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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 31, July 24, 2010

Hindutva, Article 370 and J&K Imbroglio

Sunday 25 July 2010, by Bilal Ahmad Ganai







Indian ethos and civilisation constitute one of the oldest and greatest civilisations of the world. Its innate strength of tolerance gives it a unique feature. Non-violence and tolerance has had their strong and preponderant base in Hinduism. Internal diversity and differentiation is the basic essence of Hinduism. Hinduism is plural in every sense of the term and multiple sects, forms of belief, rituals and religio-cultural reference points comprise Hinduism.

However, in recent years, Hinduism has come to be largely galvanised for political ends. As a result, a rather different sort of Hinduism has come up. This new Hinduism has been dubbed as “syndicated Hinduism”.1 The creation of this syndicated Hinduism is more for political purposes than the religious one. This syndicated Hinduism is also sometimes called Hindutva. The ideology of the BJP is encapsulated in one word, that is, Hindutva. The word ‘Hindutva’ is derived from two words ‘Hindu’ and ‘tattva’. ‘Tattva’ literally means ‘truth’ and philosophically ‘true principle’. Thus, ‘Hindutva’ means ‘Hindu truth’ or ‘Hindu true principle’. Hindu nationalism is aimed at strengthening Hindu solidarity of their conception, and seeks to identify an Indian nation according to the ethnic criteria.

Advocates of Hindu nationalism argue that the national identity of India could be regained by seeking the “fundamental religious and cultural truths” again. They idealise an imagined past and demand a return to the “pristine” forms of Hindu culture that had degenerated under foreign rule. They also prefer an antagonistic world view. Hindu nationalists identify ‘Mother India’ with the supreme God. It was the radical thinker, Savarkar, who invented and elaborated the idea of Hindutva in his book Hindutva, Who Is A Hindu? V.D. Savarkar had been a student of zoology. Some commentaries also describe him as a proclaimed atheist. He was not interested in the religion of Hinduism as such. Savarkar says that ‘Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva’. He was also influenced by the oft-quoted phrase of survival of the fittest and it later made him develop his own notion of social Darwinism. Thus, the area which hogged his attention the most was Hindutva because it is here that the Darwinistic scheme of things of survival of the fittest (originally coined by Herbert Spencer) best fits in the frame. Though he does not deny the right of minorities to co-exist with the Hindus but it is at a cost. He states that they can avail this offer only by ensuring the presence of Hindutva in their religio-cultural roots.2 In other words, ceasing to be what they are and being what they are not.

A very militant and aggressive political force has emerged in the form of the Bharatiya Janata Party and various front organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayam- sevak Sangh, and Shiva Sena in Maharashtra. The goal of these Hindu-based political parties is two-fold. First, the Hindu political parties have taken upon themselves the responsibility of propagating the so-called authentic Hinduism. Second, the RSS, VHP, BJP, and Shiva Sena have mobilised Hindus to operate like Hindus in politics with a view to capture the Indian state. They do not accept that India should be a secular, tolerant and pluralist society. The Hindutva forces are trying their hardest to bring more and more communities under their influence, both for their political gain and for fulfilling their ideological objective of building a unified Hindu cultural nation. These forces are engaged in the establishment of the Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation) and Hindu Raj (Hindu State) by rejecting and liquidating the plural cultural traditions of the country. They are spreading an anti-pluralist, anti-democratic, anti-secular message with a view to mobilise “awakened Hindus” for bringing a party of Hindus, for the Hindus and by the Hindus into the corridors of power.3

