The Backstory of Article 370: A True Copy of J&K’s Instrument of Accession

Sourced from the National Archives of India, The Wire presents a key document from India's modern history

Note: This article was first published on October 26, 2016 and is being republished on August 5, 2019.

October 26, 2016 marked the 70th anniversary of the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India.

On account of the troubled times that J&K has been passing through since July, there is little space for celebrating this event, but a sober commemoration of this historic moment is necessary.

The Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh has become the object of a never-ending controversy, unlike similar accession instruments signed by other princely states.

The author seeks to reinvigorate informed debate on this issue by placing a true copy of the signed accession instrument in the public domain. The copy was obtained from the National Archives of India. This article also critically examines some of the popular claims regarding this document by making a reference to other contemporaneous official records.

Re-discovering the J&K Instrument of Accession

On a hot and humid mid-September afternoon, I walked in to the research room of the National Archives in New Delhi to find out if my search for a “historic” document had borne results. The document in question was the original Instrument of Accession (IoA) signed in October 1947 by the then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh and accepted by Lord Mountbatten of Burma, who was Governor General of India at the time. Earlier, the Union ministry of home affairs had transferred to the National Archives my RTI application seeking a copy of this document and a handful of IoAs signed by other Rulers[1]. Subsequently, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the National Archives invited me to access the documents under the Public Records Act, 1993[2].

I walked towards the shelves situated at the end of the hall, my shoes squeaking across the extra smooth flooring, butterflies fluttering in my stomach. The J&K IoA lay in a cream coloured folder at one corner of a shelf waiting to be picked up. The last time I got as excited was a few days earlier, when I spotted a reference to this document in the Index of 1,847 treaties and agreements transferred by the Central government to the National Archives for safe keeping.[3]

The J&K IoA has been the subject of one of the biggest and long drawn controversies in independent India. Does it really exist or not? One academic doubted its authenticity and reportedly dismissed its very existence.[4] Andrew Whitehead has claimed that he was denied access to this document on the ground that it was “classified”.[5] The retyped text of this document is currently accessible on a privately hosted website.[6] Whitehead writes that a facsimile of the J&K IoA was displayed on the website of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for some time.[7] I could not trace this facsimile copy on the MHA site.

Through this article in The Wire, I can confirm that the J&K IoA exists for real, is safe and well preserved in the collection of the National Archives.

I have elected to place in the public domain a copy of the J&K IoA obtained legitimately from the National Archives for the purpose of facilitating informed debate amongst those interested in the subject.

I have also placed copies of the IoAs of Mysore, Manipur, Tehri Garhwal and Udaipur obtained by me from the National Archives in the public domain so that readers may compare them with the J&K IoA for ascertaining its genuineness.[8]

Is the J&K IOA held by the National Archives a genuine document?

I am not a forensics expert, nor was I familiar with the signatures of the Maharaja of J&K and Lord Mountbatten before I looked at these five IoAs. However, at least three indicators seem to testify to the genuineness of the J&K IoA.

First, like several other IoAs, the document signed by the Maharaja of J&K is in two parts. The first three pages contain the text of the terms of the accession- this is the IoA proper. Page 2 of the document bears the signature of Maharaja Hari Singh and the acceptance of the instrument signed by Lord Mountbatten. Page 3 contains the list of subjects on which the Dominion Legislature’s powers to make laws applicable to J&K were accepted by the Maharaja by virtue of this accession instrument. Pages 4 and 5 contain the standstill agreement between J&K and the Dominion of India, as it was called in 1947 before India became a republic. IoAs signed by the several other princely States contain a standstill agreement between them and the Dominion of India as annexures.[9]

Second, in all the IoAs signed by the rulers of Mysore,[10] Manipur,[11] Tehri Garhwal[12] and Udaipur[13], Lord Mountbatten signed his acceptance of the instruments and mentioned the date of acceptance in green ink – just like he did while accepting the J&K IoA.[14] Further, the overall faded appearance of this document – just like the other IoAs I picked up – clearly hints to its vintage.

