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Explained: What is Accession Day, the new public holiday for Jammu and Kashmir

A new list of public holidays was issued by the Union Territory's General Administration Department on December 27.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 2, 2020 8:02:49 am
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From 2020, people in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will have a public holiday on October 26 for the first time. The day, which will be observed as Accession Day, marks the signing of the Instrument of Accession by the last Dogra ruler of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh, with the then Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten.

Like the UT of Ladakh, J&K has also dropped Martyr’s Day — which the erstwhile state observed on July 13 to mark the deaths of the 22 people who lost their lives when the Maharaja’s forces opened fire on them — and December 5, which marks the birth anniversary of Sheikh Abdullah, former prime minister and chief minister of J&K.

With this, from the new year, the new UT of Jammu and Kashmir will have 27 public holidays instead of the earlier 28, according to a list of public holidays issued by UT’s General Administration Department on Friday.

What happened on October 26?

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As per the Indian Independence Act, 1947, British India was divided into India and Pakistan and the roughly 580 princely states that had signed subsidiary alliances with the British had their sovereignty restored to them. In essence, these princely states were given the option to remain independent or to join the Dominion of India or Pakistan.

According to Section 6(a) of the Act, before joining India or Pakistan, these states had to sign an Instrument of Accession, in which they would specify the terms on which they were becoming part of the new dominions. This is what the Maharaja signed on October 26, 1947 — essentially, a treaty between the state of Jammu and Kashmir and India. Mountbatten accepted it on October 27, 1947.

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Initially, the Maharaja had decided to remain independent and sign standstill instruments with India and Pakistan, but after tribesmen and army men from Pakistan invaded, he sought India’s help, which sought the accession of the state to the Dominion of India.

What does the Instrument of Accession say?

The Schedule appended to the Instrument of Accession gave Parliament the power to legislate in respect of J&K only on Defence, External Affairs and Communications.

In Kashmir’s Instrument of Accession in Clause 5, the Maharaja explicitly mentioned that the terms of “my Instrument of Accession cannot be varied by any amendment of the Act or of Indian Independence Act unless such amendment is accepted by me by an Instrument supplementary to this Instrument”.

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Clause 7 said, “nothing in this Instrument shall be deemed to commit me in any way to acceptance of any future constitution of India or to fetter my discretion to enter into arrangements with the Government of India under any such future constitution”.

Furthermore, Clause 6 of the instrument states, “Nothing in this Instrument shall empower the Dominion Legislature to make any law for this State authorising the compulsory acquisition of land for any purpose…”.

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