Naridra Modi’s Jammu lalkar has once again brought Article 370 to the fore. Print and electronic media have spent quite a bit of their space and time to discuss the issue at length by bringing in diverse views on the subject. A TV channel anchor who is known for being biased against Kashmiris, brought a minister’s wife to talk about how she fought for gaining her rights as a Kashmiri. And, she in return talked about how Kashmiri Pandits were left homeless (as if Article 370 was responsible). Posing to be more knowledgeable than her husband, she failed to understand that Kashmiri Pandits did not lose their homes because of Article 370 but because of their own misdeeds which Nehru had warned them against long time back: “I am quite clear…that the Kashmiri Pandits…should give up their narrow communal outlook and think of their own welfare in terms of the welfare of Kashmir as a whole, that is to say the great majority of people of Kashmir” (quoted in Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah: Tragic Hero of Kashmir, p. 55). They continue to hold the “narrow communal outlook” and are spewing venom against the majority community who are more than willing to welcome them back to the fold because without them Kashmir is incomplete. Anyways, this is not the point of my discussion. The issue in hand is whether or not Article 370 can and should be abrogated because, according to the communal forces (especially BJP), it has not helped Kashmir to grow. I don’t know what they mean by ‘growth’ and in what way is 370 becoming a hurdle in it? But, what I am more interested in is that Kashmir politicians, especially the separatists, should not shy away from calling a spade a spade and challenge India to debate the issue. This will help clear air and determine our relationship with India. Once we debate Article 370, we will have to discuss the so-called Instrument of Accession that Hari Singh is believed to have given “under [his] hand [on]…26th day of October, nineteen hundred and forty-seven” and which Lord Mountbatten, the then Governor General of India, accepted on 27 October 1947.
You never know, Modi’s challenge may prove to be providential opportunity for both mainstream and off-stream politicians to rethink on the whole gamut of accession that India has been claiming as final and nonreversible (as Sheikh Abdullah was told by Indira Gandhi when he entered into an accord with her in 1975) and which most Kashmiris take as temporary. Mr AG Noorani in a recently-held book release at Hyderabad and in a detailed writeup in the GK also maintained that Kashmir’s accession to India was temporary like that of Hyderabad, both were cheated. This seems evident from Nehru’s letter that he has written to the then UNO Secretary General after the Indian troops were sent to Kashmir to save it from the socalled tribal invasion (which Christopher Sneden in his book Kashmir: The Unwritten History has proved that they were not tribals from Pakistan but “martial and disgruntled” Muslims from Poonch). Nehru had said: “To remove the misconception that the Indian government is using the prevailing situation in Jammu and Kashmir to reap political profits, the Government of India wants to make it very clear that as soon as the raiders are driven out and normalcy restored, the people of the State will freely decide their fate and that decision will be taken according to the universally democratic means of plebiscite or referendum” (Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah: Tragic Hero of Kashmir, p. 116). The world knows that Nehru broke the promise, so has India been doing since 1947. Modi has once again given us a chance to revisit the accession and I believe that those who really mean good to the people of the State must allow the debate to be held so that we know who were are vis-à-vis India.
The last nail in its coffin was driven by Sheikh Abdullah in 1975 when he accepted to be the Chief Minister of the State after being dismissed as the Prime Minister in 1953. He was befooled by Indira Gandhi and promised that the central laws would be revisited. But, the day he was to be sworn in as the CM, Indira Gandhi made it clear in the Indian Parliament that relationship between Kashmir and India will not change: “The prime minister rubbed salt into the wound [of Sheikh Abdullah] with a statement broadcast by All India Radio that relation between the state and the Centre would continue as before” (Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah: Tragic Hero of Kashmir, p. 231). Sheikh Abdullah did realize this ONCE-AGAIN fraud but it was too late: “When he heard it, Abdullah was described as livid with rage by Mir Qasim, who had resigned as Chief Minister to make way for him. According to Mir Qasim, he said: ‘You have made a statement as if I have sold out Kashmir for the chair of Chief Minister…I pleaded that he should not be influenced by the radio version of the statement [by Mrs Gandhi]’”( Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah: Tragic Hero of Kashmir, p. 231). Sell he did and the “radio version” wasn’t different from what Sheikh had accepted in the Accord which is why in one of his speeches he had said that Article 370 was not a Quranic verse that can’t be changed.
Let the two Hurriyats come forward, accept Modi’s challenge and make India realize that our relation with her is only because of Article 370. If Delhi abrogates it, it has to, first, nullify the so-called Instrument of Accession. Will Delhi do it and accept our present struggle as justified