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RSS-BJP’s new plan for Kashmir — prop up Maharaja Hari Singh as a nationalist

Modi govt is looking to counter the narrative that Maharaja Hari Singh deliberately delayed signing the Instrument of Accession until the last moment.

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New Delhi: Having scrapped Article 370 that granted Jammu and Kashmir special status, the Modi government is now looking to change the narrative on the newly-formed union territory through two new elements — establishing credentials of Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir when it acceded to India, as a nationalist, and two, highlighting the legal and moral sanctity of the ‘Instrument of Accession(IOA)’ that formally united J&K with India.

The first significant step in this direction has been initiated with the new administration declaring 26 October, the day the Instrument of Accession was signed in 1947, as a public holiday in the union territory. This is the first time since Independence that the ‘Accession Day’ has been declared a public holiday in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to government sources, the step has been taken to counter the narrative built over the last seven decades that Maharaja Hari Singh was not a nationalist and he deliberately delayed signing the Instrument of Accession until the last moment.   

In a nutshell, the cornerstone of the Modi government’s forthcoming narrative on the Jammu and Kashmir issue will revolve around the fact that the then princely states had no third option; the IOA was uniform for all states; the J&K succession was delayed by then PM Jawaharlal Nehru and that the Maharaja signed an unconditional succession.

Sources in the government also said it will play up historical records, particularly those by Mehr Chand Mahajan, the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir who played a key role in the accession.    

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Historical records

In his book, Accession of Kashmir to India, Mahajan had claimed that the Maharaja was never willing to join Pakistan. 

“Mr. Jinnah’s British Military Secretary came thrice to Srinagar to meet Maharaja with personal letters from the Quaid-i-Azam. The Maharaja was told that Mr. Jinnah was in ill health and had been advised by his doctors to spend the summer in Kashmir and that he was prepared to make his own arrangements for his stay there,” Mahajan has written.

“The real motive behind this move was to persuade or coerce the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan with the help of pro-Pakistani elements in the State. If all else failed, the Maharaja was to be dethroned and driven away from the State…… He (Maharaja) courteously declined to invite Mr. Jinnah to spend the summer in Srinagar.”

In his book Mission With Mountbatten, Alan Campbell-Johnson, the then press attache to Lord Mountbatten, wrote that the Maharaja also thwarted efforts of Lord Mountbatten to convince him to join Pakistan.

“On June 19, 1947, Mountbatten visited Jammu-Kashmir and stayed there for four days. He tried to persuade the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan. They had some meetings that took place during their various car drives together,” Campbell-Johnson had written.

Mountbatten on these occasions urged if Jammu-Kashmir went to Pakistan this would not be regarded as an unfriendly act by the Government of India. However, Maharaja suggested for a personal meeting which was fixed on the last day of the visit… but when the time came, the Maharaja sent a message that he was in bed with colic and would be unable to attend the meeting.” 

Also read: Passport verification in J&K now involves ‘informal interviews’ at police stations 

No third option

At the time of India’s Independence, the British had two types of administrative arrangements — British India and the Princely States. 

British India was divided on a communal basis whereas the rulers of Princely States were given the freedom to make a choice about which of the dominions (India or Pakistan) they wanted to accede to.

On 25 July 1947, the then Viceroy Lord Mountbatten addressed a special meeting of the Chamber of Princes and reiterated the need to use the Instrument of Accession to accede to either of the two dominions. Maharaja Hari Singh joined India through this instrument, like the other Princely States. There was no third option — that is to remain independent.

There was no pre-condition for accession barring the decision of the rulers, though the importance of geographical contiguity was emphasised by Mountbatten to the rulers. It was to be decided on the basis of sole discretion of the ruler whether he or she wanted to go with India or Pakistan. 

Also read: 412 booked under Public Safety Act since 5 August, says report by Kashmir-based rights group 

Uniform Instrument of Accession

The Instrument of Accession was uniform for all states. It was the common instrument that was used by the rulers of more than 550 princely states for this purpose. 

