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Modi says Sardar Patel would have handled Kashmir differently, history says otherwise

Arti Ghargi

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Nehru

Considering the prejudiced approach to understating Kashmir issue and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s role in it, one would tend to believe what Modi said was correct.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dislike of Jawaharlal Nehru is not a secret. Some might say, as the opponent party PM Modi attacking Congress’ roots is quite fair in politics. However, from the nature of the attacks, it is evident that Modi perhaps despises Nehru personally. On February 7, addressing the Lok Sabha amidst the ruckus by the opposition, Modi accused Congress of partition. Modi said, “The country was partitioned, the seeds of poison were sown. You divided the country for electoral and petty gains…people are suffering even today.” Then turning to the issue of Kashmir, he said, “Had Sardar Patel been the Prime Minister of the country, a part of my Kashmir would not have been with Pakistan.”

Considering the prejudiced approach to understating Kashmir issue and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s role in it, one would tend to believe what Modi said was correct. However, going through the pages of history would easily give us a peek into all the political turmoil surrounding Kashmir during the time of independence.

PM Modi’s claim that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as Prime Minister of India would have ensured the entire Kashmir including PoK to be ours; when weighed on the balance of facts, lacks credibility. To understand the roles of both Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel on Kashmir, we first need to understand their thoughts on Kashmir.

Kashmir and Junagadh:

Junagadh, a state on the southwestern end of Gujarat had an overwhelming Hindu population. It was ruled by a Muslim ruler Manabhar Khanji. On August 15, 1947; Nawab of Junagarh acceded to Pakistan. While Jinnah accepted the accession, Patel, on the other hand, considered it not legitimate. Patel feared that if Junagadh accedes to Pakistan, it would lead to communal unrest in surrounding regions of Gujarat. He also felt that by accepting Junagadh which had dominant Hindu population, Pakistan itself is contradicting two nation theory proposed by Jinnah. Not able to reach any definite conclusion, Patel suggested giving Pakistan time to void the accession and hold a plebiscite in Junagadh. Samaldas Gandhi formed a government-in-exile of the people of Junagarh. Later, Patel ordered the annexation of Junagarh’s three principalities. Junagarh, facing financial collapse, invited the Government of India to accept the reins of power.

Sardar Patel

Nawab of Junagadh, Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III

Contrary to Junagadh, Kashmir had a predominantly Muslim population and it was ruled by Hindu King Raja Hari Singh. According to historical documents, Maharaja Hari Singh too was hesitant to accede to India as a majority of the state’s population was Muslim. However, instead of acceding to Pakistan, he signed a Standstill Agreement (preserving status quo) with it. In the meantime, the rumours of Kashmir acceding to India spread through Pakistan, after which Pakistan army marched in to take Kashmir by force. In September 1947, Pashtun tribals backed by Pakistani paramilitary forces invaded Kashmir. Kashmir being ill-equipped on the security front, asked for India’s help. However, Indian constitution did not permit the armed forces to intervene in Kashmir as it did not come under India’s territory. Desperate to save the state, Maharaja acceded Kashmir to India and signed the Instrument of Accession. The rest is History that is reminded to us every day without fail.

Sardar Patel

Hindu King of Kashmir Raja Hari Singh

Sardar Patel and Kashmir:

Many people still think Sardar Patel would have handled the Kashmir issue in a very profound manner than Nehru. But unlike their belief, Sardar Patel had always called the Kashmir issue as ‘a severe headache’. The first ever mention of this is found in Integration of the Indian States, a book written by V P Menon, the former political adviser to Mountbatten in 1956. Lord Mountbatten, while on his Kashmir visit two months before independence told Hari Singh that India would not consider it unfriendly if Kashmir decides to accede to Pakistan. Viceroy though also cared to add, “he had a firm assurance on this from Sardar Patel himself”.

The second mention is found in My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel, written by V Shankar, then political secretary to Patel. Shankar wrote that while Mahatma Gandhi had pinned his hope on Raja Hari Singh to join India, Sardar Patel had no reservations over Kashmir Joining Pakistan.

Sardar Patel

Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru with Mahatma Gandhi

In his 1991 biography, Patel: A Life, writer and historian Rajamohan Gandhi throws more light on Patel’s stand on Kashmir. He writes, “Vallabhbhai’s lukewarmness about Kashmir had lasted until September 13, 1947. However, Patel’s attitude changed later that same day — when he heard that Pakistan had accepted Junagadh’s plea for accession.”

Sardar Patel Centenary Volume 2 also mentions an excerpt from Patel’s speech in Junagadh. Patel says, “Pakistan attempted to set off Kashmir against Junagadh. When we raised the question of settlement in a democratic way, they (Pakistan) at once told us that they would consider it if we applied that policy to Kashmir. Our reply was that we would agree to Kashmir if they agreed to Hyderabad.”

