Restoration of statehood to J&K

By K N Pandita

State Reorganization Act 2019 passed by the Parliament on 5 August 2019 with a huge majority vote came as a shock to the Kashmir valley leadership, the victims of split-personality. The bluster spelt out by Gupkar Declaration of August 4, 2019, like “the streams of blood will flow”, and “not a single man will be there to raise tricolour” foreboding, all evaporated in thin air when only 24 hours later, a bill purporting not only the scrapping of anti-people Article 370 but also breaking the State into two Union Territories was tabled in the Parliament. Next day, 6th of August, the bill was passed into an Act of Parliament with an overwhelming majority.

With the passing of the Act, valley-based ambivalent political parties found their seven decades-old edifice of separatism, exclusiveness and communally oriented anti-national narrative crumbling down. With that, most of them found themselves under house arrest. They expected the gullible people to rise in revolt and wreak havoc by large scale anti-government protests. Not a dog barked. The people said, “The thieves are in and we are free”. The balloon of their imagined popularity and power punctured with a bang.

Pakistan poured abuse on Kashmiris calling them “traitors” because they had disappointed them by not bringing out protest rallies and now were guiding the security forces to the hideouts of the militants.

Valley-based politicos began howling that democracy was given a rough deal. They demanded the revival of statehood, doing away with UT status, restoration of democratic process such as Assembly elections and formation of a popular government. But they never said democracy was in the elections of 1986.

Only a couple of days back, Nabi Azad, met with the Prime Minister and talked about “only Kashmir.” He said he had repeated the demands stated above. Daily Excelsior, the leading English daily of J&K gave it full coverage. Simultaneously, the BJP President Mr Nadda issued a statement advising his party workers in J&K to forget revival of statehood and assembly elections and work hard to reach each nook and corner of the State to strengthen BJP on the ground. The Daily Excelsior gave it also full coverage and thus as astute Fourth Estate brought both viewpoints to the public domain. Let us analyze the entire gamut of the issue hoping that the Daily Excelsior will give it also the exposure it deserves…

Article 370 was tabled for discussion in the Constituent Assembly in 1949. No minister in Nehru Cabinet approved it. Dr Ambedkar, the Law Minister and also the father of Indian Constitution bluntly told Sheikh Abdullah that he was not going to make another Pakistan in independent India. Sheikh Abdullah, along with his lieutenant Afzal Baig, was encamping in Kashmir House, Prithvi Raj Road for nearly a month and a half debating his special issue demand with G Parthasarthy, Nehru’s confident emissary. In the beginning, even Nehru was reluctant to make constitutional concession in Kashmir. And when Parthasarthy told the Sheikh that even Nehru had reservations about it, the Sheikh thundered, “Tell him we withdraw accession” Where was the commonality of ideology, which Nehru claimed cemented Congress’ relations with NC. What a perfidious blackmail!

Nehru totally disregarded the views of the opposition and got the bill passed. The point is that he persuaded the Parliament to pass it. Kashmir leaders should have understood the powers and authority of the Parliament. Now that the same Parliament passed the Reorganization Act of 2019 and with an overwhelming majority, one fails to understand why Kashmir leaders decline to accept the Act and label it the tyranny of majoritarian-ism. If majoritarian-ism is a tyranny, the Sheikh had managed to grab 73 out of 74 votes when J&K Constituent Assembly elections were conducted in 1949. Thus majoritarian-ism was good when it favoured him but bad when it did not.

Yes, there is an instance when democracy was trampled under feet. That is depicted by the illegal, unconstitutional, clandestine and secretive manner in which Article 35-A was inducted into the Indian Constitution without the knowledge of the house, without the knowledge of the Council of Ministers, without the consent of the Union Minister of Law and without going through the entire process of law-making in the Parliament and above all hiding it from the Fourth Estate for too long a time. It was blatant fraud on the people of India. For the sake of his friend Sheikh Abdullah, Nehru threw democratic norms to wind. When in 2019 the Home Minister detected the fraud, he rectified it and got the rectification endorsed by the Parliament, the same entity which enjoys the powers to make or break the constitution. He did it transparently, without mincing words and without keeping stakeholders in dark.

