Dr. M. K. Teng
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Jammu and Kashmir: The issue of Accession

By Dr. M.K. Teng

November 2010

Distortion of the history of the partition of India, false propaganda and lies, shroud the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India in 1947, as well as the exclusion of the State from the Indian Constitutional organization by virtue of Article370 of the Indian Constitution in 1950. The Indian political class in its attempt to substitute “greater autonomy “of the State, for the “right of self-determination” , Pakistan and the Muslim separatist forces have been demanding during the last six decades, has undermined the national consensus on the unity of India and the secular Integration of the people of the State and people of India on the basis of the general  right to equality.

Today the whole nation is confronted with a situation which threatens to disrupt the unity of the country and endanger its territorial integrity. The people of India need to stand up as one man to expose the perfidy which has virtually pushed the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the brink of disaster. Nearly half of the State is under the occupation of Pakistan. To allow the reorganization of the other half into a separate sphere of Muslim power, will eventually pave the way for the disintegration of the civilisational boundaries of the Indian State.

Partition and the States

The creation of two Dominions of India and Pakistan was restricted to the division of the British India and the separation of the British Indian provinces of Sind, Baluchistan, North-west Frontier Province, the Muslim majority contiguous regions of the province of the Punjab, the Muslim majority eastern region of the province of Bengal along with the Muslim majority regions of the Hindu majority province of Assam. The princely States, which formed an integral part of the British Indian Empire, were not brought within the scope of the partition plan.

The process of the transfer of power envisaged the lapse of Paramountacy, the authority the British Crown exercised over the States, liberating them from the British imperial authority. The lapse of the Paramountacy underlined the reversion of the powers, which the British exercised in respect of the princely States, to their rulers who were required, in accordance with the transfer of power, to accede to either of the two dominions or come to such agreements with them as they deemed fit. The British as well as the Muslim League insisted upon the lapse of the Paramountacy and the reversion of the powers to determine the future of the States, to their rulers. Both the British as well as Muslim league stubbornly opposed the proposals made by the Indian National Congress to empower the people of the States to determine the future disposition of their States in respect of their accession. 

It is important to note that the States formed an integral part of the British Empire in India and were never recognized as independent entities by the British during their rule over India. The lapse of the   Paramountacy did not imply the independence of the States. This was made expressly clear by   British under-Secretary of State for India, during the debate on the Indian Independence Bill in the British Parliament, when he categorically stated that the British Government would neither accord the status of Dominions to any princely State nor recognize its independence. In fact, the truth is that while negotiations on the partition plan were in progress, the British officials assured Nehru and the other Indian leaders that if the partition plan was accepted, the Hindu majority provinces and regions of the British India as well as the princely States would be united in the Dominion of India. 

The Indian Independence Act did not lay down any provisions in respect of the procedure for the accession of the princely States to the two dominions and the terms on which the accession would be accomplished. After the 3 June Declaration the States Department of the Government of India was divided into two sections: the Indian Section which was placed under Sardar Patel and the Pakistan Section which was placed under Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar of the Muslim League. The task of laying down the procedure of the accession of the States to India was entrusted to the Indian Section and the task of laying down the procedure for accession of the States to Pakistan was entrusted to the Pakistan Section. The Indian Section drew up an Instrument of Accession for the accession of States to India. So did the Pakistan Section for the accession of States to Pakistan. The Instrument of Accession enshrined the procedure and the terms in accordance with which the rulers acceded to either of the two Dominions. The Instrument of Accession drawn up by the Indian Section laid down two sets f terms and procedures, one for the larger princely States and the other for the smaller princely States. It is important to note here that the States were provided no option, except to accede to India on the terms and conditions laid down by Indian Section or to accede to Pakistan on the terms and conditions laid down by the Pakistani Section of the Indian States Department. All the larger princely States which acceded to India, including Jammu and Kashmir, signed the same standard form of the Instrument of Accession and accepted the terms it enshrined.

The Instrument of Accession enshrined acceptance by the rulers of princely States to unite their domains with the Dominion of India on terms and conditions and in accordance with the procedure laid down by it. It has been already noted here that princely States were never recognized by the British as independent entities. They formed a subsidiary structure of the British colonial organization of India which was subject to the British Crown. The lapse of Paramountacy did not alter their status. Yes, the dissolution of the Paramountacy opened the way for them to stake claim to independence. Several of the princely States in fact did stake their claim for independence. When the British refused to recognize the independence of the States, the Nawab of Bhopal, who was then the Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes approached the American Diplomatic Mission in India to solicit support for the independence of the States. The American Mission promptly turned down the request of the Nawab. That left no option for the Nawab to accept to accede to India, which he did without any loss of time. The ruler of Jammu and Kashmir was not among the rulers, who staked claim for independence of his State.

