Like always, the zealots in any sphere of life, are not always idiots. They are sharp, cunning and often very smart. They test the waters and the tide of time. India, for reasons better known to the player-sharks themselves, has been pushed into an abyss of unnecessary controversy over Article 370 by them. A new wave of national pride and religious nationalism is washing the shores. Larger concerns of majoritism which is refusing to recognize the insecurities and aspirations of ethnic minorities is ready to devour the colors and diversity that Mother India offers in her collage. Ultra-nationalism seems to emerge as new password for the climb-up. The TV debates before polls were mostly one-sided and any voice against RSS ideology was either brutally silenced with ‘Tit for tat, butter for fat’ type of lingo. The cultured and graceful discussions rarely aired. Victory justified the means including withholding the desired information or plain lies. So any serious discussion about Article 370 is difficult to get going. The real idea is not to discuss but bring home the points of abrogation of Article 370 – a deadly iron fist in the velvet glove. All the same I shall put forward my ideas at the risk of getting the thundering flak.
To be very fair to RSS, it didn’t hide its intentions about Article 370 and put it on its agenda for record sake also. BJP’s prime ministerial aspirant, Narendra Modi had given a call for debating the article 370. He asserted the idea ‘who has been benefited from Article 370.’ Was to indicate that it is unnecessary and could be abolished? Arun Jaitly was smart enough to distort the facts of the contemporary history and events. His claim “Nehruvian vision of a separate status has given rise to the aspirations for pre-1953 status, self-rule and even Azadi” was to provoke the sentiments of Hindu majority. I for one, on my life, never accepted partition of India from the bottom of my heart. I always felt – but for the lust for power of all participant leaders of consequence of those days, with the exception of Mahatama Gandhi and Moulana Azad, an unprecedented affliction or unnatural trisection was forced upon Mother India. Pakistan was social, geo-political enormity and its 1971 dismemberment proved what Moulana had predicted years before its creation.
To me, Kashmir is India and India is Kashmir. It is immaterial if it is a Muslim majority state. It is a land-locked region with limited resources. It needs a perfect harmony with its surrounding to flourish and survive. Islam teaches to open the door and windows for humanity and never to shut it. “Your prayers will not be accepted if your neighbor sleeps hungry.” This is what Islam preaches. It is not naming the neighbor. Kashmir is a strategic geographic area of great significance and most sacred place for Hindus also. It also remains one of the most contentious issues between India and Pakistan. Right Wingers in India have been making it a bone of contention since independence. Let us discuss this issue in the backdrop of demands of Azadi by some sections of the valley which is another diametrically opposite extreme of ‘Integral Part.’
It is well known that Kashmir was one of the princely states ruled independently by Dogra dynasty’s King Hari Singh, without direct rule of the British. In the last phase of his life, before independence, he had refused to join the constituent assembly under the Cabinet Mission Plan. At that time, 80 % population of J&K was Muslim. As the independence of Indian Union was on cards, the Maharaja was left with three options – to remain independent; to merge with India or with Pakistan. Maharaja was playing with the idea of tending to remain independent. Hindu leaders of Jammu in those days supported Maharaja in his separatist plan. “J&K Rajya Hindu Sabha,” including the ones who later on joined Bharatiya Jana Sangh, vociferously argued that “a Hindu state, as Jammu & Kashmir claimed to be, should not merge its identity with secular India” (Kashmir, Balraj Puri, Orient Longman 1993, p. 5).
Then in 1947 history witnessed the unwarranted and inopportune attack of the Pathan tribals upon Kashmir. It was supported by Pakistan military. The incident changed the whole scenario. Mahraja Hari Singh was not equipped and prepared to face this unexpected onslaught. He rushed and requested the Indian Government to bail him out of that quagmire. The Indian Government rightly demanded the accession of Kashmir to India before it could send the armed forces to the battle fields.
An instrument of accession was preapared.
Actually, it was within the accession treaty that included provision of Article 370. It was not a normal merger in words or spirit. India was to look after defense, currency, foreign affairs and communications while Kashmir was to have its own constitution, flag, Sadar-i-Riyasat [head of state] and Prime Minister. Justifying this action, Pandit Nehru in a broadcast to the Nation on 2 November, 1947 said, “…Both the Kashmir Government and the National Conference pressed us to accept this accession and to send troops by air, but made condition that the accession would have to be considered by the people of Kashmir later when the peace and order were established…”(Nehru, Collected Works, XVIII, p. 421).
An unfortunate impulse pushed the Indian leaders to approach the UN with a request to get the aggression vacated and to supervise in the process of ‘plebiscite’. There is no need to explain the meaning of plebiscite. With the lapse of time and emerging new realities after Simla Agreement, it has become redundant and consigned to the dustbin of history.
It was Jana Sangh Chief Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, covertly supported by some bigwigs in Congress, who brought forward the idea of total merger of Kashmir into India. Pandit Nehru pointed out at that time, “We have to be men of vision and there has to be a broad-minded acceptance of facts in order to integrate [Kashmir] really. And real integration comes from mind and the heart and not of some clause, which you may impose, on other people.”
Sheikh Abdullah was the leader of Kashmir. He always wanted to be part of a secular India. However, for reasons never justified and fully explained, he was incarcerated for 17-long years. And this is where the process of alienation of Kashmiri people began. Pakistan had never given up its nefarious designs and supplied arms and ideas to disgruntled youth. Then there entered the third element -foreign militants into Kashmir in the 1980s. They pride of Kashmiriyat was mutated into Jihad, An atmosphere was created where Kashmir Pandits were targeted and began to feel unsafe. The real sons of soil were threatened by foreign Jihadis as well as local rebels. Pandits were forced to leave Kashmir. All along Muslims of India never approved the idea of any separate entity of Azad Kashmir. They had yet to recover the wound history has inflicted upon them in 1947.
To understand and resolve the Kashmir related issues, Central Government appointed a team of interlocutors. Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M. M. Ansari were the prominent members of this team. In May 2012, they submitted their report and in nutshell asked for rejection of the return to pre-1953 position, while at the same time asking for measures to restore the autonomy of Kashmir. The team suggested that the Parliament should not make any law for Kashmir unless it relates to the internal and external security of the state. Significantly, it gave the status of “special” instead of “temporary” to the Article 370, which is the bone of contention for the ultra-nationalists like the BJP.
A debate around Article 370 could be possible and meaningful in we have a clear understanding, one needs to understand as to what Kashmiris want.
Instead of resolving the problems of poverty, black money, unemployment and communal-caste divide, the fringe elements of RSS want to throw the red herring across the path of prosperity or VIKAS. There is not harm to debate Article 370 but before the debate, make sure that participants were not slept hungry last night.
By Naim Naqvi