Indian Independence And The State Of Jammu And Kashmir

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By Zile Singh

The Indian Independence Act, 1947 made India and Pakistan independent Dominions and released all Indian States from their obligation to the British Crown. The States became completely free – technically and legally. However, all the States, as we call them the Princely States, more than 500 in number, merged either with India or Pakistan by signing of an Instrument of Accession. The States of Hyderabad, Junagarh and Jammu and Kashmir were left who did not sign the Instrument of Accession by August 15, 1947. The States of Hyderabad and Junagarh yielded to Indian military action. Being in the contiguity of Pakistan, the State of Jammu and Kashmir was invaded by Pakistani tribal population and ex-soldiers. On October 24, 1947, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh sent a frantic appeal to the Government of India for military help. India refused to help unless the Instrument of Accession is signed. The Instrument was signed on October 26, joining the whole of his princely state, including Jammu, Kashmir, Northern Areas, Ladakh, Trans-Karakoram Tract and Aksai Chin to Indian Dominion. By then the infiltrators had occupied some parts of Jammu and Kashmir. The area occupied by the rebels came to be known as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). After the Accession, the Indian forces stopped the Pakistani aggression further. As per the Instrument of Accession the Indian forces were required to get the occupied area vacated. But, due to some unknown reasons, this did not happen. Thus, the POK remained with Pakistan. As per the conditions of the Instrument of Accession J&K State acceded to the Dominion of India on four subjects only, i.e., defence, finance, foreign affairs and communications. In other matters, it retained its limited sovereignty. Pakistan, however, did not recognize the Accession.

After the Accession, the Indian Constituent Assembly hoped that in due course of time Jammu and Kashmir will be ready to integrate with India fully. The territory of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, excluding the POK was specified in Part B of the First Schedule of Indian Constitution whereby the State became an integral part of the Indian Union. This special status of J&K led the framer of the Indian Constitution to incorporate temporary provisions under Article 370 of the Constitution. There was a difference of opinion on these temporary special provisions. When Article 370, giving a Special Status to Jammu and Kashmir, was being drafted by the Drafting Committee, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Chairman of the 13-Member Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution walked out of the meeting. However, according to Prof. Balraj Madhok Ambedkar said to Sheikh Abdullah, “Mr. Abdullah, you want that India should defend Kashmir. You wish India should protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply you food grains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India, but you don’t want India and any citizen of India to have any rights in Kashmir and Government of India should have only limited powers. To give consent to this proposal would be a treacherous thing against the interests of India, and I, as the Law Minister of India, will never do. I cannot betray the interests of my country.” Sheikh Abdullah, founder of the National Conference Party and also a member of the Constituent Assembly supported Maharaja Hari Singh’s accession to India because of India’s secular credentials. He rejected Pakistan, a theocratic state. Dewan Bahadur Sir N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, one of the members of the Drafting Committee and in charge of Kashmir Affairs, in agreement with Jawaharlal Nehru, later drafted Article 370 that granted autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. Sir Ayyangar, under British Monarch King George VI, had served as the Prime Minister of Kashmir from 1937 to 1943. He was a Minister without Portfolio in the first Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru. Soon after the Accession of Jammu and Kashmir in October 1947, Nehru appointed Ayyangar as a cabinet Minister without Portfolio and asked him to look after Kashmir affairs, while Nehru held the overall charge for Kashmir. This caused a friction with Sardar Patel, who was the Home Minister.

Article 370 was adopted in the Indian Constitution as a “temporary provision” on 17 October 1949. By 1952, there was strong opposition to Article 370. The J&K Praja Parishad under Prem Nath Dogra, the Jan Sangh under Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and the RSS joined hands and advocated the abolition of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. While protesting, Dr. Mukherjee was taken into custody. Unfortunately, due to ill health, he died in Government Hospital, Srinagar on June 23, 1953. The popular slogan of the protestors was “ Ek desh mein do vidhan, ek desh mein do nishan, ek desh mein do pradhan nahi chalengay”. (In one country, two Constitutions; in one country two Flags, in one country two Prime Ministers will not be tolerated). In November 1952 Yuvraj Karan Singh, son of Maharaja Hari Singh was elected as the first Sadar-i-Riyasat by bringing to end the 106 years old hereditary Dogra rule there.

With the passage of time, the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954 was promulgated by the President of India in consultation with the Government of J&K, regulating the constitutional status of the State and several Central laws got extended to the J&K and the nomenclature of Sadar-i-Riyasat and Prime Minister were changed to Governor and Chief Minister on March 30, 1965. For almost three decades, J&K has witnessed sporadic terrorist activities from across the border taking a toll of thousands of lives of the civilians and the security forces.

Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar who later became the Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom firmly believed that Kashmir’s up and down history meant that only intense dialogue could throw up the right solution. In that direction, on August 5, the Indian Parliament abrogated Article 370 and constituted Jammu and Kashmir as two Union Territories. The President of India gave his assent to the Abrogation on August 6. Though an internal matter of India, there ensued a furor, internally and externally about the way it was done. Hope it will settle down soon in national interest.

Mr. Zile Singh is much respected Link Columnist, writer, a Vipassana Meditator and has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Human Rights. He can be reached at [email protected]