Agony of Kashmir

The abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution, which conferred special status on Jammu and Kashmir, and thedraconian moves that followed bring to the fore the Sangh Parivar scheme to establish a Hindu Rashtra.

Published : Aug 14, 2019 07:00 IST

“Let us no longer allow ourselves to be influenced by false notions of nationhood. Much of the mental confusion in the present and future troubles can be removed by the ready recognition of the simple fact that in Hindustan only the Hindus form the nation and the national structure must be built on that safe and sound foundation. The nation itself must be built up of Hindus on Hindu traditions, culture, ideas and aspirations.... The people who have come to power by the quirk of fate may give in your hands the tricolour but it will never be respected and owned by Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, and a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect and is injurious to a country.”

—From the editorial titled “Whither” in the August 14, 1947, issue of Organiser , the organ of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the fountainhead of the Sangh Parivar.

The national perspective and related practical socio-political engagements of the Sangh Parivar and the various political arms it has created from time to time, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is driven by the above formulation, stated in categoric terms on the eve of Indian independence. The developments of August 5, 2019, in the Indian Parliament, abrogating the special status granted to the State of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and the series of unprecedented political and security measures that preceded and followed this, such as the arrest of mainstream political leaders of the State including two former Chief Ministers, the near-total blockade of civilian movement in the Kashmir Valley, the complete termination of communication facilities and the influx of the Army and paramilitary forces in large numbers to the region literally placing it under the jackboot, all have once again brought this perspective of the Sangh Parivar to the fore in intense, forceful and barbaric terms.

Indeed, it is not the first time that this Sangh Parivar standpoint has manifested itself in this form and bared its fangs at India and its people. Over the past 72 years, the Sangh Parivar and its political instruments have created several such moments, where the idea of India has been challenged and violated. At times they have mounted attacks on national symbols and at others struck at constitutional institutions, including the judiciary and the Election Commission, either frontally or from within. Such attacks have systematically aggravated during periods when the political arm of the Sangh Parivar has been able to gain some sort of power in the legislative or parliamentary structure of the country. The period since 2014, when the BJP under Narendra Modi gained a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha, has witnessed a “leaps and bounds amplification” of this trend. But, even by these high standards of aggression, the August 5 abrogation of Article 370 along with Article 35 A must rate as the most violent and obnoxious. Put simply, this is nothing short of a devastating moment in history primarily for Jammu and Kashmir and in a larger sense for India as a whole. This move and its ramifications would grievously impact the political, legal, social and economic areas of both the State and the country. (See separate story on different aspects including the Articles and the implications of revoking them.)

For the record, the claim of Home Minister Amit Shah, who is also president of the BJP, who moved the resolutions on August 5, to revoke the Articles of the Constitution, as well as of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, in a televised address to the nation two days later, sought to justify the move, was that these provisions had promoted jehadi terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir for several decades and had had a negative impact on the overall growth and development of the State as well as on its social equity. There are any number of objective factors and socio-economic indices to show that these arguments have no leg to stand on. But what the moves of the Modi-Amit Shah government in the first week of August in Parliament and in Jammu and Kashmir did was to snatch away, in one stroke, the special and democratically ordained provisions—formulated around the time of Independence—that bound the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India.

That the action was against the sole Muslim-majority State in the country also buttressed the “nationhood perspective” of the Sangh Parivar as delineated at the time of Independence. This factor needs to be seen in conjunction with the government’s claim that all that it wanted was to make Jammu and Kashmir on a par with other States in India and thus establish uniform laws and rules across the country. The fallacy of these arguments gets exposed even more starkly in the background of the fact that several States in north-eastern India, including BJP-ruled Assam and Manipur, as also Nagaland, Sikkim, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, have special provisions of the Constitution in operation. These special provisions accorded distinctive rights and powers to land and property to the denizens of these States in exactly the same manner as Article 370 and Article 35A provided for residents of Jammu and Kashmir. This very contradistinction belies the claim that one of the major factors behind the move against Jammu and Kashmir in early August was not the urge to have uniform laws and rules across the country. This claim was made by many leaders of the ruling dispensation, including Modi and Amit Shah.

Yet another aspect of the Sangh Parivar’s history of moves against the idea of India needs to be examined in this context. The Hindutva outfit had carried out many such expeditions to advance its idea of nationhood and these were all characterised by diversity of slogans, strategy and manoeuvres, but one characteristic had repeatedly come to the fore in these political ploys and gambits. This was the thrust to undermine the Indian Constitution, especially its provisions that seek to ensure social equity and communal harmony. The historical background to this is in the positions stated in more or less absolute terms, right after the formulation of the Indian Constitution, by Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the second sarsangchalak of the RSS, whose books Bunch of Thoughts and We, or Our Nationhood Defined , continue to be the primary guidebooks for leaders and activists of the Sangh Parivar.

As early as November 30, 1949, four days after the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly concluded on November 26, 1949, with the finalisation of the Indian Constitution, Golwalkar rejected it, arguing that it contained nothing from Manusmriti, Bharat’s own code of laws. He later went on to add that “our Constitution too is just a cumbersome and heterogeneous piecing together of various articles from various Constitutions of Western countries”. He said: “It has absolutely nothing which can be called our own. Is there a single word of reference and its guiding principles as to what our national mission is and what our Keynote in life is?”

