K D Sethi – lone surviving member of J&K Constituent Assembly dies at 93 in Jammu

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Jammu: Comrade Krishan Dev Sethi, the lone surviving member of the Constituent Assembly of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State breathed his last here on Thursday morning.

A file photo of K D Sethi (fourth from left in the second row) along with his other party comrades in Bishnah tehsil.

He was 93. He is survived by a son Achal Sethi, Secretary Law Department in Jammu and Kashmir, and Dr Poonan Sethi.

Born in Mirpur on January 1, 1928,  which now forms part of Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Sethi was a popular leader there. He also remained  state general secretary of the Democratic Conference.

He was one of the members of the Constituent Assembly from 1951-57 who played a key role in making Sheikh Abdullah, the then Prime Minister of the erstwhile state, bring land reforms abolishing big land holdings, besides waiving off all the debts people owed to money lenders at that time.

Sethi in 1957 got elected from Nowshera assembly constituency which was then spread over to the present Kalakote assembly constituency in the erstwhile Jammu Kashmir state as a nominee of the Democratic National Conference, a splinter group of the National Conference headed by G M Sadiq.

While Sadiq joined Congress in 1961, Sethi remained with DNC and again contested the assembly elections from Nowshera constituency in 1962 as well. According to elderly people of the area, he was first declared winner by the then Returning Officer and within 15 minutes later, he was shown to have lost the election to his rival Master Beli Ram of Congress.

Alleging “alteration’’ of the election results by the then Returning Officer under pressure from the then powers at the Centre, Sethi formed Democratic Conference along with Ram Piara Saraf, another communist leader who was then influenced by Naxal movement in India and who too had lost the election in Jammu division. The new party had affiliation with CPI(ML).Sethi and Saraf both went underground, but after some time, former fell apart with Saraf saying that armed resistance had no role in Jammu and Kashmir as the land reforms making peasants its lawful owners had already been introduced there.