Intro: Ignoring the contribution of Maharaja Hari Singh in making the state of Jammu and Kashmir, a part of India on October 26, 1947 (also called Vilay Diwas)—with references made only to Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah is a deliberate attempt to erase his contribution from collective memory. And that is a dangerous situation because it undermines Indian nationalism.
This question always bothered me but I did not get a satisfactory reply from a friend with whom I discussed it. The question is: Why successive state governments of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) have shied away from celebrating Accession Day?
After all, it was on October 26, 1947, that Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession of J&K with India. It was on this day that J&K became a part of India, a secular country as opposed to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This was, undoubtedly, a decisive moment in the history of Jammu and Kashmir and is called the Accession Day or Vilay Diwas in common parlance. But it has never been celebrated the way we celebrate Independence and Republic Day.
The Independence Day (August 15), the Republic Day (January 26), September 5 (Teachers’ Day after Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan) and so many more are regularly celebrated. The importance of these days is recited by politicians, officials and teachers in official functions to the generation next to educate them, to remind youngsters about the sacrifices made by our ancestors and to flag their contribution in our day to day life.
On October 26, however, not a word is spoken about the Accession Day, in the J&K government offices, in educational institutions and or by the politicians and bureaucrats in the state. Why so? Why is awareness about this day not spread widely among the people of J&K, to begin with? Why is this day not used for holding seminars, debates and such other programmes discussing J&K? There are no satisfactory answers so far.
No Indian can deny the importance of J&K in our day to day life. The state is something on which we have fought many wars with Pakistan. Even at present, there is an uneasy calm on the borders after persistent firing from Pakistan, and the Indian response thereof, is a telling story of a never ending vicious cycle. In the wake of such circumstances, why is importance not given to this day? Why is it that a very large number of Indians, a section of the people of J&K included, do not know enough about the Accession Day? One thing is for sure. It reeks of a conspiracy to keep such a vital day, a day of such far-reaching consequences, away from public discourse.
It is so often that you hear demands for declaring this or that day to be declared as an official holiday for a variety of reasons. The list of holidays has been growing in this manner in J&K over the years, threatening to become longer, and longer. But then there have been no demand/s from any quarter ever about declaring October 26 as Accession Day for celebrations, marked not as a holiday, but a day of spreading awareness. Why?
Between August 15, 1947, and October 26, 1947, J&K was an independent nation technically, and legally, the British having departed. And the state had neither joined India nor Pakistan during this period as the ruler wanted more time to decide as to with whom should he go.
The dilemma before the Maharaja Hari Singh was to join either of the Dominion, India or Pakistan. And it was a dilemma because he was himself a Hindu but the majority of his subjects were Muslims. The problem was also this that he was apprehensive of the fate of a substantial number of his Hindu and Sikh subjects.
He wondered: What would be the best option for him to ensure the largest good of the largest number of his subjects? Should he join Pakistan? Should he join India?
This is what led him to sign a Standstill Agreement with Pakistan which India did not enter into with his state. And it was the country that had a Standstill Agreement with him who attacked his territories, killing Hindus and Sikhs in thousands in J&K territories. And then the Maharaja became clear in his mind that his state should join India, a secular country, which had repudiated the idea of a two-nation theory, even when Pakistan was created as a separate nation.
It was the signing of Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947, that linked the fate of J&K irrevocably with India. This deed was executed by Dogra Hindu ruler Maharaja Hari Singh and neither he, nor his irreversible legal act, is discussed in public, among the masses. Why?
On deeper thought, it becomes clear to us that there have been attempts, successful so far, about writing and discussing the history of J&K in a particular manner- With reference only to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah.
The contribution of Maharaja Hari Singh in making this state a part of India is deliberately ignored, brushed under the carpet, and systematically sought to be erased from collective memory. And that is a dangerous situation because it undermines Indian nationalism.
Separatists and secessionists go over the top in hoisting a black flag here and there on the Accession Day in a couple of downtown areas of Srinagar city. An obliging media takes the picture and splashes it across painting it in a misleading manner.
The voice of the nationalist people of J&K, a vast and overwhelming majority as compared to anti-India campaigners, remains muted. Its silence is taken as a sign of weakness with most Kashmir-based newspapers ignoring the day.
It should be questioned and countered effectively-Why should the separatists and secessionists be allowed a free run to set the discourse in J&K? Why should their viewpoint be not challenged?
There is a huge “information deficit’’ that prevails among different strata of society regarding accession of J&K into India, and the related issues thereof even today. For challenging the anti-India views being spread mischievously by separatists, a strong and correct counter-view has to be disseminated. This will be possible only if the correct legal and technical aspects of the accession are widely known among the nationalistic people as well.
One sleight of hand, and glib talking, regarding accession of J&K to India, the deabte is often centred on the discourse that the state acceded on three subjects’ only-defence, communications and external affairs. But this is not something that the state of Jammu and Kashmir alone did. All the acceding states had joined the Indian Dominion in just the same manner as J&K-conceding only on three subjects initially. The Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh (ruler of the J&K state) was just the same as was signed by the other acceding states.
It is a distortion and misrepresentation of facts, beyond any logic, to say and claim that the Instrument of Accession signed by the J&K Maharaja was anything out of the ordinary. The Instrument of Accession, the legal document to be signed by an acceding state, was drafted in a manner that any departure was just not allowed. The format of this legal document was the same for all acceding states.
The information about the state, including on the subject of accession, is not read from the primary sources, verbatim, by these intimidated people. They are often condemned to hear sermons from so-called pseudo experts of the fields from podiums.
To quote an example, “Hindu rulers, Muslim subjects” is a fashionable description of history of J&K from 1846 to 1947, the rule of Dogra Hindus. Well, the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir came to power in 1320, and successive Muslim rulers continued till 1846, a period of 546 years. Why is the period of 546 years of “Muslim rulers, Hindu subjects’’ during which period the vast majority of Hindus were converted, not discussed widely in India?
Knowing history correctly is vital in any nation and this applies to accession of J&K to India as well. Therefore celebrate Vilay Diwas all over J&K, all over India to acknowledge the act of Maharaja Hari Singh in signing the Instrument of Accession in favour of India on the appointed day to spread awareness.
Sant Kumar Sharma (The writer is a freelance journalist
based in Jammu )