strategic border
State. The Father of the
Nation always had his hand on the pulse of the people and his gospel
of non-violence, truth and sincerity of purpose had already won the
hearts of masses in Jammu and Kashmir as elsewhere in the country.
visit was at a very momentous period on August 1-4, 1947 and had much
historic importance for Jammu and Kashmir as well the entire country.
It was a significant event then in 1947, but a spotlight on it now is
also of much relevance for the people in this part of the country.
Gandhiji’s message of peace and harmony has always stood the test
of time and is so still very much relevant in our time now.
Indian National Congress leadership: Gandhiji, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru,
Maulana Azad, Sardar Patel and other stalwarts had been source of
inspiration and ideology during the movement in Jammu and Kashmir for
attainment of responsive and democratic governance in place of the
monarchy. The struggle in Kashmir was spearheaded by Sheikh Mohammad
Abdullah who stood by the high principles of peaceful method and
uphold the Hindu-Muslim unity at all cost. The Sheikh was imprisoned
at the time of the Mahatma’s visit. On August 1, 1947, Gandhiji
reached Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir State, to
an affectionate welcome and grand reception by Begum Akbar Jehan wife
of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and about 500 women social and political
activists. He freely met the masses in Kashmir then. The Mahatma did
not address any public rally during his three days stay in Srinagar
but held two prayer meetings during which he gave expression to his
ideas, impressions and idealism and at the same time highlighted the
supremacy of the masses. He admired the masses for their exemplary
role during the freedom movement as also in maintaining exemplary
Hindu-Muslim unity at a time when there were dark clouds of strife
and observed that he saw “a ray of hope” in Kashmir despite
communal frenzy elsewhere on the sub-continent.
enactment of Indian Independence Act by British Parliament on July
17, 1947, the Paramount powers of the Crown over rulers of Indian
States was to lapse from August 15, 1947 and Lord Mountbatten called
upon the princely States to join either of the Dominions- India or
Pakistan- by deadline of Independence Day (August 15, 1947). There
was pressure on the ruler from Muslim League led by Mohammad Ali
Jinnah who propounded two-nation theory while the people of Kashmir
led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah totally rejected the two-nation
theory. The Maharaja of J&K State was unable to take decision in
this complex situation. The J&K State’s then Prime Minister,
Ram Chand Kak, was removed within a short while after Gandhiji’s
meeting with Maharaja Hari Singh during the visit. Mahatma Gandhi was
all praise for the tallest leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad
Abdullah for his adherence to communal harmony, deep concern for
down-trodden masses, democratic aspirations and nationalistic views.
The Sheikh and his party, while firmly rejecting the two-nation
theory, had consciously sided with the ideals of peace, progress,
democracy and secularism.
this visit to Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja, Hari Singh and Maharani
Tara Devi, cordially invited Gandhiji to the Palace and had an
elaborate meeting. He was affectionately accorded traditional welcome
with Arti and tilak by the Royal couple and also then young prince,
Dr Karan Singh. (Interestingly, it was also the day when Prince Karan
Singh and I passed Matriculation from Punjab University, both with
very high scoring). Later, the details have been recorded by Dr.
Karan Singh in his book titled “Heir Apparent”. Gandhiji during
his visit also had met a number of delegations and preached his ideas
and ideology both in Kashmir and Jammu. Mahatma Gandhi’s 4-day
visit on August 1-4, 1947 to Jammu and Kashmir forms a proud page in
the chapter of my life which I will cherish for ever.