Response to a Modi-fied Argument on Article 370

Bharat Karnad's piece can be dismissed as the mere opinion of an academic-but-political-wannabe looking for attention



In the electronic media, the importance of sensationalist opinion serves the double-purpose of the obligation to allow contrarian ideas a platform and the imperative of entertainment. This fact causes one to write off a good percentage of what passes for discourse on television. Off late, sheer competitive imperative seems to have foisted this rule of thumb on the print media as well.
Under these new-normal conditions, the piece entitled “Article 370 Must Go” (The Asian Age, February 15, 2013) by Bharat Karnad ought to be dismissed as the mere opinion of an academic-but- political-wannabe looking for attention. However the context of its appearance, which I will get to in a minute, forces a response. First, let us look at the key arguments.
Karnad begins by calling Article 370 of the Indian Constitution everything that the doubting Thomases of India’s intentions in Kashmir call it: namely, a “mischievous provision in the [Indian] constitution”; a “contrivance”; an “expedient device” and a Nehruvian appeasement “conjured” to counter the “dissonant politics” of Sheikh Abdullah. Not satisfied with these descriptions, in his recommendations he sensationally concludes that the “offending article” must be “voided” by sponsoring a “comprehensive resettlement” of “communities of retired soldiers” into “armed communities” by “changing the demographic of the state [of J&K]”. For good measure, he cites the example of Israel’s internationally offensive kibbutzim in Palestine as the model of conflict management for India to mimic.
Clearly we have in Karnad an institutionally mollycoddled hack who has failed to consult even the most obviously comprehensive compilation and incisive analysis on the subject by legal luminaries such as A. G. Noorani in his Article 370 – A Constitutional History of Jammu and Kashmir (OUP, Delhi, 2011) and the over three-decade old seminal treatise by Justice A. S. Anand, The Development of the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir, (New Delhi, 1980). Karnad also presumes to lecture us on the definition of federalism. Article 370, he drones, “was based on the faulty premise of retaining for the state its territorial and demographic exclusivity, contravening all the principles of federalism. It has kept the militancy oxygenated” and that it “offends the basic principles of federalism cementing the Indian Union…”
Someone needs to inform the writer that a classic definition of the term federalism is the willing abdication by a state or a nation of its sovereignty, in part or in full, for a greater good. In this sense, the J&K State is the only truly “federal” state in India. Karnad also needs to be informed that it was in this context that the “offending article” – he means offending to Indians of his ilk, but it is now an increasingly applicable term to large segments of Kashmiris as well – was crafted in the 1952 Delhi Agreement as a solemn contract between the J&K State and India. His ahistorical and revisionist interpretation of the relationship between Delhi and Srinagar ignores the fact that it is precisely the systematic and willful dilution of that article of faith that has resulted in the more than eighty year old resistance (it began, lest we forget, in 1931) and fueled militancy in the twenty-three year old rebellion that has wracked Kashmiri society.
All this is well-known by anyone who lays claim to any researched analyses or prescriptions to the problems in J&K State. Karnad seems to be an exception in the minority that is best ignored. However, it is the context and the platform on which he writes his opinion – the emotionally charged atmosphere in the wake of the hanging of Afzal Guru – that warrants a comprehensive response.
By using the cruel and unusual manner of his hanging as the platform, Karnad’s article cynically couches his arguments with the rationale that the Kashmiris are already as angry as they can get, that they have no chance of being “allowed to go to Pakistan” and that pampering the Muslims of India “generally” is the bane of nation-building for India. In all this he pours a fistful of salt on to yet another open wound by advocating the jettisoning of Article 370.
Kashmiris are no longer uneducated in politics and in fact its younger generation is arguably the most politically educated in all of South Asia, thanks to their life-experiences. They also understand that there is about as much chance of Article 370 being abrogated as there is of any truth to the false dichotomy suggested by Karnad – that either the resistance accept his wishful fait accompli or be bused to Pakistan.
However coming when such opinion does, advocacies like those of Karnad have a different purpose. They have the quality of a message to the Kashmiri that says, “India is an emerging world power. We know your moods. We have got your number. And…we really don’t care what you feel.”
It has the further effect of an unapologetically muscled nationalism. Let alone our economic and social concerns, there is no hesitation in denying us our intellectual dignity to question the justice system and express our grief at the cruelty displayed in the hanging of Afzal Guru.
The disaster for the citizens of India in the perspectives of such purported academics as Karnad, who modify (or is it Modi-fy?) their views to be close to a religious right nationalist sentiment (and perhaps gain a berth in its power circles), is the cynicism underlying its nation-building project. The tragedy for any “idea of India” is that its power elite is being told by a section of its intelligentsia that it must discard any notion of being seen as a balanced, composed and wise nation-state.
Can there be anything more calamitous for a “collective conscience”?

Lastupdate on : Fri, 15 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 15 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 16 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST

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