BY K B Jandial
J&K’s Accession Day should have been a day of fulfillment and jubilation but inexplicably it was never to be so. Amidst self-created uncertainty on J&K’s Accession with India, the day evokes diverse public response in different regions with the State and Central Governments taking no position, even though BJP is in the Governments, both at the Centre and the State. In present scenario, Kashmir observes it as a ‘black day’ while Jammu, of late, started celebrating the day, though on low key with Ladakh appearing to be unaware of it, mainly because of ignorance. But, be it celebrations or absence of these or shut down, nothing can dilute the constitutional and historic importance of the Day.
On the call of pro-Pak separatists, Kashmir observes a shut down on 27th October protesting against landing of Indian forces in Srinagar, conveniently forgetting that the same forces had pushed back the columns of marauders supported by Pak army who had committed mayhem on way to Srinagar. Jammu which is emotionally integrated with India had, by and large, ignored the Accession Day in the past as a non-event but, of late, started celebrating 26th October but as a low key ritual. Since 26th October also happened to be martyrdom day of Brig. Rajinder Singh, better known as savior of Kashmir, his celebrations over shadow BJP’s Accession Day show organized at the statue of Maharaja Hari Singh near Tawi bridge. Last year, BJP organized a small function to mark the day in Leh.
Why the ‘nationalist forces” and mainstream parties displayed lack of commitment to Accession Day all these years and allowed the separatists and their likes to convert the historic day into a ‘black day’? It is not that the Accession Day had always been observed as ‘black day’ right from the beginning. In fact, it was other way round. After ratification of the accession by the State’s Constituent Assembly on 6th February, 1954, the then PM of J&K, Bakshi Ghulam Mohd who piloted the resolution, started celebrating 6th February as Yuma-e- Ilhaq in Jammu. Every year, impressive procession used to be taken out in the winter capital of the State that would culminate with public rally addressed by Bakshi. But after his exit and later ignominious end of his political career, this practice was quietly buried.
The day was not observed as ‘black day’ even in Kashmir in almost first four decades of independence. As precursor to MUF creation, some anti- India ‘converts’ gave the call for ‘black day’ in Srinagar in 1985. Since then the situation had been drifting with ruling parties almost giving these elements a walk-over and ‘black day’ became annual feature in Kashmir which was never politically countered. It’s celebrations in Jammu too has a very recent history. Who should be responsible for this major political failure?
The State and the Central Governments had preferred to look the other way, giving a confused signal to people of Kashmir and the world about the “disputed” status of J&K. Confusion on this important issue multiplied with occasional statements of political leaders including those holding the highest political office describing the accession as “conditional” while others seek resolution of Kashmir “dispute”, meaning that J&K’s accession is yet to be settled.
There is no confusion on “finality” of accession. Strictly from legal standpoint, what was required under the Government of India Act, 1935 or the India Independence Act, 1947, was that the Ruler of princely State had to decide on the issue of accession without reference to public opinion which he may consider but could not be compelled to go by it.
From the pages of history, Pakistan had accepted the Maharaja’s Government’s offer to sign Standstill Agreement on 15th August, 1947 and it still invaded J&K by sending armed tribesmen on 22nd October, 1947 and illegally occupied 78144 sq. kms. of State’s territory. Faced with marching columns of invaders, Maharaja acceded to India.
The Instrument of Accession signed by J&K Ruler on 26th October, 1947 reads,“ Now, therefore, I Shriman Indar Mahaandar Rajrajeshwar Maharajdhiraj Shri Hari Singhji Jammu Kashmir Naresh Tatha Tibbet adi Deshadhipathi Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir State, in the exercise of my sovereignty in and over my said State, do hereby execute this my Instrument of Accession and I hereby declare that I accede to the Dominion of India……” Accepting it the Governor General of India, Mountbatten of Burma records, “I do hereby accept this Instrument of Accession. Dated this twenty-seventh day of October, Nineteen Hundred and forty-seven”.
On acceptance of the Instrument of Accession by Governor General as per the law, J&K became part of the Dominion of India. What is left now? Mountbatten had no constitutional power to change the Government of India Act, 1935 or the India Independence Act, 1947 but somehow, at the behest of the federal Govt. he wrote a letter to Maharaja for “ascertaining the wishes of the people as peace returns to the State”.
Whatever little doubts created by Lord Mountbatten’s letter, the finality of the Accession was re-established beyond legal or political doubts when the State’s Constituent Assembly, representing the collective will of the people, ratified the Accession on 6th February, 1954.
Why anyone call“ Kashmir dispute” as there is no dispute on the accession of J&K and its being integral part of India, not because BJP has been parroting it but by the strength of Indian Constitution ( article 3), J&K constitution ( Preamble, sections 3 &4) and unanimous resolution of Indian Parliament of 1994. As such there is no ‘dispute’ as far India is concerned; the only issue pending is to get Pak Occupied Kashmir vacated.
The UN resolution for plebiscite has also become redundant as Pakistan failed to fulfill the conditions (withdrawal of Pak forces and tribesmen from PoK) attendant to it till now. Moreover, the resolution was adopted under chapter VI which is not mandatory.
While the State officially observes 13th July as Martyrs’ day, being the major catalyst of the struggle against feudal rule (Jammu doesn’t observe it) why the same status is not accorded to Accession Day that marks a happy culmination of the same struggle?
Another confusion attached with the Day is its date. Which is the correct date? 26th October when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession or 27th October when Mountbatten accepted it? Accession became complete when it was accepted (he could have rejected it also) and not when the Ruler signed it and as such technically it should be 27th October. It appears that even the framers of the State Constitution too erred as the Preamble in first part says “…, in pursuance of the accession of this State to India which took place on the twenty-sixth day of October, 1947, …” In Jammu, functions are held on 26th October when the indecisive Maharaja signed it while Kashmiri separatists give call for ‘black day’ for 27th October to protest against landing of Indian Forces who saved Kashmiris by pushing invaders back across Uri. Be that be, the more important issue is to celebrate it on a large scale.
Unlike State’s previous Chief Ministers, Mehbooba Mufti holds firm views that J&K’s accession with India was the best thing ever happened to Kashmir. Hailing accession at a function at Anantnag before the current unrest, Mehbooba publically justified J&K’saccession with India in the backdrop of unending bloodshed in Pakistan and other Muslim countries. This could have been a new political narrative in Kashmir but for the current unrest. With Mehbooba in chair BJP could have persuaded the Govt to declare Accession Day as State’s Foundation or Accession Day.
Even otherwise, BJP Ministers can make it so. Why can’t they issue and publish official messages of greetings along the Governor and, if not being political inconvenient, even by Chief Minister herself, with illumination of main Govt. buildings and organizing official functions at district headquarters as is done on I-Day and R-Day. At least in Jammu and Ladakh, the administration, all pro- India political parties, social and cultural bodies and civil society should gear up and make Accession Day a big event and make it an annual feature.
Will the State wake up? Will BJP take the call?