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'Article 370 was never meant to give any special status to J&K'

By ARCHANA MASIH
November 25, 2021 14:24 IST
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'With the abrogation of Article 370, the Constitutional integration of Kashmir is complete, but whether there has been emotional integration of the Kashmir Valley is a question mark.'

IMAGE: A soldier keeps watch after three alleged militants were killed in Rambagh, Srinagar, November 24, 2021. Photograph: Umar Ganie for Rediff.com

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday asked the Centre to restore Article 370 and resolve the Kashmir issue if it wants to 'keep Kashmir', saying people want return of 'our identity and honour' and that too with interest.

"J&K had remained a state since Independence and there was no need to take away its statehood and downgrade it to a Union territory," says former Union home secretary Dr Madhav Godbole.

"Kashmir is a faultline which needs to be addressed by building a national consensus including all political parties, not the government alone," Dr Godbole tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih in the concluding segment of an extensive multi-part interview.

Dr Godbole's latest book India - A Federal Union of States - Fault Lines, Challenges and Opportunities (Konark Publishers) analyses sensitive issues confronting India and provides solutions. It is the latest in a series of 26 books he has written on Indian policy issues since he left government in 1993.

You also mention 18 major mistakes committed by the Government of India in handing Kashmir over the years. Has the abrogation of Article 370 undone some of those mistakes?

With the abrogation of Article 370, the Constitutional integration of Kashmir is complete, but whether there has been emotional integration of the Kashmir Valley is a question mark.

The sentiment prevailing in the Kashmir Valley is a major fault line since Independence.

I have mentioned 17-18 major mistakes committed by successive governments over the years. There have been misconceptions, misunderstandings, direct or indirect, deliberate or otherwise about Kashmir.

For example, if you read the documentation carefully, you will find that Article 370 was never meant to give any special status to J&K.

The moment the maharaja signed the accession deed with India under the Indian Independence Act, Kashmir became a part of India. The Constitution then mentioned in Article 1 that J&K is an integral part of India.

All the facilities of special dispensations provided to J&K were in accordance with the Delhi Agreement of 1953. I have not been able to understand what made Nehru and the Constitution Committee agree to all those conditions.

For example, agreeing to a separate flag, separate citizenship, non-application of fundamental rights, non-application of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court or the Election Commission and other government agencies -- J&K was given exemption from them all. It was a negation of all that the Constitution stood for.

The impression I get from reading the documents which I have brought out in the book is that Nehru excessively relied on Sheikh Abdullah. He believed until Sheikh Abdullah was agreeable, the Valley would never be with India.

According to me, that was wrong.

Incarcerating Sheikh Abdullah for 11 years was also wrong. If the then Congress party wanted, he could have been sidelined politically, but putting him in jail and then starting a conspiracy case which was totally unsustainable in court gave a wrong impression about India, both nationally and internationally.

Hence, this is an issue of our own creation.

I have also put forth a four-point programme about what should be done in J&K now. I believe that Kashmir is a faultline which needs to be addressed by building a national consensus including all political parties, not the government alone.

Statehood should be restored to J&K. J&K had remained a state since Independence and there was no need to take away its statehood and downgrade it to a Union territory.

I agree with the separation of Ladakh from J&K because it had been a longstanding demand, and with the Chinese transgression it has become even more sensitive and should remain as a Union territory.

Statehood should be restored and elections should be announced in J&K.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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