The Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir met for the first time on October 1, 1951 in Srinagar. The Constituent Assembly’s business for the initial few days included election for the President of the House and formulations of the rules of business. During the course, many members, including Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah made brief speeches.
However, this was only November 5, 1951, that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah made an elaborate and comprehensive speech outlining the purpose of the Constituent Assembly, mainly ratifying the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India. In long speech, he put before the House three scenarios -going with India, Pakistan and staying as an independent country. After dwelling on a number of political, social, economic and security issues, he made a strong case that Jammu and Kashmir’s future is secure with India.
Below is the full text of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s speech:
Mr. President today is our day of destiny. A day which comes only once in the life of a nation. A day on which to remember the hosts of those gone before us, and of those yet to come, and we are humbled by the greatness of this day.
After centuries we have reached the harbour of our freedom, a freedom, which for the first time in the history, will enable the people of Jammu & Kashmir, whose duly elected representative are gathered here, to shape the future of their country after wise deliberation, and would their future organs of the Government.
No person and no power stand between them and the fulfillment of this, their historic task. We are free, at last to shape our aspirations as people and to give substance to the ideals, which have brought us together here. We meet here today, in this `palace hall, once symbol of unquestioned monarchial authority, as free citizens of the New Kashmir for which we have so long struggle here.
I see about me in this hall, may companions-Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Harijans and Sikhs, who first trod with me that path which has brought us to this Constituent Assembly of 1951. We fought as one, against tyranny and oppression. We survived privations and bitter struggles-the jails of Hari parbat, Bhaderwah and those other jails, which only imprisoned our bodies but could, not crush our spirit.
When we took back on these years, we see, how our footsteps have taken us not among the privileged, but into the homes of the poor and downtrodden. We have fought their battle against privilege and oppression and against these darker powers in the background which sought to set man against man on the ground of religion. Our movement grew and thrived side by side with the Indian National Congress and gave strength and inspiration to the people of the Indian States.
I may be forgiven if I feel proud that once again in the history of this State, our people have reached a peak of achievement through what I might call the classical Kashmiri genius for synthesis, born of toleration and mutual respect. Throughout the long tale of our history, the highest pinnacles of our achievement have been scaled when religious bigotry and intolerance ceased to cramp us, and we have breathed the wider air of brotherhood and mutual understanding.
Our movement to freedom has been enacted against the background of the same old struggle. We stood for the brotherhood of men of all creeds and strengthened our union on the basic of common work and sacrifice. Against us were ranged the forces of religious bigotry centered in the Muslim League and its satellites and the Hindu Communalists from within and without the State. Ranged against us, and often in alliance with Communalism were the force of the autocratic States, backed up on the one hand by British Imperialism, the paramount power, and on the other, by the rich land owners and other beneficiaries of Court patronage.
We must remember that our struggle for power has not reached its successful climax in the convening of this constituent Assembly. It is for you to translate the vision of “NEW KASHMIR” into reality, and I would remind you of its opening words, which will inspire our labours. “We, the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and the Frontier regions, including Pooch and Chenani Illaqas-commonly known as Jammu and Kashmir State, in order to perfect our union in the fullest equality and self-determination, to raise ourselves and our children for ever from abyss of operation and poverty, degradation and superstition, from medieval darkness and ignorance, into the sunlit valleys of plenty rules by freedom, science and honest toil, in worthy participation of the historic resurgence of the peoples of the east, and the working masses of the world, and in determination to make this our country a dazzling gem of the snowy bosom of Asia, do propose and propound the following Constitution of our State”.
This was passed at the 1944 Session of the National Conference in Srinagar. Today, in 1951, embodying such aspirations, men and women from the four corners of the State in this Constituent Assembly has become the repository of its sovereign authority. This Assembly, invested with the authority of a constituent today, will be the fountain-head of basic laws, laying the foundation of a just social order and safeguarding the democratic rights of all the citizens of the state.
Your are the sovereign authority in this State of Jammu and Kashmir, what you decide has the irrevocable force of Law. The basic democratic principle of so sovereignty of the Nation embodied able in the American and French Constitution, is once again given shape in our midst. I shall quote the famous words of the article 3 of the French Constitution of 1791: – “The source of all sovereignty resides fundamentally in the Nation…. Sovereignty is one and indivisible, inalienable and imprescriptibly. It belongs to Nation”.
We should be clear about the responsibilities that this power invests us with. In front of us lies decision of the highest national importance, which we shall be called upon to take. Upon the correctness of our decisions depends not only the happiness of our land and people now, but the fate as well of generation to come.
What then are the main functions that this assembly will be called upon to perform? One great task before this Assembly will be to devise a Constitution for the future governance of the country, Constitution; making is a difficult and detailed matter. I shall only refer to some of the board aspects of the Constitution, which should be the product of the labours of this Assembly.
Another issue of vital importance to the nation involves the future of the Royal Dynasty. Your decision will have to be taken both with urgency and wisdom for on that decision rests the future form and character of the State.
The third major issue awaiting your deliberation arises out of the land Reforms, which the Government carried out with vigor and determination. Our “land to the tiller” policy brought light into the dark homes of the peasantry, but side-by-side, it has given rise to the problem of the landowner’s demand for compensation. The nation being the ultimate custodian of all wealth and resources, the representatives of the nation are truly the best jury for giving a just and final verdict on such claims. So in your hands lies the power of this decision.
Finally, this Assembly will after full consideration of three alternatives that I shall state later, declare its reasoned conclusion regarding accession. This will be help us to canalize our energies resolutely and with greater zeal in direction in which we have already started moving for the social and economic advancement of our country.