Hindutva, which forms the bedrock of almost all the saffron parties, hinges on the transformation of Hinduism into a regimented, codified, monochromatic order with little scope or space for diversity of opinions, practices, rituals, observances, autonomies and, of course, special statuses. For this purpose, these forces are digging out different myths and legends from the past. They are re-interpreting the same in the Hinduised way. Bharat is, accordingly, interpreted as that land whose every “particle” represent a “martyr” and every “stone a history”. The Hindu forces termed the partition of India as the “vivisection” of Mother India. Since then, when-ever the threat of another break-up, another partition looms large, the moment unleashes remarkable passions in politics. This explains the hue and cry which the Hindutva elements raised in the Amarnath land row. This is what has given rise to the notion of, what Ashutosh Varshney calls “sacred geography”. And this, again, is what makes Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which singles out the J&K State by giving it a special status, as the desecration of the sacred geography for the saffron parties. Their notion of Bharat, the motherland, shapes and fashions the Hindu gods the way they like. They do all this to grind their own axes. For example, initially, it was only Lord Rama who was portrayed by the saffronites in their political planks and subsequently to mobilise Dalits, Dalit heroes and histories were being focused on.4

 

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Jammu and Kashmir has figured prominently in saffron politics. Perhaps no other issue has figured as regularly in the Hindu nationalist party resolutions, and as many times, as Jammu and Kashmir’s full integration into the Union of India. The BJP traces the Kashmir problem to the Nehruvian past and to the weaknesses in the India’s freedom movement. Nehru is thought to have made the mistake of not using the “effective methods” that Sardar Patel did with the Nizam to get the “errant” Maharaja merge his state with India totally, unconditionally and with no residual powers.5 His next mistake is thought to have been the agreement that the final decision of the accession would be ratified by the Constituent Assembly of the Jammu and Kashmir. The party maintains that under Lord Mountbatten’s pressure Nehru was made to agree to this. It was a concession not given to any other princely state. The party maintains that there would have been no Kashmir problem today if only Patel had been given the full responsibility of securing Jammu and Kashmir’s accession as well.6

On the January 26, 1950, the Indian Constitution was adopted. Under it the J&K State was to be governed by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. The special provision of Article 370 became a variant of the federal state. Article 370, in fact, provided for another model of federalism in the Indian Constitution. The Jammu and Kashmir State was recognised as an autonomous identity, based upon the Muslim majority character of its population.7 The representatives of the Jammu and Kashmir State participated in the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly of India, but the National Conference, which formed the Interim Government in the State, favoured the exclusion of the State from the constitutional organisation of India. Consequently special constitutional provisions were embodied in Article 370 of the Constitution of India for the State. The State was given the right to convene a separate Constituent Assembly and it was convened in 1951. In November 1956, it completed the task of framing the Constitution of the State. This was based upon the division of political authority which was not related to the sub-national pluralities in India. The Indian federal organisation was embedded in an environment which was culturally plural and diverse, but its boundaries were clearly defined, and did not overlap with the cultural, linguistic or religious pluralism of the Indian society. The Jammu and Kashmir State alone involved a variation of the federal principles the Constitution of India envisaged, as it symbolised a federal relationship which was based upon the recognition of a special political identity of the State for its Muslim majority character.8

Aware of the disadvantages that it thought to suffer from under Article 370, the Praja Parishad in Jammu launched an agitation for full accession of the State to India. There was prolonged satyagraha in Jammu in late 1952 and early 1953, demanding merger of the State in the Indian Union. The party accused Sheikh Abdullah of Muslimising the State. The Praja Parishad had its ideological roots in the RSS and other saffron organisations. Sensing himself being pushed into the corner, Sheikh Abdullah went through a transformation with regard to his stand on the accession. But, basically, the events between 1950 to 1956 happened less due to the issue of accession and more on the demarcations of the Centre and State relations. On the contrary, the designs of the saffron parties concocted a self-made story, diagnosing the problem incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy. The rat of the Article 370 was made into the fierce rhinoceros of national disintegration. Article 370 was thought to give rise to a separate Jammu and Kashmir Mata as against the Bharat Mata.9 Article 370, which was viewed earlier as a victory for Indian unity, came to be turned into a problem by Shyam Prasad Mookerjee. The Hindutva forces allege that Afghanistan, NWFP, Sind, Baluchistan, half of Punjab, half of Bengal and a third of Kashmir—all these have been usurped from the motherland Bharat.10 Article 370 recognises the nationalistic aspirations of the Jammu and Kashmir State. The party believes that although the Union Government has extended many of its powers over J&K since 1953, retention of Article 370 has produced many negative consequences, both for the State as well as for India. It further states that like the earlier demand for plebiscite (which has now receded into the background), it has become a source for nurturing the mindset of separatism among a section of the Kashmiri politicians, and this, it thinks, is at the instigation of their patrons across border. One of the ideologues of the BJP, L.K. Advani, believes that the devolution of greater powers to States was very different from granting autonomy to States.11 This is a very significant point with regard to the vision of these parties on the power-sharing arrangement between the constituent units of the Indian state.

