‘Nehru didn’t want to publicise the Poonch rebellion because it would have strengthened Pakistan’s case’


Christopher Snedden is an Australian politico-strategic analyst, author and academic specialising in South Asian studies. His consultancy, Asia Calling, works with governments, businesses and universities.  Kashmir: The Unwritten History, he dismisses India’s claim that Pakhtoon tribesmen stoked the Kashmir conflict in October 1947. On the contrary, an uprising by the subjects of princely Jammu & Kashmir in Poonch, who were disenchanted with the Maharaja’s rule, triggered the conflict. Snedden, who is in New Delhi to launch his book, tells Baba Umar that the disunity among Kashmiri Muslims was to blame for determining the international status of pre-accession J&K.


Christopher Snedden. Photo: Baba Umar

Your book challenges the very basis of New Delhi’s claim on Kashmir. India has always maintained that it was forced to send its army into J&K in 1947 because of the Pakhtoon raid. Your book claims state subjects triggered the conflict. How do we prove that?
I have used many primary sources in my book. They are chiefly newspapers, especially The Civil and Military Gazette. All suggest there was an uprising in Poonch and religious violence in Jammu. There are also some documents that talk about the uprising against the Dogra ruler (Maharaja Hari Singh). Then there is the secret correspondence between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel making it clear that they were aware of what was going on. The evidence was always there but I don’t know why these were not collected. India blamed Pakhtoon tribesmen for starting the conflict and Pakistan, I don’t know why, accepted this tactical claim.

Your book title provokes one to ask what’s there that has not been written about Kashmir?
This book contains new information about ‘Azad Kashmir’ (PoK). In short, it explains three actions that divided the entire state. First, the Poonch uprising that started on 18 August 1947 against the Maharaja’s rule. It has been mentioned before, but my book offers a lot of detail. Second, there was a lot of inter-religious violence in the Jammu region, some of which seems to be endorsed by the Maharaja and his forces. The third story is the actual creation of the provisional government of ‘Azad Jammu & Kashmir’ on 24 October 1947. There has really been no book dedicated to telling the story of ‘Azad Kashmir’ since 1947.

Weren’t those in New Delhi aware of the Poonch uprising?
There is evidence to prove that they were. In fact, we are now getting access to correspondence among the Indian ministers. Nehru did write to Patel about the Poonch rebellion. The book really challenges the Indian claim that all the violence started on 22 October 1947 after the Pakhtoon tribesmen raided Kashmir.

And what about the people in Kashmir? Did Sheikh Abdullah know about this uprising? Then why didn’t he or Nehru disclose it? Did the media play any role in hiding the news?
I think Abdullah knew. One can find it in some of his writings too. I think he would have told Nehru also because they were very close. But again, it was also about communication, getting that story out in the press when so much was happening. In fact, the former editor of The Statesman later said that “we really don’t want to report this because there was already enough violence going and it would have further vitiated things”. Nehru was probably a little bit more political. He didn’t want to let this out because it would have strengthened Pakistan’s case.

What does the book say about the Poonchis? Were they armed? How did they manage to overpower the Maharaja’s forces?
My research says in 1947 there were 50,000 Poonchis who had served in the British Army. Poonch was one of the major recruiting grounds for the British. These people would always think of themselves as fighters. There were no economic opportunities and inadequate landholdings in this area. So, most of them fought alongside the British, unlike Kashmiri Muslims, who had enough land to till and were involved in economic activities. Poonchis had military and combat skills. Although the Maharaja’s forces disarmed them, they went across the border to arms manufacturers in North-West Frontier Province and Dera Ismail Khan in Pakistan. They had a lot of local support; they managed to liberate their own area, defeated the Dogra army and even captured their arms.

Was Pakistan involved in this uprising in any way? Was any State actor involved?
I’m sure there was unofficial and family support. People in Poonch really relate much more to Punjab than they do with the Valley. Families across the other side of the Jhelum river would have supported them by offering food and shelter. But there was some degree of support from the Pakistan government, which I think was minimal, chiefly because the government was too busy trying to resolve other issues, perhaps to establish a capital in Karachi. Pakistan had very limited administration. It was mostly the local Poonchis who didn’t like the Maharaja and wanted J&K to join Pakistan.

You also blame disunity among Muslims in J&K in deciding the international status of pre-accession J&K.
That was a major factor. In 1947, there were about 77 percent Muslims. Had they been united, it would have been difficult for the Maharaja to accede the entire state to India.

