The BJP’s manifesto for the 2014 general election has a separate section on Jammu & Kashmir. It contains five points. The first three points and the last one are unexceptionable, but the fourth one is hugely problematic. The fact that Jitender Singh, the minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, chose to highlight it is, to say the very least, intriguing.
The first three points are: the BJP will pursue an agenda of equal and rapid development in all the three regions in the state—Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh; the return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood will figure high on the party’s agenda; the party promises to address the long-pending problems and demands of refugees from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The fifth one is: the party will take all steps to provide good governance, better infrastructure, educational and job opportunities and healthcare, leading to a better quality of life in the Valley.
All of this is in consonance with much of what the group of interlocutors heard in the course of their mission in 2010-11. But it also heard other refrains that were more political in nature. These, however, differed from region to region. While Jammu and Ladakh favour closer integration with the rest of India, the focus in the Valley was on the mindless application of harsh laws, failure to observe due process in the case of jailed militants and unwillingness to bring the perpetrators of human rights violations to book. Again and again, the interlocutors were reminded about the appointment and dismissals of chief ministers in the past, about rigged elections, about New Delhi turning a blind eye to institutional corruption and, especially, about the ‘erosion’ of Article 370.
Facts are on the side of the Kashmiris of the Valley. At its genesis, Article 370 gave the Union government jurisdiction over three subjects—defence, foreign policy and communications. But this is what has come to pass over the decades: 94 of the 97 entries in the Union list and 26 of the 47 entries in the concurrent list were extended to J&K. So were 260 of the 395 Articles of the Indian Constitution. Subsequent presidential orders further ‘eroded’ the original substance of the Article.
The key question, however, is whether this ‘erosion’ has benefited the people of J&K. Opinions have differed sharply on this issue. Two committees—one set up by Sheikh Abdullah and another by his successor G.M. Shah—reached different, indeed opposite, conclusions. So did three rulings of the Supreme Court: two agreed that all was well, one said it wasn’t. This question was expected to be settled after the Indira Gandhi-Sheikh Abdullah accord of 1975. Nothing happened.
What about outright abrogation? This is where Jitender Singh’s initiative—subsequently ‘watered down’ by him and by Ravi Shankar Prasad, his cabinet colleague—takes a hard political and constitutional knock on the head. The MoS wants to engage with all stakeholders, particularly the youth of J&K, to persuade them that Article 370 is a ‘psychological barrier’ that must be dismantled to meet their aspirations. That persuasion must be directed to where it matters most: in the Valley. The sentiment there is that the country’s only Muslim-majority state must preserve what remains of its distinctive political and cultural identity and its territorial unity.
There are constitutional hurdles that the new government will also have to cross should it move to abrogate Article 370. A new constituent assembly will have to be formed to recommend the abrogation. (Given the majority of disaffected Kashmiri Muslims such an assembly will have, no such recommendation will be forthcoming.) Only then can the President of India issue a public notification to this effect. Parliament is well within its rights to amend this provision. But what if the Supreme Court rules that the special status accorded to J&K is a basic feature of the Constitution?
Jitender Singh’s initiative will open a Pandora’s box. It will give a fillip to secessionist forces in the Valley, increase Pakistan-supported terrorist activities and, no less serious, internationalise the Kashmir issue. And this at a time when Pakistan has begun to send signals that it is prepared to move away from its entrenched stand on this intractable problem.
So here is a word of caution to Jitender Singh. You are a medical doctor of repute. Don’t recommend amputation of our ‘atut ang’ if the homoeopathic doses mentioned in your party’s manifesto can cure the ills afflicting Jammu & Kashmir. That is the path of ‘insaniyat’ suggested by the tallest BJP leader, Atal Behari Vajpayee, at the height of his powers as prime minister.
Outlook is trying to create an unnecessary controversy with its pieces on Article 370 (Open the Pandora’s Box at Your Own Peril). The issue surely merits a debate but this is not the time for that. Of course, Omar Abdullah and other politicians, having faced a decisive rout in the recent parliamentary elections, need the rhetoric for what it’s worth.
Dipto, on e-mail
There are many dinosaurs around, determined to keep the same rotten system that got the country in the miserable mess it is in today. And they want to prevent debate. Article 370 must go.
Kishore Kant, Delhi
Article 370 is not the gospel that it cannot be debated. Even the Constitution says it is a temporary and transient arrangement. And it might have been an article of faith for Kashmiris in 1947. The question is: how does it matter to Kashmiris today? When, say, Goa became part of India and its status was later changed from Union Territory to state, did it hurt aspirations or sensitivities? These aspects are unnecessarily being hyped with respect to Kashmir.
Abhijit Kane, Mumbai
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
>> Neither I, nor for that matter anyone else, can predict the future. So it is a futile exercise to invent a 'time machine'. But what we can all do is to learn and extract from the past. And right in that context I have concluded that the war in 1971 elevated the Indian State militarily and politically in the international scene to a position to dictate her terms to Pakistan in all matters relating to J&K which is surely not the case today.
