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THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY AND THE
MAKING OF HINDUS AND MUSLIMS IN JAMMU
To cite this article: Mridu Rai (2018): THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY AND
THE MAKING OF HINDUS AND MUSLIMS IN JAMMU AND KASHMIR, Asian Affairs, DOI:
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/03068374.2018.1468659
Published online: 11 Jun 2018.
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THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY AND THE
MAKING OF HINDUS AND MUSLIMS IN JAMMU
Mridu Rai is a professor of history at Presidency University, Kolkata,
India. She is the author of Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights
and the History of Kashmir (2004) and of essays appearing in academic
and popular publications. Email: email@example.com
When India’s constitution came into force on 26 January 1950, it
included a unique provision: article 370 that gave Jammu and
Kashmir a special status within the union. That state would have sep-
arate laws, its own ﬂag, constitution and deﬁnition of citizenship,
while still forming a part of the territory of India. Its autonomy was
guaranteed except for the concession of some speciﬁc powers to the
central government. And even these ties to the union were conditional
on its people conﬁrming their erstwhile ruler’s accession to India
through a plebiscite.
A fundamental principle underlying the Indian constitution is the state’s
Thus, article 370 was a power-sharing pact with no refer-
ence to religion intended to ease the region’s integration within the
union. Yet Jammu and Kashmir’s very entry into the constituent assem-
bly’s deliberations was attended by a religiously informed understand-
ing of its people. Casting long shadows into the present, article 370
remains an instrument for chiselling Kashmiris into Hindus and
Muslims and the heart of a debate pitting Hindu nationalists against
secular nationalists in India. However, as this article maintains, the reli-
gious reference to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, even before the
inauguration of the Indian republic, was common to both religious
nationalists and self-avowed secularists among the constitution’s
framers. The attempt here is to understand the paradox of a secular pro-
vision by a purportedly secular state opening the doors to a politics of
© 2018 The Royal Society for Asian Affairs
Asian Affairs, 2018
The suspect Muslim in the constituent assembly debates
While the Constituent Assembly of India (CA) had begun its labours on 9
December 1946, the question of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) only became
the subject of substantive discussions on 27 May 1949.
The delay was
attributed to the disturbances besetting the region at the time, especially
the recent war with Pakistan –precisely for control over that state’s territories
–which was ended through a United Nations mediated ceaseﬁre only
months earlier in January 1949. These restive conditions had meant that
the state had not yet sent representatives to the constitution-framing body.
By the time the question of J&K appeared on the roster of business, as
Gyanendra Pandey has shown, an understanding of the nation as Hindu
at its core and a concomitant suspicion of Muslims among several of
the assembly’s members had become manifest. Informed by the recent
Partition, on 26 May 1949, in a debate on minority rights, a Congress
member of the CA from the United Provinces, Mahavir Tyagi, cautioned
potential Muslim candidates for elections to the legislatures: “The
Muslims”, he said speaking of them as a monolithic entity, “already
know they will not be returned for some time to come, so long as they
do not rehabilitate themselves among the masses and assure the rest of
the people that they are one with them”.
Similar sentiments emanated
from no less a personage than Vallabhbhai Patel, the deputy prime min-
ister and home minister. In words saturated with menace, Patel told
Muslim members of the CA not to “pretend to say ‘Oh, our affection is
great for you’. We have seen your affection …Let us forget that affec-
tion”. Muslims would have to prove they were not the disloyal ‘other’
in the implicitly Hindu nation by essentially agreeing with the views of
the majority even on minority rights. “Ask yourself”, he commanded
Muslim representatives in the House, “whether you really want to
stand here and cooperate with us or you want to play disruptive tactics
While these words were addressed speciﬁcally to Muslim members of the
CA, the implication that the real intended audience was the community at
large became difﬁcult to miss. The ﬁgure of the always potentially dis-
loyal Muslim looking to enfeeble the state from within was the foil –
explicitly or implicitly –around which India’s founding persons built
the new state and its norms of governance. This was evident in delibera-
tions on many issues but one discussed here as illustrative was the debate
over ‘emergency’provisions. Here, too, the ﬁfth column of the Muslim
community was made to loom ominously, providing useful pretexts.
2 THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
On 20 August 1949, B.R. Ambedkar introduced an amended version of
article 280 for discussion.
Disagreement broke out over the proposed
power of the state to suspend certain fundamental rights in an emergency.
At issue were liberties that articles 13, 15 and 25 protected: the rights to
freedom of speech, protection of life and personal liberty, and the right to
seek constitutional remedy (for violations of fundamental rights) respect-
ively. In defending Ambedkar’s proposed emergency protocols, Alladi
Krishnaswami Ayyar (Madras) articulated what Giorgio Agamben
would later theorize, in a different context, as the “state of exception”.
Ayyar argued that the various freedoms and rights of citizens would
“be secured in times of peace”but only so long as “the security of the
State is guaranteed”. In his view the latter was already, two years after
its independence, in peril: “We are envisaging a situation threatened by
war, in a country with multitudinous people, with possibly divided loyal-
ties, though technically they may be citizens of India”. The danger of war
may retreat in the indeterminate future but until then the constitution-
makers could not “proceed on the footing that in regard to all citizens
of this country their loyalty is assured”.
