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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 28, New Delhi, June 27, 2020

Bruised Identity of Jammu and Kashmir | Gull Mohammad Wani

Friday 26 June 2020

by Gull Mohammad Wani

After the abrogation of Art 370 and reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir state into two union territories, political leaders from both regions of Jammu and Kashmir adhering to different ideological positions were arrested or put under house arrest .Some prominent civil society actors too were booked. The vernacular media saw virtual «crackdown» and it still reels under it. The intellectual landscape too is under surveillance and hence no exchange of ideas or debate on issues facing the people of Jammu ,Kashmir and Ladakh. Meanwhile the Indian state continues to look at political problems as historical wrongs and thereby mixing politics and history. This has not helped the cause of peace in any way in the three regions of erstwhile state. In fact, waging peace is difficult than waging war. For peace we need to understand pain in the Jammu and Kashmir polity and listen to the voices of common people. The changing nature of Indian state as a homogenizing entity needs to be understood in the case of three regions of erstwhile state. There is a realization belatedly that Maharja Hari Singh and late Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah were symbols of composite Identity of the Jammu and Kashmir state.

Maharaja and Abdullah - common Legacy

 The removal of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s birth anniversary as a state holiday from the list of official holidays by the present dispensation has evoked strong reactions from some segments of political opinion. It has psychologically disturbed the people of the state more so in valley and reminded them of what historian Dharma Kumar once pointed out as «Hindu-first and Hindu-foremost» model of citizenship being applied to the region. People in all regions of the state still recall his early contribution towards building- up an egalitarian society through his radical land reforms. The Maharaja Hari Singh hailing from Jammu region of the state was equally forthright in protecting the identity of his people. When people in general and Dogras of Jammu in particular developed a sense of deprivation on account of outsiders recruitment in state services the Maharaja through Notification 1-L/84 dated April 20, 1927 introduced the state subject law. The slogan ’state for the states people’ came to be heard in all parts of the state. The rights, powers and privileges to the citizens of his state who were described as «state subjects» were clearly defined .The new domicile rule made in exercise of law under the J&K Reorganization Act 2019 Maharaja’s contribution towards preserving land, jobs and resources is remembered in all regions of the state. The Indian state’s haste in destroying the identity markers of the people of Jammu and Kashmir has given rise to fears in the minds of people irrespective of region, community and religion. The Jammu based and Dogra-centric panthers party headed by Prof Bhim Singh claims that «we are caught by power games .Even the peace in Jammu has not helped us. We are projected outside as disturbed». The Jammu youth are worried that they may lose their jobs and educational seats to the new ’domiciles’..A respected opinion leader from Jammu Mrs Anuradha Bhasin fears that «Dogra culture is facing extinction due to changes in permanent residency laws». For holistic understanding of arrogant unilateralism displayed by the regime in Delhi we need to understand the nature of contemporary Indian state. Political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot describes Indian state as an «de-facto ethno-state in which Sangh Parivar is working as the deep state». The identity of Jammu and Kashmir state as a secular, plural construct and a ’miniature India’ stands destroyed. The happenings in Jammu and Kashmir are part of the larger re-organization project of carpet bombing of Indian republic by the state piloted politics of bold communalism. But how and where Maharaja and Abdullah meet and why are they belatedly remembered ? Both Hari Singh and Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah were eager to preserve the identity of the state and its people. Both suffered from ego and personality clash apart from nature and character of their politic As early as July 15, 1946 at a Durbari-Am held in Srinagar Maharaja Hari Singh said: but for the concern for progress of India does not imply acceptance by us of dictation in our internal affairs" .Mr Durga Dass, a former editor of ’Hindustan Times’ stated that «late Maharaja of Kashmir and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who had little in common , shared and worked in their own way for a similar objective of protection of identity of the J&K state and it was merely due to Pakistan’s invasion in 1947 that their choices hit a roadblock». What happened to Abdullah and Maharaja and how they were treated by the post-colonial Indian state is known to all students of history and politics of the state? The fact of the matter is that post-colonial Indian state carried on with the ’border state’ policy of the erstwhile British colonial state  and looked at the security of India from the prism of Jammu and Kashmir state The obsession for state security has meant denial of basic rights to the people who are always at the receiving end.A chosen coterie was kept in power backed by the state to take care of the people not as citizens but as loyal subjects. The defining feature of this «high insecurity politics» is its being personality-centric and fundamentally revolving around individuals. The State in pre and post-colonial avatar tamed one or the other individual keeping in view exigency of political situation and with ease treated them (individuals or call them leaders) as disposal items. Forget about «Swing leaders» even Maharaja Hari Singh was deposed and he died at Bombay and his Prime Minister Ram Chander Kak was arrested at Srinagar airport along with his English wife Margaret and after some time Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah too was arrested as prime Minister in 1953.The change from being subjects to citizens after 1947 proved just procedural rather than substantive.

