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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 40, New Delhi, September 21, 2019

Abolition of Article 370 : Propaganda versus Truth

Monday 23 September 2019

by Ram Puniyani

The abolition of Article 370 and Article 35 A has been accompanied by the propaganda to justify these drastic steps taken by the BJP Government. As such this abolition of Article 370 has been on the agenda of RSS all through and is part of the triad of the Hindutva agenda, along with Ram Temple and Uniform Civil Code. The argument being put forward is that due to this special provision for the State, Kashmir has remained undeveloped, as the outside industrialists could not buy land there and bring in vikas (development). Also it has been alleged that this clause promoted separa-tism in the region and has been the cause of turmoil there.

All this forms part of the propaganda blitz launched by the BJP. As a part of its mass contact programme, the party’s Working President J.P. Nadda released a video on September 4, 2019, justifying the abolition of the special provisions for the State and bifurcation of the State into two Union Territories. The eleven-minute video concludes with the speech of Prime Minister Modi saying that Nehru committed a historic blunder on Kashmir; to which Ambedkar and Patel had strong opposition.

On Article 370, the video says that Sardar Patel successfully merged 562 princely states into India but Nehru decided to handle Kashmir himself and created the blunder of giving special status to the State leading to all the problems. Most of the BJP’s statements is far from the truth; they pick up one small part of the truth and give it a twist to suit their ultra-nationalist agenda.

To begin with, why had Nehru to handle the Kashmir issue himself? Patel handled all other princely states as those states were within the geographical boundaries of India; none of them was attacked by any other foreign power, that is, Pakistan. Since Kashmir has boundaries common with India and Pakistan, Nehru, as the Prime Minster and Foreign Minister, was duty-bound to take responsibility of the issues related to Kashmir. India was forced to intervene into Kashmir affairs as it was attacked from the Pakistan side and Kashmir’s king, Hari Singh, urged upon India to send the Army to quell the Pakistani attack. In none of the other princely states Pakistan could play a military role which created such a situation in Kashmir. In matters of Kashmir, Pakistan was also trying to follow the ‘Two Nation theory’, as Kashmir had Muslim majority. As far as Nehru and Patel are concerned, on the handling of Kashmir, that is, accession treaty, Article 370, declaration of cease-fire and taking the matter to the United Nations, they were on the same page as revealed by the ‘Ten volume Correspondence of Sardar Patel’, meticulously edited by the renowned journalist, Durga Das.

On the nature of intervention in Kashmir, Sardar Patel said at a public meeting in Bombay on October 30, 1948: “Some people consider that a Muslim majority area must necessarily belong to Pakistan. They wonder why we are in Kashmir. The answer is plain and simple. We are in Kashmir because the people of Kashmir want us to be there. The moment we realise that the people of Kashmir do not want us to be there, we shall not be there even for a minute... We shall not let Kashmir down.” (Hindustan Times October 31, 1948) Quoting from Patel’s correspondence, A. G. Noorani points out that in matters of ceasefire Patel not being taken into confidence, as alleged by the RSS stable, is wrong. Noorani says: “Volume one of Patel’s correspondence belies the charge that Patel was not taken into confidence. In that event, he was man enough to resign from the cabinet.”

Article 370 did not drop from heaven. It was the outcome of serious deliberations in the Constituent Assembly (CA). For the explicit purpose of drafting this Article, Sheikh Abdullah and Mirza Afzal Baig were made part of the CA. It was primarily Patel, Ambedkar, Sheikh and Mirza Baig who contributed to the formulation of this provision. Now to say that Ambedkar opposed it or Patel did not approve it is the height of falsehood. Noorani also points out that it was Patel who moved the resolution of the Article 370 in the CA, as Nehru was away to the US on an official trip. Patel’s letter to Nehru on the date February 25, 1950 shows that they both had similar opinion on taking the matter to the United Nations, and they both held that the international body should take a call on that.

As far Ambedkar is concerned, our Vice- President Venkaiah Naidu and Central Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal in their articles have given a quote in the name of Ambedkar. Their quote says that in a conversation with the Sheikh, Ambedkar said, “You want India to defend Kashmir, feed its people, and give Kashmiris equal rights all over India. But you want to deny India all rights in Kashmir...” This quote is not part of the any official record. It was part of a speech of Balraj Madhok of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (predecessor of the BJP), which was picked up by the RSS papers, Tarun Bharat and Organiser. As such Ambedkar had also opined that the Muslim majority part of Kashmir should go to Pakistan. Ambedkar was a strong supporter of plebiscite and Patel himself had gone for the same in Junagadh.

As far as development of Kashmir is concerned, the first point we should note is that Kashmir is much ahead of the national average, according to the social indices of development. Article 370 in no way stood on the path of development in that sense. Incidentally while Article 370 has been targeted, Article 371 with similar provisions in the North-Eastern States is promised to be retained as it is, as per the latest statement by Amit Shah.

The BJP’s present propaganda, distorting contemporary history, is also trying to defame Nehru. Nehru is their prime target as the ‘Architect of Modern India’. Nehru laid the foundations of pluralism and scientific temper, the values which the RSS-BJP want to do away with.

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

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