Table of Contents
   Index
   About the Author
   Introduction
   Preface 
   Indian Federalism
   Integration of States
   Article 370
   The Constituent Assembly
   Federal Jurisdiction
   Division of Powers
   State Apart
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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

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Chapter 2: Integration of States

The Indian Princely States, which formed peripheral salient of the British colonial organization in India, were liberated from the British tutelage in 1947, when the British quit India and the powers of Paramountcy they exercised over the States, suffered dissolution. The British withdrawal was accompanied by the partition of India and the creation of a separate Muslim state of Pakistan, constituted of the Muslim majority provinces of Sind, North-western Frontier province, Baluchistan, the Muslim majority districts of the Punjab and Bengal and the Muslim majority division of Sylhat in Assam. However, the Indian States were not subject to partition of India, and were left out of it as well as liberated from the operatives of Paramountcy, which governed their relations with the British and the Government of India. The lapse of Paramountcy involved the dissolution of the obligations the British carried out in regard to the States and the powers the British Crown exercised over them and the British Government did not transfer Paramountcy to any of the successor States in India, but resorted them to the Princes. The Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, told the Parliament on the eve of the Indian independence:

As was explicitly stated by the Cabinet Mission His Majesty Government do not intend to hand over their powers and obligations under Paramountcy as a system to a conclusion earlier than the date of the final transfer of power, but it is contemplated that for the intervening period the relations of the Crown with the individual States may be adjusted by agreement.

However, though the transfer of power underlined the reversion of all the rights and powers of the Paramountcy to the Rulers of the Indian States, the British Government did not accept to recognize the States as independent dominions in India and declined to undertake any obligation, which the Paramountcy entailed. Option was left open to the Princes, by explicit stipulations incorporated in the provisions of the partition scheme, to accede to either of the two dominions or enter into such agreements among themselves or with the Dominions, as they would determine. Evidently the partition plan provided for the States, what the British termed "technical independence" to remain out of the political organization, the creation of the two Dominions envisaged; but the Act did not stipulate their independence; nor did the British Government accept to recognize them as independent dominions and take upon itself any obligations which the Paramountcy underlined. The British Government did not visualize the partition of the states on the basis of the division of India but separated them into political identities which would neither be recognized independent nor be presumed to form a part of the two dominions of India and Pakistan.

Both the Congress and the Muslim League did not accept that States were not subject to partition and separation of Muslim India but they interpreted the partition scheme in diametrically different ways. The League took the position that the Princes were vested with the independence and paramount power to exercise freedom in respect of accession or independence in spite of the fact that British refused to recognize the States as independent dominions in India. The Congress on the other hand refused to countenance the independence of the States and emphasized that the people of the States alone could determine the future disposition of the States in respect of their accession.

The Muslim League accepted the implied doctrine of fraction of action for the Princes, probably because the few States on the Pakistani side of the border would have no real choice. Moreover, the exercise of such freedom by some of the large Princely States in India, notably Hyderabad, would imperil the territorial integrity and stability of Pakistan's more powerful neighbor. For precisely opposite reasons the Congress rejected the British Government's interpretation of Paramountcy and declared that it would resist territorial fragmentation.

The All India Congress Committee, which met in Delhi on June 13, 1947 strongly, protested against the vivisection of India, which the withdrawal of Paramountcy would spell out. The Committee adopted a resolution, which rejected the British and the League interpretation of the lapse Paramountcy and claimed that the relations between India and the States could not be allowed to be adversely affected by the lapse of Paramountcy. The Committee refused to recognize the right of any State to declare its independence and live in isolation from the rest of India.

Apart from what the British Government had in its mind in regard to the Indian States, most of the British officials in the Government of India, spared no efforts to encourage some of larger States to assume independence. The State Department took the position that the Indian States were bound to the British Crown by the instruments of Paramountcy, but were otherwise completely independent and owed no allegiance to the British India. After the Paramountcy lapsed, the State Department maintained, the Princes would resume the powers, which were exercised over them by the British Crown and would he within their rights to assume full-fledged independence.

Many of Princes were eagerly waiting to see if they could use Pakistan as a counter-weight against India and with whatever help they could secure from the British, remain out of the future constitutional organization of India. Bhopal was preparing to declare itself free, the moment the British withdrew from India. Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir, waited patiently for an opportunity to establish an independent State. The Nawab of Hyderabad was fiercely opposed to the Congress and the Indian National movement and there was hardly any doubt about what he was determined to do. He tried frantically to persuade Mountbatten to get the eight thousand troops of the Indian army removed from his State. Sir William Monckton, the Nizam's Legal Advisor wrote to Lord Ismay on 22 June 1947:

The State has been pressing the Political Department for the removal of the Indian army troops from our cantonments. There are 7,000 or 8,000 Indian Army fighting troops in the State including armed formations. The Nizam thinks it quite intolerable that they should remain here after the 15th of August. They would in effect be an army of occupation. But such pressure as the Political Department has been able to exert has been quite ineffective. Whether the Defense Member is stalling or not, I don't know; but it does look as if those who will form the Government of the Indian Union would not be unwilling to find themselves with an army of occupation here. I spoke Commander-in-Chief about it and he said that we should have nothing to worry about while he was directing the army. This is cold comfort.

The Crown Representative is still the Crown Representative and he could direct the Government to take steps to move the troops out of State territory by the 15th August.

In view of the intention of the British to close down the Political Department of the Government of India, which dealt with the States, it was decided to set up a new department, called the "States Department" to deal with the matters concerning the States. The Department was instituted on 27 June 1947, and was divided into two sections, the Indian Section and Pakistan Section. The Indian Section was headed by Sardar Patel and the Pakistan Section by Abdul Rab Nishtar of the Muslim League. Nishtar, immediately after he assumed office, conveyed to the Princes that Pakistan would accept whatever terms they laid for their accession to Pakistan and in case they were prepared to accede to Pakistan, support them in their bid to assume independence. The League leaders sent several emissaries to Hari Singh inviting him to accede to Pakistan on the terms he would specify, and assured him of their support if he decided to assume independence.