These forces look at Article of 370 mainly through the prism of Muslim precedence. The Article concretises sub-nationalistic demands which, they believe, has exposed the dangers in subjecting the federal division of powers to sub-national pluralism. They believe this Muslim precedence has come into sharp conflict with the religious minorities inside the State. To them, the scheme of federalisation, as it was conceived for Jammu and Kashmir, provided a mechanism for the protection of the religious denomination of the Muslims in the State which claimed a separate cultural identity and a specific vested interest in its sociology on the basis of geographical distribution of power. The recognition of the separate identity of the Muslim majority in the State, the saffron parties claim, subordinated the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists to the operatives of Muslim precedence. The autonomous authority of the State, based upon Muslim sub-nationalism resulted in the establishment of an oligarchic domination over the minorities and other weaker sections of the State’s population.

To these forces, abrogation of this Article at one stroke could be the only patriotic and practical reply to Pakistan’s threats towards India. This Article (370), they believe, even if it becomes an empty shell, will continue to be the source of inspiration for the separatist and communal elements of Kashmir. In a resolution titled “Abrogate Article 370”, passed in Kanpur in January 1966, the Jana Sangh said:

Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan has aggressively occupied one-third part of the State since 1947. To get that aggression vacated and secure the liberation of Pak-occupied part of the State is the duty of the government of India. The question of the constitutional integration of that part of Jammu and Kashmir (which is in our hands) with the rest of India is a purely internal affair of India. The temporary and transitional Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on the basis of which Jammu and Kashmir has a separate Constitution of its own is a big hindrance in the way of such integration. It has created a psychological barrier between and the people of the state and their counter parts in the rest of India, which has been exploited all these years by anti-national elements and Pak agents to the detriment of India’s vital interests. Its abrogation, and application of the Indian constitution in full to Jammu and Kashmir, is essential prerequisite for the normalisation of the situation within the State.

Article 370 also encapsulates “Muslim exclusivism” for these forces. Because it was mainly the Muslim majority community, represented by Sheikh Abdulla, which ensured its existence. To them, the underlying factor of the Amarnath or Kashmir problem is that of the Muslim “design to overrun the globe”.12 For example, the BJP projects the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir as something much more than mere rebellion of the “local disgruntled” youth:

The emerging reality is that India is being gradually encircled by hostile Islamic funda-mentalists which, besides being a security threat, is a civilisational challenge as well. The secessionist insurgency in Kashmir is not merely Pakistan’s play to complete the “unfinished business of 1947”. It is an aspect of a wider assault launched by the fundamentalist forces. It is, for example, no accident that among the so-called Mujahedeen terrorists in the Kashmir Valley are Pakistanis, Afghans, and Sudanese. I would urge the government to reflect upon the significance of the recent OIC resolutions that equate the turmoil in Kashmir with the happenings in Palestine and Bosnia.13

