Arguing that the matter of accession could not be left to the whims and fancies of rulers, but must reflect the voice of the people, he gave public expression to the popular Kashmiri view in a speech on October 4, 1947 at a historic rally (some three weeks before the tribal invasion):
We shall not believe in the two-nation theory which has spread so much poison (cf to the communal killings that had been underway in the Punjab and in Bengal). Kashmir showed the light at this juncture (Gandhi was famously to say that the only light out of the darkness of communal killings he saw was in Kashmir where not a single incident took place). When brother kills brother in the whole of Hindustan, Kashmir raised its voice of Hindu-Muslim unity. I can assure the Hindu and Sikh minorities that as long as I am alive their life and honour will be quite safe.
Vide the Maharaja’s proclamation of March 5, 1948, Sheikh Abdullah took over as the Prime Minister of the state, and on the next day, he told a press conference:
We have decided to work and die for India . . . We made our decision not in October last, but in 1944, when we resisted the advances of Mr. Jinnah. Our refusal was categorical. Ever since the National Conference had attempted to keep the State clear of the pernicious two-nation theory while fighting the world’s worst autocracy (The Statesman, 7 March, 1948).
On December 3, at a function of the Gandhi Memorial College at Jammu:
Kashmiris would rather die following the footsteps of Gandhiji than accept the two-nation theory. We want to link the destiny of Kashmir with India because we feel that the ideal before India and Kashmir is one and the same.
Those ideals—secularism, democracy, end to feudal landlordship—became the basis for the adoption of the “provisional accession of the State to India” by the National Conference in the same month of October.
Although Accession vide Article 370 which conferred a “special status” on Jammu & Kashmir had, as stated above, received approval both from Patel and Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, a new situation was to develop as the Abdullah government in the State launched the New Kashmir Manifesto, bedrocked, among extraordinarily progressive pronouncements—equal status of women in education and employment being but one— on the promise of giving land to those who tilled it.
Thus, disregarding Clause 6 of the Instrument of Accession (“Nothing in this Instrument shall empower the Dominion Legislature to make any law for this State authorizing the compulsory acquisition of land for any purpose,” and should land be thus needed, “I will at their request acquire the land”), Abdullah declared a maximum land ceiling of 22.75 acres, set up a Land Reforms Commission, and set about distributing surplus land thus acquired to those who actually were tillers on the soil. Abdullah was to rub home the point that such land reforms would never have been possible in a feudal Pakistan.
This was trouble royal.
Most of the land then was in possession of Hindu Dogras, and most of the tillers were Muslim Kashmiris.
Thus it came to be that the material loss of landholdings was sought to be converted into a communal question vide an opposition now to Article 370 by a newly organized forum called the Praja Parishad which came to be led by the very Mukerjee who had been a willing party to the adoption of the Article as a member of the Union Cabinet.
Under stipulations of the “special status,” Jammu & Kashmir had been granted to form its own Constituent Assembly. When elections to the CA took place in 1951, candidates picked by Abdullah’s National Conference won all 75 seats. The Assembly met on October 31, 1951. On November 5, Abdullah outlined the major agenda before it:
To frame a Constitution for Kashmir;
To decide on the fate of the royal Dynasty;
To decide whether there should be any compensation paid to those who had lost their land through the Land Abolition Act;
To “declare its reasoned conclusion regarding accession.”
Abdullah noted: “The real character of a State is revealed in its Constitution. The Indian Constitution has set before the country the goal of a secular democracy based upon justice, freedom and equality for all without distinction. This is the bedrock of modern democracy. This should meet the argument that the Muslims of Kashmir cannot have security in India, where the large majority of the population are Hindus. Any unnatural cleavage between religious groups is the legacy of imperialism…. The Indian Constitution has amply and finally repudiated the concept of a religious State which is a throwback to medievalism…. The national movement in our State naturally gravitates towards these principles of secular democracy.”
And, on Pakistan:
The most powerful argument that can be advanced in her favour is that Pakistan is a Muslim State, and, a big majority of our people being Muslims the State must accede to Pakistan. This claim of being a Muslim State is of course only a camouflage. It is a screen to dupe the common man, so that he may not see clearly that Pakistan is a feudal State in which a clique is trying by these methods to maintain itself in power. . . .Right-thinking men would point out that Pakistan is not an organic unity of all the Muslims in this subcontinent. It has, on the contrary, caused the dispersion of Indian Muslims for whom it was claimed to have been created (a perception first voiced by Maulana Azad in a prescient interview given to the Covert magazine in 1946, a year before Partition).
Abdullah considered the third option of Independence (Kashmir as an “Eastern Switzerland”), and concluded as follows:
I would like to remind you that from August 15 (the day of Indian Independence) to October 22, 1947 (when the tribal invasion began) our State was Independent and the result was that our weakness was exploited by the neighbour with invasion. What is the guarantee that in future too we may not be victims of a similar aggression?
All that notwithstanding, the Hindu right-wing assault began also to gather force, as it launched the Jana Sangh (precursor of today’s Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP) in 1951—the same year as the establishment of the Constituent Assembly in the State. And its leader became Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, with the RSS lending two of its leaders for support, namely Atal Bihari Vajpai and L.K. Advani.