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Dear PM, Please check your facts

Subhash Gatade

Jean Dreze, the Belgian born Indian economist and activist, who has co-authored books with Nobel Laureates like Amartya Sen and Angus Deaton, reached headlines for entirely different reasons.

Photo of the placard he was carrying at a protest rally in Delhi challenging the government's controversial move to scrap Article 370 really went viral. It displayed stats comparing Jammu and Kashmir and Gujarat, showed how Gujarat lagged behind J and K on a raft of development indices. (https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/jean-dreze-contests-amit-shah-with-gujarat-data/cid/1696457)

Despite the fact that it beautifully punctured the government's claim that continuation of article 370 was a hindrance to progress of the state, what one observed that PM Modi in his address to the nation  defending the move to scrap article 370, repeated similar dubious claims saying  that J and K lags behind other Indian states in matters of health services, education etc.

Quoting figures from National Family Health Survey a report which appeared in BBC Hindi (https://www.bbc.com/hindi/india-49279020) has extended the debate further and showed how J & K already marvels many other Indian states on many counts, once again underlining that all this talk of 'development reaching J & K' post article 370 as sheer humbug.

How does one unpack this attempt by the government to make false claims?

Could one say that it is part of Goebbelsian strategy where a falsehood repeated number of times starts appearing real? Or it is an attempt to distract attention from the severe and unprecedented clampdown on Jammu-Kashmir which has been widely criticised across political spectrum and even on international forums?

Whatever might be the case, one now realises that in its efforts to provide greater legitimacy to this step, the government has gone one step ahead. In fact, PM Modi - in his address to the nation - said that with this step the government has 'fulfilled dreams of Ambedkar as well as Patel ‘?

Whether Patel as well as Ambedkar had really opposed making of Article 370?

First of all, let us try to understand that this very idea that few members of a Cabinet could be singled out - by later day historians, politicians - for their alleged opposition to any step when the cabinet functions on the principle of collective responsibility - is unsustainable.

Secondly, there is enough documentary evidence to show that the then cabinet led by Nehru worked on mutual consultations only and, it was not the case that all powers were centralised in the Prime Minister's Office as it has become the norm these days. As Patel’s biographer Rajmohan Gandhi points out:
Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Patel formed a crucial triumvirate that agreed that independent India would not be a Hindu Rashtra but one that offered equal rights to all. After Gandhi’s departure and until Patel’s death, Patel and Nehru difference on several matters but not on some fundamentals. With the help of others including Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, Rajendra Prasad and Rajaji, they entrenched secularism and equality in the Constitution. [Seema Chisti, “The Disputed Legacy of Vallabhbhai Patel”, October 30, 2013, http://indianexpress.com.]

Coming to article 370, forget Nehru even independent scholars/ journalists admit that Sardar Patel was himself 'architect' of this article. (https://theprint.in/opinion/ironical-that-bjp-wants-article-370-revoked-sardar-patel-was-its-architect/74804/) A perusal of the developments then would make things clear.

When India became independent, the future of three princely states - namely Junagadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir - remained unclear as far as their accession to India and Pakistan is concerned. "Declassified documents, including records of cabinet and defence committee meetings, make it abundantly clear that both Nehru and Patel were closely involved in handling these three states." (-do-) 

Apart from the external aspects of the Kashmir issue, one notes that on internal aspects "[o]f the Kashmir issue, too, Nehru and Patel worked closely together despite their differing emphases. " (-do-) We can revisit the whole process of drafting of Article 370 of the Indian constitution which accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir. N.G. Ayyangar (cabinet minister without portfolio and former Dewan of Kashmir) and Sheikh Abdullah and his senior colleagues conducted the actual negotiations for several months. No doubt the negotiations were rather difficult, but Nehru seldom took a step without Patel’s concurrence.
"The opening meetings took place on 15-16 May 1949 at Patel’s residence in Nehru’s presence. When Ayyangar prepared a draft letter from Nehru to Abdullah summarising the broad understanding reached, he sent it to Patel with a note: “Will you kindly let Jawaharlal know direct as to your approval of it? He will issue the letter to Sheikh Abdullah only after receiving your approval”. (-do-)

It can also be recalled that
"[S]ardar Patel played an important role in getting the provision for J&K’s special status cleared by our Constituent Assembly. Contrary to the BJP-propagated opinion, Patel intervened in a dispute between some Congress party members opposed to the special status and Jawaharlal Nehru’s minister (without portfolio but entrusted with the task of dealing with the issue) GopalaswamyAyyangar to ensure the smooth passage of Article 370 (called 306 then).
(http://www.firstpost.com/politics/bjps-kashmir-conundrum-article-370-is-stronger-than-partys-ambitions-1812089.html)

One can investigate the issue further to know the key role played by Patel.

What one discovers that not only Sardar Patel even Dr Ambedkar has also been  subjected to similar half-truths to strengthen the government's argument despite the fact that any thorough reading of '[A]mbedkar's speeches and writings - specifically on Pakistan and partition of India - constituent assembly debates'  makes it clear that it '[c]ontained no authenticated writing on Article 370, nor did any document from his exhaustive literature.' (https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2019/05/article-370-and-dr-ambedkar-a-factcheck/)

It is a different matter a quote attributed to him - which is in circulation for quite sometime - makes a false claim that how he had 'refused to draft Article 370 of Indian Constitution by saying:
“You wish India should protect your border, she should build roads in your areas, she should supply your food, grains and Kashmir should get equal status as India. But government of India should have only limited powers and Indian people should have no right in Kashmir. To give consent in your proposal, would be treacherous thing against the interest of India and I, as a Law Minister of India, will never do.”