This is how the three “strategies of stigmati-sation and emulation”,14 that capitalised on the feelings of vulnerability, the instrumentalist strategy of ethno-religious mobilisation, and a specific pattern of local implantation were used in opposition to these “threatening others”. The implementation of these strategies required the existence of different threats to the Hindu fold. And Article 370 was made one among them. The saffron forces advocate a unitary, instead of a federal, form of the constitutional arrangement. They believe that the Constitution of India (a federal one) gives rise to a federation of States, that is, Bihar Mata, Bangla Mata, Punjab Mata, Kannada Mata, and Tamil Mata. This, to them, is ridiculous. The provinces of India, to them, are limbs of Bharat Mata and not as individual mothers. That is how Article 370 gives rise to an “incongruous status” which needs to be abrogated. It is pleaded that though Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, it still has a separate citizenship and a separate Constitution of its own. Article 370, they allege, questions the suitability of the Indian Constitution to the J&K State. The saffron parties term it a gross humiliation for the Indian nation that a jawan of India, who could sacrifice his life to save Jammu and Kashmir and to protect its land, cannot settle in Jammu and Kashmir, he cannot purchase the land in Jammu and Kashmir. The friction that stands between the State and rest of India is responsible for the uncertainty in Jammu and Kashmir. These forces believe that Article 370 fuels this friction and gives rise to a psychological barrier between the two. Furthermore, they believe the special status is antithesis of equality. Atal Behari Vajpayee, an ideologue of Bharatiya Janata Party, maintains:15

It is justified, essential and in the wider interest of the country and Jammu and Kashmir to abrogate Article 370. This involves winning the hearts and minds of the people. The Article 370 which creates doubts in the minds of the people must be made infructuous. On the one hand, there is the special status of the State, and on the other this Article discriminates against the people of that State. I want to ask, are we continuing with this Article 370 for the appeasement of Pakistan? I feel that a three-nation theory is now being propounded in Kashmir. Sheikh had fought the two-nation theory, but today he is describing Kashmir as a separate nation. My submission is Kashmir cannot be a separate nation. There are elements in J&K who have developed vested interest in the continuance of this Article. If Jinnah believed in the two-nation theory, these elements propagated a three-nation theory; the third nation of Kashmiris. Continuance of Article 370 helps keep alive this dangerous myth, and promotes psychological separatism. Besides, this example is serving as a bad example. Demands for a similar special status are being heard in some other parts of the country; the anomalous situation must not last long.

Article 370 is projected as a historical blunder.16 It is thought to have created a separatist psyche. It is alleged to have constitutionalised divisive thinking. The political and social assimilation of the Valley with the rest of the nation is thought to have been seriously damaged by its existence. Hindutva parties also claim that Article 370 has inhibited the process of economic development of the State of J&K and made the State dependent on Central grants and subsidy leading to corruption and nepotism. The BJP is convinced that the precondition of the solution of the Kashmir problem is the repeal of Article 370. The BJP, therefore, considers it a “bounden duty” to remind our countrymen once again that the nation faces a very grave peril in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

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The Indian leadership displayed political acumen and diplomatic maneuverability at the time of co-opting the state in the Indian union. Article 370 served as a handy device for them to quill the goose with least squeezing. Jawaharlal Nehru said in the Lok Sabha on June 26 and August 7, 1952: 

I say with all respect to our Constitution that it just does not matter what your Constitution says; if the people of Kashmir do not want it, it will not go there. Because what is the alternative? The alternative is compulsion and coercion...

Article 370 was reduced to, what A.G. Noorani calls, a husk through political fraud and “constitutional abuse”.17 Uniquely Kashmir negotiated the terms of its membership of the Union for five months. Article 370 was adopted by the Constituent Assembly as a result of those parleys. As mentioned above, from a mere rat (or what Nehru called a paper tiger) Article 370 was made to appear as a fierce rhinoceros which, if not checked, could activate the disintegrating forces in the Indian Union. Article 370, in fact, was an expedient device to tide over those problems which engulfed Indian leadership, first, due to the dilly-dallying stand of Maharaja plus the National Conference’s whimsical approach towards the accession to India and second due to the referral of the Kashmir issue by India to the UNO which led to the internalisation of the same.

