When the subcontinent was divided in 1947, Mahatma Gandhi proclaimed that Kashmir stood out of the circle of holocaust as a "shining example of secularism".
But it was not to be for long. The war with Pakistan broke out towards the end of October 1947. Though saddened, the Mahatma went along with the government decision to defend the country's territorial integrity with arms.
For Gandhi, it was up to the people to decide on going either with India or Pakistan: "The real sovereign of the State [of Kashmir] are the people of the State. If the ruler is not the servant of the people then he is not the ruler...The people of Kashmir should be asked whether they want to join India or Pakistan. Let them do as they want. The ruler is nothing. The people are everything."
In his meetings he kept on urging Maharaja Hari Singh to take into consideration the wishes of the people and work with them not against them.
As always according to his policy of justice and fair play, when Sardar Patel proposed withholding Pakistan's share of cash balances left by the British, Gandhiji felt such an act would be morally wrong and went on a fast unto death. After the partition, Rs. 750 million was to be given to Pakistan as partition money. Sardar Patel tried to prevail over Gandhiji, but he finally relented in order to save the life of the "Father of the Nation."
In his prayer speech on November 11, he declared that he would not have defended the accession if the maharaja alone had wanted to accede.
The accession was provisionally agreed to by the Union government, he explained, because both the Maharaja (Hari Singh) and Sheikh Abdullah, speaking for the people of Kashmir and Jammu, wanted it, he said
About a week before the Pakistan-trained tribals invaded Kashmir, he had written in Harijan: "It has been repeatedly asked whether in the event of a war between the two (India and Pakistan), the Muslims of the (Indian) Union will fight against the Muslims of Pakistan and the Hindus of one against those of the other. ... There is nothing inherently impossible in the conception. There is any day more risk in distrusting the profession of loyalty than in trusting it and courageously facing the danger of trusting. The question can be more convincingly put in this way: will the Hindus ever fight the Hindus and the Muslims their co-religionists for the sake of truth and justice? It can be answered by a counter question: does not history provide such instances?"
On January 4, 1948 Gandhi had talks with Rajendra Prasad, Pandit Sundarlal, Zakir Husain, Jawaharlal Nehru and Muslim leaders and at the prayer meeting which followed, justified Government of India having taken the Kashmir issue to United Nations Security Council
That advice has lost neither force nor wisdom with time: "The real sovereign of the State [of Kashmir] are the people of the State. If the ruler is not the servant of the people then he is not the ruler...The people of Kashmir should be asked whether they want to join India or Pakistan. Let them do as they want. The ruler is nothing. The people are everything."