As the transfer of power began to draw close, a conference of the Rulers of the States was convened in Delhi on 25 July 1947. Mountbatten, who addressed the Rulers for the last time in the capacity of the Crown Representative, advised them to accede to the appropriate Dominion in respect of three subjects-defense, external affairs and communications. He assured them that their accession on those three subjects would not involve any financial liability and that in other matters there would be no encroachment on their sovereignty. Finally he appealed to them to join either Union before 15 August 1947.

Before 15 August, all the Indian States except Junagarh, and two States of Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad, acceded to the Dominion of India. For Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad, the offer of accession was kept open even after 15 August. The Maharaja of Kashmir offered to sign a standstill agreement with both the dominions of India and Pakistan. Pakistan accepted the standstill agreement but India advised the State Government to send its accredited representative to negotiate the terms of the agreement. No agreement was reached with Hyderabad and on 12 August, the Nizam of Hyderabad was informed by the Viceroy that the offer of accession would remain open for a further period of two months. The Maharaja of Kashmir was upturned, when Pakistan attacked his State in October 1947, after which he acceded to India. The Indian troops entered Hyderabad in 1948, and the accession of the State to India was finally accomplished.

Jammu and Kashmir

The Jammu and Kashmir State was founded in 1846, after the Sikhs were defeated in the first Anglo-Sikh war and the territories of Sikh empire situated between the rivers Sutlej and Sind and including Jammu, Kashmir, Hazara Chamba and the frontier divisions of Ladakh and Baltistan were transferred to Gulab Singh, a Dogra Rajput chieftain of Jammu and a feudatory of the Sikh empire. The first Anglo-Sikh war broke out in December 1845, when the Sikhs crossed the Sutlej River to fortify their frontiers around which the British had begun to entrench themselves. The Sikhs fought with reckless bravery, but divided by internecine strife, commanded by decrypt officers and betrayed by their leaders, suffered successive defeats in various engagements they had with the British. The most decisive battle of the first Anglo-Sikh war was fought at Sobraon where the Sikhs were finally beaten.

As a prize for their victory, the British demanded from the Sikhs, the territories situated between rivers Sutlej and Bias and a war indemnity of one and a half crore of rupees. The Sikhs agreed to surrender the territory the British claimed, but refused to pay the indemnity. Instead they offered to cede additional Sikh territories to the British situated between Bias and the river Indus, including the provinces of Jammu, Kashmir, Hazara, the divisions of Kulu, Mandi, Nurpur, Kangra and Chamba, and the frontier regions of Ladakh and Baltistan. The British, reluctant to commit themselves on a mast and unfriendly frontier, decided to transfer the territories, the Sikhs offered to cede, to Gulab Singh on the condition that he made good the indemnity on behalf of the Sikhs. Gulab Singh with a view to carve out a kingdom for him, which would be secured by the British, readily agreed to enter the bargain. The British retained the important divisions of Kulu, Mandi, Nurpur and Kangra and in consideration of that reduced the sum of the indemnity to only one Crore of rupees and transferred the rest of the territories the Sikhs had ceded, to Gulab Singh in independent possession. The transfer of territories was formalized by the Treaty of Amritsar, which was concluded between the British and Gulab Singh on 16 March 1846. Hazara proved far too turbulent for the Dogra chief to hold and he exchanged it with an equal extent of territory situated east of Jehlum in Jammu.

The Dogra State formed a complex alignment of regional, cultural and linguistic diversities as the different regions of the State, Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and Baltistan were geographically, ethnically and culturally disparate countries, which had no common history, language and cultural affinity. Jammu spread into a cluster or Rajput principalities ruled by Dogra potentates was brought under the Sikh sway in 1808, when the Sikhs reduced the Jammu kingdom. Kashmir, an ancient Hindu state and ravaged by vicissitudes of history was wrested by the Sikhs from the Afghans in 1819. The regions of Ladakh and Baltistan, mainly a part of the Tibetan table land and inhabited by Buddhists and Shiaie Muslims were annexed to the Sikh domains by Gulab Singh in 1837.

The administrative organization, Gulab Singh instituted in the State, was in no way different from the administrative structures which the British forged in the other native States of India. The princely States were the outer citadels of the British colonial empire in India possessed little of the nativity they claimed. "They were protected proteges of the British colonialism and their power and prestige was secured by the Government of India. The Sanads, treaties and agreements on which the Indian States' structure was based were in content, commitments to a subordinate alliance with the British". In the provinces, the British endeavored to establish administrative instruments, which were aimed to consolidate the basis of the British Empire in India. In the native States, the Princes were allowed to rule within the reaches described by the British to serve the interests of the empire, fill the coffers of the Company and provide sanctuaries for the British adventurists who arrived in India in search of fortunes and future.

The province of Jammu and the frontier divisions of Ladakh and Baltistan were not centers of much industrial activity, but the province of Kashmir was the hub of the shawl manufacture, which had yielded enormous revenues to the Sikhs. The capricious Muslim Khojas, who owned the industrial establishments of shawl manufacture in the province, imported shawl wool from Chanthan in Tibet across Ladakh and exported the finished Pashmina shawl products, and employed labor on indenture paying in advelorum duty on the sale proceeds of their manufactures. Gulab Singh left the industrial possessions of the Khoja manufactures intact along with their right to employ indentured labor. He, did not change the terms of the monopolies in trading and import of shawl wool which he had wrested from the Ladakhis and left the export of the finished shawl products in the hands of the Khojas who enjoyed a monopoly in shawl exports.

