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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

Kerala By-polls: Kerala floods took a center-stage over Sabarimala issue

Arti Ghargi

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kerala

Though, the number of seats put BJP at the bottom of the race, come to think of it, the real loser here is the Congress-led UDF. The Congress and its allies bagged 11 wards in Kerala bypolls as against the 16 they held earlier.

The results of the by-polls held in Kerala have come as a shocker to everyone, but the ruling Left government. On November 30, by-polls were held in 39 local bodies including 27 panchayat wards, five block panchayat wards, six municipality wards and one corporation ward. The CPI(M)-led LDF won a majority of the seats i.e. 21 seats. Whereas, the Congress-led UDF bagged 12 seats. The BJP, which was eyeing on mighty political dividends after the recent Sabarimala protest that rocked the state, however, was limited to only two seats.

Now, we do realize that the by-polls held in just 39 seats cannot spell out the mood of the entire state but the elections do hold a significance as it was for the first time after the Sabarimala controversy the state was going for polling. Those who have closely followed the recent political developments in the state can bear the testimony of the fact that it was probably rare in Kerala that the Hindu anger erupted at such a large scale.

sabarimala

Image Source: Web

For the saffron party BJP, which has been trying to create a base in the coastal state, Sabarimala issue ticked every box. It was related to Hindus and even led to unprecedented widespread outrage. The party sensing the “Golden opportunity” launched aggressive protests targeting the left-led government. Even then, it did not turn into expected political dividends.

On the contrary, the CPI(M) which had come under fire from the majority of the Hindu society over the implementation of Supreme Court order of allowing women in Sabarimala, expected an electoral backlash. However, the party ended up winning the majority of the seats.

Let us first check the resulting outcome:

Among all the 39 wards, the BJP has increased vote share only in a few of them. It has lost its sitting ward at Parappukkara in Thrissur district to the Left. Now, Thrissur is where the BJP is hoping for a significant gain in vote share in the Lok Sabha elections. BJP could get only 19 votes in two wards in Pathanamthitta district, where the temple is located. The party candidate got just 12 votes in the Palakkad ward of the Pandalam municipality, which has been the epicentre of the Sabarimala protests. the BJP candidate secured only seven votes in the Kulasekharapatnam ward.

Though, the number of seats put BJP at the bottom of the race, come to think of it, the real loser here is the Congress-led UDF. The Congress and its allies bagged 11 wards in Kerala bypolls as against the 16 they held earlier. The tally has now come down to 11.

Kerala

The LDF wrested five seats from the UDF and one from the BJP (Parappukkara in Thrissur district). The two seats the BJP won were both earlier held by the UDF.

If we compare the votes polled for the parties, BJP’s votes came down from 11,118 to 9869 whereas UDF’s vote came down from 26,722 to 26,092. Though UDF’s vote difference is less than that of BJP, the party lost 5 seats.

What could have been the possible reason for it?

The credit of LDF’s win goes to the BJP. As observed in 2016 assembly elections too, as the majority shifted to BJP, the minorities in the state shifted to LDF. This has taken away UDF’s vote bank which is based upon both the majority Hindus and other minority communities.

As the polarization in the state peaks, a significant part of Hindu votes backing the UDF has shifted to BJP. While a portion of the minority has leaned towards the left.

Kerala

Image Source: Web

For the left after Sabarimala, the polls were a tough task but the party sailed through it. Though it would be too early for BJP to score major victories in the state, if the trend continues, the BJP may soon replace Congress as the main opposition party in the state. Which is not a small achievement for the marginalized party.

As for Kerala’s voter population, the floods and state’s well-handling of the disaster made the main point of contention than Sabarimala.

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Opinion

From Indira Gandhi to Vajpayee: How Kartarpur Corridor remained a non-starter

Arti Ghargi

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kartarpur corridor

For many Sikh devotees on the Indian side, Kartarpur corridor had been in eyesight but still like a distant dream for 70 years.

 

“Jo bole so Nihaal, Sat Shri Akal”, the chants reverberated the Attari-Wagah border on Wednesday as hundreds of Sikh pilgrims marched towards the holy shrine of Kartarpur. It was the first time since the partition that Sikhs on the Indian side of the border could walk up to the Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan located just 4 km away from the Dera Nanak Sahib. A 65-year old Sikh man from Fatehgarh Choorian who was among the first few to cross the border and visit the shrine was smiles talking about the historic event. “I am happy that Kartarpur corridor is finally a reality,” he said exuding the excitement.

