Pathakot Railway Station
Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee was the first leader at national level who tooth and nail opposed the insertion of draconian Article 370 impregnated with separatist and secessionist tendencies
Justice (Retd.) G.D. Sharma
By adopting all possible Machiavellian means Sheikh Abdullah succeeded in duping Maharaja Hari Singh as well as Prime Minister Pt. Nehru to occupy the exalted chair of Prime Ministership of the State of Jammu & Kashmir. After firmly establishing himself on that chair, he started taking revenge on the Dogras of Jammu, who acknowledged Maharaja Hari Singh as their truly revered leader and as an embodiment of Dogra chivalry, valour and ethical values.
Factual matrix unravelled Sheikh Abdullah’s traits of multi-layered personality. To achieve his ulterior motives, Lord Mountbatten exercised his wicked and uncanny undue influence and prevailed upon Pt. Nehru to make a complaint in UNO against Pakistan’s unwarranted aggression on the Sovereign territory of J&K. After the complaint was entertained, Sheikh Abdullah’s importance at international level increased manifold because he too had to plead the case of India in the international forum. Sheikh Abdullah did not allow any grass to grow under his feet to get eliminated Maharaja Hari Singh’s status in the administrative set up of the State, which under agreed conditions with the Union of India was at par with that of the ruler of Mysore. Sheikh Abdullah, immediately after becoming Prime Minister of J&K stopped consulting Maharaja. In an arbitrary manner Sheikh Abdullah nominated his person as well as his three cohorts as representatives for the Constituent Assembly of the Dominion of India to take part in drafting the Constitution. Amongst the remaining three, two were Kashmiri Muslims belonging to his Political party ‘National Conference’ and the third one was a Hindu Dogra who was semi-literate. When the Indian Constitution was being framed none of those four representatives made any demand to raise the issue on the Special Status for the State of J&K. However, secretly Sheikh Abdullah was pressurising Pt. Nehru to grant Special Status. Ultimately, Pt. Nehru advised Sheikh to approach Dr. Ambedkar on this subject. Dr. Ambedkar plainly told Sheikh Abdullah: “You want that India should protect Kashmir, Kashmiris should enjoy equal rights in whole of India, but you don’t want to give any right to India and Indians in Kashmir. I am Law Minister of India and cannot betray and deceit my country in this regard.” Pt. Nehru who was out and out in favour of Sheikh Abdullah to entrust him the whole administration of J&K reposed trust in Gopal Swamy Ayyangar to see that an article finds place in the draft of the Indian Constitution to give Special Status to the J&K. But when the matter was put before the members of the working committee of Congress, all the members refused to favour Sheikh Abdullah. Amongst the Muslim representatives, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad was the only leader who sided with Sheikh. This was happening to the disliking of Pt. Nehru. All of a sudden Pt. Nehru had to go on a foreign tour and before leaving country he requested the Home Minister Sardar Patel to save his honour as he had given promise to Sheikh Abdullah for the grant of Special Status to the State of J&K. Unwillingly Sardar Patel in order to save the honour of his Prime Minister exercised his influence and in this way Article 306-A was inserted in the draft of the Indian Constitution at the bidding of Pt. Nehru which later on became Article 370 in the final draft.
Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee was the first leader at national level who opposed tooth and nail the insertion of Article 370. Article 35-A was added in 1954 by a Presidential Order. Both Articles became breeding ground to provide fat feed in the promotion and spread of unchecked corruption in all spheres of the public life including administrative set up.
In the UNO Legislative Security Council, only once Sheikh Abdullah got the opportunity to plead India’s case. He fully supported the Accession made by Maharaja Hari Singh and spoke against aggression made by Pakistan on the Sovereignty of the State. Getting emboldened by this fait accompli Sheikh immediately started recruiting his party workers in J&K government services at all levels. Appointment of Governor (now Divisional Commissioner) of Kashmir was his first choice who belonged to his party cadre. Governor of Jammu Province (Lala Chet Ram Chopra) was suspended and his post was replaced with Sheikh Abdullah’s trusted protégé. Shri Chopra was taken into custody and taken to Srinagar where third degree torture was given to him to elicit statement to the effect that in Jammu Muslims were massacred with connivance of Maharaja. Shri Chopra withstood torture but did not toe the false line of Sheikh Abdullah. Similarly, Deputy Commissioner of Reasi Thakur Govardhan Singh was dismissed from service. Many other loyal officers of Maharaja were also victimised. Majority of the posts of Deputy Commissioners (then called Wazir Wazarats) in every District were filled with Sheikh Abdullah’s trusted cadre. Such a practice was also adopted by filling the posts of Superintendents of Police and other important offices at all levels. He created a Police force of his followers which was called “J&K Malatia” comprising personnel mostly from Kashmir Valley (of Muslim community). J&K Malatia became notorious for committing excesses and atrocities against Hindu population of Jammu Province areas. This kind of reign of terror and vengeance led to the mass uprising in Jammu Region. Sheikh Abdullah had not allowed even a single Hindu or Sikh refugee from Pakistan Occupied District of Muzaffarabad and part of the areas of Baramulla District to settle in the areas of Kashmir during mass migration of 1947. At his sweet will, Sheikh constituted Constituent Assembly by giving 30 seats to Jammu Province while as 45 seats were reserved for Kashmir Valley including one seat for Ladakh Region. Remaining 25 seats were reserved for J&K Pakistan Occupied Area. The election was only a farce as out of the 26 nomination papers filed by regional Praja Parishad Party led by Pt. Prem Nath Dogra, 16 were rejected and for this murder of democracy the election was boycotted. In this way, the Constituent Assembly consisted of 75 members was controlled by Sheikh’s National Conference.
