4B. Sardar Patel: Part-2 of the Extracts

Part-II of Chapter-12 of "Foundations of Misery"


Sardar Patel
Interesting Extracts

Select Extracts

Here are further (further to those in Part-I) select interesting extracts on Sardar Patel put together from other chapters of this book.


A troubling question is that if Sardar Patel and VP Menon could manage accession of 547 states, why could Nehru not manage smooth accession of even one state he had taken charge of—J&K? [Out of 562 princely states, the remaining had gone to Pakistan, being contiguous to it]

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Nehru did not seem to realise that the support of the princes and their collaboration would be indispensable in the coming months for persuading them to accede to India. To take on the Maharaja at that stage, and that too as Congress president, did not appear to be politically wise. Sardar Patel and others tried to dissuade him, yet he went. Sardar wrote to DP Mishra, “He [Nehru] has done many things recently which have caused us great embarrassment. His actions in Kashmir…are acts of emotional insanity and it puts tremendous strain on us to set the matters right.”

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If Nehru had dealt with Hari Singh wisely looking to the political options, had Nehru not allowed his personal bias to dominate, had Nehru accommodated Maharaja suitably, had Nehru convinced him that his interests would be suitably protected if he joined India, Hari Singh may not have dithered and would have signed the Instrument of Accession well before 15 August 1947; and J&K would never have been an issue at all! There was nothing bad about being anti-feudal and hence anti-Maharaja, only it was imprudent, given the situation. Nehru should have tackled Hari Singh like Sardar Patel tackled the other 547 rajas and maharajas. However, Nehru, rather than giving a sympathetic hearing to Maharaja, and tackling him in a way that could lead to a favourable decision, appeared to be vindictive.

Mountbatten was reported to have remarked about Nehru: "I thought he [Nehru] wanted to make the Maharaja lick his boots..."

States V Shankar in his book, My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel: “...Pandit Nehru regarded it as axiomatic that only Sheikh Abdullah could deliver the goods and was prepared to make any concessions to him to seek his support...Sardar did not trust Sheikh nor did he share Pandit Nehru's assessment of his influence in the State. He felt that our case in Jammu and Kashmir had to be met on the basis of the Maharaja executing the Instrument of Accession, the thought of antagonising the one on whose signature on that document alone we could justify our legal case in Jammu and Kashmir was distressing to him...Sardar also felt it would be in the long-term interests of India to utilise the Maharaja's undoubted influence among the various sections of the people to force a permanent bond between the State and India...He was doubtful if the weakening of the administrative authority by the Maharaja to the extent demanded by the Sheikh was in the interests of the State and India. He felt that the last thing that should occur at that critical period was for the Maharaja and the Sheikh to work at cross-purposes with each other or for the already disillusioned people of the State to harbour doubts about the future of the Government or the Maharaja.”

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September 1947. Maharaja Hari Singh had reportedly decided in September 1947 to offer Kashmir's accession to India. But it was refused by Nehru, who first wanted Sheikh Abdullah to be freed and installed as the prime minister of the State—something not acceptable to the Maharaja. Was it not queer? The nation being favoured with accession laying down conditions, rather than the state agreeing to merge! But, that was Nehru!!—‘Nehru/India J&K Blunder-5’

States Sarila in The Shadow of the Great Game: “Mountbatten added: ‘He [Patel] has also attacked Nehru for the first time saying “I regret our leader has followed the lofty ideas into the skies and has no contact left with earth or reality”’...This outburst probably reflected Patel’s frustration with Nehru at the time, for refusing to accept the Maharaja of Kashmir’s accession to India unless and until a government under Sheikh Abdullah was installed.”

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V Shankar writes in My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel, Vol.1: “So long as Pakistan's armed intervention persisted in Kashmir, Sardar was firm on settling the dispute on the battle-field, rather than through parleys in the UN Security Council. In this matter he [Sardar Patel] found himself completely opposed to the line of action and policies adumbrated by Lord Mountbatten who was successful in persuading not only Pandit Nehru but also Gandhiji to accept them. Mountbatten diverted the mind of Pandit Nehru in two directions—conferences with Pakistan and a reference to the UN. For the latter he secured Gandhiji's blessings...He [Sardar] was for utilising the opportunity to finalise the accession without much ado or any further formalities.”

