In the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, October 26 holds a special place on the calendar as it marks a significant public holiday. This day is dedicated to commemorating the historic signing of the Instrument of Accession in 1947, an event that laid the foundation for the region’s inclusion within the Indian union.
The observance of October 26 as a public holiday in Jammu and Kashmir carries profound historical and cultural weight. It signifies the momentous occasion when Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Dogra monarch of the region, made the momentous decision to sign the Instrument of Accession, securing the future of Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian union. This holiday serves as a lasting tribute to the enduring impact of this critical moment in India’s history on the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
In the wake of India’s independence in 1947, the Indian subcontinent saw the formation of two new nations: India and Pakistan. Alongside these dominions, there existed 580 princely states that had previously acknowledged the British Crown’s paramountcy through subsidiary alliances. The Indian Independence Act of 1947 granted these princely states the choice to remain independent, join India, or join Pakistan. The process of accession necessitated the signing of an Instrument of Accession (IoA) that defined the terms of the accession.
Initially, Maharaja Hari Singh chose to maintain the independence of his state and entered into standstill agreements with both India and Pakistan to preserve the existing status quo. However, his decision was soon tested when the region faced incursions by Pathan tribal militias and Pakistani military forces. Faced with this critical situation, Maharaja Hari Singh sought India’s aid to repel the aggressors.
India extended its support on the condition that Maharaja Hari Singh would sign the Instrument of Accession. This pivotal agreement, inked on October 26, 1947, represented a covenant between the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and India. The formal acceptance of the Instrument was carried out by Lord Mountbatten, then the Governor-General of India, a day later. This historic accord empowered the Indian Parliament to legislate on matters related to Defense, External Affairs, and Communications concerning Jammu and Kashmir.
In 2020, October 26 was officially designated as a public holiday in Jammu and Kashmir, in recognition of this momentous event. This holiday serves as a powerful reminder of the region’s integration into India and underscores the significance of the Instrument of Accession in shaping the destiny of Jammu and Kashmir. It stands as a symbol of unity and solidarity between the region and the rest of India.