The recent controversy over hoisting the J&K state flag alongside the national Tricolour has once again brought to limelight the urgent need to abrogate the temporary Article 370 to ensure full integration of the state with the rest of the country, for which Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerji had laid down his life to become the first martyr for the unity of truncated India.
Dr Mookerji closely watched the developments in Jammu and Kashmir state, which had been given a special status under pressure of Sheikh Abdullah through addition of a new, temporary Article 370 in the Constitution. Abdullah exploited it to make the state a virtually independent republic with a separate Constitution, flag and head of state. This created a strong reaction in the people of Jammu and Ladakh, who wanted the state to be an integral part of the country with equal rights and obligations, while it created a feeling in the Kashmir valley that Kashmir was not a part of India and that its future was yet to be settled.
The resultant unrest made Dr Mookerji visit Jammu and Kashmir in July 1952, to make an on-the-spot study of the situation there. He was touched by the patriotic fervour of the people of Jammu, who greeted him with the slogan “Ek Desh Mein Do Vidhan, Do Nishan, Do Pradhan —Nahin Chalenge, Nahin Chalenge, Nahi Chalenge (Two Constitutions, two flags and two Prime Ministers in one country cannot be accepted).”
Dr Mookerji discussed the matter with Sheikh Abdullah as well. Abdullah explained that Kashmir valley, being Muslim majority, its people cannot trust a Hindu majority Parliament and Central government and, therefore, a special status was necessary to assure them of their separate identity. It amounted to virtual acceptance of a three-nation theory, according to which India, Pakistan and Kashmir were not only three separate states but also separate nations.
After his return to Delhi, he wrote to Nehru about his experience and warned him that persistence in his Kashmir policy would lead to a further partition of the country. He asked Nehru to re-think about Article 370 as Dr Mookerji wanted its immediate abrogation.
Sadly, nothing has changed since 1952. In fact, India’s dithering and continuous bungling with regard to the temporary Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir is bolstering the enemy further.
Nehru wrote back that he had given his word of honour to Sheikh Abdullah about the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and would not go back on it.
Dr Mookerji then suggested that Kashmir valley be given special status for some time, but it should not be imposed on Jammu and Ladakh, whose people want to be one with the rest of India without any reservation. He repeated this suggestion in his presidential address in the first plenary session of Bharatiya Jan Sangh at Kanpur in December, 1952, where he said, “To pander to such views (of Sheikh Abdullah) in regard to Kashmir would be grossly communal and retrograde. In spite of all this, we would readily agree to treat Kashmir valley with Sheikh Abdullah as its head in any special manner and for such time as he would like, but Jammu and Ladakh must be fully integrated with India according to the wishes of their people.”
By that time, Praja Parishad had started its satyagraha for full integration of J&K state with the rest of India. Dozens of its workers had been shot dead while hoisting the national Tricolour in public buildings in Jammu and elsewhere. On the request of Pandit Prem Nath Dogra, the president of Jammu Praja Parishad, Dr Mookerji again visited Jammu in May 1953. That proved to be his last journey. The mysterious medical murder of Dr Mookerji, who was arrested and detained for taking up the cause of the full integration of Jammu and Kashmir state with the rest of India and abrogation of temporary Article 370 of the Constitution on 23 June 1953, came as a stunning blow to not only the Jan Sangh, but also to the entire nationalist India.
The stubborn refusal of Pandit Nehru to institute a judicial inquiry into Dr Mookerji’s mysterious death, in spite of near unanimous demand from Parliament, created doubts about his role in this national calamity.
Dr Mookerji’s sacrifice forced Nehru to take action against Abdullah — who was dismissed and put in jail — and start the process of integration of J&K state with the rest of India. But he failed to carry the process to its logical end. Dr Mookerji’s suggestion that the state should be reorganised on the basis of geography and history, and that Jammu and Ladakh should be integrated with the rest of India, as desired by their people and some special status might be granted to Kashmir valley for some time, is as relevant today as it was in 1952, when it was first made.
Had it been accepted and implemented in time, the lives of thousands of jawans and officers of the Indian Armed Forces and tens of thousands of crores of public money could have been saved, and problems in regard to that part of the J&K state that remained de facato and de jure part of India even after the forcible occupation of a big chunk of the state by Pakistan and China, could have been solved to the satisfaction of the people of Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir valley within the frame-work of the Indian Constitution.
Had Dr Mookerji’s life not been cut short at the young age of 52, he would have surely become the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India and given a new nationalist and realistic orientation to politics and policies of India.
Sadly, nothing has changed since 1952. In fact, India’s dithering and continuous bungling with regard to the temporary Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir is bolstering the enemy further. The flag controversy is indicative of the mindset that feels that Kashmir does not belong to India and that its future is yet to be settled. The audacious Pathankot attack by Pakistan should well be seen in this context to devise an appropriate Pakistan policy.
Prof Bal Raj Madhok is one of the founders of the Jan Sangh.