Maharaja Gulab Singh, the great-grandfather of Maharaja Hari Singh, bought the state of Jammu and Kashmir from the British for 75 lakh rupees. was also the ruler of India’s largest state with international borders with four countries. Maharaja Gulab Singh refused to include Jammu and Kashmir in India or Pakistan in order to keep his kingdom a paradise on earth.
On 22 October Pakistan launched Operation Gulmarg, an armed offensive on the state of Jammu and Kashmir. By the time Hari Singh come to knowe of the Pakistani attack, the Lashkars had captured the important city of Muzaffarabad and on the outskirts of Uri, barely 100 miles from the capital of Srinagar.
The Maharaja was told that Pakistani Lashkars had reached Baramulla and there could be an attack on Srinagar at any time. Prince Karan Singh Dogra, the 17-year-old son of Maharaja Hari Singh, was attending the convocation at Srinagar Palace when he got information that his father Hari Singh had decided to leave from Srinagar.
The Maharaja had already sent an SOS to the Government of India. At his request, VP Menon, Sardar Patel’s secretary, accompanied the Indian Army to Srinagar to discuss the defense of Kashmir. Then it was decided that the kingdom which Gulab Singh had bought after the fall of the Khalsa Empire, would not even set foot on that land.
After discussing the Maharaja’s request for Indian help, Menon advised Hari Singh to leave Srinagar immediately. Menon told Hari Singh that the Maharaja and his family would be executed by the tribals, as the state army had been wiped out and there was no one to protect the royals.
Within hours, Hari Singh gathered his family, loaded all his valuables into vehicles and bullock carts. Menon was asked to leave for the airport on 26 October. There were rumors that Pakistanis had infiltrated into Srinagar and it was no longer safe for him to stay there.
Menon went straight from the Delhi airport to the cabinet committee, which was waiting for their update on Kashmir. He apprised the committee of the danger on Srinagar. But Lord Mountbatten, the first Governor-General of independent India, refused to interfere in the matter.
Mountbatten argued that Kashmir was still an independent state and that it would not be right for India to intervene until the Maharaja formally acceded to India. Menon then reached Jammu with Maharaja Hari Singh and the Prime Minister. Then Maharaja Hari Singh signed the document to merge Jammu and Kashmir with India.
Within hours, Menon was back in New Delhi with documents that were about to change the history of Kashmir forever. In the evening, as India was putting together an infantry battalion of the 1st Sikh Regiment to begin the defense of Srinagar, Menon met a British officer at his residence.
Menon then told the officer that the Maharaja had finally handed over Kashmir to India. Now Kashmir is with us and we will never give it. Then a team of the Indian Army was permanently stationed in Srinagar.
Maharaja Hari Singh remained the titular Maharaja of the state until 1952, as the monarchy was abolished by the Government of India. He died on 26 April 1961, after spending his last days in Bombay.