So total has been the loss of hegemony of Kashmir’s elected representatives, in government and in the legislature, over the last two months, and so desperately brutal the recourse to coercive subjugation of fearless young anger on the streets of the valley, that if ever there was a time to say resistance to authority (sic) deserves to be rewarded with what it seeks, it has been now. If the prospect, that is, of the secession of the valley—since other parts of the state of Jammu & Kashmir desire, contrarily, not secession but more complete integration with the Union of India– were not fraught with incalculable negative consequences not just for India and Pakistan, but for the inhabitants of the valley itself.
To that I shall return.
Just the other day, the Home Minister of India made two significant averments in parliament. One that the
Since the time for pussy footing about
Uniqueness of the Accession:
It is to be recalled that the two conditions agreed upon as the signposts for India’s pre-Independence Princely States as determinants of whether they would accede to India or to Pakistan were the religion of the majority within the states, and the congruity of the states to either Dominion.
In that context, the three states of Hyderabad, Junagarh, and Jammu & Kashmir offered interesting paradigms.
Where the first two had Muslim rulers but majority Hindu populations, J & K had a Dogra-Hindu ruler but a majority Muslim population. Of the three, clearly, J & K, being also contiguous with
Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of
Having succeeded in signing what was called a “Standstill” agreement with
With next to no means of his own to meet, let alone defeat the invasion, he found himself constrained to appeal to
“The mass infiltration of tribesmen drawn from the distant areas of the North-West Frontier. . .cannot possibly be done without the knowledge of the Provincial Government of the North West Frontier Province and the Government of Pakistan. Inspite of repeated requests made by my Government no attempt has been made to check these raiders or stop them from coming to my State. . . .I have no option but to ask for help from the Indian Dominion. Naturally they cannot send the help asked for by me without my State acceding to the Dominion of India. I have accordingly decided to do so and I attach the Instrument of Accession for acceptance by your Government.”
That much for a Hindu ruler who had been reluctant to join even a Hindu-majority
As a result, Article 306 A was adopted in the Draft Constitution, and in course became the much-talked-about Article 370 in the final Constitution of India. Most significantly, the “special status” thus accorded to the State of J & K, backed by the then Home Minister of India, Patel, (who said to the Constituent Assembly “in view of the special problems with which the government of Jammu & Kashmir is faced, we have made a special provision for the constitutional relationship of the State with the Union”) was accepted without demur also by Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, a member of Nehru’s cabinet, later to become the most vociferous and disruptive voice of the Hindu right-wing. More of that below.
But the best part of the “uniqueness” lay elsewhere, namely in the heroically principled declaration of allegiance to a prospectively secular and democratic Hindu-majority
Internally, within the Princely State of J & K, a popular movement for the overthrow of the Maharaja’s rule had been underway for two decades before 1947, precipitating in the events of July, 1931, when some 21 popular resistors were gunned down by the Maharaja’s police force in front of a court house—a watershed event that led to the formation of the “Muslim Conference” which came to be led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, a post-graduate from the Aligarh Muslim University who was denied a teaching post in the State by the Maharaja’s regime at a time when educated Kashmiri Muslims could be counted on finger-tips.
It was during this time that Jinnah was to make fervent arguments to Abdullah as to the obvious decision that the Kashmir Muslim Conference must make for joining forces with Jinnah’s League, and for the
Remarkably, however, despite the Kashmir Maharaja regimes’ concerted anti-Muslim rule, and despite having forged the “Muslim Conference,” Abdullah, by then the undisputedly tallest leader of the valley, and indeed the State, and despite the State having been a Muslim majority one, came to reject the two-nation communal thesis of the Muslim League, and declare his preference for the secular-democratic struggle that the Indian National Congress under Gandhi and Nehru had been waging against colonial rule, as he converted the “Muslim Conference” into the “National Conference” in 1938. Clearly, some nine years before the partition of
Abdullah in these years spoke repeatedly to his convictions.
Arguing that the matter of accession could not be left to the whims and fancies of rulers, but must reflect the voice of the people, he gave public expression to the popular Kashmiri view in a speech on October 4, 1947 at a historic rally (some three weeks before the tribal invasion):
“We shall not believe in the two-nation theory which has spread so much poison (cf to the communal killings that had been underway in the Punjab and in
Vide the Maharaja’s proclamation of March 5, 1948, Sheikh Abdullah took over as the Prime Minister of the state, and on the next day, he told a press conference:
“We have decided to work and die for
“We have decided to work and die for
On December 3, at a function of the
“Kashmiris would rather die following the footsteps of Gandhiji than accept the two-nation theory. We want to link the destiny of Kashmir with
Those ideals—secularism, democracy, end to feudal landlordship—became the basis for the adoption of the “provisional accession of the State to India” by the National Conference in the same month of October.
Although Accession vide Article 370 which conferred a “special status” on Jammu & Kashmir had, as stated above, received approval both from Patel and Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, a new situation was to develop as the Abdullah government in the State launched the New Kashmir Manifesto, bedrocked, among extraordinarily progressive pronouncements—equal status of women in education and employment being but one— on the promise of giving land to those who tilled it.
Thus, disregarding Clause 6 of the Instrument of Accession (“Nothing in this Instrument shall empower the Dominion Legislature to make any law for this State authorizing the compulsory acquisition of land for any purpose,” and should land be thus needed, “I will at their request acquire the land”), Abdullah declared a maximum land ceiling of 22.75 acres, set up a Land Reforms Commission, and set about distributing surplus land thus acquired to those who actually were tillers on the soil. Abdullah was to rub home the point that such land reforms would never have been possible in a feudal
This was trouble royal.
Most of the land then was in possession of Hindu Dogras, and most of the tillers were Muslim Kashmiris.
Thus it came to be that the material loss of landholdings was sought to be converted into a communal question vide an opposition now to Article 370 by a newly organized forum called the Praja Parishad which came to be led by the very Mukerjee who had been a willing party to the adoption of the Article as a member of the Union Cabinet.
Under stipulations of the “special status,” Jammu & Kashmir had been granted to form its own Constituent Assembly. When elections to the CA took place in 1951, candidates picked by Abdullah’s National Conference won all 75 seats. The Assembly met on October 31, 1951. On November 5, Abdullah outlined the major agenda before it:
To frame a Constitution for
To decide on the fate of the royal Dynasty;
To decide whether there should be any compensa