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Mainstream, VOL L, No 17, April 14, 2012

How the Indira-Abdullah Accord was Signed in 1974

Saturday 14 April 2012, by Balraj Puri

In 1964, after the sudden death of Pandit Nehru, Sheikh Abdullah returned from Pakistan, cutting his journey short. I went to the Delhi airport to receive him. After landing, he told me to take him first to Nehru’s samadhi.

He was so stunned by the tragic news that he could hardly utter a brief sentence. He said that had he known that Panditji’s death was so near, he need not have gone to Pakistan. He had got full agreement there on all points.

I just said: “Be sure you do not miss the bus again.” The bus did come again in the form of the revolt in Bangladesh, which India was supporting.

I advised Sheikh Sahib to issue a statement offering support to India’s Bangladesh policy, whether it agreed to apply the same principles to Kashmir for which it was supporting the revolt in Bangladesh, whether it was for its independence or autonomy. India was at that time prepared to pay the maximum price for support to Bangladesh. Since Sheikh Sahib was the tallest Muslim leader of the subcontinent, his support was most valuable.

Sheikh Sahib asked me to draft a statement for him, which I did. But the actual statement that appeared in the media was exactly the opposite of what we had agreed. Sheikh Sahib told me that his advisor had taken the liberty to change the statement. I told him that he had missed the bus again. He suggested that he should start the process. Let it take its time.

Meanwhile, Mrs Indira Gandhi visited Jammu after the Bangladesh revolt had succeeded. In celebration of the victory, she addressed series of public meetings. She was hailed as goddess Durga. At a pubic meeting she was addressing in Jammu, I requested her secretary for an appointment with her. He told me: “Absolutely no appointments at Jammu. She is too tired. This is her last activity. She would have a quiet dinner and retire. Even the Governor and Chief Minister would come to see her off. But no appointment with her.” I had a letter addressed to her in my pocket. I requested her secretary to deliver that letter to her which would not tire her. The brief letter requested for an appointment which stated: “An agreement with Sheikh Abdullah is possible in which, if you like, I can help.”

The secretary agreed to deliver the letter. When I reached my house, I was told that there were continuous calls from Mrs Gandhi asking me to come to see her immediately. I rushed to the Raj Bhavan, where she was staying. She asked me: “What are Sheikh Abdullah’s terms?” I replied that it was not possible to accept all his terms. His right to demand autonomy should be conceded without conceding it. She felt interested and said: “Let us sit and you explain this point.” I explained: “A number of regional leaders and Chief Ministers are demanding autonomy for their regions which was not conceded. The same can be applied to Kashmir.” She asked: “Will it work.” I said: “Let us try.”

Eventually G. Parthasarathi and Mirza Afzal Baig started a series of talks on behalf of Mrs Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah respectively.

The talks proceeded smoothly till the negotia-tions were stuck on the nomenclature of the Governor and the Chief Minister. Both Mrs Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah complained to me about the deadlock in the talks. I did not betray any disappointment and suggested that let them agree to disagree on one point. Agreement to disagree was also a form of agreement. The agreement, as suggested by me and signed by the negotiators on November 13, 1974 at New Delhi, was as follows.

THE text of the Accord, signed by G. Parthasarathi and Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beg, as representatives of the then Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, at New Delhi on November 13, 1974, which paved the way for resumption of power by the latter on February 25, 1975, stated:

1. The State of Jammu and Kashmir, which is a constituent unit of the Union of India, shall in its relations with the Union, continue to be governed by Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

2. The residuary powers of legislation shall remain with the State; however, Parliament will continue to have power to make laws relating to the prevention of activities directed towards disclaiming, questioning or disrupting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India or bringing about secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union or causing insult to the Indian National Flag, the Indian National Anthem and the Constitution.

3. Where any provision of the Constitution of India had been applied to the State of Jammu and Kashmir with adaptations and modifications, such adaptations and modifications can be altered or repealed by an Order of the President under Article 370, each individual proposal in its behalf being considered on its merits, but provisions of the Constitution of India already applied to the State of Jammu and Kashmir without adaptation or modification are unalterable.

4. With a view to assuring freedom to the State of Jammu and Kashmir to have its own legislation on matters like welfare measures, cultural matters, social security, personal law, and procedural laws, in a manner suited to the special conditions in the State, it is agreed that the State Government can review the laws made by Parliament or extended to the State after 1953 on any matter relatable to the Concurrent List and may decide which of them, in its opinion, needs amendment or repeal. Thereafter, appropriate steps may be taken under Article 254 of the Constitution of India. The grant of the President’s assent to such legislation would be sympathetically considered. The same approach would be adopted in regard to the laws to be made by Parliament in future under the proviso to Clause 2 of that Article; the State Government shall be consulted regarding the application of any such law to the State and the views of the State Government shall receive the fullest consideration.

5. As an arrangement reciprocal to what has been provided under Article 368, suitable modifications of that Article as applied to the State should be made by a Presidential Order to the effect that no law made by the Legislature of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, seeking to make any change in or in the effect of any provision of the Constitution of the State of Jammu and Kashmir relating to any of the undermentioned matters shall take effect unless the Bill, having been reserved for the consideration of the President, receives his assent; the matters are:

(a) the appointment, powers, functions, duties, privileges and immunities of the Governor; and

(b) the following matters relating to Elections, namely, the superintendence, direction and control of Elections by the Election Commi-ssion of India, eligibility for inclusion in the electoral rolls without discrimination, adult suffrage, and composition of the Legislative Council, being matters specified in Sections 138,139, 140 and 50 of the Constitution of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

6. No agreement was possible on the question of nomenclature of the Governor and the Chief Minister and the matter is therefore remitted to the principles.
The next step was automatic. Sheikh Abdullah assumed power as the Chief Minister of the State on February 26, 1975. He received tumultuous receptions everywhere. The people in the Valley were particularly hysterical in welcoming their hero back in power.

In case of Jammu, the response to the Kashmir Accord was far less sharp. Apparently because the people and political elite of the region were not directly involved in Abdullah’s relations with the Centre.

The new Cabinet he announced for the State, included his second-in-command Mirza Afzal Beg from Kashmir and D.D. Thakur, a retried judge of the High Court, from Jammu. Mrs Gandhi offered to include me in her Cabinet to compensate me for non-inclusion in Abdullah’s Cabinet. She advised me to tell Abdullah that I had done enough public work and wanted to retire.

When Abdullah came to Jammu to assume power, I invited him to dinner. He did come and said that I could not leave him in the lurch. He needed my support to work out the Accord. For he argued that his following in Jammu was zero. I agreed to organise the National Conference, from the scratch, as its provincial President. The arrangement did not work. But that is a different story.

The author is the Director, Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, Jammu.

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