O. P. Sharma*
Mahatma 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.
The 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.
The 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
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.
Gandhiji made some famous observations which assumed
historical significance: First, the Amritsar Treaty
of 1846 under which Kashmir was given to Maharaja
Gulab Singh was termed by him as “a sale deed”. 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. Gandhiji also
frowned on illumination when strategic Gilgit area
was reverted back by the British to the J&K ruler
and curiously observed and prophesied that Gilgit
area will be ultimately “snatched”. His word proved
true in less than a year as Gilgit was annexed by
After 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.
During 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. 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
Mahatma Gandhi wrote one report on this visit and
sent it to Pt Jawaharlal Nehru with a request to
show it to Sardar Vallabbhai Patel as well.
Subsequent events have amply proved Gandhiji right
in many respects. The relevance of Gandhi’s message
and teachings still have much relevance and
significance for tackling the real problems still
facing the people. By adhering to Gandhian ways, the
solution to all issues can be found and permanent
peace, progress and prosperity attained. Mahatma
Gandhi’s 4-day visit on August 1-4, 1947 to Jammu
and Kashmir forms a proud chapter of our history.
The Indian people are without Mahatma Gandhi, Father
of the Nation, for the past 65 years but Gandhiji’s
ideals still are like beacon light for not only the
nation but the entire world.
On the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, it is
time to re-dedicate ourselves to the lofty ideals
and high principles of moral values for making the
country including Jammu and Kashmir, a strong,
secular country based on socio-economic justice.
On the Occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.
*The author is a Freelance Journalist.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in
this article are his own and do not necessarily
reflect the views of PIB.