Nehruvian secularism vs Ambedkar’s idea of India

Jawaharlal Nehru with Field Marshal Kodandera "Kipper" Madappa Cariappa. Also seen Sheikh Abdullah.

New Delhi New emergent facts pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir and its Constitutional status from Dr S.N. Busis’ laborious six volumes on B.R. Ambedkar — “Framing the Indian Constitution” — once again reiterate how Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru moved ahead with his idea of making the erstwhile Princely State his shop window for secularism given that the new democratic dispensation was headed by a Muslim in a Muslim majority state.

The facts show that Nehru pushed the envelope for the state’s autonomy which brought Sheikh Abdullah and B.R. Ambedkar face to face leading to a fusillade of heavy retaliatory fire and a huge snub for Abdullah.

Because of the peculiar circumstances such as occupation of a large portion of its territory by Pakistan-sponsored Afridi raiders and the impression of some of the leaders of Kashmir that they could claim autonomy as per Paragraph 7 of the Instrument of Association which reads: “Nothing in this instrument shall be deemed to commit me in my way to acceptance of any future Constitution of India or to fetter my discretion to enter into arrangement with the Government of India under any such future Constitution”, a spanking new boiler plate of autonomy was peddled under an elastic Nehru who was willing to give concessions to Abdullah and the National Conference.

Dr S.N. Busi writes — Some national leaders headed by Pandit Nehru were actively in league with those Kashmiri leaders like Sheikh Abdullah who favoured Kashmir to be in the Indian Union but were nursing the idea of autonomy. Therefore, Pandit Nehru felt that it was desirable to make certain temporary provisions in respect of Jammu and Kashmir state in the Indian Constitution.

Pandit Nehru discussed this proposal with Sheikh Abdullah, Premier of Jammu and Kashmir, and also member of the Constituent Assembly of India, and suggested to him to convince Dr Ambedkar. Accordingly, Sheikh Abdullah called on Dr Ambedkar and told him about Pandit Nehru’s proposal.

But Dr Ambedkar was unyielding and told Sheikh Abdullah point blank in these words:”Mr Abdullah, you want that India should defend Kashmir. You wish India should protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply you food grains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India, but you don’t want India and any citizen of India to have any rights in Kashmir and Government of India should have only limited powers.

“To give consent to this proposal would be a treacherous thing against the interests of India and I, as a Law Minister of India, will never do. I cannot betray the interests of my country.”

What the concessions resulted in was a unique form of dual citizenship which came about, through Article 370 and Article 35A, which acted as a deterrent to mobility and integration with the Union of India.

The ‘dual citizenship’ of Kashmiris is with reference to Article 370 under which they are considered as citizens of India as well as citizens of Kashmir. A non-Kashmiri residing in Kashmir, however, is considered only a citizen of India and the J&K Constitution refers to them as “permanent residents”.