Born in a swirl of debate and ripped by controversy, Article 370 came with a bang into the rough terrain after partition, triggering widespread outrage and anger. Created by the man from Pluto, Mr. Nehru, and his ally from hell, Mr. Sheikh Abdullah, it was fiercely contested by the constituent assembly and the Congress Executive in 1947. But the grandiose Nehru, the uncrowned Kubla Khan, overrode the sane advice of stalwarts like Sardar Patel, Babasaheb Ambedkar and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai and built an ambivalent policy on the quick sands of world opinion, the United Nations and the mob of cunning people who carved the land of Pakistan.
Simply put, Article 370 was created to provide autonomy to Kashmir on a temporary basis. Even though the forked tongue of main stream media (MSM) spouts that some autonomous clauses of the original Article 370 has considerably been watered down to the point that it is no longer autonomous, the following are some of the key toxic enablers of Article 370 that are still poised on the jugular of Kashmir.
J & K is the only state with its own constitution and separate flag.
Parliament cannot implement any law in J & K without the approval of the state government.
People of J & K can have dual citizenship, one belonging to the state and the other to the nation.
People of India cannot be a citizen of J & K but the vice versa is allowed.
Citizens of J & K can buy land and migrate to any part of India but vice versa is not applicable.
Citizens of J & K can contest elections anywhere in India but vice versa is not allowed.
The Urban Land act, 1976 (limits land owned by an individual) is not applicable in J & K. Anyone can see how absence of land ceiling enables feudalism to thrive and allows landlords to exploit the common man with impunity.
RTI (Right to Information) a watchdog tool for the common man that applies to the whole of India is not applicable in J & K. Instead, J & K implements its own watered down and toothless version of RTI.
Due to these laws, J & K cannot share the fruits of development as no Indian (including the Tatas, Ambanis and Birlas) can own businesses, build infrastructure, schools, colleges, or hospitals, thus preventing development and education and reducing unemployment. Moreover without a rigorous RTI, cover ups, bureaucratic bungling, spurious laws and taxes can never be questioned. It is little wonder that the common man in Kashmir wants to get rid of such archaic laws that strangle their lives and livelihood. The only people who thrive under these conditions are the Abdullahs, separatists of various hues, the political establishment, militants, the ever expanding peace brigade, and of course the vote hungry, dynastic Congress party.
The national furor has slowly died down partly due to historical amnesia and partly due to the hysterics of the pampered closet jihadis. Any mention of abrogating the article has generated a verbal storm even though it has outlived its utility. The architects of this “temporary” provision are both dead. However, the moribund Congress still promotes it for vote bank politics. The Islamists have latched on to it. The Pakistanis have actively cheered them on. The Americans have increased the wedge through their pet creation, the Hurriyat. And nobody wants to axe the frozen ice surrounding the sinister article. In the process, a hauntingly beautiful Kashmir has become a treacherous place where frothy Islamists rule the roost and nationalists like Shyama Prasad Mukherjee are murdered with impunity.
Coming to the million dollar question: Why and how did this satanically inspired Article 370, come into existence? According to reports, the main instigator Sheikh Abdullah with his wily ways of subversion persuaded the dreamy Nehru to accord special status for Kashmir. Besotted by Lord Mountbatten, the cloud-flying Nehru had already snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by taking the Kashmir issue to the United Nations. Things became complicated under the International glare. Pakistan was in occupation of a portion of Kashmir. Talks of plebiscite was being proposed. And there was this monumental blunder of retaining a senior British officer as the commander-in-chief of the Indian army.
It was enough for the foxy Abdullah to spot an opening in the thick bushes of international intrigue, to realize that the booty of Kashmir can easily come into his possession via an autonomous rule through Article 370. There was stiff opposition and the party was in an uproar and ready to tear the legislation to pieces. Babasaheb Ambedkar said to Sheikh Abdullah, “You wish India to protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply food grains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India. But Government of India should have only limited powers and Indian people should have no rights in Kashmir. To give consent to this proposal, would be a treacherous thing against the interests of India and I, as the Law Minister of India, will never do it.”
Since the high flying Nehru at this time was in America, Sardar Patel in spite of his misgivings pleaded Nehru’s case that a provisional approach was being used due to international ramifications. It was understood by everyone in the Congress party executive and the constituent assembly that the key operative word in the article was “temporary.” It was another matter that Nehru due to his fatal attraction for the Sheikh, refused to abrogate the temporary provisions of the article. Even after the chameleon-like Sheikh bared his terrorist fangs and was arrested in 1953 on the orders of Nehru himself, yet hanging on to one silly excuse after another, he refused to remove the dense fog of autonomy covering the article.
