Mainstream, VOL LII No 34 August 16, 2014 - Independence Day Special
Relevance of Article 370 in the Indian Constitution
Friday 15 August 2014, by
The BJP has been brought to power at the Centre by the Indian corporates in place of the Congress-led UPA-2, which is a decaying force, to extend the capitalist rule of the Indian neo-liberal exploitative system. Narendra Modi, the head of the BJP’s National Campaign Committee, as chosen by the RSS, had been fielded in this battle as an Iron Man or Vikash Purush. The centre-stage was set by the BJP/RSS and their allies of the bourgeois ruling class with the following demands:
a) The construction of a Ram Mandir on the disputed site of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya.
b) Introduction of a Uniform Civil Code.
c) Abrogation of Article 370.
As steps towards implementing these programmes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has suggested to restyle Pak-occupied Kashmir (PoK) as Pak-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK). He has announced, once again, to remove illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in and around Assam.
During the period of the campaign, three developments appeared on the horizon: a) rising communal riots in Muzaffarnagar in UP; b) Bodo-Muslim conflict in Lower Assam and consequential exodus of the NE people from the South; c) tension and violence in Kashmir—the festering wound of the Indian subcontinent. Heat and excitement, as generated by the RSS and their chief exponent, Narendra Modi, successfully brought Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, to the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi along with the glittering stars of the SAARC countries. A diplo-matically successful, glamorous, swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi sent a spectacular message to the Euro-American imperialist heads about the rise of Hindu chauvinism in South Asia (besides the rise of Talibanisation and the Jamaat-e-Islami in politics in this region).
This was followed by the battle-cry of the RSS and Narendra Modi for the balkanisation of Jammu and also for the re-capture of Pak-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Here lies the relevance of Article 370 in the Constitution of India that has helped Jammu and Kashmir to embrace the principles of co-operative federalism as against the blowing storm of coercieve federalism. After Kashmir’s accession to India the people and Goverment of India had the main task of upholding the country’s integrity, secularism and federalism. Kashmir is the best garden for planting these high ideals. The secession of Kashmir would shatter the ideo-logical foundation on which the Indian state was built. The State of Jammu and Kashmir did not fuse with the Union of India but retained its right to autonomy which was recognised by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Article 370 is a “temporary provision” which grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. This is by far the most debated and discussed Article in the Indian Constitution. Modi’s suggestion of a debate on the abrogation of Article 370. has once again brought this provision in the limelight.
Kashmir—The Festering Wound“Who has not heard of the vale of CashmereWith its roses the brightest that each ever gave.It’s temples and grottos and Founatains as clearAs the love—lighted eyes that hang over their wave.”
[Thomas Moore: “Lalla Rookh”, his famous poem]
Such is the beauty of the ‘Vale of Cashmere’, which is now the focal point of conflict in the subcontinent only to serve the purposes of the bourgeois ruling class. Since 1947, three Indo-Pak wars of 1948, 1965 and 1971 have destroyed the stability of Indo-Pak relations and people-to-people contact between the two neigh-bouring countries.
Kashmir and the Indus River disputes between India and Pakistan
............The 1949 cease-fire line, still being observed.
(From Macmillan Master Series “Mastering Modern World History” by N. Lowe, page 317)
What is the Bone of Contention?
Direct contradiction between the twin currents of Kashmir is the bone of contention : Kashmir’s integration with India and Kashmir’s secession from India are directly hostile to each other. Pakistan claimed Kashmir for its ‘Muslim majority’ feature. Secular India did not accept the Two-Nation Theory and rejected the claim of Pakistan over Kashmir. So to India, Kashmir becames a symbol of secularism as well as a test case of secularim. Thus “Kashmir became both the symbol and battle-ground for secularism” to prevail upon the Indian state and society.1
This vital issue arose with Kashmir’s accesssion to India, which was “legally, politi-cally and constitutionally valid (also having the backing of the largest political party headed by Sheikh Abdullah)”in Kashmir.2
By virtue of the exigency of the situation prevailing upon the heart of Jammu and Kashmir, Article 370 was drafted in the Indian Constitution to act as a law that grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. This relates to “temporary, transitional and special provision” in the Constitution which was subsequently given a character of perma-nence “as an iron-clad guarantee of autonomy”.
But the Right-wing parties in Jammu agitated for the abrogation of Article 370 and also for the balkanisation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The RSS was in favour of dividing Jammu and Kashmir into three regions: Most of the problem will be solved by creating a new State of Jammu and giving Union Territory status to Ladakh. The development of Jammu and Ladakh will be accelerated and those two regions do not require special status but only the valley of Kashmir demanded special status by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.“3
History says that balkanisation is no solution. The desire to divide Kashmir into three regions is a reactionary idea and not a viable solution to this imbroglio. “The example of Yugoslavia is a horrifying reminder of such attempts at balkanisation.” Mind that “Kashmir has to move forward toward higher forms of human unity and solidarity. The clock cannot be turned back.”4
Zigzag Course of History
The 1952 Delhi Agreement concluded by Sheikh Abdullah, the Prime Minister of Kashmir, with Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, was histori-cally significant, although Article 370 was given a permanent character. This marked the begining of co-operative fedralism after Kashmir’s accession to India. Owing to a great Hindu commotion in Kashmir and the north-west due to the death of Dr Shyamaprasad Mookerjee in Srinagar Jail on June 23, 1953, the situation snowballed into a crisis and Sheikh Abdullah was dismissed. On August 9, 1953, he was jailed for a long period upto 1964.