Dr. SP Mookerjee could not tolerate such anarchist and pathetic conditions of the nationalist forces represented by Dogras of Jammu. On May 11, 1953 he entered the boundary of J&K State in order to defy the Route Permit System which was in vogue at that time for every exit and entry of State boundary by everybody and faced the arrest on that very day. On May 12, 1953, he was lodged as a prisoner in a gardener’s small hut situated in “Nishat garden of Srinagar” where he breathed his last on June 23, 1953 (within 42 days) under most suspicious circumstances. At that time, he was 52 years old and was quite hale and hearty. Dr. Mookerjee’s mother had written letters to Prime Minister Nehru for holding an inquiry but all her entreaties fell flat on deaf ears. Prior to entering the boundary of the State, Dr. Mookerjee had been writing letters to Prime Minister Nehru as well as to Sheikh Abdullah to douse the fire of agitation. In order to unfold the genesis of Kashmir problem it becomes necessary to state here that undoubtedly August 15, 1947 was the day on which India got freedom from Colonial rule – and thus a boon for the whole nation but unfortunately it proved as a specie thereof a bane for the unfortunate Domiciles of Jammu Region who became slaves of Kashmir centric two dynasties and thirdly that of Pt. Nehru’s dynasty. In the real sense, the Domiciles of Jammu Region got the freedom from that internal slavery on August 5, 2019 when Articles 370 and 35-A were deleted from the Indian Constitution. Now a new era has dawned to enjoy the equal Right of Voting in the State Legislature as well as in the Parliament. This dream of freedom and dignity would be fulfilled after the coming of the verdict to be yet given by the newly appointed Delimitation Commission for the State in the near future. Democracy would be established at Panchayat level as envisaged in the Constitution and equitable development would take place in the two newly formed regions.
Sheikh Abdullah enjoyed the full backing of Pt. Nehru. With Pt. Nehru’s support he removed Mehr Chand Mahajan as Prime Minister within a span of less than five months from the time of his assuming the charge as Chief Emergency Officer. Acting on the same strategy Maharaja Hari Singh was also compelled to leave the State for good within two years on the plea that his presence posed a threat to smooth working of the democratic government. All these developments made Sheikh Abdullah an absolute ruler of the State. Constituent Assembly passed a resolution on June 7, 1952 adopting a Flag for the State. President of Praja Parishad Pt. Prem Nath Dogra condemned the decision as “provocative act which has caused resentment in Jammu.”
On June 10, 1952, while accepting the recommendation of the above stated Committee the abolishing of Hereditary Rule and appointment of an elected Head of the State was presented to the Constituent Assembly. It was adopted on June 12, 1952. This was the Blackest Day in the history of J&K when Sheikh Abdullah succeeded in his life mission to achieve his life long cherished dream of becoming an Independent Sultan of J&K State. He delivered a long speech inside the Constituent Assembly that this day would be recorded in golden letters in the history of the State. Sheikh Abdullah had totally forgotten the words of his unqualified apology tendered before Maharaja Hari Singh vide his letter dated September 26, 1947. A relevant extract from that letter is reproduced in verbatim for the knowledge of the countrymen – “in spite of what has happened in the past, I assure your Highness that myself and my party have never harboured any sentiment of disloyalty towards your Highness’s throne or dynasty. The development of this beautiful country and the betterment of its people is our common aim and interest and I assure your Highness the fullest and loyal support of myself and my organisation. Not only this, but I assure your Highness that any party within or without the State, which may attempt to create any impediments in our efforts to gain our goal, will be treated as our enemy and will be treated as such...”.
