Published On: Mon, Dec 9th, 2013

Narendra Modi’s Kashmir Narrative & Kashmiri Response

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

Unless common sense has taken leave of the otherwise very intelligent people of Jammu and Kashmir, they would not endure the blame of being status quoists and sit idle in the present and disregard the fact that they have to dream for an ever changing future. It is equally true that all decisions about the future affecting their children and grandchildren could not be taken today by the present generation. Most of it has to be left to the future generations.

In this context BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi presented his Kashmir Narrative on Sunday 1stDecember 2013 at a public rally in Jammu. One would have hoped a well-considered response from main stream political parties (people in Government), Hurriyat (claiming to represent the sentiment), civil society and the common man and woman. It is disappointing that response to Narendra Modi’s political narrative on Kashmir remained the routine runaway kind of unimpressive cut it short reply. Modi referred to two different subjects, namely, Article 370 and the State Subject Law. These two subjects have been impacting the life of the common man and woman and Modi has rightly raised the question whether the benefit has been all inclusive, or only 50 families in the state remain beneficiaries.

State Subject Law is a pre-1947 law and dates back to 20 April 1927. In addition to J & K the law is applicable in other two parts of the State currently administered by Pakistan. State Subject Law is defended at Muzaffarabad and Gilgit and the people of the State have a duty to conserve their identity as much as possible, to be able to stand up for a count in regard to the final disposition of the future of the State. The law came into force in 1927 on the principle of “Positive Discrimination” applicable in many countries of the world today.

It was to reduce the impact and insulate the State’s people against a common exploitation suffered at the hands of their favoured immigrants and well to do neighbours. Even during the British India the State Subject would be recognised as a citizen of the British India during his travel abroad and would at the same time retain his Sate Subject status. It is happening even today and a State Subject from AJK and Gilgit and Baltistan currently administered by Pakistan during his travel abroad has to carry an endorsement in his Pakistani Passport as the “Former State Subject”. The question whether the State Subject is gender sensitive or not has its own merits and demerits. The question has to be appreciated against the special history of oppression and political struggle of the people. Therefore, I would leave any further dilation of the State Subject Law at this reference.

Narendra Modi sought a debate on Article 370 on the basis whether it has helped the common man and woman or just 50 families in the State. It is a serious challenge and seeking a public debate is the civilised means to bring issues of public interest in the open and in the proximity of common people to understand. In fact a similar debate has to be encouraged in AJK and Gilgit and Baltistan to ascertain whether UNCIP Resolutions relied upon by Pakistan in assuming responsibilities in AJK and GB, in particular under Constitution Act 1974, have been of any benefit to the common people or the arrangement has been benefiting the vested interests in Islamabad and some families in AJK.

Unfortunately the Kashmiri response has been unimpressive and misdirected. It should not concern the Kashmiri leadership, whether BJP has shifted its position from scrapping Article 370 to a public debate. Narendra Modi as BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate has to be taken with respect and due political sagacity. He has a right to revise himself on any issue including Article 370. We should welcome him if he has graduated in wisdom on the sensitivities of Kashmir and has revisited his narrative on Article 370 in the interests of the people.

An unbiased appreciation of the conduct of Kashmiri politicians since August 1947 to date, when they first addressed the two Dominions of India and Pakistan for a Stand Still Agreement goes to support the argument of Narendra Modi that common man and woman were never a concern in any bilateral discussion or agreement with the Governments at Delhi or at Islamabad. Delhi continued to broker a deal with a few in Kashmir (Srinagar in particular) and the common man and woman were never a part of an honest effort to empower them. The mechanism of control and management continues even today. There is a serious disconnect and trust deficit between the common people and the decision making apparatus in Delhi. A common Kashmiri is not a part of any political debate run on NDTV or Agenda Aaj Tak. It is a glamorous politics and 99.8 % Kashmiris are not part of it.

