Archive for the ‘ Politics ’ Category

Jammu & Kashmir – Paradise Lost

Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir

The Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), created in 1846 under the Treaty of Amritsar signed between the East India Company and Maharaja Gulab Singh. The Maharaja became the founder of the Royal Dogra Dynasty and the first king of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir by paying 75,00,000 Nanak Shahi rupees (currency of the Sikh Empire) to the British Government and bought Kashmir Valley, Ladakh Virasat (comprising of Baltistan, Kargil and Leh) and added it to Jammu which was already under his rule. Gilgit Virasat (comprising of Gilgit and Pamiri areas) were conquered later in the war against Sikh rule led by Dogra Generals.

Gulab Singh

Maharaja Gulab Singh

Sikh Monarch, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had died in 1839 and his Empire was in decline. His 5 years old son Duleep Singh was Maharaja, with his mother Maharani Jind Kaur, ruling on his behalf. Sikhs were defeated in the First Sikh War (1945-46). In 1846 the Sikhs and British government signed the Treaty of Lahore. As per the treaty the Sikhs had ceded Kashmir, Hazara and Jalandhar Doab to the British and also pay 1.2 million pounds (which was then equivalent to 75,00,000 Nanak Shahi rupees).

Since the Sikhs were unable to pay the 1.2 million pounds, Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu, who had negotiated the surrender of the Sikh army, paid the British government and took procession of Kashmir Valley, Baltistan, Kargil and Leh.

Partition & Standstill Agreement

During partition, the State of Jammu & Kashmir was ruled by Fourth Dogra Monarch Maharaja Hari Singh under the paramountcy of British India. He was a Hindu Dogra king ruling over a predominantly Muslim population. The Kashmiri Muslims did not identify with Muslim community in Pakistan. They people of Kashmir Valley had lived in relative peace with Hindu and Buddist population and they believed that they were different from the Islamic culture of newly formed Pakistan. They called their Sufi Islam and the composite, secular culture – Kashmiriath.

The ethnic composition of the princely state of J&K, at the time was Jammu Virasat (predominantly Hindu & Sikh), Kashmir Valley (predominantly Kashmiri Muslims), Ladakh Virasat (predominantly Buddist) and Gilgit Virasat (predominantly Shia Muslim). This made the Dogra King, Maharaja Hari Singh contiguous to both Dominion of India, and newly formed Dominion of Pakistan, initially decided to remain Independent.

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Maharaja Hari Singh

Before taking the ultimate decision, the Maharaja was faced with a dilemma due to non-cooperation by Sheikh Abdullah, the mass leader of National Conference (NC). There was a large population of J&K who was opposed to the Maharaja and this had resulted in popularity of NC, which demanded his abdication. The Maharaja also believed acceding to either Dominions would have provoked adverse reactions in different Virasats of his kingdom.

In the words of the Maharaja, “Muslims of Kashmir and some from Jammu, who were led by Sheikh Abdullah and leaders of NC, did not want the question of accession to be decided at that stage. They wanted me to part with power in their favour so that they could decide the question independently of me. They made no secret of their views and obstructed me in deciding the question of accession instead of helping me to accede to India; Hindus of Jammu and people of Ladakh were for affiliation with or accession of India.”

Jammu Massacre & Formation of Azad Kashmir Government

In June 1947, about 60,000 ex-army men (mostly from Poonch) had started a no-tax campaign against the Maharaja. The campaign later turned into a secessionist movement following 14 and 15 August, when Poonch Muslims hoisted Pakistani flags. The Maharaja imposed martial law in Poonch, which further angered the Muslims there. With ammunition and personal support provided by the tribals of Pakistan’s NWFP, the situation got more complex.

Weary of this, Maharaja Hari Singh released Sheikh Abdullah, who, in his first very first public meeting, reiterated that “the demand of the Kashmiri is freedom”. He also took a jibe at Jinnah, saying: “How can Mr Jinnah or the Muslim League tell us to accede to Pakistan? They have always opposed us in every struggle. Even in our present struggle (Quit Kashmir against Maharaja), he (Jinnah) carried on propaganda against us and went on saying that there is no struggle of any kind in the state. He even called us goondas.”

According to Kuldeep Nayar veteran journalist and syndicated columnist, “Before India was partitioned, he (Sheikh Abdullah) sent his close associate, Sadiq Sahib, who subsequently became the state Chief Minister, to Islamabad to get the feel of Pakistan. On returning, Sadiq reported to the Abdullah that Pakistan wanted to be an Islamic state. The Sheikh straightaway made up his mind and refused to accept any proposal which did not meet with his ethos of secularism.”

In early October, the Maharaja complained to Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry about the infiltration by tribals hundreds of kilometres inside the border in the Jammu region. Pakistan denied the allegation, but called the Maharaja’s attention to “terror and atrocities perpetrated by J&K forces against the Muslim population of Poonch”. Atrocities which Pakistan suggested, were provoking “spontaneous reactions both within J&K and from ethnic and religious kin across the border”.

Three weeks between October and November 1947 mobs and paramilitaries let by the Dogra Army carried out a programme of expulsion and murder in Jammu. The exact number of causalities is not known but estimates range from 20,000 to 2,37,000 and nearly 5,00,000 forced into displacement in Jammu.

A young lawyer from Poonch and a member of the J&K Legislature, Sardar Ibrahim Khan, emerged as the head of the Poonch Liberation Movement. He united the different factions in Poonch and held contact with some of the key figures of Pakistan’s Muslim League (ML), including Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. He was instrumental in establishing an “Azad Kashmir” government in Rawalpindi.

As relations froze, Pakistan suspected that Maharaja Hari Singh would accede to India. Also, given Sheikh Abdullah’s animosity towards ML, Pakistan took the decision to seize Kashmir by force. Due to the geo-strategic location of the state. Pakistan feared that if Kashmir went to India, Pakistan would cease to be militarily and politically viable.

Standstill Agreement

At this juncture the Maharaja offered to sign Standstill Agreements with both the Dominions. Pakistan immediately signed the Standstill Agreement while India asked for further discussions on its contents.

Identical telegrams were sent by the Prime Minister of J&K to Dominions of India and Pakistan on August 12, 1947. The text is as follows: “Jammu & Kashmir Government would welcome Standstill Agreements with India/Pakistan on all matters on which these exist at present moment with outgoing British India Government. It is suggested that existing arrangements should continue pending settlement of details”.

Reply from Government of Pakistan sent on August 15, 1947: “Your telegram of the 12th. The Government of Pakistan agrees to have a Standstill Agreement and Kashmir for the continuance of the existing arrangements pending settlement of details and formal execution.”

Reply from Government of India: “Government of India would be glad if you or some other Minister duly authorised in this behalf could fly to Delhi for negotiating Standstill Agreement between Kashmir Government and India dominion. Early action desirable to maintain intact existing agreements and administrative arrangements.”

The representative of J&K did not visit New Delhi and no Standstill Agreement was concluded between the State and the Dominion of India.

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Mehr Chand Mahajan

Through the summer and autumn of 1947, India’s Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was smartly cultivating the Maharaja. The Maharaja took a series of steps which suggested that he was edging towards India. Foremost among them was his dismissal of Ram Chandra Kak as Prime Minister in mid-August, and his eventual replacement two months later by Mehr Chand Mahajan, on the request of Patel.

Initially Pakistan’s response to the Standstill Agreement was very positive. On August 18, 1947 Jinnah wrote to the Maharaja: “Your Highness, you are the sovereign that alone has power to give accession… you need consult nobody… you should not care about Sheikh Abdullah or National Conference…” The letter was handed over to the Maharaja, in Srinagar, by Jinnah’s private secretary Hasan Khurshid.

But by August 24, 1947 the tone had changed. Dawn, the newspaper Jinnah had founded, wrote an Editorial piece warning the Maharaja: “The time has come for Maharaja of Kashmir that he must take his choice and choose Pakistan. Should Kashmir fail to join Pakistan, the gravest possible trouble will inevitably ensue.” This warnings alarmed the Maharaja, and charges and counter-charges were exchanged between Pakistan and J&K. Few weeks later Pakistan cut off essential supplies such as petrol, sugar and salt to the state, . It also stopped trade in timber and other products, and suspended train services to Jammu. This was a violation of the Standstill Agreement.

On October 14, 1947, Dawn, had even carried as its main news item an article with the headline: “Kashmir’s accession to Indian Dominion regarded as a foregone conclusion.” 

Operation Gulmarg & Instrument of Accession

Watching the prospects of Kashmir slipping out of its hand and sensing India could play foul, Pakistan launched ‘Operation Gulmarg’ by mobilising tribals from the NWFP on October 22, 1947. About 2,000 tribesmen, fully armed with modern weapons and under the direct control of Pakistan Army generals, entered Muzaffarabad in motor-buses and on foot. As the invaders captured Uri and Baramulla with minimal resistance from the Maharaja’s forces. The invaders made rapid progress towards Srinagar.

The Maharaja’s forces were 50 per cent Muslim and 50 per cent Dogra and the Muslim elements had revolted and joined the Pakistani forces. The Prime Minister of J&K made two formal requests to the Pakistani Government to stop the continuous border raids, but Pakistan resolutely denied both its support to the raiders and their actions.

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Tribal irregulars from the North West Frontier bound for Kashmir, 1947

By October 24, 1947, the intruders massacred about eleven thousand residents of Baramulla and destroyed the Mohra power station that supplied electricity to the capital city of Srinagar. Pakistan had hoped that if the tribals conquered the Kashmir Valley before the Instrument of Accession to India took place, issue of accession would become irrelevant and the process of Jammu and Ladakh could be dealt with from a position of strength.

The panic-stricken Maharaja made an appeal to India to come to its rescue, the same day. The Maharaja’s two letters to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel seeking military help, was carried by deputy Prime Minister Ram Lal Batra with the proposal of accession.

This was followed by an emergency meeting of India’s Defence Committee (headed by Mountbatten and including Nehru, Patel, Defence Minister Baldev Singh, Minister without portfolio Gopalaswami Ayyangar, and the British commanders-in-chief of the army, air force and navy) which concluded that “the most immediate necessity was to rush arms and ammunition already requested by the J&K government, which would enable the local populace in Srinagar to put up some defence against the raiders.

The Defence Committee sent Secretary of the Ministry of the States V. P. Menon and Indian Army’s first Lieutenant Colonel Sam Manekshaw, to Srinagar to “make an on-the-spot study”, the same day. On October 24, 1947, Mahajan the Prime Minister of J&K, apprised V. P. Menon and Sam Manekshaw “of the perilous situation and pleaded for the Government of India to come to the rescue of the State”. They returned to New Delhi on October 25, 1947, with their impressions, and suggested sending troops to Kashmir, pointing out the “supreme necessity to save Kashmir from raiders”.

The Defence Committee sent Secretary of Ministry of States V. P. Menon and India’s first Fiend Marshal in the Indian Army, Sam Manekshaw, to Srinagar to make an “on-the-spot study” the same day. On October 24, 1947, Mahajan, apprised V. P. Menon and Sam Manekshaw “of the perilous situation and pleaded for the Government of India to come to the rescue of the State”. They returned to New Delhi on October 25, 1947, with their impressions, and suggested sending troops to Kashmir, pointing out the “supreme necessity to save Kashmir from raiders”.

V-P-Menon

V. P. Menon

On Sunday, October 26, 1947, Mahajan, flew into Delhi and V.P. Menon took Mahajan for a breakfast meeting with Nehru and Patel. Mahajan pleaded for an immediate Indian military intervention to save Srinagar. Nehru appeared to equivocate, to which Mahajan in his autobiography “Looking Back” recalled responding: “Give army, take accession and give whatever powers you want to give to the popular party, but the army must fly to Srinagar this evening, otherwise I will go and negotiate terms with Mr. Jinnah as the city (Srinagar) must be saved.”

Nehru was visibly upset at Mahajan’s proposal of even contemplating the idea of talking to Jinnah and told him to leave the room. As he walking out of the room, Patel reportedly held him back and said in his ear, “Of course, Mahajan, you are not going to Pakistan”. Sheikh Abdullah, who was overhearing the entire exchange from an adjoining room, sensing a critical moment, sent in a slip of paper to Nehru. Nehru read it and said that “what I (Mahajan) was saying was also the view of Sheikh Sahib,” recollects Mahajan in his book.

