Lament of a common Kashmiri

The real integration of Jammu and Kashmir, as Nehru would never tire of repeating, could come or can come, only by emotional and psychological integration of the people of my state with the country

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Arun Sharma

Last year, on 5th August 2019, you abrogated Article 370, divided my state, Jammu and Kashmir, into two and downgraded its structure to a Union Territory. It was a repeat of the tragedy at the state level that had happened to the country when it was divided into two nations, namely India and Pakistan. That wound continues to fester while I have to also cope with a new one.

The barrister who propounded the two-nation theory then was at least honest when he said that he, and whom he called his brethren, many of whom did not agree with him, could not live with us and wanted a new country. You, on the other hand, preferred to add insult to injury. You told me that you were doing it for my own benefit!

Since I am not a learned lawyer or a worldly-wise politician, I will judge your fateful decision, which has affected me personally, with the little common sense and logic that I have at my disposal, and some help from recorded history.

To begin with, you told me that Article 370 which envisaged special status for my state was temporary as per the title of the Article itself and therefore had to go. I think, however that you had mistaken the title for the script (text) of the Article. Of course, the Article was temporary, but its continuation or otherwise was to be decided by the Constituent Assembly of my state which had to be set up as per clause (2) of the Article itself. Clause (3) of this Article empowered the President to declare that the ‘Article shall cease to be operative’ but only if the Constituent Assembly had made the necessary recommendation to the President. To the extent that the Home Minister did not disclose these full facts about the provisions of the Article, he can be said to have lied to the Parliament!

Since the Constituent Assembly of my state dissolved itself on 25 January 1957 without, in its wisdom, recommending the abrogation of Article 370, the same was deemed to have become a permanent feature of the Indian Constitution, like other Articles. This is what as a common man I understand by a reading of the Constitution.

I may point out that the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir in its judgement in October 2015, ruled that Article 370 cannot be ‘abrogated, repealed or even amended’. The Delhi High Court dismissed a plea outright seeking a declaration that Article 370 was temporary in nature. Even the Supreme Court of the country also held the view as recently as in April 2018 that Article 370 was not a temporary provision. A bench of Justices R.A. Goel and R.F. Nariman held that ‘the issue (of Article 370) concerned is covered by the Judgement of this court in 2017 SARFAESI matter, where we had held that despite the headnote of Article 370, it is not a temporary provision’. (Indian Express,03 April, 2018) It is regretful that the Government did not even heed the advice of the judiciary.

You envied my ‘special status’ and complained that people from other states could not purchase land in my state. I do not know why you were irked by my special status alone. I know that all the North-Eastern states enjoy special status too. I was surprised to know that the state the Prime Minister and the Home Minister belong to also enjoys some special provision and people from other states cannot purchase agriculture land there. As things stand, only a khedut, a farmer from Gujarat can buy agricultural land in that state. Correct me if I am wrong. Not that I grudge them their special status. I only wish you had been less partisan in depriving me of my ‘special status’ while assuring others that there was nothing common between Article 370 and Article 371(A-J) except that the latter comes next to the former. Once again you misled the Parliament.

Your reason that Article 370 had thwarted the development of my state was totally untenable. I can proudly declare that my state has been ahead of many other states in respect of economic and human development indices. I came across an interview of the economist Jean Dreze where, based on official figures, he had revealed that life expectancy at birth was higher in Jammu and Kashmir compared with Gujarat; that the percentage of the poor living below poverty line was lower in my state than it was in Gujarat; that the percentage of immunised children was higher in J&K than it was in Gujarat.(National Herald,9 August 2019) Gujarat has been especially cited as it has been touted as a model state by the Prime Minister several times. As the historian Andrew Whitehead reveals in an essay, the development in my state owes to the ‘implementation of perhaps the most far reaching land reforms in independent India’. He further says that in the early 1950s, several thousand large and medium-size land owners lost much of their estates. By this effort 7,00,000 landless cultivators became peasant proprietors, although with small plots and the profound problem of rural indebtedness was also alleviated. In an agrarian society, he says, this really was a revolution. (The Rise and Fall of New Kashmir, Andrew Whitehead)

Your other reason that Article 370 had led to the rise of terrorism in my state was laughable at best.

The rise of terrorism, if one may point to one cause, owes to the return of Jagmohan as governor of the state in January 1990. ‘His return to full control of events in Kashmir’, says Victoria Schofield ‘marked the beginning of a new intensity both in New Delhi’s dealing with the Kashmiris and their response’. His appointment was probably ‘the worst mistake the central government could have made at the time’, writes Tavleen Singh. ‘But there was nobody in V.P.Singh’s newly elected government who could have told him this’. His government ‘depended heavily on the extremist BJP whose supporters wanted to abrogate Article 370 and integrate Kashmir within the Indian Union’, says Schofield. The attempt to find a political solution to the Kashmir problem, Schofield further says, was put aside in favour of a policy of repression.(Victoria Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict, page 149) To drive the point further home, Schofield quotes the senior bureaucrat from J&K Ashok Jaitley, who said, ‘What Jagmohan did in five months they (the militants) could not have achieved in five years.’ (ibid, page 154) I would say in fifty years!

The real integration of Jammu and Kashmir, as Nehru would never tire of repeating could come or can come, only by emotional and psychological integration of the people of my state with the country. But with some legislators of the ruling BJP taunting me and gleefully declaring after the abrogation of Article 370, that they could now marry Kashmiri girls, this seems highly unlikely.

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Published: 06 Aug 2020, 9:15 PM