Article 370.

*Why Article 370 was injustice to Indians?*

Many people, I believe, would be happy now. Sardar Patel, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, and many others. Many are in heaven. One of those would be my late father-in-law, ML Tikku, a proud Kashmiri Hindu. Like millions Kashmiri Hindus, he wanted Article 370 to be abolished in his lifetime. He wanted it abrogated for his children and grandchildren.

He would often tell me a story which I think symbolizes the story of Hindus in Kashmir.

The year was 1957. My father-in-law had gone to check his name in the selected list of candidates admitted in BSc program of the degree college in Srinagar. Being the son of KN Tikku, known as the mathematician of Kashmir, his mathematics skills were higher than average and he was confident of making it to the top ten. But what he saw that day changed his life forever. His name was not there in the list. Below the name of selected candidates it was written. It said, a separate list of Hindu candidates may be released if deemed so!

He told me he came home crestfallen and gave the news to his father. His father showed no reaction. He merely said that he will have to try harder. But for my father-in-law, a question troubled him – for the rest of his life: Can this happen in any part of independent India?

As he talked to other students, he found that their reaction was similar to his. They all realized there was no place for them (Hindus) in Kashmir and no future either. All of them had no option but to migrate to other parts of India.

They had then gone to Chief Minister Bakshi Gulam Mohammed and pleaded to be admitted. *He told them, their high marks were not the issue but the fact that they weren’t Muslims but Hindus.* He quoted *Article 370 and said that the article was to protect the Muslims of the valley*. But what he said after that was even more shocking. *“You have the whole of India to get admission. Why don’t you go away and take admission elsewhere? Kashmir is for Muslims and only Muslim boys will be considered.”*

The message was clear: *Convert to Islam and get admission!*

They had managed to get a few minuscule number of seats after much pleading and were given so after some humiliating condition.

When my father-in-law asked his father why Kashmiri Pandits faced such discrimination, he was told that has been the fate of Kashmiri Pandits for last 500 years. They have always had to plead for what they needed to have it from Muslims.

Then he said that Article 370 legalized it. *Anything that Kashmiri Muslims did to Hindus couldn’t be challenged in courts of law!*

My father-in-law was to find another reason why they were denied admission on the basis of religion. The reason was simple. Hindu boys were considered more intelligent, more hard working. They were to be sent outside Kashmir for education and employment.

“Did you write to the press?” I asked.

“Yes. They told us it is no news item! No one took any notice of it. Who cared if a group of Hindu boys were discriminated against or denied admission.”

*That is the time he learnt Kashmir has a separate constitution and a separate flag and laws of India did not apply there. Every Kashmiri Hindu knew in his heart about Article 370, but believed that he will be left untouched.*

Just a few years earlier, Shayama Prasad Mukherjee had mysteriously died while in Kashmir. The message to all Kashmiri Pandits was to remain silent and say nothing if they witnessed any injustice. That was the wise course of action all followed. *Kashmiri Hindus were a minuscule minority and were at the mercy of Kashmiri Muslims.*

He told me many stories. One of them was about the history of Battmazar, an island in the middle of Dal Lake. *He told me how Hindus were taken to be converted there and if they didn’t were buried alive and how the Muslim boatmen would not take them there.*

“Why don’t you talk about it?” I asked. “They shouldn’t be lost in history.”

When I thought of writing a novel on Kashmir, he encouraged me by telling me lot of stories from his childhood and early struggles to find a foothold and those similar to him, all ordinary Kashmiris who had lived in silence. The silence was due to Article 370. Many of them were anecdotes and always told of a deep divide that existed between Hindus and Muslims, now *officially sanctioned because of Article 370.*

When I finished writing my book, he read it from beginning to end and said it will help people to understand why Article 370 should go. He felt it great that I, a non-Kashmiri, had written it and felt that Kashmiris were always alienated from the rest of India. He also found it difficult to read certain chapters, those even told by him. *One was on how temples were destroyed in Kashmir was the most difficult one for him. He told me how going to the Martand Temple ruins was traumatic for every Kashmiri Hindu and it couldn’t be restored because of Article 370.* It would require specialists and conservationists to come and stay from outside. Why will they come and stay if they can’t buy land or own property here?

*Article 370 was about injustice alone. For 70 years it told us that some Indians were more equal than others and it couldn’t be questioned. Article 370 bled our motherland culturally, politically and socially being the very place where Hinduism reached its peak. Article 370 martyred many of our soldiers, put many in prison and led to the destruction of the Hindu way of life in Kashmir. It at the same time showed the spineless politics that dominated the Indian landscape, a continuation of the colonial rule where Indians especially Hindus had to kneel in front of their masters.*

When news Article 370 was shown live on TV, my first thoughts was: If this Article had been removed earlier, millions of Kashmiris who fled their homeland and become refugees elsewhere would never have taken that extreme decision.

When Obama became the president of USA, my friend, a Black, had called me up and said, “I never thought I would see this day in my lifetime.”

Today, I feel like saying, “I didn’t expect to see this day in my lifetime.”

*Rajat Mitra*

Psychologist and Author of ‘The Infidel Next Door’