Understanding the Accession

The General Administration Department of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir, on 27th December, 2019, issued a list of holidays for the calendar year 2020, in which 26th October is to be observed as the Accession Day throughout the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir. This is the first time that the Accession Day will be observed in Jammu & Kashmir, commemorating 26th October, 1947, when Maharaja Hari Singh signed off the Instrument of Accession in which Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Dominion of India. Hence, it will be apposite to briefly highlight the history and background of the Accession Day.

The British Government, on 20th February, 1947, announced that British India would be freed and it was also announced on 3rd June, 1947, that the Muslim majority areas in British India should constitute the dominion of Pakistan and the Hindu majority areas in British India should constitute the dominion of India but the future of the princely States was under a cloud as neither the Cabinet Mission nor the British Government talked about the princely States. The Crown’s representative, Lord Mountbatten, spoke at the Chamber of Princes on 25th July, 1947 and suggested to the princes of the princely States that they should accede to one of the dominions because of the geographical contiguity of their States and he also announced that the accession of any State to either of the dominions will be as per the Cabinet Mission Memorandum which considered giving up of State’s power into either of the dominions on three subjects namely, defence, external affairs, and communications.

The accession to the dominion of India was to be carried out as per the provisions of the Government of India Act which was formally approved by the Indian Independence Act. The princely States were given liberty to accede to any one of the dominions by bringing about an instrument of accession which was to be signed by the ruler and accepted by the Governor-General of the concerned dominion. The decision to accede or not to accede also vested with the Rulers of the princely States.

India was freed from the British Rule on 15th August, 1947 and became independent. Maharaja Hari Singh, the Ruler of Jammu & Kashmir, wanted some more time to think about whether to accede to any one of the dominions or remain independent, in absence of the help which he used to get from the Britishers but they were also not around which left him in a spot of bother. He wanted to execute a standstill agreement with the dominions of India and Pakistan to continue the existing state of affairs till he arrived at a conclusion but no such agreement was executed with the dominion of India. The dominion of Pakistan was ready for the agreement and this was communicated to the Maharaja by Jinnah’s Private Secretary. However, a revolt took place in Poonch due to Pakistan’s infiltration and an economic blockade also started from Pakistan, both of these events were denied by Pakistan.

Soon, after these events, one of the newspapers of the Muslim League, Dawn, wrote that the time has come to tell the Maharaja of Kashmir that he must make his choice and choose Pakistan, and should Kashmir fail to join Pakistan, the gravest possible trouble would inevitably ensue. The Maharaja of Kashmir was startled by this threat. Thousands of tribesmen with arms and ammunition, who were alleged to be aided by Pakistan, attacked the State of Jammu & Kashmir. This prompted the Maharaja to accede to India and ask for its help if the State was to be saved. Maharaja acceded to India and he penned down a letter to Lord Mountbatten, the then Governor General of India, on 26th October, 1947, the important part of which, read as under: –

“I have to inform your Excellency that a grave emergency has arisen in my State and request the immediate assistance of your Government. As your Excellency is aware, the State of Jammu and Kashmir has not acceded to either the dominion of India or Pakistan. Geographically my State is contiguous with both of them. Besides, my State has a common boundary with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic and with China. In their external relations the dominions of India and Pakistan cannot ignore this fact. I wanted to take time to decide to which dominion I should accede or whether it is not in the best interests of both the dominions and my State to stand independent, of course with friendly relations with both……………..With the conditions obtaining at present in my State and the great emergency of the situation as it exists, I have no option but to ask for help from the Indian dominion. Naturally, they cannot send the help asked for by me without my State acceding to the dominion of India. I have accordingly decided to do so and I attach the Instrument of Accession for acceptance by your Government.”

The Instrument of Accession was also attached to the letter which read as under: –

“Whereas the Indian Independence Act 1947, provides that as from the fifteenth day of August, 1947, there shall be set up an Independent Dominion known as India, and that the Government of India Act, 1935 shall, with such omission, additions, adaptations and modifications as the governor-general may by order specify, be applicable to the Dominion of India. And whereas the Government of India Act, 1935, as so adapted by the governor-general, provides that an Indian State may accede to the Dominion of India by an Instrument of Accession executed by the Ruler thereof. Now, therefore, I Shriman Inder Mahander Rajrajeswar Maharajadhiraj Shri Hari Singhji, Jammu and Kashmir Naresh Tatha Tibbetadi Deshadhipathi, Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir State, in the exercise of my sovereignty in and over my said State do hereby execute this my Instrument of Accession and I hereby declare that I accede to the Dominion of India with the intent that the governor-general of India, the Dominion Legislature, the Federal Court and any other Dominion authority established for the purposes of the Dominion shall, by virtue of this my Instrument of Accession but subject always to the terms thereof, and for the purposes only of the Dominion, exercise in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir (hereinafter referred to as “this State”) such functions as may be vested in them by or under the Government of India Act, 1935, as in force in the Dominion of India, on the 15th day of August, 1947, (which Act as so in force is hereafter referred to as “the Act”). I hereby assume the obligation of ensuring that due effect is given to the provisions of the ACT within this state so far as they are applicable therein by virtue of this my Instrument of Accession. I accept the matters specified in the schedule hereto as the matters with respect to which the Dominion Legislatures may make laws for this state. I hereby declare that I accede to the Dominion of India on the assurance that if an agreement is made between the Governor General and the ruler of this state whereby any functions in relation to the administration in this state of any law of the Dominion Legislature shall be exercised by the ruler of this state, then any such agreement shall be deemed to form part of this Instrument and shall be construed and have effect accordingly. The terms of this my Instrument of accession shall not be varied by any amendment of the Act or of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 unless such amendment is accepted by me by an Instrument supplementary to this Instrument. Nothing in this Instrument shall empower the Dominion Legislature to make any law for this state authorizing the compulsory acquisition of land for any purpose, but I hereby undertake that should the Dominion for the purposes of a Dominion law which applies in this state deem it necessary to acquire any land, I will at their request acquire the land at their expense or if the land belongs to me transfer it to them on such terms as may be agreed, or, in default of agreement, determined by an arbitrator to be appointed by the Chief Justice of India. Nothing in this Instrument shall be deemed to be a commitment in any way as to acceptance of any future constitution of India or to fetter my discretion to enter into arrangement with the Government of India under any such future constitution. Nothing in this Instrument affects the continuance of my sovereignty in and over this state, or, save as provided by or under this Instrument, the exercise of any powers, authority and rights now enjoyed by me as Ruler of this state or the validity of any law at present in force in this state. I hereby declare that I execute this Instrument on behalf of this state and that any reference in this Instrument to me or to the ruler of the state is to be construed as including to my heirs and successors. Given under my hand this 26th day of OCTOBER nineteen hundred and forty-seven. – Hari Singh Maharajadhiraj of Jammu and Kashmir State.”

A schedule was also attached to the instrument of accession which contained the matters with respect to which the Dominion Legislature may make laws for the State. The matters included Defence, External Affairs, Communications, and Ancillary.

Lord Mountbatten, the then Governor-General of India accepted the instrument of accession in the following words:

“I do hereby accept this Instrument of Accession. Dated this twenty-seventh day of October Ninteen hundred and forty-seven.”

Therefore, in this way, Jammu & Kashmir acceded to the dominion of India and 26th October, would now be observed as the Accession Day in Jammu & Kashmir which marks the signing of the Instrument of Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu & Kashmir with Lord Mountbatten, the then Governor-General of India.

Muneeb Rashid Malik is a student of law.