Narendra Modi represents a fair share of Indian sentiment and his invitation or challenge to debate Article 370 has its own national and international dimensions. Modi is now on record to have asked the Kashmiri leaders, “For the past 60 years they talked about separate state (autonomy) but what did people get? Nothing. And there is no accountability. In the name of separate state, they encouraged separatism. It would have been better if they focused on creating a super state.”

There is merit in the statement to find out whether the collateral benefit of the common people during the last 60 years has been duly protected or not. In regard to the demand of Autonomy for the State, he said “it is an issue for their own self as they don’t want it for the people.” It is an exproprio vigour argument and begs a satisfactory answer.

He accused the state government of indulging in corruption and said the Prevention of Corruption Act is applicable everywhere other than Jammu and Kashmir. A cry of corruption is heard at the international level and if the people of Kashmir continue to accept to be part of this corruption, no one is going to consider them as ‘equal people’ for the right of ‘self-determination’.

BJP leader made an interesting point in regard to two kinds of tourism. He said Saundarya aur Shradha ke liye acha tourism hai yahan par (J&K is a good place for natural beauty and religious tourism). The economic activity on the basis of natural beauty and religious tourism has a day to day future in Kashmir. It does not impede or go to war against any sentiment of Azadi or Autonomy.

Modi referred to Bollywood celebrating its 100 years and said, “A lot of films were shot here. Why couldn’t J&K get a film institute? Sadly they are not interested in development and progress.” He also said why the government can’t consider a route to Kailash Mansarovar from Leh to boost tourism in Ladakh region. Modi has acted as a people’s spokesperson. “I am not here to talk about Hindu and Muslim. I am here speaking on behalf of 1.25 crore residents of Jammu and Kashmir. We have to end the divisive mind-set and instead make effort to bring people together.”

One can see he has not been as heartless as the Kashmiri leadership. It is not only the main stream politicians, Hurriyat, schools outside Hurriyat but every citizen of Jammu and Kashmir has to ponder upon Modi’s statement, that “They call Jammu Kashmir a beggar state but the state will prove it is a better state and not a beggar state. It would have been better if the Government had thought of making Jammu and Kashmir a super state instead of a separate state.” As a responsible Kashmiri I can appreciate that Autonomy or Azadi does not stand in the way of taking the people from a process of life into enjoying a quality of life.

It needs to be admitted that BJP prime-ministerial candidate has rejuvenated the BJP narrative on Kashmir. He has not only reiterated the earlier vision of Vajpayee but has added to the narrative in a significant manner. Modi said his party would carry forward the initiatives in Jammu and Kashmir on the principles of “Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat and Kashmiriyat” as envisioned by the former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He reiterated that BJP will follow the path shown by Vajpayee “which is within the ambit of democracy and humanity.” He said, “The three mantras shown by Vajpayee will remain the principles of BJP in reaching out to the people of J&K and solving the Kashmir issue.”

In regard to Article 370 one does not need to reduce the discussion to a single column. However, it may add to the existing wisdom of parties on the subject that, “The relationship of Kashmir with India was initiated on a federal basis and there was a clear “division of sovereignty between the Centre and this State, which is normal feature of a federation”. Beyond the powers transferred by the State to the Union, “the State enjoyed complete residuary sovereignty”.

The Megher Singh v Principal Secretary, J & K Government decided by Janki Nath Wazir CJ and Shahmiri J of J & K High Court in 1953, Sant Singh v State decided by J & K High Court and the observations of Supreme Court of India in Prem Nath v State of Jammu and Kashmir (AIR 1959 SC 749) have settled the issues in regard to the effects of Article 370 and the residuary sovereignty of the State. Yet there is no bar on a debate and it is inevitable. Pakistan has already said that it would have no problem to work with Narendra Modi if he is elected as Prime Minister of India.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. He is on UN register as an expert in Peace Keeping, Humanitarian Operations and Election Monitoring Missions. He is an advocate of Supreme Court and could be reached on email

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