To take our first task, that of constitution making we shall naturally be guided by the highest principals of the democratic constitutions of the world. We shall base our work on the principles of equality, liberty and social justice, which are an integral feature of all progressive constitution. The rules of law as understood in the democratic countries of the world should be the cornerstone of our political structure. Equality before the law and the independence of the judiciary from the influence of the Executive or vital to use. The freedom of the individual in the matter of speech, movement and association should be guaranteed, freedom of the press and of opinion would also be features of our
Constitution. I need not refer in great details to all those rights and objections, already embodies in NEW KASHMIR, which are integral parts of democracy which, has been defined as “ an apparatus of social organization wherein people govern through their representatives and are themselves guaranteed political and civil liberties”.
You are no doubt aware of the scope of our present constitutional-ties with India. We are proud to have our bonds with India. The goodwill of whose people and Government is available to us in unstinted and abundant measure. The constitution of India has provided for a federal union and in the distribution of sovereign powers has treated us differently from other constitutional units with the exception of the items grouped under defense, foreign affairs and communication in the instrument of accession, we have complete freedom to frame our constitution in the manner we like. In order to live and prosper as good partners in a common endeavor for the advancement of our peoples. I would
advise that, while safeguarding our autonomy to the fullest extent so as to enable us to have the liberty to blind our country according to the best traditions and genius of our people, we may also by suitable constitutional arrangements with the union establish our right to seek and compel federal co-operation and assistance in this great task, as well as our fullest co-operation and assistance to the union.
Whereas it would be easy for you to devise a document calculated to create a framework of law and order, as also a survey of the duties and rights of citizens, it will need more arduous labour to take concrete decisions with regard to the manner in which we propose to bring about the rapid economic development of the state and more equitable distribution of our national income among the people to which we are pledged. Our National Conference avows its faith in the principle that there is one thing, to men of all castes and creeds, and that is their humanity. That being so, the one ailment which ruthlessly sapping the vitality of human is being in Jammu and Kashmir is their appalling poverty, and if, we merely safeguard their political freedom in solemn terms, it will not affect their lives materially unless it guarantees them economic and social justice.
NEW KASHMIR contains a statement of the objectives of our social policy. It gives broadly a picture of the kind of life that we hope to make possible for the people of Jammu and Kashmir and manner in which the economic organization of the country will be geared to the purpose. These ideals you will have to integrate with the political structure, which you will devise.
The future political set-up, which you decide upon for Jammu and Kashmir, must also take into consideration the existence of various sub-national groups in our State. Although culturally diverse, history has forged an uncommon unity between them, they all are pulsating with the same hopes and aspirations, sharing in each other’s joys and sorrows. While guaranteeing this basic unity of the State, our Constitution must not permit the concentration of power and privilege in the hands of any particular group or territorial region. It must afford the fullest possibilities to each of these groups to grow and flourish in conformity with their cultural characteristics, without detriment to the integral unity of the State or the requirements of our social and economic policies.
Now let us take up as issue of basic importance, which involves the fundamental character of the state itself. As an instrument of the will of a self-determining people who have now become sovereign in their own right, the Constituent Assembly will now re-examine and decide upon the future of the present ruling dynasty, in respect of its authority.
The present House of the Rulers of our state based its claim to authority on the treaty Rights granted to it by the British Government in 1846.To throw light on the nature of these rights it will be helpful to recall that the British power, in its drive for territorial expansion, achieved its objectives through a network of alliances with the India princes, subsidiary and subordinate, offensive and defensive. This mutually helpful arrangement enabled the British to consolidate their power and strengthened the grip of the Princes, giving them military help in the event of rebellion by their exploited subjects. The Butler Committee Report on Treaty Rights in 1929 bear’s ample testimony to this say.
“The duty of the Paramount Power to protect the state against rebellion and insurrection is derived from the clauses of treaties and sands, from usage and from the promise of the king Emperor to maintain unimpaired the privileges, rights and dignities of the Princes…The promise of the king Emperor to maintain unimpaired the privileges, rights a and dignities of the Princes carries with it a duty to protect the prince against attempts to eliminate him and substitute another form of Government.”
In recognition of their services to the British Crown, the India Princes earned the rewards of a limited sovereignty over their State under the protection and suzerainty of the paramount power. It was in this way that their right, privileges and prerogative were preserved. Thus the pioneer of the British Imperialism subjugated India aided by the India Princes. This was hardly diplomacy, it amounted to fraud and deceit; Mutual agreements arrived at for such ignoble purpose was invested with the sanctity of treaties. And it is from such “ treaties” that the Princes claimed their right to rule. Our own State provides a classic example of this. One glance at a page of our history will lay bare the truth.
The State of Jammu and Kashmir came to be transferred to Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1846. After the Sikh Empire began to disintegrate. His failure to render competent assistance to the Sikh armies was duly noticed by the British as also his willingness to acknowledge their authority. This paved the way for the total occupation of Northern India by the British who were not slow in recognizing Maharaja Gulab Singh’s service to them. In reward they sold him the territory of Jammu and Kashmir for 75 lakhs of rupees, and in the Treaty of Amritsar, the British Government made over the entire country independent possession to Maharaja Gulab Singh and the heirs mail of his body. In this way, the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir State came under his absolute authority. The peculiar indignity of the transaction naturally offended the national self-respect of our people who resisted the occupation of there country. But the direct intervention of the British troops helped the Maharaja to take possession of the territory.
This event in the history of the State had catastrophic consequences for the people. The old feudal order, which was bad enough, gave way to more exacting rule, in which the Maharaja assumed all proprietary rights over land. The entire state was plunged into a chaotic economic condition, aggravated by a heavy state of taxation, tributes and levies which were required to make up for
the money given by the Maharaja to the British. This unrelieved despotism reduced the bulk of the people to the level of serfs. There was general impoverishment. In 1948, some 4,000 artisans started on a trek to Lahore, with the object of permanently settling there. Even the British counseled the Maharaja to loosen his grip so as to avoid a total collapse of his administration, perhaps the forefathers of the great poet philosopher son of Kashmir, Iqbal , where also part of the same trail of migrants who left the state at this time. When his agony over the fate of the people of his homeland burst out in immortal verse, his feelings are echoed in the heart of every Kashmiri.