The instances in History are enough to tell that Sardar Patel initially was not really keen on getting Kashmir in India as opposed to the recent portrayal of his thoughts.

Rajamohan Gandhi further in his book also divulged that Patel was definitely not happy with many of ways India opted to tackle the Kashmir issue, including the plebiscite and approaching United Nations. However, nowhere in the history, it is noted that Patel vehemently opposed Nehru’s decisions on Kashmir or offered any decisive solution for the issue.

Sardar Patel

Sardar Patel in a meeting with King of Kashmir Hari Singh

But it is interesting to look at Patel’s other statements on Kashmir. In a letter to the founder of the Socialist Party of India-Achyut Patwardhan, Patel had indeed said, “I can solve Kashmir in six months. I would send Sikh settlers to the Valley.”  Referring to his unhappiness with the plebiscite he had told R K Patil, member of the first Planning Commission on September 28, 1950, “In Kashmir, we are spending crores, (yet) if there is a plebiscite in the Valley, we are bound to lose.”

While the historical documents and witnesses available are still in ambiguity over how Patel would have tackled Kashmir, it would be no short than misjudgement to say that Patel would have found the definitive solution to Kashmir.

Patel, Nehru and Kashmir from Modi’s lens:

Sardar Patel

Narendra Modi paying obituary to Sardar Patel

Modi’s odious obsession with Nehru is not just a part of whataboutery that every political party plays. But it also pits two greatest leaders and modern India’s architects against each other posthumously. What is the point in scraping a wound rather than doing something to heal it? In the four years since Modi stormed to power in 2014, the number of terrorist attacks in Kashmir has increased. More than 800 instances were reported. While 183 Indian army men lost their lives in these attacks, 65 civilians were also killed. The recent attacks on Sunjwan Army camp and past incidents of attack on Pathankot, Gurdaspur and Uri, bare open Modi’s government’s tall claims of reducing numbers of terror attacks under the Modi government.

So if Nehru has to be blamed for the failure to address the Kashmir problem, Modi’s lackadaisical Kashmir policies have also carved a space for himself on the list.

Opinion

Why is PM Modi focusing more on Northern India than South?

Arti Ghargi

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northern

Strategically, focusing on the northern states where BJP enjoys dominance can get the party maximum result that Southern states where the saffron party faces an immense challenge.

With just six months in hands to go for next Lok Sabha Elections, the BJP has already entered the electoral battleground. During the Kisaan Kalyan Rally in Punjab’s Malout, PM Modi rung the bell for 2019. The message was clear to all the opposition parties- The campaigning for 2019 has kick-started. Within next few days, Modi inaugurated a slew of projects worth thousands of crores in the BJP-ruled state of Uttar Pradesh. Today, he is addressing a rally in West Bengal.

According to the campaigning schedule, in next few days, PM Modi has already visited key states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan where Assembly elections are due in next four months. With a whirlwind campaigning, PM Modi will be addressing as much as 50 rallies across India until February 2019.

However, if the schedule is observed closely, we will find that most of the rallies will be conducted in the northern states. While, Modi has already visited UP twice- first for the inauguration of Samsung factory in Noida and the second time for laying the foundation stone for the upcoming Purvanchal Expressway connecting Mirzapur to Azamgarh- he will be visiting UP again on July 21 for as a part of Kisan Kalyan Rally. Which means, the July 21st rally will be Modi’s third visit to Uttar Pradesh within the span of 10 days.

Northern India

Modi at Kisan Kalyan Rally in Punjab

There are, however, several reasons why Modi seems to give impetus to the northern states.

Why is Modi focusing on Northern India?

In 2014 Lok Sabha Elections, the BJP registered a landslide victory with an absolute majority riding the “Modi Wave”. Out of the total 282 seats that were won by the saffron party, 195 seats were from the Northern Hindi-speaking belt only. At present, most of these states have BJP government ruling them.

In Indian Politics, it is said that the road to Delhi (PM chair) passes through Uttar Pradesh. The state has the highest number of Lok Sabha seats. In 2014, BJP scored the maximum number of seats in Uttar Pradesh. Out of total 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, BJP won 71 seats. The Modi-Shah duo understands it well that these states are the key player if the party wants to get close to the majority in 2019.

Since 2014, BJP has also emerged as the dominant player in most of the northern states. However, the recent by-poll losses have added to the worries of BJP. In UP, the BJP’s dominance is threatened by the cast coalition of SP-BSP which proved effective in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-polls. The arch rivals turned alliance partners have also indicated that coalition will extend to 2019 Lok Sabha as well. The by-polls victory of SP-BSP came as a lesson to the BJP that the caste equations still dominates the UP elections than a political pitch based on religion. Thus, to counter this growing threat BJP has intensified its Hindutva agenda, more prominently where it is a dominant party.