Nabi Azad says there was a commitment and a year has gone by. In the first place, there is no commitment whatsoever that statehood would be revived. Yes, there is a broad statement that the statehood can be revived if circumstances warrant. That is not a commitment. Has normalcy returned to the State? If yes, then why does Nabi Azad demand security cover for valley leadership? Why the double s;peak?

Two crucial points have to be taken note of. Firstly, about Article 370 (now defunct) it was categorized as “temporary”. Under that nomenclature, its temporary status stretched on to no fewer than seven decades. NC never made any demand that Parliament change the status from temporary to permanent. They knew the Parliament would. Similarly, under the rider “when conditions become normal”, dismemberment of the statehood is a “temporary measure” and we can allow it also at least 70 years to go on.. If Congress managed to drag the temporary status of Art. 370 for 70 years, why not allow NDA also 70 years to linger on with the UT status of J&K. Nabi Azad has to be rational and take recourse to simple logic.

Azad has unusually given more than necessary detail about what he spoke to the Prime Minister. Any dispassionate observer will point out that 99.9 per cent of what he spoke was off the mark. This is all what the opposition spearheaded by Congress has been telling the PM. But Azad has very shrewdly avoided to touch on the crux of the problem. He should have asked the PM the reasons for abolishing statehood of J&K and converting it into two Union Territories. He should have told the readers the reasons which the PM gave. He did not do that. It would have exploded the myth that he was speaking for the people. He tried to walk away safe. But this does not satisfy any inquisitive observer and commentator.

When Dr Farooq Abdullah was the chief minister, he got the Greater Autonomy bill passed in the Assembly. It was then sent to the Parliament for approval. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then Prime Minister summoned Farooq and asked him to tell him where he had not have the autonomy so that more autonomy would be conceded. Farooq was cut to his size, stood up and quietly left the room. Never did he talk of Greater Autonomy thereafter.

On 4 August, all shades of Kashmir valley political leadership, to be more precise, the Muslim leadership met at the residence of Farooq and passed the Gupkar Declaration. It says if New Delhi removes Article 370, it means India is at war with Kashmiri people.

In the first place, the declaration speaks of India at war with “Kashmiris” and not with the people of J&K State. This inference is that the declaration is oriented along the interests of the Muslims of the valley only. For the signatories of the Declaration secular tag stands rejected and discarded, which is an irrefutable reality even if thickly masked. Secondly, have not Kashmiris initiated war against India since 1989? Are not they fighting the Indian forces with highly sophisticated weapons, ammunition, war material, logistic, media and financial support from Pakistan ever since the outbreak of militancy? Have not some of these Kashmiri leaders extended covert support to the militants? Has a single Kashmir valley leader protested against militancy? Conversely, they harp on talking to Pakistan while they have been regularly in covert and overt liaison with Pakistan. Kashmiris have declared war on India in 1989 or even earlier and war is a war, not a pastime. When you sow the wind, the whirlwind will follow.

Nabi Azad has given to press a litany of demands he made in his recent meeting with the PM. What is new in it? The fact is that the statement attributed to Nabi Azad is only a cover to what transpired between him and the PM. It is for public consumption and more for the consumption of the Congress High Command which has sidelined him for quite some time. He is not a Trustee of the notorious Rajiv Gandhi Trust. The defamation that has come to the Trustees, the near-sinking ship of Congress in Rajasthan after Madhya Pradesh, the fast declining credibility of Congress, these issues are weighing heavily on the mind of Nabi Azad and he is seriously and desperately looking for his ideological rehabilitation. He is conscious that his open hostility towards Modi government during the agitation period of Shaheen Bagh has raised serious doubts about his secular credentials. Incidentally, he might have pleaded with the PM the matter of release of Engineer Rasheed former Kashmir MLA, once his great benefactor, but now languishing in the jail.

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