Art & Culture

Article 370: Everything you wanted to know (but were afraid to ask)

vritti.bansal@intoday.comDec 29, 2014 | 15:52

Article 370: Everything you wanted to know (but were afraid to ask)

Article 370 has a chequered backdrop. It has moved from one complex stage to another, gathering layers within layers, and accommodating, albeit temporarily, different illusions amongst different actors on the stage.

The prevailing position is hardly intelligible to the common man. He perceives it through his prism of social, political and religious biases which are further fed and strengthened, especially in the valley, by the power-hungry politician, by way of emotional outbursts on selective ingredients in the Article. A recent example of this phenomenon is provided by the fulmination of chief minister Omar Abdullah: “Mark my words and save this tweet — long after Modi government is a distant memory, either Jammu and Kashmir won’t be part of India or Article 370 will still exist.”


The whole issue needs to be put in perspective, from the very initial stage to date, and made clear to the common Kashmiri. Perhaps, a simple question-answer form would be of great help in communicating the correct position to him.

What led to the inclusion of Article 370 in the Indian Constitution, when most of the political leaders of the time viewed it unfavourably?

The inclusion of this Article was largely the result of Jawaharlal Nehru’s misplaced trust in Sheikh Abdullah who, literally, had won his confidence by "honest trifles" only to "betray him in deepest consequences". Quite a few perceptive observers of the time had noticed that Sheikh Abdullah was an overambitious leader, and also "ambivalence incarnate". Frank Moraes, in his book, Witness to an Era, has given an interesting account of this: Power had gone Abdullah’s head. Even when in Delhi in 1946 I had breakfast with him, he struck me as a highly egocentric individual, personally very ambitious. Around 1951, I met him again in Bombay. Abdullah had been in power for three years, power had plainly infected his thinking and judgment and I was surprised at the change in his political mood. He talked disdainfully of New Delhi... As usual, however, he would not be drawn into any specific commitments. In the hindsight of after-events I have a feeling that even at that time his mind was moving towards independence for the Valley of Srinagar with himself as the Kashmiri equivalent of the Grand Mogul.


Has not the relatively new political outfit, the People’s Democratic Party, gone a step further by advocating self governance?

Apparently, the PDP is attempting to outcompete the National Conference by exploiting the constitu- tional illiteracy of the Kashmiri populace and by whipping up its anti-Union and pro-Pakistan biases, created over the years, by the National Conference for its own selfish and narrow ends of power.

No one is against the concept or principle of autonomy. But we must make a distinction between an autonomy that leads to efficiency in administration, speed in development and fuller realization of a creative potential of a community, and an autonomy that leads to separation, subversion and secession and provides a fillip to the force of parochialism and chauvinism. Unfortunately, in the case of Jammu and Kashmir State, the autonomy that has all along been asked for fall largely in the second category.

What could be done now? Have not some of the political commentators and jurists opined that legal and constitutional considerations rule out abrogation of Article 370?

The basic issue is not of technicality of law or its interpretation from a narrow or liberal perspective. It is really one of injustices, inequities, crudities and contradiction for the removal of which all modern laws and constitutions are framed or amended or subjected to dynamic and enlightened interpretation. If once the new ruling dispensation, which has won a decisive mandate, come to recognize the negativities of Article 370, it should have no hesitation in doing away with it, either by its abrogation, or by its effective dilution through extension of the provisions of the Indian Constitution, or by linking financial assistance for specific plan-projects with the acceptance of applicability of the Union laws to which the projects pertain.

My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir, Allied Publishers; Rs 750

Reprinted with the publisher's permission.

Last updated: December 29, 2014 | 15:52
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