In July 1949, Sheikh Abdullah and three others were nominated by the ruler of Jammu & Kashmir to the Constituent Assembly in Delhi. They negotiated the special status of J&K, leading to the adoption of Article 370. (It was Article 306A while being debated in the Constituent Assembly.) The negotiations were carried out over several months between N Gopalaswami Ayyangar (cabinet minister without portfolio and former Dewan of Kashmir) and Sheikh Abdullah and others.
The first meetings were held during May 15-16, 1949 at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s residence with PM Jawaharlal Nehru present. When Ayyangar prepared a draft letter from Nehru to Abdullah summarising the broad understanding reached, he sent it to Patel with a note: “Will you kindly let Jawaharlalji know direct as to your approval of it? He will issue the letter to Sheikh Abdullah only after receiving your approval.”
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Ayyangar, who eventually drafted Article 370, spoke in the Constituent Assembly on October 17, 1949: “We have also agreed that the will of the people, through the instrument of the Constituent Assembly, will determine the Constitution of the State as well as the sphere of the Union’s jurisdiction of the state… You will remember that several of these clauses provide for the concurrence of the Jammu & Kashmir state. Now these relate particularly to the matters not mentioned in the Instrument of Accession and it is one of our commitments to the people and the Government of Kashmir that no such additions should be made except with the consent of the Constituent Assembly which may be called in the state for framing its Constitution.”
Later, Abdullah insisted that the Article should not extend the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles to Jammu and Kashmir, but leave it to the state’s Constituent Assembly to decide whether or not to adopt them. Patel was unhappy but allowed Ayyangar to proceed. Nehru was abroad then; Patel wrote to him on November 3, 1949: “After a great deal of discussion, I could persuade the [Congress] party to accept”. When Sheikh Abdullah threatened to resign from the Constituent Assembly, Patel asked Nehru to get him back on board.
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In November 1963, in a debate in Parliament, when Hari Vishnu Kamath argued that Kashmir was “not fully” integrated, Nehru asserted that it was, indeed, “fully integrated” with India. He said: “The House will remember that we have some such restrictions with respect to NEFA and other places; outsiders cannot buy land. This is also in some other districts, the hill districts of Assam. This is to protect them.”
Former MP Karan Singh, son of Maharaja Hari Singh, wrote in An Examined Life: “The right wing seems to resent that J&K carries a special status. That has always surprised me. We are a great country, we should be large-hearted. J&K came to India under complex and difficult circumstances. Now after all these years to ask why it holds a special position is baffling. It will always be special because it was born out of a special historical event and subsequent political developments. In England they have all sorts of governing systems…,we should feel so lucky that J&K, a Muslim-majority state became a part of India despite the religion-led Partition. Cherish that; relish that; honour that.”
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