July 9, 2002


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The autonomy shrill --
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Arvind Lavakare

Abdullah III talks too much

Even as he readies to sit on the "dynastised" throne of Jammu & Kashmir, Omar Abdullah is talking the language of his father and grandfather -- abusive and arrogant. On June 22, he belittled our prime minister (see The autonomy shrill -- yet again); on June 30, he cast aspersions on the patriotism of the RSS leaders and their knowledge of J&K.

Reacting to the latest RSS resolution demanding a separate constitutional status for Jammu and Ladakh districts, Abdullah labelled the move as a "prelude to handing over of Kashmir to Pakistan" (PTI report in The Asian Age, Mumbai, July 1, 2002, pg 3). He also told PTI, "These leaders [of RSS] do not know anything about Kashmir, but will continue to talk about the problem. They should jump into the troubled waters rather than being a mere spectator on the river bank."

Now opposing the call for J&K's trifurcation is one thing -- it's a part of our vibrant democracy that allows public dissent. Even our new deputy prime minister, a RSS man for over half a century, opposed the demand for trifurcation. Being critical of the RSS ideology is also part of that democratic dissent. This writer himself detests several facets of the RSS. But heresy in the form of dissent is another thing altogether. The latest outburst of Abdullah III is just that; and it has shown up, in equal measure, his breeding and his pathetic ignorance of the RSS swim in the turbulent waters of J&K.

The chap must have been tilting at an MBA course in England when, in 1992, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, the thoroughbred from the RSS-BJP stable, hoisted the national flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar to culminate the 15,000km all-India Ekta Yatra during which the Kashmir Forum of the RSS, based in the valley, organised speeches throwing light on the real nature of the problems in J&K. And the lad was probably having fun in Mumbai's Sydenham College of Commerce in March 1988 when the same Kashmir Forum celebrated Maha Shivaratri in Srinagar with a public programme attended by thousands.

The RSS association with J&K goes back, in fact, to the days when the brat's daddy was himself a teenager. To enlighten him on that old, old association, somebody should tell Abdullah III to read just four pages of RSS -- A Vision In Action (Sahitya Sindhu Prakashan, second edition, updated, 1998, by H V Seshadri). That 415-page book by a veteran Sangh patriarch records the following:

  • Soon after the British parliament's declaration of 3rd June 1947 left it to the princely rulers of undivided India to accede to either India or Pakistan or remain independent, some Muslim elements in J&K began pressing the state's Maharaja to opt for Pakistan while R C Kak, the state's prime minister, advised him to remain independent. It was the RSS leaders in the state who exerted every possible influence to persuade the Maharaja to declare his accession to India. Submission of memoranda and personal meetings by the local RSS chief, Pandit Prem Nath Dogra, were followed by thousands of telegrams from all parts of the state and its neighbours; even the RSS chief of Punjab, held in high esteem, hastened to Srinagar to meet the ruler on this issue.
  • Though J&K's fate remained undecided on August 14, 1947, the postal authorities in Srinagar hoisted the Pakistani flag on their office that day because the post offices within the state came under the Sialkot circle, which became a part of Pakistan on that day. It was the RSS and its sympathisers who ensured that the postal authorities pulled down that flag. And next day, it was the Indian Tricolour that flew atop most of the houses and shops in Srinagar. The flags had been prepared in the hundreds in the RSS office and distributed to the people.
  • While the pro-Pakistan elements in J&K intensified their propaganda to pressurise the Maharaja to join Pakistan, an RSS worker in the guise of a Muslim wormed himself into a camp of the state's armed forces at Srinagar and secured detailed plans of the projected Pakistani invasion. A prominent Sangh worker personally informed the commander of the state forces about the plan and the impending tragedy. Later developments tallied exactly with what had been uncovered by the Sangh's secret agent.
  • Golwalkar, the Sangh's venerated "Guruji" in whom the Maharaja had implicit confidence, was pitched by Sardar Patel to talk to the sovereign in those crucial mid-October days of 1947. "Guruji" flew to Srinagar on the 17th of that month and returned to New Delhi two days later to report the Maharaja's readiness to accede to India. [Why the Instrument of Accession was signed only a week later is another story that does no credit to Jawaharlal Nehru.]
  • By October 22-23 of that year, the entire Jammu-Sialkot border was aflame, what with scores of villages reduced to ashes by Pakistan's raids. With no troops on hand, the fate of Jammu and the countryside hung in a precarious balance. It was the young men of the RSS who rose to the occasion then with their battlefield valour. Thus was Jammu saved; and without Jammu there was not the ghost of a chance of saving Srinagar even with India's fighting forces that were to come soon to protect the state and keep it warm for Sheikh Abdullah's regime.
  • Five hundred RSS workers toiled round the clock for seven days and made the Jammu aerodrome ready for the Indian Dakotas to land. Roads were also repaired and constructed by them in record time. Simultaneously, hundreds of swayamsevaks from Jammu laid down their lives in saving the lives and honour of tens of thousands remaining in Mirpur after it fell into Pakistani hands.
  • Pak raiders had repeatedly intruded into Kotley, a strategic border town, and indulged in atrocities. Led by their city secretary, the RSS workers strengthened the morale of the locals, roused their patriotism and organised them for heroic resistance.
  • When the commander of the Indian garrison inside Kotley thought it too dangerous to risk his scant men to recover the 20 chests of badly needed ammunition dropped astray by our air force, a local Sangh worker, Krishanlal, dared to lead 20 others of his ilk into a death trap while recovering 17 of those chests. Six of them lost their lives in the process. The fag end of the battle to save the town claimed a seventh Sangh martyr.
  • The situation in the Kashmir Valley was similar. The swayamsevaks joined Sheikh Abdullah's militia in large numbers to fight the Paki raiders and also stood by the Indian Army in throwing out the invaders. One of them who died in the battle to save Srinagar was Pandit Manmath, an RSS worker in Abdullah's militia.
Fifty-five years after the above display of patriotic valour, Abdullah III now has the impudence to say that the RSS is wanting to hand over J&K to Pakistan. He has the gall now to say that today's descendents of the RSS of 1947 "know nothing of Kashmir". Really, Mr Abdullah, you've begun to talk too much, and in doing that you show no trace of 'Kashmiriyat' or any other culture.

As for the RSS resolution on separate status for Jammu and Ladakh districts, the plight of the two regions at the hands of those who've ruled from Srinagar was first made public in 1952 -- by the RSS. Half a century later, that demand has been reiterated not only by the study of a three-man team of the RSS appointed last year, but even by the Muslims of Jammu and the Buddhists of Ladakh. And the core of that demand is not communal per se but the despotic discrimination of a dynasty's misrule. We'll see that next week.

Tailpiece: "I can't understand why everybody keeps talking about Kashmir. There is no such thing as Kashmir. It is the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmir valley is just about 6,000 square miles out of a total of 84,000 sq miles of the state. When people say the wishes of Kashmiris should be taken into consideration, I want to ask, what about the wishes of all the others, the people from Jammu, from Ladakh?" (Karan Singh, son and heir of the last J&K maharaja, in The Times of India, July 15, 2001). Abdullah III should consider that quote in its entirety as his first lesson to be learnt before he next opens his loud mouth on the subject.

Arvind Lavakare

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