At the Defence Committee meeting later that morning, Menon and Manekshaw reported on the situation in Srinagar. The Committee decided that in spite of the grave risks underlined by the army’s Commander-in-Chief, General Lockhart, an infantry battalion would be flown to Srinagar the next morning, October 27, 1947. The States Ministry was directed to prepare an Instrument of Accession for the Maharaja and a letter emphasising that its acceptance would be temporary pending the ascertaining of the will of the people.

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From this point on, the story of J&K’s accession to India becomes clouded by conflicting accounts and interpretations. The issue in dispute is whether Maharaja signed the document acceding to India before or after the beginning of India’s military airlift to Srinagar on the morning of Monday, October 27, 1947. Lord Mountbatten’s signature on the document accepting the accession is dated October 27, 1947. What makes the issue of the Maharaja’s signature of continuing relevance is that India has built its case on J&K around a version of events that insists that the instrument of accession was signed before the airlift of troops. If that is not true, then India’s case in the international stage, will be diminished.

V. P. Menon in his book “Integration of the Indian States” published in 1956 put an end to the controversy. He recounted how, shortly after the Defence Committee meeting in Delhi on the morning of Sunday, 26 October: “I flew to Jammu to accompanied by Mahajan. On arrival at the Palace I found it in a state of utter turmoil with valuable articles strewn all over the place. The Maharajah was asleep; he had left Srinagar the previous evening and had been driving all night. I woke him up and told him of what had taken place at the Defence Committee meeting. He was ready to accede at once. He then composed a letter to the Governor-General describing the pitiable plight of the State and reiterating his request for military help… With the Instrument of Accession and the Maharajah’s letter I flew back at once to Delhi. Sardar [Patel] was waiting at the aerodrome and we both went straight to a meeting of the Defence Committee which was arranged for that evening… It was further decided that an infantry battalion should be flown to Srinagar the next day”.  

The letter that accompanied the Instrument of Accession read: “With the conditions obtaining at present in my State and to 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 Domination of India. I have accordingly decided to do so and I attach the Instrument of Accession for; acceptance by your Government. The other alternative is to leave my State and my people to diabolical killers and beasts. On this basis, no civilised Government can exist or be maintained. The alternative I will never allow to happen as long as I am Ruler of the State and I have life to defend my country. I may also inform your Excellency’s Government that it is my intention at once to set up an interim Government and ask Sheikh Abdullah to carry the responsibilities in this emergency with my Prime Minister.” – Maharaja Hari Singh, The Amar Mahal Palace Jammu, dated 26.10.1947 (Excerpt from his letter)

But Mehr Chand Mahajan believes otherwise. In his narrative in his autobiography “Looking Back” published in 1963 “Around dinner time that day (October 26, 1947) Nehru sent him (Mahajan) a message that he should fly to Jammu with Menon and inform Hari Singh of the cabinet decision besides getting his signatures on certain supplementary documents about the accession. ‘I frankly informed him that I was not prepared to go to Jammu till I got news from my aerodrome officer at Srinagar that the Indian forces had landed there. Panditji did not insist and said: you can fly to Jammu next morning’… The army did land in Srinagar and Mahajan got the message from Srinagar at 9 am on October 27…. On receipt of this message, I flew to Jammu with Mr V. P. Menon… After some discussion, formal documents were signed which Mr Menon took back to New Delhi,”

Does that mean the 28 sorties of Dakotas that landed in Srinagar Airport preceded the signing of the Instrument of Accession. Mehr Chand Mahajan who was the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and third Chief Justice of India says the documents were signed only after the troops landed.

Interestingly, Prem Shanker Jha has a different version. Author and columnist Prem Shanker Jha in his book “Kashmir 1947: The Origins of a Dispute” published in 2003 believes that Hari Singh signed accession papers in Srinagar on October 25. He relies totally on Manekshaw’s version while dismissing accounts of Mahajan and Menon as inconsistent and fleeting. Sam Manekshaw who accompanied V. P. Menon to Srinagar and back on October 25 remembers: “Eventually the Maharaja signed the accession papers and we flew back in the Dakota late at night… I did not see the Maharaja signing it, nor did I see Mahajan. All I do know is that V. P. Menon turned around and said, ‘Sam we have got the Accession’. He says Menon, handed over ‘the [accession] thing to Mountbatten at the start of or just before the meeting of the Defence Committee on October 26 morning.” 

So there are three dates – October 25, 26 and 27. Jha says October 25,1947 but it is unofficial. V. P. Menon says October 26, 1947 but lacks corroborative evidence because Maharaja might have been travelling the whole day. Mahajan says October 27, 1947 after the troops landed, but this is in conflict with the officially stated records.

On October 27, 1947 the Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten signed the Instrument of Accession of J&K with a remark, “In consistence with their policy that in the case of any State where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute, the question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the State, it is my Government’s wish that, as soon as law and order have been restored in Kashmir and its soil cleared of the invader, the question of the State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people”.

Analysts believe by the term “reference to the people”, Mountbatten meant plebiscite. {Plebiscite had already been conducted in the case of accession of the Princely State of Junagadh. The plebiscite conducted in December 1947, had approximately 99.95% of the people chose to be part of Dominion of India over Pakistan}. But those advocating Plebiscite should remember that in the election held to the 75 member assembly of Indian administered Kashmir, National Conference and parties which were Pro India won elections in 1951 – 75/75 seats (75 unopposed), 1957 – 69/75 (47 unopposed) and 1962 – 68/74 (33 unopposed). India has conducted a total of 11 assembly elections in J&K since 1951 and 12 Parliamentary elections since 1967.

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Indian army landing at Srinagar Airport on October 27, 1947.

On October 30, 1947, Sheikh Abdullah was appointed the head of the administration with Mahajan as Prime Minister. The Indian Army under the command of Lt. Col. Dewan Ranjit Rai, successfully repulsed the tribal raiders. The NC volunteers aided the Indian Army in its campaign to drive out the Pathan invaders. For most of the Indian Army soldiers Kashmir was an unfamiliar terrain.

Pakistan has continued to question the legal status of Instrument of Accession at several occasions, claiming that Maharaja Hari Singh was not legally competent to decide matters concerning his State as his power had already been arrogated by popular revolts. But legally the accession of the state of J&K to India, completely excludes Pakistan. In spite of that Pakistan tries to manifests itself as a self-styled protector of the rights of people of J&K (administered by India), while it illegally administers almost one third of the Princely State of J&K (Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan).

First Kashmir War

Realising that Pakistan was cheated out of Kashmir, and that he was outwitted by both Mountbatten and Nehru, the Governor-General of Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinnah resolved to respond to these moves by direct military action. He asked British Commander-in-Chief General Douglas Gracey, to send the Pakistani Army and take over J&K. But General Gracey refused to follow this order and told Jinnah that he could not do it, without consulting the Supreme Commander of all British forces remaining in India and Pakistan, Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck. The British military officer threatened him that if compelled to carry out the order, he would withdraw all technical British forces from the Pakistan Army. Moreover, he telephoned Field Marshal Auchinkeck in Delhi, to brief him of the development.

{By August 15, 1947 the British government had completed a complicated division of the British India’s Armed forces. Field Marshal Auchinleck, who was now designated Supreme Commander-in-Chief and Chandulal Madhavlal Trivedi, an Indian civil servant, oversaw the division of the forces. Many British officers stayed on to assist in the transition, including General Robert Lockhart, India’s first C-in-C, and General Frank Messervy, who became Pakistan’s first C-i-C. General Messervy, had opposed the tribal invasion in a cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. After that he had left the command of the army and had proceed on leave. His view was that British officers who were trained together would be fighting each other in the war front. General Gracey was appointed as acting C-i-C.

Earlier in June 1947, the War Department of the British administration in India had began planning the dividing of the ~400,000 men strong British Indian Army. The Armed Forces Reconstitution Committee (AFRC) under the chairmanship of British Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck had devised the formula to divide the military assets between India and Pakistan with ratio of 2:1, respectively. After the division of Armed Forces around 2,60,000 men, mainly Hindus and Sikhs, went to India. And 1,40,000 men, mainly Muslims, went to Pakistan. The Brigade of Gurkhas, recruited in Nepal, was split between India and Britain.}

On October 28, 1947, Field Marshal Auchinleck flew to Pakistan and met Jinnah. He told Jinnah that J&K had decided to merge with India, and New Delhi was well within its rights to send military aid at Maharaja’s request. Jinnah subsequently withdrew the order. He also accepted Auchinleck’s proposal for and emergency meeting between Jinnah, Mountbatten and Nehru. Mountbatten alone came to Lahore on November 1, 1947; Nehru became “sick”. Jinnah was outwitted again. Not authorised to make any commitments, Mountbatten could reach no decision with Jinnah. The start of the perennial deadlock had begun.

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Liaquat Ali Khan, Lord Mountbatten and Mohammed Ali Jinnah at Lahore

The interim Government was instituted by a proclamation made by the Maharaja on March 5, 1948. A Council of Ministers with Sheikh Abdullah as the Prime Minister was constituted to conduct the administration of the State. The Council was to function on the principle of joint responsibility. {Mahajan, went onto serve as one of Independent India’s first Supreme Court judges, eventually landing the office of Chief Justice on January 4, 1954}.

Surprisingly, General Gracey, who had defied Jinnah’s order in October 1947, recommended to Pakistan government on April 20, 1948 that India was about to launch a general offensive in Kashmir, and recommended that it is imperative that the Indian Army is not allowed to beyond the general line Uri-Poonch-Naoshera. In light of Gracey’s evaluation, Pakistan moved its forces into J&K and thus the full-fledged war began.

The Indian troops secured Jammu, Srinagar, Uri and Kashmir Valley itself during the initial few weeks. However Poonch and Gilgit remained elusive but the intense fighting flagged with the onset of winter. Winder made much of the state impassable. In the meanwhile diplomatic efforts were going on in the United Nations. {UN was in its infancy, having born on October 24, 1945 and was just a 3 year old grouping of Nations formed after World War II }.

On June 9, 1949, Sheikh Abdullah and Maharaja Hari Singh agreed that J&K should remain united with India with the maximum possible autonomy. Mahajan in his book “Looking Back” says “Abdullah was completely against the idea of merging the state with Pakistan since the then largely secular Kashmiri populace did not buy Jinnah’s famous ‘two-nation’ theory, which envisioned the creation of two separate nations (India and Pakistan) along religious lines.”

On June 20, 1949, through a proclamation, the Maharaja announced his decision to abdicate the State on grounds of health and appointed his son, Yuvraj Dr. Karan Singh, as Regent of J&K. Hari Singh was hurriedly forced into exile and spent his final days in Mumbai, although he remained titular Maharaja of the state until 1952, when the monarchy was abolished. He passed away on April 26, 1961 and was cremated in Chandanwadi in Mumbai. His ashes was immersed in River Tawi.

Ceasefire & UN Resolution

After protracted negotiations at the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) between the two countries and recognising the degree of international attention brought to bear on the dispute, Nehru declared a ceasefire on January 1, 1949. The terms of the cease-fire, laid out in a UN Commission resolution on August 13, 1948, were adopted by the Commission on January 5, 1949. It was three-part resolution, amending the UN Security Council Resolution 47.

  • In the first step, Pakistan was asked to withdraw all its nationals that entered Kashmir for the sake of fighting.
  • In the second step, India was asked to progressively reduce its forces to the minimum level required for law and order.
  • In the third step, India was asked to appoint a plebiscite administrator nominated by the United Nations who would conduct a free and impartial plebiscite.

Shashi Tharoor, who was Under Secretary General of United Nations in his book “An Era of Darkness”: The British Empire in India” says : “The UN Security Council Resolution 47 was adopted para by para sequentially, not as a whole and it was announced at the time its obligations were to be implemented in sequence.”

By the end of the war, India was able to clear the regions of Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh from invading forces. India gained control of about two-thirds of erstwhile Princely state of J&K and Pakistan, the remaining one-third. Indian losses in the war is estimated to totalled 1,104 killed and 3,154 wounded and Pakistani losses, about 6,000 killed and 14,000 wounded.

While Nehru had the legal authority to exercise the legality of the Instrument of Accession vis-à-vis the whole of J&K (including the parts which are currently under administration of Pakistan), it is unclear why he didn’t and chose to take the issue to UN arbitration. Some sources claim that Prime Minister Nehru hoped that the International community would recognise Pakistan’s aggression and intervene to stop further bloodshed.

