“Like some supremely beautiful woman whose beauty is almost impersonal and above human desire, such was Kashmir in all its feminine beauty of rivers and valleys”
-Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
Perhaps the quoted statement is a lucid reflection of the romance Pt. Nehru, always associated with Kashmir. But is it not a little disarming to know that in a major way, many of Pt. Nehru’s acts and omissions, are at the root of many untowardly consequences Kashmir bears today? Many may assert so. According to some well detailed lessons in history, the issue dates back to that moment when one of the men most driven by ambition; Sheikh Abdullah, took Nehru in his desperate confidence, to persuade him to grant special status to the State of Jammu & Kashmir. Many believe that Sheikh Abdullah had an undaunted hatred for The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir, which essentially made him push Nehru, in being favour of the formulation and implementation of Article 370. As a strong act of support, Pt. Nehru even brought Gopalswamy Iyengar, as a minister without portfolio- to help him deal with Kashmir because he had been the Prime Minister there for 6 good years under Maharaja Hari Singh. It is a strong notion of many that Sardar Patel, was sincerely never in favour of Article 370.
The Indira- Sheikh accord in 1947, agreed upon, between the Kashmiri politician Sheikh Abdullah and our then Prime Minister; Mrs. Indira Gandhi specified the State of Jammu & Kashmir, a constituent unit of the Union of India, was to, in its relation with the Union, continue being governed by Article 370 of the Constitution of India. Sheikh Abdullah immediately followed it by abolishing hereditary monopoly.
There are quite a few direct implicationsof this Article, including the fact that the Indian Parliament needs the State Government’s concurrence for applying all other laws except laws relating to Defence, Foreign Affairs, Communications, ancillary matters. The various religious communities, apart from the Muslim majority- Buddhists, Hindus, Bakarwals are, unavoidably ignored because no welfare legislations, protecting minority rights can be implemented in this part of the country, like in the rest of the country. This causes gross violation of minority rights, besides the numerous human rights violations, that are rampant in Kashmir. Thus the citizens of this State are governed under a separate set of laws- including those relating to citizenship, ownership of property and Fundamental Rights.
On the one side of the tide, are people, who are entirely against the abrogation of Article 370. These people strongly assert that the purpose of the Article was never a transient one and that it still, continues to inject a dosage of security, into the vulnerable people of a State which has till date, been dented irreversibly by the inhumane violence and the consequent wars. The Article, they say, is a decent example of decentralisation and devaluation, in terms of the inclusion of people’s say, via plebiscites. Moreover, the issue of the Article 370, threatening India’s rights over it, does not arise because the Article, over all these years has been eroded by a series of Presidential Orders.
The people on the other side affirm the fact that the provision was temporary in nature, even as per the promises of its father: Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. Even he hoped for complete integration of Kashmir with the Indian Territory one day, putting an end to this special status. The same, has in fact, notably been observed in Nehru’s speeches made during the passage of Article 370 before the Assembly and elsewhere. This Article is sometimes also seen, as a major mockery of the ‘unity’ of India.
Over the years, many people have been wrongly taking advantage of Article 370, using it as a nod to all the crimes they commit, violence they spread and the unrest they amass, portraying it as their fury which has been historically justified on many levels. This is what they believe as a matter of truth, however untrue it might be in actuality though. The Article that, once, more than sixty years ago, was introduced as a temporary fix has long been ignored intentionally. It only reflects on the unsettling state of affairs back then. The entire world has borne testimony to the big fiasco that the State of Jammu & Kashmir is, keeping in mind the incessant unemployment in youth, the ever jumpy crime rate, the blind corruption and the outright sorry state of fear that is deep instilled within the minds of its people. Another reality is the forceful conversion and displacement of the Kashmiri Pandits. Article 370 cannot emerge out free from blame when it comes to the present conditions in Jammu & Kashmir.
The loss of many lives, peace and general bliss in all these years, can never be compensated for. Perhaps a good start shall be: a rigid stand on the issue of crimes and violence of all sorts, a zero tolerance policy for anti nationals, connecting with the masses, working with a people- centric spirit. Most essential is building confidence in people, gradual conditioning of the State into completely rejecting armoury as a means to achieve anything. Immediate and abolitionist methods can only backfire and the Government of India should well be prepared to surge and fight long and slow, not only for accession, but also for the rehabilitation of people and reshaping of the State as a whole.