Scrapping Article 370 was envisioned to bring greater opportunities for people of J&K
In his magnum opus “My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir”, former governor of J&K, Jagmohan has argued that “one of the strongest roots of Kashmiri separatism and alienation lies in Article 370.” Referring to the divisive effects of 370 sometime in 1986 when he was governor of the state, Jagmohan best described the debilitative and exploitative nature of the Article. In a diary entry, he aptly described that Article 370 was “nothing but a feeding ground for the parasites at the heart of paradise. It skins the poor. It deceives them with its mirage. It lines the pockets of the ‘power elites.’ It fans the ego of the new ‘sultans’. In essence, it creates a land without justice, a land full of crudities and contradictions. It props up politics of deception, duplicity and demagogy. It breeds the microbes of subversion. It keeps alive the unwholesome legacy of the two-nation theory. It suffocates the very idea of India and fogs the very vision of a great social and cultural crucible from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.”
Noting that in the years to come, 370 “could be an epicentre of a violent earthquake in the Valley – an earthquake, the tremors of which would be felt all over the country with unforeseen circumstances”, Jagmohan sent his suggestions to the government of India with the idea of creating a ‘new institutional framework’ in the state. No action was taken on it. A Congress government with overflowing majority led by Rajiv Gandhi did not have the foresight or gumption to take the case head-on. In a few years, the earthquake struck when the first Kashmiri pandits began to be killed in the Valley.
In his address to the nation on the night of August 8, Prime Minister Modi spoke of how 370 had exploited the people of the region and had ensured that the fruits of development do not reach them while empowering a few families and elite networks and groups. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in his detailed response to the debate on abrogating 370, in both the Houses of Parliament also highlighted that dimension. Strange that some of the career Gandhians who are now suddenly remembering Gandhi and are feeling pain for Kashmir never saw or highlighted this exploitative dimension of 370!
“Over the years”, points out Jagmohan, Article 370 became “an instrument of exploitation in the hands of the ruling elites and other vested interests in bureaucracy, business, the judiciary and bar.” It set “in a vicious circle” and bred “separatist forces which in turn [sustained] and [strengthened] Article 370. Apart from the politicians, the richer classes…found it convenient to amass wealth and not allow healthy financial legislation to come to the State…The common masses [were] prevented from realising that Article 370 [was] actually keeping them impoverished and [denied] them justice and also their due share in the economic advancement.’ This was something that the current crop of Gandhians did not study. 370 and its “accompanying paraphernalia”, argued Jagmohan, therefore, needed “to be abrogated” because it served only “as an instrument of perpetrating injustices and inequities. It [facilitated] the growth and continuation of corrupt oligarchies. It [fanned] and [fed] the forces of parochialism and obscurantism…It [acted] as a breeding ground for separatist emotions. It [put] false notions in the minds of the youth, and it [created] narrow grooves and narrow loyalties. It [gave] rise to regional tensions and conflicts…It is socially regressive and [caused] situations in which women [lost] their rights if they [married] non-State subjects and persons staying for over forty years in the State [were] denied elementary human and democratic rights.’
It is strange then that members of the Gandhi Peace Foundation who wrote an open letter on Kashmir and 370, never looked at the human rights of the people of the region. Their hearts never bled for the Safai Karmacharis in the state who were denied rights of reservations and of opportunities. They never thought of the tribals who were denied political and democratic rights and never deliberated on of how an equitable existence was being denied to all these sections. They also did not feel for the Buddhists of Ladakh who have faced discrimination all these years.
How is it that these Gandhians have never spoken about the denial of democratic rights in the state to those who had migrated to the region due to partition? How could these erudite internationally “acclaimed” Gandhians fail to recall what the Supreme Court of India had said in this respect way back in 1987, how it had directed that the state government, through an “appropriate executive direction” rectify this anomaly of these citizens of India not having the right to be in electoral rolls, not having the right to be elected to a village Panchayat, not having the right to purchase any land or to be employed under the State government…”?
Would the Mahatma have approved of such discrimination?
Do these Gandhians not know that as early as 1949, in an “impassioned plea” to Nehru “for taking Ladakh directly under the care of the Union Government, the Ladakhi Buddhist Association said, “Tibet is the cultural daughter of India, and we of the ‘lesser Tibet’ seek the bosom of the gracious mother to receive more nourishment for growth to full stature. Will the great mother (India) refuse to take to her arms one of her weakest, forlorn and distressed children?” Ludicrously these neo-Gandhians, in their letter, have also admitted that there “was only a handful of people aware of the existence of Article 370.” Can we safely assert that this handful only comprised of these compromised Gandhians?
In fact, throughout their long struggle for the abrogation of 370, the Jana Sangh and BJP never failed to highlight the fact that removal of 370 would bring about greater bonding and opportunities for the people of the area. The Jana Sangh’s objective “was not the victory or defeat of the government, but the change of policy on its part.” One of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s closest political associates, the finest interpreter of his political vision Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, remarked, how Dr Mookerjee, would not “tolerate discrimination against the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the matter of fundamental rights and other privileges granted and guaranteed by our Constitution.”
While the ruling National Conference’s attitude, Upadhyaya noted, was that it did “not want emotional integration of the State with Bharat”, Dr Mookerjee, he pointed out, “was opposed to all these symbols of separatism” and “wanted deletion of Article 370 of the Constitution, which was only inserted as a temporary measure. He had warned the Government of India that if Jammu and Kashmir was allowed to be treated as a special case, there would crop up a number of demands similar in nature.” Similarly, Upadhyaya had argued later that “if we continue to retain that separatist article even today, this will only help Pakistan” and that if we wish to “neutralise Pakistan’s argument – which is based on the two nation-theory – we shall have to remain firm on the principle of one nation in thought, speech and action.”
Upadhyaya himself has written reams on the issue, besides leading and initiating movements for its abrogation. Sometime in June 1960, in a piece on ‘Dr Mookerjee, Kashmir and the Future’, Upadhyaya succinctly articulated the Jana Sangh’s objective behind the demand for abrogating the vexatious Article. The demand was never made with a mind-set of triumphalism, “Let us not rest”, he wrote, “Till we see that our brethren in Jammu & Kashmir stand shoulder to shoulder with us and enjoy all the rights that we enjoy, and also bear all the obligations of Indian citizenship.”
While enumerating his vision of a new Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh, Prime Minister Modi referred to this dimension, he spoke of how the marginalised needed to be mainstreamed in the region and be conferred with equal rights and opportunities. He spoke of the scope of growth and development that the region will now see. He alluded to how the gate-keepers of power in the region will see their monopoly break. It is a vision for the region that our great minds had yearned and aspired for in the past. It is a vision of integration, of support, of rights in and of obligations towards our collective national existence. In a sense, Modi reinforced Upadhyaya’s vision of “one nation in thought, speech and action.”
Genuine Gandhians would hardly have a problem with it. It is only the Marxist-Gandhians who are whining!
(The author is Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation. The views expressed are strictly personal)