Kashmir: Article 370 And Hermeneutic Violence

Over the   decades of Indian rule in J&K,  Kashmiris  have been  subjected  to physical and  psychological violence at various levels. The most  visible violence  is the physical violence  resorted to by the armed forces  to establish forcible control  over the populace. Another less visible violence is the  ideological violence  carried through a particular use of language  which embodies   the statist dominant ideology  like- Kashmir is  the  integral part of India  which is repeated with rhythmic  refrain day in and day out,  freedom struggle as  separatist   or  secessionist  movement and therefore  fit to  be denounced and crushed with  brute force with  almost a divine sanction, collaborators as mainstreamists  because they are the custodians  of colonial interests in Kashmir –  all these terms are used   to  lend currency  to   Indian state’s fictional perspective  on Kashmir  which  is  diametrically opposite  to our perception  of reality based  on  the historically authentic   and sacred  facts about the yet- to be – decided political status of  Kashmir.

Terms  particularly `separatists, secessionists  and’ anti nationals’  are used pejoratively  to ridicule  our genuine and justified  demands  and thereby  making the gullible among  us ashamed of raising  their  voice  in favour of  their basic rights. This violence is experienced by those of   us who have an understanding   of how language is used  to impose and enforce  an ideology  which is contradictory to our beliefs.

Another  violence is the  psychological  violence inflicted on the natives of  J&K  by engineering   regional, racial, communal  and  sectarian divisions  in the entire state which  breed and beget violence and hatred.

And on top of it all, is the violence of hermeneutics , the violence  inflicted on us through  a  particular interpretation of the basic relationship  between India and Kashmir (whose  legitimacy has been interrogated  by people)  encapsulated in Article 370 in the Indian constitution. In   reality, this interpretive or exegetic  violence seeks to justify and legitimise   violence at other levels mentioned above. This brand of  violence consists of  distorted, fabricated and forcibly  super-imposed interpretations  of the genesis, life span  and  the  redundancy of the article  at present  as if it had been  introduced    arbitrarily and fortuitously and  could be removed  in the same manner  without a whimper  of protest   from  those whose ethnic and political rights would be  adversely affected  by its removal  before the final resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

A lay person in Kashmir understands in unambiguous terms  that Article 370 was  sought to be introduced  in the Indian constitution  for an interim  relationship of Kashmir  with India  till its political identity was determined  by the exercise of the will of the people through  referendum. Its full-fledged identity was kept in abeyance, so to say   or in a kind of suspended animation, by virtue of this article till the dispute about its  political identity was resolved with Pakistan  by a reference  to the   people  of Kashmir.

Its nature is  not that  of an engagement   soon to be  formalised in marriage  but of a tenuous thread  of  connect  of a soon- to-be- divorced man and  woman . It was meant to give  Kashmir a temporary  subsidiary identity by alignment  till its political identity was defined and stabilized by the exercise of people’s own will.

But over the years and more so in recent  times  since Kashmiris  have risen  up in arms  against Indian state’s high-handedness,  there have been sinister efforts  by sponsored intellectuals, political parties  and even native stooges  to obfuscate Article 370 by giving weird, violent , wild and unwarranted  interpretations  of the genesis, nature , life span  and the desirability  of its abolition. This is done in total   disregard  of the historicity, context, and the reasons for its inclusion  in the Indian constitution.

At a time when the matter was very hot  internationally as the UN  Security Council had just passed  resolutions on Kashmir in 1948, 49 and 51, India  as a nascent state  could not  afford to brush aside the world  opinion  and put its ‘integral seal’ on Kashmir. Nehru’s  going  against the tide of his party and in particular the home  minister at the time, Sardar Patel  and even the constituent Assembly  and appointing Gopalaswamy as  a minister without portfolio to override the opposition of Patel,  sending him to the constituent Assembly to press for  its inclusion in the constitution  speaks volumes not so much of his affection for Sheikh Abdullah as  of his concern for international opinion.  It was neither his party nor  the constituent Assembly    that   were   answerable to the UN security Council  for any transgression or betrayal of the UN Resolutions  but  he  himself   as the Prime Minister of India was accountable  before the UN bodies. The stories of  the dilution of his  stand at the death of Patel that  this Article  was included for the slow integration of the state with the country ,  are not convincing and  his statements to this effect  seem   to be aimed at pleasing  the gallery.

There   seems  to be  nothing in the Article itself that  provides for its slow erosion   or for its transitory nature as a guarantor of the special status of Kashmir within the Indian Union. Its  temporary or transitional  nature is linked with the  yet-to-be arrived-at final resolution of Kashmir  that could be any time  in  the near future and   not   independent of it  . In other words,  it could  be removed, abrogated  or cancelled only when  Kashmir achieves its  complete  selfhood after having determined its political future. The RSS brigade et al that is spearheading  the movement  for its abrogation  and complete  integration  of the state with the Indian Union, are totally ignorant  or pretend to be ignorant of the facts  surrounding its inclusion in the Indian  constitution and subscribe to the  jungle law or more appropriately  to social Darwinism where every dream of destroying the  other with  might, is sought to be  fulfilled. The  so -called interpreters  are reducing the said  Article to the status of creative literature or art  that can be interpreted the way  it accords  with  one’s  innermost thoughts and feelings  because creative language is more often than not dialogic, suggestive of poly-valency and plurality of signification and therefore lends itself to multiple interpretations  even those that are mutually exclusive. That is not true of   legal  language particularly  the  one  that seeks to  define the terms of practical relations between the two parties, or countries or groups.

The utmost care is taken to remove the slightest ambiguity so far as the world of praxis is concerned. I do not  think  that  this  Article is craftily – drafted as is opined by some legal experts. Rather its erosion is sought to be   effected   from outside, by the  manipulated   and imposed stooge  Governments  in Kashmir whose concurrence  could easily be   ensured  in extending  erosive central laws  on Kashmir  and whose easy  concurrence  on diluting  the  powers of the state  by overriding some    sections  of 370,  has   already considerably  disempowered  Kashmiris politically.

The last nail in the coffin of integrationists  is not that it could be  dissolved   only by  a constituent Assembly which does not exist any longer   but that Article 1 of the Indian constitution which defines the territory of Indian Union,   is subservient  to Article 370 in case of Kashmir  besides other articles like 253, read with 246etc which provide for Kashmir’s secession from Indian Union. Once  Article 370 is taken away from the constitution,  Article 1 will cease to be applicable  to J&K  state!  In short ,  the inclusion of Article 370 in the Indian constitution is the literal, legal and   symbolic  acknowledgement  of  Kashmir’s disputed nature  and the provisional status of the relationship between the two in the overall scheme of things.

Prof Hameedah Nayeem,a political commentator and a committed social activist, teaches at the University of Kashmir. She has been on the forefront of the advocacy of human rights with emphasis on women’rights. 

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