Issue :   
September 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.          September 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019


Secularism isn’t a power play!

Jagdish N Singh

Amodern, civilized state is supposed to foster the multi-faceted development of all its inhabitants, irrespective of their religious affiliations . In order to achieve this allinclusive welfare objective , founding fathers of modern India adopted in our Constitution the principle of secularism mandating the state not to have any official religion and accord equal treatment to all its religious or otherwise communities.

Regrettably, India’s record on the front of treatment to our various religious communities is not glorious. Our governments, both at the Centre and in the States, have not cared enough to stop atrocities on the religious minority communities. Last year , our Supreme Court lamented “certain state governments were not doing enough to stop violence against religious minorities and, in some extreme instances, impunity was being granted to criminals engaged in communal violence."

One finds the record of the successive governments in Jammu and Kashmir has been most heinous in this regard. The founding fathers of India’s Constitution gave the state a special status through Article 370. This allowed Jammu and Kashmir State to have a separate Constitution and a Flag. It empowered the state’s Constituent Assembly and, later, State legislature to adopt or not to adopt laws passed by the Indian Parliament. It also provided that , except in matters, such as ‘Defence’, ‘External Affairs’, ‘Communications,’ the Indian Parliament would have no jurisdiction without the concurrence of Jammu and Kashmir.

This special status was clearly based on an understanding that the government in Srinagar would defend and promote the state’s age-old secular pluralistic character. But the successive governments since Sheikh Abdullah in Srinagar hardly cared for this. They increasingly used the state’s special status to move towards creating an Islamic state . They denied basic rights to minorities (non-Muslims) in the Valley. The Hindus who migrated to J & K after partition are still without the right to vote and employment in the state; they are citizens of India and can vote in the parliamentary elections but not in the state elections. According to an estimate, about 5500 such Hindus came over to the state in the wake of partition; today they number over 7.5 lakh.

The governments in Srinagar also looked the other way when secessionist forces indulged in acts of terrorism to rape, loot and kill minority Hindus and Sikhs in the Valley . According to an estimate , since 1989 when Mufti Mohammad Syed joined the Central Government of V P Singh as Home Minister, the Valley has seen over 41,900 deaths and over 5,00,000 Kashmiri pandits have been driven out of the homes in the region.

One hopes the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, passed by two-thirds in the Rajya Sabha and four-fifths in the Lok Sabha last month, would improve the conditions of the minorities in the Valley. This Act has ended the special status to J&K, created Ladakh as a Union Territory , and extended reservation benefits to weaker sections in the region. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi must use the new Act to reach out to all those who suffered under the old order.

By the way, one also hopes the Modi government would seriously consider J&K’s former ruler Karan Singh’s advice to restore to the area its status of a State. There is no point reducing the status of J&K to the one of a Union Territory. It would be better to see J & K emerge as one of the equal states in the Union of India.

Why defend a devil ?

Hari Singh One does not understand why there is so much hue and cry over the new J&K Reorganisation Act and its abrogation of Article 370. A careful study of the available literature on the subject shows Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir Hari Singh signed ‘The Instrument of Accession’ on October 26-27, 1947. Article 370 was not part of the instrument . It was included in October 1949 at the instance of Sheikh Abdullah, then a member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution of India. This article turned out to be a devil.

B.R. Ambedkar There have long been genuine reservations on this Article. B.R. Ambedkar, one of the principal architects of Indian Constitution, told Abdullah:
“ Mr. Abdullah, you want that India should defend Kashmir. You wish India should protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply you food grains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India, but you don’t want India and any citizen of India to have any rights in Kashmir and Government of India should have only limited powers. To give consent to this proposal would be a treacherous thing against the interests of India, and I, as the Law Minister of India, will never do. I cannot betray the interests of my country”.

Syama Prasad Mukherjee Founder of then Bharatiya Jana Sangh (now Bharatiya Janata Party ) Syama Prasad Mookerjee died in Kashmir under mysterious circumstances on June 23, 1953 opposing the state’s special status.

Jawaharlal Nehru Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru pointed out in Parliament on November 27, 1963 “Article 370 is part of certain transitional, provisional arrangements. It is not a permanent part of the Constitution.
In 1964, a private member’s bill sought the abrogation of Article 370 . Prakash Vir Shastri moved the resolution in the Lok Sabha. Leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia and K. Hanumanthaiya, a senior Congress leader, backed it. Hanumanthaiya went on to say: “To go against or to say anything against this unanimous opinion in this House is to disown constitutional responsibility in a convenient manner. Article 370… stands in the way of full integration.
More importantly, the new Act is likely to promote the development of weaker sections , including women and Dalits, in the region . Knowledgeable sources say with the abrogation Article 370, important Central laws , such as the Land Acquisition Act, the National Commission for Minorities Act, the Right to Education Act, would now be extended to the region . The decade-old discrimination against the women of J&K would be eliminated. They can now purchase and transfer property to their children, even if they get married to a non-resident.

Ladakh would bloom to the full . It had been fighting for the Union Territory status for the past seven decades. In 1950, Owen Dixon, an Australian jurist chosen by the United Nations to mediate between India and Pakistan on the J&K issue, suggested a package that had assigned Ladakh to India . In 1951 , Ambedkar suggested the formation of three zones: the area held by Pakistan, the Valley and JammuLadakh. In 1983, former President R. Venkataraman, floated the concept of trifurcating J&K – Ladakh as a Union Territory; Jammu as a State and the Valley as a “separate entity.”

Karan Singh Senior Congress leader Karan Singh has observed in the wake of the scrapping of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir , “Ladakh's emergence as a Union Territory is to be welcomed… I had suggested this as far back as 1965 when I was still the Sadar-iRiyasat of J&K.”