Maharaja Hari Singh signed an unconditional Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947. The draft of this was the same as the ones signed by the other acceding Princely States of the erstwhile British Indian Empire. The accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir was full and final as well as unquestionable as it was accepted by Lord Mountbatten as Governor-General of India, in the same way as in the case of other Indian States. So both morally and legally, Jammu-Kashmir became an integral part of India on 26 October 1947.

Delay in J&K accession

While Maharaja Hari Singh was in favour of accession, Nehru’s insistence on installing Sheikh Abdullah as Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir created an unnecessary delay.

The Maharaja had conveyed his intention to accede to India several times through his representatives, but Pandit Nehru remained adamant on Sheikh’s coronation.

In October 1947, Pakistan broke a standstill agreement (signed by Jammu and Kashmir with both India and Pakistan on 12 August, 1947) and its Army and tribal militia invaded the state and started killing innocent civilians.

The continuous appeals of Maharaja Hari Singh to Pakistan and Britain went in vain, as the state did not get any respite from the bloodbath due to invasion. Hence, Maharaja Hari Singh was left with no other option but to accept the conditions put forth by Pandit Nehru. He released Sheikh from jail and made him the emergency administrator.

Thereafter, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession in favour of India. 

Also read: 5 J&K politicians released, administration now hopes for resumption of political activity 

(The writer is CEO of Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra and author of two books on the RSS. The views expressed are personal).

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  1. “The Maharaja had conveyed his intention to accede to India several times through his representatives, but Pandit Nehru remained adamant on Sheikh’s coronation” The accession offer letters written by Hari Singh to Government of India before 26th Oct should be also made public so that the process of cultivation of myths is checked. This will be a great job. Pl share the copies

  2. It was Conditional accession treaty and that was duly accepted by the Governor General of India Mountbatten,it is sure that the Instrument of Accession is not understood by those who failed to interpret paragraph 5 to 9.
    False statements and rumour mongering may do much harm
    Harisinghji stated that the Terms of this Instrument
    of Accession shall deemed to commit him fo acceptance to any future Constitution of India or to fetter his discretion, his sovereignty is to be maintained in and over state and so on.

  3. The article gives a new insight that there was no third option other than joining India or Pakistan for any Princely State and hence, Hari Singh would have signed IoA sooner but the precondition by Nehru to make Sheikh Abdullah as PM of J&K delayed it. This delay eventually cost us PoK! This is a nuanced narrative and should be properly highlighted. Karan Singh should be asked to confirm this. Neither Hari Singh nor Sheikh Sahab nor J&k state is now alive!!

  4. The original author of the mess that has blighted the subcontinent for seventy years, shows no sign of abating.

  5. It is obvious that someone so popular as Sheikh Abdullah deserved to be the front runner for PM of Kashmir. Hari SIngh was only a dynast who had the good luck to be born into the ruling family of Kashmir. He also made himself disliked by the peasants of Poonch in 1947 by imposing heavy taxes on them. he was partially responsible for the locals in Poonch turning to the Pathans of Pakistan for help.
    All this is in addition to his profligate young days where he was involved in many controversies of a personal nature in Europe , which were hushed up.
    It is true that he was looking for Independent status for J&K< but capitulated only when the Pathans invaded Kashmir.

    In case he delayed accession to India because Nehru wanted Abdullah released, then that is great credit to Nehru who wanted a popular leader rather than a dynast to guide the State's affairs.There is no doubt that Abdullah was the most popular figure in J&K in 1947 and deserved to be the CM instead of leaving the State in the hands of a dynastic ruler who had minimal citizen support.

    • Keep your nonsense with you, it was princely state and he was the king and also a Hindu (Indian religion) , Abdullah was nobody then and even know his family is nobody

      • It was Abdullah in 1947 who organized the Kashmiri locals resistance to the Pak raiders , which he did very successfully. The princely Maharajah was cowering in a corner in Jammu at that time. This is not a matter of religion at all , but personality and popularity.

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