Musings on The Constitution-XIII
Patel was not watching from the sidelines. He brought it the notice of NGA and Nehru that Sheikh Abdulla’s comments were explosive and it cannot be acquiesced in. NGA wrote to Sardar Patel…
“My attention was drawn to the content of his interview earlier in the day. It is most astonishing performance…. I condemn the Sheikhs action and that I feel that what he has told Michael Davidson and what the latter has published will have the most serious and mischievous consequences both in India and abroad… reading between the lines, I suspect a plan, the first step of which is this blessing by the Premier of Kashmir of the idea of an independent Kashmir…and the final step of which may well be perhaps one of the greatest betrayals in history.”
All this was happening as the Constituent Assembly was literally winding down on its proceedings as there was near consensus on the wordings to The Making of the Constitution. Sheikh Abdullah was continuously enhancing the pressure on Nehru to yield to grant of special status to Kashmir. Nehru was in a quandary. Patel was a stumbling block. And NGA was not helpful as his influential role had its limitations. Nehru asked the Sheikh to approach Dr.B R Ambedkar to oblige on the altering of the provisions. And Babasaheb told Abdullah in unequivocal terms;
“India should provide all the money for the governance and development of your state. India should undertake to defend your state against Pakistan and other aggressors. Indians should die to defend your state. You will have a separate constitution, separate head of state, separate sets of laws and separate flag. Your people can buy and own land anywhere in rest of India but none who was not born in Jammu and Kashmir could reciprocally buy and own property in Jammu and Kashmir. Indians should be taxed to develop your land, to defend it from all aggressions and you have no obligation at all to the Indian Union. I can never agree to such treatment to any state.”
Nehru had nowhere to go. Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad became so perturbed that he met Patel and requested him: “Why do you not take over the problem and finish it like Hyderabad?” Patel replied cryptically: “You go to your friend [Pandit Nehru] and tell him to keep his hands off Kashmir problem for two months and I will undertake to solve it.”
It was then that Nehru played his gambit. he unilaterally instructed NGA to draft a clause providing for special status to Kashmir as a transitory provision, hoping that he could get over the naysayers and smuggle this transitory provision into the Constitution, even at that late stage.
Now read this direct exchange between NGA and Sardar Patel, which captures as to what came of the special status provision and who stood where on it.
N Gopalaswami Ayyangar
15th October, 1949
My Dear Sardarji,
Sheikh Abdullah and two colleagues of his had a talk with me for about an hour and, as I told you this morning there was no substance at all in the objections that they put forward to our draft. At the end of it all, I told them that I had not expected that, after having agreed to the substance of our draft both at your house and at the party meeting they would let me and Panditji down in the manner they were attempting to do. In answer, Sheikh Abdullah said that he felt very grieved that I should think so but that in the discharge of his duty to his own people he found it impossible to accept our draft as it was. I told him thereafter to go back and think over all that I had told them and hoped that he would come back to me in a better frame of mind in the course of the day or tomorrow.
I have since thought over the matter further and dictated a draft which, without giving up the essential stands we have taken in our original draft, readjusts it in minor particulars in a way which I am hoping Sheikh Abdullah would agree to.
I discussed this draft with the Drafting Committee in the evening and one or two small suggestions which they made have been incorporated in it. I enclose a copy of this redraft as also of my letter to Sheikh Abdullah for your information.
I trust that this will meet with your approval.
Sardar Vallabhai Patel
The Hon’ble Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
16th October, 1949
My dear Gopalaswami,
Thank you for your letter of 15 October, which I received only this afternoon on my return from the Constituent Assembly.
I find there are some substantial changes over the original draft, particularly in regard to the applicability of fundamental rights and directive principles of State policy. You can yourself realise the anomaly of the State becoming part of India and at the same time not recognising any of these provisions.
I do not at all like any change after our party has approved of the whole arrangement in the presence of Sheikh Sahib himself. Whenever Sheikh Sahib wishes to back out, he always confronts us with his duty to the people. Of course, he owes no duty to India or to the Indian Government, or even on a personal basis, to you and the Prime Minister who have gone all out to accommodate him.
In these circumstances, any question of my approval does not arise. If you feel it is the right thing to do, you can go ahead with it.
It all became, If only, if only, If only…thereafter. If only sardar Patel was in charge of Kashmir as he was in Hyderabad to bring the Nizam around like the other Pinceley States. If only Maharaja Hari Singh had taken the call to the letter dt.3rd July, 1947 from Sardar Patel, contemporaneously. If only Nehru had seen the machinations of Sheikh Abdullah and if only NGA had declined to oblige after the point blank refusal from Dr .B R Ambedkar. Of if only Sardar Patel was not the gentleman he chose to be by yielding despite his serious and principled objections just so that he was not seen to be slighting Mahatma Gandhi’s blue eyed boy a.k.a Jawaharlal Nehru.
Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel
Our Tryst with Destiny or rather Kashmir’s may have been so different, not necessitating Modi 2.0 to nullify Art.370 read with Art.35A. All of them acquiesced and agreed to NGA’s suggestion that it was an ‘interim arrangement’ and a ‘transitory provision’. Contemporaneous, to the Constituent Assembly obliging Sardar Patel not to pull the rug under Jawaharlal Nehru- V.Shankar, ICS, Nehru’s Secretary recorded in his Diary, “Sardar Patel told me, for what he has done to India’ Jawahar Royega’” – Jawahar will cry. Thus was born the special status for Amir Khusru Dehluvi’s Kashmir- Agarfirdous baroye zameen ast, hami asto, hami asto hami ast- If there is paradise on earth it is here, it is here, it is here”.
(Author is practising advocate in the Madras High Court)