One of the most distinguished political personalities of Jammu and Kashmir, Comrade Kishen Dev Sethi passed away, at 93, in Jammu on the morning of January 28, 2021.
A secularist and democratic of tall order, Sethi was the last surviving member of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir and signatory to the Constitution which was adopted on November 17, 1956 and put into formal effect on January 26, 1957. After a long and troubled history of relationship between State and the Centre, the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped on August 5, 2019.
Known for his fiery speeches and thought-provoking writings, Comrade Sethi made significant contribution to the constitutional debates in Jammu and Kashmir. His speeches offer a rare insight into the state of political affairs and the fragile compact between the State and various sections of the society.
Participating in debate on the interim report of Basic Principles Committee, Comrade Sethi, then a 24-yeard old young man, warned of emergence of similar institutions and political environment which the people fought against for decades to achieve a democratic life. Thus, he concluded, “The age of sovereign democracy is coming. Wipe out the old order wherever you find it”.
Full text of Comrade Kishen Dev Sethi’s speech while participation in discussion on the Interim Report of the Basic Principles Committee in the Constituent Assembly meeting in the Assembly Chamber at the Rajgarh Palace, Srinagar on June 11, 1952 is reproduced below:
Hon’ble President, when we survey the surrounding environment we find that all the institutions of the same type as the one for the termination of which we are at present deliberating have been terminated since long. In this connection I recollect a verse of Dr. Iqbal which perhaps he had then addressed us. “Rise”. The attitude of the Assembly of the world is something different. Your regime is beginning in the east and the west.”
Sir, the whole purport of the discussion being held since yesterday is that there is going on a struggle between the oppressed and the oppressor the usurper and the victim and the exploiter and the labourer since the world began and also when the period of exploitation began.
An Hon’ble Member stated yesterday that it was only two hundred years back from today when the struggle started against the view now prevalent which is being debated. But this is in fact not correct. From the movement the exploiting element came to existence, the exploiters formed the State to safeguard their sectional interests. Today the period of exploitation is ending and when exploitation totally end in the world the State will also cease to exist.
The administrative machinery and the political structure of a country reveal its political and economic objectives and its relation with the products of different sections. In our country the ruler is the protector of the institutions of Jagirdar and Zamindar classes. Today when we are terminating the old relations with them it is essential that this institution which is the protector of this looting organization should also be terminated. Established by Hitler is also called democracies. The capitalistic democracies in America and Britain are also called democracies. But we believe in the social democracy and hold that no true democracy can be maintained merely by granting the right of voting to the public.
The object is not only this that the people can effect basic changes in their representatives and the economic order. But we want that plunder and exploitation may be finished for ever. To give effect to this order we have effected the land reforms and are proceeding to complete it. It therefore becomes imperative that the axis around which the exploiting elements revolve should be destroyed. If the axis is not done away with, there is the apprehension that anti-revolutionary forces might again ascendancy. For instance we know what happened in the French Revolution. Through the monarchy had been terminated there yet there was recrudescence of factional fighting. The sections who were thriving round a particular capitalist axis had not been liquidated. The result is obvious that the personal rule of Napoleon was again established.
Today when autocracy and Jagirdari are being terminated it becomes necessary that all the departments of exploitation are abolished in the country otherwise it is feared that anti revolutionary element might again raise their head somewhere.
The next thing which I would state is this. Where was the necessity of creating the State of Jammu and Kashmir and establishing it under the control of any other man exactly at the time when in the time of Lords Wellesley and Dalhousie the British had wanted to take India under their direct control. In this connection we shall have to study the history.
Sir, we know how the Ruling Dynasty of this State which was created by the British imperialists for the accomplishment of their imperialist designs has from time to time played into the hands of the British imperialism. A historian named P.L. Jadgar has written in his book entitled the “Indian Princes under British Protection” that this State was in reality created by the British imperialism. Similarly another historian K.M. Pankikar has written in his book entitled “Gulab Singh” that the Sikh Kingdom stood in the path of the British Rulers to annihilate the Afghan Kingdom which they had dreaded.
When the war broken out between the English and the Sikhs Gulab Singh was present on the spot. Notwithstanding his being a confident of the Sikhs he co-operated with the British. Similarly in the battle with the Afghan at Jalalabad Gulab Singh rendered services to the English at the nick of the time.
Subsequently, Sir, the period began when capitalism changed in to imperialism and all had begun to running about to again experience. While on the one side there were Britishers there were on the other Dutch, the French and the Portuguese who were striving to spread. While on the one side there were Britishers there was the Czar of Russia on the other busy in extending his Kingdom. The British were seeing their live interests in Persia. At that time also the British fully understood that our State held a strategic position and therefore installed the faithful dynasty as its Ruler so that in times of need in the future they could use Kashmir for the purpose of extending their Kingdom and stem the expansionist activities of the others. On studying their history further you will find that when after the second world war the capitalists of the world receiving a set back and a revolution swept over Russia the British realizing the strategic position of the State and in consideration of the danger that the borders of Gilgit met those of Russia stationed an army of six thousand in Gilgit to hold the State under their own control. Subsequently in 1853 they took Gilgit under their direct control to ensure and to defend the Ruler of this State in the event of any disturbance occurring in the State and prevent any revolutionary germs from crossing into it.
It was the constant endeavour of British imperialism to ensure that no public movement took its birth here and repression was restored to on the one hand to disturb it, and on the other efforts were made to disintegrate it. The public therefore presented their demands in 1864. At that time Diwan Kripa Ram was the Minister here and with his help the movement was broken off. The repression that was applied at the Bridge of Haji Rather is not concealed from anyone.