On the basis of this unqualified apology Maharaja Hari Singh pardoned his (Sheikh Abdullah’s) remaining term of sentence of imprisonment of one and half years which he had yet to undergo for the commission of offence of sedition awarded after fair trial. During the trial of that case, Pt. Nehru along with an advocate proceeded to Srinagar to defend Sheikh. But he was put under arrest when he entered the State boundary near Kohala bridge of Jhelum River. This incident got ingrained in the mind of Pt. Nehru and generated worst kind of hatredness against Maharaja Hari Singh.
Before Maharaja Hari Singh finally acceded to Dominion of India on October 26, 1947, he had come to know by September 15, 1947 that his Prime Minister Ram Chand Kak had entered into conspiracy with Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten to give him wrong advice of remaining Independent. Maharaja immediately dismissed Kak and kept him confined in Srinagar. Temporary charge was given to one of his trusted Ministers namely Shri Janak Singh. Maharaja had already made up his mind in the month of ending May 1947 to appoint Mehr Chand Mahajan as his Prime Minister and message was conveyed through Maharani and Yuvraj Karan Singh in Lahore. It was Mehr Chand Mahajan who negotiated the Accession of J&K State with Dominion of India.
Dr. Karan Singh in his autobiography at page 154 mentioned about the aggressive anti-Dogra attitudes of Sheikh Abdullah and M.A. Baig who was acting as Sheikh’s deputy in all matters. But Pt. Nehru reposed so much faith in Sheikh Abdullah that in his letter dated November 13, 1947 to Maharaja Hari Singh, Nehru showered praises on the integrity and loyalty of Sheikh Abdullah and at the end of the letter made a suggestion to the Maharaja: “to keep in close personal touch with him and deal with him directly and not through intermediaries”. Shri B.N. Mullick in his book “My years with Nehru” has recorded the reminiscences of one of his meaningful meeting with Pt. Nehru. The utterances of Pt. Nehru relate to the period before the start of trial of Kashmir Conspiracy case. In the discussions he stated: “then suddenly in our utter surprise Nehru started talking bitterly against Sheikh Abdullah’s communalism. He traced Sheikh Abdullah’s history from 1930 onwards and mentioned how he had started his career with Muslim Conference, which was an out and out communal organisation. Pt. Nehru had said that all trouble in Kashmir was due to Sheikh’s communal outlook and it was he who was not allowing the State to settle down to peace and stability. The Sheikh always talked about the Rights of the Muslims forgetting that the Hindus also formed nearly 35% of the population of the State and he never showed any consideration for them.”
On June 12, 1952 Constituent Assembly had abolished the Dogra Hereditary Rule and adopted the appointment of an elected Head of the State by the nomenclature of Sadar-i-Riyasat. Immediately thereafter, discussions between the Kashmiri leaders with Union Government of India started for giving Special Status to the State of J&K and these discussions were finalised in July 1952. These discussions were incorporated, “in Agreement which was called Delhi Agreement of 1952”. The most glaring aspect of this Agreement was that Sheikh had denied the people of J&K State Fundamental Rights as enshrined in Chapter III of the Indian Constitution.
Pt. Nehru in the Press Conference held in Delhi on July 26, 1952 said, “The State Government was considering Regional Autonomies within the larger State”. Sheikh Abdullah was present in Delhi and gave assurance to the same affect. Indian Parliament ratified the Agreement on August 7, 1952 and State Constituent Assembly correspondingly also ratified that Agreement on August 21, 1952. Praja Parishad protested and Pt. Prem Nath Dogra described it, “another surrender at the altar of communal intransigence and separatism of Sheikh Abdullah”. Bitterly opposing the grant of Special Status to the State, Praja Parishad demanded complete merger of the State. It raised an emotional slogan of “Ek Vidhan, Ek Nishan and Ek Pradhan (One Constitution, One Flag and One President).” On November 26, 1952, Pt. Prem Nath Dogra, Sham Lal Sharma and other prominent leaders of Praja Parishad were arrested.
On November 12, 1952, century old Dogra Hereditary Rule was abolished and two days later Yuvraj Karan Singh, a scion of the same Ruling Dynasty was elected as “Sadar-i-Riyasat” (Head of the State). His election was formally recognised by President of India. On November 24, 1952, “Sadar-i-Riyasat” came to Jammu and was greeted with black flags right from the airport to the gates of his Palace. His State arranged function was not allowed to be held for his felicitation.
After the arrest of prominent leaders of Praja Parishad, the agitation spread like wildfire. There were day and night arrests of Dogras throughout the Province of Jammu. Fifteen agitators at different places were shot dead at different dates. Prominent leaders were taken to Srinagar jail and during those winter days they were not provided sufficient warm clothes and beddings. Hundreds were taken in buses upto Banihal areas and then forcibly alighted to go on foot back to their respective places. During those days Jammu Srinagar Highway was only a narrow road, no development on its sides and traffic flow was very thin. J&K Malatia had started day night crack downs not only in urban areas but in rural areas also.
