Timely Call for Debate over Article 370

Essay Published in “Kannada Prabha” daily, on the need for debate and abrogation of “Article 370” – By Praveen Patavardhan, English translation by Prashanth Vaidyaraj.

Narendra Modi in a recently held rally in Jammu questioned India’s first PM’s stand on Kashmir. He recalled the martyrdom of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. Modi had asked for a debate on Article 370 of our constitution. As expected, the Congress, sections of the media which support the Congress have objected to such a debate.

As a new generation emerges, the way it thinks and acts changes too. When a topic concerning the nation is proposed and if the response is to either refuse to question or debate it, it will only raise eyebrows on the motive of such a response. Change is inevitable with time and a debate is certainly helpful. But when Modi proposed a debate on Article 370, editors of few newspapers received a flurry of reactions questioning Modi’s motive and suggesting that he had raised the issue only to create a vote bank of the Kashmiri Pandits.

Very few understand the travails of the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Hindus who faced grave situations. People have hardly read about those who lost their own homes and were forced to live the life of refugees in their own land. Coverage about them in our media is even less. While Kashmiri Pandits formed 20% of Kashmir’s population in 1947, they have been reduced to about 808 families i.e around 3500 people according to the 2010 census. How many among these would have registered as voters? Can they even be a vote bank which can assure victory in elections? Moreover, for those who assume that J&K has become a part of India only through Article 370, have a greater need for a debate on this.

If the events that occurred after Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India through the Instrument of Accession are observed, it was only a particular sect of Muslims who harbored separatist tendencies. With few politicians and social activists supporting such separatist voices, the common man became the ultimate sufferer here.

With the division of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan, Sheikh Abdullah was only involved in machinations that would guarantee his power and position in either of the states. He was the output of the Aligarh Muslim University, which had created and nurtured Muslim Separatism, Muslim Nationalism and was the harbinger of the idea of Pakistan. Sheikh was a close associate of Nehru and was also close to the then Viceroy Lord Mountbatten. Sheikh had called for ‘Quit Kashmir’ agitation against the Maharaja while the British were still ruling. Even though he was arrested by the Maharaja, his association with Nehru helped him to come out of prison. After the accession of J&K, the Maharaja had reluctantly handed over the authority to Sheikh as per the directions of Nehru. But once at the helm of affairs, Sheikh Abdullah had made a provocative speech where he has said,” We have snatched the crown of Kashmir from dust. We are now not concerned about our accession to either India or Pakistan. We demand complete freedom”. There are a few points worth pondering about in his speech:

1) Dust – This was in reference to the “Dogra” royalty that was ruling Kashmir

2) Maharaja had already signed the treaty of accession. Kashmir had become a part of India.

3) The idea behind the demand of complete freedom was to make J&K an independent country.

Right from the day Pakistan was formed, the Pakistani troops aided by tribal raiders had invaded and forcefully taken over “Gilgit” & “Baltistan”. These raiders who murdered, looted and ravaged Hindu women had illegally occupied large parts of our land in the process. As Sheikh Abdullah took over from the Maharaja, the raiders only increased their intensity of attacks and butchered Hindus of Mirpur, Kotli and Bhember. It was then that Sardar Patel who was the Home Minister deputed the Army to face the situation. The Army which was surging ahead towards Gilgit, Baltistan to free them from Pakistan’s illegal occupation was unceremoniously held back by Sheikh Abdullah. When General Paranjape had complained about this to Nehru, all he got in return was that he has to listen to Sheikh! What prompted Nehru to take such a stance is not clear. Was this due to the first steps Nehru took towards creating a Muslim vote bank or due to his unfailing admiration of Sheikh?

Nehru, who acted unflinchingly as Sheikh dictated, and some of his cabinet colleagues faltered next in the implementation of Article 370. It is said that the said article had no mention in the first version of the constitution. There was hardly any discussion on Article 370 when it was proposed by Gopalswamy Ayyangar in the constituent assembly. When a debate took place in the Congress Working Committee, it was only Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who stood by Gapalswamy Ayyangar. Ambedkar, who was the Law minister, had this to say about Sheikh:”I as the law minister working towards the mammoth task of framing the constitution of India, will not dishonor my country. You do not wish to give the authority of J&K to India but yet you claim you want equal rights for the Kashmiris…”. Sheikh was in no mood to relent. Instead of placating Sheikh against his demands, Nehru indulged in cuddling him further. The other Congress leaders agreed to include Article 370 only to pacify Nehru. But many including Sardar Patel, Ambedkar and the then President Babu Rajendra Prasad did not think this to be right. Dr.Shyama Prasad Mukherjee had vehemently opposed the Article 370 and granting special status to J&K through it. Dr.SP Mukherjee had launched an agitation against the arrogant decree which restricted even the President of India in Kashmir without the permission of the PM of Kashmir, by roaring that ‘A single country can’t have two constitutions, two prime ministers, and two National Emblems’ and had lunged towards Kashmir. Infact, Dr.Rajendra Prasad had written to Nehru quoting, “What will you gain by implementing this article? Is the assembly of J&K more important than the President of the country?” But Nehru never came out of his self-aggrandizing sheath.

Article 370 was included in the Constitution as a temporary and transitional measure only to mitigate the then prevalent circumstances. It indirectly suggests that:

  • J&K can choose to have its own Constitution.
  • India will govern J&K only in matters of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Communications and Allied Matters.
  • India cannot impose Legislations on J&K without the consent of J&K government.

Do you think that the above provisions will convey that J&K is an integral part of India? Aren’t the separatists using the same provisions to further their agenda? Event this separatism is being fueled only in the Kashmir valley. Please remember that this is only the voice of 15% of the state who are Sunni Muslims. Of the 444 articles in our constitution, only 260 articles are applicable to J&K as of 2013.

Sikhs are a minority in our country. But in Punjab they are not deemed as minorities. They do not get the benefits of a minority in the state. It’s a different story in Kashmir. Even though J&K has 58% Muslims, they are deemed as minorities and accrue all the benefits. The real minorities here are the SCs and STs. They did not have any reservations till 1991, after which they got reservations only in education and jobs. They do not have any reservations in politics and does not seem that they will get it in the future either.

The debate over this injustice meted out to the people of J&K has to happen.

Let Article 370 be abrogated.

Article

Source: Article published in Kannada Prabha, 9th December 2013.

Wonderful Poem by Prashanth Vaidyaraj, equally great translation into Kannada by Satya Narayan:

English

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