 Abrogation of Art 370

 Media and political commentariat have it that Indian state crafted a new Jammu and Kashmir narrative -at once Unitarian/integrationist bordering on assimilation rather than accommodation. In fact, the security hawks looked at Kashmir problem as being essentially result of policy of appeasement. They argue that once you accept Art 370 you create room for politics of difference and thereby sow seeds of separatism. But all said and done these security experts ignored the reasons for growth of separatism in Tamil Nadu and Punjab- states enjoying no appeasement in the form of a special constitutional arrangement. Be that as it may Indian state settled down to bulldoze identity of Jammu and Kashmir state and thereby humiliating all the advocates of its secular/plural identity. Hence Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s name is to be removed not in history books but from the collective memory. Erasing Abdullah from public memory strangely has remained the common strategic point for both Indian and Pakistani state. Field Marshal Ayub Khan at one time got angry with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and told him «you are more interested in India -Pakistan friendship than in the resolution of Kashmir problem». Changing names and nomenclature and established legal recognition of a cultural group is an act of a predatory state. It is according to one author a «medieval mindset .....a proof of conquest». In fact late Jan Sangh leader late Balraj Madok stated that «India’s, claim to Kashmir is not only based on the instrument of accession but also on the right to conquest». The fact of the matter is changing identity markers of a group is according to professor Apporvanand «cultural genocide» Raphael Lemkin who coined the term genocide stated  that the «the cultural destruction of a group is as important as the physical annihilation of its members».

 Majoritarian State

The Idea of India sketched in the constitution of India and sufficiently articulated by Nehru has developed cracks .It suffered a terrible dent even when Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi was piloting the Indian state .Indira Gandhi did it through personalization of power and destruction of institutions .Rajiv Gandhi went extra mile to legitimize Hindu/Muslim communalism .Former home secretary Madhave Godbole described Rajiv as the «first Kar Sevak» .This was foreseen early by Dr BR Ambedkar who warned that even" without altering the constitution of India the administrators could subvert it using their powers causing it to collapse". The core values of Indian constitution viz democracy, secularism and socialism have become bad words even for congress party and regional parties. The net outcome of this dangerous turn is that communalism in Indian polity gets transported into Kashmir as radicalism and generates more martyrs for the movement and new targets for the Indian State. At the back of Nehru’s mind was the fragility of the idea of India as articulated by him and practiced during his stewardship of Indian state..Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a letter to Indira Gandhi alerting her about the happenings in Europe. Nehru wrote:" that a cultured and highly advanced people like Germans should have indulged in brutal and barbarous behavior has been an amazing experience". In fact, Indians too were not sure about what was being cooked for them through the Nehruvian framework. Eminent political scientist Sunil Khilnani states «most people had no idea about the idea of India given to them after 1947. Both Gandhi and Sardar Patel passed away too early Nehru and his daughter had their way» The top down Nehruvian model had head-on collision with a hierarchical, communal, caste-ridden social structure. Ambedkar stated that «democracy is not a form of government but a form of society». The new managers of Indian state look at political problems not as birth pangs in the process of nation-building but as historical wrongs that need to be corrected. Hence abrogating Art 370 is correcting a historical wrong for Indian state.

Chand/Maroof Thesis

 Iqbal Chand Malhotra and Maroof Raza in their new book «Kashmir’s Untold story-Declassified» argue that «this internal reorganization of erstwhile state of J&K prepares India to meet the emerging Sino-Pak threat to the state, as also to finally put an end to the dominance of a handful of families in the socio-political equations in Kashmir. Pakistan is going to invite China to send troops into Afghanistan as they themselves cannot bear the costs of using Afghanistan for their tactical and strategic moves against India. The story of Kashmir they argue is headed for a new chapter». ’So far so good, but where are the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh in this grand theorization?. People anywhere and everywhere need to be factored in the nation-building process. Nationalism is not to be confused with obedience to the state. By destroying the composite identity of the J&K state we have given a new twist to two nation theory. In Kashmir there is a feeling that if Pakistan will do nothing our oppression by Indian state will increase. The fact is that all three regions viz, Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh feel humiliated. Pascal Mercier aptly said «it is not pain and wounds that are worst. The worst is the humiliation». In a democracy the social contract is not only between people and the state but among people as well. It is time we listen to people and think about the renewal of the contract among people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Democracy rests on the premise that we all make mistakes but we get a chance to correct them. Democracy is a courageous way to nation-building.

Prof Gull Mohammad Wani teaches Political Science at Kashmir University, Srinagar


1, Bhasin, Anuradha (2020): "Jammu, the pawn on the Kashmir chessboard’ the Hindu, June 02

2, Jaffrelot, Christophe (2018), "Hindu Rashtra, de facto" Indian Express August 12

3, Dass, Durga, "Sardar Patel’s correspondence", Vol, 11

4, Apoorvanand (2018) "The reason for renaming places" Hindu , November, 12

5, Nehru, Jawaharlal (2004) "Glimpses of world History" Penguin

6, Iqbal Chand Malhotra and Maroof Raza, (2019) "Kashmir’s Untold Story: Declassified" Bloomsbury

7. Balraj Madhok, cited in Gull Wani (Apple Books, 2009) "Kashmir: Identity, Autonomy and Self-Rule"

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