J&K; Congress was not like what it is today
PROF HARI OM
Notwithstanding the fact that Nehru-Gandhis complicated matters for the nation in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) by according it a special status on purely religious grounds in October 1947 and handing over the State power to the votaries of plebiscite in February 1975, it did take a few corrective measures also to rectify some of their mistakes and salvage the situation. Jawaharlal Nehru, who had transferred political power from Jammu to the Kashmir-based pro-autonomy National Conference (NC) father and founder, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, in 1947, had him dethroned and arrested on 9th August, 1953 on the charge of sedition. Sheikh Abdullah remained behind bars for 11 years and became irrelevant for all practical purposes.
Similarly, Indira Gandhi, who had brought back to power the deflated Sheikh Abdullah in 1975 after bringing down her own party’s government, withdrew support to his government in 1977 on similar grounds. She said since Sheikh Abdullah had become a “threat” to national security, it had become imperative to remove him from the sensitive office of Chief Minister. In 1975, Sheikh Abdullah disbanded his Plebiscite Front and revived NC. Indira Gandhi got dismissed the government of Sheikh Abdullah’s son, Farooq Abdullah, in 1984 as well. She defended her action saying Farooq Abdullah, like his father, had become a “threat” to national security. In both cases, the Jammu-based lawmakers supported all the endeavours of Indira Gandhi.
Between August 1953 and 1984, a number of definite and progressive steps were taken by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and others like Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to integrate J&K with India politically and constitutionally. The process was smooth. There was no coercion. As many as 260 out of 395 Articles of the Indian Constitution were extended to the State with the concurrence of the State Government. 94 out of 97 Entries in the Union List were applied to the State. 26 out of 47 Entries in the Concurrent List were also applied to the State. Not just this, seven out of 12 Schedules of the Indian Constitution were made applicable to the State in letter and spirit.
In between, the State witnessed three very significant developments in 1965. That year, the NC merged its identity with the Congress and the first ever Congress government came into being in the State with Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq as Chief Minister. Besides, the same year, the offices of Sadar-Riyasat (Head of State) and Wazir-e-Azam (Head of Government) were abolished and the offices of Governor and Chief Minister introduced to bring J&K at par with other States of the Union. Other developments that integrated the State into India included the extension of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, Comptroller and Auditor-General and Election Commission, abolition of the obnoxious permit (read visa) system, repeal of Section 75 of the J&K Constitutional Act of 1939 under which the Council of Ministers, and not the J&K High Court of Judicature, was the final interpreter of the constitution and repeal of the highly draconian J&K Press and Publication Act of 1932 under which the Council of Ministers could seize any press on the ground that it had published or carried a seditious (read anti-government) article.
The most significant aspect of the whole situation was that the Congress governments at the Centre also applied at least 19 mote Central laws to Jammu and Kashmir between 1975 and 1990. This was the period when National Conference, the votary of greater autonomy and limited accession, was at the helm of affairs in the State.
All these political and constitutional reforms helped the people of the State and democratised the polity to an extent. It was hoped that the process of integration, which was started with the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah, would go on unabated and the remaining Articles, Entries in the Union List and Concurrent List and Schedules would be introduced in the State. But it was not to be. Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded Indira Gandhi after her assassination in Tamil Nadu in 1984, instead of maintaining distance from Farooq Abdullah, befriended him and concluded a power-sharing truce with him — a development that culminated in the deadly secessionist movement in 1987 in the wake of wholesale rigging in the Assembly election held the same year and which continues to bloody and convulse the State’s political scene at regular intervals. Ever since then, the Congress has been hobnobbing with anti-Indian Constitution forces and overtly and covertly promoting fissiparous tendencies.
The result is that the Congress has lost its sheen and appeal in J&K. Today, it has only 13 MLAs in the 87-member Assembly and all are non-Hindu. Four each are from Jammu province and Kashmir Valley and three from Ladakh.
The Congress leadership has to think and re-think as to why the Congress, which ruled the State either on its own or in alliance with the NC or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for decades, has become a marginal political player in the State in general and Jammu province in particular. Jammu province was the core constituency of the Congress.