Later, Golwalkar delineated what he meant by the “national mission” and “Keynote in life” of Bharatvasis. It manifested itself as rabid attacks against the proclamations of B.R. Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Indian Constitution, with regard to the equality accorded by the Constitution to all castes and the categorisation of “Muslims, Christians and Communists as the internal enemies of the country”. Golwalkar was clear, in his elaborations, that Ambedkar’s idea of equality among castes was not condoned by Manusmriti and would not be condoned by Hindus who followed Manusmriti.

If this was how lower-caste Hindus were to be treated, Muslims, Christians and Communists who did not even belong to the Hindu fold certainly deserved even worse forms of discrimination.

What happened in the first week of August 2019 in Parliament and in the State of Jammu and Kashmir are clearly in keeping with this sectarian narrative that Golwalkar advanced several decades ago.

The developments of early August also iterate that the Hindutva combine would have no qualms in concocting a mixture of historical falsehoods, factual misrepresentations, propagation of untruths and half-truths while targeting the idea of India and the Indian Constitution. It is on the basis of this cultivated devious mixture of falsehoods and misrepresentation that the Sangh Parivar seeks to propagate its grotesque idea of nationhood and establish it in the country in a clear assertion of legislative authoritarianism.

In operational terms, this manifests itself as long-drawn-out strategies and stratagems spread across the political, organisational, governmental and juridical realms. In every one of these, the manoeuvres adopted have also been multifaceted, ranging from the legal and extralegal to the outright illegal. In the run-up to the August 5 move, the Union government as well as the Governor of the State, Satya Pal Malik, came out with a plethora of falsehoods and misrepresentations, ranging from cooked-up terrorist threats on the border and even to the Amarnath Yatra. The massive influx of troops was initially justified in this way. At the end of it all the people of Jammu and Kashmir were presented with a fait accompli marked by violence and oppression.

These ploys were strikingly similar to the ones that the Sangh Parivar had used in the preparations to demolish the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in December 1992. The Sangh Parivar, especially the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which was spearheading the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi movement during those days, gave solemn assurances to the Supreme Court that the kar seva of December 6, 1992, would be restricted to bhajans and kirtans. Kalyan Singh, then BJP Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, gave similar assurances to the National Integration Council.

All these assurances were given with formal expressions of adherence to the Constitution. But, at the end of it all, the Sangh Parivar used its mob to demolish a national symbol.

Then too, the idea was to violently assert the Sangh Parivar’s idea of nationhood, blatantly violating the assurances founded on the Constitution and given to such a vital body as the Supreme Court. The history of deceit and “make-believe” has repeated itself, nearly 27 years later, albeit with different players and vastly different, more devastating, outcomes.

Beyond constitutional bodies such as the Supreme Court, the Sangh Parivar’s devious stratagems have panned out in the larger political space too. In the early 1990s, when its political arm suffered repeated electoral reverses it put its core Hindutva agenda issues such as the abrogation of Article 370, construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, and the imposition of a uniform civil code on the back burner with appeals to smaller secular parties such as the Janata Dal (United) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) to join hands and be part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). These parties have now been completely swallowed by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar and do not even dare make open their opposition on these vital issues. Interestingly, there was a time when leaders of these parties, like Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan, made bold to state that not pursuing these Hindutva issues was central to the secular polity of the country.

Similarly, despite its protestations now, the Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was also lured into the political spider web of the BJP when it succumbed to the temptations of power and formed the PDP-BJP coalition government in 2015. The BJP brought down that government in June 2018, in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, at a time of its choice and convenience. Right from that time a narrative that pitched Muslim Kashmir against Hindu Bharat was being built up by the Sangh Parivar, especially by its cyber warriors in social media.

This did not rise to aggressive proportions in the election campaign, essentially because the BJP leadership had other emotive issues such as the Pulwama terror attack to capitalise on. However, in the post-election situation the Kashmir-India divide has been exploited by the Modi government. The realpolitik dimension of this exploitation is important as the government is facing a tough time in relation to the economy. It is the growing opinion in economic circles, including among national and international experts, that India is literally moving into a deep economic crisis, which would be marked by all-round human misery, especially among the poorer classes. Clearly, the Hindutva jingoism inherent in the Article 370 move is also a clever diversionary tactic.

Thus, the short-term aim of diversion as well as the long-term reorientation of the perspectives of nationhood is being pursued by the Sangh Parivar as it steadily progresses to the centenary of the publication of the Hindutva treatise by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in 2022.

As Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans, the late leader of the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi movement, used to tell this correspondent in the mid 1990s, the Hindutva agenda was conceived and advanced as a long-term project lasting several decades. It has moved forward, despite periodic reverses, and gained greater receptivity among the Hindu communities.

Clearly, the idea of India is being challenged and violated repeatedly in this process. Only a similarly long-drawn-out secular project will be able to bring about an effective counter to this and protect the idea of India.


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