“O wind, if you pass through Geneva, give this message to the comity of the people of the world. They sold the peasant, his field, his property and the roof over his head, in fact, they sold the entire nation and for what a paltry price”.
Invested with this absolute authority acquired 1846, the present ruling dynasty was in power for one hundred years. This sad and stern centaury of servitude has stultified the growth of our people, leaving them in the backwaters of civilization, while in British India, and even in some of the Indian States, many a measure of reform was introduced to alleviate the misery of the people, in this State the unenlightened absolutism of the Rules drove them deeper and into poverty and degradation. When conditions became increasingly intolerable they made determined efforts to wrest power from the hands of the Ruler.
By 1947, India has achieved independence and reached one of her historical watersheds. It was clear that with the withdrawal of the paramount power, the treaty rights of the Indian Princes would cease sovereignty in that case should revert to the people; they wished, therefore, to be consulted about the arrangements to be made with regard to the transfer of power. But a strange situation arose. The Cabinet Mission, while admitting the claims of the Indian National Congress and the Muslim league in British India, completely refused a similar representation of the States people, who would not allow the right of the Princess to speak on their behalf.
In our own Stats the national Conference had made it clear as early as February 10th, 1946 that it was against any further continuance of the treaty rights of the princes which had been “made in times and under circumstances which do not obtain now and which have been framed without seeking the consent of the State peoples. Under such circumstances no treaties or engagements, which act as a dividing wall between their progress and that of their brethren in British India, can be binding on the people. It was in this connection that I invited the attention of the cabinet Mission to the standing inquiry of the Treaty of Amritsar, and sought its termination. I wrote to the Cabinet Delegation that.”
“As the mission is at the moment reviewing the relationship of the princes with the paramount power with reference to treaty rights. We wish to submit that for us in Kashmir re-examination of the relationship is a vital matter because hundred years ago in 1846, the land and people of Kashmir were sold away by the British for fifty lakhs of British Indian Rupees. The people of Kashmir are determined to mould their destiny and we appeal to the mission recognize the justice and strength of our cause”.
In the memorandum submitted to the Cabinet Mission later by the national Conference, the demand for independence from autocracy was reiterated. Today the national demand of the people of Kashmir is not merely the establishment of responsible Government, but their right to absolute freedom from autocratic rule.
This immensity of the wrong done to our people by the sale deed of 1846 can only be judged by looking into the actual living conditions of the people. It is the depth of our torment that has given strength to our protest. The indifferent attitude of the Cabinet Mission to claims of the State’s people convinced as that freedom would not be given to a hundred million people who were to be left to groan under the heel of autocratic rulers. Consequently, the National Conference gave a call to the people to prepare themselves for fresh ordeals and new responsibilities in the final bid for the capture of power from the hands of autocracy. This call came on the eve of the transfer of power in India and was therefore, in keeping with the spirits of the times.
The partition of India in 1947 brought many new problems and development in its wake. In Kashmir, the very foundations of the administration began to shake, and the Government made frantic efforts to patch up the cracking structure. It incompetence had become glaring. With the tribal raids on the State in October 1947, it was obvious that the Maharaja’s authority has ceased to function and the real power lay in the hands of the people’s organization, the National Conference. Even at this hour of grave national danger, the Ruler filed to see the wisdom of taking this organization into his confidence and be preferred escape to the dignity of a formal surrender. When the situation become critical, the unprecedented pressure of the people forced him to call upon the representatives of the National Conference to deal with the emergency. When he himself had failed to handle the affairs of the State effectively.
The emergency Administration in the State marked in effect a revolutionary transfer of power from the Ruler to the people. It was, however, the proclamation of March 5th, 1948, which constituted the first step towards the completion of national emancipation. On this day, I, as leader of the largest party of the State, was entrusted with its Government being assisted by the cabinet with full powers to run the administration. The Maharaja’s authority was limited to that of a constitutional ruler, it imperative upon him to consult his Government on the issues relating to the governance of the State. This was obviously an interim measure. The cabinet of the people’s representatives thus chosen functioned with the support and co-operation of the National Conference. But with the passage of time it became clear that the Maharaja could not reconcile himself to this democratic system of Government. He put positive impediments in the way of the Government. These threatened to block much needed reforms in various spheres of administration. It was, therefore, rational that following disagreement between him and the Government on matters of policy, that he should disconnect himself from the administration and leave the State. His young Son Yuvaraja Karan Singh thereupon became the Regent and has functioned since as constitutional Head of the State.
Today, the Constituent Assembly having met, the time has come for the people’s representatives to make fundamental decision about the future position of the present dynasty. It is clear that this dynasty can no longer exercise authority, on the basis of an old, discredited Treaty. During my trial for sedition in the “Quit Kashmir” movement I had clarified the attitude of my party when I said. The future constitutional set-up in the State of Jammu and Kashmir cannot derive authority from the old source of relationship, which, was expiring and was bound to end soon. The set-up could only rest on the active will of the people of the State, conferring on the Head of the State the title and authority draw from the true and abiding source of sovereignty that is the people.
On this occasion, in 1946, I had also indicated the basis on which an individual could be entrusted by the people with the symbolic authority a constitutional head: “The State and its head represent the constitutional circumference and the centre of this sovereignty respective, the Head of the State being the symbol of the authority with which the people may invest him for the realization of their aspirations and the maintenance of their rights”. In consonance with these principles, and in supreme fulfillment of the people’s aspirations, it follows that a Constitutional Head of the State will have to be chosen to exercise the functions, which this Assembly may choose to entrust to him.
So far as my party is concerned we convinced that the institution of monarchy is incompatible with the spirit and needs of modern times which demand an egalitarian relationship between one citizen and an other. The supreme test of a democracy is the measure of equality of opportunity that it affords to its citizens to raise to the highest point of authority and position. In consequence, monarchies are fast disappearing from the world’s picture, as something in the nature of feudal anachronism. In India, too, where before the partition, six hundred and odd princes exercised rights and privileges of rulership, the process of democratization has been taken up and at present hardly ten of them exercise the limited authority of constitutional heads of State.
After the attainment of complete power by the people, it would have been an appropriate gesture of good will to recognize Maharaja Hari Singh as the first Constitutional Head of the State. But I must say with regret that he has completely forfeited the confidence of every section of the people. His incapacity to adjust himself to changed conditions and his antiquated views on vital problems constitute positive disqualification for him to hold the high office of a democracy Head of the State, Moreover, his past actions as a ruler have proved that he is not capable of conducting himself with dignity, responsibility and impartiality. The people still remember in with pain and regret this failure to stand by them in times of crisis, and his incapacity to afford protection to a section of his people in Jammu.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, as early as the thirteenth century, described the consequences of a king refusing to realize his responsibilities in these wise words: “A king who is unfaithful to his duty forties the claim is obedience. It is not rebellion to depose him, for he is himself a rebel whom the nation has a right to put town. But it is better to abridge his power that he may be unable to abuse it.
All political authority is derived from the people and all laws ought to be made by them or their own representatives. There is no security for us so long as we depend upon the will of another man.”
Because of his background, it would, therefore, be impossible to think of his being associated again with the administration of the state. I am sure none of us is interested in a personal controversy with the Maharaja’s family. In the conduct of public affairs, it is necessary that an impartial view on every individual’s deeds should be taken. Our judgment should not be wrapped by ill will or personal rancor.
During our association with Yuvaraj Karan Singh these last few years, I and my colleagues in the Government have been impressed by his intelligence, his board outlook and his keen desire to serve the country. These qualities of the Yuvaraj set him out as a fit choice for the honour of being chosen the first Head of the State. There is no doubt that Yuvaraj Karan Singh in his capacity as a citizen of the state, will prove a fitting symbol of the transition to a democratic system in which the ruler of yesterday becomes the first servant of the people, functioning under their authority, and on their behalf.
The next issue before us is that of the compensation which we should or should not grant to those landowners who have been expropriated during the putting into operation of the “land to the tiller” legislation, under which land was given, or given back, to the man who actually cultivates it.
It is not possible for you to consider this question dispassionately unless you understand something of the history of land tenure in the State. For us the well being of the peasants who from the vast majority of the population of this country is a top priority, we realize that on a sound organization of agriculture, and the elimination of debt and the evils of landlordism their ultimate welfare depends. We sincerely believe that our body politic cannot be healthily as long as their exists here an army of men doing little or no work and getting easy remuneration for it, and as long as we perpetuate the dangerous age old class division of our society that landlordism breeds. Our attempt has been to make our land dwellers contented we set about this fundamental reform in the following way.
On Marty’s Day, the 13th of July 1950, the Government declared its policy of liquidating the landed estates and transferring land to the tillers of the soil. On the 17th of October 1950 was enacted the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act. By this Act, the right of ownership in respect of lands in excess of 22/34 acres of land excluding orchards, grass and fuel reserves, was abolished and such land was decreed to be transferred to the actual tillers to the extent of their possession. In this way, the right of the cultivator to the ownership of land in his possession was recognized and enforced and no new class of intermediaries or rent receivers was allowed to come into being. The abolition of landlordism is thus an accomplished fact and there is no going back on the decision already taken. This Big Landed Estate Abolition Act, however, provides for the Constituent Assembly to settle the question of compensation with respect to the land from which expropriation has taken place. That question is now before you for decision.
The system of individual ownership of land is of modern growth and originally, the land belonged in common to communities of kinsmen or to the State. Before the British rule, the proprietors were by no means the real owners of the soil and of all methods for the collection of revenue during that time; the most notes worthy was that of collecting it direct from the cultivators through the Headmen of the villages. There is very little evidence to show that, in Mughul and Sikh times, there were many rent paying tenants. The Ain-i-Akbari not only contains no regulations about tenants, but also recognizes no intermediary between the cultivator and the state. Nevertheless, there were some types of intermediaries in the pre British period and also in later times, and it is the existence of these intermediaries, which led to the development of landlordism in the State. The revenue farmers were one class of such intermediaries and so were the different privileges classes of assignees. Jagirdars, muafidars and mukarraridars, all enjoying feudal concession, which were created during the Moghul and Sikh times and also during the Dogra Rule.
In the Jammu Province, ownership of land was granted by State Deeds during the Sikh Rule and the earlier period of the Dogra Rule. In the Kashmir Province, the ownership of land was held by the Ruler since 1846, when Maharaja Gulab Singh purchased Kashmir from the British. It was in 1933 as a result to the pressure of public opinion than proprietary right in land was conferred on the landholders in the Kashmir province including the Frontier Districts, but this concession to mass demand for transfer of proprietorship of land to the actual cultivators was reduced to a fiction inasmuch as large tracts of land, granted by earlier rulers to influential person, Rajas and Dewans by State Deed were construed and acted upon as grants of the right of proprietorship in land. In this manner were created big proprietors who did not cultivate their lands themselves, but had tenants who paid them rent in cash and kind. The small peasant proprietor who cultivated land with his own hands also existed, but there were cases where the cultivators who had originally acquired Holders, right and were recorded as such were relegated to the position of tenants by the right of land holding being granted by the Ruler to some of his favorites who did not cultivate the land themselves and were pure and simple rent receivers.
While the land settlement in the state was rightly made with the peasant proprietors, the settlement with the peasant proprietors, the settlement with the intermediary proprietors was not made on their recognition as proprietors on the soil, but because of certain political and financial reasons. It was well understood, even by the successive Settlement Officers and Settlement Commissioner in the State that though the intermediary proprietors were to be declared the proprietors of the soil, their tenants really were no ordinary tenants, but were, in most cases, the original and hereditary possessors of the oil. The First Regular Settlement Conducted in the State had perhaps nothing to do with the determination of the historical and accurate theory of the intermediary proprietors, position, nor was its function to confer on the proprietors’ apposition comparable to what they originally were. It appears that the task of the settlement authorities was only to legalize all the original acts of illegality and usurpation by which intermediary revenue farmers or rent receivers had assumed great power and influence in the period or disorder, before a proper Revenue Administration came to the country.
At the first Regular settlement the area of land not under cultivation was very large in 1891 A.D. when the late Sir Walter Lawrence was in the State, every inducement was given to the cultivators to till the land and in his way large tracts of State land were brought under cultivators. But even such lands as had been reclaimed and brought under the plough by the cultivators where gifted away in proprietary right to influential persons. There were grants of land know as Chaks made under orders No. 5 and, 6 otherwise know as the Pratap Code.
All these grants were subject to substantial concession in land revenue. There were grants in different kinds, as for instance, State Official’s Grants in perpetuity. Hindu Grants and others. The vast majority of these concessionist landholders obtained their grants by virtue of the high positions they had acquired. The grants under the Pratap Code were entirely made to the clan and the kinsmen of the royal House in whose favour were also released some State Forests reserves and cultivable areas in some Game Reserves. With the demarcation of forests in the State, several areas where excluded from the forests and let out for cultivation and for purposes of agriculture, State land were similarly permitted to be used as Grazing Ground. The reclaimed land out of the Wular Lake, and in around the Dal Lake, which was owned by the State, was also released for cultivation. And then under Raj Tilak Boom No. 4 about 26 years ago, State waste lands were granted as Village Commons equivalent to the aggregate cultivated land of each village, with the same rights as the landholders enjoyed in respect of their existing holding. Even after the First Regular Settlement, may estates were sold to speculators or given over to those who were prepared to meet the land revenue demand in cases where default
was made by actual cultivators, and the right to own land was recognized as that of the revenue payer as against the actual cultivator who defaulted. The non-cultivating land owners leased out their interests and the middle men leased it out in turn, creating a long chain of rent-receivers and rent-payers, who intervened between the State and the actual cultivators.
It will thus be seen that a substantial portion of the landed property came to be owned from such land as was the property of the State before and in every case the acquisition of land was free from any encumbrance or payment of any consideration. It is in the light of this historical background, therefore, that the Hon’ble Members of this House shall have to consider whether there is any justification for payment of any compensation to such landowners for lands from which they are expropriated under the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act.
Finally, we come to the issue, which has made Kashmir an object of world interest, and has brought her before the forum of the United Nations. This simple issue has become so involved that people have began to ask themselves, after three and a half years of tense expectancy, “Is there any solution’? Our answer is the affirmative. Everything hinges round the genuineness of the will to find a solution. If we face the issue straight, the solution is simple.
The problem may be posed in this way, Firstly was Pakistan’s action in invading Kashmir in 1947 morally and legally correct, judged by any norm of international behaviours? Sir Owen Dixon’s verdict on this issue is perfectly plain. In unambiguous terms he declared Pakistan an aggressor. Secondly was Maharaja’s accession to India legally valid or not? The legality of the accession has not been seriously questioned by any responsible or independent person of authority. These two answers are obviously correct. Then where is the justification of treating India and Pakistan at par in matters pertaining of Kashmir? In fact, the force of logic dictates the conclusion that the aggressor should withdraw his armed forces, and the United Nations should see that Pakistan gets out of the State.
In that event, India herself anxious to give the people of the State a chance to express their will freely would willingly co-operate with any sound plan of demilitarization. They would withdraw their forces, only garrisoning enough post to ensure against any repetition of that earlier treacherous attack from Pakistan. These two steps would have gone a long way to bring about a new atmosphere in the State. The rehabilitation of displaced people, and the restoration of stable civic conditions would have allowed people to express their will and take the ultimate decision.
We as a Government are keen to let our people decide the future of our land in accordance with their own wishes. If this preliminary process were accomplished, we should be happy to have the assistance of international observers to ensure fair play and the requisite conditions for a free choice by the people. Instead, invader and defender have been put on the same plan. Under various grabs, attempts have been made to side track the main issues, Sometimes, against all our ideals of life and way of living attempts to decide our territories have been made in the form of separation of out State religion wise, with ultimate plans of further disrupting its territorial integrity. Once an offer was made to police our country with commonwealth forces, which threatens to bring in Imperial control by the back door. Besides the repugnance which our people have, however, to the idea of inviting foreign troops on their soil, the very presence of Commonwealth troops could created suspicion among our neighbours that we were allowing ourselves to be used as a base of possible future aggression against them. This easily has made us in a second Korea.
We have watched all this patiently; but we cannot be indifferent to the growing suffering of our people. We cannot any longer tolerate being bandied about and left with an indefinite future. not only has our patience has tried to its limits, but out-self respect has been challenged by allegation that we are the “Stooges of India” and nobody in our own land, that our influence rests on Indian bayonets, that we are running a police State, and various other taunts and fantastic allegations.
We, therefore, thought it best to call upon own people to declare what future they seek. At last we, in October 1950 decided to convoke a Constituent Assembly, which would pronounce upon the future affiliations of our state. We were; and are convince that whatever some groups or individuals in the world outside might have to say about this decision of ours there are in every country many people of who have faith in justice and straightforward dealing.
I have no doubt that our considered views will be understood and supported by freedom- loving peace-loving and democratic minded people all over the world. I am sure too that Almighty God who guards all just causes will bestow. His blessings upon us and guide our footsteps towards correct and honest ends.
