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Disclosure of Bucher papers in ''national interest'': CIC

  • Category
    History
  • Published
    25th Oct, 2021

Context

2021 marks the 16th anniversary of the Right to Information Act (RTI) and in this 16th year something interesting happened:

  • The Central Information Commission (CIC), which was constituted under the RTI Act and whose jurisdiction extends over all central public authorities, agreed with an applicant that the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) should make public certain documents related to events around Jammu and Kashmir’s accession given by the Indian Army’s second chief, Roy Bucher.

Background

  • In Jammu & Kashmir, October 26 or the Accession Day, marks the signing of the Instrument of Accession by the last Dogra ruler of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh, with the then Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten.
  • As per the Indian Independence Act, 1947, British India was divided into India and Pakistan and the roughly 580 princely states that had signed subsidiary alliances with the British had their sovereignty restored to them.
  • In essence, these princely states were given the option to remain independent or to join the Dominion of India or Pakistan.
  • According to Section 6(a) of the Act, before joining India or Pakistan, these states had to sign an Instrument of Accession, in which they would specify the terms on which they were becoming part of the new dominions.
  • This is what the Maharaja signed on October 26, 1947 — essentially, a treaty between the state of Jammu and Kashmir and India.
  • Mountbatten accepted it on October 27, 1947.
  • Initially, the Maharaja had decided to remain independent and sign standstill instruments with India and Pakistan, but after tribesmen and army men from Pakistan invaded, he sought India’s help, which sought the accession of the state to the Dominion of India.

Analysis

The controversy behind the day

  • The official details of the signing of the instrument of accession by Maharajah Hari Singh of Kashmir has not only been kept under secrecy for 75 years now, but has even led to several decades of allegations of motives and vested interests regarding the document.
  • An application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, revealed that the actual official date of signing it is 26th and 27 October 1947, something which also had remained mired in controversy.
  • Now, with the central information commission (CIC) terming disclosure of this issue as pertaining to ‘national interest’, there is hope that more information could tumble out.
  • In the RTI application, information on J&K accession papers has been asked, based on the script of an audio interview of General Sir Roy Bucher, second chief of the army staff of India between 1947 and 1948, recorded by noted biographer BR Nanda.
  • General Bucher had stated therein that he has handed over papers of J&K accession to the NMML.
  • These documents, Mr Nayak feels could reveal a lot; hence he invoked the RTI Act.

Right to Information (RTI)

  • It is a Fundamental Right of Indian citizens to seek information from government offices, departments, ministries, and all the organizations run by the Government of India, or any other organization substantially aided by the, Government of India or any other state Government.

Accession files

  • India’s second Army chief, Sir Roy Bucher had put together the information about the J&K’s accession to the Indian Union between 1947-49.
  • The transcript runs into 20-odd pages.
  • They were handed over to Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, popularly known as Teen Murti Library.

Who was Francis Robert Roy Bucher?

  • Born on 31 August 1895, Francis Robert Roy Bucher attended the Edinburgh Academy.
  • During the First World War, on 15 August 1914, Bucher was commissionedinto the British Indian Army and confirmed as a second lieutenant on 5 September the following year.
  • He returned to Britain in 1926 to attendStaff College, a military training institution run by the British Army, for two years.
  • Following his graduation, he was stationed with the British Indian Army in the Deccan region, and, by 1932, was promoted to the ranks of Major and Lieutenant-Colonel in 1932 and 1939, respectively.
  • As the Second World War broke out, Bucher continued his services to the Army in India but was also briefly stationedin Iraq in 1941.
  • After the War ended, Bucher wasappointed as General Officer Commanding Bengal and Assam Area and, in 1946, became the Eastern Command’s General Officer Commander-in-Chief.
  • Bucher’s ascension to the post of post-Independence India’s second Army chief took place in 1948. He served the position until his retirement in 1949.
  • He was the last British chief of the Army, as M. Cariappa succeeded him.
  • On 5 January 1980, Roy Bucher passed away at the age of 84 in the village of Normanbyin North Yorkshire.

Accession files

  • India’s second Army chief, Sir Roy Bucher had put together the information about the J&K’s accession to the Indian Union between 1947-49.
  • The transcript runs into 20-odd pages.
  • They were handed over to Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, popularly known as Teen Murti Library.

Why the papers are important?

  • The disclosure of papers handed over by General Bucher to NMML are essential in order to put an end to the baseless and needless controversies created by some foreign scholars and authors about the ‘circumstances surrounding the accession’ of the erstwhile princely state of J&K to the Dominion of India, in 1947.
  • These controversies have ranged from
    • questioning the very existence of the instrument of accession as a physical document
    • doubting the dates of the signing of this document by the then Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh
    • its acceptance by the then governor general of India, Lord Mountbatten
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