The Praja Parishad agitation gained wide and effective support from many quarters in India, including a section of the press. Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, however, emerged as the chief supporter of the cause for which the Praja Parishad had raised the banner of revolt. Dr. Mookerjee in his letter dated February 12, 1953 addressed to Pt. Nehru sent a nine-point formula for withdrawal of the agitation started by Praja Parishad. One of these suggestions was: - “Provisional Autonomy to Jammu & Kashmir without change of boundaries.” Nehru’s reply dated February 12, 1953 was, “Even in States other than Jammu and Kashmir, we have to respect Provisional Autonomy and, though we give advice to our colleagues there, we do not interfere.” Again, in his letter dated February 17, 1953 to Prime Minister, Dr. Mookerjee laid down the following as one of the conditions for withdrawal of the movement:
“Both parties reiterate that the unity of the State of J&K will be maintained and that the principle of Autonomy will apply to the province of Jammu as a whole, and of course also to Ladakh and Kashmir valley”.
Dr. Mookerjee also had a lengthy correspondence with Sheikh Abdullah. In his letter dated February 11, 1953, he criticised Sheikh Abdullah’s stand on Special Status. Mookerjee had said, “There can be one and only one Sovereign Parliament and that is the Parliament of India,” he further wrote to Abdullah: “consciously or unconsciously you are creating a new sovereignty for Jammu and Kashmir State.” Stressing the desirability of giving Autonomy to Jammu as a whole and to Ladakh and Kashmir valley, can be discussed on its merits at a later stage.”
In his letter dated February 23, 1953 to Sheikh Abdullah, Dr. Mookerjee even went to the extent of suggesting: “If the people of Jammu wanted full Accession with India and the people of Kashmir valley wanted a loose integration clash and conflict are inevitable. One possible solution might be to form Kashmir valley into a separate State and give it whatever it wants for its development. It would even then continue as one of the units of the Indian Union but would function according to Special Provisions of the Constitution.”
Dr. Mookerjee, however added: “I had suggested this alternative with no pleasure. This I felt might become inevitable if no settlement could at all be reached. But let us drop this altogether and think in terms of united Jammu and Kashmir and find out how to consolidate it with the willing cooperation of the people.”
After the sad demise of Dr. Mookerjee on June 23, 1953, a storm of indignation was raised against Sheikh Abdullah throughout India. Consequently, political situation in the State took a dramatic turn. Sheikh Abdullah was arrested on August 9, 1953, and a new government with Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad as Prime Minister was installed. Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest was celebrated as a ‘Day of Deliverance’ by the activists of Praja Parishad. Overjoyed, the people of Jammu hoped that with root cause of all their grievances (Sheikh Abdullah) in jail, they would get all their demands accepted. But Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad with cleverness succeeded in engaging the public in redressing some demands and respecting the top leadership by accommodating them to some extent also carried on his agenda to give a semblance of Equal Rights to the residents of Jammu and Ladakh on existing structure. In reality, he ruled with their support. His rule extended from August 9, 1953 to October 12, 1963 (10 years 64 days). He installed his protégé Shams-ud-Din as Prime Minister but he remained in power for a very short period.
Thereafter, G.M. Sadiq as Congress representative took over the charge as Chief Minister while changing the nomenclature of Prime Minister to Chief Minister and Sadar-i-Riyasat as Governor. G.M. Sadiq merged National Conference in Indian Congress. Sadiq was succeeded by Sayed Mir Qasim as Chief Minister till the date the Indira Sheikh Abdullah Accord was applied in the State in 1975. Thus, Congress rule ended after 10 years. Sheikh Abdullah’s Dynasty constituting three generations have ruled the State at various times for the longest period. Followed by some period of second Kashmiri dynasty of Mufti Mohd. Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti. This dynastic rule as stated above of two Kashmiri families along with Pt. Nehru family rule ended on August 5, 2019 when Article 370 and Article 35-A were amended and now State stands divided into two Union Territories.
According to the assurance given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi all regions of the State will develop as per the wishes of the people, their dreams and ambitions. Articles 370 and 35-A were like chains that kept people tied. Wining over Kashmiris is a litmus test for the government. The battle for peace and prosperity will be won or lost in the minds and hearts of the people of India in general and more importantly among the newly created Union Territories of J&K State in particular where still corruption is ruling the roost at ground level. The reassuring statement by Shri Modi for eradication of corruption at all levels will hopefully be translated into action very soon as it is eating the vitals of the society. This will vindicate India’s repulation as a civilised State.
(Former judge of J&K High Court, member of National Foundation for Communal Harmony, Government of India)