It does not require particularly
ﬁne skills of perception to detect Tyagi’s and Patel’s perﬁdious Indian
Muslim lurking in the picture; a ﬁgure rendered more dangerous
because of the war with Pakistan. Intriguingly, however, as mentioned
above, the war with Pakistan had been ended months earlier in January
1949. That threat, then, was already being treated as never-ending. A con-
comitant implication was of a permanently suspect Muslim community
within the borders of India.
Thakur Das Bhargava (East Punjab) and H.V. Kamath (Central Provinces
& Berar) cautioned that the deﬁnition of the term ‘emergency’was
dangerously imprecise, leaving it entirely to the executive branch –there-
fore, the political party in power –to decide when such a situation had
arisen. Since citizens’liberties were entailed, Bhargava wished to
protect these from any future “panicky Cabinet”. Both Bhargava and
Kamath were concerned not to give the executive more power than
was necessary. This was no trivial anxiety since at issue was a vital attri-
bute of sovereign power: the right to identify and declare an emergency
(or ‘state of exception’) and therefore suspend the ordinary operation of
As Kamath insisted, by these emergency provisions “we are
seeking to lay the foundation of a totalitarian State, a Police State …a
State where the rights and liberties of millions of innocent men and
women will be in continual jeopardy”. Questioning further the necessity
for such drastic measures, Kamath saliently pointed out that despite
‘trouble’in Hyderabad, Kashmir, West Bengal and elsewhere, the
THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY 3
“Central Government has lived and is getting on very well without pro-
claiming a state of emergency”.
R.K. Sidhva (CP & Berar) joined the debate expressing antipodal views.
Agreeing that ‘emergency’was a “very ﬂexible word”he insisted with
tautological certitude that “it cannot be denied that an emergency is an
emergency”. To buttress his point, he trotted out the usual suspects:
“there are people outside who are enemies of the country, in this
country and also outside, mischief mongers who are out to create mis-
chief”.Itwas“against them”–his cryptic language poorly disguising
his reference to Pakistan and Indian Muslims –that he wished to
protect India’s independence and for that he was “prepared to sacriﬁce
a little of [his] own freedom”.
With Sidhva’s intervention the argument had come full circle and radical
emergency powers for the executive were justiﬁed on the grounds of the
inassimilable Muslim. All dissenting voices were ignored. It is worth
noting that in the debates over emergency powers repeated references
were made to crises in Kashmir, Hyderabad and West Bengal; in all
three areas the alleged aggressors were Muslims.
Framed this way,
the idea of a loyal Indian Muslim was never going to materialize; and
so India and its security were permanently endangered and war and emer-
gency always around the corner if not already roiling parts of the country
such as Kashmir. In the latter, its Muslim majority living in territory con-
tiguous to the Muslim enemy’s became a particular cause for concern.
Jammu and Kashmir in the constituent assembly
On 27 May 1949, the assembly began its ﬁrst substantial discussions
relating to J&K.
The exchanges between certain members, though
lively, lasted only for a day (until the matter of J&K was taken up one
last time on 17 October 1949). Contention erupted over how the state’s
representatives to the CA would be chosen. It had been decided in
earlier discussions that, on the basis of population, J&K would be entitled
to send four representatives out of the 93 allotted to princely states.
the matter of choosing them had been left in abeyance because of the pre-
vailing disturbed conditions. N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar (Madras)
began the day’s business by moving for new rules to select the state’s
representatives. He acknowledged that until then, where legislatures
existed in princely states they had elected 50 per cent of the representa-
tives and the ruler nominated the rest. However, he argued, in Kashmir’s
4 THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
case the Praja Sabha –its legislative assembly –was “dead”, having last
held elections in winter 1946–47 and meeting only once before the war
with Pakistan intervened. In the circumstances, Ayyangar proposed that
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the state’s prime minister and also the
leader of its most popular party, the All Jammu and Kashmir National
Conference (NC), be allowed to “advise”the maharaja on the four repre-
sentatives he would nominate.
K.T. Shah (Bihar) immediately challenged this proposal. He argued that
“technically”, no matter how moribund, the Praja Sabha still existed. It
should, therefore, be allowed the “right”to elect the state’s representa-
tives. So far his intervention was unexceptionable in democratic terms.
What was more problematical was Shah’s imbrication of religious and
regional identities in order to question Sheikh Abdullah’s qualiﬁcation
to nominate the state’s representatives (via the maharaja). Against Ayyan-
gar’s contention that Abdullah’s government “represent[ed] the majority
of the Kashmir population”, Shah noted that “the population of Jammu
and Kashmir, put together, is something like 76 per cent Muslims and
24 per cent Hindus, including Dogras and other non-Muslims”. If the
existing Praja Sabha were deemed inadequate, Shah suggested fresh elec-
tions to form a new one. He added that if the NC “claims to represent the
entire or at least a large majority of the people of Kashmir”, implicitly
doubting that it did, “then there is no reason to fear that they cannot
send their representatives”.