Third, the appended standstill agreements are an added element confirming the authenticity of the Jammu and Kashmir IoA.

At the time of independence, various parts of the Indian sub-continent were under different kinds of administrative arrangements. Chiefly, there were two kinds of jurisdictions – the principalities – large and small which were ruled by hereditary princes and provinces which were directly under British administration. The British Raj had entered into separate treaties and agreements with several princely states for a variety of purposes, such as the construction and the maintenance of roads and power supply facilities, railway tracks, communication facilities including posts, telegraph and wireless, flights, taxation, currency and coinage, external affairs etc. With the ousting of the British Raj, these treaties would become void automatically. So the newly established Department of States drew up an agreement in consultation with the Chamber of Princes (comprising of the rulers of princely states) to ensure that these administrative arrangements would continue unaltered (i.e., standstill) until the new Constitution was drawn up. Almost all princely states that had such treaties and agreements with the British Raj signed a standstill agreement along with the Instrument of Accession to the Dominion of India.

As can be seen from the documents posted here, the Rulers of Mysore, Tehri Garhwal, Manipur and Udaipur did not sign the standstill agreements annexed to the IoAs, nor did Lord Mountbatten append his signature to the same. In all these cases, the standstill agreements were signed by the rulers’ subordinates. In the case of Mysore, the standstill agreement was signed by the dewan (prime minister) of Mysore, in the case of Manipur, it was signed by the private secretary to the maharaja, in the case of Tehri Garhwal it was signed by the chief secretary of the state and in the case of Udaipur it was signed by the then acting prime minister.

The J&K standstill agreement, however, was signed by Maharaja Hari Singh himself and for good reason. All writers commenting on the events leading to the accession of J&K to the Indian Dominion are unanimous on one fact, i.e., the then prime minister of J&K, Justice M. C. Mahajan[15] was in New Delhi on October 26 – the date on which Maharaja Hari Singh is said to have signed the IoA. So there was probably no authority other than the Maharaja in Kashmir who could sign the standstill agreement. In all five cases, the standstill agreements were signed by Shri V. P. Menon on behalf of the Dominion of India.

Readers may ask, what about the letter that Maharaja Hari Singh is purported to have sent to Lord Mountbatten along with the signed IoA and the reply the latter sent back to the maharaja. Those documents, whose existence is not in doubt, thankfully, are not included in the file containing the IoA and the standstill agreement. They seem to remain in the custody of the Union home ministry. The text of this correspondence is published in a document published by the Political Branch of the Ministry of States.[16]

What about the overwriting in the J&K IoA?

Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir. Credit: Wikimedia

Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir. Credit: Wikimedia

Some writers have commented on the overwriting visible in the J&K IoA to argue that it is not a genuine document.[17] This issue can be explained by the fact that a common template was used for the purpose of the IoAs. The printed stationery mentioned the month of August, leaving a blank space for filling up the exact date of accession at the time of signature by each Ruler. While a large number of Rulers signed their respective IoAs in August itself, Maharaja Hari Singh signed it in October when his hands were forced by the invasion from across the State’s borders. This explains the striking out of “August” to insert “October” in the IoA.

Making such minor technicalities as the basis to contest the authenticity of the J&K IoA may not help advance the debate much because overwriting is seen in at least one other IoA whose copy I was able to obtain form the National Archives. For example, in the Mysore IoA, the date of acceptance was initially mentioned as the “ninth” day of August in black ink. Lord Mountbatten seems to have put in the correct date, namely, the “sixteenth” while appending his signature. The correction is made in green ink – the same colour he used for signing his acceptance of every IoA that I have looked at. Further, in the case of the standstill agreement with Mysore, the dewan signed on the portion which was reserved for the signature of the Secretary of the States Department of the Dominion. So the designation of V. P. Menon had to be typed up manually at the bottom of this document.

