By Yasmeen Aftab Ali
One of the first steps BJP is doing after Modi’s swearing in ceremony (if you ignore telling off given to PM Nawaz that India expected steps by the latter taken against “terrorist groups.”) is to move to repealing of Article 370 of the Constitution of India that grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. Coming on heels of two unsavory incidents; not a very auspicious beginning. First. reported a day before Modi’s swearing in was the news of a protest by Rashtriya Hindu Andolan; a Hindutva group to ban Fajr Azaan Sanatan Sanstha activist Vijayalakshmi made a great hue and cry that India grants equal religious freedom to all however, this must not mean into followers of one religion disturbing the peace of the followers of other religions. Sleep is important. Duh!
In yet another incident, Hindus and Muslims clashed a day ahead of Modi’s swearing in at Ahmedabad; known as the heartland of Gujrat; Modi’s home town. A car accident of members between Muslim and Hindu communities led to an argument. More community members joined in. Altercation led to destruction. Ensuing fire destroyed three shops, one mini-bus and a couple of two-wheelers were burnt.
In a rewind; news report by Times of India, the headline screams, ‘Top cop says Gujarat CM Narendra Modi involved in Godhra case.’ The stunning report states and I share excerpts, “Senior IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt, who was posted in the Intelligence Department, has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court accusing Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi of complicity in the 2002 Godhra case. Bhatt in his affidavit states that he was that he attended a meeting held at the chief minister’s residence on February 27, 2002. Stating that the senior police officials had blindly followed Modis instructions in 2002, the officer in his affidavit further stated that this was responsible for the deterioration in the law and order situation in the state….. Bhatt has also made a request to the apex court to provide protection to him and his family. …Following the Godhra train burning incident, widespread communal riots broke out in various parts of Gujarat in which over 1,000 people, mostly from the minority community, were killed.” (Published Apr 22, 2011)
The purpose of giving the brief run down here is obvious. Modi carries a heavy Hindutva baggage. Commenting upon the huge electoral win in my op-ed published on MAY 19, 2014, I quoted Varghese K George, “The BJP had put its hardcore Hindutva agenda on the backburner when it began alliance building in 1996, but with absolute numbers on its side, the demand from within to bring these up may rise”. (The Hindu) Though Modi had assured the Indians against such an event happening let us not forget that was before the elections.”
I was not prepared though for being proved right so early in the day!
It is important to grasp what Article 370 is and its implications. Maharaja Hari Singh when acceded to India on 26 October 1947 “did not commit himself to accept any future Constitution of India. However, he reserved the right to enter into agreements with the Government of India under any future Constitution of India. The Instrument of Accession did not affect the continuance of the sovereignty of the Ruler in and over the State or the validity of any law in force in the State, save as provided by or under the Instrument of Accession.” (KASHMIR ARTICLE 370 by Mohan Krishen Teng) The said piece of legislation can only be revoked by the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir so recommends.
The reason for maintaining the sub-nationality for Jammu and Kashmir was self-evident; the fear of being ruled by Hindu majority India whereas Jammu and Kashmir was and is pre-dominantly Muslim.
The constitutional provisions envisaged by Article 370 of the Constitution of India and the subsequent Constitution (application to Jammu and Kashmir) Orders, promulgated by the President of India, provide for a partial application of the Constitution of India to the Jammu and Kashmir State. In their application to Jammu and Kashmir, the provisions of the Constitution of India fall into three categories:
· Provisions, which are not applicable to the Jammu and Kashmir State;
· Provisions, which are applicable to the Jammu and Kashmir State; and
· Provisions, which are applicable to the State with exceptions and reservations.
(KASHMIR ARTICLE 370 by Mohan Krishen Teng)
Those who support Modi’s move to repeal Article 370 ask questions like if it’s not really intact does it really make a difference if it’s legally changed? Yes Sirs it does make a difference. Changing the basic structure of the State changes the legal standing of its subjects. Make no mistake about it. According to Amitabh Mattoo, “…at the opposition conclave in Srinagar in 1982, leaders of virtually all national parties, including past and present allies of the BJP, declared that the “special constitutional status of J&K under Article 370 should be preserved and protected in letter and spirit.” (Published ‘The Hindu’ December 6, 2013)
Quoting from Sameer Yasir’s piece, ‘Kashmir’s special status is a political tinderbox’, “So it’s not surprising that Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah reacted swiftly, warning the newly elected government that any attempt to revoke the special status to Jammu and Kashmir (read Article 370), could break the relationship between the state and the Union of India. “Mark my words and save this tweet-long after Modi Government is a distant memory either J&K won’t be part of India or Article 370 will still exist,” Omar tweeted in his response to Singh’s statement. Omar said Article 370 was the “only constitutional link” between Jammu and Kashmir and rest of India, a stand many senior Kashmir scholars and historians concur with.” (Published May 28, 2014)
The emerging posture of the above stated steps/events are a far cry from what Modi’s government SHOULD be focusing on: strengthening of India’s economy. A little too early in the day to pass a judgment, nonetheless, the direction in which waters seem to be flowing mark the path of a familiar religious based policy- which is a huge tragedy and a loss for India, using of bullying tactics rather than to genuinely emerge as a leader in the region. A golden opportunity being thrown away. India is at the right time, at the place in history. Such an approach however will ensure India loses the advantage!
The message being conveyed to the Indian Muslims, Indian Hindus and other religious groups residing in India by trying the over flexing of muscles is clear: Hindutva reigns supreme. This in turn will create extreme discomfort amongst other countries of the religion. No one wants a pushing, power hungry, religious driven neighbor. Or does anyone?
Professor Chetan Bhatt from the London School of Economics writing for ‘Outlook’ says, “Narendra Modi has managed to convert a few modest achievements in Gujarat into a shiny spectacle. A recent, gruesome history is erased by a fanatical cult of personality; in speaking about himself in the third person, Modi appears to be his most loyal fan. Chillingly, some Gujaratis in the UK and India are consciously indifferent to the deaths, rapes and brutalities in 2002. For them, they are a necessary outcome of the Hindutva revenge against history that Amit Shah, Pravin Togadia, Giriraj Singh and others have invoked recently— and the fact that they have, shows a characteristic division of labour with Modi speaking about something he calls ‘development’ while the hate speech is left to others.
Many liberals have concerns about Modi’s political discourse and style, since he knows no other world than that of the RSS and its parivar (indeed, one wonders what he might say in a discussion about the US debt ceiling, the Syria conflict or the Ukraine crisis.)”
Professor Bhatt I hear you loud and clear!
Whither Secular India?