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December 4, 1997


Varsha Bhosle

Three men and a bastard brat

To ease in after a heavenly trip, I'd charted a light piece on the farce playing on Centre-stage. But that was before I read a comment by Patrick French, author of Liberty or Death. When asked about his next venture, Mr French replied: "I think I will probably write a biography of Sitaram Kesri -- in three volumes." I do so love British humour; it said to me that whatever the result, The Great Bihari Bandicoot is simply not worth an effort. Which meant that I had to dive into routine the hard way, specifically, Article 370 and the dithering Maharaja Hari Singh's bastard brat... The Kashmir issue...

Confession: I frequently err in assuming that I needn't begin at the beginning. This seems to work in newspapers; unfortunately, the Net is rife with cretins. I've been asked by one such specimen from Cornell to read a book by a columnist of a rabidly pinko journal -- to learn the history of a nation betrayed by Marxists during its freedom struggle. Another sample from Denmark writes, "It's easy for her to sit in her AC room and scream not to submit to terrorism. The situation out in the field is very different I believe." Point is, AC rooms in my city weren't exempt from the Bombay Blasts; Scandinavia was. Terrorists don't choose deserted agrarian fields in their quest for attention. NRIs who teach us natives how to be, never fail to amuse me.

Along with all this, I have "horrible prejudices" -- and this from a person who writes elsewhere: "Something is rotten in Maharashtra. The rest of the country is not by any measure free of the same virus, but in Maharashtra it has festered longer and worked its way into the language and culture of the people more thoroughly than anywhere else." Tch, tch, tch... such bigotry... Dear Mr Rohan Oberoi, to make you understand why the Kashmir issue is Hari Singh's bastard brat, I'm forced to conduct Basic History class for all...

The state of Jammu & Kashmir, the largest at that time, was created in 1846 by the Treaty of Amritsar -- and which the British handed over to a certain Ghulab Singh who claimed to be of the lineage of Rana Ranjit Singh; Ghulab Singh's great-grandson was Hari Singh. Closer to Independence, India consisted of British India (directly under Crown domination) and Indian States (ruled by native kings under Crown domination). The British had given up the policy of direct annexation and fostered the states as kingdoms under British sovereignty, with the rulers acting as, umm, agents of the Crown.

After World War II, the political shifts in Europe, coupled with the Indian freedom struggle (which was not limited to Bapuji and the INC), forced Britain to grant freedom to India. However, Britain hadn't managed to integrate the Indian States with British India; in June 1946, the Crown stated, "We are leaving India in the state in which it stood." In effect, the British part of India would go to the yet-unborn Indian government, and the States to the respective kings. This was the Lapse of Paramountcy, and the consequent devolution of British supremacy would leave India in a fragmented condition.

While Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel tussled with the gargantuan problem of which state would/should merge with India and which with Pakistan, Hari Singh bided time in his quest for absolute supremacy and carried on his negotiations with, both, India and Pakistan. Even when Lord Mountbatten explicitly informed him that his only option was to accede to either India or Pakistan, Hari Singh dithered. Till, finally, on 22 October 1947, Pakistan lost patience and tried to annex Kashmir by invading it in the guise of "tribal rebellion."

Hari Singh panicked, and within 4 days, the entire arrangement between India and J&K was completed. The king agreed to the same terms as the other states and, on 25 October, "Operation Rescue Kashmir" was launched. However, the indecisiveness of the ruler -- i e, his evading the Instrument of Accession till it was too late -- had already led to Pakistan becoming a party to the dispute. And which is why the Kashmir issue is his bastard brat, capisce?

But, to be a real bastard, one's paternity has to be permanently in question. Enter: Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru...

Although Hari Singh was the legal sovereign of Kashmir, the political initiative lay entirely with the Sheikh -- for he had the popular support. This political rivalry and ensuing confusion, too, galvanised Pakistan to invade J&K. Much as he wanted the potentate's power, the people's leader supported Hari Singh's decision to accede to India (it's on the records of the UN). The Sheikh strove for a relationship with India by which he would be in a predominant position. And thus was the settlement with the Constituent Assembly and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution later forged and delivered...

Panditji was worse: After the Indian army outdid the Pakistanis and was on the verge of recapturing the areas under their domination (including what's Azad Kashmir), this progenitor of everything that's wrong with India took the Kashmir issue *unilaterally* to the UN on 31 December, 1947. Note that though Pakistan was at the brink of a military collapse, it wasn't willing to move the UN. Thus, the Kashmir issue got a third happy pappy -- one who introduced an international complication where there was none. And he did so "unilaterally." (It's why Mr I K Gujral's passion for that notion always set my teeth on edge).