In 1956 the Indian Constitution was amended at the initiative of Bakshi Gulam Mohammed, who was instrumental in the overthrow of Sheikh Abdullah. Thereby Kashmir lost the special status and became like any other State of India, although Article 370 was retained. With the renforcement of the 1956 Delhi Amend-ment, the nomenclature of Sadar-e-Riyasat and Prime Minister of Kashmir was changed to Governor and Chief Minister. India extended Articles 356 and 357 of the Constitution to Kashmir. This was the begining of application of co-ercieve federation on the special status of Kashmir.
Confrontation between the twin currents—Kashmir’s integration with India and Kashmir’s secession from India—constitute what is gene-rally known as the volatile situation of Kashmir after the transfer of power by British imperia-lism. Geographically, the State of Kashmir is contiguous to both India and Pakistan, having vital eco-cultural links with both the states. It has a common boundary with the erstwhile Soviet Union and China. It has international importance to both India and Pakistan. Indus and other rivers, which irrigate Sindh and other parts of the cultivable land in Pakistan, are treated as the life-line of Pakistan. These rivers originate from the soil of Kashmir. So, the slipping away of Kashmir from the clutches of Pakistan cannot be accepted by the Government of Pakistan. America through Pakistan, China and Russia are the international players in the field of Kashmir. After accession, internally the failure of the Government of India to harmonise Centre-State relations between Delhi and Srinagar, and to open the doors of the corporates before the Kashmiri youth has made the present problem more complicated. Externally Pakistan, under the pressure of the ISI and Pakistan’s Talibani forces, has become a constant source of threat to peace and the internal security of Kashmir. Here lies the significance of Article 370 in the Indian Consti-tution for the flowering of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and also to bring about the marriage of Kashmiriyat with the Indianness of India.
Right to Self-Determination
How can the Government of India get Kashmir back to normalcy? The Kashmiri youth are bright and beautiful. They are gifted but today they are misguided and alienated from the mainstream of the society and India as a whole. Who will bring them back to the doorsteps of the corporate houses? Their brethren cannot make their both ends meet daily. They live below the poverty line. Who can elevate them? A new hope has to be instilled in them by the Constitution of India.
For this purpose, somebody suggested that the status quo of Kashmir be maintained and the LoC be recognised as the border between India and Pakistan. But this idea is not accep-table to the vast majority of the Kashmiri people.
Some people suggest that India, a powerful nuclear state, should apply force to take over the whole of Kashmir including Pak-occupied Kashmir. They think, as the BJP does, that “war is the only serious solution to political problems.”5 But this is not the solution.
On the other side of the coin, negotiations for an Oslo-type agreement under the auspices of the United States and United Nations cannot lead to a viable solution. From the Marxist-Leninist point of view, the Kashmiri people have a right to self-determination. However, the formation of an independent Kashmir is not viable in the present scenario. The secession of Kashmir would encourage national liberation movements from Balochistan to Nagaland and from Assam to Sindh. Centrifugal forces would rise and pull apart the weak and decaying state structure.
“A capitalist Kashmir state would inevitably be controlled by the IMF and the other imperialist institutions. Within a global economy, the newly independent state of Kashmir would be depen-dent on aid and loans for its existence. This would lead to the further impoverishment of Kashmir, which would result in renewed ethnic, religious, racial, and linguistic conflicts.”
From Balraj Madhok to Narendra Modi
It is a most unfortunate incident in the history of the Indian Constitution that Dr Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, refused to draft Article 370 which was eventually done by Gopalaswamy Ayyanger, the Minister without portfolio and former Prime Minister of Kashmir under Maharaja Harising, at the modest inter-vention of Nehru. Balraj Madhok, the founder of the Praja Parishad movement on the RSS-line in Jammu, had shared the ideology of Hindu nationalism. Their popular agitation in 1952 was fully supported by the Jana Sangh, Hindu Mahasabha, Ram Rajya Parishad, Punjab Arya Samaj and some Akali leaders.
According to Balraj Madhok, Dr Ambedkar told Sheikh Abdullah:
“You wish India should protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply you foodgrains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India. ........ To give consent to this proposal, would be a treacherous thing against the interest of India....”7
Dr Shyamaprasad Mookerjee accused Sheikh Abdullah in the strongest terms:
“There cannot be a republic within a republic.... Consciously or unconsciously, you are creating a new sovereignty for Jammu and Kashmir.... India has been torn into two by the two-nation theory. You are now developing a three-nation theory, the third being the Kashmiri nation. These are dangerous symptions.”8
The same voice was echoed by the Vajpayee-Advani group for the abrogation of Article 370 and now at the first opportune moment the voice has been raised by the Narendra-Jitendra group in the following way:
“The process of abrogating Article 370 that grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir has already begun and they are discussing the issue with several stakeholders in the State.” 9
Reacting to this statement, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted:
”.......Article 370 is the only constitutional link between Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India. Talk of revocation not just ill-informed, it’s irresponsible.”
Anyway, Article 370 is a bridge between the State and the Centre. If the bridge is remoived, the State’s accession to India will be automatically over.
1. Bipan Chandra, India After Independence, p. 39.
2. Salman Khurshid, Beyond Terrorism: New Hope for Kashmir.
3. Lal khan : Pakistan, quoted from M.G. Vaidya, p. 142.
4. Lal khan: Pakistan, quoted from M.G. Vaidya, p. 143.
5. and 6. Lal Khan: Pakistan, quoted from M.G. Vaidya, pp. 145, 144-145.
7-9. Internet source.
The author, a prominent figure in the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) in West Bengal, is a former Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha).