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Article 370 and the Political Perfidy - April 09, 2019

“You wish India should protect your borders, it should build roads in your area, it should supply you food grains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India. But the Government of India should have only limited powers and Indian people should have no rights in Kashmir. To give consent to this proposal would be a treacherous thing against the interests of India and I, as the Law Minister of India, will never do it”, this is none other than Dr Ambedkar making a scathing observation about Article 370. Fast forward to today and you see many politicians, who claim they follow Dr. Ambedkar, play to Article 370 to suit their own political calculations. There are disturbing, albeit not unexpected, developments with regards to Article 370 as the election campaign gains momentum. First it was National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, whose political fortunes in the valley are struggling to shine, prophesized a separate Prime Minister and President for Jammu & Kashmir, further noting that the demand was indeed ‘constitutional’. When Abdullah was using his imagination to pander to soft separatist propaganda, you can’t possibly expect Mehbooba Mufti to not compete with him. Reacting to BJP promise to annul the Article 370, she responded “If you free Jammu and Kashmir from Article 370, you will free the state from country as well. Further adding that “Article 370 links J&K with the country. When you break this bridge, India loses its legitimacy over the state. It becomes an occupational force”. As if it was not enough, she stretched her histrionics by saying “Na samjho gay tou mit jaouge aye Hindustan walo. Tumhari dastaan tak bhi na hogi dastaano main' (O you people of Hindustan, if you don't understand, you will perish, your story will be erased from history). While such utterances are not surprising, especially given the election mood and both the regional party’s attempts to woo their respective constituencies, what is indeed concerning is the attitude of other national parties who are supposed to drive the discourse which is true to the constitutional ethos and is aimed at preserving the integrity of India. Take for instance Congress’s declaration that “nothing will be done or allowed to change the Constitutional position”. This is a problematic development in terms of manifesto promises when compared to the previous manifesto which did not even mention Article 370. Apparently, it was not important, alas! Even the ruling BJP party which promised in 2014 to build “Consensus on the Abrogation of Article 370’, has not made any efforts of even initiating a dialogue to relook the concerned article. Even the issue of resettling of Kashmiri Pandits back into the valley unfortunately remained unattended. But as the elections approach, the focus is again back on the Article 370 where parties competing to grab the narrative space for the parochial political interest – the casualty again is the national interest. The course subsequent governments have taken with regards to Article 370 shows the perfidy of political parties with regards to such an important and sensitive issue. What India needs is to build a larger political discourse, that extends beyond political parties and election seasons, to genuinely discuss the Article 370 and move towards discarding it to stand true to the values as espoused in the constitution and aspirations of the makers of Modern India.

- Prof. Akshay Ranade