Praja Parishad’s peaceful protest began and they put forward their demands.
1. Imprisoned leaders of Parishad should be evicted immediately and the charges levied upon them must be forfeited.
2. The regions of Maslan Ramvan, Kishtwad, etc. which were originally in Jammu should be included in the Jammu region at the earliest. Doda should again be amalgamated into Udhampur.
3. Praja Parishad should be permitted to work as a recognized political representation.
4. The differential policy towards Jammu must be stopped and the entire Jammu region, from Pathankot to Banihal, should be granted the right to adopt democratic self-governance that is – administrative governance under the federal structure of the republic of Bharat.
At the end of June, Lala Roopchand Nanda, the president of Praja Parishad informed the Prime Minister of the state Shaikh Abdullah, and deputy Prime Minister Bakshi Gulam Mohammad through telegram that the Parishad had halted their agitation on the solace given by the government but the government had failed in fulfilling the promises to the Parishad, hence, with no other option, the Parishad would restart their agitation.
The Government had already implemented “The Kashmir Security Act, amendment 50” to restrict the movements of the agitators but the karyakartas of the Parishad went ahead, in spite of the ban, with demand for releasing Pandit Premnath Dogra.
The police evicted the ten satyagrahi and arrested several karyakartas from across the state of Kashmir. Two days later, the president of the Parishad, Lala Roopchand Nanda was arrested under the security amendment 24 and expelled from Jammu City. He was to be under house arrest in district Doda, which was 100 miles far. Later, he agitated against the Shaikh Government and got arrested but unfortunately, once convicted, he was frightened or probably had cold feet, and hence he demanded to be released on parole!
The satyagrah policy was not in favor of getting released on parole. The unthoughtful act by the president initiated disappointment among the karyakartas but immediately Nanda’s son Madholal presented himself for the Satyagrah. Madholal, along with Narsinh Dayal Sharma, Chaudhary Chaggar Singh, and Mulkh Raj agitated outside Hari Talkies, dismantling amendment 144. The head Constable Gandhar Vali arrested and imprisoned all and beat them mercilessly. He was wishing that the Satyagrahis would apologize!!!
But, none of them were moved.
It became the talk of the town, especially as Madholal had indulged in agitation, in spite of his father forbidding him. Now, the atrocities of the Shaikh Government had gone beyond tolerance, and brutality over Satyagrahis had crossed all limits. The Praja Parishad decided to reach out and appeal to the central leadership and make them aware of the wicked barbarousness of the Shaikh Government and their non – democratic conduct towards Jammu and Ladakh.
Kaviraj Vishnu Gupta and Chatur Ram Dogra reached Delhi. Smt. Shakti Sharma and Sushila Maggi also joined the delegation. They met with several leaders in Delhi and put forward the horrendous conduct of the Shaikh Government. They told them about the imprisonment of Parishad karyakartas without any trial. The members of parliament in Delhi felt the strain of oppression and came forward to help. All the arrested leaders and Pandit Premnath Dogra were released from jail, taking back all the charges levied upon them as the effect of coercion.
As narrated by Chaudhary Chaggar Singh, there were unlimited hardships endured by the agitators but eventually, Praja Parishad gained acceptance outside of Jammu & Kashmir. When Pandit Nehru visited Jammu, there were protests against him with demands of bringing back Maharaja Hari Singh. It was Pandit Nehru at the helm of the decision to drive him away from the state. In a huge public meeting at the historic Parade ground, he replied to the protestors that ” Will I bring back the one who had arrested me?!”
The Praja Parishad had been actively participating in social causes along with political agitations. The state faced a mammoth flood in October 1950. Praja Parishad initiated several relief-and-medical camps. Jammu administration formed a committee for relief work, which had Pandit Premnath Dogra’s name. Shaikh could not tolerate it and he deducted his name from the list.
The issue of Jammu Kashmir had been presented to the United Nations and the cold war between both nations had begun. Around the same time, the election in the state had been announced and Praja Parishad believed it was a Golden chance to create awareness among common men and women. The final selection was to happen in the people’s court.