The Instrument of Accession signed by the rulers of the princely States, including Jammu and Kashmir, stipulated the unification of the States with the two successor States of the British Empire in India. The transfer of power in India underlined the creation of only two successor States of the British Indian Empire: the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. The lapse of the Paramountacy put the States on the inevitable course which led them to accede to either of the two successor States.

The rulers located within the geographical boundaries of the Dominion of Pakistan, acceded to Pakistan. The ruler of Kalat, who was opposed to the accession of Kalat to the Dominion of Pakistan, was smothered into submission by the Muslim League with the active support of the British. All the other princely States were situated in the geographical boundaries earmarked for the Dominion of India. The State of Jammu and Kashmir was contiguous with both India and Pakistan. Its borders stretched along the boundaries of the Dominion of Pakistan in the West and the South-west, while its borders in the East and the South-east rimmed the frontiers of the Dominion of India. The ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh harbored no illusions about the accession of his State to Pakistan and eagerly awaited a clearance from the Congress leaders, who had secretly advised him not to take any precipitate action in respect of the accession of his State, till Hyderabad and Junagarh were retrieved. He himself was aware of the dangers of any wrong step on his part, which he knew would lead to a chain reaction in the States ruled by the Muslim rulers. He did not want his State to be used as a pawn by Pakistan.

 Pakistan had no special claim to Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the Muslim majority composition of its population. As already mentioned here the Muslim League strongly opposed any suggestion to recognize the right of the people of the princely States to determine the future of the States. It was only when Pakistan failed to grab Jammu and Kashmir after it invaded the State in October 1947, and the Indian military action frustrated its designs to swallow Hyderabad and Junagarh, both the States located deep inside India, that Pakistan raised the bogey of self-determination of the Muslims of the State of Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of their numerical majority.

Accession    

The Instrument of Accession was executed by the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir State on the terms specified by the Dominion of India. Neither the ruler of the State, Maharaja Hari Singh, nor the National Conference leaders played any role in the determination of the terms, the Instrument of Accession underlined. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and many National conference leaders were in jail when the transfer of power in India was accomplished by the British. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was released from Jail on 29 September 1947, about a month and a half after the British had left India. Three days after his release the Working Committee of the National Conference met under his presidentship and took the decision to support the accession of the State to India. The decision of Working Committee was conveyed to Nehru by Dwarka Nath Kachroo, the Secretary General of the All India States Peoples’ Conference, who was invited to attend the Working Committee meeting of the National Conference as an observer. Kachroo was a Kashmiri Pandit who had steered the movement of the All India States Peoples’ Conference during the fateful days in 1946-1947, when partition and the transfer of power in India were on the anvil.

Interestingly the National Conference leadership kept the decisions of the Working Committee as a closely guarded secret. Within a few days after the Working Committee meeting, the National Conference leaders sent secret emissaries to Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the other Muslim League leaders. While Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah held talks with a number of Muslim League leaders of  the Punjab, who had come to Srinagar after his release, he sent two of the senior most leaders of  the National Conference, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq, to Pakistan to open talks with the Muslim League leaders. Jinnah spurned the offer of reconciliation the National Conference leaders made and refused to meet the National Conference emissaries. Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq was still in Pakistan when Pakistan invaded the State during the early hours of 22 October 1947.

While the invading army spread across the State Hari Singh sent his Prime Minister, Mehar Chand Mahajan to Delhi to seek help to save his State from the invasion and offered accession of the State with India. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had already reached Delhi. He made no secret of the danger the State faced and asked Nehru to lose no time in accepting the accession and ensuring the speedy dispatch of the Indian troops to the State. The instrument of Accession was taken to Jammu by V. P. Menon, where it was signed by the Maharaja. Menon then rushed back to Delhi and got the Instrument Accepted by Mountbatten. Next day, the air-borne troops of the Indian Army, reached Srinagar.

Hari Singh laid no conditions for the accession of the State to India. The National Conference leaders were nowhere near the process of the Accession of the State, to lay down any condition for the accession of the State to India. The Congress leaders including Nehru made no promises to the National Conference leaders. The terms of the Instrument of Accession were not altered in any respect by the Viceroy. Nehru, Patel or any other Congress leader gave no assurance to the Conference leaders about autonomy or Special Status of the State. In fact the National Conference leaders did not make any such demands at any time, while the process of the accession was in progress.

