Bharatiya Janata Party and Article 370

  • Bilal Ahmad Ganai
  • Publish Date: Aug 17 2017 9:57PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Aug 17 2017 9:57PM
Bharatiya Janata Party and Article 370

                                                    Illustration by Suhail Naqshbandi/KI

The Union versus J&K’s Unique Identity | Why BJP sees Article 370 as a ‘baneful legacy’ of the Nehruvian past

 

The Kashmir issue was born with the controversial accession of Jammu and Kashmir State to the dominion of India. Pakistani leaders maintain that the atmosphere was 'gamed' by the Indian leaders which led to the 'illegitimate' union of the Jammu and Kashmir state with the union of India. They believe that political dramas were choreographed to hoodwink the world over the issue.

Both Indian and Pakistani governments used different measures for bolstering their respective stands on the Kashmir issue. Every tool was tested, every strategy calibrated.

After the controversial accession of J&K to the dominion of India, debates and discussions over the nature of the relationship between the two gave rise to one prominent constitutional contrivance, which came to be known as Article 370. Article 370 constitutionalized the aspirations and anxieties of the Kashmiri leaders for the preservation of their unique identity within the Hindu-dominated India. It exempted the State from the provisions of the Indian constitution providing for the governance of the State. Jammu and Kashmir was allowed to have its own Constitution within the Indian Union. Parliament's legislative power over the State was restricted to three subjects – defence, external affairs and communications.

A. G. Norooni, a brilliant constitution expert of India, believes that since Article 370 was enacted on 26 November 1949 as part of the Constitution of India by the Constituent Assembly of India, which was a sovereign body, he remarks, Article 35A "flows inexorably" from it. Article 35 A empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state's legislature to define and regulate the rights and privileges of the permanent residents of the state, especially in regard to the acquisition of immovable property, appointments to services, and other such matters.

There is no doubt that the BJP-PDP coalition government has cost very dear to the PDP's electoral base in the Kashmir valley. Some people in Kashmir have developed an emotional attachment with these so-called "Quasi-Independence" measures. That is why sometimes slogans like these are popular in the valley: “Maje Hund Azzat, Bhene Hund Azzat Trehath Satehath (The honor of our Mothers, the honor of our sisters - Article 370).

Accordingly, the state government machinery has unleashed all its firepower to defend these constitutional privileges  of Jammu & Kashmir state which are no way exclusive as the Constitution of India is replete with special provisions which thus confer “special status” on certain States like Nagaland (371 A), Assam (371 B), Manipur (371 C) and Mizoram (371 G) to name a few.

Even recently and, interestingly, People's Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference (NC) and even separatists (Hurriyat Conference) find themselves suddenly on the same page with regard to 35 A. “When it will come to scrapping the Article, you will see this mass of people rising. Don’t forget when Amarnath land row thing happened, people rose overnight. This Article 35-A will be far greater a revolt and I wonder whether they (government of India) will be able to contain it,” Farooq Abdullah told reporters on August 8, 2017.

Perhaps no other issue has figured as regularly in the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) party resolutions and as many times as Jammu and Kashmir’s full integration into the union of India and the scrapping of article 370 (and, along with it, it's logical corollary, 35 A).

Why are they doing this? The chief minister Mehbooba Mufti recently expressed her deep anguish over efforts to erode 35 A on the part of some political parties. She even said that with the scrapping of 35 A, “there will be nobody left in Kashmir for shouldering the flag of India.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party's political existence is inherently in direct contrast with J&K state. The BJP's failure to make any breakthrough with regard to the J&K situation in terms of its normalization can be understood from this basic dilemma. It is this political dilemma of BJP which explains its ideological stand on article 370. It is again because of this dilemma that the coalition government of PDP and BJP was regarded by many as a coalition of “two unlikely partners”.

Some historical analysis is imperative to decode BJP's 'incompatible' political existence with regard to special constitutional position of Jammu & Kashmir and contextualize the political controversies regarding Articles 370 & 35 A.

Shyam Prasad Mookerjee launched Bharatiya Jana Sang, the earlier avatar of BJP, in 1951. It is Bharatiya Jana Sangh which later on got converted into Bharatiya Janata Party. As pointed out earlier, Kashmir's complete merger with the union of India has always been an issue for the BJP. The first national committee of the Jana Sang met from 21st October 1951, and the first manifesto announced a four-point programme for 'strengthening' the unity of India. The full integration of Jammu & Kashmir figured as one of the four points for strengthening the so-called unity of India:  

An educational system based on "Bharatiya Culture";

The use of Hindi in schools;

The denial of any special privileges to minorities;

Full integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian Union

          

The BJP traces the Kashmir problem to the Nehruvian past. In fact, it believes that Nehru created all problems in India, which also explains the deliberate omission of Jawaharlal Nehru from the inventory of prominent Indians listed by the BJP backed fourteenth president of India, Mr. Ram Nath Kovind. J. Nehru, according to BJP, yielding to pressure from Lord Mountbatten, agreed quite “unnecessarily” to refer the Kashmir issue to the United Nations Security Council on 1 Jan. 1948.