Pandit Nehru had taken a clear stand of standing by the National Conference. On 2nd April 1951, Pandit Premnath Dogra raised questions about the policy of the Government of Bharat, regarding offering the people of the state, to the ‘man-eater’ named United Nations. He said in no uncertain words that Maharaja Hari Singh had merged Kashmir into Bharat, with the compliance of the people of the Princely state. He cleared out that he was not favouring the re-instating the hereditary rule of Maharaja Hari Singh but he wished that Maharaja should be entitled to the status imparted to the kings of Princely state. Praja Parishad was neither communal nor it has belief from a Hindu-Muslim point of view. Parishad had faith in the complete accession of the princely state.
On Pandit Nehru’s next visit to Jammu, he gave a warning that the people of Jammu should be aware that the Kashmir issue has now turned into an international issue. He attacked Maharaja HariSinh that, had he not committed the impropriety towards people of Kashmir, or else Pakistan would not have attacked…
Six days post Pandit Nehru’s departure from Kashmir, Shaikh Abdullah posed a verbal attack on Maharaja Hari Singh and his son, Karn Sinh. He warned that the Maharaja and Maharani should forget about the dream of returning back to the princely state. Karn Sinh too would be treated similarly to his parents if he did not change his company and added that if Karn Sinh considered Dhanvantar Singh, the Vice President of Praja Parishad as his well-wisher then he would not have any other option than ending the Kingship.
Shaikh Abdullah had created and would spread the opinion that the leaders of Praja Parishad were anti-Muslims. He stated that he would not let the Muslims in Jammu, come under the sword of Pandit Premnath Dogra and Dhanvantar Singh!!! Whereas the reality was completely different. It was Hindus of Jammu, who faced differential treatment.
The process of formation of the Constituent Assembly was started in April 1951. The number of members for the Constituent Assembly had been decided. Out of a total number of 100 members, 25 members were to be elected from the region, which was under the occupation of Pakistan. From the rest of the 75 seats, 43 seats were allotted to Kashmir valley, 30 from Jammu, and 2 from the Ladakh region. The area and population, both of Kashmir valley were less than that of Jammu, yet Jammu was allocated lesser representation!!!
This clearly indicated the beginning of the dominance of Valley over Jammu and Ladakh, in the governance of the state. Both the prime political parties, Praja Parishad and National Conference began their electoral exercise. Both had different political agendas and manifestos. Congress had not created its existence in the state and its policy regarding Kashmir was similar to National Conference. Hence, the ideology of Praja Parishad was completely against that of Congress.
The most notable point is that the election in Jammu Kashmir was not being held under the Election Commission of the rest of Bharat, as Shaikh Abdullah had opposed it!!! The entire democratic process of holding elections was kept aside in the state. All the candidates of the National Conference were elected unopposed in the Valley as the nominations of all others who had filed in opposition, were rejected. Only two candidates’ nominations remained uncancelled but they themselves withdrew from the contest.
In the Jammu region, Praja Parishad had nominated 28 candidates in the 30 seats. The candidature of 13 candidates of Parishad was declared disqualified!!! In protest, Praja Parishad withdrew from the contest and only two independent candidates in Akhnoor and Kahanchakk remained on the battlefield! They too, withdrew little before the voting was to progress. The entire electoral process of forming the Constituent Assembly turned out to be a joke. The National Conference won all 75 seats mostly unopposed.
The Praja Parishad declared the entire election as undemocratic and decided to look for alternative roots for Jammu’s voice to be heard. It was all the more difficult as this undemocratic process was taking place under Pandit Nehru’s knowledge.
Sources of Information :
हमारी भूलोका स्मारक : धर्मांतरित कश्मीर
कश्मीर : दहकते अंगारे
जम्मू कश्मीर की अनकही कहानियां
कुलदीप चंद अग्निहोत्री
Kashmir : Behind The Vale
M J Akbar
My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir