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"V P Menon turned around and said,
'Sam we've got the Accession.' "

Sam Manekshaw Sam Manekshaw, the first field marshal in the Indian army, was at the ringside of events when Independent India was being formed. Then a colonel, he was chosen to accompany V P Menon on his historic mission to Kashmir. This is his version of that journey and its aftermath, as recorded in an interview with Prem Shankar Jha.

You went in on the afternoon of the 25th. When you got to Srinagar, were you actually present when the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession?

I was in the palace when V P Menon, Mahajan, and the Maharaja were discussing the subject. The Maharaja was running from one room to another.....I did not see the Maharaja signing it, nor did I see Mahajan. All I do know is that V P Menon turned around and said, 'Sam we've got the Accession.'

He said that to you.

Yes, yes he turned around to me, and so we flew back.

And you were actually present the next morning when V P Menon handed this over during that.....

(Interrupting) I was at the cabinet meeting presided over by Mountbatten when it was handed over....we'd got the Accession. I can't understand why anyone said that the thing was signed in Jammu, because we never went to Jammu.

Was it the cabinet meeting, or was it the defence committee of the cabinet?

No, it was a meeting with Mountbatten presiding, with Vallabhbhai Patel, Baldev Singh...

Nehru, of course.

There were other ministers too; I can't recall.....

That was the defence committee. Otherwise, there would have been a much larger group. Sir Roy Bucher was there too?

Yes, yes, Sir Roy took me there.

Was the Maharaja, in your presence, demurring from signing, was he laying down conditions. Was V P Menon saying 'look you've got to bring Abdullah into the Cabinet first....'

That I honestly can't tell you. All that I can say is that the Maharaja was ... he was not in his full senses. He was running about saying I will fight there. Unless the Indian army comes in, my own forces will fight'; that sort of rubbish was going on. All that V P Menon was telling him was that we cannot send forces in unless the accession takes place. Then he signed it. That is all I can tell you about the actual signing.

Mountbatten And you were present the next morning when the Instrument was handed over to Mountbatten?


You have said that the first lot of troops were flown in around noon.

Immediately (emphasis in original) after the cabinet meeting. We went to Srinagar I think on the 25th. I can't tell you the dates. We came back on the 26th in the early morning, and the same day we started to fly troops in. And the Pakistanis only came in when we started throwing the tribesmen out. It is only then that the Pakistani regular troops came in. I think it was General Akbar Khan, who was married to Begum Shah Nawaz's daughter; can't remember her name, dammit, I used to know them so well in Lahore. I think he organised the tribesmen coming in.

What you said about the Sikhs being moved on the 26th, immediately after the Letter of Accession was given, is not known. The story is that the first Indian troops were moved on the 27th - that they left at the crack of dawn, maybe even earlier, and that they arrived in Srinagar at 9 am. General Sen, who wrote a book about it, said that they were surprised to find troops of the Patiala regiment (state forces) already there. Did you find, when you went to Srinagar that in fact at some point earlier on, perhaps even before 15 August, the Maharaja of Patiala had agreed to send a battalion of his troops to Kashmir.

If that had happened, I would have known. No. There were no soldiers of either the Indian or Patiala forces which had gone in earlier.

Then is it possible that the troops that General Sen referred to were the ones who had gone in on the 26th?

No, that was the First Sikh Light In....Sikh Battalion, that was sent with Ranjit Rai. That was sent on the 26th. The same day we'd had the cabinet committee meeting, the defence committee meeting or whatever. I remember getting out of that meeting and making arrangements. Bogey Sen went in later. Poor old Ranjit was killed. He and I were from the same batch - the first batch at the Indian Military Academy.

In his book, The Great Divide, H V Hodson, who wrote it after being given access to Mountbatten's personal papers, doesn't specifically say that the Instrument was presented to the defence committee at its morning meeting. But he does say that after you had given your appreciation of the military situation in the morning, discussion went on about, well, we should send in the troops but should we accept the Accession or not.

Which implies that the letter of Accession had already been given but the cabinet (committee) was still in two minds about whether it should be accepted, or whether the Maharaja should be told, well, we are sending in troops to support you, but we are not going to accept the accession just now. In the evening, apparently, the decision was taken that we will accept the accession but with the proviso about the reference to the wishes of the people which eventually went into the letter that Mountbatten wrote.

Now is it possible that although you made the arrangement to send the troops, the actual fly in took place on the 27th.

(Thinks) No they were sent in the same day. And I think you would be able to verify that from air force records because we didn't have all that many aircraft, and had to get them from the civilian airlines. They had all been got ready.

Excerpted from Kashmir 1947, Rival Versions of History, by Prem Shankar Jha, Oxford University Press, 1996, Rs 275, with the publisher's permission. Readers in the US may secure a copy of the book from Oxford University Press Inc USA, 198, Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016, USA. Tel: 212-726-6000. Fax: 212-726-6440.