Kashmir Policy of BJP
The party has learnt and unlearnt its Kashmir policy
VIEWPOINT BY BALRAJ PURI
The BJP’s foiled attempt to hoist national flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Republic Day was meant to pay a homage to Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, the founder president of the Jana Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP, who is hailed as a martyr to the cause of “full accession” of J&K State to the Indian Union and abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Union. The decision to this effect was taken at biggest ever show of strength of the party in Jammu on December 24 which was attended by its 70 senior leaders of the party to emphasize the importance it attached to the problem of J&K State. Its leaders recalled past (what they called) patriotic role of it leaders as against Nehru’s Kashmir policy, which created the problems the country still faces. As a personal witness to events on the eve of the independence of the country and after, when none of the present BJP leaders was around, let me set the record straight.
Jammu Ekta Sammelan had also paid tributes to Pandit Prem Nath Dogra, the leader of Praja Parishad, the Jammu affiliate of the Bhartiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor of the BJP, for his role as leader of the agitation for ‘full accession of the State in 1952.’ He, incidentally, was also the leader of the Hindu Sabha before 1947, which supported Maharaja’s aspiration for independence of the State, and opposed its accession to India. At that time, it was Nehru’s initiative and his friendship with Sheikh Abdullah, who was the undisputed leader of the Kashmiris, and whose support made accession to India possible with overwhelming popular support.
Again, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukerjee, the founder president of Jana Sangh, had entered to the State to lend his support to the agitation of the Praja Parishad for “ek vidhan, ek predhan, ek nishan.” But it is not correct to say that he broke the permit system that had been imposed by the state government which Indian citizens had to obtain to enter the state. The system was imposed by the Ministry of Defence of the government of India. All citizens, whether of the state or the rest of India, had to get a permit from the Ministry of Defence to enter the State. It was relaxed in the case of Mukerjee.
Mukerjee had entered into a prolonged correspondence with Nehru and Abdullah. He had said: “We would readily agree to treat the Valley with Sheikh Abdullah as its head in any special manner and for such time as he would like but Jammu and Ladakh must he fully integrated with India.” In reply the Sheikh in his letter dated February 4, 1953, said: “You are not perhaps unaware of the attempts that are being made by Pakistan to force a decision by disrupting the unity of the State. Once the ranks of the State people are divided, any solution can be foisted on them.” The Sheikh further reminded the Jana Sangh leader that he happened to be a part of the government of India when arrangement over J&K was made, including Article 370.
Eventually, Mukerjee agreed to withdraw the agitation vide his letter to Nehru on February 17, 1953, “provided the implementation of the July (1952) agreement will be made at the next session of Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly and the principle of autonomy will apply to Jammu and of course Ladakh and Kashmir Valley.” Nehru reminded him that principle of autonomy to the three regions was a part of the July agreement. Evidently, they could not agree on a face saving formula till unfortunately Mukerjee died.
But the agitation was withdrawn on the conditions suggested by Mukerjee. The Parishad leaders were released on July 2, 1953, and invited to Delhi to meet Nehru on July 3 where Parishad finally announced to withdraw the agitation as regional autonomy had been conceded. Before that the state government had sent a 40 page draft on Regional Autonomy to the underground leader of the Parishad, Durga Dass Varma which he returned after approval.
However, according to Balraj Madhok, who in later years became president of the Jana Sangh, his party had to withdraw support to the commitments of Mukerjee and the Praja Parishad under a directive from Nagpur (RSS headquarters). The party and its successor the BJP, henceforth, started a relentless tirade against autonomy of the State and regional autonomy. When the State government appointed a Regional Autonomy Committee headed by me, Jana Sangh was the only party which refused to meet the committee and opposed its formation in the State assembly and outside.
BJP leader in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj delighted her Dogra audience in Jammu by reciting a Dogri verse “Khund Mithi Dogrein Di Boli” (the language of Dogras is sweet), She may be reminded that we, in the Dogri movement, were criticized by the Jana Sangh for being parochial and not accepting Hindi as our language. The party had started a similar campaign at that time against Punjabi and in favour of Hindi in Punjab. A renowned Dogri poet, Dinu Bhai Pant, offered a compromise in his Dogri poem which said, “Hindi is our grandmother while Dogri is our mother. There should not be any clash between the two.” However, I gratefully acknowledge that Vajpayee and Advani, when they were in power, agreed to grant constitutional recognition to Dogri after a series of meetings I had with both of them.
The BJP reiterated its demand for abrogation of Article 370 at the Jammu Sammelan to end discrimination against Jammu. As pointed out above that the article was included in the Constitution, when Mukerjee was a member of Union cabinet, and he had supported it in his correspondence with Nehru. Again, when the party headed the government at the centre, its leader told Parliament that it had no power to abrogate the article. But how is the problem of Jammu related to its abrogation, which cannot be solved unless the region gets share in political power that only regional autonomy can ensure which the BJP had been opposing?
Lastly BJP’s contribution to alienation of Muslims of Jammu, who constitute a majority in five out of ten districts of the region and a sizeable minority in others and are not followers of the separatist leaders of Kashmir, is no service to the cause of Jammu or the country. Though the party no longer supports division of the State, its Ladakh unit demands Union Territory status for it, and separation from the State. The demand has divided the region into Buddhist majority Leh and Muslim majority Kargil districts, as it has absolutely no support in the latter district.
The party has learnt and unlearnt its Kashmir policy in its various Avatars, Hindu Sabha, Praja Parishad, Jana Sangh and BJP. But it has still to go a long way to play a positive role in a vital State of India.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Feb 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Feb 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Feb 2011 00:00:00 IST
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