Is Article 370 basic to Kashmir’s Accession – Part 3

The immediately previous part can be read here.

The Maharaja of Kashmir signed the same *Instrument of Accession* that other Maharajahs & Princes too signed. But all of them (except Hyderabad & Junagadh who did not sign) gave up their Rights under the Instrument. In return, Patel promised them approximately 8.5% of the Annual Revenue of the respective State.

The amounts varied from Rs.43 lakh a year to the Nizam of Hyderabad to just Rs.192 a year to the ruler of Katodia. Of the 555 rulers, 398 were to get less than Rs.50,000 a year. The total cost to the Indian exchequer in 1947 was Rs.6 crore, which was to be progressively reduced. At the time of abolition in 1970, the total amount payable to all the erstwhile princes was just Rs.4 crore a year.  (From Arvind Datar’s Article in Hindu “Who betrayed Sardar Patel” dated Nov 19, 2013)     

In 1970, after a failed attempt. the Congress Government successfully managed to abolish the Privy Purse. It got them some votes, but as a Nation we had failed to live up our Sacrosanct promise. Read below, the extract of a small portion Sardar’s speech on October 12th, 1949 (read out by Shri K M Munshi as the Sardar was not well) justifying the Privy Purse:

I shall now come to the political and moral aspect of these settlements.  In order to view the payments guaranteed by us in their correct perspective we have to remember that they are linked with the momentous developments affecting the most vital interests of this country. These guarantees form part of the historic settlements which enshrine in them the consummation of the great Ideal of geographical, political and economic unification of India, an ideal which (or centuries remained a distant dream and which appeared as remote  and as difficult of attainment as ever even after the advent of Indian independence.

Human memory is proverbially short. Meeting in October, 1949, we are apt to forget the magnitude of the problem which confronted us in August, 1947. As the honourable Members are aware, the so-called lapse of paramountcy was a part of the Plan announced on June 3, 1947, which was accepted by the Congress. We agreed to this arrangement in the same manner as we agreed to the partition of India. We accepted it because we had no option to act otherwise. While there was recognition in the various announcements of the British Government of the fundamental fact that each State should link up its future with that Dominion with which it was geographically contiguous, the Indian Independence Act released the States from all their obligations to the British Crown. In their various authoritative pronouncements, the British spokesmen recognised that with the lapse of paramountcy, technically and legally the States would become independent. They even conceded that theoretically the States were free to link their future with whichever Dominion they liked although, in saying so, they referred to certain geographical compulsions, which could not be evaded. The situation was indeed fraught with immeasurable potentialities of disruptions for some of the Rulers did wish to exercise their technical right to declare independence and others to join the neighbouring Dominion. If the Rulers had exercised their right in such an unpatriotic manner, they would have found considerable support from influential elements hostile to the interests of this country.

It was against this unpropitious background that the Government of India invited the Rulers of the States to accede on three subjects of Defence, External Affairs and Communications. At the time the proposal was put forward to the Rulers, an assurance was given to them that they would retain the status quo except for accession on these subjects. It had been made clear to them that this accession did not also imply any financial liability on the part of the States and that there was no intention either to encroach on the internal autonomy or the sovereignty of the States or to fetter their discretion in respect or their acceptance of the new Constitution of India. These commitments had to be borne in mind when the States Ministry approached the Rulers for the integration of their States. There was nothing to compel or induce the Rulers to merge the identity of their States. Any use of force would have not only been against our professed principles but would have also caused serious repercussions. If the Rulers had elected to stay out, they would have continued to draw the heavy civil lists which they were drawing before and in large number of cases they could have continued to enjoy unrestricted use of the State revenues. The minimum which we could offer to them as quid pro for parting with their ruling powers was to guarantee to them privy purses and certain privileges on a reasonable and defined basis. The privy purse settlements are therefore in the nature of consideration for the surrender by the Rulers of all their ruling powers and also for the dissolution of the States as separate units. We would do well to remember that the British Government spent enormous amounts in respect of the Mahratta settlements alone. .. We are ourselves honouring the commitments of the British Government in respect of the pensions of those Rulers who helped them in consolidating their Empire. Need we cavil then at the small-purposely use the word-small price we have paid for the bloodless revolution which has affected the destinies of millions of our people.

The capacity for mischief and trouble on the part of the Rulers if the settlement with them would not have been reached on a negotiated basis was far greater than could be imagined at this stage. Let us do justice to them; let us place ourselves in their position and then assess the value of their sacrifice.

The Rulers have now discharged their part of the obligations by transferring all ruling powers and by agreeing to the integration of their States. The main part of our obligation under these agreements is to ensure that the guarantees given by us in respect of privy purse are fully implemented. Our failure to do so would be a breach of faith and seriously prejudice the stabilisation of the new order.

In commending the various provisions concerning the States to the House I would ask the honourable Members to view them as a co-ordinated over-all settlement of a gigantic problem. A particular provision isolated from its context may give a wholly erroneous impression. Some of us might find fault with what might appear as relics of the previous autocratic set up. I wish to assure honourable Members, that autocracy in the States has gone, and has gone for good. Let us not get impatient with any particular term which might remind us of the past. The form in which the, Rulers find recognition in the new Constitution of India, in no way impairs the democratic set up of the States. The Rulers have made an honourable exit; it now remains for the people to fill the breach and to derive full benefit from the new order.

I take the liberty to remind the House that at the Haripura Session the Congress in 1938 defined its objective in respect of the States as follows :-

“The Congress stands for the same political, social and economic freedom in the States as in the rest of India and, considers the States as integral Parts of India , which cannot be separated. The Purna Swaraj or complete independence, which is the objective of the Congress, is for the whole of Indi~a inclusive of the States, for the integrity and unity of India must be maintained in freedom as it has been maintained in subjection. The only kind of federation that can be acceptable to the Congress is one in which the States participate as free units, enjoying same measure of democratic freedom as the rest of India!’”

If I am sure the House will agree with me when I say that the provisions which we are now placing before the House embody in them full achievement of that objective. (Cheers).

 

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