You have been to both sides of Kashmir? Which side looks more prosperous and developed?
PoK is different in terms of terrain.  It’s very mountainous. But in terms of living standards, houses, electricity, shops, roads, mosques and buildings, these are pretty much the same on either side. There is no stark difference, unlike say in East and West Germany. But the people in PoK are very different in how they dress. They dress like Punjabis. The literacy rate is high, almost 90 percent. However, people are very hospitable on both sides.

Your book might give a jolt to pro-Azadi quarters in Kashmir. How does it conclude that independent Kashmir isn’t possible?
I have written how history shows India and Pakistan haven’t been able to resolve this dispute. Pakistan is ready for a plebiscite, but India will never go for it. Both countries will never allow Kashmir to become independent. It’s a waste of time. So we need to find another mechanism that might be acceptable to both countries.

Does your book offer some solution?
India and Pakistan should devolve this issue to the people of Kashmir, including Hindu Pandits who left the Valley, people of Gilgit and Baltistan, and those who moved into these areas. There should be serious discussion among the people of all regions for as long as it takes to work out what they want in terms of status. They may have different aspirations. For example, Jammu and Ladakh may want to stay with India; PoK will choose to stay with Pakistan and the Valley may say it wants to remain independent. You might have three different statuses together. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be independent. But they need to understand the ramifications of being independent. Being an independent, landlocked State anywhere in the world is difficult. Ultimately, the solution has to come from the people. My book offers hope that one day India and Pakistan will quit their intractable row and allow the people to resolve this dispute.

How long did the research and writing this book take? And what’s your new project about?
I started researching for it in 1996 and the writing part started in 2001. My wife Diane Barbeler is the first editor of my work. My next project is also about Kashmir, which will be called Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris. This one is particularly about the Kashmir Valley.

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Principal Correspondent

Baba Umar’s career started with The Indian Express in Srinagar where he reported on the South Asia earthquake of 2005. In the following years, he wrote features for Kashmir’s first online news magazine Kashmir Newz and in 2008 he joined Rising Kashmir as a senior reporter where he covered 2008-09-10 civil unrest. Baba specializes in producing stories mostly on Kashmir conflict and water disputes in India. Baba joined Tehelka in 2010 and the next year saw him winning ICRC (Geneva)-Press Institute of India (PII) award for his news report on victims of armed conflict in Kashmir.


  1. Secessionists get unlimited space in Tehelka. I think Tehelka should be banned for national security and integrity.
    Kashmir will remain an integral part of India. Pakistan and Tehelka can keep wishing otherwise!

    • This and such other comments are just emotional and prejudiced…discussions should be done on the academic grounds and on the historical facts. This is wishful to claim like that the way it has been in the comments of Nitin and Sachita….how can one expect to block the free speech the way they have suggested.

  2. seriously tehelka, it is unfortunate that you decide to publish a pro pakistani piece not even a pro kashmiri – that atleast would be understandable.

  3. @ tariq What acedemic grounds you have to approve the interview….Acc to India Independence Act ..It was King’s wish to choose either India nor Paksitan or Stay Independent…and it is clearly part of History Maharaja Hari Singh singed the Instrument of Accession and bacme part of India……

      • What about the muslims who stayed back in India? And isnt their staying back a double standard? The point is religion based division doesnt make sense when India ended up with a larger population of Muslims than Pakistan and which is going to outgrow Hindus in sometime. If anything, religion wise populations were hopelessly mixed in India and to uproot them overnight in slipshod ways was the first of many wrongs. And to harp on the same religion based division which Kashmir issue is about eve after 65 years, when India has the second largest population of Muslims in the world is the mother of all double standards!!

  4. Please give me answer to following questions
    1. Why Poonch uprising takes place only in 1947 ? why not before ?”
    2. How can you deny other independent sources like BBC /VOA..etc who has clerly reported the Jinna asked Pakhtoon tribals to invade Kashmir before Indians ?
    3. Why On POK side all Kashmiris chenged there dress culture to Punjabi or there are infact all Punjabi settlers unlike in Vally?

    • coz in SPITE of millions of primitive WIERDOS like you BARATHAM (india) is still a free country and will always remain a Sovereign Socialist Democratic Republic…
      thank u for the info snedden, thanks for the article umar . i dint know this.

      we have all the makings of a great nation but we have a colonial propogandist government in delhi that stands in our way.

