Amid Mutiny Over Article 370, Congress Needs to Learn from Gandhi Family Friendship With Abdullahs
The opposition to Amit Shah’s Kashmir moves has to be calibrated and measured so that the Congress is not seen as toeing a Pakistan line.
File photo of Jawaharlal Nehru with Indira Gandhi. (Getty Images)
National interest cannot be defined as a common interest of the industrial, commercial, and financial companies of a country, because there is no such common interest; nor can it be defined as the life, liberty, and well-being of the citizens, because they are continually being adjured to sacrifice their well-being, their liberty, and their lives to the national interest― Simone Weil
Staring at a spontaneous mutiny of sorts over dramatic Jammu and Kashmir developments, the Congress needs to adopt pragmatic approach, keep country’s interests paramount and manage contradictions.
A quick look at its own stalwarts -- Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi -- would show how the three Gandhis dealt with Kashmir. If academic writings are tough to comprehend, an open house session with Pranab Mukherjee as a lecturer would suffice, giving Congress leaders much needed clarity and talking points.
Nehru was guided by national interest when Sheikh Abdullah government was dismissed on August 8, 1953, days after slogans of ‘Indian army must get out of Kashmir’ were heard in the Valley. For years, Nehru’s best friend languished in jail because Prime Minister Nehru felt that India’s national interests subsumed those of Kashmir’s, or his friendship.
In 1957, Nehru’s friend and defence minister Krishna Menon had told the UN Security Council that “self-determination was a principle which could be applied to dependent territories governed by a colonial power; it could not be used in regard to a constituent unit like Minnesota which forms part of the federal union”.
Govind Vallabh Pant, who was home minister in the Nehru cabinet, had articulated in 1955 that “the constituent assembly of Kashmir which was elected on the basis of adult franchise has taken a definite decision. While I am not oblivious of the initial declaration made by the government of India (about plebiscite), I cannot ignore the important series of facts…”
In 1962, Krishna Menon again reminded the UN Security Council of how Pakistan had failed to honour its commitment and conditions for plebiscite and how UN resolution had become obsolete due to Kashmiris participating and expressing their democratic will in Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
“On no condition shall we sell our heritage. On no condition shall we open the door for the disruption and disintegration of India…” the defence minister had remarked.
Towards the end of his life, Nehru had ordered the release of Sheikh Abdullah but the Lal Bahaur Shastri regime had him arrested again on suspicion of hobnobbing with foreign powers. Subsequently, Indira Gandhi got Sheikh Abdullah released, signed an accord and made a Congress ministry in J&K, headed by Syed Mir Qasim, step down in favour of Sheikh Abdullah.
This act of wisdom and farsightedness was unique in parliamentary democracy. Even as Sheikh Abdullah turned against Indira Gandhi and his son Farooq against Rajiv Gandhi, Rajiv signed an accord with Farooq on October 31, 1987 which paved the way for his appointment as chief minister. Politically, Rajiv-Farooq friendship, however, proved disastrous as it created a vacuum that was filled by secessionist and extremist groups.
The present-day Congress needs to showcase its Kashmir policy to convince its own cadre that it is solely guided by the national interest. As a national party of some consequence, the Congress is a stakeholder everywhere -- in Ladakh, Jammu region and, of course, in the Valley.
The opposition to the measures adopted by Amit Shah and Narendra Modi has to be calibrated and measured so that the grand old party is not seen as toeing a Pakistan line. It would be both travesty and insult to the Congress and its stalwarts who fought tooth and nail against Pakistan, and who won three decisive wars and consistently represented the will of the Indian people vis-à-vis Kashmir affairs.
In February 1994, a Congress government headed by PV Narasimha Rao had got a resolution unanimously adopted in Parliament. It read, “Kashmir has been and shall remain a part of India…”
It is time for the Congress to reassert and own up these achievements than to merely champion the cause of the Valley.
(Rasheed Kidwai is a visiting Fellow with the Observer Research Foundation. Views are personal)
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