What is the veracity of this quote?

What the author Pratik Tembhurne underlines in this case is no less shocking. According to this young Ambedkarite scholar '[t]he earliest “refusal to draft” statement can be found in an editorial in Tarun Bharat, an RSS mouthpiece, dated 1991 citing the verbal account of Balraj Madhok, an RSS veteran, about Ambedkar – four decades after his death! ‘(-do-) It would be height of innocence to believe the verbal account of an RSS ideologue when Ambedkar's own writings are silent.

Velivada - another Ambedkarite web journal - which has similarly exposed the fake quote attributed to Ambedkar emphatically says 'It’s almost on the same lines as BJP/RSS said oh Dr Ambedkar also wanted demonetization, which is utter lie once again.' (http://velivada.com/2019/08/05/what-ambedkar-had-really-said-about-kashmir-issue/)

PM Modi in his speech to the nation had even emphasised that the scrapping of article 370 is 'fulfilment of Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee's dream, who as we know died in 1953 under mysterious circumstances after being arrested for opposing the special status to Kashmir.

What is normally missed that Mukherjee had initially accepted the inevitability of Article-370. (For further details of the case refer to '“Selfless Patriot”: Whether the Real Shyama Prasad Mukherjee would ever Stand Up? - Newsclick)

A G Noorani’s important book ‘Article 370: A Constitutional History of J and K’ (OUP, 2011, Pages 480) is able to clear many a confusion about the tumultuous era in post-independence times pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir and also looks into Mukherjee's initial consent to the article.

No doubt for the BJP this exposure that the said Article had full approval from Mukherjee as well as then Home Minister Sardar Patel is nothing but blasphemous. Interestingly while lashing out at the contents of the book, Mr Jitendra Singh, the then spokesperson of BJP for J & K and its National Executive member had rather indirectly acknowledged what the author wanted to convey by stating that “[T]he late leader had suggested to first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to put a time-bound rider on ‘Article 370’ and specify for how long it was being envisaged,” (http://www.siasat.com/english/news/shyama-prasad-mukherjee-never-endorsed-article-370).

It is worth emphasising that this was not for the first time that Dr Mukherjee’s consent to full autonomy to Kashmir had come up. In his write-up in ‘The Greater Kashmir’ (http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2010/aug/8/leaf-from-the-past-4.asp) Mr Balraj Puri, the veteran journalist from the state had provided further details about the same:
“[S]hyama Prasad’s prolonged triangular correspondence with Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah on the status of the State, which was published at that time by the party, is the most authentic evidence of his stand on the issue. In his letter dated January 9, 1953 to both of them, for instance, he wrote: “We would readily agree to treat the valley with Sheikh Abdullah as the head in any special manner and for such time as he would like but Jammu and Ladakh must be fully integrated with India.” While Nehru rejected the idea straightway warning against its repercussions in Kashmir and its international implications, Abdullah sent a detailed reply in which he, inter alia, said. “You are perhaps not unaware of the attempts that are being made by Pakistan and other interested quarters to force a decision for disrupting the unity of the State. Once the ranks of the State people are divided, any solution can be foisted on them.”

He further added that the prolonged correspondence is concluded with Dr. Mukherjee’s letter to Pandit Nehru on February 17, 1953, in which he suggested.
“Both parties reiterate that the unity of the State will be maintained and that the principle of autonomy will apply to the province of Jammu and also to Ladakh and Kashmir Valley.
Implementation of Delhi agreement—which granted special status to the State—will be made at the next session of Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly.”

Nehru replied that proposal for autonomy to the three provinces had been agreed by him and Abdullah in July 1952. If Mukerjee had realised his mistake, he should withdraw the agitation unconditionally. Mukherjee was unwilling to do it as it amounted to surrender. The deadlock prolonged over some way which could provide, what may be called, a face saving to the Jana Sangh.

It is important to note that after the sudden death of Mukherjee, Nehru had appealed to the people of Jammu to withdraw their agitation as their demand for regional autonomy had been conceded. The State government endorsed the appeal on July 2, when Praja Parishad leaders were released who went to Delhi where they met Nehru on July 3. Thus, the Praja Parishad agitation was withdrawn on the assurance of regional autonomy and immediate implementation of the Delhi Agreement.
But there are number of ifs and buts. One factor which prevented its implementation was that Praja Parishad and Jana Sangh backed out of it. According to Balraj Madhok, who later on became the president of the Jana Sangh, the party withdrew its commitment to the State autonomy and regional autonomy under the directive from Nagpur (the RSS headquarters). The party continued a ceaseless campaign against regional autonomy and Article 370.
((http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2010/aug/8/leaf-from-the-past-4.asp))

Till date the BJP maintains that if the government then had heeded to Mukherjee’s opposition to the said Article, Kashmir would have been in a different situation right now but still have not gathered courage to admit that he had conceded to the proposal in writing earlier. 

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Frontier
Aug 12, 2019


Subhash Gatade [email protected]

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