Special Status for J&K – Article 257 and Article 370

Article 257

By introducing Article 257 Special status was guaranteed for the people of the State of J&K in the Pakistani Constitution. It defines how the relation the State of J&K and Pakistan would be determined: “When the people of the State of J&K decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and the State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State”. Pakistan Administered Kashmir consists of two regions namely Gilgit-Baltistan (29,814 sq miles), formerly known as Federally Administered Northern Areas (FANA) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK; 4,144 sq miles).

However Gilgit-Baltistan is governed by Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self Governance) Order 2009, which was issued by the President of Pakistan after informal consultations with local leaders. And AJK is being governed under the Interim Constitution Act of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Act 1974, which was passed by Legislative Assembly of AJK and approved by the Government of Pakistan.

Pakistani Constitution claims that both these regions are autonomous. But practically, the real power for Gilgit – Baltistan is controlled by a council based in Islamabad with the Prime Minister of Pakistan as its Chairman. Likewise, AJK is vested in the Kashmir Council based in Islamabad, of which the Prime Minister of Pakistan is the head.

The Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir had granted special provisions to the people of his Princely State, one of which was ‘the State Subject Rule’. The State Subject Rule protected the status of the indigenous people since the rule allowed only the natives (also referred to as State-Subjects) to acquire permanent residence in the State. Pursuant to this rule, the natural resources of the State were the property of the indigenous people who had the right to utilize them without any outside interference.

Prior to the First Kashmir War (1948) between India and Pakistan, Gilgit Baltistan was part of the erstwhile Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir and is currently the northernmost administrative territory of Pakistan which became a separate administrative unit in 1970, known as Federally Administered Northern Areas. The Government of Pakistan, under the leadership of President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, abrogated the State Subject Rule in Gilgit Baltistan in 1974, which resulted in demographic changes in the territory affecting the local culture of the territory and in 2009 it was granted limited autonomy and was renamed from the Federally Administered Northern Areas to Gilgit-Baltistan via the Self Governance Order signed by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, making it de-facto a Province of Pakistan without constitutionally becoming part of Pakistan.

There is contradiction between the Constitution of Pakistan and the Interim Constitution of Pakistan Administered Jammu and Kashmir Act 1974; Article 257 states that “people of J&K are free to define their relationship with Pakistan if (and after) they decide to accede to Pakistan”. However as per the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act of 1974, “no person or political party in AJK is permitted to propagate against, or take part in activities prejudicial or detrimental to, the ideology of the State’s accession to Pakistan. No person can assume office unless he/she takes the oath of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan and nobody can be appointed to any government job unless he/she expresses loyalty to the concept of J&K’s accession to Pakistan”.

So in conclusion even though Pakistan has constitutionally provided special status to the state of J&K in Gilgit-Baltistan the Government of Pakistan abrogated the special status the State-Subject Rule in 1974. Although ‘Azad’ means “free in Urdu” the residents of AJK are anything but that. Pakistani authorities govern AJK government with tight controls on basic freedoms.

Article 370

The Constituent Assembly of India had 299 representatives, including 15 women. On August 15, 1947 the Constituent Assembly of India became India’s First Parliament. 28 members of the Muslim League joined the Indian Assembly and 93 members were later nominated from the princely states. Some members of the Constituent Assembly withdrawn to Karachi to form Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.

In July 1949, Sheikh Abdullah and three others were nominated by the Maharaja Dr. Karan Singh to the Constituent Assembly of India. They negotiated the special status of J&K, leading to the adoption of Article 370. (It was Article 306 A while being debated in the Constituent Assembly.) The negotiations were carried out over several months between Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Patel, N Gopalaswami Ayyangar (Cabinet Minister without portfolio and former Dewan of Kashmir) and Sheikh Abdullah and others.

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Maharaja Hari Singh and Sardar Vallabhai Patel

At the time of accession to India, all the Princely States had given the Dominion of India only three subjects – Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications. All other subjects would be in the state’s domain. The Princely states were invited to take their seats in the Constituent Assembly which was framing the Indian Constitution. With India becoming a Republic on January 26, 1950, the Constitution of India laid down provisions for other princely States as developed constituent units of the Union. In the case of other Indian States “Instruments of Accession became obsolete in the new Constitution” as the States were integrated with the Federal Republic by signing “Merger Agreements”, with no such condition that was recently guaranteed in the Instrument of Accession, for becoming Units of the Republic. In view of them, the Article 370 was incorporated in the Constitution.

The first meetings were held during May 15-16, 1949 at Patel’s residence in presence of Nehru too. Ayyangar, who eventually drafted Article 370, spoke in the Constituent Assembly on October 17, 1949: “We have also agreed that the will of the people, through the instrument of the Constituent Assembly, will determine the Constitution of the State as well as the sphere of the Union’s jurisdiction of the state… You will remember that several of these clauses provide for the concurrence of the J&K state. Now these relate particularly to the matters not mentioned in the Instrument of Accession and it is one of our commitments to the people and the Government of Kashmir that no such additions should be made except with the consent of the Constituent Assembly which may be called in the state for framing its Constitution.”

Nehru_Abdullah_Ayyangar

Sheikh Abdullah, Jawaharlal Nehru and Gopalaswami Ayyangar

Later, Abdullah insisted that the Article should not extend the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles to J&K, but leave it to the state’s Constituent Assembly to decide whether or not to adopt them. Patel was unhappy but allowed Ayyangar to proceed. Nehru was abroad then; Patel wrote to him on November 3, 1949: “After a great deal of discussion, I could persuade the [Congress] party to accept”. When Sheikh Abdullah threatened to resign from the Constituent Assembly, Patel asked Nehru to get him back on board.

Even though Patel was initially was opposed to integration of J&K with India, Article 370 is considered the best strategic negotiation done by Patel and Ayyanga. Patel’s lukewarmness about J&K is indicated in a letter that morning to Baldev Singh, India’s first Defence Minister, Patel had indicated that “if (J&K) decides to join the other Dominion, I would accept the fact”.

A special provision made in case of Kashmir was explained by Ayyanga, “It would not be so in the case of Kashmir, since a part of that particular State is still in the hands of the enemies”. When Ayyangar prepared a draft letter from Nehru to Abdullah summarising the broad understanding reached, he sent it to Patel with a note: “Will you kindly let Jawaharlalji know direct as to your approval of it? He will issue the letter to Sheikh Abdullah, only after receiving your approval.” So unlike what the RSS and BJP tries to make it look Sardar Patel was fully on board with Article 370. In fact he was the architect of it.

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Jammu and Kashmir Map

State of J&K was to have its own Constitution, Flag in addition to the Union Flag and several other provisions like the State Subject rule which only allows State Subjects of the State to purchase immovable property in J&K and acquire permanent residence. Regent of J&K Dr. Karan Singh, son of Maharaja Hari Singh was made Sadar-e-Riyasat (Head of State) and Sheikh Abdullah was the Prime Minister of Kashmir at Independence.

Article 370 was put in place to preserve the autonomy of J&K, leaving the decision-making powers with the state’s constituent assembly. In 1951, the first elections for the J&K Constituent Assembly were held which later elected a body of representatives to formulate the Constitution of J&K. The Constituent Assembly of J&K was to have a nominal membership of 100 members, of which 25 seats were allocated to Azad Kashmir under Pakistani control (which were never filled). Of the remaining 75 seats, Kashmir was allocated 43 seats, Ladakh 2 seats and Jammu 30 seats.

The J&K Constitution was adopted on November 17, 1956, and came into effect on January 26 1957. And on July 14, 1954, the Constituent Assembly of J&K decided that Article 370, which was “temporary” in nature shall remain in force, making it in essence a permanent feature of the Indian Constitution.

Systematic Dilution of Article 370

Spirit of Instrument of Accession: At the time of accession to India, like all other princely states J&K had given the centre only three subjects—defence, foreign affairs and communications. All other subjects would be in the state’s domain. An amendment made to the Constitution of India does not apply to the State unless it is extended by a Presidential order. This can be done only with the concurrence of the State Government. But India’s relentless bureaucratic efforts have since made several encroachments in the name of balanced rules and regulations. The fact is that New Delhi unilaterally extended several Indian laws without the state assembly’s support. But New Delhi wanted to usurp all the powers and unilaterally extend its authority to other subjects. Totally 44 amendments were made since Article 370 came into force on January 26, 1957 and until its abrogation on August 5, 2019, but all of them has been with the concurrence of the J&K state legislature. Sheikh Abdullah found the extension of the Supreme Court’s authority to be beneficial, he gladly supported it. Some laws which the Sheikh did not like were dropped. Many stayed because the Sheikh did not find them restricting the state’s authority. By and large the “consent of people of the state” through its Legislative Assembly was followed. 

Dismissal & Arrest of Sheikh Abdullah: On 8 August 1953, Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed as the Prime Minister of J&K by the then Sadr-e-Riyasat Dr Karan Singh, on the grounds that he had lost the support of the cabinet. He was not given a chance to prove his majority. According to Adbullah “it was when he opposed the centre’s unilateral extension of authority over other subjects he was dismissed even though he had a majority of assembly members with him.” B.N. Mullicks’ in his book “My Years with Nehru” said that “Sheikh Abdullah’s dismissal and arrest were engineered by the central government headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru”.

Sheikh Abdullah along with Mirza Afzal Beg and twenty-two others, were accused of conspiracy against the state for allegedly espousing the cause of an independent J&K and were arrested soon after for anti-national activities. The ‘Kashmir Conspiracy Case’ was framed in 1958 and the trial began in 1959. After two months’ internment in Ooty, Sheikh Abdullah was taken to the Kohinoor bungalow, a few miles outside Kodaikanal, and remained under house arrest for more than a decade.

Sheikh Abdullah called lovingly as “Sher-e-Kashmir” (Lion of Kashmir) was the tallest leader of J&K. He had played a key role in integration of J&K to Indian and he was the democratically elected leader. The people of Kashmir saw this as blatant interference by New Delhi, using the Sadr-e-Riyasat. People looked at the Governments of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad (who staged a coup against Abdullah), Khwaja Shamsuddin (in whose term the the Prophet’s Relic was stolen from the Hazratbal Shrine) and Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq (in whose term the when the position was renamed to Chief Minister) as Puppet governments. During the long years of imprisonment of Sheikh Abdullah, his loyalists split off from the NC party and formed a Plebiscite Front. The remaining members of the NC merged their party with the Congress.

Kashmir Conspiracy Case: On 8 April 1964, the state government dropped all charges in this infamous ‘Kashmir Conspiracy Case’. Sheikh Abdullah was released and returned to Srinagar to an unprecedented welcome by the people of the Valley. After his release he was reconciled with Nehru. Nehru requested Sheikh Abdullah to act as a bridge between India and Pakistan and make President Ayub Khan agree to come to New Delhi for talks for a final solution of the Kashmir problem. This paved the way for Sheikh Abdullah’s visit to Pakistan to help broker a solution to the Kashmir problem. He set up a meeting between Nehru and Ayub Khan. But before the proposed meeting between Ayub Khan, Nehru passed away in 1964. After Nehru’s death Abdullah was interned from 1965 to 1968 and exiled from Kashmir in 1971 again for 18 months.

Dissolution of Constituent Assembly: The Constituent Assembly was dissolved on January 26, 1957, based on Mir Qasim resolution it adopted and ratified on November 17 1956. The Constituent Assembly of J&K State had the legal authority to recommend the articles of the Indian constitution to be applied to the state or to abrogate Article 370 altogether. The Article was drafted in Part XXI of the Indian Constitution: Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions. The Constituent Assembly of J&K, after its establishment, was empowered to recommend the articles of the Indian constitution that should be applied to the state or to abrogate the Article 370 altogether. After consultation with the state’s Constituent Assembly, the 1954 Presidential Order was issued, specifying the articles of the Indian constitution that applied to the state. With the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in on January 26 1957, without recommending the abrogation of Artocle 370, the article became un-amendable and hence a permanent feature of the Indian Constitution. 

Appointment of Governors: The Governor of the State is to be appointed only after consultation with the elected Chief Minister of the State. At the first place the position is Sardr-e-Riyasat and not Governor. Even in the case of the position of Governors the Government of India never consulted the Chief Minister of Kashmir except in the case of Dr. Karan Singh and Bhagwan Sahay.

