Modi Says Patel Would’ve Kept All of Kashmir, Historians Think Not

Historians were quick to point out that Sardar Patel had offered Kashmir to Pakistan in return for Hyderabad.

Updated
Politics
3 min read
Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru.
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(MoS PMO Jitendra Singh recently said that had former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru let Sardar Patel handle Jammu and Kashmir then the history of not only J&K but of entire Indian sub-continent would have been different. This article is being republished from The Quint’s archives to highlight Patel’s stance on Kashmir. It was first published on 7 February 2018.)

Narendra Modi, on 7 February, invoked India’s first Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, while criticising the Congress in the Lok Sabha for "dividing the country".

"If Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel would have been the first prime minister of the country, then entire Kashmir would have been ours," the Prime Minister said, amid loud sloganeering in the Lower House.

While this was one of the most highlighted quotes from his speech, experts and commentators were quick to point out that Patel was not actually eager to have Kashmir acceded into India.

Srinath Raghavan, a former army officer and an expert on the historical aspects of India’s foreign and security policies, tweeted that, at one point, Patel was ready to offer Kashmir to Pakistan in return for Junagadh and Hyderabad's accession to India.

In a series of tweets, he added that it is "absurd to assume that he would have been tougher than Nehru on Kashmir".

By August 1948, Patel thought that partition of Kashmir would offer a “permanent, immediate and realistic settlement”. Nehru thought the same. But Pakistan rejected the idea.
Srinath Raghavan

A June 2000 Frontline article by veteran political commentator AG Noorani mentions that on 27 November 1972, the then President of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, told a tribal jirga at Landikotal about Sardar Patel’s offer to swap Kashmir for Junagadh and Hyderabad.

According to the article, another former Pakistan Prime Minister, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, corroborated this in his memoir.

Patel asked Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan: “Why do you compare Junagadh with Kashmir? Talk of Hyderabad and Kashmir and we could reach an agreement.”
The Emergence of Pakistan, by Chaudhry Muhammad Ali

Patel repeated this offer publicly at a meeting in Junagadh on 11 November, as mentioned in The Emergence of Pakistan. "Our reply was that one could agree to (sic.) Kashmir if they agreed to Hyderabad."

In the book titled Demystifying Kashmir, by political science scholar Navnita Chadha Behera, this conversation between Patel and Liaquat Ali Khan is repeated.

Modi Says Patel Would’ve Kept All of Kashmir, Historians Think Not
(Photo Courtesy: Google Books)

'Patel Agreed With Nehru on the Ceasefire With Pakistan in Kashmir’

Former BJP leader and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s speechwriter Sudheendra Kulkarni also pointed out the faux pas in Modi’s Lok Sabha address.

Kulkarni tweeted that Nehru and Patel agreed on a ceasefire with Pakistan which led to the division of Jammu and Kashmir. To boost his claim, Kulkarni shared highlighted excerpts from The People Next Door by former Indian diplomat TCA Raghavan.

Excerpts from TCA Raghavan’s book ‘The People Next Door’.
Excerpts from TCA Raghavan’s book ‘The People Next Door’.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

PM Modi heavily blamed the Congress for the Partition of India in 1947. However, historian Raghavan said that Hindutva leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar came up with the two-nation theory a full 16 years before Muhammad Ali Jinnah did.

He concluded by tweeting that Syama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of the Bharatiya Janata Sangh, the predecessor to the Bharatiya Janata Party, was at the forefront of the campaign to partition Bengal in 1947.

Another noted historian S Irfan Habib quoted Patel as saying in 1949: “It is good that we have agreed to partition in spite of all its evils; I have never repented my agreeing to partition.”

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