Charter of the United Nations, Chapter 1, Purposes & Principles:
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
The referendum rub – the inflexibility of the Indian State to permit a referendum: By John Menezes
Charter of the United Nations, Chapter 1, Purposes & Principles:
Article 1 of this chapter brings out, inter alia, the purposes of the United Nations to maintain international peace and security, and to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.
Chamber’s Twentieth Century Dictionary 1966 defines the word thus:
The principle or practice of submitting a question directly to the vote of the entire electorate.
The same dictionary defines plebiscite:
A direct vote of the whole nation or of a people of a district on a special point; an ascertaining of general opinion on any matter, as by inviting postcards.
For reasons of economic subsistence, a modern electorate is deemed to include persons qualified as resident in the area covered by an election or opinion-poll, and resident in the same area but not ordinarily resident, such as members of the armed services, employees of the United Nations, and persons temporarily living abroad for reasons of livelihood. With modern communication the voting slips are made to reach the overseas voters but, in their absence, the ability to journey home to vote is a prerequisite.
When Indo-Portuguese relations were peaceful:
A little known piece of recorded information is that in 1947 a Portuguese-nominated and sponsored Goan delegation of Goa and Bombay visited Rome and Lisbon for the canonization of St. John de Brito on June 22, 1947. In the delegation was Professor Aloysius Soares, a Goan educationist – later knighted by the Holy See – of Bombay who – while in Lisbon – had broached the subject of Goa’s future with the Portuguese Overseas Minister, Captain Teófilo Duarte and then with Prime Minister Dr. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. He told both dignitaries that a free India would never tolerate a foreign pocket on its coastline. To the former, Prof. Soares handed over a draft constitution to make Goa autonomous and then hand it over to India (something done in Macau but with 15 years of talks and preparatory actions). Prof. Soares had an independent meeting with Dr. Salazar on the future of Goa and told him about the realities of Goan emigration from Goa. On the basis of that talk Dr. Salazar sent a confidant for a first-hand report on the realities of the situation in Goa, Dr. Socrates da Costa, member of the Portuguese National Assembly. When Dr. Socrates da Costa visited Bombay in 1953 he gave Prof. Soares a feed back on those talks with Dr. Salazar in these words: “I receive,” Salazar said, “many resolutions and telegrams of loyalty from Goa. But that professor who came from Bombay gave us quite a different idea. I want to know the truth. If the Goans, owing to nationalist feelings or economic reasons, wish to join India voluntarily, I am not going to stand in their way. But if coercion is used to force them against their will, I shall stand by them and support them to the limit.” Prof. Soares has added that “what that envoy has reported is not known to me, but Salazar’s attitude later grew rigid to a degree.”
Some votaries of referendum in foresight or hindsight of the conquest of Portuguese India:
This includes the suggestion of independence, as well, for the Portuguese State of India.
• In 1956, Portuguese ambassador to France, Marcello Mathias, along with Portuguese Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, argued in favour of a referendum in Goa to determine its future. This proposal was however rejected by the ministers for defence and foreign affairs.
• General Humberto Delgado, candidate to the Presidency of the (Portuguese) Republic, defended a plebiscite for the resolution of the case of the State of India (as the Portuguese State of India was called);
• Colonel Carlos Alexandre de Moraes has written in the conclusion of his memorable book that “Thus, in a rising accumulation of the tragic errors committed at all levels of the Central Administration and from the grave deficiencies of the concerned military superiors, of the Government of the State of India and of the local command, was closed sadly the glorious cycle of the presence of Portugal in the Hindustan lands, to which deeds and spiritual values bound us of which very legitimately we were proud. And sadly – we underscored – because its term, without glory for the conquered, was sealed by bitterness of the rout, for the conquered and by the irreparable loss of the independence of the territories of and to which the populations had full right.”
• General Ramalho Eanes, former President of the Republic, when interviewed by José Pedro Castanheira: “Goa met all the conditions because we had made something there which we had not managed to make anywhere else (I only realized this later). A new culture had been created which was not ours but it wasn’t Indian either. Goa had its own cultural personality. Recently, Professor Fausto Quadros compared Goa to Timor; I think he is somewhat right. Goa could have been not the Portuguese State of India but the State of Goa (independent)…….Salazar, after the Second World War, had all the conditions met to grant independence to Goa.”