This linking of representativeness with the religious composition of the
state’s subjects was troubling to some. H.V. Kamath, for instance, under-
stood Shah’s proposition to mean the revival of separate electorates, a
prospect that appalled him. While Rajendra Prasad, as president of the
CA, set those fears to rest, Shah’s reference to religion had set the cat
among the pigeons. Going further, K.T. Shah asked members to “remem-
ber”besides the “composition of the population of Kashmir, its geo-
graphical position, its connection and the possibilities [of what] may
happen there”. These were dark hints to piece together in their minds
the disparate facts of Kashmiri Muslims, Kashmir’s territorial contiguity
with Pakistan, and Muslim loyalty to Pakistan, to contemplate the result
of this explosive combination.
Shah demonstrated particular solicitude for the people of Jammu. He
suggested that the state’s name as it appeared in Ayyangar’s motion be
altered to describe it “more correctly”as the “State of Jammu and
Kashmir”. Shah insisted that his proposed amendment carried more
THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY 5
signiﬁcance than a “mere verbal emendation”. Others, too, had objected
to Ayyangar’s nomenclature. Lakshmi Kanta Maitra (West Bengal),
though eventually satisﬁed by Ayyangar’s assurance that the designation
“State of Kashmir”included Jammu and Ladakh, still demanded that the
state’s nominees represent both these regions. And H.V. Kamath added
concern that Mirpur and Poonch also be represented. Shah, unlike
these others, in challenging Ayyangar’s (and Jawaharlal Nehru’s)
Kashmir-centrism, was concerned solely with Jammu’s inclusion, not
the proper representation of all parts of the state.
Criticizing the Ayyangar-Nehru stance, he asked:
if we have been carried away by the importance of one section of the State, by the
importance of the personages connected with that part of the State, is that any
reason why we should forget the other and no less important part of the State?
His speech on that day was strewn also with elliptical references to the “Quit
Kashmir”campaign started by “the leader of a responsible party”and
blaming it for “the events”that followed and “all the difﬁculties that have
since ensued”. These allusions are intriguing in that the Quit Kashmir move-
ment Abdullah and the Kashmiri Muslim-dominated NC had launched in
1946 called for the revocation of the Treaty of Amritsar through which
the British had handed the Valley to the Dogra maharajas a hundred
years earlier. The agitation was in opposition to monarchical rule and was
not framed in religious terms. Perhaps Shah was picking up on the trepida-
tion it had caused among Hindu subjects until then comfortably ensconced
in the state’s power structure. Insofar as it is possible to make any reasonable
inferences from his speech –a collection of throwaway insinuations –Shah
was urging a shift from the government’s cosseting of Sheikh Abdullah, an
undependable ﬁgure somehow made culpable for instability in the state,
which in turn opened it up for Pakistan’s interference. He urged recognizing
instead the political worth (and centrality) of Jammu and its presumably
more reliably loyal people. “I do not like this House to be a party to anything
that might look as if it was a surrender to one man’s wishes”,hesaid,
especially since “Whether or not he holds the complete conﬁdence of all
the people of Kashmir has yet to be proved”.
Nevertheless, K.T. Shah’s assessment of Abdullah’s limited popularity in
Jammu and Ladakh was correct. Indeed, Ladakhi politicians resented the
prospect of rule by Kashmiris with whom they felt no afﬁnity either cul-
turally or politically. In Jammu, most Hindus were veering to Hindu
right-wing groups such as the Praja Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
6 THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
Sangh (RSS) and eventually the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS). Most
Muslims in Jammu had been supporters of the Muslim Conference,
which remained antithetical to the NC and for merger with Pakistan.
However, Shah’s own advocacy for privileging Jammu was based on
equally dubious grounds; Jammu-based leaders, including the Maharaja
Hari Singh (r. 1925–1952), were held in little regard in Kashmir,
where Abdullah was lionized, quite literally (his admirers had long
dubbed him Sher-e-Kashmir [‘lion of Kashmir’]). Shah’s proposal for
fresh elections being shot down on the grounds of the unstable conditions
in the state, he reverted to his suggestion that the Praja Sabha send the
In the end, it took Jawaharlal Nehru’s railroading to settle the issue along
his preferred lines, which were those put forward by Ayyangar. Nehru
dismissed the Praja Sabha as “a bogus body”. The elections to it had
been held in “fantastic and farcical”circumstances and “all decent
people in Kashmir”had boycotted them.
Nehru admitted that the prac-
tice of nomination was not “desirable”but argued that in the current con-
ditions Ayyangar’s proposal was the best option. It would produce the
closest possible approximation to a democratic process since the nominat-
ing ruler would be acting on the recommendation of the head of a popular
government formed by a popular party. Nehru also made a small conces-
sion on the name of the state. In order to allay what he called “a slight
confusion in people’s minds”,he“beg[ged]”Ayyangar to insert a modi-
ﬁcation in brackets: the state would now be termed the “State of Kashmir
(otherwise known as the State of Jammu and Kashmir)”.
