Stake Holders in Jammu and Kashmir: A paradigm shift
by Mohan Krishen Teng on 13 Mar 2010 7 Comments

When Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh revealed the Government of India’s decision to take on board all ‘stake holders’ of Jammu & Kashmir in order to reach a settlement, he was in real terms proposing a paradigm shift in the Indian stand on J&K.


The reference by the Prime Minister to ‘stake holders’ is a dangerous interpolation in the vacillating positions taken by the Government of India on the very unity of India.


Partition and the upheaval which accompanied the founding of Pakistan cost millions of lives of people who fought for India’s freedom, but were consumed by the process which commenced with the Direct Action campaign launched by the Muslim League in August 1946. The transfer of power led to the emergence of two countries, India and Pakistan; their territories were defined by the Partition Plan and the process of integration of the States and lapse of British Paramountcy over the Princely States. The accession of Jammu & Kashmir State to India was accomplished by the ruler of the State, Maharaja Hari Singh, in accordance with the procedure laid down by the Indian Independence Act, enacted by the British Parliament and the Instrument of Accession drawn by the States’ Ministry of India.


After the Partition Plan was announced on June 3, 1947, the States’ Department of Government of India was divided into two parts: the States’ Ministry of India and the States’ Ministry of Pakistan. Sardar Patel took over the charge of the States’ Ministry of India, while the Muslim League appointed Sardar Abdur-Rab-Nishtar to head the States’ Ministry of Pakistan. The Indian Independence Act and the Partition Plan did not incorporate any provisions in respect of the Instrument of Accession. In fact, the two divisions of the States’ Department, the States’ Ministry of India and the States’ Ministry of Pakistan, drew up the form of the Instrument of Accession for the rulers of the princely States in order to enable them to join either of the two Dominions.


The States’ Ministries provided for such exigencies as well in which the Princely States were unable to take a decision on the accession of the State till the transfer of power was completed and the ruler wanted more time to take a decision, but sought to continue the existing arrangement of trade, transport, communications, currency etc. that subsisted between British India and the Princely States during British rule. For such exigencies the States’ Ministries drew up separate instruments known as Standstill Agreements. The Standstill Agreements were strictly restricted in their content and application, and provided for the continuation of the existing arrangements between the States and British India.


It needs to be remembered that the Princely States were kingships of the native Indian potentates, which formed an integral part of the British Empire in India, and were liberated from British Paramountcy with the dissolution of the British Empire in India. The Princely States did not become a part of the two Dominions with the lapse of Paramountcy, but they did not fall apart from the political arrangements that transfer of power in India envisaged.


The British Government made it clear that it would neither recognise the independence of the States nor admit them as independent Dominions of the British Commonwealth. Not only the British, even the Americans refused to recognise the independence of the princely States, when some Muslim rulers approached the American Diplomatic Legation in New Delhi to solicit recognition for the independence of their States.


Evidently the Princely States were not landmasses over which their rulers exercised proprietary rights. They were actually a part of the Indian nation, which the British divided into two separate constitutional organisations. Nor did the States form a no-man’s land in India, which any of the two Dominions or any other foreign power could claim on account of the religion of their rulers. The transfer of power in India did not divide the whole of India. Partition was confined to the British Indian provinces, leaving the Princely States out of its purview.


It may be clarified that the accession of the Princely States underlined the irrevocable merger with the Dominions they acceded to. The accession made them a part of the Dominion and subjected them to its sovereignty. Accession of the States formed a part of the process which described the territorial jurisdiction of the two successor states of India and Pakistan.


Jammu & Kashmir State, which had offered a Standstill Agreement to the two Dominions, was invaded by Pakistan. The accession of the State to India followed as a matter of course. Nehru was misled by Mountbatten when the latter advised the Indian Prime Minister to secure the accession of the State to India as an incumbent condition for the deployment of Indian troops in the State.


India could not have left the State undefended. The British had not provided for any exigency in which a Princely State needed to be defended from external threat and invasion. So long as the British were in India, the responsibility to defend the States fell upon them. But after the British left Indian shores, the responsibility to defend the States fell upon India.


Inside the Security Council as well as outside the Security Council, the Indian Government insisted upon the finality of the accession of the State to India and its inviolability. The Indian Government refused to recognise the Pakistan contention that the Muslim majority composition of the State of J&K accorded Pakistan any right to claim it. India could not have allowed Pakistan to jeopardise its freedom as well as its strategic interests in the Himalayas, which formed the hinterland of the Indian frontier in the north.


Partition was foisted on the Indian people against their will by the Muslims with the support of the British. The British were no longer the masters in India, and India was under no constraint to allow Pakistan to achieve its territorial ambitions in J&K and Hyderabad, where the Muslim ruler was involved in intrigues to align with Pakistan in order to keep his State out of India. Jammu & Kashmir was vital to India because it formed the central spur of the northern frontier of India, and was crucial to the security of the Himalayas. Hyderabad was situated deep inside India, south of the Vindhyas.


The lapse of Paramountcy was an unilateral process which underlined the withdrawal of British power from India. The Princes as well as the people of the States, the religious communities forming ethnic majorities in the States, were not a party to the lapse of Paramountcy. The two successor states of India and Pakistan, formed by the division of British India, were also not a part of lapse of Paramountcy.


So whom does the Manmohan Singh Government identify as the ‘stake holders’ in Jammu & Kashmir? There cannot be any stake holders to the unity of India, which is indivisible and inalienable.


Recognition of the right of any people in any part of India to claim a veto on the unity of India is a negation of the nation of India. The Indian nation does not rest on the proportion of the population of the many communities which form the Indian people. Indian unity is an expression of the secular integration of the Indian people on the basis of the right to equality. The British divided India because they were a colonial power. No government of India, not even the government headed by Manmohan Singh, can preside over the vivisection of India on the ground that the Muslims in Jammu & Kashmir claim a separate freedom.


The transfer of power in India in 1947 envisaged the liberation of the Indian nation from British colonial rule, which Britain refused to concede without recognising the corresponding claim made by the Muslims in India to a separate nation. The lapse of Paramountcy, as explained here, underlined a parallel process for the liberation of the Princely States and their integration with the successor States.


The Partition of British India, the lapse of Paramountcy, and the accession of the Princely States, were a part of the process of the transfer of power in India. Who, except India, is the ‘stake holder’ in Jammu & Kashmir? It is pertinent to note that when the National Conference leadership claimed separate charge in the Constituent Assembly of the State, independent of the accession of the State to India, the Indian Government refused to recognise any such claim.


Prof MK Teng is a retired Professor and Head of the Political Science Department of Kashmir University; he has authored many books, including a seminal work on Article 370

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