Like the other Indian States, Jammu and Kashmir too formed the backyard of the British colonialism in India. The Treaty of Amritsar was a subordinate alliance by which the Dogras pledged to recognize to British suzerainty over their State. Whatever semblance of independence, the Dogras had, was rapidly lost by them after the Second Anglo-Sikh War, when the Sikh State was finally broken up and the Punjab was annexed to the British territories in India. Gradually the Dogras were integrated into the Indian Princely order and brought within the grinding operation of the British Paramountcy. In 1889, Maharaja Pratap Singh, Gulab Singh's grandson and the third Dogra ruler in succession, was set aside by the Government of India on charges of misgovernment and incapacity and the State Government was placed under the direct supervision of the British Resident in the State. The helpless Maharaja, confined to his palace, imploringly wrote to the governor-general:

"If after a fair trial being given to me, I do not set everything (excepting the Settlement Department, which is under the guidance of Mr. Lawrence, and which will not be sealed within five years) right, and am found not to rule to the satisfaction of the Supreme Government, and my people within the prescribed time, Your Excellency's Government is at liberty to do everything that may be considered advisable. In case this liberty is not allowed to me by the Supreme Government, and I have to remain in my present most miserable condition, I would most humbly ask, Your Excellency to summon me before you and I will be most happy to obey such summons and shoot me through the heart with Your Excellency's hands, and thus at once relieve an unfortunate prince from an unbearable misery, contempt and disgrace f ever."

Having assumed direct control over the State, the British Government reorganized the entire administration of the State on the basis of the departmental organization they had introduced in the Indian provinces and the other Indian States. The departments were placed in charge of officers, mostly English and drawn from the Home Department of the Government of India. The hierarchical order of the State administration was also restructured on the pattern; the British had evolved to govern India. Authority percolated down from the Resident and the petty officials at the lower rungs of the administration licked the mud, and collected the graft and blackmail to pass it up to the magistracies over them, the provincial governors, the ministers and the Resident.

Besides the administrative reorganization, the British changed the traditional social balances, which formed the basis of the Dogra power. They reorganized the agrarian relations the Dogras had inherited from their predecessors, introduced a permanent settlement of land revenue on the model they had followed in the Punjab, and recognized permanent occupancy rights of the land holders who undertook the payment of a fixed land rent. They abolished the monopolies the Dogras assumed over trading, rationalized taxation and resumed the right to grant concessionary rights, exploitation of forests, exploration of minerals and permit imports, liquidating the manifold class factions which formed the bedrock of the Dogra economic organization. They did not interfere with the shawl industry, by then in decline, and left the Khoja owners of the smoldering shawl manufacturing factories untouched. They had already wrested the monopoly in the import of shawl-wool from the Maharaja.

A factorial change, the British brought about in the State was the introduction of English education and the institution of schools and colleges on the basis of English curricula. The English education, imperceptibly uprooted a generation from its traditional moorings and catapulted it into a new universe of intellectual experience though recast into masses of mercenaries to serve the British empire, many of them were pushed into progressive social roles and community leadership. These people became the harbingers of the Indian renaissance in the States, where the dimensions of political repression and social backwardness were more pronounced than in the Indian provinces.

Indian Renaissance

The Indian national renaissance evoked widespread response in the State and brought it into the vortex of the liberation movement in India. The civil disobedience movement, which rocked India in 1915, led to severe reaction in the Jammu province of the State, from where thousands of volunteers went to the Punjab to join the civil disobedience movement. The Khilafat movement followed with greater fury, and spread to the entire State, particularly the Kashmir province, where the Muslims joined the Khilafat agitation in large numbers.

In 1931, the Muslims, who formed a predominant part of the population of the State, fell into a head on collision with the Dogra rule. Many factors were responsible for the Muslim resurgence. Muslims, particularly in the Kashmir province, considered the Dogras aliens and usurpers and had right from the time the State was founded, given ample expression to their distrust against them. The Muslim disaffection was considerably aggravated by the abuse of power and exploitation, which characterized the Dogra rule. As a part of the Indian princedom, the Dogras were in no way better than the rulers of the other Indian States. The contributory factors, which deepened the Muslim unrest, were, the traditional British hostility towards the Dogras and the pan-Islamic irridenticism which swept the Punjab in the aftermath of the Khilafat.

The disturbances in the State evoked serious repercussions all over the Punjab and a part of northwestern Frontier Province and Sind. Muslim political factions, in the Punjab, jumped into the fray in order to exploit the situation in the State. Aharar volunteers, in thousands, marched in the State to help their Muslim brethren. "Kashmir Committees" supervised by a Central Kashmir Committee headed by Sir Mohammed Iqbal, were constituted all over the Punjab to direct efforts to organize, help and support for the Muslims in the State in their struggle against the Dogras.

Hari Singh tried his utmost to obviate the British intervention, which he was sure, would follow if the situation in the State did not improve. He changed his policy and offered to look into the grievances of the Muslims and mitigate them and actually a temporary suspension in the Muslim agitation was achieved. However, peace did not last long and agitation restarted with added vehemence. The Government of India sent a peremptory note to the Maharaja asking him to appoint a commission headed by a British officer of the Government of India to inquire into the Muslim grievances, introduce administrative reforms in the State Government which would provide the Muslims a wider State patronage and appoint a British officer of the Government of India, the Prime Minister of the State. Hari Singh waited for sometime, but finally yielded. The British troops were dispatched to Jammu with quick expedition to quell the riots and bring the situation under control in the province. An Ordinance was promulgated by the Government of India to prohibit the entry of Ahrar volunteers into the State. Large number of Ahrars were arrested and imprisoned. A British officer of the Government of India, E. J.D. Colvin, was appointed the Prime Minister of the State. A Commission of Inquiry, headed by another British officer of the Government of India, who had served in the State in various capacities, was instituted to enquire into the grievances of the Muslims. A Constitutional Reforms Conference, which too was headed by B.J. Glancy, was also appointed to recommend measures of reforms in the State Government.

The Muslims, hopeful of utilizing the British influence against the Dogras, withdrew the agitation and scaled to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and the Constitutional Reforms Conference. The deliberations of the Commission of Inquiry and the Constitutional Reforms Conference were protracted and the Muslim agitation gradually subdued.