The problem, then, of accession has to be considered against the background of history in particular of the immediate past consequent on the British quitting India disappearance of the paramount power. The end of the war brought to ahead the question of India freedom. Let me recapitulate. The Cabinet Mission was sent to India to hammer out plans for the transfer of power. This Mission had a series of consultations with parties and Leaders of opinion in British India, but refused to agree to the people of the Indian States being represented by their popular leaders and instead backed up their old allies, the Indian Prince. I and my colleagues had at that time raised our voice against this attitude in the following words of our Memorandum.
“The fate of the Kashmiri nation is in the balance and in this hour of decision we demand our basic democratic right to send our selected representatives to the constitution making bodies that will construct the framework of free India. We emphatically repudiate the right of the Princely Order to present the people of the Indian States or their right to nominate their personal representatives as our spokesmen.”
I have no doubt in my mind that if popular representatives from the Indian States had been included in the discussions they would have certainly helped in having many controversial issues resolved fairly and smoothly. But that was not to be. To our misfortune, and to the misfortune of millions of people in India and Pakistan, the Cabinet Mission as well as the Indian political parties seemed to have been swayed by various conflicting consideration, with the result that the Indian sub-Cabinet which had acquired an organic unity through ages of social, cultural and economic intercourse, was suddenly vivisected into the two Dominions of India and Pakistan, I need not relate here the horrors that followed this unnatural operation. Millions of hearts in both countries still ache with wounds that will not heal.
The agony of this change over became all the more intense as a result of the position in which the Indian States were left under the Indian independence Act of the British Parliament, the paramountcy of British Crown, against which the princes had been learning, lapsed, and it was made clear that it would not be transferred to either of the succeeding Dominions. There were three alternative courses open to them. They could accede to either of the two Dominions or remain independent. This gave the prince, himself the option to decide the fate of their States.
Following the announcement of the “Mount batten plan” on June 3rd some of the Indian State acceded to Pakistan and some to India by means of instruments of accession executed through their princes. There were also some who entered into standstill agreements with either or both pending finalization of their decisions. “The betrayal of the interests of the states people had been expected following the rejections of the memorandum of the national conference, and we I Kashmir decided to place the issue before the people themselves”.
This is how our well-know “Quit Kashmir” agitation began. The National Conference once led the people through a great struggle, and once again the ruler tried to curb it this time with unprecedented severity. But when the whole people is one the move it is not possible to repress them and they do not stop until they wrest freedom and justice for themselves from the unwilling hands of those about them.
“The crucial date of India and Pakistani independence, therefore, came when I and my colleagues were still behind prison bars. The whole sub-continent was in a state of high tension and disturbance. If at that time, the Head of the state of Jammu and Kashmir had even the slightest sense of realism or a proper awareness of the danger lurking in the situation, he would have immediately taken the people into his confidence. By associating their representatives with administration. I am sure many of the compilations that arose later could have avoided.
Instead of that, the Maharaja’s Government entered in a Stand Still Agreement with Pakistan, and this was accepted without question by that Dominion. A similar arrangement was suggested to India, also, but it is noteworthy that the Government of India insisted that it could not consider any agreement entered into by the Government of the State valid until it had the approval of the people’s representatives.
While the leaders consistently refused to recognize the vital issue of accession without first securing the approval of his people, the Muslim league and the Pakistan Government supported the claims of the Rulers to speak for their State. The late Mr. Jinah took the position that after the lapse of paramountcy, the princes were completely independent and that they could themselves determine what relations they should have with the two Dominions.
Throughout the struggles that the people of Kashmir waged against autocracy, we should never forget that the Muslim League Leadership had completely disassociated itself from them and that; during the upsurge of 1946, their local party organs had assisted the administration to suppress movement. At this crucial time, then Pakistan was under strict cover of secrecy, perfecting her own plans, and the Dawn, the Muslim League official organ in Karachi, was appearing to the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan on the grounds that he would have great freedom there than in India.
It was at this stage, taking advantage of the isolation of the Kashmiris from the rest of the world, that Pakistan imposed an economies blockade upon us with a view to starving us into submission. Attempts were made even to excite communal hatred to disrupt our peaceful civic life. Even in the face of such provocation, the National Conference, I am proud to say, took an objective and democratic stand, immediately on my release from imprisonment, I clarified the issue at a mass meeting in Srinagar. The first and fundamental issue before us was the establishment of a popular Government. Our objective might be summarized a “Freedom First” Then alone could was as a free people decide our future associations through accession. I also made it clear that the National Conference would consider this issue without prejudice to its political friends and opponents and strictly in accordance with the best interests of the country as a whole. I said that, in the state of tension and conflict that obtained both in India and Pakistan, it was difficult for the people here and now to predict what the final shape of both would be.
You will realize, therefore, that we could not be accused of being partial to one side or the other. During that period we openly discussed the matter with representatives of the Muslim League who had come to Srinagar for this purpose. We even sent one of our representatives to Lahore to acquaint the authorities in Pakistan, with our point of view. We were thus still struggling against autocracy and for freedom when the state was suddenly invaded from the side Pakistan.
The overwhelming pressure of this invasion brought about a total collapse of the armed force of the State as well as its administrative machinery leaving the completely defenseless people at the mercy of invaders. It was not an ordinary type of invasion, inasmuch as no canons of warfare were observed. The tribesmen, who attacked the State in thousands, killed, burned, looted and destroyed whatever came their way and in this savagery no section of the people could escape. Even the nuns and nurses of a Catholic Mission were either killed, or brutally maltreated. As these raiders advanced towards Srinagar, the last vestige of authority, which lay in the person of the Maharaja, suddenly disappeared from the Capital. This created a strange vacuum, and would have certainly led the occupation of the whole state by Pakistani troops and tribesmen, if , at this supreme hour of crises, the entire people of Kashmir has not risen like a solid barrier against the aggressor. They halted his onrush, but could not stop him entirely as the defenders, had not enough experience training to fight back effectively. There is no doubt that some of them rose to great heights of heroism during these fateful days. Who can help being moved by the saga of crucified Sherwani, Abdul Aziz Brigadier Rajendra Singh, Prem Pal, Sardar Rangil Singh early militia boys like Poshkar Nath Zadoo, Somnath Bira Ismail, among scores of other named and unnamed heroes of the all communities. But we, through rich in human material, lacked war equipment and trained soldiers.