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7 October 1947. This is on the basis of the book, War and Diplomacy in Kashmir 1947-48, by C Dasgupta. In the wake of Pakistani activity, Maharaja Hari Singh had requested arms aid from India in early October 1947, much before J&K’s accession to India on 26 October 1947. Sardar Patel had requested the then Defence Minister, Baldev Singh, to do the needful urgently on 7 October 1947, who had, in turn, instructed the Indian army chief General Lockhart. However, “the decision that arms should be supplied to Kashmir on top-priority basis was simply derailed by the Commander-in-Chief, General Lockhart, acting in collusion with Field Marshal Auchinleck.” These British army officers, though in the employment and pay of India, did what suited Pakistan’s and the British interests!

(Sardar Patel had ensured their subsequent removal.)

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(The British Game-9)

Looking to the precarious situation, Sardar Patel proposed sending the Indian Army to J&K. However, Mountbatten insisted that unless the Instrument of Accession was signed by J&K in favour of India, India should not send army to Kashmir.

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(The British Game-11)

Notwithstanding the desperate situation, and knowing that unless help was sent immediately, both the Muslims and the Pandits of Srinagar would be butchered by the Pakistani raiders, and the Valley of Kashmir would be lost to Pakistan, Mountbatten still insisted that unless the Instrument of Accession was signed by J&K in favour of India, India should not send army to Kashmir. It seemed to be a deliberate delaying technique on the part of Mountbatten to ensure Pakistani possession of J&K by force, and a fait accompli for India—as the British desired.

VP Menon flew to Jammu the same day—Sunday, 26 October 1947—with the Instrument of Accession to have it signed by Hari Singh, which he did.

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Monday, 27 October 1947. The Defence Committee meeting was held on 27 October 1947, presided by Mountbatten. It was attended by Nehru, Patel, Sardar Baldev Singh and other ministers. VP Menon, HM Patel and Sam Manekshaw were invitees. After the accession papers were presented by Sardar Patel, Sam Manekshaw apprised the Committee of the Military situation. Sam informed the Committee that the raiders were hardly seven to nine kilometres from Srinagar; and unless the troops were flown in immediately, Srinagar would be lost, because going by road would take days, and once the raiders got to the airport and Srinagar, it would not be possible to fly-in the troops. He further informed that everything was ready at the airport, and the troops could be immediately air-lifted, once the orders were issued.

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British were serving pro-Pakistani British interests. But, Nehru? Why couldn’t Nehru recognise the British machinations and come to grips with the unfolding crisis that required prompt action from India of airlifting troops to Srinagar, failing which there was a definite possibility of India losing Kashmir forever. What was critical was timely action, not dithering. Sending troops later or leaving the matter to the UN would have meant allowing Pakistan to occupy Kashmir by force, and Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan as a fait accompli, which Pakistan wanted, and to which Britain was more than willing to turn a blind eye. But for Sardar Patel, it is doubtful—because the British didn’t want it and Nehru had hang-ups and was reluctant—if the prompt action of airlifting troops to Srinagar would have been taken, as corroborated by the following words of Sam Manekshaw.

Recounted Sam Manekshaw, who later became the first Field Marshal in the Indian army, in his interview with Prem Shankar Jha, available on the internet at many websites: “At the morning meeting he [VP Menon/Patel] handed over the (Accession) thing. Mountbatten turned around and said, ‘come on Manekji (He called me Manekji instead of Manekshaw), what is the military situation?’ I gave him the military situation, and told him that unless we flew in troops immediately, we would have lost Srinagar, because going by road would take days, and once the tribesmen got to the airport and Srinagar, we couldn't fly troops in. Everything was ready at the airport. As usual Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God almighty, everybody, until Sardar Patel lost his temper. He said, ‘Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away.’ He (Nehru) said, ‘Of course, I want Kashmir.’ Then he (Patel) said ‘Please give your orders.’ And before he could say anything Sardar Patel turned to me and said, ‘You have got your orders.’ I walked out, and we started flying in troops...”

