Fiasco of ‘Instrument of Accession’, whose creation?

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Er P L Khushu

The 1947 Indian Independence Act is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that partitioned British India into the two new independent countries viz India and Pakistan. The Act received Royal Assent on 18 July 1947 and thus India and Pakistan, comprising West (modern day Pakistan) and East (modern day Bangladesh) regions, came into being. India celebrated its Independence at midnight on August 14-15, Pakistan chose to celebrate independence on the August 14. The Indian Independence Act was subsequently repealed in Article 395 of the Constitution of India, to bring about greater independence for the new states. At the time of the British withdrawal, 565 princely states were officially recognized in the Indian subcontinent, apart from thousands of Zamindari estates and Jagirs. In 1947, princely states covered 40 per cent of the area of pre-independence India and constituted 23 per cent of its population. The most important states had their own British Political Residencies: Hyderabad of the Nizams, Mysore and Travancore in the South followed by Jammu and Kashmir, and Sikkim in the Himalayas, and Indore in Central India. Over 560 princely states acceded to India by 15 August. The exceptions were Junagadh, Hyderabad and Jammu & Kashmir. The state of Jammu and Kashmir was contiguous to both India and Pakistan, but its Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh chose to remain initially independent. Following a Pakistani tribal invasion, he wanted a full accession with India and signed the Instrument of accession with India on 26 October 1947.
The state of Junagadh initially acceded to Pakistan, but faced a revolt from its Hindu population. On 11 June 1947, the Nizam issued a declaration to the effect that he had decided not to participate in the Constituent Assembly of either Pakistan or India. Indian troops invaded Hyderabad from all points of the compass. Thus India intervened in the state on 13 September 1947, the Nizam’s army surrendered, following which the ruler of the state signed the Instrument of Accession, joining India. India then incorporated the state of Hyderabad and ended the rule of the Nizams. By mid-October, Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah was in communication with Hari Singh trying to convince him to accede to Pakistan. But Maharaja Hari Singh did not move. Pakistan was now ready to invade the Kashmir Valley but it carried out its military mission masquerading as raids by tribal invaders. In truth, the whole operation, codenamed Operation Gulmarg, was placed under Pakistan Army’s officers. On October 22, thousands of tribal mercenaries and Pakistan Army regulars invaded the Kashmir Valley over-running the outposts manned by the King’s forces in Muzaffarabad and other places as they headed towards Srinagar, their ultimate target. Maharaja Hari Singh did not have a large army. Additionally, he found his Muslim soldiers, who were in equal numbers as the Hindu Dogra troops, join the Pakistani invaders in carrying out the attacks on the King’s forces and resisting civilians. Large-scale atrocities were committed by the invading forces. Civilians mostly Hindus, were looted, women raped, a number of them killed and even hospitals were attacked. Sherwani a prominent local leader of repute with secular credentials, was killed by the raiders after they found out that he had tricked them by setting them on a different route when they asked him for the direction to Srinagar airport. Capturing airport was a crucial part of Operation Gulmarg of the Pakistan Army. (It has been detailed in a recently published book by Pakistan Army’s retired Major-General Akbar Khan, who was part of the military plan). In 1947, after India became independent, Jammu and Kashmir had the option to join either India or Pakistan or to remain independent. It is said that Maharaja Hari Singh originally was inclined to maintain his independence by playing off India and Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir was a Muslim majority state when the raiders from the neighboring northwest frontier, known as ‘Qabalies’, duly supported by newly created Pakistan, invaded Jammu and Kashmir under the impression that Maharaja Hari Singh would accede to India. Maharaja Hari Singh appealed to India for help for sending troops to fight these tribal invaders. Maharaja Hari Singh was advised to accede to India by the Government of India before India could send its troops. Hence, considering the emergency situation, the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession to the Dominion of India on 26th of October-1947. By executing this Instrument of Accession under the provisions of the Indian Independence Act 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh agreed to accede to the Dominion of India. Maharaja wanted to accede to India without any conditions, but failed to do so, because of the intervention of Jawahar Lal Nehru who managed to accord a special status to Jammu and Kashmir to appease the Sheikh Abdullah. He signed the Instrument of Accession and the Indian troops started landing in Jammu and Kashmir on October 27. The Indian troops launched a counter-attack. By November 8, the Indian forces secured Srinagar, the seat of the princely state. The pushback continued until mid-November, when the scale of war was reduced.