The National conference leaders demanded the exclusion of Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian constitutional organization in the summer of 1949, when the Constituent Assembly of India was in the midst of framing the Constitution of India. This was the time when the foreign power intervention in Jammu and Kashmir had just begun to have its effect on the deliberations of the Security Council as well as the developments in the State. 

Legal platitudes apart, the letter written by Mountbatten to Hari Singh suggesting to elicit the opinion of his people, did not prejudice the stipulations of the Instrument of Accession. The Governor General of India did not have the power to alter the stipulations of the Instrument of Accession, nor did Nehru, the Prime Minister of the Interim Government of India, have any powers to make any alterations.

The Instrument of Accession was an act performed by the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir to unite his domains with the State of India. Mountbatten, in the capacity of the Crown Prince as well as in the capacity of the Governor General of India, had only one power to exercise: to accept the Instrument of Accession, executed by the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir. The fact is that as the Crown Prince and the Governor General of the Indian Dominion, he exercised powers vested in him by the Indian Independence Act, which were strictly limited to his acceptance of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh offered. It is important to note that Mountbatten could not refuse to accept the Accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India. Indeed he had no powers to refuse to accept the Accession of any other State to India. So much so that he did not refuse to accept the accession of Junagarh to India, which was accomplished in a political crisis, the rebellion of the people of the State against the ruler led to.

Moreover Mountbatten did not write the covering letter to Maharaja, because the National Conference leaders had laid down any condition to that effect, or because composition of the population of the State of Jammu and Kashmir was dominantly Muslim. Both Mountbatten’s letter and Nehru’s commitment to elicit the opinion of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, was in continuation of the commitments the Congress rulers had made to rulers and the people of Hyderabad and Junagarh.

Nawab of Hyderabad was trying frantically to align his State to Pakistan against the wishes of his people. Hyderabad was situated deep inside the Indian mainland, south of the Vindhyas and Junagarh was situated in the midst of Kathiawad States which had acceded to India. The accession of Junagarh to Pakistan and the insistence of the Nawab of Hyderabad threatened to disrupt the unity of India and balkanize it. Nehru as well as Patel pleaded with the Nawab of Hyderabad to ascertain the wishes of his people in respect of the accession of his State. Nehru as well as Mountbatten repeatedly requested the leaders of Pakistan to agree to refer the accession of Junagarh to Pakistan, to the people of the State. While Mehar Chand Mahajan was pleading with Nehru to accept the accession offered by Hari Singh, Junagarh was in a state of civil war and Nawab of Hyderabad was secretly plotting with Pakistan the course of action he would take after Hari Singh had acceded with India. Nehru sought to reinforce his interests in Hyderabad and Junagarh by repeating the offer of eliciting the opinion of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in respect of their accession.

The Instrument of Accession was a political instrument and the accession of Jammu and Kashmir was a political act, which had international implications for it formed a part of the process of the creation of the state of India. As such the Instrument of Accession, executed by Maharaja Hari Singh, was irreversible and irreducible, irrespective of the circumstances and events in which it was accomplished.

The Indian princely States were not required to execute any Instrument of Merger. The claim made by some quarters in Jammu and Kashmir that the State had not signed the Instrument of Merger, which such quarters insist, saved Jammu and Kashmir from being integrated in the constitutional organization of India, is a travesty of History. The State Department of India laid down a procedure for the integration of smaller princely States into administratively more viable Unions of States. To complete the procedure of integration of the small princely States into the Unions of States, The State Department drew up an Instrument of Attachment, erroneously described as Instrument of Merger. The major Indian States, including Jammu and Kashmir were not required to sign the Instrument of Attachment. Also Instrument of Accession had no bearing on the integration of the States into the Indian Constitutional Organization.

The withdrawal of the invading army of Pakistan from territories of the State under its occupation was the precedent condition, laid down by Mountbatten, Nehru and the Security Council for any reference to the people of Jammu and Kashmir State. Pakistan refused to withdraw its forces from the occupied territories of the State. It has so far distorted the discourse of the accession of the State to suit its denial.

(Dr Mohan Krishen Teng is a retired Head of Department of Political science of Kashmir University. He has written extensively on the constitutional and political history of Jammu and Kashmir. His seminal works on Article 370, Special Status, and government and politics in Jammu and Kashmir have been internationally acclaimed.)

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

 

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