For many Sikhs like him, Kartarpur shrine had been in eyesight but still like a distant dream for 70 years. On Wednesday, the wait finally came to a positive end.

What is Kartarpur Sahib?

For Sikhs across the world, the Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara holds huge significance. It is the place where Guru Nanak after a long pilgrimage of almost three decades finally decided to settle. It is believed that Guru Nanak spent his last years in Kartarpur farming and spreading the message of peace. He lived here for 17 years and before his death, appointed his disciple Bhai Lehna (Guru Angad) as the next guru. In 1947, India was divided into two and the Kartarpur Sahib gurudwara went to the Pakistan side of the border. Currently, it is situated in near the city of Narowal alongside the Attari-Wagah border.

Kartarpur corridor

Image Source: Web

The main complex of Kartarpur Sahib has a grave and Samadhi of Guru Nanak. The folktale behind it goes like this:

After the death of Guru Nanak, an argument sparked between his Hindu and Muslim devotees over the funeral rites. The Hindus wanted to cremate him while the Muslims wanted a burial. It was almost night when both the arguing group decided that the matter should be resolved the next day. However, when they woke up the next day, they found a pile of flowers lying at the place where the body was. Not reaching a consensus, they divided the flowers among the two groups. While the Muslims buried them, Hindus cremated them. Thus, the Kartarpur Sahib has a grave and a samadhi.

Kartarpur corridor

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The pilgrimage begins at the Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur in Punjab. Situated only 1 km from India-Pakistan border, Kartarpur Sahib can be seen from the Border with naked eyes at a distance of about 4-5 km. Since the partition pilgrims used binoculars for Darshan.

The Sikh pilgrims separated from their holiest site by the border had been a sore spot. But why did the issue take so long for two neighbouring nations to solve?

From Indira Gandhi to Atal Bihari Vajpayee:

The Kartarpur corridor which was officially announced by the Pakistan premier Imran Khan almost a week ago was first proposed by the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He had ideated the corridor during the historic 1999 Delhi to Lahore bus diplomacy between the two nations. Pakistan too had agreed to allow Sikh pilgrims from India to visit the shrine visa-free (and without a passport) by constructing a bridge from the India side of the border to the shrine.

Kartarpur corridor

Image Source: Web

However, the thaw between the two countries proved to be short-lived. The hostilities along the border increased and eventually led to Kargil war. These developments put an end to the talks. Though, the earliest reference to the Kartarpur corridor is found during Vajpayee’s Lahore trip for the peace initiative, it was in 1969 that the issue had first drawn the attention of the Indian government.

The year 1969 marked the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. During the celebrations, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi promised the Punjab government that land-swap would be done with Pakistan for accessing the Kartarpur Sahib. Indira Gandhi said the Centre would approach the Pakistan Government for the exchange of Kartarpur Sahib with an adjoining Indian area. She also gave an assurance on granting free visas for visitors to Nankana Sahib on the Indian side of the border.

However, the assurance faded into oblivion after the Indo-Pak war in the subsequent year following the creation of Bangladesh.

Kartarpur corridor

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with Indira Gandhi in Shimla

The two times, when the access to Kartarpur Sahib actually came into consideration, the countries saw derailed relationship with a streak of violence breaking on the border.

On Wednesday, Pakistan PM Imran Khan furthering the message of the peace said, “If you one step forward, we will take two.” Before that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi too backed the initiative. He even expressed the possibility that the corridor could be the “Berlin Wall” moment for India and Pakistan. “Who would have thought that Berlin wall can be destroyed? With the blessings of Guru Nanak, even Kartarpur corridor can be a medium to join people from across the border,” Modi said.

Kartarpur corridor

Image Source: Web

While Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal at the Kartarpur corridor launch ceremony reiterated PM Modi’s message, external affairs minister added a prompt reminder back home that the corridor won’t be a sole consideration in resuming the talks between the two countries. Some also fear the Khalistani threat returning to Punjab with the proposed corridor.

Whether the corridor becomes a harbinger in bringing the derailed Indo-Pak talks back on track not is for the two governments to decide. But, one thing is for sure, the Kartarpur corridor presents a rare example where religion poses the possibility to unite two divided countries.

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Opinion

In Madhya Pradesh’s tribal belt, ‘Indira Mai’ keeps Congress’ hope alive

Arti Ghargi

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tribal

Even three generations later, Indira Gandhi commands an unparalleled respect among the tribal population of Madhya Pradesh.

