Thirty years ago, it was the wall. On November 9, 1989, what they brought down in Berlin wasn’t just a few tonnes of bricks, mortar and barbed wire.
They tore up an entire fault line that had dragged the world to the brink of MAD or Mutually Assured Destruction. It ended an epoch. MAD, incidentally, was a very sophisticated argument to avert precisely what it assured. What was done for the State of Jammu and Kashmir in the Parliament last week was no different. On the surface, it may seem that an inglorious history, of seven decades of self-infliction, has ended. Beneath that surface, an entire civilisation gasping for breath in Kashmir has been extended an oxygen mask. Article 370 was introduced in our Constitution-in-the-making in the month of November, 1949. This was a good two years after the accession of J&K to the Union of India.
Through this provision, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah sought ‘autonomy’ by circumcising the jurisdiction of Indian Parliament. He sought, and got away with, a separate Constitution.
These concessions were most unlike the arrangement with any other princely state, despite the fact that all of them acceded to India on identical terms. These exceptions and concessions for J&K were, clearly, an afterthought.
None of it was a condition prerequisite for accession, which itself was the sole prerogative of the Maharaja. It is time India knew the reasons for such largesse. In the run-up to August 15, 1947, when the then Maharaja of Kashmir sought talks to negotiate the terms of accession, he was snubbed repeatedly. His Prime Minister was kept waiting for three days and denied audience by the interim Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He was clearly told to appoint Sheikh Abdullah as his Prime Minister and send him as J&K’s emissary to deal with PM Nehru. This was humiliating for the Maharaja because the Sheikh was in detention for sedition. The delay in accession thus caused, was blamed on the Maharaja’s dithering.
Invasion by Pakistan on October 22, 1947, precipitated matters. The Maharaja sought help to fight back the invasion. PM Nehru refused on the grounds that Jammu &Kashmir wasn’t a part of India yet. An unconditional accession was offered by the Maharaja on October 24. Nehru refused to budge till the Sheikh was appointed the PM. On October 26, another offer of accession was sent. This time, Sheikh Abdullah was persuaded by the Maharaja to carry it. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, then a Lt. Colonel, was an eye witness to the interaction when the accession was sealed. In his interview to Prem Shankar Jha, published in 1996, in the book —Rival Versions of History – the Field Marshal explained how the accession was signed and Kashmir defended. How Sheikh had no role more than that of Nehru’s preferred courier boy. And, how Sardar Patel had to, virtually, coax an instruction out of Nehru, to mobilise the Indian Army for Kashmir.
Later, keeping his word, Maharaja appointed Sheikh as the PM of J&K. Soon after, he started demanding concessions from Nehru, who had his own phantoms to fight. He had emerged badly bruised and battered from the partition contest with Jinnah. An unmistakable rebuff by the Muslims of India must have rankled, like unrequited love. A Muslim-majority Kashmir acceding to India looked like a consolation prize. But with his overture, the secular, liberal progressive and democrat Nehru went overboard. He forced India to make an exception to its secularism for the J&K because it was a Muslim-majority state. He allowed the Sheikh to run roughshod over all norms of democracy, rig elections and stuff the assembly with his own stooges because he was a leader of Muslims. Nehru forced India to allow the state of J&K complete immunity from the Indian Constitution. All this was done because the J&K was a Muslim-majority state.
Going forward, in 1954, even a law like 35A was smuggled into the statute, to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of its citizens, deprive them of their basic human rights and institutionalize gender discrimination. On August 5 and 6, 2019, all these travesties were reversed. But, what it unleashed in the last 70 years are like a genie out of the bottle. If one has to identify the top-most challenge to India’s integrity today, it has to be the relentless jihad that the Valley of Kashmir faces today. I know a few people who are squeamish about using the word jihad to describe what goes on in the Valley in the name of Azadi. They are broadly of two types. Both empathise with the Azadi seekers. Both enjoy privileged access to their ecosystem. Both have enough common sense to know that it is nothing but jihad. Yet, they are reluctant. It is because they know that the world has very little appetite left for jihad.
One of the two are jihadis themselves. Just that they are the white-collar, politically literate, tactical type. This type knows that unless they dress-up the medieval world view of jihad and accord it the correct vocabulary, there is no hope. The other one is the typical bleeding heart liberal who go through considerable trouble to be in the bed with the enemy. Lenin had a description for such species — useful idiots. The trouble is that jihad is able to find them in abundance. The bigger challenge is the genie of violent jihad that has been roaming free and gaining heft. It has the mosques, streets, the media, academia, the polity, bureaucracy, the civil-society platforms and more in its stranglehold. Those who wish to triumphantly declare victory must sober down. We have barely begun. It is a long road ahead. The Jihad is well entrenched and implacable. It will take a lot of time, effort, resources, tact, perseverance and above all, a single minded resoluteness to re-establish freedom, equality, democracy, gender-justice and a harmonious plural order in Kashmir.