The ground realities:
General Carlos de Azeredo, a monarchist by persuasion, who had two military stints in Goa, was captured at the time of the Indian conquest of December 18-19, 1961, and had accompanied Foreign Minister Mario Soares to Goa and Delhi in December 1974, has stated in an interview :
“The neighbouring immense Union of India is a volcano of nationalistic fervour. Independent of England since 1947, even before independence, already its principal directors had proclaimed the integration of the territories of Estado Português da Índia: Goa Damão and Diu. Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the great Indian Nation, would be the first to declare that Goa could not remain separate. This would be a political fixation of the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who, in 1950, formally reclaimed the territories administered by Portugal, proposing the opening of negotiations. The government presided over by Oliveira Salazar refuses, with the argument that Goa and the other territories form part of the whole nation. In Goa, Damão and Diu, the manifestations of civil disobedience or in favour of right to autonomy have prison, deportation or censorship as a reply. Many Goans, be they Catholics or Hindus, are compelled to exile.
In a dialogue of the deaf, a new tactic is followed: that of pressure through economic blockades and recourse to the famous “satyagrahis,” who peacefully invade Portuguese territories………….”
Going back to the independence of the British named “Empire of India” which comprised directly ruled presidencies and provinces and a suzerainty over 562 princely states, of roughly three categories according to degrees of self-government, political expediency mixed with religious chauvinism saw the emergence on August 15, 1947 of the Dominions (continuing allegiance to the British Crown) of India and Pakistan with options to each of the 562 states to either remain independent or accede to India or Pakistan. India lost no time in mopping up operations where the princely states were concerned. The recalcitrant Nizam’s Dominions of Hyderabad was militarily attacked in September 1948 and compelled to accede to India and a similar threat, held out to the last surviving princely state of Manipur, brought about its capitulation a year later. On November 1, 1956 the princely states ceased to exist. In 1975, the northern Protectorate of Sikkim was placed under Indian siege through a populist revolt of the majority Nepalese immigrant population, and was integrated into the Indian Union in terms of the 1950 Constitution.
The Indian Magna Carta:
Soon after Indian Independence, August 15, 1947, the All India Congress Party passed its landmark resolution on the Portuguese and French possessions in India at its yearly session in Jaipur on December 18, 1948 - called the Jaipur Resolution - that:
With the establishment of independence in India, the continued existence of any foreign possession in India becomes anomalous and opposed to the conception of India’s unity and freedom. Therefore it has become necessary for these possessions to be politically incorporated with India, and no other solution can be stable or lasting or in conformity with the will of the people. The Congress trusts that this change will be brought about soon by peaceful methods and the friendly cooperation of the Governments concerned.
. This resolution of his political party brought to an inglorious end what the biographer and former secretary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru has recorded :
“Nehru in his early days in office was inexperienced in statecraft and offered plebicites all round – in Kashmir, in the French and Portuguese possessions in India.”
Thus began the transition from an olive-branch politics to an aggressive sabre-rattling against the presence of Portugal and France on the Indian Peninsula.
The case of French India:
The French Union, which lasted from 1946 to 1956, comprised of metropolitan France which consisted of overseas departments, and overseas territories (the French settlements in India fell in this category), as well as of associated states and associated territories.
The French areas concerned in negotiations between New Delhi and Paris were remnants of the former French empire in India. These settlements – Pondichéry, Chandernagore, Yanaon, Karikal and Mahé – totaled only 196 square miles. All of them were coastal locations except Chandernagore. The total population of French India in 1948 was 332,045, less than 2,000 of whom were European French.
French – India constitution dichotomy:
All the settlements of French India had elected municipal councils. French India was part of the French Union and sent one representative to the Assembly of the French Union, two to the Council of the Republic, and one to the National Assembly in Paris. In view of possible territorial changes in French India, Article 27 of the 1946 French Constitution was significant. According to this article, treaties “that involve the cession, exchange or addition of territories shall not become final until they have been ratified by a legislative act” and “no cession, or exchange and no addition of territory shall be valid without the consent of the population concerned.”
On the other hand the Constitution of India reads, in its opening, the following provisions:
PART I: THE UNION AND ITS TERRITORY: 1. (1) India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States. (2) The States and the territories thereof shall be as specified in the First Schedule. (3) The territory of India shall comprise: (a) the territories of the States; (b) the Union territories specified in the First Schedule; and (c) such other territories as may be acquired.
2. Parliament may by law admit into the Union, or establish, new States on such terms and conditions as it thinks fit.
Indian constitutional provisions for accretion of territory provide for neither the manner in which territory may be acquired nor for popular consultation, by way of a referendum, as is provided for in the French constitution. And so while the French constitution is impeccable in regard to world conscience on the addition to or separation of populations from the French constitutional domain, the Indian constitution presents a blank thereat as the reasons and mode of acquisition of territories are not specified in Article 1(3)(c) of its Constitution.
Although France was not initially keen to commit herself to a French Indian referendum, not long after India’s own independence she did, in a joint declaration (on August 28, 1947) declare willingness to solve differences with India in an amicable manner. It was agreed that the will of the people would have to be taken into account.