While the title of the rulers of Manipur and Udaipur were type-written on the IoAs, those of their counterparts in the case of the IoAs of Mysore, Tehri Garhwal were hand written. Should this discrepancy then be used to dispute the validity of the accession of any of these princely States to the Dominion?

Interestingly, while the IoAs and the standstill agreements in the case of Mysore, Manipur, Tehri Garhwal and Udaipur indicate that they were drawn up in the names of the rulers of those states and the Dominion of India, in the case of J&K, both documents are drawn up in the name of the Jammu and Kashmir State.[18] Should this curious titling be taken to imply that the residents of J&K had consented to the accession, when they were not even consulted on this matter? Such nitpicking does not help informed debate on the subject. Given the trying circumstances in 1947 and the sheer number of documents that had to be signed from across the country, such discrepancies are highly likely to occur, especially in a newly created department that was short staffed and had set a near impossible deadline for itself to secure the integration of India.

Is the J&K IoA a unique document?

There is a general consensus that unlike other princely states, J&K acceded to the Dominion of India under unique circumstances. I do not intend to delve into these circumstances to examine the claims and counter claims in this brief article. However, another myth that popular lore about J&K has perpetuated is that Maharaja Hari Singh signed a specially drafted Instrument of Accession that took care of his demands. Almost every layperson I met with in J&K during my travel to promote awareness and the use of the state’s RTI Act would point out during informal discussions that the maharaja had recognised the powers of the Dominion to make and implement laws only on three subjects matter, namely foreign affairs, defence and communications. Until I began my research on this subject, I had also harboured a similar misconception.

A comparison of the four IoAs of Mysore, Manipur, Tehri Garhwal and Udaipur that I accessed from the National Archives and a careful reading of V. P. Menon’s narrative account of the process by which India was integrated, indicates otherwise.

Every one of the 140 princely states that signed IoAs with the Dominion of India agreed to the same terms and conditions as J&K. All these rulers also initially acceded to the Dominion limited to the same three subjects. The remaining powers were retained by them just as the maharaja of J&K had sought to do. However, eventually some of them signed instruments of merger, to form larger administrative units such as the Matsya Union, Vindhya Pradesh, PEPSU, Travancore and Cochin etc. and finally accepted the scheme of administration laid down by the new Constitution. The then yuvaraj of J&Km who exercised all powers delegated to him by the Maharaja, issued a proclamation on November 25, 1949 stating that the soon-to-be-adopted Constitution of India would govern the relations between J&K and the Union only to such extent as its provisions would apply to J&K. Article 306a – which would later become Article 370 – laid down the terms and conditions of this relationship. Interestingly, the provisions under Article 370 were intended to be transitional and temporary in nature. Menon’s tome contains a detailed account of these developments. Subsequently, Noorani[19] and others have extensively dwelt upon the manner in which the protection provided by Article 370 was eroded from the very beginning. I do not intend to go into those matters in this brief article. 

Tabling of the IoAs in the Constituent Assembly (Legislative)

In fact, my inspiration to seek copies of the IoAs including that of J&K came from a reading of three pieces of legislation, namely, The Government of India Act, 1935 (GoI Act), the India Independence Act, 1947 and The India (Provisional Constitution) Order, 1947.

While the GOI Act had laid down the accession procedure for the princely states (to the undivided Dominion of India as was envisaged then), the provisional constitutional order made an important amendment to its provisions, amongst several others. Section 6 of the GOI Act relating to the accession of the Indian states to the Dominion was amended to incorporate several changes. Sub-section 6 of the new Section 6 required the laying of copies of the Instrument of Accession on the table of the dominion legislature soon after they were accepted by the governor general. Eventually, the dominion legislature came to be known as the Constituent Assembly-Legislative (CA-L) when it was performing legislative functions outside of its main mandate, namely the framing of a constitution for India.

When the MHA did not respond to my request for copies of the IoAs, I filed an RTI application with the Lok Sabha secretariat seeking access to the same documents and the CA-L debates. I pointed out that the IoAs were required to be tabled before the CAL and the Lok Sabha being a successor body to the CA-L, ought to have maintained copies of these documents. The CPIO of the Lok Sabha has not responded to my RTI application till date. Subsequently, I secured access to the library of Parliament and located the debates of the CA-L for the period 1947-1948.[20]

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, as the deputy prime minister, in charge of the Ministry of States, tabled the IoA of J&K along with those signed by 116 other princely states before the CA-L on 19 November 19, 1947.[21] Kashmir is listed at #68 in Schedule I Part A of the paper laid on the table of the house. The date of signature of the IOA is mentioned as October 26, 1947 and the date of acceptance as October 27, 1947. Several writers have raised doubts about these dates. This is an area I intend to research next, so I will not offer any comment on this matter for now.

Before closing, it is necessary to dispel one more myth popularised by those who question the existence of the J&K IoA. Its origin seems to be based on the write-up attributed to Prof. Lamb.[22] If he has truly written that the signed copy of the IoA was never attached to the White Paper on J&K that the Government issued in 1948 or included in the documents that the Indian government sent to the UN Security Council that year, that discrepancy may also be explained in simple terms. It must be remembered that during the late 1940s and 1950s, photocopying and mimeography were not available in India. So the government perhaps appended only a copy of the IoA template which was commonly used to secure the accession of the 140 princely States to these documents. I have already shown that the text of the IoA templates was retyped for the purpose of laying them before the CA-L. Of course the government could have anticipated its future acerbic and often vituperative critics and included photographs of the signed copy of the J&K IoA in all these documents. It was within its powers to so do. Why it elected not to do so, is not my job to explain. That explanation should come from the government of India.

My objective in this article is limited – to place legitimately obtained true-to-the original images of the J&K Instrument of Accession along with other comparable and supporting documents to encourage informed debate across the country and elsewhere on this subject. I trust this article has accomplished this objective.

It will not be an exaggeration to describe the IoAs and the standstill agreements as the threads that knit the disparate administrative jurisdictions into a Union. Instead of tucking them away and providing access to researchers only on demand, the National Archives should work with the government to display them in a museum which people can visit at will. Citizens have the right to know more about these building blocks that became India.

Venkatesh Nayak is an RTI activist and a history researcher based in New Delhi. He works with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.


[1] While the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the MHA did not bother to reply to my request, my RTI application was transferred to the National Archives only after I submitted the first appeal to the appellate authority in MHA. According to Section 7(2) of The Right to Information Act, 2005 where a CPIO fails to send a reply to an RTI application within 30 days, it will be deemed that he or she has refused to the request for information and the right of the applicant to submit a first appeal gets activated automatically.

[2] The Public Records Act, 1993 and the Public Records Rules, 1997 lay down the statutory framework for the declassification and the archivisation of official records, including those labelled “top secret”, “secret” or “confidential”, held by public authorities under the Central Government. The National Archives is the custodian of such archived records and provides access to such records to researchers. Similar laws and rules have been put in place by several State Governments for the purpose of placing their old records with their own State-level Archives.

[3] National Archives Register No. R.R. 271, page no. 27. The J&K IOA is preserved in file no. P-I/20/47, Year 1947. Strangely, the National Archives refused to provide a photocopy of this page. This register indexes various treaties and agreements signed between 1831 and 1985

