Ram Chandra Kak, His ‘Moody Maharaja’ And History’s Judgment
NEW DELHI, (IANS) – Turning the pages of Kashmir’s history, one comes across several heroes and villains. One such controversial figure was Ram Chandra Kak, the only Kashmiri Pandit Prime Minister of J&K.
Kak was the prime minister of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir from 1945 to 1947. He was one among those who was involved in the controversial task of resolving the problematic transfer of power from the British Raj to either India or Pakistan, a process that made J&K a thorn in everyone’s side. While doing this difficult job for the then Maharaja of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh, Kak was tagged as a villain in Indian and Kashmir’s history.
In the 77th year of Independent India, the descendants of Kak, who have lived with this tag, have finally come out.
‘Love, Exile, Redemption: The Saga of Kashmir’s Last Pandit Prime Minister and His English Wife’ (Rupa Publications) has been written by Ram Chandra Kak’s grandson Siddharth Kak and daughter Lila Kak Bhan.
It is a glimpse of a period wrecked by palace intrigues, petty politics, and backstabbing. It presents the story of a prime minister who was bound by his duty and commitment to his job and followed the orders of the king. It tries to clear the accusations that were leveled against Kak. And by publishing certain tell-all letters, the family claims redemption.
As the book unravels the plots surrounding Kashmir’s accession, it also presents a story about how a young English woman falls for an intelligent and handsome widower, Ram Chandra Kak, and finally decides to marry him and live in Kashmir.
The two stories are intertwined and presented in a format that makes it seem as if it is not just Siddharth and Lila who are the authors, but also RCK, as Ram Chandra Kak was fondly called, and his wife Margaret Kak. They speak out from the pages, as their letters are wonderfully woven in.
Siddharth Kak, a well-known TV personality, commentator, and author, whose TV series ‘Surabhi’ became a cult show, begins the book with his memories of his grandfather. Lila mentions the letters of her mother Margaret Kak, who provides an insight into the turbulent period of 1947 and later years.
The book talks about the Maharaja’s relationship with RCK and refers to Hari Singh as a “moody Maharaja”. In the words of the authors: “The Maharaja was the ultimate head of state, from whom all power and authority flowed. Bhaiji was his executive arm. “The former was whimsical, authoritarian, and pleasure-loving while the latter was disciplined, intellectual, and austere. The former was proud but mistrustful, the latter was loyal but mindful. The former was disconnected from the people, the latter was connected with the people.”
The book mentions RCK, as an accomplished administrator, who did a lot for the people during his short stint and had great plans for the state’s development but lacked political acumen. Says Siddharth: “He was not a politician, but an administrator. He did not know the political games. He was following the King’s orders, which is a normal course. “He was made into a villain deliberately. He took on Nehru, probably that is why. Nehru was hugely popular then. Anyone who stood up against him became the villain.”
The book has detailed accounts of RCK’s meetings with Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Jinnah, and many others. During one of his meetings with Gandhi in Delhi, the Mahatma says to him, “The kingdom is the maharajas, but you are ruling it.” Siddharth says that this was not true at all.
In his meeting with Lord Mountbatten, RCK narrated the line that the Maharaja had decided upon, and that was to stay independent. RCK’s one memoir talks about this meeting with Sardar Patel, who forewarns him about palace intrigues and RCK being jailed by the Maharaja.
The book also mentions a godman, Swami Sant Dev, who exercised a strong influence over the royal family and close relatives. The Swami made the king believe that he would be the ruler of a new kingdom, to be called ‘Dogristan’.
RCK, after becoming aware of these developments, felt it was impossible for him to continue as PM, and subsequently resigned on July 30, 1947, which was accepted on August 11, 1947.
Soon after, troubles began for RCK. Charges of corruption were leveled against him, and he was finally imprisoned, first under house arrest and then in jail where he was treated inhumanely. The book has accounts of the period and thereafter.
Even as the book talks about a man who became what the authors call a victim of circumstances, it has a parallel tale of the pain and suffering of Margaret, and how she adjusted into the Kak family, which was initially hostile to her.
The book is an interesting read and provides unknown information about that period.
Why did the family keep quiet for all these decades and why did RCK not reveal the truth when he was alive? Siddharth says, “It was not easy. He feared for his children. He did not want his children to be victimized. So, he distanced himself from everything. “After he was set free and all charges that were leveled against him were found to be not true, his pension was restored to him after a struggle of eight years.”
Siddharth adds: “It was wrong to frame my grandfather. He was doing what he was asked to do by the Maharaja. He was made a villain. It was impossible for him to act on his own. He was duty-bound, a man of integrity. The country must know and then decide.”
The book offers a different narrative supported using letters and RCK’s memoirs that seek to present the not-so-well-known aspects of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947-1948. It seeks to exonerate Ram Chandra Kak of the charges heaped on him by history.