"When the pursuit of concerted independence, its expression and a feeling of glory will disseminate among the people only then can Swaraj become a reality on that solid foundation. When in every village internally and externally there is want – and when that want is becoming the reason behind the want of food, education, health, knowledge and joy in the country, then it is wrong to think that Swaraj can have a firm foundation in this country through any external happening, transcending this mental poverty of the people of the country. In English there is a saying: success attracts success. Like Swaraj will attract Swaraj. God’s right on the universe is his Swaraj, that is, the right to create the universe. For us too Swaraj is the treasure, that is, the right to create our own country"
– Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur, Swadesi Samaj (English Translation of the original Bengali text by Anasuya Guha, Dey’s Publishing Kolkata, 2013), p.81
Objectively speaking, Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh gaining their independence from the shackles of Article 370 and the sad and sudden demise of Smt Sushma Swaraj do not have a direct relationship but her last tweet congratulating the Prime Minister over the amendment in Article in 370 and abrogation of Article 35A. Smt Swaraj had a strong emotional connect with the entire discourse of Jammu and Kashmir and had a clear position on the same. When there were no takers for removing this obstacle in the complete implementation of the Constitution of Bharat in the erstwhile state of J&K, she was the one who articulated that position on the floor of the Parliament time and again. While presenting the special edition on the occasion of Independence Day, it is necessary to understand the meaning of ‘Swa’ Raj in Jammu and Kashmir and also the distinct persona of Shushmaji that allowed her to present the clear position on the issues related to Swaraj not just in Bharat but Globally too.
Swaraj: Freedom 2.0
Not long ago, precisely till the 1990s, there were no takers for the removal of hurdles created due to the misuse of Article 370 in addressing the woes of the entire state of J&K. While denying support to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1996, most of the parties who switched sides in 2019 in support of the removal were critical of this move and termed it as a ‘communal issue’. Though Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP since Jan Sangh days and many nationalists were clear that Article 370 and its misuse in the form of 35A (Amendment inserted through a Presidential Order to create provision related to ‘state subject’ and ‘concurrence’ of the Assembly of J&K while implementing laws passed by the Parliament of Bharat) are at the roots of most of the problems in J&K, larger social awareness was not there.
Yes, Pakistan has been the problem but who allowed Pakistan to create troubles? The entire narrative of ‘special status’ and ‘unique identity’ was built on the false premise as if there was a different instrument of accession that was offered to the Princely State of J&K at the time of accession. The only difference that made this case complicated was the aggression of Pakistan and therefore, non-formation of the Constituent Assembly in J&K before the enactment of the Constitution of Bharat. The interim provision of Article 370 was supposed to be a temporary and enabling provision for the future Constituent Assembly to adopt the Constitution in entirety.
The multiple frauds at electoral and Constitutional level were incurred in the name of ‘special status’ given by the temporary provision of Article 370. The separatists and pseudo-separatists playing the double-game made the entire discourse ‘Kashmir Valley’ centric, completely sidelining the Jammu and Ladakh regions. This political game did not even give real powers to the ‘Kashmiri people’ and created many discriminatory provisions among themselves. What the people of J&K received in the name of ‘special status’ were corruption, nepotism and alienation; Pakistan-sponsored terrorism thrived on the same.
Barring a few families, this is the real Swaraj, self-rule; independence from the 72 years of misgovernance; freedom from election rigging, discrimination, infiltration and underdevelopment. Aspiration of the people from Jammu and Ladakh has been obvious for decades; even in the valley around 70 per cent turnout in the local body elections, again opposed and boycotted by the ‘so-called’ mainstream parties of the valley, is a proof enough to gauge the mood. Pakistan will try to create troubles but that the errant neighbour did in many parts of the country. Bharat is in a better position to deal with any such attempts in a better fashion with the Union Territory status to J&K, so freedom from insecurity is also on the cards.
Nationalists forces worked hard, fought, both on literal and intellectual grounds, and created pressure of the common people. The strength that we see behind the party and Government that was termed ‘communal’ is not just the symbol of ‘political will but the national will — again proving the point that society is the centrality of the ‘treasure of Swaraj’- the right to create our own country. Giving a greater touch of this Swaraj to every citizen of both J&K and Ladakh UTs is the real task that needs to be taken forward.
Swaraj: The Persona
Sushmaji, who was a communicator par excellence, was not just committed to the indigenous idea of Swaraj but had a vigour to work for it. Of course, as a political activist she was attached to the cause of J&K; visible from the last tweet but as a Minister of External Affairs, she could listen and articulate the extreme points in a symbiotic manner. Again as perfectly worded by Gurudev Rabindranath, ‘to feel unity in diversity, to establish unity amidst variety – this is the underlying religion of Bharat’; Sushmaji lived this Dharma. That is why she could build a new narrative to corner Pakistan at the international fora and established ‘terrorism as the highest form of human rights violations’. Raising the voice for either people from Pakistan Occupied Jammu-Kashmir (PoJK)
Due to the conviction in this Dharma of finding a meeting point, even for the opposite thoughts, she did not hesitate to accept the labelling of being ‘communal’ and stood for the ethos of this Rashtra; whether it is a flag, Vande Mataram or Uniform Civil Code. Her commitment towards complete integration of J&K through the removal of Article 370 was an extension of this Dharma for her. Being rooted in the Bharatiya ethos, she championed the cause of man-woman equality.
Politics as an instrument of serving and strengthening the edifice of Swaraj was the key characteristic of Sushma Swaraj as a persona.
Taking this substance of ‘Swaraj’, embodied in the persona called Sushma Swaraj should be our resolution for this Independence Day; revitalising the inherent societal strength with national character is the key to this.