Displaying the divide in the Opposition once again, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo hit out at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the delegation that visited Srinagar on Saturday, 24 August.
Mayawati invoked Dr BR Ambedkar, in a series of tweets, and clarified her party’s stance in support of the abrogation of Article 370. She wrote, “Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar was in favor of equality, unity and integrity of the country. He wasn’t in favor of Article 370 and for this reason the BSP supported the removal of this clause in Parliament [sic].”
But how accurate is Mayawati’s claim?
In this one tweet, the BSP chief made two statements: one about Ambedkar’s reluctance against Article 370, and the other about the solution to the Kashmir problem. However, there is little evidence to support what the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister has claimed.
What Were BR Ambedkar’s Views on Kashmir?
Ambedkar’s writings, speeches and debates – which are well-documented and available in 17 volumes on the Ministry of External Affairs website – provide evidence to support that Ambedkar sought a quick solution and advocated a plebiscite to solve the Kashmir issue.
Speaking in the Parliament during the General Discussion in 1952-1953, Ambedkar had said, “The sooner we settle this Kashmir problem the better for us” adding that the then government had not taken a single “positive” stance to arrive at a solution.
“I am sorry to say that I have not read a single word which I can describe as a positive and not a negative suggestion on the part of the Government of India to settle this question.”BR Ambedkar
Speaking in favour of a plebiscite, Ambedkar had also pointed the enormous increase in the Defence Budget, attributed to Jammu and Kashmir, and said that it could be utilised for the benefit of the people of the country if India could learn from “the line of action taken by the League of Nations with regard to the plebiscite in Upper Silesia and Alsace-Lorraine”.
Ambedkar Suggested a ‘Kashmir Partition’
Ambedkar raked up the same issue in 1951, in a statement that he made while announcing his resignation from the Nehru cabinet. He once again stated that the right solution to the Kashmir issue is to “partition Kashmir”.
“Give the Hindu and Buddhist part to India and the Muslim part to Pakistan, as we did in the case of India. We are really not concerned with the Muslim part of Kashmir. It is a matter between the Muslims of Kashmir and Pakistan. They may decide the issue as they like.”BR Ambedkar
He suggested a zonal plebiscite and had said that the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir could be divided into three parts.
“The Cease-fire zone, the Valley and the Jammu-Ladhak (sic) Region and have a plebiscite only in the Valley. What I am afraid of is that in the proposed plebiscite, which is to be an overall plebiscite, the Hindus and Buddhists of Kashmir are likely to be dragged into Pakistan against their wishes and we may have to face the same problems as we are facing today in East Bengal,” Ambedkar had said.
The suggestion of a zonal plebiscite to “save Hindu and Buddhist population of Jammu and Ladakh from going to Pakistan” was reiterated by Ambedkar in an interview in 1951.
Ambedkar was evidently a staunch supporter of a plebiscite to solve the Kashmir issue, but these writings also highlight Nehru government’s reluctance to implement those suggestions.
So, Was Ambedkar Against Article 370?
Multiple leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have said that the government has fulfilled the ‘dream of Ambedkar’ by abrogating Article 370. The same line of thought was duplicated by Mayawati in her tweet.
Earlier in an op-ed, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu had attributed a quote to Ambedkar which claimed that Ambedkar was against Article 370. But there is no document, speech or writing that corroborates the claim.
The closest we could find was a speech that Ambedkar gave in the Parliament in 1950 where he touches upon the special status of the state and says, “There is really no room for this Parliament to make any provision with regard to the representation of Kashmir in Parliament in a manner different from what has been provided in the Bill.”
He further added that “the application of the other provisions of the Constitution, that Article says, will depend upon the President, who may in consultation with the Government of Kashmir apply the rest of the Articles with such modifications and alterations as he may determine [sic].”
Ambedkar doesn’t come across as an opponent or a proponent of the special provision given to the state.
The Quint also spoke to Ratan Lal, Associate Professor at Delhi University, who too pointed that there is no evidence to corroborate that Ambedkar was against Article 370.
‘We Haven’t Succeeded in Solving Kashmir Issue’
In a Parliamentary debate in 1953, Ambedkar had raised the Kashmir issue once again and said, “The key note of our foreign policy is to solve the problems of the other countries, and not to solve the problems of our own. We have here the problem of Kashmir. We have never succeeded in solving it.”
Speaking about a project that was launched to dig a tunnel connecting Kashmir to India, he raised a concern that any unilateral work by the government in Kashmir could have dangerous outcome.
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