On the other hand, northern states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh hold importance not only from Assembly election perspective but also from Lok Sabha Election perspective. The assembly election result in these three states will also help set the tone of narrative for the Lok Sabha election. With Karnataka slipping off its hands, BJP cannot afford to lose these three states. As 2019 nears, Modi would want to strengthen the states where the party enjoys maximum support.

Northern India

Modi at a foundation laying event in UP

The “South challenge” in front of Modi:

While the BJP strengthened its foothold in the northern states post-2014, it is still struggling to make an effective debut in the South. Apart from Karnataka, BJP has never been able to make indoors in the Southern states. Even when the entire country was witnessing a peak of a Modi wave, the BJP couldn’t win significant seats in South.

Out of 282 seats, the four southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu together contributed only 21 seats to the tally of BJP. While BJP won 17 constituencies in Karnataka and 2 seats in Andhra Pradesh, it won one seat each in Tamil Nadu and Telangana. The saffron party couldn’t even open its account in Kerala.

Over the period of time, the BJP has faced strong resistance from the South. Even in subsequent Assembly Elections, BJP faced a humiliating defeat. The South poses a major challenge to the BJP, as regionalism dominates the in these states as opposed to the nationalism of BJP. BJP has always been looked at as a party of Northerners. Apart from few handpicked leaders like Venkaiah Naidu and Nirmala Sitharaman, BJP has no big leaders from South.

On the other hand, BJP has always been perceived as a party of upper castes. The Hindi imposition on the southern states has also not gone well with the people. Recently, during Karnataka elections, these issues were upheld by the former CM Siddharamaiah as the battle cry against BJP. So much so that he even called the BJP party leaders “northern imports”. He had even stoked controversy claiming that under Modi regime South Indian states are being neglected even when they contribute most to the overall taxes. Earlier this year, protestors flooded the Tamil Nadu streets with “Modi go Back” slogans when PM Modi was in the state for the inauguration of Defence Expo at Thiruvidanthai. Recently, Amit Shah faced the similar protests in Tamil Nadu. Last year, the saffron party faced such resistance in Kerala as well.

northern India

States ruled by BJP

Over the years, it was the NDA partners that held BJP’s hands in the southern states. However, these same allies have turned their back to the BJP, including TDP. The Andhra Pradesh political scenario is nothing different. TDP-the former BJP ally withdrew from the NDA and government as well alleging Modi Govt’s negligent attitude towards the state’s demand of according Special Status.

Thus, the BJP is faced with contradictory scenarios in Northern India and South India. While BJP has been successful in expanding its base throughout the northern region, it has faced a greater amount of difficulty to do so in the south region. As 2019 nears, Modi would want to strengthen the states where the party enjoys maximum support.

Strategically, focusing on the northern states where BJP enjoys dominance can get the party maximum result that Southern states where the saffron party faces an immense challenge.

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Opinion

The 2 Ps of Indian Elections- Pakistan and Polarization

Arti Ghargi

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2 Ps

 India’s political parties have developed a formula for effective election campaigning where the 2 Ps- Pakistan and polarization remain constant.

 

“Former director general of Pakistan army Arshad Rafiq has insisted that Ahmed Patel should be made the chief minister of Gujarat. Former army director general intervenes in Gujarat election. They held meeting with Pakistanis at Mani Shankar‘s house,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he addressed a rally in the run-up to Gujarat Assembly elections.

“Do you want a government that worships Tipu Sultan or the one that worships Lord Hanuman?” asked UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to a packed crowd during campaigning for Karnataka Assembly election. If we go a little back in the time, we may recall PM Modi’s controversial statement during the campaigning for UP assembly election, “If Kabristans can be constructed, then Shamashans too should be built.” Go farther back in history and we may find such countless references in the election speeches.

Noam Chomsky, a renowned cognitive scientist had observed, “The key element of social control is the strategy of distraction that is to divert public attention from important issues and changes decided by economic and political elites through the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information.” Scan through the pages of the electoral history of most of the democratic countries around the world and you will find the observation to be accurate. India too is no exception to it.

In India, the 2 P’s fuel the election campaigning of political parties- Pakistan and Polarisation. For a long period of time, our political parties have been trying to master the narrative around these 2 Ps and build a rhetoric. No election campaigning is complete without the reference to Pakistan and communal/casteist polarization. Our political parties have developed a formula for effective election campaigning where the 2 Ps- Pakistan and polarization remain constant.

