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Anarchy in the Valley

Article 370 has long outlived its purpose,but anyone who suggests that is branded ‘communal’

Written by L.K. Advani |
August 7, 2010 4:10:54 am

Kashmir is very much in the news these days. BJP MLAs from Jammu & Kashmir came to New Delhi last week,met the prime minister and submitted a memorandum cautioning him against any dilution in the presence of security forces in that state. They also urged him not to succumb to the acceptance of any separatist demand.

For the BJP,the issue of Kashmir’s complete integration with India is one which the party has pursued relentlessly since its birth as Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee,founder-president of the Jana Sangh,laid down his life for the cause of the state’s integration. At the first national conference of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh held in 1953 at Kanpur,Dr Mookerjee gave the nation a resounding slogan with profound significance :

Ek desh mein do vidhan,do pradhan,do nishan — nahin chalenge,nahin chalenge (We cannot have two constitutions,two presidents,two flags,in a single country).

Dr Mookerjee’s martyrdom in Kashmir led to the achievement of two of the three goals identified in this slogan. The two presidents that existed till 1953 — one in New Delhi who had no authority over Jammu and Kashmir,and the second in the state,exercising full authority under the title “sadar-e-riyasat”,became one. The office of sadar-e-riyasat was abolished,and the president’s authority was extended to Jammu and Kashmir. Also,the two flags became one: the national tricolour,which until 1953 could not be hoisted in Jammu and Kashmir (which had its own flag),became the flag of the state as well. In the movement launched by Dr Mookerjee,several Jana Sangh and Praja Parishad activists actually became martyrs to police bullets while hoisting the tricolour! But the third goal identified by our great leader still remains to be achieved: Article 370 of the Indian Constitution,which provides for a separate constitution for Jammu and Kashmir and which continues to breed separatism,must go.

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In the Kashmir Valley,the situation today is of total anarchy,and the government seems clueless about how to deal with it. The memorandum given to the PM by BJP MLAs from the state says:

“The separatists have adopted an alternative strategy. They have realised that the global acceptability of acts of terror has ceased to exist. They are also aware that India’s patriotic and professional security forces can repel such terrorists and insurgency linked sabotage,blast and violence. Since 2008,the separatists have decided to resort to mob violence rather than stray acts of terror. Their strategy is to convince the world about the so-called justness of Kashmir’s cause.

The separatists are today getting instructions from across the border. From young school children to women and elders,stone throwing at security forces and governmental buildings is the preferred strategy. They indulge in mob violence in order to provoke the security forces to resort to defensive action. Disguised terrorists are also a part of these violent mobs. In this defensive security action,there are injuries and casualties. So far,1262 security personnel have been injured. Participants in mob violence have also been injured. Some have even lost their lives.

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India’s strategy at dealing with terrorism and sabotage was clear and well-defined. The government,however,appears to be clueless in facing the current challenge. The state government has become extremely unpopular. There is a personal resentment against the chief minister. He appears to be getting alienated even from his own party cadres.”

In his book Virginibus Puerisque (Latin for “To girls and boys”),Robert Louis Stevenson has written: “Man is a creature who lives not by bread alone,but principally by catchwords.” One such catchword that very much sustains Indian politicians,is “communal”. There is nothing pejorative in the original meaning of the word,which is linked with commune and community. But over a period of time it has become,in Indian political parlance,a word of vile abuse. Jawaharlal Nehru used to hurl it at the great patriot and parliamentarian,Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee,and at the party which he founded,the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. The epithet continues to be thrown at the Bharatiya Janata Party till today.

Of course,the BJP is an ideological party which has a distinct approach to several matters. On some issues,it is practically a loner,even though among the people these issues command wide support. Until 1998,our stand that India must have a nuclear deterrent was exclusively our own. In 1998,all our allies in the NDA endorsed this stand. Today the entire nation feels proud that our country possesses nuclear weaponry.

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The BJP is today the only political party in the country which holds that Article 370 of the Constitution,which confers a special status on Jammu and Kashmir state,ought to be scrapped. We regard this provision as a big barrier in the psychological unity of the country. I can understand someone disputing our argument and disagreeing with our stand. But I feel surprised when the BJP’s demand for the repeal of Article 370 is cited as proof of our communalism. That only underscores how perverse these catchwords have become. It would be in place to recall the rationale given by our Constitution-makers to justify the inclusion of this article.

At the time of Independence there were more than 500 princely states in the country. Most of these had framed their own constitutions. When on October 17,1949,the Constituent Assembly took up this particular provision for consideration,N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar,who introduced the provision,drew attention to the fact that in the case of all other princely states,their constitutions had been embodied in the Constitution of India,but this had not become possible with regard to Jammu and Kashmir which continued to have a separate constitution.

Maulana Hasrat Mohani interrupted Ayyangar to ask why Jammu and Kashmir was being “discriminated” against? Thus for Mohani,J&K continuing to have a separate constitution was an act of discrimination against the state !

Ayyangar replied: “The discrimination is due to the special conditions of Kashmir. That particular state is not yet ripe for the same sort of integration as has taken place in the case of other states. It is the hope of everybody here that in due course even Jammu and Kashmir will become ripe for the same sort of integration.”

The Constituent Assembly debates record that Ayyangar’s above declaration,that in course of time,Jammu and Kashmir would be brought in line with other states,was greeted with cheers.

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Ayyangar then went on to explain why the state was allowed to remain an exception for some time. “In the first place,” he said,“there has been a war going on within the limits of Jammu and Kashmir state.” Also,he added,“We are entangled with the United Nations in regard to Jammu and Kashmir state,and it is not possible to say now when we shall be free from this entanglement.”

Thus, it is very clear from the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly that the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir state under Article 370 was only in the nature of an interim arrangement. The rationale was Pakistan’s invasion,and the UN dimension. This article had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority state,the argument that is being advanced today to condemn our demand for its abrogation.

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Immediately after the death of Dr Mookerjee in Srinagar where he had been detained,the nationwide anger that erupted made the government take a few positive steps in quick succession. The permit system that existed to allow entry into Jammu and Kashmir,and for whose violation Dr Mookerjee had been jailed was scrapped. In course of time,the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court,of the Election Commission,and the Comptroller and Auditor General also were extended to the state.

Whenever Shri Vajpayee raised the issue of Article 370 in Parliament,Pandit Nehru would invariably reply that a gradual erosion of the article was taking place,and in course of time the article would go. Early in 1964,a discussion took place in UN Security Council in which,on behalf of Pakistan,Z.A. Bhutto argued that the “Security Council should interdict India from carrying on further integration.” Soon after,the minister of education,M.C. Chagla made an excellent speech in the Rajya Sabha (February 24,1964) in the course of which he made this very pertinent observation about Article 370:

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“The prime minister (Jawaharlal Nehru) the other day spoke of the gradual erosion of Article 370 of the Constitution. I only hope that the erosion is accelerated and I also hope that very soon the article will disappear from the Constitution of India. After all,it is transitional and temporary. I think the transitional period has been long enough.”

As one who had ably represented India’s case on Kashmir in many an acrimonious debate at the UN,Chagla’s exasperation was understandable. After all,14 years had elapsed since the adoption of the Constitution,and yet this temporary article relating to Jammu and Kashmir state continued to sully the Constitution,suggesting that Kashmir was still a disputed matter. Yet another 46 years have flit by since Chagla made these remarks. Not only has the transitional period still not ended,today any Chagla merely suggesting that the temporary article be repealed,runs the risk of being characterised as communal and reactionary!

The writer is former deputy prime minister and a senior BJP leader

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First published on: 07-08-2010 at 04:10:54 am
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