Article 370 served what a former Union Home Minister G.L. Nanda called as “a tunnel in the wall” in order to increase the Centre’s power. Its political usability has been beyond doubt for India. I think it is a brilliant constitutional contrivance to manage the jinxed Jammu and Kashmir issue. Its mindless criticism or its wholesale elimination would disturb the tectonic plates of Jammu and Kashmir politics which have already, of late, developed high sensitivity towards the nuances and niceties of the problems that they (Kashmiris) have been facing or are facing at the hands of the political circumstances that engulf them. Its continuance is a victory for Indian federalism rather than a blot on its escutcheon.

Indian culture bears testimony to the fact that universal truths are not discovered in the domain of human cultures. Its immemorial past has taught us that the postulation of universal laws distorts rather than facilitates our under-standing of human institutions or predicaments. This is so because cultural and moral judgments are based on experience, and experience is interpreted by each individual in terms of his own enculturation.18 The very core of its cultural ethos is the social discipline that comes out of respect for differences—of mutual respect and its emphasis on the worth of many ways of life. It affirms the values of each culture. Indian ethos and civilisation are known for their accommo-dative nature and nourishment of the diversities that come to exist in it. It is this nature of Indianity that singles it out from other hegemonising and monopolising cultures. Let the Indian state be the torch-bearer of the multicultural world. At the same time, let we nurture that communitarian mentality in our political leadership and in the political electorate so as to ward off the atomistic threats be it in terms of different groups, water-tight compartmentalised communities, regional parties, castes, creeds, gorillas, hardnosed ideological political parties etc.

We have to cultivate a national culture from below rather than to impose it from above. For this, we need to relax and allow what Durkheim called as organic solidarity as against mechanical solidarity to have its course. We cannot operate with the closed systems like that of the former Taliban in Afghanistan, or the two-nation-type-of-birth politics that Pakistan is known for. It is high time we realise the same.

 

References

 

1. Ahuja, Ram, Indian Social System, Rawat Publications, 2009. The term was originally coined by the famous historian Romila Thapar.

2. Pantham, T. and Deutsch, K.L., Political Thought in Modern India, Sage Publications, 1986.

3. Bhambhri, C.P., Hindutva: A Challenge to the Multi-cultural Democracy, Shipra Publications, New Delhi, 2003.

4. Narayan, Badri, Fascinating Hindutva: Saffron Politics and Dalit Mobilisation, Sage Publications Pvt. Ltd., 2009.

5. Advani, L.K., “Dealing with the Kashmir Issue” in My Country, My Life.

6. Ibid.

7. Teng, Mohan Krishen, Kashmir: Article 370, Anmol Publications, New Delhi, 1990.

8. Ibid.

9. Upadhyaya, Deendayal, Integral Humanism (April 22, 1965), BJP’s official website—www.bjp.org

10. Ralhan, O.P., “Angry Hindu—Why Not?”, Encyclopedia of Political Parties, Anmol Publications.

11. Advani, L.K., “Dealing with the Kashmir Issue” in My Country, My Life.

12. Hindutva Team—On Behalf of Hindu Mahasabha, Kashmir (Amarnath) Issue—How did the USA and the former USSR deal with Secessionism? Website—www.hindutva.org.

13. BJP Party Resolution-SP, June 18, 19, 20, 1993, Bangalore NC.

14. Jaffrelot, Christopher, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics: 1925 to the 1990s, Hurst and Company, London.

15. Ghatate, N.M., Four Decades in Parliament—Atal Behari Vajpayee. (Vol. I, II, III).

16. BJP, National Executive Meetings, Vadodara, June 8-9, 1994.

17. Noorani, A.G., Article 370: Law and Politics, Volume 17-Issue 19, September 16-29, 2000, Frontline Weekly.

18. Madan, T.N., Perspectives on Pluralism.

 

The author is a Research Scholar, Department of Political Science, Kashmir University, Srinagar.

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