However, the variables may change depending upon whether it is a National election or Assembly election. Look no far than recently concluded Karnataka Assembly Elections. While BJP cleverly used religious polarisation on one hand and army, Kannada pride as a variable on the other. Similarly, Congress used casteist polarization with Siddharamaiah’s Ahinda card and Hindi imposition, South vs North divide as variables. These variables can be put on the back burner as and when needed.

But the 2 Ps work as both oxygen and distraction. While Pakistan and polarization keep the political parties alive and relevant, it also proves to be a great distraction from real issues that concern the common Indian citizen. After all, talking about Pakistan and polarization gets you more eyeball than talking about traffic woes, poor infrastructure, lagging economic reforms, health care or farmers’ issues ever can. The formula is further perpetuated and sheltered by the hyped coverage. The most recent example is Shashi Tharoor’s “Hindu Pakistan” comment. To bring the score to equal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman took the charge from BJP’s side. In a press conference, she attacked the Congress calling it “Anti-Hindu” on the basis of a news report that claimed the Congress President Rahul Gandhi said that “Congress is a Muslim Party”. However, BJP took a lead today with Amit Shah claiming that Ayodhya temple construction will start before 2019.

That leaves us with a question, why the 2 Ps-Pakistan and polarization work in India? The answer is hidden in both Political and cultural history. Throughout the medieval period most of the present day Indian land was captured by foreign powers including Mughals and British. The horrendous atrocities were unleashed upon the Indian (predominantly Hindu) people by them.

Though we got freedom from all foreign powers in 1947 and established a democratic country with equal rights to every citizen, the political class has not let the ghost of the traumatic past fade. On the other hand, our bitter relation with Pakistan after partition and the prolonged Kashmir issue has also been at the center of dislike and hatred towards Pakistan. The frequent Ceasefire violations and terrorist attacks sponsored from across the border keep the wounds fresh. Our political leaders do not miss any chance to exploit these events for their political gains. These elements are imbibed in India’s diaspora which provides as an undercurrent for the Pakistan and polarisation to work without fail in every election.

Come 2019, undoubtedly, we will witness again Pakistan and Polarisation formula, rather more intensively but the groundwork for the same has begun already.

 

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Opinion

Shashi Tharoor’s bogeyman of “Hindu Pakistan” is bogus

Arti Ghargi

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Hindu Pakistan

Though the majority of India’s population is Hindu, India never turned into a Hindu Pakistan, not in the last seventy years.

 

Andre Gide, a Noble Prize-winning French author had said, “A true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his own deception.” I am reminded of the statement whenever I hear political leaders or intellectuals claim that India will become a “Hindu Pakistan” if BJP is voted back to power. Latest to join the bandwagon is Shashi Tharoor.

For long, it has been the obvious counter of the leftist-liberal against the right-leaning ideologies. After all, a democratic, progressive, modern Indian nation would definitely fear the idea of turning into a country where militarism and religious fundamentalism is rampant. Doesn’t the idea that we also might turn into a rogue nation like Pakistan frighten us? Of course, the conscience of any average right-thinking Indian reaping fruits of the freedom bestowed upon him by the constitution would be assaulted by the idea of “Hindu Pakistan”. But here is the truth, the bogeyman of “Hindu Pakistan” is as bogus as the bogeyman itself.

Those harbingering the Hindu Pakistan even today, seventy-years post-independence conveniently shove under the carpet the fact that India made a choice in 1947 to build a democratic nation on the basis of the constitution and not along religious lines as the bordering country did. The dystopian hypothetical future predicted by the likes of Tharoor also undermines the power vests with our diverse electorate. The electorate that includes a spectrum of diverse religions, faiths, castes, and creeds. Though the majority of India’s population is Hindu, India never turned into a Hindu Pakistan, not in the last seventy years. Even in future India will not turn into a Hindu Pakistan.  And no, Mr. Tharoor cannot credit it to his own party or that of the “secular”, “liberal” alliances of his party but to the people of India.

What is exceptionally hypocritical about the statement is that Tharoor– who recently in his book claimed that Hinduism is inclusive and accommodates every idea, opinion; is prophesying an oxymoronic idea like “Hindu Pakistan”.

In fact, the incident highlights what is wrong with today’s political discourse. If Congress accuses BJP/RSS of appeasing majority and communalism, then Shashi Tharoor’s Hindu Pakistan comment too serves the same purpose perpetuating the belief that India can turn into a country that discriminates against its minorities. These warnings invoking the feeling of an insecure future among the minorities cannot hide the communal nature of the statement, even if it is nicely-worded.

In the last four years, with the significant rise in ideological right parallel to the rise of BJP, the Congress too has put the development issue in the pit and has adopted the path of appeasing. It is time that Congress and its leaders realize that voters do not want to hollow warnings of dystopia that holds no water but the solution to the developmental problem. Sadly, with current dispensation, Congress just seems mirror version of the BJP minus cow.

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