Prof Hari Om
K T Shah was most severe in his criticism of the motion, and he urged the Constituent Assembly to repudiate the motion outright. Also, he fervently solicited the support of the elected Praja Sabha. Justifying his suggestion, Shah said “Had the situation been in the state as normal and peaceful as in other cases, I would have certainly followed the same precedent, and required that at least part of the representatives should be representatives of the people chosen by their representatives in a proper form…But as the situation is there today, with all the complications that have arisen, all the representatives of the people must be elected. If this party, the National Conference, claims to represent entire or at least a large majority of people of Kashmir, then there is no reason to fear that they cannot send representatives according to their wishes. They need not, therefore, shirk the suggestion I ammaking”.This criticism shows that Shah had two primary arguments. One, that Sheikh Abdullah and his political formation did not represent the general will. Two, that the suggestion of Ayyangar, if accepted, might harm the country’s vital interests.He elaborated on the first point in these words,“I am constrained to point out that the developments in the history of J&K in three and half years should not be overlooked. You must not overlook the agitation that started in February 1946, whereby a responsible party or the leader of that responsible party had started a campaign of ‘Quit Kashmir’ and in consequence thereof events developed and created difficulties that have since ensued. I do not like the House to be a party to anything that might look as if it was a surrender to one man’s wishes, that nothing can be done until the Maharaja is removed or complete power is handed over to him”.The Sheikh had told Prime Minister Nehru that he would not be in a position to run the administration efficiently until Maharaja Hari Singh was removed from his position. “Whether or not he holds the complete confidence of all the people has yet to be proved. I am aware he may have a large following; but at the same time, if you want proof beyond the possibility of doubt, there is no reason why you should not send an invitation for an election even under the limited franchise that is prevailing. If you have adult franchise, that would be better. But even under the limited franchise of 1946, if you hold an election, you will get true representatives of the people.”As for the other issue, Shah opined,“You must also not forget that the events that have happened have invested the other countries (the United States and the United Kingdom) and the sister Dominion (Pakistan) and those outside with interest in the matter. That being so they will not take any decision unilaterally made by us without demur. If you want to have peace restored, if you want to live in peace with your neighbour, you should not give needless occasion for them to say that here you are purchasing a design and committing an act and taking steps whereby your own declarations, and what is more, whatever interests the others (the people of Jammu and Ladakh) may have are being jeopardised. If that is going to be a slur on good name of this country, and its claim to stand always for the people or for those who are oppressed, then I think that it is not too much to demand that representatives, in this case, should be wholly elected, and should be the true reflex of the people”.It is important to note that all of Professor Shah’s pleas and his unambiguous warning, regarding grave evils that would follow the introduction of the formula as suggested by the formal motion, were turned down by Ayyangar and Prime Minister Nehru. Both of them defended the motion which, in a sense, was designed to undermine the importance of the people, Praja Sabha, and the ruler of the State. This was the case, despite the fact that they candidly acknowledged that the process they had suggested for the state was ‘not ideal’.To quote what Prime Minister Nehru said in defence of the motion,“It amazed me to hear Shah propose that the so-called Praja Sabha of Kashmir should send representatives to this House. He should know that there is nothing more bogus than the Praja Sabha. He ought to know that whole circumstances under which the last elections were held in 1946-1947 were fantastic and farcical. He ought to know that it was boycotted by all decent people. The type of people who got in the Praja Sabha was the type who had opposed the freedom movement throughout, who had done every injury possible to the idea of freedom of Kashmir till then….I admit that it is not desirable for any member of this House to come by nomination or be selected by some narrow process. Though the process suggested for Kashmir is not ideal, yet I do think that it is the better process. It is the process where you get a popular Government with a representative of the popular party at the head of it, recommending to the ruler that certain names should go. Even from the view of democracy, that is not an incorrect process. It is hundred percent correct”.However, what was most surprising was the attitude of other members of the Constituent Assembly. All (or nearly all) of them either sided with Ayyangar and Jawaharlal Nehru or adopted an indifferent attitude to the otherwise heated debate on a subject of far-reaching importance (Constituent Assembly Debates, Book No 3, Vol VIII, May 16, 1949 to June 16, 1949, Reprinted by Lok Sabha Secretariat, New Delhi, Second Reprint, 1989, pp. 357-373). As a result, the Ayyangar formula was adopted. The immediate fall-out of this decision was the entry of Sheikh Abdullah and his nominees, Mirza Afzal Beg, Moulana Masoodi and Moti Ram Baigra into the Constituent Assembly.In this way, an era commenced, in which democracy became casualty and Jammu province and Ladakh became Kashmir’s colonies even before the application of Article 370, which was rendered unreal by Narendra Modi Government on August 5, 2019.(Concluded)
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