Jammu made it into the parentheses, Ladakh was still missing. Clearly,
it was already the red herring conveniently dragged across the trail in
the contentious politics between Jammu and Kashmir and between
Delhi and Srinagar.
Hindu politics in Jammu
There were political developments outside the halls of the central legisla-
tive assembly that provide a useful background to Shah’s and Nehru’s
positions on the question of Jammu versus Kashmir. The “spectre of ple-
biscite”, in the words of Balraj Puri, was hanging over Jammu and
Ladakh. That plebiscite had been promised to all the state’s people by
Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy and ﬁrst governor-general of
India, and conﬁrmed by Nehru, upon the maharaja’s signing the instru-
ment of accession to India in late October 1947. By it, the state’s
THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY 7
people would be given the opportunity to either conﬁrm or reject the
accession. Fear that a state-wide plebiscite would go in Pakistan’s
favour made people in Jammu and Ladakh “receptive”to proposals for
dividing the state and holding “zonal plebiscites”instead. Sheikh Abdul-
lah opposed outright any division of the state.
Nehru was aware of these moves, especially by Hindu groups in Jammu,
and the maharaja’s involvement in them. In a letter to Patel dated 17 April
1949, citing an intelligence report, he mentioned “a growing Hindu agita-
tion in Jammu province”for the zonal plebiscite animated by “the belief
that a plebiscite for the whole of Kashmir is bound to be lost and therefore
let us save Jammu at least”. He reminded Patel that the maharaja, Hari
Singh, had made a similar proposal a few months earlier. The movement
was spearheaded by the Jammu-based Praja Parishad, a political party
founded in November 1947 by the RSS activist Balraj Madhok. It rep-
resented overwhelmingly the interests of Hindu landlords and former ofﬁ-
cials of the Dogra state. And, as the intelligence ofﬁcer informed Nehru, it
was ﬁnanced by the maharaja, who was also dipping liberally into the
funds of the Dharmarth Trust (a religious endowment controlled by the
Dogra rulers) to whip up propaganda. In the end, Nehru was conﬁdent
that Jammu province was not “running away from [India]”and reminded
Patel that “the prize we [India] are ﬁghting for is the valley of Kashmir”.
Fear among Muslims –in both Kashmir and Jammu –had already been
aroused by the maharaja’s, his state troops’and the RSS’s roles in the
massacre of close to 80,000 of their numbers in Jammu at the end of
Sheikh Abdullah had written to Nehru and Gandhi in December
1947 about how during Hari Singh’sﬂight from Srinagar to Jammu, after
the “tribal invasion”, he had “organised killings of Muslims in Jammu
‘for weeks under his very nose’”.
Refugee accounts and those of
English eyewitnesses corroborate Sheikh Abdullah’s version of the
maharaja’s collusion in the pogrom. Hari Singh “was seen with 4 truck-
loads of arms at Khana Chak (Jammu District), ﬁred the ﬁrst shot at the
Jammu refugee camp on [Eid] day, and gave orders to kill”at several
other places in the region. Furthermore, “he distributed arms to the
RSS”, even “watched the slaughter of Muslims from his car at Narayana
(Mirpur)”. By and large, he “set an example of fanaticism and extreme
sadism to his ofﬁcers, to the troops and to assassins from outside the
It is unlikely Shah was speaking in support of the maharaja’s or the Praja
Parishad’s course of action. But it is equally improbable he was unaware
8 THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
of these manoeuvres and slogans promoting a Hindu Jammu separated
from Kashmir. Some of his language reﬂected the same concerns: his
highlighting the religious make-up of the state and the implicit concern
that the interests of its substantial Hindu minority –mentioning speciﬁ-
cally the Dogras –be protected, his advocacy for recognising the impor-
tance of Jammu, and the assertion that Sheikh Abdullah did not speak for
the people who lived in that portion of the state.
Contrary to received wisdom, Nehru was not past dofﬁng his cap to reli-
gion when it suited. For the secularists in the Congress –Nehru among
them –possession of Kashmir was vital to fulﬁlling India’s national
self-deﬁnition along lines no less tied to religious identity. As late as in
1953, Nehru proclaimed: “Kashmir is symbolic as it illustrates that we
are a secular State, that Kashmir, with a large majority of Muslims, has
nevertheless, of its own free will, wished to be associated with
Paradoxically, then, emphasizing the Muslim-ness of Kashmir
became instrumental to burnishing India’s secularity.
Accordingly, Nehru was concerned with the effect the agitations in
Jammu –involving the Praja Parishad and the RSS and later joined by
the BJS (founded in 1951) –were having on Kashmir’s Muslim majority,
poised delicately as they were in choosing between India and Pakistan in
any future plebiscite. Addressing a rally in Calcutta on 1 January 1952,
Nehru asked his audience to
imagine what would have happened in Kashmir if the Jan Sangh or any other com-
munal party had been at the helm of affairs. The people of Kashmir say that they are
fed up with this communalism. Why should they live in a country where the Jan
Sangh and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh are constantly beleaguering
them? They will go elsewhere and they will not stay with us.