Reconciliation Phase: After the war with Pakistan in 1971, and the creation of Bangladesh, Sheikh Abdullah realised that for the survival of this region there was an urgent need to stop confrontational politics and resolve issues by a process of reconciliation and dialogue. When Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, came to power, the Sheikh started talks with her for normalising the situation in the region, and came to an accord called the 1974 “Kashmir Accord”, by giving up J&K’s demand for a plebiscite (people’s vote) in lieu of the people being given the right to self rule by a democratically elected government rather than the puppet government which till then had ruled the state. This had resulted in complete dilution of Article 370. NC won an overwhelming majority in the subsequent elections and re-elected Sheikh Abdullah as the Chief Minister in 1975. He remained as Chief Minister till his death in 1982. After his death his son Farooq Abdullah took over as Chief Minister. In 1984 Ghulam Mohammad Shah brother-in law of Farooq Abdullah to toppling the government with the help of 26 Congress MLAs. Farook Abdullah returned to power in Nov 1986, with Congress support, after understanding with Rajiv that Congress and the NC would form an alliance for the 1987 elections. The alliance won again Farooq became CM but was dismissed in January 1990. He again came back as CM in 1996 election and became the single largest party in 2002 elections when PDP and INC shared CM roles.

Allegations of 1987 Election Rigging: The election were held on 23 March 1987. Nearly 75 percent of the voters participated, highest recorded participation in the state. Nearly eighty per cent of the people in the Valley voted. There were allegations of mass rigging but the Rajiv Gandhi government and the Central Election Commission remained mute spectators. Governor Jagmohan is reported to have been appalled at what was being done, but he said that he was ordered by the central government in Delhi not to interfere. Many see this rigged election as a cause of militancy in Kashmir as the joining together of Congress and NC, the two largest political formation of the state lead squeezing the space for opposition. The alliance between NC and Congress suffocated the opposition and discontent could not be channeled. JKLF leaders like Abdul Ghani Lone became a separatist leader after the 1987 election. He later stated that many young people, out of frustration with the democratic process, decided to go for an armed struggle.

Increased Militancy: J&K witnessed sporadic periods of violence post the Independence of India, but never an organised insurgency till 1989. The self-styled movement was influenced by few occurrences around the globe, like the defeat of the Soviet Union by the Afghan Mujahedeen, supported by US and Pakistan. Pakistan which was active in the Afghan theatre mobilised the war-addicted Afghan Mujahedeen, having no more wars to fight, to the Valley of Kashmir. The year also witnessed the banning of the book “The Satanic Verses” (published in 1988), authored by Salman Rushdie, writer of Kashmiri origin, by Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei claiming it to be blasphemous. Many Kashmiri Muslims protested in support of banning the book.

Pakistan used Kashmiri religious parties and their militant squads like JKLF as a front to escalade armed attacks in J&K and succeeded in injecting the ideology of communalism in the Valley of Kashmir. Bitten by the loss of Bangladesh (which was East Pakistan), and also being a country which was ruled by Army more that civilian governments its objecting was to disintegrate India. For over 3 decades now Pakistan army and the ISI – known as the ‘deep state’ – waging a proxy war against India as part of their strategy of ‘bleeding India through a thousand cuts’. Pakistan’s motive is to annex and not to liberate J&K, is corroborated by the fact that majority of terrorist and separatist group’s objective remained merger with Pakistan.

Ethnic Cleansing: With the objective to banish the minority in order to strengthen Pakistan’s claim over J&K, the minorities Kashmiri Pandits were targetted. By 1990, almost all Kashmiri Pandits had left the Valley of Kashmir while many secular Kashmiri Muslims like writers, academics, artists and bureaucrats also fell prey to terrorist bullets. It is also estimated that by 1989, more than 10,000 Kashmiri Muslim youth had undergone training of weapons in Pakistan and Pakistan Administered Jammu & Kashmir. UNHCR Refuge Survey estimates that 2,50,000 to 3,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits fled the Kashmir Valley in 1990.

There was a massive propaganda drive against Sufi Islam and the composite Kashmiri culture, dubbed both as anti–Islamic. The self-styled ‘movement’ was not only religiously fueled, but also unevenly distributed across the region. The people of Jammu and Ladakh region distanced and maintained an anti-movement stance; supporting India. In September 1990 India declared J&K a disturbed area and passed the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and it has been in force since. The Act have received criticism from several sections for alleged concerns about human rights violations in J&K as well as other regions. On 31 March 2012, the UN asked India to revoke AFSPA saying it had no place in Indian democracy. Christof Heyns, UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said “During my visit to Kashmir, AFSPA was described to me as ‘hated’ and ‘draconian’. It clearly violates International Law”.

Pellet Guns: After the year 2008, the rise of insurgency and separatist movement in Kashmir conflict, the stone pelting became a prominent form of protest. This was a marked change in the protests that used to happen Kashmir. The locals called this protest as “Kanni Jung” (fighting with stones) and the protester Sangbaaz (stone pelter). TimesNow has reported that in 2016-17 Unrest, some stone-pelters are paid for protesting by separatist/ ISI. In the year 2010 India had instituted the use of pellet guns to control protesters violently clashing with the police. Many NGOs and UN agencies came out against it due to the grievous and lethal injuries they cause. In 2016 government formed a committee to look into alternative riot control agents. The army recommended to the committee that non-lethal weapons – including pepper guns, sonic cannons, and chili grenades – replace pellet guns. However in 2018, India reversed its decision and resorted to use of pellet guns indiscriminately to disperse protesters, stone-pelters and rioters.

Governor’s Rule: Governors rule can also be imposed on the State for a maximum period of six months. India has imposed Governors Rule or Presidents Rule 11 times since 1977 mostly sighting it as a emergency measure because of terrorism. Though the period has been less than 6 months in most cases but the Presidents Rule (20 June 2018 – 19 Dec 2018), before the Presidential order withdrawing special status, was for 6 months. It was extended for a further period of six months with effect from 3rd July, 2019. Under Section 92 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, there is no provision for further continuation of such Proclamation after six months. Hence, on the recommendation of Governor and having regard to the prevailing situation in the State, President issued a proclamation promulgating President’s Rule in J&K under article 356 of the Constitution of India. Subsequently, a Resolution approving the subject Proclamation by President was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 28, 2018 and in the Rajya Sabha on January 3, 2019.

Article 35A: Article 35 A protects the demographic status of the J&K state in its prescribed constitutional form. Article 35A allowed the state to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents. The state of J&K defined these privileges to include the ability to purchase land and immovable property, ability to vote and contest elections, seeking government employment and availing other state benefits such as higher education and health care. Non-permanent residents of the state, even if Indian citizens, were not entitled to these ‘privileges’. Kashmiris are apprehensive that any move to abrogate Article 35A would open the gates for a demographic transformation of the valley, an objective advanced by the Sangh Parivar groups as an ideal solution to the Kashmir issue. The state’s autonomy has been gradually eroded by various governments of Delhi through misuse of the provisions of Article 370, and many Kashmiris have come to regard the rights of permanent settlement as the only remaining piece of any meaningful autonomy. So scrapping of Article 35A, will only alienate Kashmiri’s further and this would face legal scrutiny.

Change in Administrative Structure: The Parliament of India is not empowered to make laws on the subjects of State of J&K under any circumstance and cannot change the name, boundary or territory of the State without the concurrence of the Constituent Assembly. The Union government recently changed the administrative structure of J&K, bifurcated the state into two Union Territories, a decision the government claimed is aimed at pushing the restive state towards development. The hypocrisy of the claim is evident when you check the Human Development Index Report 2017 J&K is ranked 17 (0.684) and much above Karnataka is ranked 18 (0.682) and Gujarat is ranked 21 (0.667), while Kerala leads at 0.784. By the UN Method J&K is ranked 11 (0.684) and much above Karnataka is ranked 12 (0.682) and Gujarat is ranked 15 (0.667). The Union Government also scraped Article 35A and reorganise J&K (into two Union territories). Jammu & Kashmir was made a Union Territory with a legislature and Ladakh a separate Union Territory without a legislature. Let it sink in. The Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir was the largest state to join the Indian Union, and it has now lost its “statehood”. The state being dismembered into two Union Territories,is bound to result in a massive backlash, in the years to come. The 87 days “non co-operation” protest by the people of the state, is evidence to that.

High Court & Supreme Court judgement on Article 370: On October 11, 2015 J&K High Court in the Sampat Prakash versus State of J&K case ruled that Article 370, granting special status to the State, though titled as ‘Temporary Provision’ and included in Para XXI titled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’ has assumed place of permanence in the Constitution.” The division Bench of Justices Hasnain Masoodi and Janak Raj Kotwal ruled in a 60-page judgement, ruled that the feature is beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation. The judgement held that “Article 370 was a permanent provision of the Constitution as the Constitution Assembly of J&K was dissolved.

On 3 April 2018, the Supreme Court of India gave a similar opinion declaring that Article 370 has acquired a permanent status through years of existence, making its abrogation impossible. Justices Adarsh K Goel and R F Nariman observed that, “since the State Constituent Assembly has ceased to exist, the President of India would not be able to fulfil the mandatory provisions required for its abrogation. The Supreme Court observed in 2016 in the case that “though the marginal note refers to Article 370 as only a temporary provision, it is in fact in current usage and will continue to be in force until the specified event in sub-clause (3) of the said Article of the Indian Constitution, takes place”.

The Supreme Court verdict mentions “specified events in Article 370 in sub-clause (3)”. Legally, as per provisions of Article 370 in sub-clause (3), Article 370 cannot be scrapped by a Presidential Order without the recommendation of the State Constituent Assembly if not the State Assembly and currently there is no valid J&K Assembly. The resolution was passed when J&K was and is virtually under lock-down and three of its former Chief Ministers and other mainstream political party leaders under house arrest. Bringing such a sweeping Presidential Order and then a bill attempting to bifurcate a state into Union Territories under President’s Rule (which is a stand-in option), is blatant mockery of rule of law as the changes being brought are permanent in nature.

The BJP’s support to the PDP to form the government after the December 2014 elections, its subsequent withdrawal of support from the PDF-led government and imposition of President’s Rule after the dissolution of the state assembly have created a situation wherein people’s representation is absent. J&K is under President’s rule from December 2018 and the Governor is the senior-most political functionary of the state right now. This leads to a legal complication as Article 370 can be abrogated only by taking the Legislative Assembly into confidence. The Governor, being an appointee of the Central Government as a formal head of the state, reports to the Centre under the constitutional framework is hardly a representative of the state. So, since the Governor is appointed by the President, this whole exercise is like the central government taking its own consent.

So in effect Article 370 was a non functional Article of Indian Constitution. It was just a vestigial law, as New Delhi had systematically diluted its provisions over the years, in the name of “balanced rules and regulations in the states”. All these actions of New Delhi; indoctrination of the people of the valley with radical Islam and the proxy war being wagged against India as part of their strategy of ‘bleeding India through a thousand cuts’ has led to the Valley’s alienation and hostility and not Article 370.  The only provision that the Government has achieved with this ‘masterstroke’ of Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) order 2019 is making Article 35A defunct.

Abolition of Article 370

Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is arguably the most contentious provision since its implementation and has flared constant debates. While one section of the Indian polity strongly demand its abrogation, some others have ardently opposed this demand. Morally the RSS and BJP can also argue that Pakistan has already changed the “Special Status” of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, India is in its rights to change the status of Kashmir. The BJP had talked of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A in its 2019 manifesto and has never been shy of making its preferences clear on the matter. So in some ways, the move should not be that surprising.

As discussed earlier, the arguments in favour and against abrogation of article 370 are both debatable, however on legal grounds it cannot be abrogated as it would translate into fundamentally changing the Instrument of Accession. The High Court of J&K in October 2015, had ruled that Article 370 cannot be “abrogated, repealed or even amended”. It explained that Article 370 sub-clause 3 of the Article conferred power to the State’s Constituent Assembly to recommend to the President on the matter of the repeal of the Article. Since the Constituent Assembly did not make such a recommendation before its dissolution in 1957, Article 370 has taken on the features of a “permanent provision” despite being titled a temporary provision in the Constitution. The Supreme Court upheld the views in April 2018.

The first NDA Government led Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s approach to the problem of Kashmir was pragmatic and practical. His Kashmir policy is perhaps one of the stellar achievements of his tenure as the Prime Minister of India. With a single stroke of eloquence, he had changed the tone of New Delhi’s narrative on J&K. His slogan Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat, Kashmiriyat (humanitarian principle, democratic principle and respecting the inclusive culture of Kashmir), given in 2003, became a cornerstone of the forces of reconciliation in the State. Every mention of these three magical words used to evoked a tremendous response in the Valley.