The BJP believes that the very mention of 'plebiscite' and 'determination of the will of people' in the UN resolution by the Indian leadership which was led by Prime Minister Jawarlal Nehru was sufficient for both Pakistan as well as the separatist elements in J&K to carry on a vicious anti-India propaganda worldwide for decades.

The party regards article 370 of the Indian constitution as a 'baneful legacy' of the Nehruvian past. Nehru is thought to have made the mistake of not using “effective methods” like Sardar Patel did with the Nizam to get the “errant” maharaja merge his state with India completely, unconditionally, and with no residual powers. His next mistake is thought to have been the agreement that the final decision of the accession would be ratified by the Constituent Assembly of the Jammu and Kashmir. It was a concession not given to any other princely state. The party maintains that there would have been no Kashmir problem today if only Patel had been given the full responsibility of securing Jammu and Kashmir’s accession.            

The party believes that although the union government has extended many of its powers over J&K since 1953, retention of article 370 has produced many 'negative consequences', both for the state as well as for India. It further states that like the demand for plebiscite, it has become a constituent source for nurturing the mindset of separatism among a section of Kashmir politicians, which it thinks is at the instigation of their patrons across the border. Under article 19 (1) (e) and (g) of the Indian constitution, a citizen of India is free to reside and settle permanently in any part of the country, and to practice any profession or carry on any occupation, trade or business. But article 370, the party holds, deprives Indians from other parts of the country the right to settle permanently in Jammu and Kashmir. The party believes that it is detrimental to the rights of women born and brought up in Jammu and Kashmir itself. If a women, who is a permanent citizen of the state, gets married to a man from outside the state, she loses her right to property. The party believes that she is deprived of even her ancestral property.

The party believes that Congress and Communist parties think that repeal of article 370 would be an anti-Muslim act. The party alleges that they are more concerned about appeasing one section of the society rather than thinking of national interest.

The Hindu nationalist party believes that the government of India should declare that it would not talk about Kashmir to anyone who refuses to accept the finality and irrevocability of the Instrument of Accession. One of the ideologues of the party, Deendhayal Upadhya maintains that “though the article 370 is an internal arrangement of ours, and does not in any way affect the fact that Kashmir is an integral part of India, it is certainly an exceptional provision which ought to be abrogated.” He further says that Kashmir is an indivisible part and parcel of India, and come what may, there was going to be no compromise about it. In this matter, they believe, there cannot be any intervention even by the UNO or any of its agency. Some people have been advocating even greater autonomy for Kashmir than it enjoys at present. The party states that the proposal is rooted in separatism and runs counter to national interest and constitution.

The party believes that the Indian part of the Jammu and Kashmir was made an independent Sheikhdom by Sheikh Abdullah, with a separate constitution, separate flag and separate prime minister.

The BJP's ideology stands on the two pillars of Hindutva and ‘Integral Humanism’. Hindutva is another name of BJP's Cultural Nationalism. The assimilationalist approach to nationalism, which BJP believes in, demands that for the success of the cultural nationalism or Hindutva, certain degree of homogeneity is a must. The party has adopted many strategies to achieve homogenization with a sort of missionary zeal. This, when operationalized, means the imposition of a dominant cultural setting on a society of different cultural character.

This ‘Integral Humanism’ of BJP subscribes to MacDougal's Psychology – a new branch of Psychology called 'Group Mind'. The ‘Integral Humanism’ defines a nation as, ''a group of persons'', living, "with a goal", and which, "looks upon a particular place of land as motherland, this group constitutes a nation". Thus, Pundit Deendayal Upadhyaya, the profounder of ‘Integral Humanism’, believes that, ‘‘if we examine our constitution from the point of view of the growth of the nation, we find that our constitution needs amendment. We are one nation, one society. That is why we do not entertain of special rights on the basis of language, province, caste, religion etc. But gave everyone equal citizenship. There are separate states. There is no separate citizenship of state and Union. We are all citizens of Bharat. By the same token, we have denied the right to secede to individual states. Not only that the power to demarcate the boundaries of state and to choose their names, is rested in the parliament, and not in assemblies. This is as it should be; in tune with the nationalism and tradition of Bharat.''

The article 370 recognizes no idea of ''Bharat Mata''. Instead, it gives rise to a conflicting idea of 'Jammu and Kashmir Mata'. This, to the BJP, is ridiculous. It is so because they have thought of the provinces “as the limbs of Bharat Mata and not as the individual mother''.

It is in this context that the party believes that the article 370 (which stands for a separate flag, constitution and citizenship for the Jammu and Kashmir state) poses a threat 'to the unity and indivisibility of Bharat'. That is why BJP's political existence is regarded as incompatible with the special constitutional position of Jammu & Kashmir

 

Bilal Ahmad Ganai teaches Political Science in Central University of Kashmir. Feedback at bilalphilosophia@gmail.com