      Time to end the military occupation of the kashmir and NE states… hold plebiscites and let them people decide what they want and protect that choice.

      time to clear our conscience.
      those who dont agree pick up this lil document called the CONSTITUTION of our republic ,READ it and try to UNDERSTAND!!!

  5. Here is what NEHRU CHACHA said about Kashmir:
    1. In his telegram to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said, “I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the state to accede to India. Our view which we have repeatedly made public is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or state must be decided in accordance with wishes of people and we adhere to this view.” (Telegram 402 Primin-2227 dated 27th October, 1947 to PM of Pakistan repeating telegram addressed to PM of UK).
    2. In other telegram to the PM of Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir’s accession to India was accepted by us at the request of the Maharaja’s government and the most numerously representative popular organization in the state which is predominantly Muslim. Even then it was accepted on condition that as soon as law and order had been restored, the people of Kashmir would decide the question of accession. It is open to them to accede to either Dominion then.” (Telegram No. 255 dated 31 October, 1947).
    Accession issue
    3. In his broadcast to the nation over All India Radio on 2nd November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We are anxious not to finalise anything in a moment of crisis and without the fullest opportunity to be given to the people of Kashmir to have their say. It is for them ultimately to decide —— And let me make it clear that it has been our policy that where there is a dispute about the accession of a state to either Dominion, the accession must be made by the people of that state. It is in accordance with this policy that we have added a proviso to the Instrument of Accession of Kashmir.”
    4. In another broadcast to the nation on 3rd November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir and to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.”
    5. In his letter No. 368 Primin dated 21 November, 1947 addressed to the PM of Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “I have repeatedly stated that as soon as peace and order have been established, Kashmir should decide of accession by Plebiscite or referendum under international auspices such as those of United Nations.”
    U.N. supervision
    6.In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on 25th November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “In order to establish our bona fide, we have suggested that when the people are given the chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as the United Nations Organisation. The issue in Kashmir is whether violence and naked force should decide the future or the will of the people.”
    7.In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on 5th March, 1948, Pandit Nehru said, “Even at the moment of accession, we went out of our way to make a unilateral declaration that we would abide by the will of the people of Kashmir as declared in a plebiscite or referendum. We insisted further that the Government of Kashmir must immediately become a popular government. We have adhered to that position throughout and we are prepared to have a Plebiscite with every protection of fair voting and to abide by the decision of the people of Kashmir.”
    Referendum or plebiscite
    8.In his press-conference in London on 16th January, 1951, as reported by the daily ‘Statesman’ on 18th January, 1951, Pandit Nehru stated, “India has repeatedly offered to work with the United Nations reasonable safeguards to enable the people of Kashmir to express their will and is always ready to do so. We have always right from the beginning accepted the idea of the Kashmir people deciding their fate by referendum or plebiscite. In fact, this was our proposal long before the United Nations came into the picture. Ultimately the final decision of the settlement, which must come, has first of all to be made basically by the people of Kashmir and secondly, as between Pakistan and India directly. Of course it must be remembered that we (India and Pakistan) have reached a great deal of agreement already. What I mean is that many basic features have been thrashed out. We all agreed that it is the people of Kashmir who must decide for themselves about their future externally or internally. It is an obvious fact that even without our agreement no country is going to hold on to Kashmir against the will of the Kashmiris.”
    9.In his report to All Indian Congress Committee on 6th July, 1951 as published in the Statesman, New Delhi on 9th July, 1951, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir has been wrongly looked upon as a prize for India or Pakistan. People seem to forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for sale or to be bartered. It has an individual existence and its people must be the final arbiters of their future. It is here today that a struggle is bearing fruit, not in the battlefield but in the minds of men.”
    10.In a letter dated 11th September, 1951, to the U.N. representative, Pandit Nehru wrote, “The Government of India not only reaffirms its acceptance of the principle that the question of the continuing accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India shall be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations but is anxious that the conditions necessary for such a plebiscite should be created as quickly as possible.”
    Word of honour
    11.As reported by Amrita Bazar Patrika, Calcutta, on 2nd January, 1952, while replying to Dr. Mookerji’s question in the Indian Legislature as to what the Congress Government going to do about one third of territory still held by Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “is not the property of either India or Pakistan. It belongs to the Kashmiri people. When Kashmir acceded to India, we made it clear to the leaders of the Kashmiri people that we would ultimately abide by the verdict of their Plebiscite. If they tell us to walk out, I would have no hesitation in quitting. We have taken the issue to United Nations and given our word of honour for a peaceful solution. As a great nation we cannot go back on it. We have left the question for final solution to the people of Kashmir and we are determined to abide by their decision.”
    12.In his statement in the Indian Parliament on 7th August, 1952, Pandit Nehru said, “Let me say clearly that we accept the basic proposition that the future of Kashmir is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of her people. The goodwill and pleasure of this Parliament is of no importance in this matter, not because this Parliament does not have the strength to decide the question of Kashmir but because any kind of imposition would be against the principles that this Parliament holds. Kashmir is very close to our minds and hearts and if by some decree or adverse fortune, ceases to be a part of India, it will be a wrench and a pain and torment for us. If, however, the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means. We will not keep them against their will, however painful it may be to us. I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. It is not that we have merely said that to the United Nations and to the people of Kashmir, it is our conviction and one that is borne out by the policy that we have pursued, not only in Kashmir but everywhere. Though these five years have meant a lot of trouble and expense and in spite of all we have done, we would willingly leave if it was made clear to us that the people of Kashmir wanted us to go. However sad we may feel about leaving we are not going to stay against the wishes of the people. We are not going to impose ourselves on them on the point of the bayonet.”
    Kashmir’s soul
    13.In his statement in the Lok Sabha on 31st March, 1955 as published in Hindustan Times New Delhi on Ist April, 1955, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir is perhaps the most difficult of all these problems between India and Pakistan. We should also remember that Kashmir is not a thing to be bandied between India and Pakistan but it has a soul of its own and an individuality of its own. Nothing can be done without the goodwill and consent of the people of Kashmir.”
    14.In his statement in the Security Council while taking part in debate on Kashmir in the 765th meeting of the Security Council on 24th January, 1957, the Indian representative Mr. Krishna Menon said, “So far as we are concerned, there is not one word in the statements that I have made in this council which can be interpreted to mean that we will not honour international obligations. I want to say for the purpose of the record that there is nothing that has been said on behalf of the Government of India which in the slightest degree indicates that the Government of India or the Union of India will dishonour any international obligations it has undertaken.”