[4] This is what Prof. Alastair Lamb wrote about the J&K IoA in 1991: “The actual Instrument of Accession…was, in fact, no more than a printed form, not unlike an application for a driving licence, with blank spaces left for the name of the State, the signature of the Maharaja and the date; and it also contained a printed form of acceptance which required dating and signature by Mountbatten as Governor-General.” See Alastair Lamb, Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy 1846-1990, Roxford Books, Hertfordshire,1990, page 137: accessed on 22 October, 2016. In an alleged excerpt from another work attributed to him: The Myth of Indian Claim to Jammu and Kashmir: A Reappraisal, uploaded on the website of Pakistan’s Ministry of External Affairs, the following statement is displayed: “The far more important document (a), the alleged Instrument of Accession, was not published until many years later, if at all…. The 1948 White Paper in which the Government of India set out its formal case in respect to the State of Jammu & Kashmir, does not contain the Instrument of Accession as claimed to have been signed by the Maharajah: instead, it reproduces an unsigned form of Accession such as, it is implied, the Maharajah might have signed. To date no satisfactory original of this Instrument as signed by the Maharajah has been produced: though a highly suspect version, complete with the false date 26 October 1947, has been circulated by the Indian side since the 1960s. On the present evidence it is by no means clear that the Maharaja ever did sign an Instrument of Accession. There are, indeed, grounds for suspecting that he did no such thing. The Instrument of Accession referred to in document (c), a letter which as we have seen was probably drafted by Indian officials prior to being shown to the Maharajah, may never have existed, and can hardly have existed when the letter was being prepared.”:, accessed on 22 October, 2016. Despite several efforts I could not locate on the Internet reliable bibliographical information about this work attributed to Prof. Lamb. There is no mention of this work in subsequent scholarly publications on Kashmir such as Andrew Whitehead’s Mission in Kashmir, etc. (see f.n. #4 below) or in Victoria Schofield’s Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unending War”: I. B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., London, 2003) and A. G. Noorani’s, The Kashmir Dispute: 1947-2012, Vol. 1, Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2013.

[5] “The Instrument of Accession is in the holdings of India’s National Archive. I have been refused permission to consult the document because it is, apparently classified. A facsimile of the entire document was posted in 2005 at the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs website”. See f.n. #29 in Chapter 6: Signing up to India in Andrew Whitehead, Mission in Kashmir, Viking, Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 2007, New Delhi, page no. 255, accessible online on the author’s website, accessed on 22 October, 2016.

[6] See: http://www.jammu-kashmir.com/documents/instrument_of_accession.html, accessed on 22 October, 2016. This document is surprisingly replicated on the website of the Commissioner of Customs, Excise and Service Tax, Hydebarad-IV, accessed on 22 October, 2016.

[7] See f.n. #29 in Chapter 6: Signing up to India in Andrew Whitehead’s Mission in Kashmir etc. (see f.n. #5 above).

[8] Please note that the image files have been created from the images I obtained legitimately upon payment of the prescribed fees at the National Archives. All copyright vis-à-vis these IoAs is claimed by the National Archives. I request readers to access these files in the original from the National Archives using the file numbers mentioned in these foot notes.

[9] With deep respect to Prof. Lamb, it must be said that the parallel he drew in 1991, between the template on which the J&K IoA was drawn up and an application for a driver’s license, is uncalled for, for multiple reasons (see f.n. #4 above). First, the integration of the princely States into the Dominion could not afford a diversity of arrangements, if integration were to be achieved at all. The process by which the common text of the IoA template was drawn up by the newly established Ministry of States under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and the stewardship of its Secretary, Shri V. P. Menon is documented in Chapter V of his well known publication: The Story of the Integration of the Indian States, Longmans Green & Co. London, 1956, pages 67ff. Second, practicality, based on common sense, dictated the need for printing a common template for the IoA to be used for securing the accession of all major princely States instead of having to retype each document. This would have required at least 280 documents to have been typed up i.e. 140 sets of 2 documents each – one copy for the Ruler who signed the IoAs and another for the government of the Dominion. Given the pressing times, I believe this would have been a cumbersome course of action to follow, resulting in delays which the country could ill afford.

[10] National Archives Register No. R. R. 271, page no. 22. The Mysore IoA is preserved in File No. M-II/1/47, Year 1947.

