“Let us withdraw the Indian army for five days and see whom this house represents,” Abdul Ghani Goni, a member of the Constituent Assembly, said on February 6, 1954 while opposing a motion to ratify Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to the Union of India. But ignoring his heated arguments, the House voted for ratification amid thunderous applause. As Goni walked out in protest, fellow-members made snide remarks: he is going to Pakistan.
Members of the Constituent Assembly discussed the reports submitted by the Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights and the Citizenship and Basic Principles Committee for several days. They delivered fiery speeches in their favour, the only exception being Goni who wanted to incorporate his note of dissent in the documents.
Portions of his speeches merit special mention here. After handing over his dissenting note, Goni, in response to a comment made by a member, said that the reports presented in the house were not only against the principles of New Kashmir but also smacked of Indian imperialist mentality. “We are handing everything to the Indian union.” (JK Constituent Assembly Official Report, Vol 1, page 739)
Goni also reminded the house of the speech of BN Rao, the head of the Indian delegation in the UN, who said in the Security Council on March 29, 1951: “Some of the members of the Security Council fear lest the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir may give its opinion on the accession question. If the assembly wishes to give its opinion on this subject, it can do so, but this opinion of the assembly can neither be a binding on government of India nor can it be a binding on the Security Council ….”
Goni’s long speech made no difference. At one point, he said: “It seems the members are here to nod their heads only.”
The house was adjourned after adopting the motion. And when it met again on February 13, Raja Muhammad Afzal Khan urged to include February 6 in the list of public holidays as Naya Kashmir Day. Ghulam Hasan Khan and Ghulam Nabi Hamdani seconded it. But Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad said that Naya Kashmir Day could be better celebrated when the state’s own constitution came into force.
During the Amarnath Land row, Goni talked to me in detail at his Barzulla residence. He urged me not to publish parts of his interview during his lifetime. “It will put some of my colleagues to shame,” he said. But after discussing it with friends and fellow-columnists, I was urged to bring the truth to the fore even if it meant breaking the promise. Realizing the importance of the interview, I, therefore, break the promise today in the best interests of this beleaguered nation.
Goni said: “After the accession was ratified, I did some lobbying. Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg also promised help. In fact he assured cooperation from twelve members of the Constituent Assembly. A deal was struck. We were asked to pay Rs 70,000 to get the accession revoked. But we could not manage the amount and Beg also backed out. Had we managed to raise Rs 70,000, the situation today would have been different. ”
Shockingly, veteran leader Krishen Dev Sethi had also opposed Goni. Addressing the session, Sethi said: “Mr. Goni is doubtful whether the Government of India ratifies our accession or not. I feel really surprised. I think it is the result of his mental confusion. We are not only joining hands with the government of India but with the toiling masses of India as well. Mr. Goni says we are taking such steps as will lead to merger of Kashmir with India. But I may tell him that it is not so. The Government of India or its President cannot thrust anything on us. It is obvious from this report that apart from some subjects which we have handed over to India, in other matters we have maintained our autonomy. Mr. Goni says that we should remain independent. The decision he wants us to take has been rejected in the year 1947. Sheikh Sahib also went the same way as is suggested to us by Mr. Goni, but he should know that we have rejected it after giving much thought to it.”
Mian Nizam-ud-Din’s speech is also important. He said: “As regards the question of unity of religion, I, in the capacity of a Sajjada Nishin, would say that eminent saints as Kh Mohi-ud-Din Ajmeri and Mujadid Alf-i-Sani (Imam Rabbani) are laid to rest in India. These eminent personalities of the past are enshrined in the hearts of the people and this is the greatest attraction for the Muslim population in the State to accede to the Union of India.”