Jammu & Kashmir and Article 370: Gordian knots have been cut, not untied

Some very decent, intelligent and highly educated people, a few of whom are good friends of mine, are shocked and astonished by what the government has pulled off in Kashmir — reducing its status from a full-blown state to a Union Territory. 

The shock is also because Home Minister Amit Shah used a provision of Article 370 which gave Kashmir a special status to demolish that special status. So they have cried foul on being constitutionally Mankaded.

The astonishment is because the move is so breathtakingly clever. Only Amit Shah could have thought of it and only Narendra Modi could have approved it. It is 'Chanakya-niti' at its very best. 

They have done something like the inventor of a scoop behind the wicket-keeper — that too off a fast bowler. Most purists, it might be recalled, had clucked disapprovingly and said this was not cricket. 

But analogies from cricket aside, let me ask two questions. 

First question: Did someone forget to tell the Kashmiri Muslims that Article 370 was temporary? How is it that the Kashmiri Muslims who threw out the Hindus in 1990 — my sister-in-law is a Kashmiri pandit — started believing that their special status was cast in stone when in fact it was not? 

Indeed, it had been gradually whittled away over the years, most notably by the Congress icon Indira Gandhi. Yet, their leaders perpetuated the myth that Article 370 was forever. 

No liberal is calling these people to account. Instead, they are complaining that Modi and Shah have committed a huge constitutional crime. 

But nothing could be further from the truth. They have used the Constitution to undo a flaw in it. You have to be peculiarly perverse to call that a constitutional crime.

Second question: Which Muslims of Kashmir were promised a special status? The ones born after 1975 or before? In 1975 Indira Gandhi had all but undone Article 370.

This is important because the ones born before it knew that Article 370 was a trick played by Sheikh Abdullah on Jawaharlal Nehru, who made sure it was temporary. We will never know why Nehru allowed himself to be tricked.

But tricked he was, otherwise why would he have made it clear in the Constitution and to Parliament that it was temporary? He knew it was a piece of nonsense, as no less than B R Ambedkar had insisted. Removing nonsense from the Constitution is not a crime against it; it is beneficial to it.

Why Union Territory

The problem in Kashmir, which has received around Rs 30 trillion since 1990, was mis-governance. This happened because over the last two decades the state's politicians replaced the IAS and the IPS officers as district magistrate/collectors and Superintendents of Police with loyalists. 

These were not people promoted from the provincial civil service into the Class One services. Many were not even on the merit list. They were just loyalists, plain and simple. In fact, most of the government employees were aligned with one leader or the other. The only way to restore proper norms of governance was to remove the leaders, and that was why the state had to cease to be a state. 

Modi and Shah have cut the Gordian knot — which should never have been there in the first place — because as Alexander is said to have reasoned when he had to unravel it, it would make no difference how it was done.

So he simply cut it.   


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