Maharaja Hari Singh in his Accession Offer to the then Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten wrote, “I may also inform your Excellency’s Government that it is my intention to set up an interim Government and ask Sheikh Abdullah to carry the responsibilities in this emergency with my Prime Minister.” “Maharaja’s compulsion to refer to Sheikh as the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, was nothing but a bizarre pressure on the Maharaja from the top brass of the then Congress party of India, which had got the opportunity to rule India. It was so, as prior to India’s independence, it was Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi from the congress party, who were principle supporters of Sheikh in his movement of ‘Quit Kashmir against Maharaja. Lord Mountbatten accepted the accession after a meeting of the Defense Committee on 26 October 1947. In accepting the accession unconditionally, he, among other points, wrote, “My Government and I note with satisfaction that your Highness has decided to invite Sheikh Abdullah to form an Interim Government to work with your Prime Minister.” The support of Mahatma Gandhi and Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru was a key factor in getting Sheikh Abdullah appointed as Head of the emergency administration by the Maharaja. It was the first bumper rider from the elite congress leadership from Delhi, to install Sheikh as the pseudo king of Jammu and Kashmir, thrusting a leader on the masses of Jammu and Kashmir. It was a move to undermine the political importance of Jammu and its people, while neglecting the importance of ‘Dogra’s’ of Jammu in the political heritage of Jammu and Kashmir. This was the initial damage done by Nehru to the Instrument of Accession signed by the great Maharaja with the government of India. While the Indian army had made successful advances in throwing the raiders back, a cease fire was declared at the asking of Pt. Jawaharlal, the then Prime Minister of India. As per this cease fire the western and northern districts presently known as Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan passed to the control of Pakistan. The rest of the area came under the control of India, which is presently the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir, now the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and the Union Territory Ladakh. To go for a cease fire at the asking of Jawaharlal Nehru at that point of time, when the Indian forces had captured western and the northern districts of present occupied Kashmir by Pakistan, is as on date considered to be another herculean blunder committed by Nehru. History will not forgive him. It is this region of Pakistan where the terrorists are nurtured and accorded trainings to launch terror attacks in J & K. A historical lie has been perpetrated for the past seven decades that Kashmir was also among the princely states that created problems on joining India. As documents now reveal, it was Nehru who created these problems and not Maharaja Hari Singh, writes Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju very recently. The glorious status of Jammu ended with the signing of the Instrument of Accession in favor of India on October 26-27, 1947, by the Maharaja Hari Singh. There was a constant pressure from Nehru on Maharaja that Sheikh Abdullah should be introduced into the new power mechanics of the state somehow. Tracing back the history and Journey of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, one gets reminded of the happenings of the past and in this context, when it will be necessary to recall how the undivided State of Jammu and Kashmir was created. The State of Jammu and Kashmir came into being on March 9, 1846, with the signing of the Treaty of Amritsar by Maharaja Gulab Singh with the British. This multi-regional, multi-cultural and multi-religious state continued until 26th October 1947, when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with India. Half of the state was lost when ceasefire agreement was signed with Pakistan, which came into effect on January-1st 1949. Whom to blame about it? The inference is implied. It is Nehru again. This left the huge area of Gilgit-Baltistan and the western Muzaffarabad-Mirpur strip under Pakistan control, involving roughly half the geographical area of the original State and a third of its population getting bifurcated from this state.
Sheikh Abdullah was appointed head of an emergency administration by an order issued by the Maharaja which was undated except for the mention October 1947 in place of the date. He took charge as Head of the Emergency Administration on 30 October 1947. Sheikh was appointed as Prime Minister of the Jammu & Kashmir State, as the post of Chief of Administration was subsequently abolished and Sheikh Abdullah was made the Prime Minister of the State in March 1948. This happened with the constant intervention from Jawaharlal Nehru to Maharaja Hari Singh that Sheikh Abdullah should be made the Prime Minister and power of administration transferred to him fully. It was an outcome of the provisional accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India, which was only man made and the force behind it, was Nehru, when the peace loving people of Jammu and Kashmir are still suffering on this account. This blunder committed by Nehru on Kashmir was declaring the eventual accession as provisional. Maharaja Hari Singh signed exactly the same instrument of accession as every other princely state. All other princely states were unambiguously integrated into the union, except Kashmir. Why, because it was Nehru himself, not the Maharaja, who declared the accession provisional. Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has very recently mentioned that another Nehruvian Blunder on Kashmir was to approach the United Nations on January 1, 1948, under Article 35 which deals with disputed lands rather than Article 51 which would have been the correct article to highlight Pakistan’s illegal occupation of Indian Territory. The Maharaja signed only one instrument of accession, that with India. Yet, it was Nehru who gave a locus to Pakistan by himself accepting Kashmir as a dispute between India and Pakistan. Since then, the UN resolutions have continued to haunt India. Another damage which Nehru did to the process of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession with India was the creation and perpetuation of Article 370 (Article 306A in the interim draft of the Constitution). In the first instance, there was no justification for such an article as the instrument of accession was the same as every other princely state signed. What was the need? Again to appease the Sheikh, who had by then become the crown king of Jammu and Kashmir as its Prime Minister. Thus, the abrogation of the Article 370 was a dire need of the hour to equate Jammu & Kashmir fully and equally with the rest of India. Articles 370 and 35A were prejudicial to women’s rights and empowerment and discriminated on gender equality. Ultimately, that ‘Inevitable’ has happened. Prime Minister Modi through his iron willed “Home-Minister, Amit Shah steered it through and played the master stroke by scrapping the Article 370 and 35A, thus merging the state of Jammu & Kashmir with rest of India. Great Maharaja Hari Singh’s soul must now rest in peace with this step, as his humiliation at the time of his signing the Instrument of Accession with India, stands rectified and repaid with interest. Miss Interpreted Arrogance of Article 370 was made to get shelved for good. J & K is now full India. August 5, 2019 will remain an epoch making date and day in the history of India. This exposes the fiasco of ‘The Instrument of Accession’, which was mostly the creation of Nehru.
(The author is a Chartered Consultant Civil Engineer, passionately attached and devoted to his Motherland – Jammu & Kashmir).