Negotiations between the French and Indian governments over the future of French India have (since) been prolonged and often stormy. After discussions between the two governments in New Delhi, a declaration was made in the National Assembly of France on June 8, 1948 setting forth the principles along which the peoples of French India would determine their future. The declaration stated that “Their decision will be taken by means of sincere and free consultation………The results of this consultation will hold good for each of the five establishments separately and not globally for the whole.”
The French enclave of Chandernagore, with its predominantly Bengali population, went through the gamut of a referendum which was held on June 19, 1949, with 7,473 votes in favour of India and 114 against. The de-facto transfer by France to India was on May 2, 1950 and the de-jure transfer, on June 9, 1952. On November 2, 1954 Chandernagore was merged into West Bengal.
The France India imbroglio:
India initiated a two-pronged strategy viv-à-vis the other French establishments.
There was bilateral negotiation with the French government through the latter’s diplomatic mission in New Delhi; and there was also operation on the ground through India’s consular mission in Pondichéry.
India’s consul-general could and did become a significant prompt for local anti-French political activity. Indeed, it is the very astuteness and effectiveness of India’s last consul-general in Pondichéry, Kewal Singh, that raised doubts about the spontaneity and homegrown commitment of the merger movement.
The struggle for merger was not without its share of bloodshed, detentions, violence, and assassinations. India’s “non-violent” campaign did not preclude the massing of troops, the placing of embargoes, the setting up of blockades, and the creation of a cordon sanitaire. Nor did France allow pro-merger activists to proceed unimpeded; indeed, the French were not above subverting democratic principles and procedures in order to stifle dissent.
Political and merger vigilantism in Pondichéry, scuttling of referendum:
Unlike Portuguese India where munipical councilors were elected on basis of education, qualifications and merit and the higher echelons of representative governance belonged to the official União Nacional party which made political factionalism non-existent in Portuguese India, France had a liberal multi-tired democracy which was not immune to external pressures.
At the time of India’s independence, political life in Pondichéry was dominated by the French India Socialist party (FISP) which advocated unequivocal attachment to France. In the build-up to Indian independence a number of local political groups began to crystallize with a view to changing the political status of French India.
On the issue of a referendum, this is how Professor William F.S. Miles summarizes the Indian scuttling of it in the remaining four French settlements;
Whether or not the people of French India would have the opportunity to decide for themselves, the question of merger was a major sticking point between the French and Indian governments. It was a demand that seesawed between the two sides and depended on the strategic value which each country saw in it. In the end, however, it was India that refused to allow a popular referendum on merger, relegating forever the populations’ true wishes to the realm of speculation and hypothesis.
With negotiations dragging, a frustrated Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared on October 9, 1952: “There is an end to the plebiscite business now.”
Nehru’s unilateral renunciation of a referendum warrants some examination. Ostensibly the Indian government believed that, given the political climate and violence prevailing in the French territories, no referendum could practically be conducted in a free and fair way. Ideologically, it took the position that, since these territories were part of the Indian Motherland, and were populated by Indians, it was unnecessary – indeed demeaning – even to pose the question of merger. Looming well over the horizon was the Kashmir issue where Nehru had succumbed to cabinet pressure to oppose a referendum.
Operation on the ground directly or through India’s consular mission in Pondichéry:
Kewal Singh, Indian Charge d’Affaires in Lisbon till the Indian Legation closed there on June 11, 1953, took charge as Consul General in Pondichéry on December 10, 1953 from Consul General R.K. Tandon..
Meanwhile, the Indian government provoked material scarcity and economic hardships which made merger a matter of survival. When the elected leaders of French India (i.e., those of the French India Socialist party) reversed their stand in 1954 to support the immediate merger with India, it was economic pressure, not Indian consciousness, that ultimately prevailed.
Consul General Kewal Singh, on the night of April 11, 1954, at a conference at Kanda-mangalam stated that, for real liberation of colonies one should attack any of the big four French settlements. The outcome was that Yanaon fell on June 13, 1954:and Mahé, on June 16, 1954.
On July 30, 1954 France finally caved in and proposed a de-facto transfer. On November 1, 1954 the French handed over power to Kewal Singh who became elevated from Consul General of India to Pondichéry’s first Indian chief executive. The de jure transfer took place on August 16, 1962, but without the required referendum as required by Article 27 of the 1946 French constitution. .
