The queasy feeling that the second Narendra Modi government would vigorously usher the country into the claustrophobic framework of a Hindu Rashtra, as envisaged by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), came true on August 5 when the government pushed ahead with the annulment of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and robbed it of Statehood.
The first RSS resolution on Jammu and Kashmir was passed at a meeting of its Kendriya Karyakari Mandal in 1952, in which it condemned the “Pak-American Pact” (a reference to the agreement between the United States and Pakistan on military assistance) and said that the “open aggression in Kashmir” was still on.
The following year, the first political offspring of the RSS, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, ran a massive campaign across the country calling for abrogation of Article 370. The party was founded by Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who owed allegiance to the RSS ideology. It was during this campaign that Mookerjee travelled to Jammu and Kashmir in May 1953, defying the Government of India’s rule that required one to obtain a permit before entering the State.
Once he entered the State, he was arrested and was in prison for over a month, where he died of a heart attack in June.
In 1964, the RSS’ highest decision-making body, the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, passed a resolution titled “Bharat’s Kashmir Policy”, which said: “Article 370, which was incorporated in our Constitution as a temporary provision on Kashmir, must be immediately repealed and the State brought in line with the other States.”
The same demand was repeated by the Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal of the RSS in 1982 after the Jammu and Kashmir government enacted a law inviting Muslims who had migrated to Pakistan during Partition to return and acquire Indian citizenship.
The RSS maintained that the Jammu and Kashmir government was misusing Article 370 to fan communal and separatist feelings in the State and demanded the Article’s abrogation.
The same demands were repeated at various other RSS forums in 1984, 1986 and 1993.
In 1995, the RSS, for the first time, demanded a separate autonomous council for the Jammu region on the grounds that the State government was neglecting the area. In 1996, the organisation’s Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal passed a resolution demanding abrogation of Article 370, saying it was temporary in nature and had become completely defunct.
In 2000, when there was a BJP government at the Centre led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly passed a resolution for autonomy. The RSS’ Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal then passed a resolution condemning the move, saying that things would not have come to such a pass had Article 370 been repealed in time.
Demand for Jammu state
In the year 2002, the RSS, for the first time, raised the demand for a separate Jammu State. In 2010, the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha passed yet another resolution on Article 370, saying: “Article 370, which was included in our Constitution as a ‘temporary and transitional provision’, instead of being abrogated, continues to be a tool in the hands of the separatist and secessionist elements.”
But this was the last resolution on this issue. Since 2014, when the first Modi-led government assumed power, the RSS did not pass any resolution.
On August 5, 2019, when the Rajya Sabha passed the Bill stripping the State of special status and Statehood, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat issued a press release congratulating the government on taking this “courageous step”, saying it was necessary not only for the State of Jammu and Kashmir but for the entire country. He exhorted everyone to rise above political differences and support the government.
Abrogation of Article 370 has been a part of the BJP’s election manifesto since its inception in April 1980. For the BJP, its ideological umbilical cord with the RSS has meant that its road map is defined by the causes espoused by the Sangh.
In the political arena, the demand for abrogation of Article 370 was first voiced by the Praja Parishad Party in Jammu, which was founded by Prem Nath Dogra, who was the RSS’ Jammu in-charge, in association with the Hindu Mahasabha’s Balraj Madhok, who also owed allegiance to the Sangh ideology.
The Praja Parishad Party, which claimed to represent the Hindu population of the State, had alleged atrocities by the Sheikh Abdullah government and demanded that the Government of India abrogate Article 370 so that the entire State could be seamlessly integrated with India, like other princely states.
The party’s demand was articulated in Delhi by Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who had been elected to Parliament in the first election in 1952 as a Bharatiya Jana Sangh candidate.
Incidentally, Mookerjee had been a Minister in the first Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru, but soon parted ways with him owing to ideological differences, one of the issues being Article 370.
Mookerjee had vehemently argued, pleaded with and cajoled Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah to heed the voice of the people of Jammu, to no effect.
He wrote 10 letters to Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah between January 9, 1953, and February 23, 1953, drawing their attention to the ongoing agitation by the Hindus in Jammu region and the State government’s “repression”. Most of these letters went either unanswered or unacknowledged.
In his first letter to Nehru, written on January 9, 1953, Mookerjee appealed to him to understand the sentiments of the people of Jammu, as voiced by the Praja Parishad-led movement and said: “Repression will be no answer to the fundamental question which the people of Jammu are asking today—have they not the inherent right to demand that they be governed by the same Constitution as has been made applicable to the rest of India? If the people of Kashmir Valley think otherwise, should Jammu also suffer because of such unwillingness to merge completely with India? Ek Nishan, Ek Vidhan Ek Pradhan —one flag, one Constitution, one President—represents a highly patriotic and emotional slogan with which the people are carrying on their struggle. You or Sheikh Abdullah cannot answer this question by imprisonment or bullets.”
Incidentally, it was Mookerjee who gave the emotive slogan, still used by the BJP: “ Ek desh me do vidhan, ek desh me do nishan, ek desh me do pradhan, nahin chalega, nahin chalega .”
When his efforts to get the issue resolved through dialogue failed, he decided to go to Jammu and Kashmir and see things for himself, defying the government’s requirement of obtaining a permit to visit the State. It was there that he was arrested and subsequently died. Hence, the issue of Article 370 had become sacrosanct for the BJP.
Even during the Vajpayee regime, efforts were made to find a way out but it did not yield results. Vajpayee had once confessed that they could not do it because “ bahumat nahin tha ” (we did not have a majority).
Now that the Modi government enjoys a brute majority in Parliament, it was only a matter of time that it would repay its debt to its ideological parent. But what should now worry everyone is whether the RSS’ core agenda of a Hindu Rashtra is what the Modi government is striving at.
BJP leaders have always been sceptical of the word “secular” and the way it was included in the Constitution through an amendment by Indira Gandhi. The ruthlessness with which the Modi-Shah duo has gone about demolishing the Nehru-Gandhi legacy raises questions on what they have in store.