Looking Beyond May

Can the State Constituent Assembly be resurrected is a big question


Some journalists in New Delhi have written epitaphs on Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and Congress. They have started seeing rise of Narendra Modi as new star on India’s political horizons; that is going to translate dream of the “Santan Dharama” into reality. This dream of founding fathers of the RSS, ‘synonymous with Indian nationalism commits the party to the concept of “One Nation, One People and One culture”. Projecting him in his “Vikas Pursh” avatar, his campaign machine as doyen of Indian Journalism N. Ram puts it, “has done everything in its power to obfuscate or to draw attention away from 2002 and all that”. The media has overwhelmingly predicting defeat of the Congress.  Some have even suggested about 270 seats   for the BJP. It seems a foregone conclusion in May 2o14      Narendra Modi will be the Prime Minister of India.  

How India will look after May 2014? All saffron!  This question   hammers  minds of many independent thinkers in India. After the BJP belatedly released its election manifesto many a political analyst see it as a big challenge to the idea of India and the secular fabric of sixty five year old democracy.   The election manifesto as an important political analyst says, ‘can spell trouble for the future.’  The trouble  for India mostly let me borrow a phrase from a leading political analyst Praful Bidwai is in stock in  ‘BJP’s trade-mark “Trident” Hindutva issues: Building a grand Ram temple at the site of Babari Masjid , imposition of Uniform Civil code and abrogation of the article 370. 

Of the three issues mentioned above two pertain to second largest religious population of India. I am not right persons to analysis these two important issues and their impact on future of India. If these two issues will assume an international dimension and isolate India diplomatically and economically from the Muslim world.  True, the overwhelming majority in Kashmir cannot isolate itself from these two important points in the agenda of the BJP that ostensibly concerns over twenty Crores  population but what concerns the political analysts and commentators in Kashmir mostly is how the Narendra Modi led BJP looks at   Jammu and Kashmir.  And what policies the party has up its sleeves for this internationally recognized nuclear flashpoint in South Asia and if its leaves any scope for the resolution of the dispute. 

I see no reason in being led by the rhetoric of some leaders of this party when it has spelled out its policy on Kashmir in black and white, in its well pondered over 42 pages election manifesto.   The manifesto says: 

 Jammu and Kashmir: Jammu and Kashmir was, is and shall remain an integral part of the Union of India. The territorial integrity of India is inviolable. BJP will pursue an agenda of equal and rapid development in all the three regions of the state – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The return of Kashmiri Pandits to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood will figure high on the BJP’s agenda.  The long pending problems and demands of refugees from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) will be addressed. BJP reiterates its stand on the Article 370, and will discuss this with all stakeholders and remains committed to the abrogation of this article………

The abrogation of the Article 370, since its incorporation in the Constitution of India has been on the agenda of the ‘Sangh Parivar.’ Since 1996, which is counted as the year, when party started bidding seriously for power centre abrogation of Article 370 along with other Hindutva issues has been part of its election manifesto and election campaigns. Nevertheless,   in 1999, there was no BJP election manifesto, instead, the newly formed NDA had come up with a “National Agenda for Governance”, which included none of the core Hindutva issues. Again in 2004 election manifesto of the BJP the abrogation of  Article did no figure in the election manifesto of the party but in 2009, it again prominently figured in its election manifesto along with other known Hindutva agenda. 

 There can be no denying that the Congress government with active connivance of left leaning Kashmir leadership considerably eroded this Article and denuded the state of its autonomy.  But more than autonomy that this article conferred on the state, it is history of the introduction of this article and its symbolic importance that makes it vital for the Kashmir narrative.     

 The article 370 was introduced in the Constitution of India after United Nations Security Council called for holding of a plebiscite under its supervision in the State for enabling people to decide their future. The introduction of this article was necessitated as is evident from the debates in the Constituent Assembly for providing a constitutional justification for administering Jammu and Kashmir till final disposal of its future. The Security Council very subtly did not recognize the ‘Instrument of accession”, on the basis of which New Delhi on January 1, 1948 had made its petition  before the United Nations Security asking for declaring Pakistan as an aggressor. Had it recognized the “Instrument of Accession” as a valid document, it would  not have out rightly passed a resolution declaring Pakistan as an aggressor and would not have conferred right of self-determination to people of Jammu and Kashmir and provided a mechanism for exercise of this right.

In December 2013, when Modi sparked a debate on this Article lots of article by many writers were published in this newspaper discussing its genesis and ramifications of its abrogation. In this column, it may not be possible in this column to recapitulate the whole debate. Let me reiterate the Article 370, with sub-heading temporary and provision with respect to Jammu and Kashmir implying constitutional relations with between Kashmir and India to be temporary and transitional”. This Article can go only when as explained at the time of its introduction by then Cabinet Minister, Gopalaswami Ayyangar in his speech on October 17, 1949, “When Kashmir Problem is satisfactorily settled and India is free from entanglement in the United Nations.” (Essential Documents on Kashmir Lakhanpal page 309-311).  India, by all standards is not free from this entanglement as Kashmir dispute continues to be on the agenda of the United Nations. 

After May even if the “Modi government” initiates process for abrogation of this article it is not going to change the internationally recognized disputed status of the state.   There is yet another question if it can be all done as the Article lays down, “ the President may by public notification declare that this article shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications and from such date as he may specify: Provided that recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the state shall be necessary before President issues such notifications.” Can the State Constituent Assembly be resurrected is a big question. However, the moves towards abrogation of this Article   have the potential of breathing new life in the sinking morale of the National Conference and enabling it to gain its strength as regional party.