Members of Britain’s Kashmiri Hindu community gathered at the Palace of Westminster on 26 October for a seminar marking the 68th ‘Accession Day’ – which commemorates the day in 1947 when Maharajah Hari Singh signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ paving the way for Jammu and Kashmir to join Independent India.
Jointly organised by the Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society and Voice of Dogras, the event was supported by parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, including Conservative Bob Blackman and Labour MP Virendra Sharma.
Mr Blackman, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus, said: “I am proud to be hosting the commemoration of the 68th anniversary of the Signing of the Instrument of Accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India by Maharaja Hari Singh at the British Parliament as the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus, set up especially to provide a voice to the British Hindu community.
“The seminar is the first such attempt to educate the parliamentarians and members of the community on the history of Jammu & Kashmir. It establishes the the fact that J&K is an integral part of India and has been since 1947,” he added.
The event marked the release of a white paper on ‘History of Jammu & Kashmir: Instrument of Accession’, describing what the document was and the various events surrounding the signing of the legal documentation that acceded J&K to India.
The roots of the on-going conflict over Kashmir can be traced back to the Instrument.
Whilst the rulers of the nearly six hundred princely states of India signed similar documents as India welcomed Independence in August 1947, Kashmir’s has been the most contentious.
Maharajah Hari Singh, the hugely popular leader of the Muslim majority state, was unable to decide whether to join India or the newly-created Pakistan.
The aging Maharajah initially procrastinated only for his state to be invaded by Pashtun tribesmen many say were supported by Pakistan.
The invasion prompted Hari Singh to request India’s military help.
Exactly when Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession has been hotly debated ever since.
India maintains that Indian forces landed in the state after the Maharajah had signed the Instrument while Pakistan claims that the document is invalid because the state’s leader was either coerced into signing or had only signed after Indian troops arrived in the state capital Srinagar.
The state has remained in limbo ever since.
Its people have suffered, caught in the seemingly never-ending struggle between the two South Asian powers.
The UKAsian caught up with Mr Blackman and Lakshmi Kaul, founder of the Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society to find out about the importance of marking ‘Accession Day’.
Main picture courtesy of @anu_handoo.