In November 1932, the Muslims called a general convention in Srinagar to which delegates were invited from all over the State. On the final day of the three-day convention, the Muslim Conference was founded. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who had directed the Muslim struggle against the Dogras, was elected the President of the Conference. The Conference committed itself to:

  • Organize the Muslims and secure them their due rights;
  • Struggle for their economic and cultural uplift; and
  • Deliver them from the oppression they were subjected to.
National Conference

The take-over of the State Government by the British in the wake of the Muslim agitation ultimately brought the Muslims to a dead end. In due course of time they found the British were now the virtual masters in the State. The support, the-Muslims had received from the Muslims in Punjab also wanted mainly because the British patronage, British inspiration and patronage, the Muslims in the Punjab had received to rise against the Dogras had also ceased. The Muslim leadership did not take long to realize that the Dogras were an adjunct of the British empire in India and any struggle against them was inconceivable except within the context of freedom from British dominance. The elections and the formation of the Congress Ministries in the British Indian Provinces in 1937, inspired the Muslim leadership to break out of its religious moorings and with the active support of the Hindus and Sikhs, who had opposed the Muslim agitation vehemently, founded a broad based and secular movement for political emancipation of the people of the State. In 1939, the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference was converted into a secular political party. The Muslim leaders amended the Constitution of the Muslim Conference, renamed it as the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, modified its objectives and threw its membership open to all the people of the State.

The National Conference committed itself to a secular struggle for Indian freedom, the realization of a political India comprising the British Indian Provinces and the Indian States and institution of self-rule in the States. The Conference affiliated itself to the All India States' Peoplesí Conferences, which spearheaded the liberation struggle in the Indian States.

The National Conference conducted a vigorous campaign in the State for the institution of self-government and constitutional reforms. However, it was plunged into a crisis when the Muslim League adopted the Pakistan resolution in March 1940. The League resolution envisaged the reorganization of the Muslim majority provinces in India into a separate and independent Muslim State of Pakistan. A large section of Conference leaders and ranks, mostly from Jammu, advocated the acceptance of the League resolution for Pakistan on the plea that the Muslims in the State formed a part of the Muslim India and, therefore, their aspirations wore bound with the creation of Pakistan. The Conference rejected the League resolution and the leaders and cadres who advocated the acceptance of Pakistan resolution abandoned the Conference.

On 13 June 1941, the breakaway factions of the National Conference revived the erstwhile Muslims Conference. Chowdhry Gulam Abbas was elected the President of the Conference. In the open session of the Conference, Abbas called upon the Muslims in the State to support the League demand for Pakistan.

In 1943, Maharaja Hari Singh appointed a high power Commission to investigate into the working of the government and recommend measures for reform and the introduction of administrative responsibility. All the political organizations were invited to participate in its work. The appointment of the Commission created an atmosphere of optimism in the State and all the political organizations including the National Conference, agreed to participate in the deliberations of the Commission. The Muslim Conference was not given any representation in the Commission and the Working Committee of the Conference gave a call to the Muslims m the State to boycott the Commission.

The deliberations of the Commission were not smooth. Differences set in among the participants of the Commission on a wide variety of matters and the Commission failed even to evolve an agreement on the interpretation of its terms of reference. The National Conference submitted a long memorandum to the Commission, which envisaged the institution of responsible government in the State, weightage for minorities, recognition of civil liberties, and the economic uplift of the backward people of the State. Soon however, the Conference withdrew its representative from the Commission and presented a Revised Version of the memorandum it had submitted to the Commission, to the Maharaja. Later the memorandum was adopted by the Conference as its official manifesto and published under the name of 'Naya Kashmir'.

In October 1944, Hari Singh announced by a proclamation, that he had decided to appoint two ministers from among the members of the Praja Sabha, the State Legislative Assembly, which was instituted in 1934, in the aftermath of Muslim agitation in the State. Most of the political organizations accepted the scheme, which was erroneously called Dyarchy. As a consequence of the implementation of the proclamation Maharaja Hari Singh appointed Mirza Afzal Beg the deputy leader of the National Conference parliamentary party in the Praja Sabha and Wazir Ganga Ram from Jammu. Beg was entrusted with public works and Ganga Ram was put in charge of Education.

Dyarchy did not admit of any measure of responsibility and suffered from severe defects. No sooner the two ministers stepped into their office; the defects of the scheme came to surface. After the war came to its end, the policies of the State Government suffered a subtle shift. Dyarchy came to its end in March 1946, when Mirza Afzal Beg resigned from his office in protest.

These were the critical days when the Indian independence was on the anvil. When the Cabinet Mission arrived in India, the National Conference submitted to it a long memorandum which repudiated the rig of the Princes, to represent the states and demanded that the people in the States be allowed to participate in the Constitution making bodies in India, which the Mission proposed. "At a time", the memorandum stipulated "when the new world is being built on the foundations of the Atlantic Charter, a new perspective of freedom is opening before the Indian people, the fate of the Kashmiri nation is in the balance, and in the hour of decision we demand our basic democratic right to send our elected representatives to the Constitution making bodies that will construct the framework of free India. We emphatically repudiate the right of the princely order to represent the people of the Indian States or their right to nominate their personal representatives as our spokesmen." The memorandum evoked no response from the Mission.