Thus the separatist jargon masked as “autonomy on a temporary basis,” started acquiring a life of its own, thanks to argumentative sycophants. Even the upheavals of Time could not erase “temporary” from the otherwise fancy verbiage of proliferating fifth columnists. Not to be left behind, the “secularists” of the venal Congress with their sophistry have assisted in the “great cause,” by packing heat instead of light and dangling the separatist sword of Democles on the hapless nation.
There is little doubt that Article 370 like a noxious weed has poisoned the nationalist tree. Some of the rueful undercurrents emanating from its decaying waters are veiled threats of secession from separatist leaders and closet Islamists of the Abdullah dynasty, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and members of the National Conference. Omar Abdullah, the then chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) tweeted a sinister response to a call for a debate on Article 370 by Jitendra Singh (Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office). Spinning venom, the offensive tweet read, “Mark my words and save this tweet – long after Modi Government is a distant memory, J & K won’t be a part of India or article 370 will still exist.” Simply put he threatened to secede if Article 370 is removed.
The sound and fury of threats issued by the Abdullahs, has found resonance. The PDP claims that scrapping the article will divide J & K on communal lines. The state has already been divided by an invisible cartographic line whereby the areas populated by Hindus have been taken over by rabid Islamists after a horrendous ethnic cleansing. What can get more communal than that?
Another “wonderful” statement from Mehbooba Baig of the National Conference opines “even asking for a debate on Article 370 will strengthen separatist forces.” For over sixty years, there was no debate, yet the separatist stronghold have not only become stronger, they have assaulted the constitution of India by their blatant desecration of the Indian flag. Where does this type of drivel come from? And why does not the media hound such anti nationalists who thrive on the labor of India but will spew abusive rhetoric in return? No one will admit that it comes from the same source that burns Indian flags, desecrates Indian symbols and hails Pakistan as the messiah - the sharia inspired foot soldiers defending Article 370.
The state wants its soul back. Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat, and Insaniyat (Kasmiri legacy of amity, democracy and humanity) cannot take hold when a state has two constitution and two flags. The artificial divide enforced by Art 370 hinders free movement of people, exchange of ideas, marketing and trade, cultural exchanges and the establishment of scientific and technological centers. Without all these exchanges humanity and democracy cannot thrive. And the tacit tolerance of militancy by entrenched feudal minded politicians will put the state squarely in the middle ages.
Fortunately, some patriotic forces are awakening and churning the status quo of ingrate separatists and politicians living large off the veiled threats and insinuations. While rancor flows in the main stream media, Kashmiri muslims are making the right call. On Sunday, December 18, 2011 at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, Kashmiri muslims from Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM, an organization of Nationalistic muslims of India) spoke their mind. They demanded the following: “scrap Article 370, ensure employment to Kashmiri youth, and retrieve those lands of Kashmir forcibly occupied by Pakistan and China.” Three months before this rally took place, they launched a unique campaign of “Hum Hindustani – Kashmir Hindustan ka.” All during this time, they conducted prayers, convened seminars and meetings all over the country. On December 18, they concluded the campaign in which over ten thousand muslims from 23 states and 175 districts of India, participated in spite of chilling cold and dense fog.
The man behind this welcome transformation, Mr. Indresh Kumar of the nationalistic RSS (Rashtriya Swayam sevak Sangh) founded the organization in 2002 with initiative coming from the then RSS chief K.S Sudarshan. MRM seeks to bring muslims into the national mainstream and eliminate the emotional ghettoes fostered on them by religious fundamentalism. Some of their major initiatives include obtaining 700000 signatures to revoke Article 370 of the Indian constitution in 2012, opposing the stance of Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind describing Bande Mataram as un-islamic in 2009, collecting over one million signatures to oppose cow slaughter, and organizing a tiranga yatra (national flag march) to the gateway of India in Mumbai in November 2009.
With or without article 370, the long sulk of the pampered separatists will continue. To please these anti-nationalists, the congress has not only vilified Indresh Kumar but also tried to frame him in the Ajmer blasts case. But their efforts fell flat as even their willing tool CBI could not muster any evidence. And the activities of MRM continued.
MRM has taken the first shot at the bloated balloon of entitlement of the likes of Mehbooba, Abdullah and the Hurriyat. It is up to the rest of the nation to support and publicize all offshoots of Nationalistic discourses, gatherings, assemblies, political parties, publications, thinkers and individuals, who often under the most adverse of circumstances contribute to the holy grail of burying the loathsome Article.
The fate of Article 370 will decide if Kashmir is a political house built on the quick sands of communalism or on sparkling rocks of justice. Will it pander to the wish list of extremists or navigate the wide road to Democracy?
The answer, however, cannot be found as long as the state is haunted by the ghost of Sheikh Abdullah in any or all of its forms.