When the raiders were fast approaching Srinagar, we could think of only one way to save the state from total annihilation-by asking for help from a friendly neighbour. The representative of the National Conference, therefore, flew to Delhi to seek help from the Government of India. But the absence of any constitutionalties between our State of India made it impossible for her to render us any effective assistance in meeting the aggressor. As I said earlier, India had refused to sign a Stand Still Agreement with the state from the ground that he could not accept such a Agreement until it had the approval of the people. But now, since the people’s representatives themselves sought an alliance, the Government of India showed readiness to accept it. Legally the instrument of Accession had to be signed by the ruler of the state. This the Maharaja did. While accepting that accession, the Government of India said that she wished that “as soon as law and order have been restored in the Kashmir and her soil cleared of the Invader, the question of the states accession should be settled by reference of the people”.
Actuated by a sincere desire to avoid bloodshed and further conflict, the Government of India approached the Security Council in 1948 with a plan against Pakistan. The request was simple. The contention of India was that Pakistan was responsible for the invasion Kashmir and was continuing to help the raiders who had been employed as mercenaries for the purpose. And it was further said that legally bound as India was to clear the Jammu and Kashmir state of raiders, she might be constrained to pursue the invaders to their bases in Pakistan, which might lead to a still bigger conflagration. India, therefore, wanted the Security Council to dispose of the case as quickly as possible in the interest of peace. If this had been done, condition would have ipso facto come into being when the people of Jammu and Kashmir would have expressed their will with regard to the continuance of the accession to the Dominion they had joined. This was not to be…
This is the essential background, which we must fully take into account. Now I shall indicate some of the consideration which should be kept in view when you the Hon’ble members of this august assembly, shoulder the grave responsibility of giving your considered opinion on this issue of accession which effects not only the present generation of our people but generations yet to come.
The cabinet Mission has provided for three courses, which may be followed by Indian States when determining their future affiliations. A State can either accede to India or accede to Pakistan but, failing to do either, it still can claim the right to remain independent. These three alternatives are naturally open to our State; while the intension of the British Government was to secure the privileges of the Princes; the representatives of the people must have the primary consideration of promoting the greatest good of the common people. Whatever steps they take must contribute to the growths of a democratic social order wherein all invidious distinctions between group and creeds are absent. Judged by this supreme consideration, what are the advantages and disadvantages of our State’s accession to either India or Pakistan, or of having an independent status?
As a realist I am conscious that nothing is all black or all white, and there many facts to each of the proposition before us, I shall first speak on the merits and demerits of the State’s accession to India. In the final analysis, as I understand it, it is the kinship of ideals which determines the strength of ties between two States. The national Congress has consistently supported the cause of the States peoples’ freedom. The autocratic rule of the Princes has been away with and representative Governments have been entrusted with the administration. Steps towards democratization have been taken and these have raised the people’s standard of living, brought about much needed social reconstruction, and, above all built up their very independence of spirit. Naturally, if we accede to India there is no danger of a revival of feudalism and autocracy. Moreover, during last four years, the Government of India has never tried to interfere in our internal autonomy. This experience has strengthened our confidence in them as a democratic State.
The real character of a State is revealed in its constitution. The Indian Constitution has set before the country the goal of secular democracy based upon justice, freedom and equality for all without distinction. This is bedrock of modern democracy. This should meet the argument that the Muslims of Kashmir cannot have security in India, where the large majority of the population of Hindus. Any unnatural cleavage between religious groups is the legacy of imperialism, and no modern State can afford to encourage artificial divisions if it is to achieve progress and prosperity. The Indian Constitution has amply and finally repudiated the concept of a religious state, which is a throwback to medievalism, by guaranteeing the equality of right of all citizens in respective of their religion colour, caste and class.
The national movement in our state naturally gravitates towards these Principles of secular democracy. The people here will never accept a principle, which seeks to favour the interests of one religion or social group against another. This affinity in political principle as well as in past association, and our common path of suffering in the cause freedom, must be weighed properly while deciding the future of the State.
We are also intimately concerned with the economic well-being of the people of this State. As I said before while referring to constitution building, political ideals are often meaningless unless linked with economic plans. As a State, we are mainly with agriculture and trade. As you know, and as I had detailed before we have been able to put through our “land to the tiller” legislation and make of it a practical success. Land and all it means is an inestimable blessing to our peasants who have dragged along in servitude to the landlord and his allies for centuries without number. We have been able under present conditions to carry these reforms through; are we sure that in alliance with landlord ridden Pakistan, with so many feudal privileges in act, that this economic reforms of our will be tolerated? We have already heard that news of our Land Reforms has traveled to the peasants of the enemy occupied area of our State who vainly deserve alike status, and like benefits. In the second place, our economic welfare is bound of with our arts and crafts. The traditional markets for these precious goods, for which we are justly known all over the world, have been cantered in India. The volume of our trade, inspite of the dislocation of the last few years, shows this, industry is also highly important to us. Potentially we are rich in minerals, and in the raw materials of industry; we need help to develop our resources. India, being more highly industrialized than Pakistan, can give us equipments, technical services and materials. She can help us too in marketing.
Many goods also which it would not be practical for us to produce here for instance, sugar, cotton, cloth and otherwise essential commodities can be got by us in large quantities from India. It is around the sufficient supply of such basic necessities that the standard of living of the man-in-the-street depends. I shall refer now to the alleged disadvantages of accession of India.