But second and third NDA Government led by Narendra Damodardas Modi Government has wiped all that away. This NDA government believes in strong arm tactics with scant respect for Insaniyat or Jamhooriyat or Kashmiriyat. Instead of Jamhooriyat, Modi Government used Constitutional jugulary to dilute the provisions of Article 370. And I am sure the BJP Government have used the brains of Constitutional Lawyer like Harish Salve to dilute the special status to J&K guaranteed under Article 370 of the Constitution without scrapping the provision by creating a “legal fiction”. The government did so without bringing a Constitutional amendment, that would require two-thirds majority in the Parliament.

The Supreme Court and High Court of J&K interpreted recently that, as per provisions of Article 370 (sub-clause 3) of the Indian Constitution, Article 370 cannot be scrapped by a Presidential order without the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of J&K and the Constituent Assembly has been dissolved in January 26, 1957. So the BJP Government used provisions of the Article 370 to amend Article 367 (which deals with Interpretation) in respect of J&K, and then this amendment was used to amend Article 370 itself.

The Presidential order on August 5, 2019, adds a sub-clause to Article 367, replacing the terms “Constituent Assembly of J&K” to mean “Legislative Assembly of J&K” and “Government of J&K” to mean “Governor of J&K acting on the aid and advice of the council of ministers”. The President draws the power to issue such a notification from Article 370 itself. Article 370 sub clause 1(d) empowers the President to extend provisions of the Indian Constitution to J&K. Now since Article 360 demands every Presidential order to have the concurrence of “Government of J&K”. And since J&K is currently under Governor’s rule, Governor of J&K Satya Pal Malik’s concurrence is deemed to be the “Government of J&K’s” concurrence.

JKnotification

Let me explain the “Legal Fiction”, as most of the print and visual media in India has refused to do that:

  • The “Legislative Assembly of J&K” is deemed to be the “Constituent Assembly of J&K”.
  • Consultation with the “Legislative Assembly of J&K” is deemed to be the consultation with “Constituent Assembly of J&K.
  • Since the “Legislative Assembly of J&K” is dissolved, the “Governor of J&K” is deemed to be the “Legislative Assembly of J&K” (which is deemed to “Constituent Assembly of J&K”).
  • Hence, the consultation with or recommendation of the “Governor of J&K” is deemed to be the consent of the “Constituent Assembly of J&K” to abrogate the Constitution of J&K and also deemed to be its recommendation to bring about the changes in Article 370 to make the entire Constitution of India applicable to the state.
  • Another major extension of this so-called logic of legal fiction is that the requirement mandated by Article 3 that altering the shape of a state should be done only after referring the bill for views of the state assembly, has been presumed to have been done, because the Governor was consulted.

Am sure this undemocratic and dubious way by which Supreme Court and High Court of J&K’s judgement has been subverted will go through judicial review. There are about 14 PILs on J&K filed in the Supreme Court. But then Chief Justice Ranjan Gagoi has time and again refused to hear them. The UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights recently said “Supreme Court of India has been slow to deal with petitions concerning hebeas corpus, freedom of movement and media restrictions” but even Chief Justice Designate Sharad Arvind Bobde refused to comment on it.

In the history of independent India, Union Territories have been made States, but never has a State been reduced to Union Territory status. Jammu & Kashmir was the largest Princely State to join the Indian Union. The move to deny statehood goes against the federal and democratic nature of the Constitution as it brings more powers under central control, when ideally the flow of power should be in the reverse direction. The lockdown imposed in Jammu & Kashmir for the last 87 days, and making the Valley into a largest open-air prison, is bound to result in a massive backlash. But then people of India is lost in the spectacle of a delegation of 23 Right-wing EU MPs visiting Kashmir.

We really live in interesting times. Since the Government of India decided that October 31, 2019 is going to be the date of incorporation of the two new Union Territories – Union Territory Jammu & Kashmir and Union Territory Ladakh, preparations are underway for the swearing-in of the two newly-appointed Lieutenant Governors in Srinagar and Leh, as I pen this article.

Gandhiji’s Assassination Trial

One of the most touching events in the heart of every Indian till date is the assassination of the father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi in the morning of January 30, 1948, jolting the barely six months old country into complete despair.

Nathuram Godse, who shot Gandhiji in the chest three times at point blank range, is still considered as one of the most hated names in Indian History. With three bullets from a Beretta pistol, he wiped out the existence of a person who had been a legend and a person who had been a constant embodiment of peace and harmony, not only for India but the world at large.

In 1948, after India and Pakistan had already started a war over Kashmir. The government of India, led by Indian National Congress (INC), had withheld a payment of  Pakistan’s revenue share of Rs. 55 Crore, in January 1948. The argument was that it did not want to finance Pakistan, which was at war with at that time. Gandhi opposed the decision to freeze the payment, and went on a fast-unto-death on 13 January 1948 to pressure the newly formed Indian government to release the payment to Pakistan. The Indian government, yielding to Gandhiji, reversed its decision. Gandhiji assassins Nathuram Godse and his colleagues interpreted this sequence of events to be a case of him controlling power and hurting India. This was the third attempt on Gandhiji and all of the attempts are here.

It is important that one may take into account many unknown aspects of this most serious case, which shuddered the conscience of our nation as well as the entire world.

Red Fort Trial

The Gandhi murder trial opened in May 1948 in Delhi’s historic Red Fort, with Nathuram Godse the main defendant, and his collaborator Narayan Apte and six others as the co-defendants. A Special Court was constituted under notification No. 54/1/48-Political, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, dated 4-5-48, under sub section 10 and 11 of the Bombay Public Security Measures Act, 1947, as extended to the Province of Delhi. Justice Mr. Atma Charan, I.C.S. was appointed Special Judge. The Court held its sittings in a hall on the upper storey of a building in the Red Fort.

First Defendant, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, 37 was a Editor of Hindu Rastra, a Marathi Newspaper. He was born in a Maharashtrian Chitpavan Brahmin family from Pune and he never showed remorse for what he did. At 22 he joined the RSS – an organisation of which the avowed aim was to protect Hindu culture and solidarity. A few years later he shifted to Pune, and became Secretary of the local branch of the Hindu Mahasabha.

Second Defendant was Narayan Datatraya Apte, 34 came of a middle-class Brahmin family from Pune, Maharashtra. After taking his B.Sc. degree he became a school teacher at Ahmednagar. There he started a rifle club and joined the Hindu Rashtra Dal. He also had a stint in British Military service. He was Proprietor Savarkarite Group of Newspapers. Apte was taken it custody on February 14, 1948.

Third Defendant was Vishnu Ramkrishna Karkare, 37 from Ahmednagar, Maharashtra and had a chequered childhood and adolescence. His parents, unable to support him and bring him up. took him to an orphanage and, leaving him there, abandoned him. He ran away and earned his livelihood and did odd jobs in hotels and restaurants. He joined as a musician in a travelling troupe and finally started a restaurant of his own in Ahmednagar. He volunteered in relief efforts to religious riots (Noakhali). He became an active member of the Hindu Mahasabha, and was elected secretary of the district branch. Karkare was arrested on February 14, 1948.

Fourth Defendant was Madanlal K. Pahwa, 20 a Punjabi Hindu from Pakpattan (now in Pakistan) was staying at Ahmednagar refugee camp, Maharashtra. He ran away from school to join the Royal Indian Navy. When he failed to pass his examination he went to Pune and joined the Army. After a brief period of training he asked for, and was given, a release order. He went home to Pakistan, and when large-scale rioting started in 1947, he was evacuated to Ferozepore. Twenty members of the Pahwa clan who chose to travel by train met a tragic end at Dhundia. He tried in vain to secure employment, and his continued failures added to his sense of resentment. His father a Congressman had abandoned him. Haunted by the ghosts of the immediate past, Pahwa emerged as a reactionary. He joined the Hindu Rashtrya Sena headed by Dr D.S. Parchure and life revolved around a one-point agenda: “To fight the Mohammedans”. He was arrested on January 20, 1948 after the failed attempt on Gandhiji.

Fifth Defendant was Shankar Kistayya, 27 from Pune, Maharashtra, was the son of a village carpenter.  He had no schooling of any kind and remained illiterate. After an unsteady period of temporary jobs, he went to Pune and obtained employment as a rickshaw puller. He was a domestic worker employed by Digambar Badge. Shankar was arrested on February 6, 1948.

Sixth Defendant was Gopal Godse, 27 from Pune, Maharashtra. He was the brother of Nathuram Godse. After working for some time for the Hindu Mahasabha, he joined the Army as a member of the civilian personnel, and was appointed a store-keeper of the Motor Transport Spares Sub-Depot at Kirkee, a military station near Pune. Gopal Godse was taken into custody on February 5, 1948.

Seventh Defendant was Dr. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, 65 from Mumbai, Maharashtra. He was an author, barrister and historian. He joined a revolutionary body and was sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. He was subsequently interned. On his release he joined and served as President of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha from 1937 to the time of trial. He exercised a great deal of influence over its deliberations and policies. His house Savarkar Sadan was visited by all Hindu leaders, and the meetings held there were viewed with an eye of suspicion by the authorities. He was arrested on February 5, 1948 and kept under detention in the Arthur Road Prison, Bombay.

Eighth Defendant was Dr. Dattatraya Sadashiv Parchure, 49 was a Brahmin from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. His father held a high post in the Education Department of the State and was a greatly respected individual. Parchure qualified as a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, and joined the State Medical Service. He was dismissed in 1934 and began practising privately. He took an active part in the activities of the Hindu Mahasabha was elected the Chief of the local Hindu Rashtrya Sena. Dr. Parchure was apprehended from his house in Gwalior on Feb 5, 1948.

Other defendants Gangadar S. Dadawate, Gangadar Jadhav and Suryadev Sharma were declared absconding from justice, and the case against them was heard in absentia.

Digambar R Badge (pronounced Bahdgay), turned approver. He was a Maratha from Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. He had a brief period of schooling, and long before the stage of matriculation could be reached he abandoned studies and went to Pune to earn his livelihood. He experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining permanent employment. As temporary job he collected funds for a charitable institution and went with a money-box from door to door, his remuneration being one-fourth of the collections made by him. He bought small quantities of knives, daggers and knuckle, sale of which didn’t need licence. Gradually he expanded the scope of his activities, and finally started a shop of his own. The Hindus residing near the border to the State to Hyderabad were particularly good customers. Badge, thus, came into contact with members of the Hindu Mahasabha and began attending the annual sessions of this body wherever they were held. In 1947 he enlarged his business, adding contraband  firearms and ammunition to his stock-in-trade. Badge was taken into custody on January 31,1948.

The Fateful Day

Manu Gandhi: Manuben Gandhi was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s great niece. Abhaben Chatterjee was a girl adopted by the Gandhis who would later marry Gandhi’s nephew, Kanu Gandhi. They were walking with Gandhi when he was assassinated. According to Last Glimpses Of Bapu, a memoir by Manuben Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi (Bapu) started the day in Birla Bhawan by listening to a recitation of the Bhagavad Gita.

Gandhiji had worked on a Congress constitution he wanted to publish in the Harijan, had his bath and massage at 8 a.m., and reprimanded Manuben to take care of herself since her health was not what it should be for an 18-year-old. Gandhi, aged 78, was weighed after his bath and was 49.7 kg (109.5 pounds). He then ate lunch with Pyarelalji discussing Noakhali riots. After lunch, states Manuben, Gandhi napped. After waking up, he had a meeting with Sardar (Patel) Dada. Two Kathiawar leaders wanted to meet him, and when Manuben informed Gandhi that they wanted to meet him, Gandhi replied, “Tell them that, if I remain alive, they can talk to me after the prayer on my walk”.

According to Manuben’s memoir the meeting between Sardar Dada and Bapu went past the scheduled time and Gandhi was about ten minutes late to the prayer meeting. He began his walk to the prayer location with Manuben to his right and Abha to his left, holding onto them as walking sticks. A stout young man in khaki dress,  pushed his way through the crowd bent over and with his hands folded. Manuben thought that the man wanted to touch Gandhi’s feet. She pushed the man aside saying, “Bapu is already ten minutes late, why do you embarrass him”.

