PROF SHAMSUL ISLAM | Caravan Daily
ONE of the “truths” manufactured in the boudhik shivirs (ideological training camps) of the RSS is that it was Jawaharlal Nehru who forced Article 370 on India while Sardar Patel, the first home minister of India was opposed to it.
The RSS leaders both inside the Modi government and outside ceaselessly keep on blaming Jawaharlal Nehru as the sole architect of Article 370, giving Kashmir special status. After this Article was guillotined on August 5, 2019 PM Modi was eulogized as one great leader who completed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s dream of ‘Ek Bharat’. Ram Madhav, the current prominent ideologue of both the RSS and BJP declared that “Historic blunder committed by JL Nehru finally corrected.”[i] It is also claimed that removal of Article 370 is the realization of the dream of ‘martyr’ like Syama Prasad Mukherjee who laid down his life for full integration of Kashmir with India.
Thus RSS/BJP rulers claim that Jawaharlal Nehru was solely responsible for inserting Article 370 in the Indian Constitution despite Sardar Patel’s opposition. This is an atrocious claim even an iota of which is not corroborated by the contemporary official documents specially those documents which originated from the office of the Sardar Patel. On the contrary, the plethora of these documents concerning accession of Kashmir to India proves that Sardar Patel was part of the constitutional process through which Article 370 was inserted in the Constitution. Let us revisit some of the crucial ones to know how maliciously Nehru is being presented as the villain of Article 370.
SARDAR PATEL FACILITATED ITS ADOPTION BY THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY WHILE NEHRU WAS IN USA ON OFFICIAL TOUR
Vidya Shankar, a senior ICS (predecessor of IAS) was private secretary to Sardar (1946-50) and was latter’s most trusted advisor. He compiled and edited Sardar Patel’s correspondence in two bulky volumes which are regarded as the most authentic record of Sardar’s ideas and works.
Shankar in his introductory note to the section of correspondence on Jammu and Kashmir (chapter 3), in fact, sings the praises of Sardar for getting it passed despite hurdles. It is through Shankar we come to know that when Article 370 was cleared by the Constituent Assembly of India (CA), Nehru was not in India being away to the USA on an official visit.
“One of Sardar’s notable achievements in relation to Jammu and Kashmir was the addition of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, which defines the relation of the State to India. This matter was handled by Gopalaswami Ayyangar in consultation with Shiekh Abdullah and his Ministry and with the approval of Pandit Nehru. Although Nehru was himself away in the United States, at the time, his approval had been taken in advance to the draft formula. But Sardar had not been consulted. The Congress party in the Constituent Assembly was strongly, even violently, opposed to the draft article which gave a special position to the State.
On principle, an opinion in the party was that Kashmir should accept the Constitution on the same terms as other States; and in particular, the provision that basic articles, e. g. Fundamental Rights as enshrined in the Constitution would not apply to the State was greatly resented. Gopalaswami Ayyangar failed to carry conviction and sought Sardar’s intervention. Sardar was anxious, in the absence of Nehru, that nothing should be done which would appear as letting him down. In the absence of Nehru Sardar, therefore, undertook the task of persuading the party to change stand. He carried out the task with such success that in the Assembly there was not much discussion, and no much discussion, and no opposition to the Article (370).”[ii]
Thus Sardar actively participated in formulating the Article 370 and getting the nod of the Constituent Assembly. He corroborated this fact in a letter to Nehru dated November 3, 1949 when he wrote that
“There was some difficulty about the provision relating to Kashmir…I could persuade the party to accept all the changes except the last one, which was modified so as to cover not merely the first Ministry so appointed but any subsequent Ministries which may be appointed under that proclamation”.[iii]
MANUFACTURING HISTORY: THE RSS WAY
Article 370 (originally numbered 306A) came for discussion before the CA on October 17, 1949, with President of the CA, Dr Rajendra Prasad in the chair. Gopalaswami Ayyangar moved the resolution by reading the proposed Article with a long comment. In the course of debate only one member, Maulana Hasrat Mohani drew attention towards discrimination meted to the ruler of Baroda State. He stated:
“Sir, I want to make it clear at the very outset that I am neither opposed to all these concessions being granted to my Friend Sheikh Abdullah, not am I opposed to the acceptance of the Maharaja as the ruler of Kashmir. And if the Maharaja of Kashmir gets further powers and concessions I will be very glad…But may I ask a question? When you make all these concessions for Kashmir I most strongly object to your arbitrary act of compelling the Baroda State to be merged in Bombay. The administration of Baroda state is better than the administration of many other Indian Provinces. It is scandalous that you should compel the Maharaja of Baroda to have his raj merged in Bombay and himself pensioned off. Some people say that he himself voluntarily accepted this meager. I know it is an open secret that he was brought from England and compelled against his will…”[iv]
At this point Dr Rajendra Prasad intervened] “Maulana, we are not concerned with the Maharaja of Baroda here” to which Maulana responded with the following words:
“Well, I would not go into any detail. But I say that I object to this sort of thing. If you grant these concessions to the Maharaja of Kashmir you should also withdraw your decision about the merger of Baroda into Bombay and allow all these concessions and many more concessions to the Baroda ruler also.”[v]
Shockingly, Ram Madhav uses only 3 words of Malan’s comment “Why this discrimination?” to prove in a true Goebbelsian tradition that even a Maulana had raised questions about the discriminatory nature of the Article 370![vi] On the contrary, Maulana was not only supporting the Article 370 but also demanding such provisions for Baroda ruler who despite running an enlightened government was removed and his State forced to merge with Bombay.