The unnamed object of Nehru’s protective concern was the ﬁgure of the
secular but also Muslim Kashmiri.
Secularism in the constituent assembly
Interestingly, then, the religious lens through which the people of J&K
came to be understood was the product not just of the politics of avow-
edly religious nationalists but also of self-professed secularists such as
K.T. Shah and, even more, Jawaharlal Nehru. K.T. Shah is associated
with two attempts (both failed) to have the word ‘secular’introduced
into the constitution’s preamble. In the session of 15 November 1948,
THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY 9
since it was ruled that the preamble would not be discussed at that time,
Shah sought to have the state described as a secular, federal, socialist
union via an amendment to an article then under consideration. He
spoke about how these terms would reﬂect the “hopes and aspirations”
of large numbers of people; according to him, emphasizing the “secularity
of the state”was particularly necessary given the recent “excesses”com-
mitted “in the name of religion”. Ambedkar turned down Shah’s pro-
posed amendment. As he saw it, the constitution’s purpose was merely
to provide a “mechanism …for regulating the work of the various
organs of the State”and not “tie down the people to live in a particular
form”. To protect democracy people should be allowed to decide for
themselves, “according to time and circumstances”, how society should
be arranged without the constitution constraining that choice for all
time to come. It should be noted that Ambedkar’s comments addressed
speciﬁcally the term ‘socialist’but by refusing the entire amendment
his objection applied also to the other terms Shah wished included.
Shah made another attempt at having the descriptor ‘secular’included
in the constitution on 3 December 1948 and his amendment was “nega-
tived”once more, this time without a single comment from the ﬂoor.
Despite these demonstrated efforts in the direction of embedding secular-
ism by word (to be followed by deed) in the constitution’s document,
Shah’s arguments in the context of Kashmir could not escape the reli-
gious frame within which the region was discussed. Indeed both Shah’s
and Nehru’s rationalizations for their preferred policies with regard to
J&K may have helped create or, at least, reinforce that religiously
informed perspective without actually acknowledging its existence.
Much of the responsibility for the blurred lines between religion and secu-
larity lies with the absence of any substantive debate on the very idea of
secularism in the constituent assembly. An understanding of the concept
was rather more assumed than carefully deﬁned.
In the assembly’s meeting on 12 August 1949, Nehru rose to “register his
strong protest”against two terms “thrown about a lot”in the debates. The
ﬁrst was ‘appeasement’, which critics used to characterize his govern-
ment’s policies with regard to Pakistan and to Muslims. What his
opponents called appeasement, Nehru defended as abiding by the prin-
ciples of ‘justice and equity’. The other term he found bandied about
too loosely was the word ‘secular’to describe the Indian state. For him
it was not the principle that was at issue but its being “brought in at
every conceivable step and at every conceivable stage”. Nehru’s annoy-
ance was no doubt also piqued by all manner of individuals claiming to
10 THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
speak in the name of secularism while actually defending religious inter-
he suggested to “those gentlemen who use this word often”that
they check its meaning in a dictionary. For Nehru, that India should be
a secular state was axiomatic and normatively in line with every other
state “except a very few misguided and backward countries in the
world”. It was so self-evidently true that there was no need to constantly
“refer to that word in the sense that we have done something very
But there lay the problem: even at moments when ﬁgures like Nehru
identiﬁed conﬂicting interpretations of the term, they made no move to
stop the clock and seek a debated consensus on the understanding of a
vital aspect of the new state. What were debated were the nature and
quantum of rights to be afforded different communities and even in
these discussions the tone of some of the speakers was dangerously
infused with sentiments of religious majoritarianism.
number of members of the CA referred to secularism merely as a frame of
mind that was the antithesis of the religious hatred that had precipitated
Partition. For this, they held the Muslim League and the British respon-
sible. With the British leaving, the onus lay mostly on Indian Muslims
to expiate their errors and restore India’s innate secular character. Val-
labhbhai Patel’s words, received with rousing applause, encapsulated
many of his fellow-members’understanding of secularism: speaking on
minority rights, he deemed such demands responsible for the division
of the country. “Those who want that kind of thing have a place in Paki-
stan, not here …we are laying the foundations of One Nation”,he
warned. Patel thundered to the Muslims: “You must change your attitude,
adapt yourself to the changed conditions”.
Secular India was essentially
K.T. Shah had perhaps come closest to provoking a debate when he had
asked in November 1948 why, having “been told time and again from
every platform that [India] is a secular State …the term could not be
added or inserted in the constitution itself”. According to him, the
purpose of such insertion –and perhaps also the debate he might have
expected to precede it –was “to guard against any possibility of misun-
derstanding or misapprehension”.
When he spoke of the ideas of a
secular, federal and socialist India expressing the “hopes and aspirations”
of people, he was signalling that these were not reﬂected in the reality
then current. One can only speculate that had such a substantive debate
taken place, perhaps the inconsistencies in their own stances between
their secularism and their religious understanding of the Jammu and
THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY 11
Kashmir issue would have become usefully clear to Shah and Nehru
themselves. As it was, India’s secularity was un-interrogated even as
J&K was made to join to the union.