    • Moroon there are many speeches made, By Sheikh Abdullah in 1947-48 in UN, then in 1953, then in 1975, there are many speeches at the PAK representative at UN after which UNCIP passed the resolution under which Pakistan was to vacate POK & then UN had to conduct the plebiscite…..If plebiscite was not conducted ask Pakistan….

  6. First to Zahid Ali Bhat – Its a great collation of facts. I would be extremely obliged if you can share the source.

    Second to the Interviewer Baba Umar –
    Have been reading some of the interviews and appreciate the efforts.

    Third to the Author Christopher Snedden – Sir, would go through your book but what ever I have understood and researched till date, I understand that the biggest mistake which we do is to look at the history of the Kashmir Issue in isolation. It is of utmost importance that the Kashmir issue is looked in through the prisim of Political scenarios in both India and Pakistan soon after Partition, the influencing history of secession of states like Travancore, Junnagadh and Hyderabad to the Indian Union and the clash of personalities in the top leadership on both the sides of the border.
    Its true that the sufferers have been the common men and women of Kashmir but any adequate account of the issue has to cover in these angles and their influence too. I just hope that these are considered and would definitely reply back once have gone through the book.

  7. Earlier India wanted the plebiscite because it was confident sufiist Kashmiris would choose India over Pakistan. At that time Pakistan didn’t want it. Then through the 1970s on there came a hardening of Islamic attitudes worldwide, and Pakistan tried to use that to swing Kashmiris its way. That has succeeded but only after changing Kashmir’s character from Kashmiriyat to Islamiyat. With Pakistan’s help Kashmir has become hardline Islamic with more women ordered into burqas and women shot in their legs for wearing jeans. Notice that none of the state’s minorities or minority areas are involved in this “azadi” uprising, which is islamic to the core and as nothing to do with Kashmir itself. It’s more an Islamic rejection of alignment with a “Hindu” India than an assertion of any Kashmiri identity. Now Pakistan wants a plebiscite because it is confident Kashmiris will choose them, and India doesn’t precisely for that reason.


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