Kashmir: Article 370 And Hermeneutic Violence
By Prof. Hameedah Nayeem
03 January, 2014
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.
Hameedah Nayeem teaches in the university of Kashmir ,dept of English. She has been on the forefront of the advocacy of human rights with emphasis on women'rights .a political commentator and a committed social activist.
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