You created a scene on March 7, 1990 at the time of the visit of the All Party Committee to Srinagar, and made it a point to convey to the people in 1986, that I wanted to have Article 370 abrogated. At that critical juncture, when I was fighting the forces of terrorism with my back to the wall and beginning to turn the corner after frustrating the sinister designs of the subversives from January 26, 1990 onwards, you thought it appropriate to cause hostility against me by tearing the facts out of context. Whether this act of yours was responsible or irresponsible, I would leave to the nation to decide.
What I had really pointed out in August-September 1986 was: ‘Article 370 is nothing but a breeding ground for the parasites at the heart of the paradise. It skins the poor. It deceives them with its mirage. It lines the pockets of the “power elites.” It fans the ego of the new sultans. In essence, it creates a land without justice, a land full of crudities and contradictions. It props up politics of deception, duplicity and demagogy.
It breeds the microbes of subversion. It keeps alive the unwholesome legacy of the two-nation theory. It suffocates the very idea of India and fogs the very vision of a great social and cultural crucible from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. It could be the epicentre of a violent earth-quake, the tremors of which would be felt all over the country with unforeseen consequences.
I had argued, ‘The fundamental aspect which has been lost sight of in the controversy for deletion or retention of Article 370 is its misuse. Over the years, it has become an instrument of exploitation in the hands of the ruling political elites and other vested interests in bureaucracy, business, judiciary and bar. Apart from the politicians, the richer classes have found it convenient to amass wealth and not allow healthy financial legislation to come to the State.
The provisions of the Wealth Tax, the Urban Land Ceiling Act, the Gift Tax etc, and other beneficial laws of the Union have not been allowed to be operated in the State under the cover of Article 370. The common people are prevented from realising that Article 370 is actually keeping them impoverished and denying them justice and also their due share in economic advancement.’
My stand was that the poor people of Kashmir had been exploited under the protective wall of Article 370 and that the correct position needed to be explained to them. I had made a number of suggestions in this regard and also in regard to the reform and reorganisation of the institutional framework. But all these were ignored. A great opportunity was missed.
Subsequent events have reinforced my views that Article 370 and it’s by-product, the separate Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir must go, not only because it is legally and constitutionally feasible to do so, but also because larger and more basic considerations of our past history and contemporary life require it. The Article merely facilitates the growth and continuation of corrupt oligarchies. It puts false notions in the minds of the youth. It gives rise to regional tensions and conflicts and even the autonomy assumed to be available is not attainable in practice.
PART 2 of Jagmohan's letter: ‘Congress displayed total mental surrender’
The distinct personality and cultural identity of Kashmir can be safeguarded without this Article. It is socially regressive and causes situations in which women lose their right if they marry non-state subjects and persons staying for over 44 years in the State are denied elementary human and democratic rights. And, above all, it does not fit into the reality and requirement of India and its vast and varied span.
What India needs today is not petty sovereignty that would sap its spirit and aspirations and turn it into small “banana-republics” in the hands of ‘tin-pot dictators’, but a new social, political and cultural crucible in which values of truth and rectitude, of fairness and justice, and of compassion and catholicity, are melted, purified and moulded into a vigorous and vibrant set- up which provides real freedom, real democracy and real resurgence to all.
I must also point out that when other States in the Union ask for greater autonomy, they do not mean separation of identities. They really want decentralisation and devolution of power, so that administrative and development work is done speedily and the quality of service to the people improves. In Kashmir, the demand for retaining Article 370 with all its ‘pristine purity’, that is, without the alleged dilution that has taken place since 1953, stems from different motivation. It emanates from a clever strategy to remain away from the mainstream, to set up a separate fiefdom, to fly a separate flag, to have a Prime Minister rather than a Chief Minister, and Sadr-i-Riyasat instead of a Governor, and to secure greater power and patronage, not for the good of the masses, not for serving the cause of peace and progress or for attaining unity amidst diversity, but for serving the interests of ‘neo elites’, the ‘new Sheikhs.’
PART 1 of Jagmohan's letter: 'Potatoes one day, the Pope the next'
All those aspiring to be the custodians of the vote-banks continue to say that Article 370 is a matter of faith. But they do not proceed further. They do not ask themselves: What does this faith mean? What is its rationale? Would not bringing the State within the full framework of Indian Constitution give brighter lustre and sharper teeth to this faith and make it more just and meaningful?
In a similar strain, expressions like ‘historical necessity and ‘autonomy are talked about. What do these mean in practice? Does historical necessity mean that you include, on paper, Kashmir in the Indian Union by one hand at a huge cost and give it back, in practice, by another hand on the golden platter? And what does autonomy or so called pre-1953 or pre-1947 position imply? Would it not amount to the Kashmiri leadership say: ‘you will send and I will spend; you will have no say even if I build a corrupt and callous oligarchy and cause a situation in which Damocles’Sword of secession could be kept hanging on your head’?