Godse pushed her aside so forcibly that she lost her balance and the rosary, notebook, and Gandhi’s spittoon she was carrying, fell out of her hands. She recalled that as she bent to the ground to pick up the items she heard four shots, resounding booms, and she saw smoke everywhere. Gandhi’s hands were folded, with his lips saying, “Hei Ra…ma! Hei Ra…!”. Abhaben, wrote Manuben, had also fallen down and she saw the assassinated Gandhi in Abhaben’s lap.

Gandhi Smriti Delhi

The place Birla Bavan where Gandhiji was assassinated has been converted into a memorial called Gandhi Smriti. 

The pistol shots had deafened her, wrote Manuben, the smoke was very thick, and the incident complete within 3 to 4 minutes. A crowd of people rushed towards them, according to Manuben. The watch she was carrying showed 5:17 p.m. and blood was everywhere on their white clothes. Manuben estimated that it took about ten minutes to carry Gandhi back into the house, and no doctor was available in the meanwhile. They only had a first aid box, but there was no medicine in it for treating Gandhi’s wounds.  According to Manuben, the first bullet from the assassin’s seven-bore automatic hit the belly 3.5 inches to the right of the middle and 2.5 inches above the navel; the second hit the belly 1 inch away from middle, and the third 4 inches away to the right”.

Gandhi had suffered profuse blood loss. Everyone was crying loudly. In the house, Bhai Saheb had phoned the hospital many times, but was unable to reach any help. He then went to Willingdon Hospital in person, but came back disappointed. Manuben and others read Gita as Gandhi’s body lay in the room. Col. Bhargava arrived, and he pronounced Gandhi dead.

Herbert Reiner Jr.: According to some reports, while the attending crowd was still in shock, Gandhi’s assassin Godse was seized by Herbert Reiner Jr, a 32-year-old, newly arrived vice-consul at the American embassy in Delhi. According to an obituary for Reiner published in May 2000 by The Los Angeles Times, Reiner’s role was reported on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

According to W. K. Stratton (1950), an American writer, Reiner had reached Birla House after work, arriving fifteen minutes before the scheduled start of the prayer meeting at 5 p.m. on January 30, 1948, and finding himself in a relatively small crowd. Although there were some armed guards present, Reiner felt that the security measures were inadequate, especially in view of an attempted bomb explosion at the same location ten days before. By the time Gandhi and his small party reached the garden area a few minutes after five, the crowd had swelled to several hundred, which Reiner described as comprising “schoolboys, girls, sweepers, members of the armed services, businessmen, sadhus, holy men, and even vendors displaying pictures of ‘Bapu'”. At first, Reiner had been at some distance from the path leading to the dais, but he moved forward, explaining later, “An impulse to see more, and at a closer range, of this Indian leader impelled me to move away from the group in which I had been standing to the edge of the terrace steps”.

As Gandhi was walking briskly up the steps leading to the lawn, an unidentified man in the crowd spoke up, somewhat insolently in Reiner’s recollection, “Gandhiji, you are late”. Gandhi slowed down his pace, turned toward the man, and gave him an annoyed look, passing directly in front of Reiner at that moment. But no sooner had Gandhi reached the top of the steps, than another man, a stocky Indian man, in his 30s, and dressed in khaki clothes, stepped out from the crowd and into Gandhi’s path. He soon fired several shots up close, at once felling Gandhi.

A BBC correspondent Robert Stimson described what happened next in a radio report filed that night: “For a few seconds no one could believe what had happened; every one seemed dazed and numb. And then a young American who had come for prayers rushed forward and seized the shoulders of the man in the khaki coat. That broke the spell… Half a dozen people stooped to lift Gandhi. Others hurled themselves upon the attacker… He was overpowered and taken away”. Others, as well, described how the crowd seemed paralysed until Reiner’s action.

Robert Trumbull of The New York Times, who was an eyewitness, described Reiner’s action in a front-page story on January 31, 1948. The assassin was seized by Tom Reiner of Lancaster, Mass., a vice consul attached to the American Embassy and a recent arrival in India… Mr. Reiner grasped the assailant by the shoulders and shoved him toward several police guards. Only then did the crowd begin to grasp what had happened and a forest of fists belabored the assassin…

According to Frank Allston of Chicago Tribune, Reiner stated that Godse stood nearly motionless with a small Beretta dangling in his right hand and to my knowledge made no attempt to escape or to take his own fire… Moving toward Godse I extended my right arm in an attempt to seize his gun but in doing so grasped his right shoulder in a manner that spun him into the hands of Royal Indian Air Force men, also spectators, who disarmed him. I then fastened a firm grasp on his neck and shoulders until other military and police took him into custody.

Murder Weapon

The assassination was carried out with a 9mm Beretta, automatic pistol bearing a serial number 606824. The gun was manufactured in 1934 by an Italian Beretta Pistolcompany.

In 1935, Italy’s Mussolini’s army attacked Africa’s Ethiopia, and one of the senior officer used that gun. In 1941, after Italy surrendered to the British Army, the gun came to Gwalior Infantry. The Commander General V. V. Joshi took this gun as a trophy. Somehow, this gun came in hands of Jagdishprasad Goyal, a local weapon dealer, who sold the gun for Rs. 500, to Nathuram Godse.

FIR

First Information of a Cognisable Crime Reported under Section 154, Cr.P.C at Tughlak Road Police Station. The complainant was Mr. Nand Lal Mehta, son of Mr. Natha Lal Mehta, Indian, Building Lala Suraj Prasad, M Block, Connaught Circus.

The FIR was written in Urdu with Persian words. Image courtesy : http://kiranbedi.com/

Here is the verbatim translation of the FIR extracted verbatim from Printed Record of Mahatma Gandhi Murder case Volume III. QuoteStatement of Shri Nand Lal Mehta, son of Shri Natha Lal Mehta, Indian, resident of Connaught Circus, Building Lala Sarju Prasad

“Today I was present at Birla House. Around ten minutes past five in the evening, Mahatma Gandhi left his room in Birla House for the Prayer Ground. Sister Abha Gandhi and sister Sanno Gandhi were accompanying him. Mahatma was walking with his hands on the shoulders of the two sisters. Two more girls were there in the group. I alongwith Lala Brij Kishan, a silver merchant, resident of No. 1, Narendra Place, Parliament Street and Sardar Gurbachan Singh, resident of Timar Pur, Delhi were also there. Apart from us, women from the Birla household and two-three members of the staff were also present. Having crossed the garden, Mahatma climbed the concrete steps towards the prayer place. People were standing on both the sides and approximately three feet of vacant space was left for the Mahatma to pass through. As per the custom the Mahatma greeted the people with folded hands. He had barely covered six or seven steps when a person whose name I learnt later as Narayan Vinayak Godse, resident of Poona, stepped closer and fired three shots from a pistol at the Mahatma from barely 2 / 3 feet distance which hit the Mahatma in his stomach and chest and blood started flowing. Mahatmaji fell backwards, uttering “Raam – Raam”. The assailant was apprehended on the spot with the weapon. The Mahatma was carried away in an unconscious state towards the  residential unit of the Birla House where he passed away instantly and the police took away the assailant.

Sd/-
N.L. Mehta/30 January 1948

Having received the information I rushed to the Birla House to find the dead body of the Mahatma at room No. 3. Met Shri Nand Lal Mehta, his statement recorded and got confirmed after reading it out to him. Copy of the statement handed over to him. Came to know that the assailant was whisked away by the Assistant Sub-Inspector. It was a case of Section 302 Indian Penal Code. All the case papers were sent to the Police Station Tughlak Road and I got engaged in conducting investigations. A special report may be forwarded through the police station.

Sd/- in English/30 January 1948″ Unquote.

Trial Court

The trial began on May, 27, 1948 and ran for eight months before Justice Atma Charan passed his final order on February 10, 1949. The prosecution called 149 witnesses, the defence none.

Gandhi Murder Trial

                 May 27, 1948: On the first day of the Gandhi murder trial held at the Red Fort.                                       (From left, Front Row) Nathuram Godse, Narayan Apte and Vishnu Karkare.                    (From left, Seated Behind) Digambar Badge, Shankar Kistayya, V. D. Savarkar and Gopal Godse.

On February 27, 1948, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, wrote to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru: “I have kept myself almost in daily touch with the progress of the investigation regarding Bapu’s assassination case… It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha – directly under Savarkar that [hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through” (Sardar Patel Correspondence 1945-50, Vol 6, Page 56, edited by Durga Das)

However, personal conviction would not compromise Patel’s commitment to due legal process. Not surprisingly Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, a member of the Nehru Cabinet, incongruously pleaded with Patel on behalf of Savarkar, whom he had succeeded as President of the Hindu Mahasabha, on the very day the Special Court was set up. Dr. Mookerjee’s concern was that Savarkar “was being prosecuted on account of his political convictions”. Sardar Patel wrote a letter to him 20 days before Savarkar was named in the chargesheet, explaining “I have told (the Advocate-General and other legal advisers and investigating officers), quite clearly, that the question of inclusion of Savarkar must be approached purely from a legal and judicial standpoint and political considerations should not be imported into the matter… I have also told them that, if they come to the view that Savarkar should be included, the papers should be placed before me before action is taken. This is, of course, insofar as the question of guilt is concerned from the point of view of law and justice. Morally, it is possible that one’s conviction may be the other way about”.

“I quite agree with you that the Hindu Mahasabha, as an organisation, was not concerned in the conspiracy that led to Gandhiji’s murder; but at the same time, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that an appreciable number of the members of the Mahasabha gloated over the tragedy and distributed sweets. On this matter, reliable reports have come to us from all parts of the country. Further, militant communalism, which was preached until only a few months ago by many spokesmen of the Mahasabha, including men like Mahant Digbijoy Nath, Prof. Ram Singh and Deshpande, could not but be regarded as a danger to public security. The same would apply to the RSS, with the additional danger inherent in an organisation run in secret on military or semi-military lines.” (Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, Volume 6, Pages 65-66).

Digambar Badge, who supplied weapons and ammunition to the main accused Nathuram Godse and his collaborator Narayan Apte, turned approver. According to his statement, Nathuram and Apte visited Savarkar’s home called Savarkar Sadan in Shivaji Park, Dadar, on January 17, 1948, to seek his blessings. Badge said he was asked to wait in the ground floor as Nathura and Apte went up to the first floor. “They returned in five to ten minutes followed by Savarkar. He addressed Nathuram Godse and told him. “Yashasvi houn yaa” (Return successful). Badge stated that later in the cab, Apte said, “Tatyarao ni ase bhavishya kele ahe ki ata Gandhi chi shambhar varshe bharli. Ata kahi sanvshay nahi ki apla kaam yashasvi honaar. (Tatyarao, Savarkar, has predicted that now Gandhi’s hundred years are over. There is no doubt that our work will be successful” (‘Let’s Kill Gandhi’ by Tushar A Gandhi). But during the course of the trial both Nathura Godse and Dr. V D Savarkar denied Badge’s statement.

The examination and the cross-examination of Badge went on from July 20, 1948 till July 30, 1948. He was cross-examined for nearly seven days. Justice Charan had found Badge to be a “truthful witness”. There was ample opportunity for the Justice Charan to observe his demeanour and the manner of his giving evidence. The Judge also found circumstantial evidence against Savarkaar to be “impressive” but in the absence of independent corroboration of some of the crucial parts of Badge’s testimony, Judge found it “unsafe” to convict Savarkar. This is based on the school of legal thought which found it worthy to take “the risk of letting a thousand criminals go unpunished in the process of ensuring that not a single innocent man is penalised”.

It must be noted however that during the assassination trial, the prosecution did not call to the stand American marine Herbert Reiner Jr., who caught Godse or the nephew of then Congress Minister Takthmal Jain of Madhya Bharat Ministry (1948), who claimed to have heard four shots or Savarkar’s bodyguard Ramchandra Kasar and Savarkar’s secretary Gajanan Damle, both of who claimed that Savarkar met with Godse and Ampte at Savarkar Sadan, two times prior to the assassination or Jagdishprasad Goyal, the person who sold the pistol to Nathuram Godse at Gwalior.

All the eight men were convicted for the murder conspiracy, and others convicted for violation of the Explosive Substances Act. Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were sentenced to death by hanging and the remaining six were sentenced to life imprisonment. Dr. Savarkar was let off for want of “corroborating evidence”. Justice Atma Charan, at the time of announcing his order, informed the convicted persons that if they wished to appeal, they should do so within fifteen days. Four days later appeals were filed in the Punjab High Court on behalf of all the seven convicted persons.