In May 1946, the National Conference launched the famous 'Quit Kashmir' movement. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah demanded the annulment of the Treaty of Amritsar, by virtue of which the British had founded the Jammu and Kashmir State. The Conference demanded the termination of the Dogra rule and the transfer of power to the people in the State. The State Government dealt with the movement with a stern hand. The Conference leaders were arrested and jailed and Martial law was imposed in the Kashmir province, where the 'Quit Kashmir' movement evoked widespread response. At many places the troops clashed with the demonstrators and opened fire on them. The Congress leaders and the 'leaders of the States Peoples' Conference were disparaged at the development in the State and castigated the State Government for its indiscreet policies. Nehru sought to intervene and offered to visit the State to bring about a peaceful settlement of the conflict between the Conference and the State Government. The State Government refused to allow Nehru to enter Kashmir and on his way to Srinagar, he was served with a prohibitory order at Kohalla, the frontier outpost where the Srinagar-Rawalpindi road entered the State territories. Nehru refused to turn back and crossed into the State borders. He was promptly put under arrest and detained at a wayside station. The next day he was released and allowed to return to Delhi. The leaders and the cadres of the National Conference were arrested and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Within a month, the 'Quit Kashmir' movement was smothered

Independence to Accession

While the Dogras grappled with the 'Quit Kashmir' agitation changes of far reaching importance were on way in India. In February, the British announced their intention to leave India. In June, the India leaders accepted the partition. Besides the creation of two dominions India and Pakistan, the partition plan envisaged, that all rights and powers which the British exercised in regard to Indian States would revert to the States. The Princes were given the choice to determine their relations with the two dominions and accede to either of them or arrive at such arrangements with them as they defined feasible. It has been noted above that the British refused to recognize the States as separate dominions and informed them that they would not be in a position to carry on any further obligations which the Paramountcy underlined. The States were to take a decision in respect of accession before 15 August 1947, the day fixed for the transfer of power.

Inside Kashmir, the prospect of the British withdrawn appears to have left no impression on the mind of the Maharaja. The maharaja fondled with the hope of carving out an independent kingdom for himself and as the transfer of power became imminent; he sought to poise himself on the new political balances, which were beginning to take shape as a result of the British withdrawal.

There is little doubt that Maharaja Hari Singh and the men, who surrounded him, failed to realize the significance of the stupendous changes, which the transfer of power involved. Most of them, devoid of any political foresight, could not visualize the effect, the dissolution of the British colonial organization in India, was bound to have on the princely order in India. Hari Singh found it difficult to believe that the British would abandon the Princes even if they left India. To that extent the British officers in India and the Political Department of the Government of India, spared no efforts to assure the Maharaja. The Prime Minister of the State, Ramchander Kak followed his master with servile loyalty and though adequate evidence is not available to assess his role during those critical days, it can safely be said that he actively supported the Maharaja, a course which ultimately proved disastrous for both. In fact, the Maharaja and his Prime Minister, tried in their own way, to put the small weight they had, on the side of the Paramountcy, realizing little that their policies would actually fling them into the oblivion.

The coterie of the court Brandies was opposed to the adoption of a politically sound policy. The zest, with which they had isolated the Dogras from the national mainstream for the fear that the transfer of power at national level would deprive them of their privileges, had completely blinded them. With thoughtless resignation they applaud the obstinacy the State Government demonstrated.

The Maharaja did not appreciate that his estates running over long stretches of mountainous territory inhabited by less than four million people and with resources barely sufficient to sustain them, could not be organized into a viable independent political unity. The State, after it was constituted in 1846, had survived under the protection of the British Paramountcy. Effective instruments of control did not exist and the borders of the State stretched along the tactical frontiers of some of the most powerful nations in Asia. Major General H.L. Scott, English official, who commanded the armies of the State, had under his command a few battalions of food, troops to man the borders of the State. Scott was a glamorous old man with much glittering steel in his deep eyes, but after all, the state could not be defended against foreign aggression by dramatics. Scott was under no illusions himself and he apprised the Maharaja of the inadequate military strength, the State had, to meet any threat from across the borders of the State. Scott, however, favored an understanding with Pakistan and believed that if such an understanding was not reached with that country the borders of the State would continue to be unsafe. He was summarily dismissed. In his place, a Dogra military official, Brigadier Rajender Singh was put in charge of the State army.

The Muslim Conference leaders exhorted the Maharaja to assume independence and pledged the support of the Muslim Conference to an independent State. The president of the Muslim Conference, Chowdhry Hamidullah assured the Maharaja of the "support and cooperation of the Muslims, forming an eighty percent majority in the State, as represented by their authoritarian organization Muslim Conference". He promised Hari Singh that the Muslim subjects of the State would acclaim him as the first constitutional king of a "democratic and independent Kashmir".

The Congress leaders pleaded with the Maharaja to join the Indian Dominion. Conscious of the difficult position the State Government was placed in, they advised the Maharaja to release the National Conference leaders, which in view of the predominance of the Muslims in the population of the State, was the only factor, he could depend upon in case he decided to accede to India. Towards the close of June, Gandhi announced that he would go to Kashmir. Nehru immediately offered to go to Kashmir-before Gandhi did. Mountbatten, apprehensive of how Gandhi would advise Hari Singh, forestalled both Gandhi and Nehru arrived in Srinagar on 29 June 1947. Mountbatten had several meetings with Maharaja Hari Singh and told the Maharaja that independence of the State was not a "feasible proposition". However, he conveyed to the Maharaja that in view of the Muslim majority of the population of the State and its geographical conditions, accession to India would not be in the interests of the Maharaja. Hari Singh was shocked because he had seen what Pakistan had wrought in the Punjab and thousands of Hindus and Sighs who had escaped from death had taken refuge in his State. Accession to Pakistan was the last act he was prepared to accomplish. He refused to open his mind to the Viceroy when the latter wanted to know what the Maharaja had decided about his future. He sought a meeting with the Maharaja the day he returned to the Indian capital, the Maharaja feigned illness and expressed his inability to talk to the Viceory. Moutbatten left the State high and dry.

In July, Patel wrote to Ramchander Kak, advising him to reconsider the policies the State Government had adopted and suggested to him ho come to terms with the National Conference and then take a decision to join India without any further delay. Patel wrote to Kak:

Do you think Sheikh Abdullah should continue to remain in jail? I am asking this question purely in the interests of the State. You know my attitude all along and my sympathy towards the State. I am once again advising you as a friend of the State to reconsider the matter without any delay.

