Striving with undiminishing consistency
Kashmir’s integration into the Union of India has been a longstanding demand, perseverance for which is necessarily credited to Deendayal Upadhyaya and his political disciples
For years and decades after Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee's sudden death in Kashmir, the Jana Sangh and the BJP kept on pressing the demand for the abrogation of Article 370. This relentless pursuit of the ideal of uniting and integrating India saw an expression in a number of programmes, movements and political resolutions over decades. The credit of continuing to strive and pursue this issue and of institutionalising it in the political formulation and narrative of Jana Sangh and later BJP must necessarily go to Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya and his political disciples in later years.
It is interesting to note that the political narrative on the abrogation of 370 was a cogent one and always spoke of the welfare and rights of people, of the need for greater integration and unity and of the necessity of ensuring that the people of the region have equal citizenship rights as any other citizen of India. Contrary to the narrative peddled by Nehru himself and the Nehruvian establishment and the left-communist combine would like us to believe, the Jana Sangh and BJP narrative was not a communal one. It was shorn of a sense of muscular nationalism and always emphasised the point that the continuation of Article 370 would be detrimental to India's overall national security parameters and would always leave the window open for separatism.
Deendayal Upadhyaya himself extensively wrote and spoke on the issue and ensured that it remained one of the central and defining political kernels of the Jana Sangh. In his protracted correspondences with Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah, Dr Mookerjee had repeatedly harped that the Praja Parishad's demand of complete integration with India was a people's demand and had no communal overtone or motive to it. If one looks at Dr Mookerjee's letters in some details, one sees that his approach, his tone and arguments had a certain finesse and conviction to them.
In one of his last letters to Sheikh Abdullah in February 1953, Dr Mookerjee, for instance, movingly concludes, "So far as we in India including Jammu and Kashmir are concerned, we have got to treat this chapter as closed and offer to each other the hands of comradeship so that we can mutually build up a country, where religion will function not for dividing people into warring camps but for generating mutual respect and understanding, all working as common citizens of a common Motherland with equal rights and opportunities for self-development. If we go on thinking of the past and refuse to create an atmosphere of trust and cooperation, we will be committing national suicide…"
In his letter to Nehru in early February 1953, Dr Mookerjee wrote, "I and many others honestly feel that the demands on the part of a section of our own countrymen living in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to see that their state is finally integrated with India and is governed according to the Constitution of free India is not an unpatriotic or disintegrating or communal move. You cannot crush their natural urge by sheer force or repression."
Earlier speaking in Parliament on the situation in Kashmir (June 1952), Dr Mookerjee had made a similar point when he argued that in a "democratic federal state, the fundamental rights of citizens of one constituent unit cannot vary vis-à-vis the citizens of another unit. Are not the people of Jammu and Kashmir entitled to the fundamental rights that we have given to the people of India minus Jammu and Kashmir? There is no scope for varied constitutional patterns, disparities as between one federating unit and another…"
Deendayal Upadhyaya, who deftly and determinedly carried forward the demand of abrogating Article 370, wrote of Dr Mookerjee's approach to the issue thus, "he would not tolerate discrimination against the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the matter of fundamental rights and other privileges granted and guaranteed by our Constitution. He would not allow the state to be treated as a private preserve of Sheikh Abdullah and his associates, without any constitutional bindings." This was exactly the Jana Sangh's position then, and the BJP's later.
Apart from observing Kashmir integration days across the country, apart from immediately launching countrywide movements whenever Nehru was seen to be wavering on Kashmir or appeared to be making indirect concessions on the issue on the
international stage, Upadhyaya also ensured that through his own writings and documentations, a good literary corpus was produced to record the Jana Sangh's struggle and to create a nationalist ideational narrative on the issue.
He published the Mookerjee-Nehru-Abdullah correspondence, for example, so that information about the debate could spread out across the country, titled "Integrate Kashmir: correspondence between Mookerjee, Nehru and Abdullah". In the publisher's note Upadhyaya argued that the correspondence is published, "and it is left to the public to judge which of the two approaches is correct. The people will have to decide if they want a well-knit and united Bharat or a loose federation of semi-independent states such as Sheikh Abdullah claims Jammu and Kashmir to be…"
Prolific that he was, Kashmir, abrogation of 370 and integration was one of Upadhyaya's constant theme for political and intellectual activism. In a long tract that he penned, titled "Our Kashmir", (1953), Upadhyaya, for instance, went into great details on the history of Kashmir, the various forces at work historically in the region, India's historical and traditional claims over the region, the present political complexities and the demand of Jana Sangh on it. He made it clear that the issue needed to be approached with a bipartisan attitude since it was the question of India's unity, her future and her national security. He begins the tract lyrically and ends with a hard political appeal, interspersing it with the Jana Sangh's fundamental political demands.
"Kashmir, the land of Maharshi Kashyap and the crown of India," wrote Upadhyaya, "has been a festering problem for us since the last five years. About Kashmir, it is said, "Kshane kshane yannavatamupaiti tadaiva rupa ramaniyatayah" (The novelty that Nature manifests every moment creates newer and attractive forms of beauty as it does so). The same Kashmir today manifests a newer form almost every day, but of the problem that it has become. The worship at Amarnath is that of Lord Shiva, who stands for benign virtues of creation, but Kashmir, it seems, is today worshipping the malignant. The very mountain peaks, atop which Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya unfurled the standard of dharmic victory, are witness to Kashmiri politicians challenging India's unity…"
Upadhyaya, as he argued, saw the Kashmir issue as "not the problem of any class, political party or community, but a problem affecting the entire nation". It was therefore essential, he argued, that all demand in one voice that:
4Kashmir must merge fully with India and must be treated just like any other Indian state.
4The Kashmir issue must be withdrawn from the United Nations Organisation.
4Active steps be taken to recover the 2/5th portion of the part of Kashmir that is in Pakistan's control.
These were to form the core demands of Jana Sangh and later BJP – articulated in different forms and at different times but with an undiminished consistency.
For Upadhyaya, Kashmir was "not a separate state but very much a part of India. Geographically and culturally, it is very much a part of India while politically too it has been part of India for thousands of years. Kashmiris are very well aware and history too bears witness to the fact that whenever Kashmir was separate even a bit from India, it suffered a lot, economically and materially. Kashmir, the land that personifies beauty, can be happy and prosperous only in the affectionate embrace of India, not elsewhere…"
Article 370 had to go so that the "affectionate embrace" of genuine prosperity could be made permanent. Prime Minister Modi's "Naya Kashmir" narrative, his vision for a new dawn of prosperity and possibilities for the region in its entirety, emphasises that historic point made by Upadhyaya decades ago.
(The author is Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation. The views expressed are strictly personal)
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