J&K – The issues around the state

Explained: VP Menon’s role in accession of J&K and other states

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Instrument of accession

Mains level : Read the attached story


Context

  • Today marks the 126th birth anniversary of V P Menon.
  • The nation remembers Sardar Patel’s herculean efforts in ensuring that over 500 princely states seamlessly joined the Union of India.
  • However it was Menon working in the background, travelling across the country and persuading different Maharajas and Nawabs to accede.

V.P. Menon

  • Born on September 30, 1893, Menon was the Secretary in the Ministry of States which was established by the Government of India in 1947 to deal with the accession of princely states.

His contributions

  • Menon’s greatest contribution was coming up with the original policy on accession that required the princely states to accede only in the three matters of defence, external affairs and communications.
  • Since these matters were fairly non-controversial, Menon believed they would be readily accepted by the rulers.
  • With these the basic unity of India would be achieved and, when the new constitution was framed, we could thrash out the necessary details.
  • It was Menon’s policy piloted by Sardar Patel that was finally reflected in the Instrument of Accession (IoA) executed by the states becoming a part of the Union of India in 1947 and their seamless integration thereafter.

Role in J&K’s accession

  • One of the states to which Menon travelled to secure its accession was Jammu and Kashmir.
  • By October 25, 1947, an attack by Afridi tribesmen had reached the outskirts of Srinagar, forcing the Maharaja of J&K to escape the city and relocate to Jammu.
  • On October 26, the Defence Committee of the Indian Government held a meeting to discuss the viability of a military intervention in J&K.
  • Lord Mountbatten, who was part of this meeting observed that since J&K had not acceded to either India or Pakistan, it was an independent country.
  • According to Mountbatten, if the Maharaja acceded to India, troops could be sent to rescue the state.
  • Subsequently, it was Menon who immediately flew to Jammu and secured the Maharaja’s signature on the IoA.

The integration

  • With accession secured, the next challenge for Menon and his team in the Ministry of States was to ensure complete integration.
  • This was a legally complex but politically straightforward matter in respect of most princely states.
  • The negotiations between representatives of the Government of India and Sheikh Abdullah, then PM of J&K, in relation to J&K’s status in India failed to produce a mutually acceptable result.
  • It was thus decided that the Constitution of India would reflect the position under the 1947 IoA.

Birth of Article 370

  • The final text of Article 370 introduced in the Constitution of India is based on this understanding.
  • Sheikh Abdullah proposed an alternative formulation which simply stated that the Indian Parliament would be entitled to legislate only on defence, external affairs and communications.
  • Seemingly making light of Abdullah’s objection, Menon asked that the following be conveyed to Patel:
  1. Parts II (citizenship), III (fundamental rights) and IV (directive principles) of the Constitution would apply automatically to Kashmir unless the position is expressly saved
  2. What worried Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference was that if these general provisions become applicable to Kashmir also, their legislation against other citizens of India in respect of acquisition etc. of property will become invalid.

The final move

  • Thus overriding the Sheikh’s objections, but in deference to his principled disagreement, the Ministry of States sent a draft proclamation to the Yuvraj of Kashmir, Karan Singh, for signing.
  • This was the final step towards complete integration in the Union of India by which all princely states that had acceded to India were required to accept the Constitution of India as their own through a public proclamation.

Conclusion that spark debates

  • It is significant to note that J&K’s proclamation was worded differently from the others.
  • This proclamation, issued on November 25, 1949, did not accept the Constitution of India as J&K’s own.
  • Instead, it stated that the Constitution of India, “in so far as it is applicable to [J&K]” would “govern the constitutional relationship between [J&K and the] Union of India”.
  • This was a reference to Article 370 of the Constitution of India.
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