Kak attended the meetings of the Negotiating Committee and Patel tried to persuade him to abandon the hard line the State Government had taken. Patel wrote to the Maharaja as well and almost implored him to join the Indian Dominion without any vacillation. He wrote to Hari Singh:

I fully appreciate the difficult and delicate situation in which your State has been placed, but as a sincere friend and well wisher of the State, I wish to assure you that the interest of Kashmir lies I joining the Indian Union and its Constituent Assembly without any delay. Its past history and traditions demand it and all India look up to you and expects you to take that decision. Eighty percent of India is on this side. The States that have cast their lot with the Constituent Assembly have been convinced that their safety lies in together standing with India. Patel, perhaps unaware of what had transpired between the Viceroy and the Maharaja, expressed his disappointment about the inability of the Maharaja to have met the Viceroy before he left Kashmir. He wrote:

I was greatly disappointed when His Excellency the Viceroy return without having a full and frank discussion with you on that fateful Sunday, when you had given an appointment which could not be kept because of your sudden attack of colic pain. He had invited you to be his guest at Delhi and in that also he was disappointed. I had hopes that we would meet here, but I was greatly disappointed when His Excellency told me that you did not avail of the invitation.

Hari Singh found an ally in the Nizam of Hyderabad, who for almost different reasons sought to secure independence for his State. Hari Singh presumed that Pakistan would support him because that would forestall any action India took in Hyderabad. Pakistan was frantically trying to wean Hyderabad from India and to achieve that Pakistan could not take a stand on Kashmir, which conflicted with their interests in Hyderabad. Hari Singh, also aware of the discomfiture India faced on account of Hyderabad, believed that the Indian leaders would not force him to take any action which would effect the future of Hyderabad.

Gandhi visited Kashmir in the last week of July. He met Hari Singh on the Gupkar Palace lawns in Srinagar. On 10 August 1947, Hari Singh dismissed Ram Chander Kak and appointed General Janak Singh, one of his close relations, the Prime Minister of the State. Two days later, the State Government offered to enter into a standstill agreements with both India and Pakistan. The agreement with Pakistan was concluded on 15 August 1947, but India neither accepted the standstill agreement nor rejected it and instead instructed the State Government to send a properly accredited representative to the Indian Capital to discuss the implications of the Agreement.

The standstill agreement between the State and Pakistan was short lived. In early September 1947, Pakistan organized massive infiltration of its agents into Mirpur and Poonch district, which were contiguous to West Punjab and predominantly Muslim. Both the districts flared up in revolt against the Dogras. Meanwhile, Pakistan imposed an embargo on the transit of supplies to the State and sealed off the two communication lines, which ran into Pakistan and linked the State with the outside world.

For sometime the State Government remonstrated with the Government of Pakistan but without any results. While Pakistan continued to build pressure on the State, the State Government withdrew the warrants against the National Conference leaders and cadres. The Acting President Conference, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad directed 'Quit Kashmir', who had escaped arrest in May 1946, and who had directed the movement from outside the State reached Jammu on 6 September and arrived in Kashmir on 12 September, 1947. On 27 September, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was released from jail. This was followed by the release of the other National Conference leaders and cadres.

The National Conference leaders set out quickly to revive the organizational units of the Conference, which lay in ruins. The impact of the partition and propaganda war which Pakistan had unleashed against the National Conference and the movement for Indian unity, the Conference had led, was deep and wide. The Muslims in the Jammu province clamored for accession to Pakistan and most of them established clandestine contact with the Pakistani infiltrators. The Kashmiri speaking Muslims, committed to support the National Conference, looked up to Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and the other National Conference leaders for a decision on the accession issue. The Conference leaders avoided to commit themselves on the issue of accession, though they secretly conveyed to the Government of India that they had decided to support the accession of the State to India.

Dwarka Nath Kachru, the Secretary General of the All India States Peoples' Conference, who attended a high level meeting of the top leaders of the National Conference in Srinagar, wrote to Nchru on 4 September 1947:

The position here can be summarized thus:

  • Sheikh Sahib and his close associates have decided for the Indian Union.
  • But this decision has not been announced yet and the impression is being given that so far the National Conference has taken no decision.
  • The leaders of the National Conference are in jail and only Sheikh Sahib has been released so far.
  • The stand taken by Sheikh Sahib is that the political prisoners must be released and the Working Committee and the General Council must be allowed to meet to consider the problem and to place their decision before the people.
  • Meanwhile Sheikh Sahib is delivering speeches to educate public opinion and to prepare the people for what seems to be the inevitable decision of the National Conference. Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and the other Conference leaders demanded the transfer of power to them in order that they were able to fight communalism and carry Muslims with them. Kachru wrote to Nehru: Sheikh Sahib feels that unless there is a transfer of power to a substantial degree the National Conference may find itself in a difficult position. To fight the League, to maintain law and order inside the State and to carry the masses with them, it is highly essential that a settlement with the National Conference should be brought about simultaneously with the accession of the State to the Union.
  • Alternative to the National Conference is undiluted Muslim communalism of the most militant type and the National Conference urges that it be taken into confidence and is closely associated with the government of the country.
The Government of India realized the necessity of the transfer of power to the National Conference, which they knew could muster support among the Muslims in Kashmir for the accession of the State to India. Sardar Patel wrote to Meher Chand Mahajan, who had replaced General Janak Singh, as the Prime Minister of the State:

I myself feel that the position, which Sheikh Abdullah takes, is understandable and reasonable. In the mounting demands for the introduction of responsible government in States, such as you have recently witnessed in Travancore and Mysore, it is impossible for you to isolate yourself. It is obvious that in your dealings with external dangers and internal commotion with which you are faced, mere brute force is not enough. We, on our part, have pledged to give you maximum support and we will do so. But I am afraid, without some measure of popular backing, particularly from among the community which represents such an overwhelming majority in Kashmir, it would be difficult to make such support go to the farthest limit that is necessary if you were to crush the disruptive forces which are being raised and organized. Nor do I think it will be possible to maintain for long the exclusive or predominant monopoly of any particular community in your security services. It is as necessary for you to treat those who are willing to cooperate with trust and confidence in respect of these services as in respect of others which are generally termed nation building departments.