 

The polling for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Election will be held on November 28. While the various political leaders including Congress President Rahul Gandhi and BJP President Amit Shah are trying hard to ace the ‘I-Am-More-Hindu-than-you’ race, the real path to the state’s Vidhan Sabha passes through its vast tribal belt. In Madhya Pradesh, the tribal population accounts for 21% of the entire state population. It is also the highest tribal population in the country.

Electorally the tribal community is more significant and out of the total 230 assembly seats, 47 seats are reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. More than 50% of the state’s tribal population is concentrated in Dhar, Jhabua, and Mandla districts while Khargaon, Chhindwara, Seoni, Sidhi, Singrauli, and Shahdol districts have 30–50% population that is of tribes. According to the 2011 census, the Adivasi population in Madhya Pradesh was 73.34 million. There were 46 recognized Scheduled Tribes and three of them have been identified as “Special Primitive Tribal Groups” in the State.

Tribal

Gond tribe of Madhya Pradesh

Thus, it wasn’t much surprised when the current Chief Minister of the state Shivraj Singh Chauhan showered the community with promises of housing or even beat drums dancing with the community to woo their votes. Congress, on the other hand, promised the community of land rights. Rahul Gandhi even addressed a meeting of the Adivasi Ekta Parishad at the Ambedkar Stadium in Morena in October. Just in time for the election, the party also successfully managed to rope in former Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti national convener Hiralal Alawa to contest Manawar seat on Congress ticket.

The Tribals and BJP:

BJP which is widely considered as an upper caste party has been successful in bagging the tribal votes since last one decade. It was in 2003 assembly polls that the BJP won 67 SC/ST seats. In the 2008 assembly election, the BJP won 54 of these seats. In 2013, BJP performed exceedingly well on the SC/ST reserved seats. Out of total 47 ST seats, it emerged victorious on 31.

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MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan campaigning in one of the tribal constituencies

A major part of BJP’s successful penetration in the tribal region has to be credited to its ideological parent RSS. The Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram played a significant role in diverting the tribal vote to BJP with their anti-conversion operation ahead of 2013 assembly elections. However, this time the fear of annulment of the SC/ST Act seems to have ricocheted in the minds of the tribal community. Despite the sops offered by the ‘Mama’ Shivraj Chouhan, the tribal belt has seemingly made up its mind to vote BJP out.

Congress trying to woo Tribals:

The Congress has sensed the anger among the Tribal community against the Shivraj Singh government. Even if the party manages to win 40 ST seats and 20 SC seats, it can easily have an edge over the BJP. The Congress manifesto also promises lease rights to Adivasis and nutrition allowance for most backward Adivasi groups being raised to ₹1,500 from the existing ₹1,000. For years, the tribal belt has remained Congress’ bastion though, after the decade-long rule of Digvijaya Singh as CM, the SC/ST community showed a significant shift towards the BJP. But the Congress is hopeful for the expected homecoming of the tribal voters in 2018 elections. The party has also used the ‘Indira’ card to woo the voters.

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Tribal women turn up for Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Morena

The ‘Indira’ factor:

Almost a week ago, at a rally in Jhabua, Jyotiraditya Scindia was addressing the crowd. To the 7000 odd people who attended the rally he appealed to vote for the Congress describing it as “ye Indira Mai ki party hai (this is mother Indira Gandhi’s party).” The party realises that even three generations later, Indira Gandhi commands an unparalleled respect among the tribals.

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Indira Gandhi temple in Khargaon

So much so that the tribals of Padalya village in Khargaon district worship her as ‘Indira Mai’. Moreover, the village has a temple of Indira Gandhi. Since the last 30 years, there has been not one day when the worshipping has stopped. Even today, the chants of ‘Goddess Mother Indira’ echo in the village. The temple was constructed after the death of Indira Gandhi in 1984.

Indira gandhi

Indira Gandhi addressing supporters after her 1980s victory. Image Source: Youth Congress twitter

While most of India remembers Emergency as the black chapter of the Indian Democracy, the tribals in this area swear by Indira Gandhi’s twenty-point programme. They say that the village got a high school, roads and electricity as part of Indira Gandhi’s’ twenty-point programme. She also helped to make these villages self-sufficient and to repay the loans. The inauguration of the temple was one of the most controversial affairs during 1988. What was remarkable that the inauguration was attended by 30,000 Adivasis.

Even three decades later, it is the ‘Indira Mai’ who has been able to keep the emotional connect between the Congress and Tribals.

tribal

Image Source: Web

Having witnessed the fierce and heated election campaign, it is to be seen who the tribals give their mandate to? What will prevail- Shivraj Mama’s sops or the devotion to Indira Mai?

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