Demography Is the Concern

It is naïve to believe that the Article 370-A or Article 35-A is outside the resistance narrative

Z. G. Muhammad
Srinagar, Publish Date: Aug 20 2017 11:04PM | Updated Date: Aug 20 2017 11:04PM
Demography Is the ConcernFile Photo

Should the abrogation of the Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution be the cause of concern for the resistance leadership?  This debate was kick-started by an “electoral-politician” – who saw debating and agitating on the subject only as his prerogative and that of politicians in his tribe. Like many others genuinely concerned about the preservation of the 1927 State Subject Law of the State, I also see the moves for the abrogation of this Article as a cause of   concern for one and all in the state, across the regional, religious, caste and political divide- as it touches the skin of the every citizen of the state in as much as it portends demographic changes in the state and snatching economic and   employment rights of the natives.  

The “electoral politician’s” belief is that since the resistance leadership has been challenging the “accession” and ‘does not recognize the Constitution of India”, it ceases to have a right to debate, discuss and challenge the abrogation of the articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution. Ostensibly, the “electoral politician” has a point but the birth of Article 370 with its proviso “temporary” and Article 35-A has to be seen in the context of the quick succession of political developments at the time of their introduction- more importantly their direct linkage to the birth of the Kashmir Dispute and the UN Security Councils resolutions for holding a plebiscite in the state. Preventing demographic changes is one of the prerequisites for holding a plebiscite and abrogation of Article 35, is as all about changing the demography of the state. 

For understanding, how and why the Article 370 and the Article 35-A are part of the resistance narrative, it becomes imperative to recap the events preceding to their enactment. On 4 June 1947, the partition of India was announced. The press had pronounced it as the Mountbatten Plan. But, he retorted that ‘it should have been christened as the Gandhi Plan since all the salient ingredients were provided to him by Mr. Gandhi’ (Shameful Flight p 156). 

On 19 June 1947, the Muslim Conference in keeping with the principle of the partition plan at its General Council meeting unanimously adopted a resolution calling upon Maharaja Hari Singh for granting internal autonomy to the state, framing of a Constituent Assembly and acceding to Pakistan for three things communication, defense and external affairs.  Nehru saw the developments in Srinagar and in the Poonch rebellion as biggest impediments in ensuring accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India. He immediately wanted to visit Kashmir but he was advised against it.  Instead, Mountbatten visited Srinagar but he failed to pin down the Maharaja for a dialogue on future of the State.   To woo Maharaja Hari Singh for joining India Gandhi visited Kashmir on 1 August 1947 and had a meeting with him. Begum Abdullah wife of imprisoned National Conference leader S.M. Abdullah called on Gandhi at his prayer meeting and implored for the release of her husband. On 14 September 1947, on the advice of some officers from New Delhi, Sheikh Abdullah was brought from Badharwah Jail to Srinagar and put in the Badami Bagh Cantonment where besides Jank Singh some Indian National Congress leaders also visited him. On 27 September Nehru wrote a detailed letter to Sardar Patel explaining that release of Sheikh Abdullah and National Conference was necessary for ensuring accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India. 

On 29 October Abdullah was released and he immediately rushed to meet Nehru in Delhi i.e. almost one month before Afridis appeared on the scene and Indian troops landed in Kashmir. Notwithstanding, Abdullah on his side Nehru believed that internationally he was on a slippery ground in sending troops to Kashmir. So he wrote to Attlee that the question of accession will be decided in accordance with wishes of people, thus put a question mark on the legality of the “Instrument of Accession” “signed” by Hari Singh. Moreover,   four days after he sent Lord Mountbatten to meet M.A. Jinnah with a proposal for holding of a plebiscite in the State under UN supervision. 

Looking at Sheikh Abdullah as his biggest asset, he believed that India will win hands down in case plebiscite was held in the State. In less than three months, he had developed cold feet and chose to approach the UNSC to get Pakistan declared as an aggressor on the strength of the “instrument of accession. It did not happen, instead, Jammu and Kashmir graduated from India-Pakistan problem to an international dispute. In reality, the UNSC did not recognize the Instrument of Accession as a valid document that is more than evident from the UN resolutions of 1948, 1949, 1951 and 1957. In the changed situation, New Delhi for holding the state introduced Article 370 as a mechanism- NC leaders chose to call it a bridge between the State and India.  Speaking in the Constituent Assembly while presenting the Article (then draft Article 306 A) Indian Cabinet Minister Ayyengar made it amply clear that this Article regarding Jammu and Kashmir shall be there until “India is free from entanglement in the United Nation. That can take place only when Kashmir Problem is satisfactorily settled- we are also committed to people of the state to decide whether they will remain with the Republic or go out.” The Dispute continues to the UN agenda.  So, the article 370 or Article 253 of the Constitution are not outside the resistance narrative but are part of it. 

Meeting his worst Waterloo in the UN Nehru wanted to bypass the UN resolutions through proxy routes and of them, Delhi Agreement was the hideous one.  Nehru’s frustration was manifest in his 25 August 1952 note to Abdullah, wherein he used derogatory remarks against Kashmiris- “not virile people”. In this frustration on the one side, he told B. N. Rao to inform UN   that question of accession was beyond the competence of the State Constituent Assembly and on other hand was coercing the state for surrendering the powers that   flowed even from the ‘conditional accession.’ Nevertheless, even after having eroded the “Instrument of accession” in his statement on Delhi Agreement Nehru in the Parliament dwelling in detail about the State Subject Law and explaining its sensitivity in as much demography of the state and its political dynamics is concerned subtly sought the endorsement of the Parliament for conferring powers on the State subject Law to the State Legislature. 

So, it is naïve to believe that the Article 370-A or Article 35-A is outside the resistance narrative of the state.