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Syama Prasad Mookerjee on why Kashmir didn’t need ‘special status’

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In a 1952 Lok Sabha speech Mookerjee pointed to the arrogance of Sheikh Abdullah, the government’s meek acquiescence to the same and the dangers inherent in such action – or inaction.

Thereafter he (Syama Prasad Mookerjee) emphasized the aspect that since accession of the state to India was final, and not included in the reference, there was no reason for Kashmir to have any ‘special status’, which was at the root of the inconsistency in the government’s policy. In the process he lambasted the two-faced policy of the government
and said:

We say that Kashmir is a part of India. It is so. So, a part of India is today in the occupation of the enemy and we are helpless! We are peace-lovers, no doubt. But peace-lovers to what extent?––that we will even allow a portion of our territory to be occupied by the enemy? . . . Is there any possibility of our getting back this territory? We shall not get it through the efforts of the United Nations, we shall not get it through peaceful methods, by negotiations with Pakistan. That means we lose it, unless we use force and the Prime Minister is unwilling to do so. Let us face facts––are we prepared to lose it? It has been said that there is some provision in the Constitution, that we are bound by the pledges which have been given. Pledges?

Undoubtedly, so many pledges we have given . . . If we talk of pledges, we have given pledges on many other occasions. We gave pledges to the minorities in East Bengal. That was given after the attainment of independence. The Prime Minister said the other day that even if Kashmir had not acceded to India, when Kashmir was attacked by the raiders, on humanitarian grounds the Indian army could have marched to Kashmir and protected the distressed and oppressed. I felt proud. But if I make a similar statement, or even a similar suggestion for the purpose of saving the lives and honour of nine million of our fellow brethren and sisters––through whose sacrifices, to some extent at least, freedom has been achieved, I am a communalist, I am a reactionary, I am a warmonger!

He went on to say:

Shaikh Abdullah spoke in the Constituent Assembly of Kashmir about three or four months ago, words which have not been withdrawn, but words which created a good deal of misgivings in the minds of all Indians irrespective of party affiliations. I do not know whether the Prime Minister saw this:

We are a hundred per cent sovereign body. No country can put spokes in the wheel of our progress. Neither the Indian Parliament nor any other Parliament outside the State has any jurisdiction over our State.

. . . And then the flag. The flag has a significance. It will not do for the Prime Minister to say that it is a matter of sentiment. It was announced in the papers three days ago that the Indian flag will fly only on two ceremonial occasions and otherwise the State flag alone will fly there. It you feel that the unity and integrity of India are not affected and it will not lead to fissiparous tendencies being generated, accept it and do it for all. But why do it as a matter of surrender to Sheikh Abdullah’s demand?

He wanted to call himself the Prime Minister. That is how he first started. Some of us did not like it. We know one Prime Minister of India including Kashmir, that is the Prime Minister who is sitting here. How can you have two Prime Ministers, one Prime Minister in Delhi and another Prime Minister in Srinagar . . . As regards the emergency provision, it is an amazing stand. If there is an emergency on account of internal disturbance, the President of India will not have the last say. Why this fear of the President of India? Can you contemplate a more gratuitous insult to the President of India? . . . I shall conclude, by making this constructive suggestion . . . I submit that we must proceed according to certain standards. First of all there is no question of the President by virtue of his power to  take orders altering the provisions of the Constitution in material respects . . . You consider all these items and make your provisions so elastic that you can apply them either to the whole of India or you can apply them to only such parts where the Parliament of India will feel that such special treatment is necessary.

Proceed in accordance with a constitutional manner, not just play with the Constitution. It is a sacred document, and it is a document on which much labour and much thought were bestowed. If you feel some changes are necessary in order to take into consideration the new set-up that is slowly developing in India, whether in Kashmir or other parts of India, by all means let the people of the country have a chance to express their opinion.

Lastly, mindful of the fact that the Sheikh was a Kashmiri Muslim, and was apt to discriminate against the remainder of the population of the state, namely the Dogras, the Ladakhis, the Gujjars, the Bakarwals and the Shia Muslims of the Kargil area, he had the following words of warning:

The same right which you are claiming for Kashmir may also be demanded by the people of Jammu and Ladakh. Let us proceed in a friendly spirit. Sheikh Abdullah himself said about a month ago that he will have no objection if the people of Jammu and Ladakh really felt that they would go to India . . . Let it be possible for the people residing in those areas to make up their minds which way it will be good to proceed, and it will also be consistent with the same principles of self-determination which constitute the basic claims of Sheikh Abdullah, supported by the Prime Minister.

This is an excerpt from Tathagata Roy’s book ‘Shyama Prasad Mookherjee: Life and Times’. Excerpted with due permission from Penguin Random House India.

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