Naturam Godse’s Statement in Court

During the trial, Godse did not deny killing Gandhiji, and filed a long written statement in the trial court explaining his motivations for the assassination. Here is the full text of his representation in Court extracted verbatim. This is being shared for the readers to make a dispassionate view of the incident and give a historic perspective.

Quote “Born in a devotional Brahmin family, I instinctively came to revere Hindu religion, Hindu history and Hindu culture. I had been intensely proud of Hinduism as a whole. Nevertheless, as I grew up. I developed a tendency to free thinking unfettered by any superstitious allegiance to any ‘ism’ political or religious. That is why I worked actively for the eradication of untouchability and the caste system based on birth alone. I publicly joined anti-caste movements and maintained that all Hindus should be treated with equal status as to rights, social and religious, and should be high or low on their merit alone and not through the accident of birth in a particular caste or profession. I used publicly to take part in organised anti-caste dinners in which thousands of Hindus, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Charmars and Bhangis broke the caste rules an dined in the company of each other.

I have read the works of Dadabhai Naoroji, Vivekanand, Gokhale, Tilak along with books of ancient and modern history of India and of some prominent countries in the world like England, France, America and Russia. Not only that, I studied tolerably well the current tenets of Socialism and Communism too. But above all I studied very closely whatever Veer Savarkar and Gandhiji had written and spoken, as to my mind, these two ideologies had contributed more to mould the thought and action of modern India during the last fifty years or so, than any other single factor had done.

All this reading and thinking brought me to believe that, above all, it was my first duty to serve the Hindudom and the Hindu people, as a patriot and even as a humanitarian. For, is it not true that to secure the freedom and to safeguard the just interests of some thirty crores of Hindus constituted the freedom and the well-being of one-fifth of human race? This conviction led me naturally to devote myself to the new Hindu Sanghatanist ideology and programme, which alone, I came to believe, could win and preserve the national independence of Hindustan, my Motherland, and enable her to render true service to humanity as well.

In 1946 or thereabouts the Muslim atrocities perpetrated on the Hindus under the Government patronage of Suhrawardy in Noakhali, made our blood boil. Our shame and indignation knew to bounds, when we saw that Gandhiji had come forward to shield that very Suhrawardy and begun to style him as ‘Shahid Saheb’ a Martyr Soul (!) even in his prayer meetings. Not only that, but after coming to Delhi, Gandhiji began to hold his prayers meetings in a Hindu temple in Bhangi Colony and persisted in reading passages from the Koran as a part of the prayer in that Hindu temple, in spite of the protest of the Hindu worshippers there. Of course he dared not read Geeta in a mosque in the teeth of Muslim opposition. He knew what a terrible Muslim reaction there would have been it he had done so. But he could safely trample over the feelings of the tolerant Hindu. To belie this belief I determined to prove to Gandhiji that the Hindu too could be in tolerant when his honour was insulted.

Just after that followed the terrible outburst of Muslim fanaticism in the Punjab and other part of India. The Congress Government began to persecute, prosecute the shoot the Hindus themselves who dared to resist the Muslim forces in Bihar, Calcutta. Punjab and other places. Our worst fears seemed to be coming true; and yet how painful and disgraceful it was for us to find that the 15th of August 1947 was celebrated with illuminations and festivities, while the whole of the Punjab was set by the Muslims in flames and Hindu blood ran in rivers. The Hindu Mahasabhaites of my persuasion decided to boycott the  festivities and the Congressite Government, and to launch a fighting programme to check Muslim onslaughts. 

Five crores of Indian Muslim have ceased to be our countrymen; virtually the non-Muslim minority in Western Pakistan has been liquidated either by the most brutal murders or by a forced tragic removal from their moorings of centuries; the same process is furiously at work in Eastern Pakistan. One hundred and ten million people have been torn from their homes of which not less than four million are Muslims, and when I found that even after such terrible results Gandhiji continued to pursue the same policy of appeasement, my blood boiled and I could not tolerate him any longer. I do not mean to use hard words against Gandhiji personally, not do I wish to conceal my utter dissent from and disapproval of the very foundation of his policy and methods. Gandhiji in fact succeeded in doing what the British always wanted to do in pursuance of their policy of ‘Divide and Rule’. He helped them in dividing India and it is not yet certain whether their rule has ceased.

The accumulating provocation of 32 years, culminating in his last pro-Muslim fast, at last, goaded me to the conclusion that the existence of Gandhiji should be brought to an end immediately. On coming back to India he developed a subjective mentality under which he alone was to be the final judge of what was right or wrong. If the country wanted his leadership it had to accept his infallibility; if it did not, he would stand aloof from the Congress and carry on in his own way. Against such an attitude there can be no halfway house; either the Congress had to surrender its will to his, and had to be content with playing the second fiddle to all his eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision, or it had to carry on without him. He alone was the judge of everyone and everything: he was the master brain guiding the civil disobedience movement; nobody else knew the technique of that “movement”; he alone knew when to begin it and when to withdraw it. The movement may succeed or fail; it may bring untold disasters and political reverses, but that could make no difference to the Mahatma’s infallibility. “A Satyagrahi can never fail” was his formula for declaring his own infallibility and nobody except he himself knew who a Satyagrahi was. Thus Gandhiji became the judge and the counsel in his own case. These childish inanities and obstinacies coupled with a most severe austerity of life, ceaseless work and lofty character made Gandhiji formidable and irresistible. Many people thought his politics were it- rational, but they had either to withdraw from the Congress or to place their intelligence at his feet to do what he liked with it. In a position of such absolute irresponsibility Gandhiji was guilty of blunder after blunder, failure after failure and disaster after disaster. No one single political victory can be claimed to his credit during 33 years of his political predominance.

So long as Gandhian method was in the ascendance, frustration was the only inevitable result. He had, throughout, opposed every spirited revolutionary, radical and vigorous individual or group, and constantly boosted his Charka, non-violence and truth. The Charka had, after 34 years of the best efforts of Gandhiji, only led to the expansion of the machine-run textile industry by over 200 per cent. It is unable even now to clothe even one per cent of the nation. As regards non-violence, it was absurd to except 40 crores of people to regulate their lives on such a lofty plane and it broke down most conspicuously in 1942. As regards truth the least I can say is that the truthfulness of the average Congressman is by no means of a higher order than that of the man in the street, and that very often it is untruth, in reality, masked by a thin veneer of pretended truthfulness.

Gandhiji’s inner voice, his spiritual power and his doctrine of non-violence, of which so much is made of, all crumbled before Mr. Jinnah’s iron will and proved to be powerless.  Having known that with his spiritual powers he could not influence Mr. Jinnah, Gandhiji should have either changed his policy or could have admitted his defeat and given way to others of different political views to deal with Mr. Jinnah and the Muslim League. But Gandhiji was not honest enough to do that. He could not forget his egoism or self even for national interest. There was, thus, no scope left for the practical politics while the great blunders-blunders as big as the Himalayas were being committed.

Those who personally know me take me as a person of quiet temperament. But when the top-rank leaders of the Congress with the consent of Gandhiji divided and tore the country-which we consider as a deity of worship- my mind became full with thoughts of direful anger.

Briefly speaking, I thought to myself and foresaw that I shall be totally ruined and the only thing that I could except from the people would be nothing but hatred and that I shall have lost all my honour, even more valuable than my life, if I were to kill Gandhiji. But at the same time I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces. No doubt, my own future would be totally ruined but the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan. People may even call me and dub me as devoid of any sense or foolish, but the nation would be free to follow the course founded on reason which I consider to be necessary for sound nation-building. After having fully considered the question, I took the final decision in the matter but I did not speak about it to anyone whatsoever. I took courage in both my hands and I did fire the shots at Gandhiji, on 30th January 1948, on the prayer-grounds in Birla House.

There now remains hardly anything for me to say. If devotion to one’s country amounts to a sin, I admit I have committed that sin. If it is meritorious, I humbly claim the merit thereof. I fully and confidently believe that if there be any other Court of justice beyond the one founded by the mortals, my act will not be taken as unjust. If after death there be no such place to reach or to go to, there is nothing to be said. I have resorted to the action I did purely for the benefit of the humanity. I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack (sic) and ruin and destruction to lakhs of Hindus.

May the country properly known as Hindustan be again united and be one, and may the people be taught to discard the defeatist mentality leading them to submit to the aggressors. This is my last wish and prayer to the Almighty. My confidence about the moral side to my action has not been shaken even by the criticism levelled against it on all sides. I have no doubt honest writers of history will weigh my act and find the true value thereof on some day in future.” Unquote.

High Court (Appeal)

The appeal by the “convicted men” was heard from 2 May 1949, at Peterhoff, Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) which then housed the Punjab High Court. Of those found guilty, all except Nathuram Godse appealed their conviction and sentence. Nathuram Godse “accepted his death sentence”, but appealed the lower court ruling that found him guilty of conspiracy. Nathuram argued, in his limited appeal to the High Court, that there was no conspiracy, he alone was solely responsible for the assassination, witnesses saw only him kill Gandhiji, that all co-accused were innocent and should be released.

An appeal in a murder case is, according to High Court Rules and Orders, heard by a Division Bench consisting of two judges, but owing to the unique position which the deceased had occupied, the complexity and volume of the evidence which would have to be considered and appraised and the unprecedented interest aroused by the case, the Chief Justice decided to constitute a bench of three judges to hear the appeal by Godse and his accomplices. The judges were Justice A. N. Bhandari, Justice Achhruram and Justice G. D. Khosla. As a special measure the Justices resumed the old practice of wearing wigs, and that on their entry into the court-room, as in the olden days, be preceded by liveried ushers carrying silver-mounted staffs.

Mr. Banerjee, a senior advocate from Calcutta, represented Narayan Apte and Madanlal Pahwa, Mr. Dange represented Vishnu Karkare, Mr. Avasthi of the Punjab High Court, engaged at public expense to represent Shankar Kistayya, who was too poor to pay counsel’s fees, and Mr. Inamdar from Bombay represented Dr. Parchare and Gopal Godse. Naturam Godse had made a plea of poverty and based on this he requested that he be allowed to appear in person during the appeal trial and his plea was granded.

As a result of this, Godse was the only accused who was present during the trial at Shimla and he stood in a specially constructed dock. Justice G.D. Khosla, in his book “The Murder of the Mahatma” published in 1965 said, “this request was only an excuse; in reality, Godse wanted to be present at the trial, because he wanted to exhibit himself as a fearless patriot and a passionate protagonist of Hindu ideology”.

On the right-hand end of the front row sat four lawyers who were appearing for the prosecution – Daphtary, Advocate-General of Bombay, Patigar and Vyavakarkar, also from Bombay, and Kartar Singh Chawla from Simla High Court. The entire evidence, oral and documentary, were contained in all 1,131 printed pages of foolscap size and a supplementary volume of 115 pages of cyclostyled foolscap paper.

The High Court confirmed the findings and sentences of the lower court except in the cases of Dr. Dattatraya Parchure and Shankar Kistayya who were acquitted of all charges.

Privy Council

During the British rule, the Privy Council was the highest court of appeal in India, which was later known as the Federal Court of Appeal. After the replacement of the Federal Court with the Supreme Court in January 1950, the Abolition of Privy Council Jurisdiction Act 1949 came into effect. The Privy Council was part of the British Parliament. While appeals from England were heard by the House of Lords, those from British colonies were heard by the judicial commission of the Privy Council.

On October 26, 1949, the Privy Council did not grant leave [permission to file the petition] to the families of the accused, including Godse, who had filed the special leave petition (SLP).

It is alleged in some quarters that they had refused to grant leave on the ground that even if they did admit the petition, it would not have been decided before January 26, 1950 when the Indian Supreme Court was to be born. Once the Supreme Court of India came into existence, the jurisdiction to hear the SLP would lie with it. This is why the right wing organisations like RSS and its affiliates claim that Mahatma Gandhi’s murder trial did not attain legal finality.

Executions

Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were sentenced to death on November 8, 1949 after the High Court of East Punjab confirmed their death sentence on June 21, 1949.  Pleas for commutation were made by Gandhiji’s two sons, Manilal Gandhi and Ramdas Gandhi, but these pleas were turned down by India’s Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and the Governor-General Chakravarti Rajagopalachari.

