By TP Saran
Following the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which came under ‘Temporary Provisions’ and grants special privileges to the state of Kashmir, by the Government of India last week following procedures which are constitutionally authorized, there has been an outcry from various quarters, both internal and external.
As regards the former, it is led by the Congress Party which is itself in disarray after its humiliating defeat at the last general election which resulted in the resignation of its leader Rahul Gandhi and several prominent Congress stalwarts. It is not surprising therefore that its position on the abrogation is divided because there have been further resignations in protest against the stand it wants to take about the government’s decision, which the contestants see as historic for India.
Among the latter are its Chief Whip Bhubaneshwar Kalita from Odisha, and prominent young Congressmen such as Milind Deora from Mumbai and Jyotiraditya Scindia from Rajasthan who have in the past severely criticized the BJP and PM Modi. Besides, one has only to see the weakness of and bias in the arguments of the Congress Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha to have an idea of how poorly they are faring. It is to be noted that the Bill relating to the abrogation was passed by a two-thirds majority in the Rajya Sabha or Upper House.
The external comments emanate from mainly the western media, reflected in an article by the editorial board of the New York Times and postings on the BBC, which are almost rubbing their hands in glee as they predict – or wish? – violence in the state. To preempt any disturbance the government had taken several security measures by moving additional police and military forces into the Kashmir valley, and issued advisories to tourists and participants in the Amarnath Yatra.
According to a reporter, people were not being allowed to assemble in groups in public places, but were allowed to do their shopping and obtain essential services like medical care and so on, and no incidents have taken place. But with a lockdown of communications people must be facing some difficulties, although they endured much harder situations on several occasions in the past when shut-downs took place because of terrorist and militant activity.
The political solution
One of the strong points of criticism of the Congress and other parties is that this is a ‘purely political’ move by the Government. This is so ridiculous that it would not be worth countering were it not for the context. They are the ones who had been saying all along that the solution to the Kashmir issue cannot be military, it has to be political. And now that this has been done, they go against it!
However, and whatever Pakistan may think or want to do in future in response, all the commentators are missing a larger picture that puts this move in a much more fundamental perspective, one which is rattling politics all over the world and is the subject of much analysis and concern. It is that of the politics of dynasty, which all sober political and even other worried thinkers have been decrying as being responsible for many ills in the countries and societies where it prevails.
As the world knows, India has been under the rule of the Nehru family dynasty for almost 60 years out of its 71 years after Independence. Similarly, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has been under the yoke of the Abdullah family, from Sheikh Abdullah with whom Nehru made compromises, to his son Farook and the latter’s son Omar, with a brief spell by another dynasty, namely Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba who took over the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) founded by her father. As it is, she resigned as Chief Minister, as a result of which Governor’s rule had to be established to maintain governance, law and order.
It is no secret that the BJP under PM Modi from its very first mandate had vowed to the people to get rid of dynastic politics through a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, that is, Congress-free India. It could not do that in its first term, but has had more success in its second one, and what is happening in the Congress will complete the job. From making the country free of dynastic politics to implementing the same agenda at State level was surely the next logical step – and hence the move in Kashmir.
Government only fulfilling its electoral pledge
There had been ‘noises’ about abrogating Article 370 towards the end of the first mandate, but these took concrete from when it was explicitly mentioned during the 2019 electoral campaign, and it appeared also in the manifesto. As were also mentioned about making Ladakh a Union Territory: this was already agreed in the 2014 campaign.
To those who are busy fear-mongering and giving twisted interpretations to the different aspects of the measures taken, they only have to listen to the intervention of the Representative of Ladakh, Jamyang T Nambyal, in the Lok Sabha. Not only is he young, but one by one he tore down the unsubstantiated points made by the Congress MPs, with much humour such that even the latter had to laugh – albeit reluctantly –, and he ended on a poetic note to high applause.
He recalled the many shortcomings and discriminatory practices of the Abdullah-led National Conference and PDP governments vis-à-vis the people of Ladakh in matters of higher education (no university) and secularism (creating demographic shifts deliberately and sidelining Buddhists and Hindus). Further, after having taken a joint commitment signed with the BJP and other parties, as well as ALL religious groups and other civil society organizations, to make of Ladakh a Union Territory during a visit led by then Home Minister Rajnath Singh in the BJP’s first term, as soon as they went back to Srinagar, the leaders of NC and PDP expelled the leaders of the local branches of NC and PDP who had signed the agreement! And then, said Representative Agarwal, they talk of democracy!
What can be more democratic than a government making good on the contents of its manifesto, especially after being given such an overwhelming mandate from the whole country? The people voted with eyes open and were fully cognizant of what giving their vote to the BJP would entail, that they would get Narendra Modi as Prime Minister again, and would trust him both implicitly and explicitly to continue with his programme of ‘sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas’ to which he had added ‘sab ka vishwaas’. All of the nearly thousand parties that took part in the elections knew exactly what were the manifesto and the agenda of the BJP; nobody can say that he was kept in the dark.
In sum, the present BJP government has been elected by a thoroughly transparent and democratic process, and has been continuing to fulfil the pledges it made to the people on a number of issues by passing bills in Parliament with ample time for MPs to deliberate. And this is what was done with the States Reorganisation Bill too.
The trumpeters of democracy and of getting rid of dynastic politics in the West should jubilate that India is settling examples to the world, instead of exposing their anti-India bias and thrusting their blinkered views which more balanced people see through anyway. Despite them, India is set to pursue on its trajectory of treating all its citizens on an equal footing, which is what democracy is about. And abrogating Article 370 not only integrates the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh fully with the rest of India, but for the first time establishes parity as to their rights in line with the provisions of the Indian Constitution. It is indeed a historic moment for these people and for India as a whole – this is the sentiment expressed by an overwhelming majority of Indians.
It is in the long term that this decision will have to be assessed, and not expect a miracle to take place overnight.
* Published in print edition on 9 August 2019