Similarly, a movement was started in 1931 against the autocratic rule. There was commotion in India also then. The public leaders raised the slogan that it was the right of the people to govern and not of any family. This was public movement but the British Imperialist excited disturbances, in the country, and in order to relegate the real issue to back ground the country’s atmosphere was given a communal color and subsequently on every occasion also the British strove against any genuine public movement to take birth here.
In 1946 when the English began to leave India they transferred all authority to the Rajas instead of to the public of the States. We started the “Quit Kashmir” movement at that time to get recognition to our right of self-determination but the English tried to suppress the movement with their own power aided by their agents……..the Rajas, the Maharajas and Nawabs and the Nizams. During the time a revolutionary movement was lunched in India chiefly by labourers and peasants which forced the English to leave India. But even in such conditions the Rajas and the Nawabs who had acted as their agents were given the right of deciding the future of their State for the purpose of sustaining them. It was their exclusive right to decide that if they did not like to accede to either India or Pakistan they could remain independent.
The motive behind this was that this would enable the imperialists to get their intrigues introduced in India and for this purpose Kashmir was specially selected in view of its geographical position. At their suggestion the Maharaja of Kashmir personally decided to remain independent. When the public movement gathered momentum and the British realized that the public had well understood their intrigues and the Ruling Dynasty alone could not be instrumental in the accomplishment of their plans and the public movement could not be fought direct intervention they got our country attacked by their imperialist stooge Pakistan to break of the public movement that had been continuing in the country. The attack which was apparently lunched by Pakistan was in reality from the imperialist powers. But the India military arrived to check it and the movement here also gave it a fight with the result that the intrigues of the imperialist powers were not completely successful. This was not an attack by Pakistan on Kashmir but an attack by the imperialist powers on democratic movement to ensure that not democratic movement took root in this important place. But in this too the imperialist powers failed.
Despite these failures, we are noting how on one pretext or the other the imperialist powers are striving to gain their ends in the J&K State through the U.N.O. whether it be the Graham Report or the Dixson formula their effort in this connection is directed to convert Kashmir into a military base. The fact that India had made it clear in unmistakable terms that they would not permit the stationing of the United Nations troops in the J&K State is not concealed from anybody. Dr. Graham had thereupon said “if you do not permit the stationing of the troops in your territory permission may be given for stationing them on the 1st border line of the State and Pakistan so that any attack from Pakistan could be checked in the absence of Indian military”. From this it become perfectly clear as to what are the plans of the imperialist. The imperialist want a partition the State to destroy our affinity, station there own troops here establishing a trusteeship and convert it into an arena of the third World War.
I, therefore , submit that this institution which has so far been instrumental in accomplishing the imperialist plans should be eliminated altogether in order to put a brake on the imperialist plans should be criminated altogether in order to put a brake on the imperialist designs and keep the public movement alive.
Patriotism demands that first of all the institution of this foreign agent should be abolished with one stoke of the pen (Cheers).
Bedsides the public here demand that the sum of six lakh rupees which is being paid annually to this institution from the treasury of this country and the balance amount by the Indian Government to make up the amount of twenty lakh rupees
should be stopped and this amount utilized on increasing the pays of the low paid employees, providing water in the Kandi tracks, extending educational facilities, and making adequate arrangements for medical treatment and appropriating if for such other projects of public utility. No amount should be paid from the State treasury for the enjoyments of this institution which can be rendered possible only by abolishing this institution.
You will notice that these days due to the existence of this institution a misunderstanding is arising about our aims and objects not only in India but through out the world with the result, that Pakistan where the regime of Nawabs and Jagirdars still obtain and where the State’s people are passing a life worse than that of the animals, where the so called leaders of the Muslim Conference of this place, we have all along been playing the role of traitors in this movement, and at the time when we had been fighting against this institution declared this Ruler as the authority and in a State of forgetfulness and helplessness raised the slogan of obey God, obey the prophet and obey those who are in authority among you are dubbing us as agents of this institution due to its existence here. With a view to remove this misunderstanding and meet this charge it is essential to liquidate this institution.
We have acceded to India and no power on the earth can break this connection. But we have acceded not only to any personality or the Government of India but the people of India workers and peasants. From our accession to India it does not follow that the Ruling Dynasty should be maintained here or that the land Reforms should not be enforced. I believe the people there would also lend their support not this decision of ours. The peasants of Pepsu and Patiala and the public of Hyderabad and other States will support us. All honest, progressive and democratic people every where inside and outside the Parliament are supporting us.
It is being said in the India Parliament these days which Nizam of Hyderabad is not being eliminated, the Maharaja Kashmir is being liquidated. I should say that this institution should have been abolished four years back. The people of Jammu are a much oppressed as those of Kashmir and none wants that the exploiting elements should be maintained. I feel that the unity among them and not because of any absolute institution. Therefore if we anxious that Anti revolutionary forces should not succeed, the public should be prosperous and there should be no imperialistic intervention. The secret of the people here lies in abolishing the institution. Simultaneously with the elimination of this hereditary ruling dynasty it becomes imperative that we should be on our guard against such families also as have so far been the cause of inviting aggressor from outside. Should we fail to remain cautions at this delicate stage, it is apprehended that they may at the nick time stab the movement in the back.
I, however support with these verses of the poet Iqbal ; “The attitudes of the age have changed. The song is new but the instruments have changed. The old polities has fallen and is abandoned. The earth is displeased with the Mir and the Sultan. The capitalistic regime has ended. The juggler has gone after giving an entertainment. The China in heavy sleep have recovered. The spring of the Himalayas have begun to boil. ‘O’ Sadiya ! lift the curtain from this secrecy, make mamola fight a hawk”. Along with this. “The age of sovereign democracy is coming. Wipe out the old order wherever you find it”.Comrade KD Sethi’s most detailed interview with The Dispatch, recorded in 2017