The revision of Article 370 and reorganization of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories have ‘righted’ a historical wrong committed during the Congress regime at the Centre after Independence and then perpetuated by subsequent Congress governments at the Centre.
Interestingly Congress Working Committee has condemned this move by the BJP government which got whole-hearted support from leaders cutting across party lines. The Congress resolution, though, did not pay any heed to the nationalist sentiment and said: “Article 370 was conceived and crafted by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, assisted by N. Gopalaswamy Iyengar and V.P. Menon. Article 370 is the Constitutional recognition of the terms of the Instrument of Accession between the State of Jammu & Kashmir and India. It deserved to be honoured until it was amended, after consultation with all sections of the people, and strictly in accordance with the Constitution of India.”
Dr Murli Manohar Joshi and Narendra Modi hoisting National Flag in Sirnagar in 1992
Interestingly, this resolution was passed in the CWC meeting chaired by Rahul Gandhi while leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, A.K. Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, P. Chidambaram and Priyanka Gandhi were among those who participated in the meeting.
The resolution is factually incorrect. First, Sardar Patel did not deal with Kashmir at that time. In fact, it was Jawaharlal Nehru who had told Patel that the former can deal with rest of the states but Kashmir would be personally handled by him.
Secondly, Ambedkar was never in favour of the Article 370. As far as N. Gopalaswamy Iyengar is concerned, this is what he had to say about Article 306A (a predecessor of Article 370) in the Constituent Assembly debate:
“…that (Article 306A which the readers can read as Article 370 also as mentioned earlier the former was a predecessor of the latter) cannot be a permanent feature of the Constitution of the State and hope it will not be. So the provision is made that when the Constituent Assembly of the State has met and taken its decisions both the Constitution for the State and on the range of federal jurisdiction over the State, the President may on the recommendation of that Constituent Assembly issue an order that this Article 306A shall either cease to be operative, or shall be operative only subject to such exceptions and modifications as may be specified by him. But before he issues any order of that kind the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly will be a condition precedent. That explains the whole point of this article.
The effect of this article is that the Jammu and Kashmir State which is now a part of India will continue to be a part of India, will be a unit of the future Federal Republic of India and the Union legislature will get jurisdiction to enact laws on matters specified either in the Instrument of Accession or by later addition with the concurrence of the Government of the State. And steps have to be taken for the purpose of convening a Constituent Assembly in due course which will go into the matters I have already referred to. When it has come to a decision on the different matters it will make a recommendation to the President who will either abrogate Article 306A or direct that it shall apply with such modifications and exceptions as the Constituent Assembly may recommend. That Sir, briefly, is a description of the effect of this article, and I hope that the House will carry it.”
The fact is that Nehru committed a historical blunder by installing Sheikh Abdullah and his party National Conference at the helm of affairs after Independence. Sheikh Abdullah and his protégés adopted a partisan approach. The non-Muslim population was treated as a second class citizen and that legacy did continue till the day Article 370 was scrapped.
The non-Muslim population fought in the 1950s and early 1960s this injustice through an organisation called ‘Praja Parsihad’ which led the fight against Article 370 and Sheikh’s corrupt and communal regime. In 1951, when the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was constituted and representatives were to be elected for the same, Praja Parishad filed 59 nominations out which 41 were rejected deliberately without any ground. This was to ensure that the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was dominated solely by the National Conference and Sheikh’s handpicked members who were largely opposed to full integration with India and hence developed the ploy of Article 370.
It would be pertinent to have a look at some of the instances which showed how systemically the non-Muslims were targeted by a shamelessly bipartisan establishment.
- Under Shelkh Abdullah’s regime a 7-member textbook committee of the state was constituted. There was not a single person belonging to Jammu or Hindus.
- Urdu was made the official language of the state and medium of instruction in schools. The textbooks meant for school students were full of Persian and Arabic words which even the teachers did not understand.
- The ties with Panjab University were completely cut off and a separate state university with handful of colleges were set up. Right from syllabi to question papers to recruitment and admission rules, residents of Jammu and Ladakh were put at a disadvantage and anti-Dogra feelings were openly encouraged.
- During Maharaja Hari Singh’s regime, recruitment for administrative posts used to happen through open competition and was based on merit. During Sheikh Abdullah’s regime, advertisements for recruitment more often than not carried the condition “only Mohemmedans need apply.”
- A prestigious Training College started by Maharaja Hari Singh was shifted from Jammu to Srinagar. The Toshkhana, which had all the valuables of the state along with important manuscripts lying in the Jammu library had also been shifted to Srinagar.