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Tuesday, 28 October 1947, 8.30pm. Writes V Shankar in My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel, Volume 1: “Lord Mountbatten persuaded Pandit Nehru to make a broadcast in which he was to announce that the accession would be subject to a plebiscite under the UN auspices. This was scheduled at 8.30pm on 28 October. Sardar used to insist on seeing the texts of important broadcasts including those of the prime minister. Pandit Nehru had a very busy day and could not send the text before 8.15pm. Sardar read it and noticed the embarrassing commitment. He tried to contact Pandit Nehru but the latter had left for the Broadcasting House. Sardar then commissioned me  to go to the Broadcasting House and ask Pandit Nehru to delete the offending phrase 'under UN auspices'..." However, by the time Shankar reached the place, the deed was done. This was ‘Nehru/India J&K Blunder-8’.

It was imprudent on the part of Nehru to have made this commitment of “plebiscite under UN auspices” at the instance of a British, Lord Mountbatten, having his own axe to grind, without taking the patriotic Indians who mattered—Sardar Patel and others—into confidence!

It seems that Nehru, the claimed expert on international affairs, was innocent about the functioning of the UNSC—UN Security Council. He was apparently under the impression that UNSC functioned on the basis of the high ideals enshrined in the UN Charter and looked to the merits of the cases referred to it. That the member-nations of the UNSC acted in their own selfish national interests and engaged in power-game was apparently not known to the foreign-affairs expert Nehru.

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2 November 1947. ‘Nehru/India J&K Blunder-9’. Reference to the UN was something Sardar Patel, Dr Ambedkar and others were against, however, Nehru again went ahead with it publicly in his radio broadcast on 2 November 1947. Incidentally, plebiscite was held in Junagadh also, but it was conducted by India itself on 20 February 1948, managed by an ICS officer, CB Nagarkar—as arranged by Sardar Patel.

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Writes Rajmohan Gandhi in his book Patel–A Life: “Patel was as strongly against the reference to the UN and preferred ‘timely action’ on the ground, but Kashmir was Jawaharlal’s baby by now and Vallabhbhai did not insist on his prescriptions when, at the end of December, Nehru announced that he had decided to go to the UN. Jawaharlal obtained Mahatma’s reluctant consent...Patel’s misgivings were amply fulfilled after India invited the UN’s assistance...”

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Contrast this [India’s readiness in India-China War] with Sardar Patel’s action in Kashmir in 1947. Writes Rajmohan Gandhi in his book Patel–A Life: “In the judgement of Sheikh Abdullah, scarcely an uncritical Patel fan, ‘events took a decisive turn’ after Vallabhbhai’s Srinagar visit. ‘The Sardar did not lose even one minute. He studied the situation and said that the enemy must be driven back.’ Major General Kulwant Singh and several hundred soldiers were flown to Srinagar the next day. Taking over from Sen, Kulwant Singh freed Baramula on November 8... ‘In the last week of October 1947,’ Gadgil has recalled, Patel ‘took out a map and pointing to the Jammu-Pathankot area said that the 65-mile road between the two towns had to be made capable of carrying heavy army traffic within eight months.’ He had seen at once that the battle would be long. When Gadgil, the Minister for Works, pointed out that ‘rivers, rivulets, hills and mountains’ were not so obvious on the map, Vallabhbhai said simply, ‘You have to do it.’ Around 10,000 workers were brought from Rajasthan in special trains. Floodlights enabled night work. Labour camps, dispensaries, mobile cinemas and markets supported the drive. The 65 miles were completed on time.”

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August 1949. BN Mullik, who was the then Deputy Director of the IB—the Intelligence Bureau—with charge of Kashmir, and later head of the IB, wrote in his book, My Years with Nehru, that Sardar Patel told him that he [Patel] apprehended that Sheikh Abdullah would ultimately let down India and Nehru and would come out in his real colours; and that probably things would not have come to this pass at all if Sardar was still alive, because Abdullah had a very wholesome respect and fear of Sardar.

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(Regarding Article-370)

Sardar confided  to his secretary, V Shankar, “Jawaharlal royega [Nehru will regret this].”


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