Anyway, in January 1948, the war ended, and a year later, the Constituent Assembly opted for the Constitution. Hari Singh had nominated young Karan Singh as his successor, and Sheikh Abdullah, at the helm of Kashmir's affairs now, negotiated Article 370 with Pandit Nehru -- as the only mechanism to hasten the integration of Kashmir into India.

Result: By its enactment on 26 January, 1950, only *one* provision of the Indian Constitution, Article 1, can apply to J&K -- the First Schedule, wherein J&K is listed as one of the states of India. Every other provision -- including that on fundamental rights -- has to be assented to by the J&K assembly or the government of J&K. The President of India may specify an order that Article 370 cease to apply to Kashmir -- but no such order can be issued without the approval of the government of J&K. And, no parliamentary law can apply to J&K unless the state government agreed. In short, Article 370 renders the Indian Constitution itself inapplicable to J&K.

Now, being able to reside in any part of India happens to be one of our (ie, an Indian's) fundamental rights. Thus, whether a pre- 1947 law barring others from settling in Kashmir, passed with or without the blessings of Kashmiri Pandits, ratified by Hari Singh or Jinnah, exists or not, is purely academic. We obey only the Indian Constitution.

The hilarious thing is that Chapter 21, under which falls Article 370, as originally enacted, was titled "Temporary and Transitional Provisions." The provision that was intended to appease the separatist mentality of Kashmir's leadership and mollycoddle its people into the Indian mainstream proved to sustain that very mentality and create vested interests among politicians. It's but natural that those who reject the UCC -- which is mandated by Article 44 -- should brandish the temporary Article 370 as an inalienable part of the Constitution. It is a holy symbol of our garbage secularism. What a bloody bunch of hypocrites...

Mr Oberoi, if it's columnists you take your cues from, why don't you read what contemporary writers like S Gurumurthy, Arun Shourie or M V Kamath have to say about Kashmir? I mean, did facts and viewpoints stop emerging after 1964's The Kashmir Question? Or are you too subject to the "ability to combine arrogant, self- righteous chest-thumping with the complete demonisation of any view differing from your own"?

Oh, I forgot! To you, Abdul Ghafoor Noorani is "of tremendous erudition, measured in his writing, and knowledgeable in the law, constitution and history of India", but, "it is hard for anyone simply interacting in society in the normal way to understand why a man as obsessed with the hatred and denigration of his fellow citizens as Arun Shourie is considered a respected and authoritative commentator by so many." Talk about taking reductionism to absurd levels...

Here are two thumbnails from the "history of neglect" perpetrated by India:

* From 1977 to 1982, Kashmir's beloved leader, Sheikh Abdullah, established a kind of elective dictatorship and practically acted like a monarch of all he surveyed. No one checked him. No one could -- courtesy, Article 370.

* According to the Reserve Bank bulletin, the per capita central assistance for 1994-95 was Rs 3,010 for J&K, as against Rs 190 for Bihar, Rs 305 for Rajasthan and Rs 341 for UP. In the case of J&K, 90% of this assistance is in the shape of grants and 10% as loans; while for the four states mentioned above, it is 30% grants and 70% loans...

But maybe that ain't the point at all. Methinks, the whole object of this freedom-of-conscience exercise when it comes to separatists is simply to effect a fragmenting of India: Let Kashmir secede, then Assam, then Nagaland... What's it, sour grapes? After having lost the homestead in West Punjab, must one advocate that Kashmiri Pandits lose theirs too...?

Solzhenitsyn is a dissident, as are Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela and thousands like them who protested non-violently. People who chuck bombs do not qualify: They are merely terrorists, and death becomes them. Even in these PC times, the tendency among nations is to deal leniently with political offenders *other than* those guilty of treason. Article III, Section 3, of the US Constitution follows the English law in this case: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." Don't let that "only" fool you; secession *is* a war against the States.

Have you wondered why most educated Indians consider Kashmir to be a grave national issue? It's not because they get to rollick in Nehruvian rose gardens. It's because Kashmir is the gateway to India; it is through here that Mohammed Ghazni invaded India 17 times. Perhaps you've heard of the term "strategic importance"? It's much-bandied in the political arena of your adopted land. V P Menon wrote: "The country which does not remember its geography and history does so at its own peril." S Gurumurthy writes, "Those who control that stretch of land controlled this vast country. It is much more important in view of security and integrity of the country and for our existence as a nation."

Hmmm... Mr Oberoi, you want real arrogance? Your venom-laden nonsense works well to provoke flame-wars on Usenet. This is a different league -- do take your abusive style, conspicuous ignorance and hatred of Hindus elsewhere. And for the record - there *are* "good murderers and bad murderers." The latter butcher humans/ideas for personal gains, and the former bloody the borders of Jammu & Kashmir to defend the sovereignty of India. But that's a concept you're too handicapped to understand.

Varsha Bhosle

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