Patel's letter dispatched to Srinagar on 21 October 1947. Ironically enough, during the following night Pakistan launched a heavy military offensive against the State and large contingent of armed invaders from Pakistan led by its regular forces, entered the State along the borders of Mirpur and Poonch districts in the Jammu province, and the district of Muzaffarabad in Kashmir province. The Muslim troops of the Dogra army, deployed with their Hindu compatriots almost all over the State borders which came under attack, deserted, murdered their officers and comrade-in-arms and went over to join the enemy. The remnants of the Dogra army, depleted and poorly equipped, offered dogged resistance to the raiders, who rolled on, like an avalanche, killing thousands of Hindus and Sikhs and destroying everything that fell in their way. Brigadier Rajinder Singh, who commanded the State forces directed the operations on the front in the Kashmir province and with an assortment of a few hundred troops held back the invading hordes till he laid down his life in the battle. Had it not been for the Brigadier and his gallant men, who earned a moments reprieve for the Maharaja, the story of the State would have been different.

Maharaja Hari Singh appealed to India for help and offered the accession of the State to the Indian dominion. The Government of India took long days to accept the accession of the State. On the morning of 27 October 1947, first contingents of airborne Indian troops landed in Srinagar. The same day the Indian troops began to arrive in Jammu.

On 1 November 1947, the Gilgit Scouts, a local Muslim militia raised by the British for the defenses of the Gilgit Agency revolted and declared the accession of the Agency to Pakistan. Major Brown, a British adventurer, who commanded the Scouts, hoisted the flag of Pakistan on the Agency quarters. Within days Pakistani troops poured into Gilgit and with the Muslim Scouts, swooped on Baltistan and Western Ladakh.

The Indian army pushed back the raiders and drove them out of a large part of the territories of the State occupied by them. However, with fresh reinforcement from Pakistan the raiders entrenched themselves in the districts of Muzaffarabad, Mirpur and Poonch, the Gilgit Agency and its Dardic dependencies and the greater part of Baltistan.

On 1 January 1948, the Indian Government appealed to the United Nations to ask Pakistan to withdraw its forces from the State. After prolonged silence, Pakistan presented to the Security Council, a long list of counter complaints against India. The Security Council appointed a Commission to conduct an on-the-spot investigation of complaint India had lodged and the counter complaints Pakistan had made. Long and protracted mediation by the Security Council, brought round the two countries to accept a cease-fire in the State pending a final settlement of the dispute between them. Fighting was suspended in the State on 1 January 1949. A large part of the territory of the State remained under the occupation of Pakistan.

Interim Government

Immediately after the accession of the State, the Indian leaders advised Hari Singh to associate the leaders of the National Conference with the Government of the State. The National Conference leadership had insistently asked for the transfer of power to the National Conference as a step towards the realization of self-government in the State. On 30 October 1947, Hari Singh instituted an Emergency Administration in the State with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as its Chief Emergency Administrator and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad the Deputy Chief Administrator. The other leaders of the National Conference were appointed Emergency officers to deal with the situation, which the invasion had created. A few of the Emergency Officers were appointed from among men who were not in the National Conference.

The Maharaja presumed that the Emergency Administration would function within the ambit of the authority his Council of Ministers earmarked for it and in subordination to the establishment of the Maharaja. The arrangement was bound to lead nowhere and deepen the sense of distrust between the Maharaja and the Conference leadership. On the one hand the Conference leaders were not vested with any purposeful initiative and on the other the Maharaja's ministry was hardly in a position to function effectively. The powers of the Emergency Administration were not defined nor was the orbit of its authority specified. As a matter of fact, there was a great deal of confusion in regard to its territorial jurisdiction. For a few days after the institution of the Emergency Administration, the Prime Minister of the State carried the impression that the Emergency Administration had been established to deal with the situation in Kashmir province alone.

Looking back, it is difficult to locate the reasons for which the Emergency Administration was instituted and the tasks it was expected to accomplish. The Indian leaders always suffered from an incredible lack of perspectives. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had insistently asked for the transfer of power to the National Conference but the Indian leaders did not provide for a settlement between the Maharaja and the National Conference in respect of the transfer of any measure of authority to the Conference leaders. The Emergency Administration, as it was constituted, was a shoddy structure, hardly equipped with the power and prestige to face the crisis in the State. The invaders, though on the retreat, were destroying everything that was still intact in the areas occupied by them. Scarcity was acute, all supplies were suspended and there was severe shortage of food grains, petrol and other articles of daily use in the State. Streams of Hindu and Sikh refugees, who had escaped death, poured into Srinagar and Jammu from the occupied areas. None of the factions of the State Government, the Maharaja's Council of Ministers and the Emergency Administration had the capacity to deal with such a situation on their own. Whereas the Maharaja's Ministers stood by helplessly watching the events, the Emergency officers, owing responsibility to none, abrogated unlimited authority to them and undermined the already impaired administrative apparatus of the State Government. The Conference complained loudly that the Maharaja was reluctant to part with any substantial authority and the Maharaja and his ministers protested that the Emergency Administration had usurped the authority, which did not rightfully belong to it.

In November, the Government of India advised the Maharaja to institute an Interim Government in the State with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as its head and the Prime Minister, on the basis of the model adopted in the Mysore. The Mysore model envisaged the formation of an Interim Government constituted by the leader of the popular party in the State with himself as the Prime Minister. The Mysore model reserved several subjects exclusively for the Maharaja and these included the Ruler and the Ruling Family, succession, privy purse and the prerogatives of the Ruler, State army, constitutional reunions with India, the High Court and the appointment of the Judges, the Public Service Commission, Auditor-General, the protection of the minorities, the Stare legislature, elections, emergencies and all other residuary powers. The Mysore model also provided for the appointment of the Maharaja Dewan as a member of the Council of Ministers to function as a link between the Ministry and the Maharaja. Unfolding the proposals Nehru wrote to Hari Singh:

We have agreed that the Interim Government should be on the model of Mysore. In Mysore the leader of the popular party was asked to choose his colleagues, he himself being the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister. The Dewan was also one of the Ministers and he presided over the meetings of the Cabinet. In following this precedent, Sheikh Abdullah should be the Prime Minister and should be asked to form the Government. Mr. Mahajan can be one of the Ministers and can formally preside over the Cabinet. But it would introduce confusion if Mr. Mahajan continues to be styled as Prime Minister. The Interim Government, when formed, should be in full charge and you will be the Constitutional head of that Government.

