NATHURAM Godse had emptied three bullets point-blank in the chest of Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as the Mahatma, the apostle of peace and the father of India, killing him almost instantly. Jawaharlal Nehru immortalised the event with the following words uttered on All-India Radio: ‘The light has gone out of our lives.’ Revisiting him in the pages of history could answer some of the questions that have arisen with the abrogation of Article 370, with which New Delhi annexed Kashmir, that had granted a ‘special status scrapping’ Jammu and Kashmir.
Godse killed Gandhi because the partition of India for which he blamed the latter allowed the majority of Muslims escape the Hindu rule and pay for the ‘sins’ of their forefathers which was the thousand years of Muslim rule of India. Godse was condemned as a pariah as even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Hindu Mahasabha in which he was an activist disowned him. An independent India cashed upon everything that Gandhi had stood for that worked like magic with the west, its historians and its politicians. India became the world’s largest democracy, the light of tolerance, secularism, constitutionalism and the rule of law.
Many Indians and their friends abroad had, of course, forgotten Godse and were in denial about the intention of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its front organisation, the RSS, when they emerged in Indian national politics in the 1980s and the BJP formed the government in 1998–2004. The return of the Congress in 2004 justified the denial for a while but only till the BJP returned to power in 2014 and Indians and their friends saw what they were in denial of. The BJP-led government made Hindutva its official mantra and allowed the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha to become flag bearers of the Hindutva mantra.
The Muslims felt every day during the 2014–2018 term of the BJP what Hindutva represented. It was a prelude to establishing India as Godse wanted where the Muslims of the independent India would be made to pay for the thousand years of Muslim rule or the rule by their forefathers. The RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha gang armed with the full backing and support of the BJP government made no attempts to hide that their inspirations were coming from Godse with brutal attacks on Muslims on beef-eating that the rest of the world watched like it was not happening.
The BJP even made an unsuccessful attempt in 2014 to raise Godse from his pariah status to that of a patriot. Therefore, that its attention would fall on Article 370 was only natural. Readers are aware of the history of betrayal of Kashmiri Muslims where the Congress and the British connived and compelled the Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir Hari Singh to accede to Hindu India. The principles that the British laid down for the accession of the 565 princely states of which Kashmir was one had unequivocally stated that the Muslim-majority states would accede to Pakistan and the Hindu-majority ones to India. Therefore, Kashmir should have become a part of Pakistan, not India.
A war followed between Pakistan and Indian in 1947–1948 to settle the Kashmir issue. Kashmir was partitioned on the line of control at the time of ceasefire when the war ended. The part that Pakistan controlled at that point was named by it as Azad Kashmir and the part that India controlled became known as Jammu and Kashmir. The dispute went to the United Nations. A resolution was adopted that is still in force that stated that the Kashmiris themselves, not any other country or power, would determine their future through a plebiscite. The Indians did not allow that plebiscite because they knew that the Muslims who were the majority in Jammu and Kashmir combined would opt not to remain with India.
India gave the Kashmiris special status instead of the plebiscite that allowed them to ‘have a separate constitution, a state flag and autonomy over the internal administration of the state.’ The special status as history has now established unequivocally was a myth, a betrayal, and did little to meet the demand of the Kashmiris for a plebiscite. Many Kashmiris, thus, took up arms to fight the betrayal. That did not bring them freedom. Instead, the Indians accused them of terrorism that led to some of the worst documented human rights violation in Kashmir by the Indian law enforcement agencies. The special status for Kashmir, therefore, was turned into a cruel joke that the world watched but did nothing.
The abrogation of Kashmir’s special status has thus legalised what was never there that those who believed that in India, Muslims would have any kind of special status were living in the fool’s paradise. The abrogation established the political realities of India related to the Muslims. Godse was not a lone figure in history. He represented the majority of Hindus who at the time of his hanging in 1948 were silent for a wide variety of reasons but are now the vocal majority of Indians led by BJP and inspired and jelled by Hindutva. In their Hindutva-inspired euphoria, the Hindu majority have little time to consider that their mantra is the antithesis of the ideals of democracy, constitutionalism, secularism and rule of law that has made India what it is today.
The BJP-led government stated that Article 370 had been abrogated to give the Kashmiris the benefits of India’s phenomenal development. The Indian Express exposed not just the hollowness of the promise but its dangers when it wrote: ‘BJP thinks it is going to Indianise Kashmir. Instead, we will see, potentially, the Kashmirisation of India.’ The absurdly simple way the Indian onstitution was abrogated pointed at the dangers both implicitly and explicitly. Indians not sold to Hindutva have now good reasons to take note where India was headed. Former Indian finance minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram underlined the fears. He stated that it could from now on be ab open season for those not sold to Hindutva like the Kashmiris.
The absurdly simple way Article 370 was abrogated also exposed India’s hypocrisy with its constitution. Bangladesh and India signed the Indira-Mujib Agreement in 1974 under which India was supposed to hand Bangladesh the Teen Bigha Corridor to connect its enclaves of Dahagram and Angarpota in exchange of Berubari. New Delhi then used the constitution to delay the handing of the corridor for more than four decades although Bangladesh handed to it Berubari immediately after the agreement had been signed. India has been using the constitution again this time to deny Bangladesh the Teesta deal after Bangladesh had given it land transit and security guarantees. The way the BJP-led government abrogated Article 370 because of its majority in the Lok Sabha underlined that New Delhi had held up handing the Teen Bigha for nearly four decades and now the Teesta deal intentionally.
Nevertheless, BJP leaders drunk in Hindutva are not realising that their country has not yet emerged as a nation and that its dangerous divides such as those related to religion, region, ones based on caste, the rich versus the poor, et cetera, have intensified in the past 72 years of their independence. These dangers notwithstanding though, India has shown great promises as an emerging economic power. The abrogation of Article 370 with all the dangers accompanying it could not have come at a more inconvenient time for the future of India. When the curtains of history would fall on this chapter of Indian history, the abrogation of Article 370 could very well emerge as the fatal stab in India’s back.
A Shiv Sena MP had stated during the debates in the Lok Sabha on Article 370 that the ‘annexation’ of Kashmir would be followed by the annexation of Baluchistan till Akhand Bharat was achieved. That was, of course, very unlikely because of Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, leaving Bangladeshis asking whether the reincarnation of Godse has any message for them. Meanwhile, India is seeking inspiration from Israel on how to move forward having devoured Kashmir like a cherry on the top of a birthday cake.
M Serajul Islam is a former career ambassador.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Opinion