It appears as if every leader of the Indian National Congress (INC) is running around like a headless chicken after the momentous decision taken by the Modi government to abrogate Article 370 and fully integrate Jammu & Kashmir into the Indian Union.
That the INC is no longer “national” or “nationalist” is now obvious going by the utter confusion prevailing at the top, but the party was not always like this. It had robust and patriotic leaders in the past and there is sufficient evidence of this in our parliamentary records. Here is a sample of what tall leaders of the party including K Hanumanthaiya, member of the Constituent Assembly, former CM of Mysore state, and later, Union minister had to say in Lok Sabha on 11 September 1964 on abrogation of Article 370 and of their disillusionment with the pusillanimity of the Congress:
Kengal Hanumanthaiya (Congress): “Not merely MPs from Kashmir, but irrespective of parties, from the extreme right to the extreme left of this House ... we are all of one opinion that this Bill (abrogating Article 370) should be made into law. To go against it or to say anything against this unanimous opinion of this House is to disown constitutional responsibility in a convenient manner. Article 370 ... stands in the way of full integration.”
Hanumanthaiya also dealt with the constant fear in the government about the world’s opinion. Referring to Western nations, he said, “They are not our masters.” He asked the government “not to be nervous about world opinion”. Shake off your “inferiority complex” and stop worrying about the response of foreign powers, he said and added, “Here is a case where we could show courage and solve the problem once and for all.”
Considering how Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah executed the plan to abrogate Article 370 with quiet determination—and the virtual endorsement of their decision by many nations, thanks to Modi’s sustained, calibrated diplomatic contacts with global leaders over the last five years—it appears as if they were following the advice given by Hanumanthaiya to his own party 55 years ago.
In fact, some parts of Hanumanthaiya’s speech sound like he was delivering them on 5 August 2019. He said, “This is the unanimous opinion of this House (to abrogate Article 370) and it is applauded by the whole country. So, I want the government to take a determined stand.”In conclusion, he thanked Prakash Vir Shastri for bringing the private Bill for repeal of Article 370, which had won the admiration of MPs across the political divide. Many other Congress stalwarts forcefully demanded repeal of Article 370 during this debate.
Bhagawat Jha Azad (Congress): “Government must fearlessly declare its policy on Kashmir. From Kashmir and across the Gangetic plains and the Narmada to Kanyakumari, people want to see full integration. No government or party can go against the wishes of the people.”
Ram Sahay Pandey (Congress) blamed Jawaharlal Nehru for rushing to the UN to complain about infiltration of Pakistani troops into Kashmir after it acceded to India. He said by seeking UN’s intervention and accepting its ceasefire order, Nehru had squandered away a fine opportunity to recapture the territories that were in illegal possession of Pakistan. Gen. Thimayya, who was handling the military operations, had pleaded with the government for just two more days to recapture these territories but Nehru’s move and the ceasefire wrecked the Indian Army’s plans.
Gopal Dutta Mengi (Congress): “I support this Bill. All over India, people want Jammu & Kashmir to be fully integrated with the country.”
Inder J Malhotra (Congress): “I … agree that Article 370 be omitted. The people of the state have no special liking for Article 370 … and we shall be very happy as soon as this is omitted.”
These sentiments were echoed by MPs across parties including H V Kamath (PSP) and Ram Manohar Lohia (Socialist Party). But the clincher came from D C Sharma, an independent MP. He said Article 370 had disfigured our Constitution. “This is a constitutional anachronism. I say that for the good name of India … this article should be scrapped forthwith.”
When we reflect over the advice Sharma gave the Congress way back in 1964, which was not acted upon, and the clarity of thinking in the present government on such a tangled issue and the precision with which Modi and Shah have handled it, we realise the yawning gap between the Congress and the present dispensation on critical issues pertaining to national integrity and security. Here is another example.
D C Sharma (Ind): “Wisdom consists in settling unsettled things. The act of statesmanship is an act of boldness, firmness and decisiveness. But I do not know what has happened to my country that instead of settling unsettled things, we have unsettled settled things.”
Finally, the clincher: “Article 370… is not a wall. … It is a big mountain that stands between India and J&K. I feel this mountain should be blasted with dynamite, with the dynamite of goodwill and firmness. That way lies the salvation of India and that way lies the good and welfare of the people of J&K.”
Thanks to Modi, India no longer suffers from an “inferiority complex” that Hanumanthaiya lamented about. Modi and Shah have acted with “boldness”, “firmness” and “decisiveness”—the qualities that MPs wanted the Congress to exhibit in 1964, “to settle unsettled things” and to blast the mountain called Article 370 “with the dynamite of goodwill and firmness”!
A Surya Prakash
Chairman, Prasar Bharati