[11] National Archives Register No. R. R. 271, page no. 1. The Manipur IoA is preserved in File No. A-I/1/47, Year 1947.

[12] National Archives Register No. R. R. 271, page no. 34. The Tehri Garhwal IoA is preserved in File No. U-I/8/47, Year 1947.

[13] National Archives Register No. R. R. 271, page no.20. The Udaipur IoA is preserved in File No. I/33/47, Year 1947.

[14] Although I had sought copies of the IoAs signed by the Rulers of 16 Princely States in my RTI application to MHA, the duplication fee rates (Rs. 20 per page) charged by the National Archives for providing photographs of the IOAs forced me to limit them to five. So I elected to pick up one IoA from each part of India – east, west, north and south as representative samples. Perhaps if I had a handsome fellowship to work on this task full time, I might have secured scanned images of all IoAs signed by the Rulers in India. The National Archives also provides photocopies of these documents. As monochrome copies do not satisfactorily reproduce the appearance of the original documents, I elected to obtain coloured images for publishing them in this article.

[15] See the works of Prof. Lamb, Andrew Whitehead and Victoria Schofield, cited at f.n. #4 and 5 above. After serving in J&K, Justice Mahajan was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court established by the new Constitution, in 1950 and became the third Chief Justice of India, in January 1954.

[16] File No. 11(8)-PR/47 on the subject: Kashmir Affairs – Accession of Kashmir State to the Dominion of India. The author has in his possession a legitimately obtained photocopy of Copy No. 4 of this long document form the National Archives. Some parts of this document are published in Noorani’s Article 370… etc. (see f.n. #19 below).

[17] While I have not read the original work, Kashmir: Triumphs and Tragedies, Gulshan Books, Srinagar, 2014, authored by Dr. Abdul Ahad, an archivist of repute (this book is out of stock on all e-seller websites), I found a reference to his claims in Abdul Majid Zargar, “Kashmir Accession Document Shrouded in False Myths”, Counter Currents, 27 October, 2013.

[18] See the title of both documents in the images accompanying this article.

[19] For example, see A. G. Noorani, The Kashmir Dispute: 1947-2012, Vols. 1 & 2, etc. and A. G. Noorani, Article 370: A Constitutional History of Jammu and Kashmir, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011. Interestingly, Mr. Noorani dedicates Article 370 to Ms. Mridula Sarabhai. While researching the IoAs and declassified files relating to J&K in the National Archives, I came across multiple files containing the correspondence between Ms. Sarabhai and the Government of India, particularly in relation to the abducted women and children after the partition of the sub-continent. The Indices of Proceedings of the Ministries of State and Home Affairs, 1947 onwards, contain references to several files which demonstrate the leading role played by her in the relief and rehabilitation efforts. This is a subject matter for other scholars to research and bring to light her contributions to alleviating the sufferings of the worst affected during the chaos caused by the partition of the sub-continent. These documents are open for researchers to access at the National Archives.

[20] I am grateful to Shri Husain Dalwai, MP, Rajya Sabha, and his secretarial staff for facilitating easy access to the library of Parliament for doing this research. I am also grateful to the staff of the library for providing immediate access to the volumes containing the CA-L debates and facilitating photocopying of the relevant pages despite the fact that the monsoon session of Parliament was on at that time.

[21] The text of the IoA signed by the 140 States similar to that of J&K were also laid down before the House. There were other templates for the IoA of the smaller princely States, especially, the rulers of small sized principalities in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. These IoAs along with the names of acceding Princely States were also tabled before the CA-L. The text of these IoAs is also reproduced in the record of the CA-L proceedings from 19 November, 1947. Earlier members of the CA-L had raised starred queries seeking to know the status of integration of princely States into the Dominion of India. On the same day Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made a statement on the events in J&K at the CA-L.

[22] See f.n. #4 above.

Note: An earlier version of this article stated that Article 309 became Article 370. It was in fact Article 306a that gave rise to Article 370.