Compared with the lively disputations that marked proceedings about
J&K on 27 May 1949, and especially compared with the political noise
generated by Hindu right-wingers around it ever since its passage,
article 306A (370 in the ﬁnal version) was added to the draft constitution
rather tamely on 17 October 1949. As mentioned earlier, that article
granted J&K a special status that, among other considerations, limited
the union government’s legislative jurisdiction to the subjects mentioned
in the instrument of accession Maharaja Hari Singh signed on 26 October
1947. These were foreign affairs, defence, currency and communications.
Among the few demurrals to Ayyangar’s motion introducing article 306A
came from Hasrat Mohani (UP), who could not see why J&K was being
treated more liberally than other princely states. Ayyangar argued that
“the discrimination was due to the special conditions of Kashmir”
which meant “it was not yet ripe for this [same] kind of integration”.
Among the unique circumstances Ayyangar cited were the war with Paki-
stan, the unstable cease-ﬁre, the continued presence of “rebels and
enemies”in the state’s territory and the “entanglement”of the govern-
ment of India in the United Nations.
No other member rose to speak
and article 306A was passed unopposed. There are two constituencies
whose silence sounds particularly loud in retrospect: not a single one
of the four representatives from J&K stood up to either praise or bury
Neither did Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, then a minister
in Nehru’s government, speak a word of condemnation: despite the fact
that less than two years later he led the BJS (which he founded in
1951) into supporting the Praja Parishad’s demand for the abrogation
of article 370.
Over a month after it was ensconced in the constitution, the special status
of J&K did draw some belated comments. Sardar Bhopinder Singh Man,
a Sikh representative from East Punjab, inveighing against the “over-con-
centration of power”at the centre reckoned that Kashmir had “escaped
with a very enviable position in the Union”.
More in line with the
Hindu majoritarian integrationist perspective were the views expressed
by Dr. Raghu Vira, a Sanskrit scholar and representative from CP and
Berar. For him the failure to integrate J&K fully into the Indian union
12 THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
represented the assembly members’“indifference to [their] duty to the
nation”. His references are still the stock-in-trade of Hindu supremacists.
Following a lament about the shrinking of India’s territory from its his-
torical and “natural boundaries”that had extended to the river Oxus
(receded to the river Ravi since Partition), he regretted the capitulation
that article 370 represented. He wrung his hands over the betrayal of
the people in Jammu and Ladakh who longed to “accede to India uncon-
ditionally”. He invoked the great cost in money and the blood of Indian
soldiers spilled in vain since India had “not yet succeeded in making
Kashmir [her] own”. Neither could the Indian parliament make laws
for J&K nor could the Indian ﬂag ﬂy in Kashmir without “their ﬂag”
It seems extraordinary that Raghu Vira, like Moo-
kerjee, did not vocalize his objections on 17 October 1949. But fortu-
nately for him, the Praja Parishad in Jammu had already begun its
agitation in early 1949 for the state’s full integration with India. And
by 1951, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee would gift the movement the
slogan of “one constitution, one ﬂag and one sovereign head”(‘ek
vidhan, ek nishan, ek pradhan’).
While the text of article 370 is only two pages long, there are two exten-
sive appendices –running to 26 pages –that qualify its provisions.
These reveal the long history of political interventions by the centre
working with puppet politicians in J&K that have changed the article’s
character. As countless other works have shown, the autonomy cove-
nanted in it was unremittingly abraded beginning in 1953.
main role is to provoke, on the one hand, the anger of mostly Kashmiri
Muslims who see betrayal in its nullity and, on the other, the ire of
Hindu nationalists who see in it the ‘appeasement’of Kashmiri
Muslims, read as fundamentalists and separatist traitors.
General elections held in May 2014 brought the Hindu nationalist Bhar-
atiya Janata Party (BJP) to national power with a commanding majority.
The year ended with another record-making electoral victory for the
party, this time in the Jammu region. Though its declared goal had
been to obtain a majority in the entire state, the BJP won no seats in
either the valley or in Ladakh. Nevertheless, this was the ﬁrst time the
party had made a signiﬁcant enough inroad in the state to form a coalition
government with the Kashmir-based People’s Democratic Party. Since
2014, then, Kashmir has been feeling, more directly than ever before,
THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY 13
the heat of the rhetoric and agendas of the BJP and its afﬁliates, the RSS
and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
In terms that K.T. Shah might have recognized, Kashmir, which the BJP
does not control, is isolated through various discursive strategies to make
it serve as both a dangerous exception but also a containable menace. A
speciality of the Hindu Right –though adopted by other Indian political
parties as well –has been a distilling of religious essences along territorial
lines within the state. In this view Jammu is Hindu, Ladakh Buddhist and
Kashmir Muslim, and the outcome of the 2014 elections is adduced to
conﬁrm this understanding. In the BJP’s eyes its majority win there
made Hindu Jammu a reality and, by not winning any seats in the
valley, reinforced the erroneous paradigm that Kashmir is Muslim. But
it won no seats in Ladakh either. Yet a supposedly Buddhist Ladakh –
the BJP’s ideology claims Buddhists as ‘their own’on the erroneous
premise that their religion is an offshoot of Hinduism –is automatically
assimilable in the Hindu nation.