- Udhampur district, which had a clear Hindu majority and acted as a direct link between Jammu and Ladakh was split into two units. Its northern areas like Bhaderwah, Kishtwar and Ramban which contained most of the mineral and foreign wealth of the state was constituted into a separate Muslim majority district of Doda.
- Similarly Riasi district was split up to create a new district of Rajouri Poonch to ensure that neither of them remained Hindu majority.
- Lakhs of Hindu refugees who emigrated from Pakistan-occupied terriorires could have been settled in the state as according to official records in Jammu district alone, 7,04,914 Kanals of evacuee land was available for settlement. But the Sheikh administration gave it to other private parties by charging five times the rate of the revenue and the refugees were forced to go to Bikaner, Bhopal and other places to settle.
- New taxes were imposed on Jammu and Ladakh region and earlier taxes were also increased for these specific regions from two to five times. Custom duties were imposed in such a way that goods sold in Pathankot were sold in Jammu and Ladakh at 37 to 50 per cent higher rates.
The list is endless. What started with Sheikh’s advent on the scene continued till August 7, 2019. During the course of time a handful of families – the Muftis, the Abdullahs and the Gilanis- formed a nexus and created a bogey of terror and an atmosphere of uncertainty. Even as the Congress governments at the Centre remained in a state of inertia, Pakistan capitalized on this and fuelled terrorism in the state. While the Valley was suffering from the onslaught of terrorism, Jammu and Ladakh regions were the victims of regional imbalance and they lagged far behind when it came to allocation of funds, development work or as a matter of fact representation in the state assembly. A large number of Dalits also suffered due to restrictions imposed by Article 370, as they didn’t get any reservations here. Similarly, the women and refugees from Pakistan occupied Kashmir were also treated as second class citizens by the state administration.
The time had come to end all this. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the decision to restore equality of rights by scrapping Article 370. He also decided to reorganize the state so as to correct the regional imbalance.
One of the key factors which propelled the government to initiate this move was its policy to do away was the outcome of Panchayat polls held in Jammu and Kashmir during November-December 2018.
These polls were boycotted by both the People’s Democractic Party and the National Conference. Huriyat leaders were also boycotting these polls. These three outfits have always been at the centre of any move which were made in the past to resolve the challenge of terrorism in Kashmir.
Despite the boycott of these three parties people turned out in large numbers with overall voting percentage at an impressive 74 per cent. The boycott of these outfits only had some impact in four districts of South Kashmir – Shopian, Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama.
This outcome helped the Modi government to move forward and create an affirmative plan for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The failed boycott of these parties was a proof that the way select families heading these outfits are redundant in Jammu and Kashmir and time has come to build an alternative leadership. With a large number of politicians contesting Panchayat polls and winning them with support of the local people, it was clear that a new group of political leaders which have complete faith in the Constitution of India and want Kashmir to be completely integrated with India is ready to replace the corrupt and discredited political class in the state.
It appears that this gave the courage to the government to go ahead with scrapping of Article 370 and reorganisation of the state. There was no perceptible threat of a political vacuam as hundreds of Panchayat heads who won electorally after fighting a democratic polls was there.
One of the important things which Modi government has done is to strengthen the position of this new political leadership by providing them ample funds and giving them authority with accountability to initiate the long stalled development work in the state. Modi government also reaslised that providing special packages to Kashmir would not resolve but in fact perpetuate the problem in Kashmir for two reasons. One, it leads to rampant corruption and two the funds never reach down to the level where they are required.
The thinking in the government was quite clear by the time it won back the second term that unless the nexus of bureaucrats, politicians and fear mongers is not done away with, it is in the interest of this nexus to keep Kashmir on the boil.
Those who are trying to portray this move as anti-Muslim tend to forget that Ladakh comprises of two regions and one of them is Kargil whose 48% population is Muslims. Similarly Bakrwal Gujars who have suffered as other residents of Hindus are also Muslims.
The President of Bharatiya Janasangh Dr Syama Prasad Mokerjee, who died in Srinagar, under mysterious circumstances on June 23, 1953 while trying to save Kashmir from the clutches of Sheikh Abdullah who was supported by the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, spoke clearly in Lok Sabha on August 7, 1952, “Four classes of citizenship in Jammu and Kashmir, what for? They should be abolished. There should be only one class of citizenship.” His dream was finally realized 67 years later on August 7, 2019, courtesy a bloodless coup by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
(The writer is a journalist, CEO of Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra and author of the book ‘Know About RSS’)