United Nations General Assembly resolutions:
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) had been meeting every year from September after electing a new president at the start of every session. But the session of 1960 was both significant and ominous. On December 14, 1960 the UN General Assembly passed Resolution No. 1514 (XV): “Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples.” After detailing 11 reasons for the said resolution, the General Assembly wound up its declaration in seven paragraphs of which the significant and operative one was:
2. All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
The ominous and dichotomous paragraph below is believed to have been inserted at the intervention of the Indian delegate:
6. Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
This paragraph injects the substance of geography to override humanly the rights of a separate people allied with a separate – in this case, another European power for four and a half centuries - only because of territorial contiguity.
However, when the writer of this article visited the United Nations in New York in September 1969 and examined the 1969 United Nations Year Book, it was stated therein that “Goa and its dependencies had been nationally reunited with India.”
The issue of Portuguese India:
Similar undermining of Portuguese sovereignty, other than the seqestration of Dadrá and Nagar Aveli, through pressures upon Goan immigrants in Bombay, satyagrahas, suspension of remittances, and the economic blockade of Portuguese India had failed and, in the final analysis, a military action was launched against Goa, Damão and Diu on December 18, 1961
Debate at the United Nations Security Council:
Under the Presidentship of Mr. O. Loutfi of the (erstwhile) United Arab Republic (then comprised of Egypt and Syria) there were present the representatives of the following states as members of the United Nations Security Council: Ceylon, Chile, China (Taiwan), Ecuador, France, Liberia, Turkey, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Arab Republic, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America.
In response to the letter dated December 18, 1961 from the Permanent representative of Portugal to the President of the Security Council (S/5030) the Security Council opened debate of the representatives of Portugal and India and its other members on the same day at 03.00 pm. After hearing the Representative of Portugal, Dr. Vasco Vieira Garin, India’s Representative had the following to state, relative to the subject of the chapter:
• “Who gave Portugal sovereign rights over the part of India which it is occupying illegally and by force?............... Not the people of India.”
• “It is a question of getting rid of the last vestiges of colonialism in India. This is a matter of faith with us. Whatever anyone else may think, Charter or no Charter, Council or no Council, that is our basic faith which we cannot afford to give up at any cost.”
In the second session of the day which began at 08.45 pm, the Indian Representative stated, inter alia:
• “Someone raised the question of self-determination. How can there be self-determination by an Indian in order to say that he is part of India or self-determination by an African to say that he is an African, or by a Frenchman to say that he would remain a part of France?”
India’s focus on “referendum,” already made manifest in regard to the four French settlements in India, is now reiterated with vigour in the Security Council debate to demonstrate Indian recalcitrance on the subject because it considered both French Indians and Portuguese Indians as part and parcel of the “Indian Motherland.”
Seal on conquest:
From the first general election in 1952, in the new Republic of India (founded on January 26, 1950), the oath of allegiance required of a candidate in order to be eligible to stand for election in a State was:
“I, A.B., having been nominated as a candidate to fill a seat tin the Legislative Assembly (or Legislative Council) do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will bear true and faithful allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established.”
But after India decided to provide the veneer of democracy to former Portuguese and French India, fearing that the newly elected legislators would use their position to exercise the right of self determination, an amendment to the Constitution of India to include an anti-secession provision was billed in the Indian Parliament in Delhi on January 18, 1963 and passed as The Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963 on October 5, 1963.
The anti-secession provision reads as follows:
“and that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India.”
This oath had already been suffixed with this anti-secession provision and notified in The First Schedule to The Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 dated May 10, 1963 under which elections to the state assemblies were held and governments were set up in the Union Territories of Goa, Daman and Diu and Pondicherry respectively.
The people of the former Portuguese and French territories in India got bound by allegiance to a constitution in the framing of which they had played no part, and by an oath which shackled them for good and all to a nation of which they had never been part, to legal and administrative systems which were inferior to what had been enjoyed under the Portuguese and French Flags, and to an officialdom where IAS, IPS etc. outsiders, who had never been privy to the niceties of European law and local custom, now lorded over them. Such is now the position on the fiftieth anniversary of the conquest and subjugation by India of the former Portuguese State of India with Goa enjoying full statehood within the Union, and Damão and Diu continuing as a joint Union Territory without a legislature.
From hindsight, given Delhi’s ideological “Indian Motherland” obsession and the Jaipur Resolution of December 18, 1948, Professor Aloysius Soares’s proposal of Portuguese autonomy followed by a transfer to India with that autonomy in place, was the most pragmatic solution to the issue of the Portuguese settlements, an experiment tried out with success in Macau except that in the latter, it took 15 years to negotiate and dovetail Portuguese laws and administrative practices with those of China. Even here, strictly speaking, a referendum to transfer from one power to another would be required. On the other hand, referenda have resolved many an issue of territorial claim, to cite a few: Gibraltar, Bermuda, Reunion, East Timor, and early this year, South Sudan.