26th October 1947: Maharaja Hari Singh agrees to the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India

"Now, therefore, I Shriman Inder Mahander Rajrajeswar Maharajadhiraj Shri Hari Singhji, Jammu and Kashmir Naresh Tatha Tibbetadi Deshadhipathi, Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, in the exercise of my sovereignty in and over my said State do hereby execute this my Instrument of Accession [. . .]"

By signing on this legal document, known as the Instrument of Accession, on October 26, 1947, Hari Singh, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, agreed that the State would become a part of India.

In the immediate aftermath of India’s independence, three rulers had still not merged their territories with India despite Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel’s untiring efforts. These were: the Nawab of Junagadh, the Nizam of Hyderabad, and Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir. The accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India would become one of the most significant events in the politics and history of the subcontinent.

Kashmir became a princely state on March 16, 1846 after the British acquired it. They then sold it to Gulab Singh, the ruler of Jammu. Hari Singh was the great-grandson of Gulab Singh.

The founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, had perhaps assumed that Kashmir, by the logic of its majority Muslim population, would become a part of his country. But a few years before Partition, when he sent an aide to Kashmir for an assessment, the conclusion was sobering: “No important religious leader has ever made Kashmir [. . .] his home or even an ordinary centre of Islamic activities,” the aide reported. “It will require considerable effort, spread over a long period of time, to reform them and convert them to true Muslims.”

Hari Singh, in the weeks after August 15, 1947, gave no indication of giving up his State’s independence. Pakistan then decided to force the issue, and a tribal invasion to drive out the Maharaja was given the green signal.

According to C. B. Duke, the then British High Commissioner in Lahore, “[Kashmir] has always been regarded as a land flowing with milk and honey, and if to the temptation to loot [by the tribesmen] is added the merit of assisting oppressed Muslims, the attractions will be nigh irresistible.”

In the early hours of October 24, 1947 the invasion began, as thousands of tribal Pathans swept into Kashmir. Their destination: the state’s capital, Srinagar, from where Hari Singh ruled.

The Maharaja appealed to India for help.

On 25 October, V. P. Menon, a civil servant considered to be close to Patel, flew to Srinagar to get Hari Singh’s nod for Kashmir’s accession to India.

On 26 October, Hari Singh and his durbar shifted to Jammu, to the safety of the Maharaja’s winter palace, and out of harm’s way from the marauding tribesmen.

Hari Singh’s prime minister, M. C. Mahajan, later recalled: “I requested immediate military aid on any terms. [I urged Nehru to] give us the military force we need. Take the accession and give whatever power you (India) desire to the popular party. The [Indian] army must fly to save Srinagar [. . .] or else I will go to Lahore and negotiate terms with Mr. Jinnah.”

The accession to India was completed.

On 27 October, India’s 1st Sikh battalion flew into Srinagar. “In the early hours of the morning of the 27th, I could hear the noise of the planes [. . .] carrying military personnel to Srinagar. At about  9 a.m., I got a message from [. . .] Srinagar that [Indian] troops had landed there and had gone into action,” Mahajan later recalled.

Srinagar was soon secured from the Pakistani invaders but the battles in the larger region were just beginning.

When Jinnah learnt of the Indian troops’ landing, he reportedly ordered his acting British commander-in-chief General Sir Douglas Gracey to move two brigades into Kashmir — one from Rawalpindi and another from Sialkot. The Sialkot army was supposed to march to Jammu and arrest Hari Singh. The Rawalpindi column would take Srinagar. Gracey refused, saying he could not follow orders that would plunge India and Pakistan into war, without the approval of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck.

Predictably enough, Auchinleck would not agree to sending troops to Kashmir, either.

Lord Louis Mountbatten, India’s viceroy, later described a volatile meeting he had with Jinnah in the days following Kashmir’s accession to India: “Jinnah said that this accession was the end of a long intrigue and that it had been brought about by violence. I countered this by saying that I entirely agreed that the accession had been brought about by violence; I knew the Maharaja was most anxious to remain independent, and, nothing but the terror or violence could have made him accede to either Dominion; [. . .] the violence had come from tribes for whom Pakistan was responsible [. . .]”

Pakistan finally did send troops to Kashmir but by then Indian forces had taken control of nearly two thirds of the state. Gilgit and Baltistan territories were secured by Pakistani troops. Fighting between Indian troops, and the tribesmen and Pakistani troops continued for more than a year after the accession, in what is generally known as the first India-Pakistan war.

Finally, a United Nations (UN) ceasefire was arranged at the end of 1948. After long negotiations, the cease-fire was agreed to by both countries, and came into effect. The terms of the cease-fire, laid out in a United Nations resolution of August 13, 1948, were adopted by the UN on January 5, 1949.

India and Pakistan have different views on the Instrument of Accession and the circumstances under which it was executed. The Indian government’s stated position is: “The Accession of  the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India, signed by the Maharaja [erstwhile ruler of the State] on October 26, 1947, was completely valid under the Government of India Act [1935] and international law and was total and irrevocable. The Accession was also supported by the largest political party in the State, the National Conference. In the Indian Independence Act, there was no provision for any conditional accession.” 

Also on this day: 

1932 — Sarekoppa Bangarappa, Chief Minister of Karnataka, was born  

1974 — Raveena Tandon, Bollywood actress, was born. 

1988 — Tatapuram Sukumaran, Malayalam writer, passed away 

2000 — Manmath Nath Gupta, freedom fighter and writer of historical and fictional books, passed away

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