The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, December 1, 2002

Short takes
Kashmir through the Parivar prism
Jaswant Singh

Kashmir Crisis
by M.G. Chitkara, APH Publishing Corporation, New Delhi, Pages 186. Rs 395.

THE Kashmir problem has dogged us ever since Independence and there has never been any doubt about Pakistan’s role in it. From the tribal invasion in 1947, backed by the Pakistan army, to the wars in 1965, 1971 and 1999 (Kargil), Pakistan has failed to realise its dream of annexing Kashmir by force and has resorted to the dubious process of sponsoring a proxy war. Chitkara, who has studied the problem at some length, presents the Kashmir issue as viewed from within, in the perspective of an internal issue, without in any way minimising Pakistan’s hand in it. He views the problem as it concerns the Centre and the state and also the three regions of the state itself.

He begins at the beginning, the signing of the instrument of accession by Maharaja Hari Singh, the despatch of Indian troops to fight the raiders, the setting up of a government headed by Sheikh Abdullah, taking the question to the UN, the ceasefire, and the sequence of events up to the present times.


Apart from this, he views the crisis as an internal problem, aggravated by several actions of successive governments at the Centre and in the state. He recounts the setting up of a Constituent Assembly in the state which ratified the state’s accession to India and which also includes sections dealing with state territory, permanent residents and the relationship of the state with the Centre. Thus he points out that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have finally settled the controversy regarding accession through a Constituent Assembly made up of their elected representatives. A plebiscite on this issue thus becomes irrelevant. At the same time he points out the anomaly of there being two constitutions in the country, one for Jammu and Kashmir and the other for the rest of the country.

About the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly’s resolution demanding the pre-1953 situation he points out that it negates the very constitutional validity of the state assembly which is elected under the state constitution adopted in 1957. The State Autonomy Committee report, the author maintains, is an unconvincing and poorly drafted document. It demands implementation of an ‘agreement’ which does not exist, suppresses some vital facts and levels vague charges against the Centre.

He goes on to count the ‘follies’ of the Indian Government in handling the Kashmir issue, beginning with the decision to go to the UN, which was afflicted by superpower rivalries, to making a complaint about a ‘dispute’ and not ‘aggression’, to declaring a ceasefire when the raiders were on the run and the Indian Army was in a position to clear the entire state of the raiders. He also mentions two missed opportunities to settle the question finally — once when President Ayub Khan made an offer to Nehru and the other after the 1971 war.

Another folly, he points out, was the introduction of Article 370 in the Constitution of India, giving a special status to the state. He strongly advocates repudiation of this section but is aware of the fact that this can be done only with a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Continuing on the ‘follies’, Chitkara points at the dominance of the Kashmir region over the other two parts of the state. Even the concessions given on account of militancy go only to the Kashmiris, leaving the Jammuites and the Ladakhis high and dry, when all regions have been affected by militancy. He goes on to count the number of schools, colleges, hospitals, etc., in the three regions to prove his point, and finds trifurcation of the state the only sensible solution. In short, anyone who wants to have an idea of the Sangh Parivar’s perception of the Kashmir problem, will find a handy capsule in this book.

Birju Maharaj

by Leela Venkataraman, and Kelucharan Mohapatra by Sharon Lowen. Roli Books, New Delhi. Pages 16 (text) + 24 photographs each. Price not mentioned.

Sixteen pages of text and a bunch of photographs printed exquisitely on thick art paper is an apt description of these books. The fact that the printing was done in Singapore testifies to its quality. But one wishes that the authors had given the readers more than just a sketchy description of the two living legends of Indian classical dance. They represent two different styles. Birju Maharaj excels in Kathak while Kelubabu, as he is popularly known, has no peer in the Odissi style of dancing. But the similarity almost ends here. While Birju Maharaj belongs to a family of dancers and had the full support of his family, young Kelucharan faced stiff opposition from his father to the idea of the young boy becoming a dancer. Himself a musician, Kelucharan’s father did not object to his son becoming a stage actor. Thus, while young Birju grew up amidst the jingle of ankle bells and the rhythm of tabla, young Kelu had to risk his father’s wrath to join a class of ‘Gotipua’ a kind of devotional dance performed by boys dressed as girls. He was packed off to a theatre company to learn acting.

Before Birju was seven, he was travelling with his father and impressing audiences with his brief appearances before the main performance by his well-known father, Achhan Maharaj.

Kelucharan, starting with roles in Ras Leela, ultimately grew into the main figure in the revival of the almost forgotten dance tradition of Odissi. But he had to pass through some really hard times. At the age of 19, he had to work as a betel-leaf cultivator and a water carrier till he found a drummer’s job with Orissa Theatres.

Birju’s family also saw difficult times after the death of his father. He then moved to Mumbai under the tutelage of his uncle Lachhu Maharaj. He was offered a teacher’s job in Sangeet Bharati and later he became a teacher at Bharatiya Kala Kendra in New Delhi. When the Kathak wing of the kendra became an independent institution, Birju Maharaj became the head of its faculty.

Though Birju Maharaj has dominated the Kathak scene in India, he has not been honoured with any award, while Kelubabu has been the recipient of the Sangeet Natak Academy Award, the Madhya Pradesh K alidas Award and the national honours of Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. Now at the age of 60, Birju Maharaj has the ambition of running his school, Kalashram, on the gurukul pattern. Kelubabu also has his dance academy which he has named ‘Srijan’.