The debate over Article 35-A and Article 370 providing special status to Jammu Kashmir is generating a counter-argument calling for debating accession of the State with India, Muhammad Yaseen writes
We are told that Article 370 of the Constitution of India, which guarantees a special status to Jammu Kashmir, needs to be debated but in reality, we need to debate
Whether accession of Kashmir is legal
- Whether instrument of accession is a forced one
- Whether Jammu Kashmir was not a separate nation prior to August 15, 1947
- Whether the state of Jammu Kashmir is in confederation with the Indian state
- Whether after running away from capital city Srinagar on the advice of Indian government, Hari Singh had any moral ground to sign the instrument of accession
- Whether a dispute between India and Pakistan snatches the right of Kashmiris to be independent
At the time of the partition of the subcontinent, there were 562 princely states in India. Kashmir was an independent state. It was a Muslim-majority state. Muslims were in majority in Kashmir and they were in slight majority in Jammu too. With the wave of migration to Pakistan administered Kashmir due to riots and killings of Muslims in Jammu division by Hindu fundamentalists of Praja Parishad, Jammu became dominated by Hindus. Kashmir valley though had a substantial Muslim majority. Ladakh had mostly Buddhist population. People of Kargil, Gilgit and Baltistan were Muslims by religion.
Hari Singh was the Maharaja of Kashmir in 1947. He had ascended the throne in September 1925. He was extravagant and spent much of his time in the race courses of Bombay and hunting in the jungles of Kashmir. He was surrounded by the fawning courtiers and favourites. He never wished to know what was going on outside his state.
Since the state administration was dominated by the Hindu Dogras and Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus), Muslims in the state though in majority were treated badly and oppressed.
In 1931, a Muslim activist Abdul Qadeer was arrested and put on trial. He was sent to Central Jail Srinagar. This led to an uprising and Muslims in a peaceful manner protested against his arrest. The State administration used brute force, firing at protestors near Central Jail Srinagar, resulting in the killing of 31 peaceful demonstrators.
In 1932, the Muslim Conference was formed to present the views of oppressed Muslims. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas were its vanguards. Muslim Conference was backed by Mirwaiz of Kashmir, Moulvi Yousuf Shah. In 1939, Sheikh Abdullah transformed the organisation into National Conference (NC) which included Hindus and Sikhs as well. NC asked for a representative government based on the universal suffrage.
In 1946, Sheikh Abdullah asked the Dogra rulers to Quit Kashmir and hand over the power to the people. This popular movement forced the Maharaja to declare martial rule. Sheikh Abdullah was sentenced to three-year imprisonment for sedition.
In the meantime, the British had to leave India. They divided India into two domains – India and Pakistan. The British left in a hurry, leaving some political problems unresolved.
On July 15, 1946, Maharaja Hari Singh stated that Kashmir would remain independent and that it was not part of the Indian state.
In June 1947, Lord Mountbatten was sent by Jawaharlal Nehru to ask Maharaja to accede to India but the Maharaja who was ill sent a message through his Prime Minister, Ram Chandra Kak that Kashmir would remain independent.
On August 15, 1947, when India was legally given freedom, Jammu Kashmir had not acceded to either India or Pakistan. Maharaja offered a Standstill Agreement to both the dominions – India and Pakistan.
Pakistan signed the agreement but India did not as it wanted Kashmir by hook or by crook. India pressurised Maharaja Hari Singh and on the warning of Jawaharlal Nehru, Maharaja appointed Mehr Chand Mahajan as the Prime Minister of the State. Mehr Chand Mahajan was a former judge of the Punjab High Court and had better relations with the Congress leaders.
Nehru, whose forefathers were of Kashmiri origin, wanted Kashmir at any cost. On September 29, 1947, Sheikh Abdullah was released from a Kashmir prison. Sheikh Abdullah demanded transfer of power to the people. He did not demand plebiscite.
As Kashmir was a Muslim-majority state, Pakistan expected Kashmir would join Pakistan as would Hyderabad. Junagarh being a Hindu-majority state joined India despite Nizam of Junagarh’s accession to Pakistan.
Sheikh Abdullah was influenced by the personality of Nehru. He had developed a friendship with him and as such was pro-Congress, pro-India and anti-Pakistan. He would not like accession of Kashmir to Pakistan.
On October 12, 1947, the Deputy Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir said in Delhi that Kashmir would neither join Pakistan nor India but will remain independent.
In October 1947, a small force of armed men invaded Kashmir. The raiders were Pathans from Northeast Pakistan and would not like Kashmir to go to India. Indians believed the raiders were sent by Pakistan though Pakistan denied any involvement in the invasion.
There was discontent in Kashmir on August 14, 1947. Shops and offices in Poonch and Kashmir valley furled Pakistani flags indicating their allegiance to Pakistan. Tribesmen moved down the Jhelum. They were on way to Uri. They occupied Mohra power project and marched toward Baramulla.
On October 24, 1947, Hari Singh requested Government of India for help. Government of India sent V P Menon to Kashmir who clandestinely advised Hari Singh to move to Jammu.
This move was pre-planned in Delhi on October 26, 1947. Menon flew back to Delhi accompanied by Prime Minister of Kashmir who was warned of serious consequences if Maharaja did not sign the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947.
On October 27, 1947, Indian Army landed in Kashmir. Following this, Menon again flew to Jammu and forced Hari Singh to sign the Instrument of Accession, which he did while he was ill. Menon rebuked Hari Singh and as a victorious ambassador took the Instrument of Accession with him to Delhi.
Now it is for the historians, politicians, academicians to initiate a debate on accession of Kashmir to India, whether it is legally or morally justifiable. In the words of Martin Luther King, “We will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
The author is the former Deputy Director of the Planning Department and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org