As people gathered to celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Birth Anniversary in Milpitas, California, they could not resist sharing their views on the abrogation of Article 370 by Prime Minister Modi.
On Aug. 5, Jammu and Kashmir were given a special status of a Union Territory under Article 370 of the constitution of India.
Yogendra Yadav, Indian activist and psephologist, and one of the keynotes at the day-long conference said, “If Gandhi would have been alive, Gandhi would have stood up and said this compromises India’s reputation of being a democracy, Gandhi would have said that [we cannot] decide the fate of millions, [we cannot] close them in their homes. Gandhi would have said this is unacceptable.”
Yadav, sounding concerned, told indica “I thought they are going to do much less but what happened has taken me by surprise, especially reducing the status of Jammu and Kashmir to that of a Union Territory.”
Adding further, he said that the Constitutional arrangement was that Jammu and Kashmir were given the status slightly higher than that of an ordinary state. Now it has reduced substantially lower than an ordinary state.
Commenting on the Indian government’s plan to have an early municipal election, he said the election would have no meaning in Jammu and Kashmir, those municipal elections and assemblies cannot make that decision.
And on the media reports on people can buy land, what does that mean? “We are following the Israeli policy of settlement. I don’t think it’s good, its bad news for the country,” said Yadav, sounding concerned. “Yes, I am, I am truly disturbed as an Indian and an Indian national as someone who has taken pride in India, who has given lectures all over the world. Extolling the virtue of Indian democracy and [the way in which] India has managed diversity.”
“If Gandhi’s country wants to learn from Israel about how to manage diversity, we should hang [our heads] in shame.”
When asked how India plans to put forth apolitical dialogue and negotiations, knowing they have failed in the past Yadav said, “It’s a very, very complicated problem and there is no one-stroke solution, instead of moving forward in resolving the Kashmir issue, we have gone backward and that worries me.”
“If they had taken one small step to solve it, I would have welcomed it. But this taking two steps back has made the problem even more complicated,” he said. “What was needed was a negotiation and a representative of the people, winning the heart and mind of the people and what we have done is the opposite.”
“To my mind, it is an indication [of] disaster. We may not realize it now but the trouble is we [are taking] a very myopic view of these things. In the long run, this is an indication of enormous violence and bloodshed on both sides, [Kashmiri people and security forces],” said Yadav.
Other speakers at the event, including Prem Jain, CEO of Pensando Systems and JCNC and Dr. Linda Hess, Senior Lecturer Emerita in Religious Studies at Stanford University, felt similarly to Yadav.
Jain, talking to indica on Gandhi’s philosophy and the way Modi abrogated the Article 370 said, “I think uniting the people and giving them rights and freedom, providing growth opportunities, I am all for it. But the process, the way it is done […]Gandhi would not have done it this way.”
“[Gandhi] disagreed with many things that Congress wanted to do at that particular time. But he stood with his principle.”
“The most important thing [to remember] about the India and Kashmir [issue] is it has been going on for 72 years and I think Gandhi was the saddest person [about it] and the violence that occurred during the participation of India’s independence. He was very sad and he asked to stop the violence [which went on] until [his] death. The problem is still there today, unfortunately.”
“Unfortunately, the current process, I don’t approve of it. “I think they should have taken the referendum and the concession because in the end what is very important is what [the] people want,” he said.
“It’s [supposed to be] the people’s government and not what I want. I think current political leaders both in this country (the US) and India, forget about the pulses of the people, what people really want and not about the political gain and control.”
“On the other hand, I would recommend that Modi speaks from his heart. Now time will tell how he succeeds, India does lose the concept of the people’s government run by the people and basically follows the principle of non-violence. If you really want to follow [the teachings] of Mahatma Gandhi […] we really have to create a massive movement at the low social level, at the grass-root level of non-violence. [Gandhi’s philosophy] can be used in business, running a corporation, running a country, as well as in life. It’s not just a philosophy but a practice. He had a source of power, he continuously tried to make sure he could mobilize the masses.”
Prof. Hess, sharing his view told indica, “There is a lot of upset over the abrogation of Article 370.
She said, “We can say everybody should practice non-violence, [but] why there is so much violence in India and in the United States right now, Why are there communal and racial hatred and lynching violence and who is promoting that? What ideology promotes that?” asked Hess.
Hess too believes the way that the abrogation of Article 370 has been done is about the oppression of human rights.
“I was very disturbed and disappointed about that. I see it as an onward march of the forces and Hindu Rashtra,” said Hess.
She too echoed the Gandhi philosophy of non-violence. “[Gandhi] would have always found his integrity and splint his feet in the truth as he understood it and that would have meant equality and non-violence.”
“We should learn Gandhi’s values. History is being rewritten in order to support the narrative of Hindu Nationals,” said Hess, pointing to the US side she said, “There are people who want to do this in this country too.”
Prasad Gollanapalli, managing trustee at the Gandhi King Foundation in Hyderabad, India and who is hosting the Gandhi King Conference in October at Stanford on the abrogation of Article 370, said “When you are in a sovereign nation, [the] whole nation should be one. There should be one nation, one agenda, and one flag.”
Sharing his views further he said that there should not be any kind of special status denied to somebody. But that kind of thing should be done within the due process of law and in an open, transparent, democratic way.
He said, “What is happening is good. Kashmir is a part of India and we welcome the existence of Kashmir as an integral part of India. But it should be done in a way where human rights are not suppressed and it has to be open and transparent.”
“I expect more transparency, more honesty, more involving of the people and [offering] of leadership. It should go through a proper process and not shut [out] the leadership, but involve them. Like Gandhiji’s philosophy to involve the people. [They] should not be using secrecy,” said Gollanapalli.