A 1981 letter written by Indira Gandhi has exposed the Congress duplicity on Article 35A, a discriminatory, toxic provision that empowered the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature to determine who all are ‘permanent residents’ of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and confer on the permanent resident so determined special rights and privileges in public sector jobs, acquisition of property in the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare. The provision had faced widespread criticism for being gender discriminatory as it denied property rights to a woman who marries a person from outside the state.
Now, a 1981 letter penned by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has revealed that she had hinted that she wanted to repeal Article 35A.
She wrote this letter to New York-based Dr Nirmala Mitra. Indira Gandhi wrote, “I too am unhappy that neither you who were born in Kashmir, nor I whose forefathers came from there can own a small piece of land or home.” She had also expressed helplessness about how the ‘Indian Press’ and its ‘foreign counterpart’ were too busy depicting her as an ‘authoritarian’ that made it all the more difficult for her to do the ‘necessary things’. Interestingly, she ended this letter by mentioning the unfair treatment of, and discrimination against the Kashmiri Pandits and Buddhists in Ladakh.
I release a historic letter by PM Indira Gandhi to my New York friend on her stance on Article 370 & Article 35A. @PMOIndia @AmitShah @CHAKRAVIEW1971 @AdityaRajKaul @AartiTikoo @rahulpandita @Nidhi Thank you, PM Modi, for not fearing what Indira did and doing what was necessary. pic.twitter.com/nnP2NbmSKT
— Rakesh Kaul (@rkkaulsr) December 29, 2019
The letter has come as damning evidence of the inherent dichotomy in the stance that the Congress has taken against Articles 370 and 35A over the years. Article 35A ceased to exist when Article 370 was deoperationalised, because Art. 35A was inserted through a presidential proclamation which drew its powers from Article 370. It ought to be emphasised here that Indira Gandhi had described its removal as a ‘necessary thing’. But when the Modi government abrogated Article 370 in a slew of administrative and constitutional reforms that it carried out on August 5, the Congress had an irresistible meltdown. It acted as if abrogation Article 370 and Article 35A was the biggest disaster in the troubled history of Jammu & Kashmir.
It is clear that the Indira Gandhi government neither had the kind of political will nor did it had the political capital or capability to carry out the kind of reforms that the Modi government has carried out in Kashmir. Over time, the Congress party gave up the willingness to carry out such administrative reforms, which were once described by the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi herself as ‘necessary’.
Indira Gandhi had used the pressure of Indian media and its foreign counterpart as a pretext of not removing Article 35A. What PM Modi has done however suggests that when there is a political will to carry out reforms, such media pressure does not really matter. In fact, the Modi government has faced far more propaganda than India Gandhi would have ever faced. This letter has thus exposed how Congress has always been hypocritical and opportunistic when it comes to the Kashmir issue. This letter has gone viral and the Sonia Gandhi led party is now going to face some really difficult questions over its opposition to the August 5 move. Cracks had already emerged within the Congress over the abrogation of Article 370, which are going to further widen with the revelations of this letter.