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Debunking Myths of Article 370 & Kashmir

Author: Aarti Tikoo Singh
Publication: Medium.com
Date:  October 14, 2019
URL:      https://medium.com/@aarti.tikoo/debunking-myths-of-article-370-kashmir-88ca17fda216

The lecture ‘Kashmir-The State & The Status, Manthan Samvaad 2019’ by Srinath Raghavan on Article 370 is not only intellectually dishonest but also a very selective reading of history. The biggest claim he makes in his lecture is that militancy in Kashmir is a result of the erosion of Article 370. He offers no evidence but presents correlation as causality. There is no causation whatsoever and at one level, even correlation is not necessarily true.

The erosion of Article 370, in absolute terms, began with the 1952 Delhi agreement between Sheikh Abdullah and JL Nehru, itself. Further dilution of Article 370 happened way before militancy erupted in Kashmir in 1989. In fact, Raghavan conveniently overlooks the fact that Kashmir did not rise against India even during the 1965 war though Article 370 had been eroded substantially by then.

The fact is that those who led insurgency in Kashmir, were not believers of Article 370 to begin with. JKLF, Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, Wilayah-al-Hind (Islamic State of Jammu & Kashmir) and other terror groups are not proponents or supporters of Article 370. They have never been and they never will be. They have sought either clean separation from India or accession with Pakistan and the Islamic Ummah.

The Muslim United Front (MUF), an amalgamation of several Islamist and separatist groups (including parent bodies of JKLF, Hizbul Mujahideen), the precursor of Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir, contested elections of 1987, on the right to self-determination (the choices of which have only been two — India and Pakistan), on the slogan that J&K’s accession was illegal, on the idea of two nation theory and on communal Islamic rhetoric. Having failed to gather electoral/democratic support for their agenda, the constituents of the MUF, turned militant and brought Pakistan sponsored terrorism to Kashmir. That militancy with no relation to 370 is now three decades old.

Even today, none of the violent protests in Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370, are about constitutional issues. Nobody has come to the streets, demanding restoration of J&K’s flag or constitution. Instead, militants and their over ground supporters (both sponsored by Pakistan) demand only one thing — secession from India. Raghavan conveniently ignores the entire history of militancy and makes a completely unsubstantiated claim that erosion of Article 370 led to militancy.

More importantly, Raghavan fails to recognize that its Kashmiri Muslims (Bakshi, Sadiq and even Sheikh) themselves who allowed for the erosion of Article 370, who have been fighting insurgency for the last 30 years and who have been killed for standing up for India in Kashmir. He also doesn’t tell his audience how erosion of Article 370 was really denial of rights. On the contrary, what he calls erosion, has been actually empowerment of people in J&K. For example, how can the extension of fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian constitution or jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to the state of J&K, be erosion of anything? How can greater rights be a cause of militancy?

Actually his entire argument is straight out of advocate AG Noorani’s tendentious exegeses published in Pakistani newspapers and in his books. The whole lecture is about the ‘state of Kashmir’. It is extremely unsettling when a scholar distorts facts. Kashmir is not a state; Jammu & Kashmir is a state. Kashmir was not a princely state, Jammu & Kashmir (including Ladakh) was. Kashmir did not accede to India; Jammu & Kashmir did.

J&K acceded to India using the same instrument of accession (introduced by the British in 1935) as other princely states but his lecture pretends as if only “Kashmir” acceded on special terms. It conveniently ignores the underlying reason of why other princely states merged with India completely while Kashmir became a problem.

None of the Noorani school of scholars are able to answer why did India anoint Sheikh Abdullah as the successor of Hari Singh in J&K? Sure he was the popular leader of Kashmir valley who had challenged the Dogra autocracy but were rulers of other princely states far more secular, democratic, progressive and just? Was Nizam of Hyderabad kinder and better as an administrator than Hari Singh? Why was Sheikh Abdullah more legitimate than the Dogra ruler, because, after all, he was unelected and untested on any constitutional floor too. So why did he get to negotiate Article 370 on behalf of the entire state with New Delhi? The answers to all these uncomfortable questions are not favorable to the narrative that has been set by a certain academic ecosystem in India.

The crux of Raghavan’s lecture is fundamentally this — Two Nation Theory is correct; Hindus and Muslims can’t coexist as equals; Muslims need same guarantees and special provisions that Jinnah sought; Kashmir, a Muslim majority valley, must dictate terms of relationship of J&K with New Delhi. If Kashmiri Muslims are not given special status in the union of India (which is Hindu dominated), they are justified to seek autonomy (the best alternative to partition) for the whole state of J&K.

The biggest problem with this line of thinking is that it completely ignores the fundamentals on which Nehru and Jinnah disagreed, leading to the Partition of India. India’s founding fathers envisaged a union with equality for everyone; Jinnah wanted a loose federation with special status for Muslims. In Nehru’s India, there is no scope for creating constitutional islands on religious lines.


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