By Syed Ali Mujtaba
There are two significant opinions on Kashmir situation expressed by two eminent personalities from Chennai whose opinion matters in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 that killed 42 security personals, gives a southern perspective to the Kashmir tangle.
The first comment came from actor-turned-politician, Kamal Haasan who when asked to comment on the Pulwama suicide attack said, ‘I mourn this day because I forecasted that this is what will happen, long ago, it’s unfortunate that my predictions have come true.’
The actor who has dealt with the issue of terrorism in his film ‘Vishvroopam’ said, “I truly regret when people say army men are going to Kashmir to die. The army itself is an old fashioned thing. Have we not learned this while handling the Kashmir situation over the years? He said this in reference to the situation in Kashmir.
While addressing a gathering in Chennai, the actor-turned-politician said “when I was running a magazine called ‘Maiyam’ I have written about Kashmir issue and what is expected from the government. If we want to prove that India is a far better country, then we should not behave like this asking the government to hold a plebiscite.
“Hold plebiscite and make people talk…why have they not conducted it? What are they scared of? They want to divide the nation that’s all. Why don’t you ask them again? They won’t do it?” The superstar sought reasons why the government is ‘afraid of’ holding a plebiscite in Kashmir to ascertain the will of the people.
Referring to Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) as ‘Azad Kashmir’, Kamala Hassan said, the same situation prevails across the border. “In Azad Kashmir, they are using Jihadi’s pictures in trains to portray them as heroes that are also a foolish thing to do. India also behaves with an equal amount of foolishness, it’s not fair. There begins the politics, there begins the new political culture,” he further said.
The second opinion is from former Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Moosa Raza, a retired IAS officer who hails from Chennai. While delivering a lecture at the Justice Basheer Ahmed Sayeed College for Women in Chennai, Mr Raza batted for the safeguard both Article 370 and Article 35 A, and argued that all talks of abolishing Article 370 and Article 35 A should be eschewed.
Moosa Raza, a Kashmir cadre IAS officer, understands the situation in Jammu and Kashmir much better than anyone else in the country said; “Once the protection goes, there are hundreds of bald-headed vultures waiting outside with bags of Dollars, Dirhams and Rupees who will buy up entire Kashmir, build five-star hotels, 27-storey residences, bungalows, tourist resorts and what have you. Hopefully, in the interest of environment and ecology of Kashmir, Supreme Court will safeguard both Article 370 and Article 35 A.”
In the context of Article 370 that is being much debated these days in the country, it is necessary to understand the background of Diwan Bahadur Sir Narasimha Ayyangar Gopalaswami Ayyangar, CSI, CIE who actually drafted the Article 370 370 of the Indian Constitution that granted autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir.
Ayyangar as the name suggests he was neither a Kashmiri Brahmin nor he was a Kashmiri Muslim, he was a south Indian Ayyangar Brahmin, a ‘Ram Bakth’ (Vashnavite) from Madras Presidency.
He was a distinguished administrator and a civil servant. He held seven titles until 1947 including the title of Diwan Bahadur, the highest title awarded by a British viceroy. Other titles conferred on Sir Ayyangar by the British government were a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in the 1935 Silver Jubilee and Birthday Honors list, a Companion of the Order of the Star of India (CSI) in the 1937 Coronation Honors list and a knighthood in 1941 New Year Honors list.
Ayyangar was the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir (1937-43) under the Hindu Dogra ruler Hari Singh, who signed the instrument of accession to India. Soon after the accession of Jammu and Kashmir in October 1947, Nehru appointed Ayyangar as a cabinet minister without portfolio and asked him to look after Kashmir affairs, while Nehru himself held the overall charge for Kashmir. In his Kashmir Affairs role, he represented India at the United Nations Security Council.
Ayyangar led the delegation representing India in the United Nations over the Kashmir dispute in 1948. In 1952, Prime Minister Nehru appointed him as India’s representative in the ongoing negotiations and discussions about Kashmir at the Geneva talks.
In 1946, Ayyangar was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India, which convened in December 1946 with Jawaharlal Nehru as its president. He was appointed to the thirteen-member Drafting Committee that formulated the Indian Constitution. He later drafted the Article 370.
The point that is made here is to bring out the southern Indian perspective to the Jammu and Kashmir issue and to highlight the fact that how much it differs from the Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan rhetoric that has lain seize of India’s heartland at the moment.
In such days of national reckoning it won’t be improper to cite the observation made by the Supreme Court on Article 370, dated April 3, 2018. The Apex Court said that the Article 370 of the Constitution conferring special status on Jammu and Kashmir and limiting the Central government’s power to make laws for the state has acquired permanent status through years of existence and making its abrogation impossible.
So those trying to solve the Kashmir problem by questioning the wisdom of article 370 should come out from their make believe worldview and first try know the background and understand its complexities of the problem before casting their judgment on an issue that is hogging limelight since more than 70 years or so.
[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at [email protected]]