The time machine suggestion was to go to 1971 (or 47), and fix the problem.
Failing that, we have to see if the current time is a good time or not to discuss 370. I feel it is. You can disagree. However, suggesting that previous times were better might be a subject for debate, but neither addresses the current issue, nor is relevant to the discussion.
>> You do not "debate" that issue but present a "fait accompli" to the world by repealing Art 370
Wish we could do that. We have too many Jaichands in our midst to pull it off though.
"Let me know when you invent a time machine." -
It is not clear to me how to interpret this statement. Neither I, nor for that matter anyone else, can predict the future. So it is a futile exercise to invent a 'time machine'. But what we can all do is to learn and extract from the past. And right in that context I have concluded that the war in 1971 elevated the Indian State militarily and politically in the international scene to a position to dictate her terms to Pakistan in all matters relating to J&K which is surely not the case today. What cautioned Indira Gandhi to go ahead at that time was the extreme hostility by the US vis a vis Indian interests not only in Kashmir but everywhere in the international stage.
In the context of debate on Art 370 I need clarify my perception since I do share the view more or less with what the article has surmised . First, return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley has absolutely nothing to do with Art 370. It is the fundamental human right of anyone to go back and live in peace at his place of birth. And that fundamental human right has been violated in the valley for the Pandits since they are not Muslims. Islam has blood on its hand wherever Muslims are in majority. And that must be countered irrespective of Art 370. What is urgently required is an action plan for the return of the Pandits under state's protection. Is Modi is going to draw up such an action plan ? You do not need to debate for that to happen.
And even for Art 370 it will be a furore internationally by India's adversaries if some political debate is stirred up within India by the stakeholders on whether to repeal Art 370 or not. You do not "debate" that issue but present a "fait accompli" to the world by repealing Art 370.
And the clue to that was again shown superbly by Indira Gandhi. That is what she accomplished when Sikkim was incorporated as a state within the Indian Union. There was no debate held prior to that event. Indira Gandhi made all necessary ground preparations before she struck. China sat dumb at that action by the Indian State. The US did not know which way to move. Absorption of Sikkim was a fait accompli by the Indian State. India needs plan for such a masterstroke for deleting Art 370 from her constitution instead of getting bogged down with debates.
As for Modi he is a new comer and I draw a line between him and the BJP. Modi urgently needs to consolidate his position instead of getting involved in useless debates which lead to nowhere. At present Modi is unknown. He has undertaken one or two steps correctly but slipping on others (100% FDI on India's defence industry).
>> Really ?
Opposition to article 370 has been a consistent position of BJP. That does not mean that a govt should not talk to political formations in the state to look for solutions.
It also doesn't mean that all its supporters (like me) endorse such moves. Interaction with Hurriyat in particular, was completely wrong. It's okay to discuss the contours of a solution with an elected govt, or even to some extent with the opposition that takes part in the democratic process. No one can claim to represent the people while staying out of it.
I had even taken this position against the Anna movement, and supported even Doggy (I'll go now to wash the bad taste out of my mouth) when he said that those wanted their version of Lokpal should contest elections, and if elected, can bring their own version.
>> in my understanding of India's post independence history, there was a better time and that was the aftermath of 1971 Bangladesh war when Pakistani Army surrendered to the Indian forces.
Let me know when you invent a time machine.
"...A party that has consistently advocated against it..." -
"...A party that has consistently advocated against it..." -
Didn't Advani invite the Kashmiri Muslims (read members of Huryiat et al), when NDA was last in power in Delhi, and went on meeting with them for planning the future of Kashmir, whilst excluding the Hindu Kashmiri Pandits for taking part? And the Pandits bitterly complained against BJP but it was of no avail.
And Advani is on record for enticing the Huriyat then by openly announcing something on the lines that he was willing to take on board anything however perverse with Huryiat as long as it did not violate the Indian Constitution.
I wish right thinking Hindus had told the then BJP, that no Sir, anything does not go for the Indian nation - there are norms to be followed in civilized nations, not just the Constitution.
And what was the motivation for Vajpayee and others to halt the progress of Leh-Daulat Beg Oldie road for strengthening Armed Forces defence lines in the proximity of the Chinese border ? At least MMS had gumption to give orders to resume and go ahead with that military supply route construction at his earliest opprtunity.
And as for
"Personally, I can't think of a better time." -
"Personally, I can't think of a better time." -
in my understanding of India's post independence history, there was a better time and that was the aftermath of 1971 Bangladesh war when Pakistani Army surrendered to the Indian forces. Indira Gandhi had contemplated that on her own. But was extremely cautious about the step in the face of the extremely hostile posture of the United States.
It seems some people have short memories.
"f it falters now, it causes huge harm to this cause. If and when it moves to opposition (and it shall happen, no matter how good things look now), it shall be unable to raise these issues. Any time it speaks on it, sickos shall turn around and ask as to why they didn't do anything when they had the mandate."
That is a pretty good argument. I thought UCC is none of hindu's business but you have a point there. May be it is worth pursuing-in parallel to 370. Thanks.
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