SARDAR PATEL, SYAMA PRASAD MUKHERJEE AND OTHER HINDU MEMBERS OF CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY AGREED TO ARTICLE 370
RSS bandwagon of liars consciously tries to keep under wrap the actual debate on the Article 370 in the CA. It took just less than half a day for the CA to admit Article 370 in the Constitution and apart from Dr Rajendra Prasad and Gopalaswami Ayyangar senior Hindu leaders, namely, Pandit Thakurdas Bhargava, RK Sidhwa, Pandit Hirday Nath Kunzuru, K Santhanam and Mahavir Tyagi participated in the discussion; none opposed the ratification. It is to be noted that many of the members were known as Hindu nationalists.
More importantly, Syama Prasad Mukherjee was also a member of the CA and signed the Constitution on November 26, 1949, with Article 370 intact. He did not think it fit even to mildly express his unease against the special status of Jammu & Kashmir which was done by a Hindu nationalist member, Jaspat Roy Kapoor while discussing the Draft Constitution on November 21, 1949. He said: “I only wish that Kashmir should also have been brought in on the same level as other States but, unfortunately, much to our dissatisfaction and chagrin, if I may say so, this would not be done. This is a delicate subject and I will not say anything more on it.”[vii]
TASK FOR CONGRESS
Sadly, to the dismay of those who have faith in the democratic-secular Constitution of India, Congress which should have confronted the Hindutva Goebbels in and outside Parliament on falsifying its own history regarding the Article 370 as one witnessed dissensions. Some of the leading young Congress members of Parliament fell prey to the divisive game of RSS by voting with the government. A senior Congress leader, Maharaja Karan Singh son of Maharaja Hari Singh too supported the discard of Article 370.
It is soothing that Congress as a party stood in defence of the Indian Constitution. But it should have proactive in resisting the RSS/BJP Juggernaut’s narrative that it was Nehru who single-handedly forced Article 370 on the Indian Nation. Congress should have confronted Amit Shah with contemporary documented facts. When the CA gave green signal to Article 370 Nehru was away from the country and Sardar Patel facilitated its adoption. Those who hold Nehru responsible for it are, in fact, denigrating 299 Honourable members of the CA (which included Sardar Patel and Syama Prasad Mukherjee) were Nehru’s bonded labourers. Can the RSS/BJP produce one statement either from Sardar Patel or Mukherjee (who was a minister in the first Nehru ministry from August 15, 1947 to April 6, 1950) disowning this Article? Can the Hindutva rulers prove that both these leaders did not sign the Constitution as members of the CA since it contained Article 370?
It is a brazen denigration of the whole of the CA. Nehru becomes a punching bag because Congress which is supposed to defend his democratic and secular heritage is passing through a phase of inertia. It could be due to the ignorance about its glorious past. It is hoped that Congress leadership will realize that the issue is not survival of the Congress or any other party but the survival of our constitutional polity.
[ii] Shankar, V, (ed.), Select Correspondence of Sardar Patel 1945-50, vol. 1, Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1977, pp. 220-21.
[iii] Letter reproduced in Shankar, V, (ed.), Select Correspondence of Sardar Patel 1945-50, vol. 1, Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1977, p. 373.
[iv] Constituent Assembly Debates, vol. X, Lok Sabha Secretariat, Delhi, 2003 [4th reprint], pp. 421-429.
[v] Constituent Assembly Debates, vol. X, Lok Sabha Secretariat, Delhi, 2003 [4th reprint], pp. 421-429.
[vii] Constituent Assembly Debates, vol. XI, Lok Sabha Secretariat, Delhi, 2003 [4th reprint], p. 762.
(Shamsul Islam is a retired Professor of University of Delhi. The article first appeared in countercurrents. The views are personal and Caravan does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.)