…the debating points laid bare the truth on alienation
The recent parliamentary debate on President’s rule in J&K state ended in a blame game between the treasury benches and the opposition. Answering the charges of Gh. Nabi Azad—leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha on BJP mishandling the situation in Kashmir post 2014, Arun Jaitley—finance minister put the blame on Congress misrule since 1947. In the melee of charges and counter charges, the truth was laid bare. In J&K, state banks on its democratic credentials, while as its deficit is as marked as the daylight. It was proved amply in the heat of the debate. The truth though well-known is roughed as a matter of state policy. And, the Congress and BJP may do well to share the blame, rather than one side putting the other in dock. The failure is collective, hence the marked alienation—widely accepted, even by extreme right-wingers.
As Azad put the blame on BJP on situation going haywire in Kashmir, Jaitley took him on how Congress operated since 1947. In the process, Jaitley was echoing what has been the plank of ‘K’ resistance and cross-section of civil society. Jaitley said there “is a history of alienation, there are policies” and noted that assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir for successive years including in 1957, 1962 and 1967 were not fair and Congress had also indulged in destabilising governments. Jaitley is right in stating that elections were unfair. In conclusions however, he seems to skip over the fact that unfair elections were held by the state, irrespective of the party representing it. Jaitley might have won a debating point, but he has lost the plot. Cross-section of civil society holds the state responsible. And in noting the state, it may be remembered that Delhi was backing the illegitimate state operatives in J&K. While as Congress in Delhi held the popular mandate, hence shaped the state in the period in question, in J&K it was the puppet raj devoid of democratic backing.
Jaitley’s charge that Congress had also indulged in destabilising governments, while true has nevertheless contradictory shades. In the same breath, he says, “You had put all your eggs in one basket”, and added that the Congress government had to “change its policy and arrest the National Conference leader Sheikh Abdullah”. The charge of putting all eggs in one basket and linking it to Congress changing its policy vis-à-vis SMA obviously implies backing the wrong horse, ruing it and changing the course. If on one hand, Jaitley holds destabilising governments in J&K against Congress, how does he justify arrest of SMA? We may not hold a brief for SMA; elections to constituent assembly in 1951 under his stewardship were as murky as assembly elections in 1957, 1962 and 1967. Equally murky was the manner, in which he was toppled in 1953. In a midnight coup, he was arrested. The manner of toppling SMA might be justified in a banana republic, not in a republic with claims to be the world’s largest democracy.
With SMA’s arrest, Congress as Jaitley implies, stopped putting eggs in one basket. He constructs it as course correction. Playing the devil’s advocate, it could be argued that Delhi wronged the man, who dared to give a public face to accession, in the face of heavy odds. And, however erratic in democratic measure, SMA tailored constituent assembly might have been, it ratified the accession, before it closed its proceedings in November 1956. By that time, SMA was cooling his heels in prison. Whatever the shortcomings of SMA on democratic front, in deposing and arresting him the state was grossly short on moral front. Yet again we may stress, it matters the least, which party shaped the state, the turpitude of the state is evident. And even if the issue is to be debated on party grounds by continuing to dwell in devil’s garb, it could be said that Sangh Parivar forced SMA’s deposition and arrest. The Sangh Parivar of 50’s of 20th century might have found as forceful an advocate as Arun Jaitley in 21st century; however it would be hard to set aside the murky Parivar role.
Arun Jaitley argues, when history will give its verdict on the role of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and that of BJP ideologue Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the “Congress will feel the pain”. Mukherjee, as a member of Nehru’s cabinet cannot remain dissociated from the state policy vis-à-vis Kashmir. Dissent was an afterthought, and founding the Parivar outfit–Jan Sangh an effort to cultivate extreme right-wingers with divisive ideology. The ideology with the signpost of EK Vidhan, Ek Pradhan and Ek Nishan (unitary constitution, singular head of state, single flag) challenged J&K’s separate constitution, head of state and flag. The agitation launched in Jammu by Sangh Parivar outfit—Praja Parishad, aided and abated by other Sangh outfits ultimately culminated in SMA’s deposition and arrest. Sangh Parivar found a willing accomplice in Nehru’s Congress. There might have been a difference in approach, however not in aims and objectives. Congress was more than willing to torpedo the special status of JK state. As 50’s of 20th century turned to 60’s, Nehru’s Home Minister—Gulzari Lal Nanda stated on floor of Lok Sabha that Article 370 is a tunnel through which much traffic has passed, more will. Nanda meant application of provisions of Indian constitution to JK state. Article 370 was named as empty shell, implying a shell devoid of firepower.
Scrutinizing the parliamentary debate in toto, the stark fact emerges that Congress and Sangh Parivar outfits like BJP may be held equally responsible for near-total alienation in J&K state.
Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]