Among the causes long espoused by the Hindu Right, as discussed, has
been the revocation of J&K’s special status exempliﬁed by article 370.
Despite its conspicuous whittling down, a bone of contention that has
recently been highlighted is the reservation of certain entitlements to ‘per-
manent residents’: the rights to acquire immovable property, to vote in
elections and eligibility for certain government positions in the state.
Article 35A of the Indian constitution added through a Presidential
Order in 1954 and issued under article 370 not only permits the state’s
legislature to deﬁne who permanent residents are but also guarantees
these special provisions to them.
Ironically, these were (except voting rights) beneﬁcences Maharaja Hari
Singh had granted in the early 20
century following agitations spear-
headed by his more privileged Hindu subjects, especially the Kashmiri
Pandits; their concern had been to stem the accumulation of wealth
(including land) and the cornering of positions in the administration’s
higher rungs by growing numbers of ‘outsiders’. Today this dispensation
is reviled as the brainchild of Kashmiri Muslim ‘separatism’. So the abro-
gation of these privileges –indeed the exorcism of even the spectral pres-
ence of article 370 –is demanded as blasphemy against the cult of
national integration. Dr. Raghu Vira would have been in sympathy. In
the view of Hindu supremacists, article 35A is an obstacle to the only sat-
isfactory resolution of the ‘Kashmir problem’: inundating the state with
(Hindu) Indians armed with the right to vote and to acquire land.
14 THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
Speaking in late 2017, Hari Om Mahajan, formerly a senior leader of the
BJP’s J&K unit, described article 35A as “discriminatory and unconstitu-
tional”. He raised the bogey also of a Muslim invasion of Jammu through
the settling of Rohingyas and Bangladeshi Muslims. He warned that the
“ongoing demographic attrition in Jammu needs to be reversed at every
cost”, especially because, as he asserted, “Jammu is the backbone of
the nation in the state”.
Given the centrality of Jammu for India that
he asserts, it should come as no surprise that Mahajan has also expressed
unstinting admiration for K.T. Shah’s efforts in the constituent assembly
on behalf of the region.
The ghosts of the assembly have not yet been laid to rest. Nor can they be
since the broader context in which India’s constitution-makers worked to
forge a republic –and into which they sought to absorb Kashmir –has not
changed. As this essay has argued, that context was suffused with reli-
giously informed perspectives. If the history of Kashmir in the constituent
assembly teaches us anything it is that, contrary to a widely held percep-
tion today especially in Hindu right-wing circles, rather than a Kashmiri
communalism (Islamic fundamentalism) infecting Indian secularism, the
malady may just as plausibly have spread in the other direction.
1. However, in the Constituent Assembly debates Jawaharlal Nehru and the drafter of
article 370, N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, insisted on the technicality that the acces-
sion was complete and all that remained was a conﬁrmation by the people. The
assumption was that a positive afﬁrmation was forthcoming. Constituent Assembly
Debates [henceforth CAD], vol. VIII, 27 May 1949 (no page numbers in the digi-
tized records of the debates). http://parliamentoﬁndia.nic.in/ls/debates/debates.htm.
2. Although the word ‘secular’as a description of the Indian state was only added to
the preamble through the forty-second amendment in 1976, it was always implied
both in the assembly debates and in the constitution it produced.
3. CAD, vol. VIII, 27 May 1949.
4. Mahavir Tyagi cited in Gyanendra Pandey, Remembering Partition: Violence,
Nationalism and History in South Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2001, p. 163.
5. Vallabhbhai Patel cited in Pandey, Remembering Partition, p. 163.
6. CAD, vol. IX, 20 Aug 1949. The article numbers in the draft constitution differed
from those in the ﬁnal version that came into force on 26 January 1950. Article
280 became article 352 in the ﬁnal version.
7. See Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, translated by
D. Heller-Roazen. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998. See also the
THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY 15
sequel: Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, translated by Kevin Attell. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 2005.
8. CAD, vol. IX, 20 Aug 1949.
9. Agamben, via Carl Schmitt, argues this in the context of Western states but his views
are equally relevant for the Indian state.
10. CAD, vol. IX, 20 Aug 1949.
12. In Hyderabad the Muslim nizam and his infamous Muslim razakars (private militia)
were accused of unleashing terror to resist the state’s accession to India; in Bengal
the Noakhali riots had seen Muslim aggression against Hindus in late 1946; and in
the case of Kashmir, Muslim Pakistan and the Muslim tribal raiders it had mustered
were seen as the aggressors who provoked the ﬁrst war with India in October 1947.
13. CAD, vol. VIII, 27 May 1949.
14. CAD, vol. I, 21 Dec 1946; vol. III, 28 Apr 1947; and vol. VII, 4 Nov 1948.
15. N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar was a distinguished civil servant who had been closely
associated with J&K in various capacities, including serving as the princely state’s
prime minister from 1937 to 1943 and as a member of its council of state from 1943
to 1947. He was the principal drafter of article 370.
16. CAD, vol. VIII, 27 May 1949.
17. CAD, vol. VIII, 27 May 1949.
18. The All Jammu and Muslim Conference had been founded in 1932 and included
Muslim representatives from both Kashmir and Jammu. In 1939, Sheikh Abdullah
renamed the party the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference. The Jammu
members broke away and formed a separate party in 1941 by reviving the older
name, Muslim Conference, under the leadership of Choudhary Ghulam Abbas.
19. These worthy boycotters included the NC under Sheikh Abdullah’s leadership.
20. CAD, vol. VIII, 27 May 1949.
21. In the end, the four representatives from J&K who joined the Constituent Assembly
on 16 June 1949 were Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beg,
Maulana Mohammad Sayeed Masoodi and Moti Ram Baigra.
22. Balraj Puri, Jammu and Kashmir: Triumph and Tragedy of Indian Federalisation.
New Delhi: Sterling, 1981, p. 93.
23. A.G. Noorani, ‘Kashmir: Blunders of the Past’.Frontline Vol. 23. Issue 25 (2006).
www.frontline.in/static/html/ﬂ2325/stories/20061229001008100.htm, accessed 3
24. Ian Copland, State, Community and Neighbourhood in Princely North India,
c. 1900–1950. Palgrave MacMillan UK, 2005, p. 154.
25. Noorani, ‘Kashmir: Blunders of the Past’.
26. Copland, p. 156.
27. S.K. Sharma and S.R. Bakshi (Eds.), Nehru and Kashmir. Jammu: Jay Kay Book
house, 1995, p. 308.
28. Needless to say, when this Muslim-ness began to exceed state-ascription –as it did
most resoundingly from 1990 onwards –and was re-appropriated as an idiom of
resistance among Kashmiris, it had to be declared illegitimate and erased.
29. A.G. Noorani, ‘Kashmir: Blunders of the Past’.
16 THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
30. CAD, vol. VII, 15 Nov 1948.
31. CAD, vol. VII, 3 Dec 1948.
32. The immediate –though not the only –provocation for Nehru’s intervention was the
speech made earlier that day by Sardar Bhopinder Singh Man (East Punjab), who
objected to what he saw as a discriminatory policy adopted against Hindu and
Sikh refugees but favouring Muslims wishing to return from Pakistan. For him
this represented a “weak sort of secularism”that demonstrated partiality towards
even Muslims like the Meos who had questioned the integrity of India before Par-
tition. CAD, vol. IX, 12 Aug 1949.
34. Particularly revealing of a Hindu majoritarian mind-set are the debates on rights relating
to religion, especially on the question of the right of minorities to propagate their faith.
See CAD,vol. III, 1 May 1947. See also Govind Ballabh Pant’s discussionof safeguards
for minorities warning them at the same time not to look outside the territorial conﬁnes
of India for the protection of their rights. As he put it, the surest assurance for the min-
orities would come from the “goodwill”of the majority. CAD, vol. II, 24 Jan 1947.
Importantly, these views were expressed in the assembly before Partition had become
an irrevocable certainty. Partition, it would appear from the tenor of some of the partici-
pants in these debates, hardened such majoritarian views but did not create them.
35. Christians, too, were put on notice but mostly on the question of proselytization.
Their numbers were presumably too small either to constitute a threat to power or
to alter the character of India.
36. Vallabhbhai Patel cited in Pandey, Remembering Partition, pp. 162–163.
37. CAD, vol. VII, 15 Nov 1948.
38. CAD, vol. X, 17 Oct 1949.
39. Letters exchanged between S.M. Abdullah and N.G. Ayyangar, dated 17 and 18
October 1949, in A.G. Noorani, Article 370: A Constitutional History of Jammu
and Kashmir. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 72–77.
40. CAD, vol. XI, 21 Nov 1949.
41. CAD, vol. XI, 19 Nov 1949.
42. Government of India, Ministry of Law and Justice, The Constitution of India (As
modiﬁed up to the 1
December, 2007), pp. 243–244 and 357–396. The appendices
reﬂect changes made in 1954 and in 1964–1965. The latter represented a signiﬁcant
departure from the original article. These revised articles extended to Kashmir, inter
alia, the central government’s authority to dismiss elected state governments and
appropriate the latter’s legislative powers.
43. See Noorani, Article 370, and Sumantra Bose, The Challenge in Kashmir: Democ-
racy, Self-Determination and a Just Peace. New Delhi: Sage, 1997.
44. PTI, ‘Kashmiri Pandits demand homeland, revocation of Article 370’.The Indian
Express, August 27, 2017. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/kashmiri-pandits-
demand-homeland-revocation-of-article-370-4816348/, accessed 20 Feb 2018.
45. Hari Om Mahajan, ‘When Nehru Government Tried to Omit the Word “Jammu”
From “Jammu and Kashmir”’.Swarajya, July 29, 2017. https://swarajyamag.com/
kashmir, accessed 22 Feb 2018.
THE INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY 17