The Conference leaders did not approve of the Mysore model. They rather demanded transfer of powers to the Conference without any reservations. The Conference leaders refused to accept the appointment of the Maharaja's Dewan to the Council of Ministers and his interposition between the Maharaja and the popular ministry and demanded the removal of Mehar Chand Mahajan from his office. Mahajan was appointed the Prime Minister of the State during the stormy days when Pakistan was preparing to annex the State. The Conference leaders further demanded the institution of a Constituent Assembly in the State, which would frame a Constitution for the Government of the State.

Not long after Nehru's communication was sent to the Maharaja, fresh proposals in regard to the formation of the Interim Government were sent to him by Gopalaswami Ayangar, a minister in the Indian Government, who had appeared on the scene to negotiate a settlement between the Maharaja and the Conference leadership. Ayanagar was, at no stage, associated with the national movement in India or the Indian States but had served Hari Singh as his Prime Minister from 1937 to 1943, during the hey day of the British rule in India. He suggested to Hari Singh that while the broad frame within which the Interim Government would be constituted, would follow the Mysore scheme, certain modifications and adjustments were necessary to be made in the scheme to adapt it to the situation in the State and accommodate the objections raised by the National Conference leadership. He proposed that:

  • An Interim Government constituted of a Council of Ministers would be set up in the State;
  • Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah would be appointed the Prime Minister of the State and the other ministers would be appointed on his advice;
  • The provisions of the Mysore model to include a Dewan in the Council of Ministers would not be followed;
  • The Maharaja would not be reserved any powers but would be empowered to place restrictions on the function of the Council of Ministers by special direction in respect of certain matters of administration;
  • The Interim Government would be responsible to the Maharaja.
Maharaja Hari Singh conveyed his inability to accept the Ayangar scheme and insisted upon strict adherence to the Mysore model. He drew up fresh proposals for the institution of an Interim Government in the State, which reserved to him, powers in respect of his throne and family, constitutional relations between the State and the Union, High Court, Public Service Commission, State army, Audit, protection of the minorities, elections to the State Legislature, breakdown of constitutional machinery and residuary powers. Maharaja's scheme further envisaged the appointment of his Dewan to the Council of Ministers, which would be presided by him and the revival of the erstwhile State Assembly, the Praja Sabha, after fresh elections and its conversion into a Constituent Assembly.

The Maharaja's scheme was not approved by the Conference leaders. Ayangar made a few minor modifications in his plan and agreed to reconsider the reservation of certain subjects for the exclusive control of the Ruler. The wrangle was finally resolved and the Interim Government was instituted by a proclamation, which the Maharaja made on 5 March 1948.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was appointed the Prime Minister of the State. The other members of the Council of Ministers were appointed from among the other leaders of the National Conference. Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad was appointed the Deputy Prime Minister of the state. All the powers of the State Government, except those related to the Ruler, his family and his property, privy purse, succession, Jagirs, Private Officers and the religious endowment of the Dharmarth were vested with the Council of Ministers. The Council was to function on the principle of joint responsibility. The Council was also charged with the responsibility to convene a Constituent Assembly, which would be elected on the basis of universal adult franchise and would draw up a Constitution for the government of the State.

After the institution of the Interim Government, the National Conference set out to assume control over the entire government of the State, showing scant regard to the powers reserved for the Maharaja. Hari Singh, unable to influence the course of events, closed himself in his palace in Jammu. "I have written", Patel wrote to Nehru, several letters to Sheikh Sahib about casing tension and improving relations but I regret to say that I have had no reply. From all accounts it appears that the arrangements regarding reserved and non-reserved subjects to which Sheikh Sahib had agreed in March last are being treated as a nullity and the presence of the Maharaja and the existence of the reserved subjects are both being ignored." Neither Nehru, nor Patel, nor for that matter Gopalaswamy Ayangar attempted to remove the difference between the Maharaja and the Interim Government. "The Government of India had adopted a policy of wild commitment followed by half-hearted decisions and this had neither served the Maharaja nor carried the National Conference any further."

Towards the summer, the National Conference changed its strategy and informed the Government of India that Hard Singh should be advised to abdicate and the powers, which he still exercised, should be transferred to the Interim Government. "I am therefore constrained to aver once again", Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah wrote to the Prime Minister, "that the choice is finally between the Maharaja and the people and if the choice is not soon made, it might lead us into very serious trouble both militarily and politically. The only alternative", Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah added, "is that his highness should abdicate in favor of his son and that there should be no reservation whatsoever, in the administration of various subjects under the Ministers".

In September, Sheiikh Mohammad Abdullah publicly accused the Maharaja of obstructing the function of Interim Government. In a press conference, in Srinagar, the Conference leader criticized the existing constitutional arrangements in the State and demanded the removal of the Maharaja. The Press conference evoked a sharp rejoinder from the Home Ministry. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah struck back harder and threatened to quit office, if The Maharaja was not removed and the power office government transferred to the Interim Government.

This was the time when the Government of India was under heavy pressure in the Security Council, which had foisted upon it a resolution envisaging the demilitarization of the State and the plebiscite to determine its final disposition with regard to accession. Realising that the National Conference alone could muster support for India amongst the Muslims, the Indian leaders were hardly in a position to displease the Conference leaders. A decision, in which Sardar Patel concurred, was finally taken to advise the Maharaja to leave the state and appoint his son, Karan Singh, the Regent of the State.

 

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World Kashmiri Pandit Conference, 1993
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