To begin with, although the land frontiers of India and Kashmir are contiguous, an all-weather road-link as dependable as the one we have Pakistan does not exist. This must necessarily hamper trade and commerce to some extent, particularly during the snowy winter months. But we have studied this question, and with improvements in modern engineering, if the State wishes t remains with India the establishment of an all whether stable system of communication is both feasible and easy. Similarly, the use of the State rivers as a means of timber transport is impossible if we turn to India, expect in Jammu where the rivers Chenab still carries logs to the plains. In reply to this argument, it may be pointed out that accession to India will open up possibilities of utilizing ours forest wealth for industrial purposes and that, instead of lumber, finished goods which will provide work for our carpenters and labourers, can be exported to India where there is a ready market for them. Indeed in the presence of our fleets of timber carrying trucks, rivers transport is a crude system, which inflicts a loss of some 20% to 35% in transit. Still another factor has to be taken into consideration. Certain tendencies have been asserting themselves in India which may be in future convert it into a religious state where in the interests of Muslims will be jeopardized. This would happen if a communal organization had a dominant hand in the government and congress ideals of the equality of all communities were made to give way to religious intolerance .The continued accession of Kashmir to India should, however, help in defeating this tendency. From my experience of the last four years, it is my considered judgment that the presence of Kashmir in the union of India has been the major factor in stabilizing relations between the Hindus and Muslims of India. Gandhiji was not wrong uttered words before his death which para-prase; “I lift up mine eyes unto the hills from, whence cometh my help.”
As I have said before, we must consider the questions of accession with an open mind, and not let our personal prejudices stand in the way of balanced judgment.
I will now invite you to evaluate the alternative of accession to Pakistan. The most powerful argument which can be advanced in her favour is that Pakistan is a Muslim State, and a big majority of our people being Muslim the State must accede to Pakistan. This claim of being a Muslim state is of course only a camouflage. It is a screen to dupe the common man, so that he may not see clearly that Pakistan is a feudal State in which a clique is trying by these methods to maintain itself in power. In addition to this, the appeal to religion constitutes a sentimental and a wrong approach to the question. Sentiment has its own place in life, but often it leads to irrational action. Some argue, supposedly natural corollary to this that our acceding to Pakistan our annihilation or survival depends. Facts have disproved this; right thinking man would point out that Pakistan is not an organic unity of all the Muslims in this subcontinent. It has on the contrary, caused dispersion of the Indian Muslims for whose benefit it was claimed to have been created. There are two Pakistan at least a thousand miles a port from each other. The total population of western Pakistan which is contiguous to our State is hardly 25 million, while the total number of Muslims resident in India is as many as 40 million. As one Muslim is as good as another, the Kashmiri Muslim if they are worried by such considerations should choose the 40 million living in India.
Looking at the matter too from a more modern political angle, religious affinities alone do not and should not normally determine the political alliances of State. We do not find a christan bloc, a Buddhist block or even a Muslim block, about which there is so much talk now-a-days in Pakistan. These days economic interests and a community of political ideals more appropriately influence the policies of state. We have another important factor to consider, if the State decides to make this the predominant consideration. What will be the fate of the one million of non-Muslims now in our State? As things stand at present, there is no place for them in Pakistan. Any solution which will result in the displacement or the total subjugation of such large number of people will not be just or fair, and it is the responsibility of this House to ensure that the decision that it takes on accession does not militate against the interests of any religious group.
As regards the economic advantages, I have mentioned before the road and river links with Pakistan. In the last analysis, we must however remember that we are not that concerned only with the movement of the people but also with the movement of goods and the linking up of markets. In Pakistan there is a chronic death of markets for our products. Neither, for that matter, can she help us with our industrialization, being herself industrially backward.
On the debit side we have to take into account the reactionary character of her politics and State politic. In Pakistan, we should remember that the lot of the State subjects has not changed and they are still helpless and under the heel of their Rulers, who wield the same unbridled power under which we used to suffer here. This clearly runs counter to our own aspirations for freedom. Another big obstacle to dispassionate evaluation of her policies is the lack of a constitution in Pakistan. As it stands at present, this State enjoys the unique position of being Governed by a constitution enacted by an outside parliament which given no idea what so ever of the future shape of civic and social relations. It is reasonable to argue that Pakistan cannot have the confidence of a freedom loving and democratic people when it has failed to guarantee even fundamental rights of it citizens. The right of self-determination for nationalities is being consistently denied and those who fought against imperialism for this just right are being suppressed with force. We should remember Badshah Khan and its comrades who laid down their all for freedom, also Khan Abdul Samad and other fighters in Baluchistan. Our nation movement in the State considers this right of self-determination inalienable, and no advantage however great, will persuade our people to forgo it.
The third course open to us has still to be discussed. We have to consider the alternative of making ourselves an eastern Switzerland, of keeping aloof from both states, but having friendly relations with them. This might seen attractive in that it would appear to pave the way out of the present deadlock. To us as a tourist country it could also have certain obvious advantages. But it considering independence we must not ignore practical considerations. Firstly, it is not easy to protect sovereignty and independence in a small country, which has not sufficient to strength, defend itself on our long and difficult frontiers bordering so many countries. Secondly, we must have the goodwill of our neighbours. Can we find powerful guarantors among them to pull together away in assuring us freedom from aggression? I would like to remind you that from August 15th to October 22, 1947, our state independent and the result was that our weakness was exploited by the neighbours with whom we had a valid Standstill Agreement. The State was invalid. What is the guarantee that in future too we may not victims of a similar aggression?
I have now put the pros and cons of the three alternatives before you. It should not be difficult for men of discrimination and patriotism gathered in this Assembly to weigh all these in the scales of our national good and pronounce where the true well being of the country lies in the future.