Godse and Apte were hanged at Ambala Jail on November 15, 1949. A single gallows had been prepared for the execution of both. Two ropes, each with a noose, hung from the high crossbar in parallel lines. Godse and Apte were made to stand side by side, the black cloth bags were drawn over their heads and tied at the necks. After adjusting the nooses, the executioner stepped off the platform and pulled the lever. According to the Almanac of World Crime, at the hanging Apte’s neck broke and he died instantly, but “Nathuram died slowly by the rope”; instead of having his neck snap he choked “to death for fifteen minutes”.

Jeevan Lal Kapur Commission

However, in 1965, the Jeevan Lal Kapur Commission of Inquiry into Conspiracy to Murder Mahatma Gandhi was set up. It took into account statements made by Appa Ramchandra Kasar, bodyguard of Savarkar, and Gajanan Vishnu Damle, Savarkar’s secretary, to the Bombay Police on March 4, 1948.

In the unpardonably rushed Red Fort trial, neither Kasar nor Damle was tried. In the report of the commission, which came out in 1969, both Damle and Kasar said there were extensive interactions between Savarkar and Nathuram before the assassination. Damle said that “Apte and Nathuram came to see Savarkar about the middle of January, late at night.” Kasar said that, “On or about 15th or 16th (January), Nathuram and Apte had an interview with Savarkar at 9.30 pm. After about a week or so, maybe 23rd or 24th of January, Apte and Nathuram again came to Savarkar and had a talk with him at about 10 or 10.30 am for about half an hour.”

The Commission report said, “All this shows that people who were subsequently involved in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi were all congregating sometime or the other at Savarkar Sadan and sometimes had long interviews with Savarkar. It is significant that Narayan Apte and Nathuram Godse visited him both before the bomb was thrown and also before the murder was committed and on each occasion they had long interviews.”

The J. L. Kapur Commission concluded: “All the facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group”. By the time the report came out in 1969, Savarkar was dead for three years.

Savarkar, the J. L. Kapur report underlined, was involved in the conspiracy to assassinate the Mahatma. All these details are available in the public domain.

Second Attempt : 20 January 1948

Ten days before the the January 30, 1948 assassination attempt that killed Gandhiji, there was another assassination attempt. Gandhi had initially been staying at the scheduled caste Balmiki Temple, near Gole Market in the northern part of New Delhi, and holding his prayer meetings there. When the temple was requisitioned for sheltering refugees of the partition he moved to Birla Bhavan, a large mansion on what was then Albuquerque Road in south-central New Delhi, not far from the diplomatic enclave. Gandhi was living in two unpretentious rooms in the left wing of Birla Bhavan, and conducting prayer meetings on a raised lawn behind the mansion. It is the place Gandhiji spent the last 144 days of his life.

The first attempt to assassinate Gandhi at Birla House occurred on 20 January 1948. According to Stanley Wolpert, in his book “Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India”, Nathuram Godse and his colleagues followed Gandhi to a park where he was speaking. One of them threw a grenade away from the crowd. The loud explosion scared the crowd, creating a chaotic stampede of people. Gandhi was left alone on the speakers’ platform.

The original assassination plan was to throw a second grenade, after the crowds had run away, at the isolated Gandhi. But the alleged accomplice Digambar Badge lost his courage, did not throw the second grenade and ran away with the crowd. All of the assassination plotters ran away, except Madanlal K Pahwa. He was arrested and it had set the alarm bells ringing. His accomplices, Godse and others, fled. The next day, Morarji Desai, Home Minister in the Province of Bombay, assigned the case to Jamshed Dorab Nagarwala, who was then serving as a young Deputy Commissioner of Police with the Special Branch of Bombay police.

The authors of Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre (Page 417): “Nagarvala set the machinery in motion to identify him. For the young officer there seemed no question that, sooner or later, the road to the men who had tried to murder Gandhi had to pass by the quiet house among the palms and meddler trees of Sivaji Park, Savarkar’s residence in Bombay. Nagarvala had asked Desai for permission to arrest Savarkar on the basis of Madanlal’s visit to him the week before. Desai had refused with the angry query: “Are you mad? Do you think I want this whole province to go up in smoke?” If Nagarvala could not confine Savarkar to a prison cell, however, he could at least confine him to a brilliant organisation created by the British that was the pride of the Bombay CID, its Watchers’ Branch”.

First Attempt : 25 June 1934

A prior, unsuccessful attempt, to assassinate Gandhi occurred on 25 June 1934 at Pune. Gandhi was in Pune along with his wife, Kasturba Gandhi, to deliver a speech at Corporation Auditorium. They were travelling in a motorcade of two cars. The car in which the couple was travelling was delayed and the first car reached the auditorium. Just when the first car arrived at the auditorium, a bomb was thrown, which exploded near the car. This caused grievous injury to the Chief Officer of the Pune Municipal Corporation, two policemen and seven others. Nevertheless, no account or records of the investigation nor arrests made can be found. Gandhi’s secretary, Pyarelal Nayyar, believed that the attempt failed due to lack of planning and co-ordination.

Gandhi Funeral

Miscellaneous 

Silent Video: Below is a silent video which takes us into the Red Fort Trial courtroom where Godse and seven co-conspirators were tried in 1948-’49. The footage opens are with shots of the Red Fort in Delhi, where the trial began on June 22, 1948 and Judge Atma Charan coming into Court. The accused, including lawyer VD Savarkar, Narayan Apte, Madanlal Pahwa and Vishnu Karkare, can be seen in the dock having conversation and exchanging grins with the press corps. Only Godse is impassive.

Gopal Godse’s Book: Dr. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar died in 1966. The next year, Gopal Godse, brother of Gandhiji’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, and his co-conspirator, revealed in his book Gandhi Hatya Ani Mee (‘Gandhi’s murder and I’) “the close relationship between Savarkar and Nathuram, which both were at pains to conceal at the Gandhi murder trial. Savarkar was acquitted by the Sessions Judge, though the approver Badge’s evidence was found to be “completely reliable”, only because the law required “independent corroboration””.

Nathuram’s statement at the murder trial (Originally published in 1977, in a volume entitled May It Please Your Honour) says, “I am one of those volunteers who joined the Sangha in its initial stage”. He says he left it to do more directly political work in the Hindu Mahasabha (he does not say when). But his brother Gopal Godse in his book “Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy” suggests that “he (Nathuram) never really left the RSS, and that the statement at his trial was meant to alleviate the pressure on the Sangh, which was banned following Gandhiji’s murder. Although “honourably acquitted” of conspiring to kill Gandhi, Savarkar was nevertheless a close associate of Nathuram. Gopal Godse’s daughter, Asilata, has married Ashok Savarkar, son of Savarkar’s younger brother Narayan. Both families are still close to the Hindu Mahasabha.”

Gopal Godse’s Spat with L.K. Advani : On November 21, 1993 the then BJP President L. K. Advani issued a statement denying that his party had anything to do with the attempts to glorify Nathuram Godse. “Nathuram Godse was a bitter critic of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh”, he said. “His charge was that the RSS had made Hindus impotent. We have had nothing to do with Godse. The Congress is in the habit of reviving this allegation against us when it finds nothing else.” (The Times of India, 22 November 1993).

Gopal Godse reacted to Advani’s statement angrily and called it the response of a coward. In an interview soon after Gopal Godse had said that “all the three Godse brothers – Nathuram, Dattatreya and Gopal were part of the RSS and had not left the organisation”. He said “Nathuram joined the RSS when he was in Sangli in 1932. He remained a boudhik karyawah (intellectual worker) till his death. He was neither expelled nor did he ever leave the organisation”.

He added “the politics of swayamsevaks like the Godses’ does not differ too greatly from that of the RSS and the BJP today. The BJP’s campaign slogan in the recent elections, “Hum ne jo kaha, so kiye” (What we said, we did), boasting of an event that consumed thousands of lives (indicating Babri Masjid demolition and the nationwide riots that followed), denotes an implacability of resolve at least equal to Nathuram’s”. (Frontline, 28 January 1994)

Gopal Godse was Hindu Mahasabha General Secretary till 2005, when he passed away.

If I am to die by the bullet of a mad man, I must do so smilingly. There must be no anger within me. God must be in my heart and my lips. 

 ~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

January 28, 1948 (Two days prior to the assassination)

 

RSS & Tricolour


Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, who was part of Indian National Congress (INC) till 1923, started Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925 with the initial impetus to provide character training through Hindu discipline and to unite the Hindu community to form a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation). He was deeply influenced by the writings of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. From the time of its inception, RSS positioned itself as a cultural organisation and carefully avoided any political activity that could be construed as being anti-British.

Dr. Hedgewar, the first Sarsanchalak, instructed all RSS members to participate in political activities [independence movement] only in an “individual capacity”. The formation of the RSS, further increased the Hindu-Muslim divide, as the RSS rejected Mahatma Gandhi’s willingness to cooperate with the Muslims. M S Golwalkar, who became the Sarsanchalak of the RSS in 1940, continued and further strengthened the isolation from the independence movement. In his view, the RSS had pledged to achieve freedom through “defending religion and culture” and not by fighting the British. Thus the nationalistic political base behind Gandhiji during the Non-Cooperation Movement was broken into factions.

The RSS leaders through their shakhas (branches) convinced Hindus that Muslims were despots and religious invaders. This narative worked perfectly for the British, who wanted to be seen as a rectifier of the historical harm inflicted by the Muslims, the invaders. The British had already completed the deeply resented partition of Bengal, in 1905, along religious lines – a Muslim majority state of East Bengal and a Hindu majority state of West Bengal. This Hindu-Muslim divide kind of strengthened the British hands to do the same with British India.

When INC called upon all Indians to celebrate January 26, 1930 as Independence Day, the RSS and its Sarsanchalak Dr. Hedgewar issued a circular asking all the RSS shakhas to observe the occasion through hoisting and worship of its own Bhagva Janda (Saffron Flag), rather than the Tricolour. The RSS continued the practice till 2002 except for a once in 1950 when the RSS hoisted the Tricolour in their HQ at Reshambaugh, Nagpur.

The second RSS Sarsanchalak and the most reviered till date, Golwalkar, wrote in Organiser in July 1947 issue ”Indian Tricolour will never be respected and owned by the Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three coulours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.” In another book published by Golwalker popularly called Guruji by RSS ”We Or Our Nationhood Defined” (first edition in 1939) has been orally disowned by some in the RSS-BJP, even if copies are freely available on the internet.

In 1960 RSS published another book ”Bunch of Thoughts”. The official website of the RSS (www.rss.org) has a version of the e-book, Bunch of Thoughts. In this book he lamented that “our leaders (freedom fighters) have set up a new flag for the country. Why did they do so? It is just a case of drifting and imitating… Ours is an ancient and great nation with a glorious past… Then, had we no flag of our own? Had we no national emblem at all these thousands of years? Undoubtedly we had. Then why this utter void, this utter vacuum in our minds?”

On January 26, 2001, three Rashtrapremi Yuwa Dal activists Baba Mendhe, Ramesh Kalambe and Dilip Chatwani, entered the RSS premises in Reshimbagh and hoisted the national tricolour amid patriotic slogans. The RSS filed a case (FIR No. 176 at Kotwali Police Station, Nagpur) against them. The case file reads that Sunil Kathle the incharge of the premises first tried to stop intruders from entering the premises and later tried to prevent them from hoisting the tricolour. The 3 activists were later were acquitted and were released.

The last time RSS Sarsanchalak Golwalkar had hoisted the Tricolur in RSS HQ was on January 26, 1950. In the wake of Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, 1948, the new Government banned the RSS and the then Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Patel, wrote to Nehru on February 27, 1948 ”It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that [hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through”. However personal conviction would not compromise Patel’s commitment to due legal process. After investigations were completed, Patel declared quite unequivocally that though “the RSS was not involved… his assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and the [Hindu] Mahasabha who were strongly opposed to his way of thinking and to his policy”.

Golwalkar repeatedly pleaded with Patel, but he remained firm. Sardar Patel finally lifted the ban on July 11, 1949, only after the RSS pledged to “stay away from politics, not be secretive and abjure violence”. More important, it had to profess “loyalty to the Constitution of India and the National Flag”. But post the death of Patel on December 15, 1950, the RSS went back to their old ways till the 2001 Rashtrapremi Yuwa Dal shocker.